Mother Earth Living

Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

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Informed people know that all the conveniences of our technological age come at a high price — pollution. Whether it is the air we breathe, the water we drink or bathe with, the food we eat or the very soil in which we grow our food, to a greater or lesser degree, the whole world has been negatively impacted by the chemical age we live in. But a great mystery to me is that so many of those who consider themselves informed, are all but unaware of the role activated charcoal plays in dramatically reducing or neutralizing the immediate and long-term effects of the toxic chemistry we are all surrounded by.

Photo by Dreamstime.

What are the most basic ingredients of life? Not ignoring the spiritual and emotional needs of man, most would agree that to survive any length of time we all need fire, food, water, air, earth, clothing, and medicine. If you were going to name one thing on planet earth that is vitally connected to each of the above elements, then at the top of the list you would have to put charcoal. For thousands of years charcoal has been used to warm houses, cook food, purify contaminated water, remove toxic odors from air, decontaminate and fertilize depleted soils, treat dozens of common and otherwise serious health issues, and in our day, it is used increasingly in fabrics for such diverse things as clothing, wound dressings, and space suits. Who would have guessed?

The Difference: Charcoal & Activated Charcoal

When you think of charcoal, think of the cold, hard, crusty black pieces left over when your campfire or wood cook-stove goes out. As the wood is gradually smothered with ash, the fire is deprived of oxygen, and instead of burning up into thin air, the moisture in the wood, along with all the volatile hydrocarbons, is essentially cooked/vaporized off leaving behind the black pieces of charcoal. Activating charcoal takes the same process to another level. For example, using charcoal made from coconut shell. The coconut charcoal is placed in giant rotisserie kilns and heated back up to very high temperatures and the charcoal is bombarded with oxidizing agents such as steam. This “activating” process dramatically increases the internal surface area of the charcoal particles, and it is this tremendous surface area that industry and medicine capitalize on.

soccer field
Photo by Dreamstime.

Don’t let technology confuse you. Activated charcoal is charcoal, just like condensed milk is still milk. It is the classic example of, “less is more.” It takes about three pounds of regular charcoal to make one pound of activated charcoal. During the activation process, while the outside volume does not change that much, the internal volume is dramatically increased as layer after layer of carbon atoms are peeled away leaving an internal structure permeated with microscopic tunnels. If you could magically unfold the surface area in one teaspoon of activated charcoal, it would stretch out to a soccer field. A one-quart jar filled with activated charcoal can suck up about eighty quarts of ammonia gas. Now that is a microcosmic Black Hole!

Water Purification

Recent studies of the wrecks of Phoenician trading ships from around 450 B.C. suggest that drinking water was stored in charred wooden barrels. This practice was still in use in the 18th Century for extending the use of potable water on long sea voyages. Wood-staved barrels were scorched to preserve them and the water or other items stored in them. How ingenious is that, a completely natural, organic, and environmentally friendly preservative! Today we have hundreds of patented sleek chrome water filters and activated charcoal is a major component.

water pollution
Photo by Dreamstime.

More and more, water is becoming a very valuable commodity, but whether it falls from the sky, is stored in reservoirs, or is pumped out of the ground, increasingly that water is contaminated with a host of chemicals. Whether it is rainwater contaminated with dioxins and VOCs from coal-fired generators, or river water drugged with steroids and antidepressants from sewage treatment plants, or well water medicated with antibiotics, it is a given that, whether it looks clean or not, the water coming out of our faucets is probably not that safe to drink, even if it does reek of chlorine. Consequently, bottled water has become a way of life for many, and whether people realize it or not, it has all been filtered through granular activated charcoal. How does something black, take dirty, smelly, toxic water and make it crystal clear and safe to drink? That is part of the mysterious science of charcoal.

Air Purification

The charcoal science used to clean water is the same science that is used to purify air. Whether it is nuclear power plants, modern vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, hospital surgery rooms, industrial HEPA filters, or gas masks, they all use black charcoal to turn otherwise deadly gas cocktails into revitalized air you, your animals, and plants can all thrive on.

olive oil
Activated charcoal enhances food flavor and appearance. Photo by Fotolia.

Healthier Food

Activated charcoal is used in numerous ways in the food industry to enhance the flavor and appearance of food. It is sometimes added for coloring, as in jellybeans, caviar, jams, beverages, burger buns and cheese slices. Sometimes it is used to take color out of food — white sugar and white grape juice. Primarily it is used to remove unpleasant flavors, odors, and putrefaction compounds (such as rancidity in vegetable oils), thus restoring many of the natural qualities lost in processing.

Really, once you begin to look around, you will be amazed at just how many things are purified by charcoal. Pharmaceuticals, food supplements, blood, infected wounds, gold and other precious metals, fine chemicals, microwave, yes, even dirty sound, and much, much more.


To see the scope of different activated charcoal products visit Charcoal House.

John DinsleyJohn Dinsley is the co-founder and owner of Charcoal House LLC and Charcoal Gardens experimental organic farm. He is a Lifestyle Counselor, teaches public health programs, home remedies workshops, and drug cessation clinics. His award-winning book, The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal, is considered the most comprehensive manual on the medicinal applications of charcoal.


Valentine's Day
Photo by Shutterstock

Valentine’s Day is all about love. For a full 24 hours, you have carte blanche to be as romantic as you wish towards your significant other. But while you adore your sweetie with all of your heart, you also have a great deal of passion for Mother Earth. With this in mind instead of merely showering your honey with tokens of your affection, take your gift giving one step further and honor your love of the environment too with these five eco-friendly Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Show Your Love

Adopt a Manatee
There is just something so adorable about manatees. Unfortunately, they are also an endangered species. On February 14, surprise your sweetie by adopting a manatee through the Save the Manatee Club. For $35, you can adopt an actual living manatee and receive a full color adoption certificate of your special critter, a membership handbook and a heart-shaped manatee ornament. As a bonus, if you reside in Florida or plan on vacationing in the Sunshine State, you and your honey can go to see your adopted manatee.

Give Fair Trade Flowers
Flowers and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand like—well, like you and your sweetheart. Surprise your love this year with a gorgeous bouquet of his or her favorite blossoms from a retailer that cares for the Earth like FTD. The company, which features a beautiful selection of Valentine’s Day arrangements, is also committed to supporting human rights as well as labor practices in relation to the way their flowers are grown and produced.

Write a Love Letter, Then Plant It
A wonderful way to show your love for your significant other is by writing a heartfelt letter that expresses your deepest feelings. This year, take this romantic gesture an eco-friendly step further and pen your masterpiece on recycled handmade paper that has actual wildflower seeds embedded in it. Available from Plantable Papers, the tree free paper is beautiful and comes in different colors and shapes. You can use the paper to write your love letter and then, if your sweetheart wishes, you can bury the paper in the ground and then watch as wildflowers grow to honor your growing love for each other.

Sweets for the Sweet
If Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be the same for you without some chocolate, consider giving your honey a box of chocolate from Raw Chocolate Love. The company strives to make delicious pure and raw chocolate that is not only good for the body, but also good for the Earth. Raw Chocolate Love sells organic and vegan chocolate that is made with top quality and earth-friendly ingredients and it is also incredibly delicious.

A Bottle of Wine
A wonderfully romantic and earth-friendly Valentine’s Day can involve something as relatively simple as a relaxing walk or hike followed by a glass of wine. Walking is inherently eco-friendly, so set out together on a nice stroll through the neighborhood hand in hand. End your walk at a local park or hill with a nice view and enjoy a wonderful glass of eco-friendly wine together, as well as a picnic meal. ecoVINO Wines are made from certified organic grapes from Mendocino County, California, and they are packaged in eco-friendly recyclable wine pouches instead of heavy glass bottles.

Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 14 years. Based in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Alison enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, but especially loves meeting interesting people and telling their stories.


Are your halls still decked with greeting cards from your friends and family? Are they taken down, but sitting in a pile because you just don’t know quite what to do with them? For a lot of us, the greeting cards we receive during the holidays are just too pretty to toss, and you know that a lot of effort and energy went into making them. It’s a pity that they only get a short time to shine. To top it off, at least 50 percent have pictures of friends and their kids. You just can’t throw away a picture!

Luckily, I have found a few reuse solutions for you that are easy with little to no clutter. Plus, they will save you money for next year. Have I got your attention? Great!

First take them down and separate them into two piles; pictures and not pictures.

Homemade Photo Album 

My Favorite Way to Reuse Christmas Cards

For years I hung onto picture cards in no rational manner until I decided to make an album of JUST picture cards. You can’t just use any photo album; you need to find one with “magnetic” pages, usually found at craft stores or on Amazon. The pages are slightly sticky and have no partitions for standard photo sizes, which makes them perfect for the variety of sizes picture cards come in. The year I started the album I sorted by family, but ever since I just add them each year as they fit onto a page. I also put in one of my picture cards to mark the year and because I like to see the cuties I made, too. I love looking back at how families grow over the years.

This homemade photo album is also a great place for any birth announcements or other pictures you are sent over the year. My kids love to look at friends and family at different ages, and it’s the go-to book when I need to show them Great Aunt Pam or second cousin Gina.

Less Fussy Option

Hit the holiday clearance and get a pretty card-sized box. Same theory as before—just put all the pictures in the box and put the box in with your other decorations. Next year, set the box on an end table and shuffle through them, enjoying them all once again. Add  a new batch each year. It may not be as handy year-round, but it keeps them all in one place and will take you about three seconds to complete.

Over-Achiever Option

Scrapbook it! I’m not a scrapbooker (although I covet the bits and bobs), but a scrapbook of each year’s cards might be a good project. There are just so many awesome holiday themed papers.

Homemade Gift Tags

For Cards Without Pictures

This is a longer term payoff because you won’t actually use them until next Christmas. They don’t take up much room, so stick a paper clip on them and put them with your Christmas wrapping paper. If you didn’t get many cards this year (or already tossed them), you can always score a box or two of a design you love on clearance and tuck it away.

Fast forward to next December—take the stack out and use scissors to make tags from the pretty parts of the cards. No more sticky tags, no more writing on the paper with sharpie or cutting wee slips of paper (unless you really like that). Make the tag into the decoration! This saves you money on buying yet another thing to be tossed. Plus, it saves you on fancy bows, as the cards are pretty enough to stand alone or with simple curling ribbon.

Half Card Gift Tag

Less Artistic Option

Cut off the half of the card that has writing on it. Write “To” and “From” on the blank back side and tape it to the present. Rectangular, but card designers know what they’re doing. The whole picture is…well, pretty as a picture!

Nutcracker Gift Tag

More Artistic Option

Cut out an element of the card. You don’t have to be limited to the central picture either; you can make a very pretty tag from some of the side elements. Even the high-quality cardstock is a step up from most gift tags. This also means you can make more tags per card depending on how you slice it.

Most Artistic Option

Use the card as a base to add embellishments. The tag could nearly be a gift.

Small Gift Tag
Photos by Kate Luthner

The Gift That Keeps Giving

If you find the “perfect” tag for someone, try and save it from the clean-up crew and use it again next year. Seeing that owl tag year after year will tell that special someone the gift is for them.

Once I had an easy solution to the card problem I felt better. All cards are sent because someone cared enough to send it.  I feel great neatly and simply honoring the picture cards people agonize over and recycling the pretty cards into centerpieces of my gift-wrap next year. I hope some of these solutions inspire you, too.

Kate LuthnerKate Luthner is a mother of three little girls. Transplanted from New York to Minnesota, Kate began to blog about life to keep up with her family at home. Her blog, Katy Stuff is updated most every day with posts ranging from DIY projects to updates on her children, as well as an occasional book review or opinion piece about world news. Kate’s philosophy? If  you can make it, don’t buy it!


It’s our favorite time of year again—time to celebrate the people we love by giving the most thoughtful, perfect gifts. Those gifts are made even more meaningful and joyous when they are made by people who were treated well and with materials that honor our planet. That might sound like a lot of requirements, but fear not! Our handy eco-friendly gift guide will help you find the perfect special gift for every friend and family member on your nice list.

For the Cozy Home-Body

Boll and Branch Cable Knit Throws

Boll and Branch Cable Knit Throw, $99
These luxurious cable knit throws will cozy-up any corner of your home. Curl up on the couch with a soft, 100 percent GOTS-certified organic cotton blanket made ethically in India. And, as an added bonus, a portion of every sale goes to Not For Sale to help end forced labor and human trafficking. Pick from nine beautiful colors to add a touch of warmth to any room. Though this item is a bit expensive, it’s worth it—this high-quality blanket will warm your loved one for decades to come. Order soon to jump on the limited-time sale—$99 and free shipping!

Forever Candles (Prosperity Candles)

A Forever Candle from Prosperity Candle, $65
These delightfully scented candles are hand-poured by women refugees who are working to build their families a better future. Though this may seen expensive for a candle, it comes with FREE LIFETIME REFILLS—you can even mix it up and try each of their signature scents. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Agraria Petitessence Diffuser

Agraria Balsa Flower Diffuser, $50-$95
Instead of traditional reed diffuser sticks, Agraria’s lovely PetiteEssence home diffuser collection uses thinly sliced pieces of naturally grown balsa wood folded into Sola flowers to diffuse the scent and also add to the ambiance. Choose from Agraria’s eight essential oil blends or, for the indecisive gift giver, get a collection of four scents for $95.

For the Discerning Beauty

Pacifica Perfume Wanderlust Trio

Pacifica Perfume Wanderlust Roll-on Perfume Trio, $19
These roll-on perfumes are the perfect size to travel with. Whatever you’re doing, you can bring Indian Coconut Nectar, Island Vanilla, and Tuscan Blood Orange with you. All Pacifica Perfumes are made without phthalates, parabens, carmine, beeswax, lanoline, mineral oils, petroleum or peanut oil—plus they’re 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free. They also have a great selection of make up to gift (or keep for yourself).

EWG Gift Basket

EWG Donation Gift Box, $150
For a $150 donation to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the nation’s leading nonprofit working to change the debate over environmental health, you get a magnificent holiday gift basket that includes the Weelicious Cookbook, the EWG’s A Year of Healthy Living booklet, Klean Kanteen stainless steel pint glasses, a ChicoBag travel zipper pouch, Core bamboo kitchen tongs, two ECO LunchBox cloth napkins, To-Go Ware RePEaT Utensil set, Earthbound Farm’s granola, Seeds of Change certified organic seeds, and more than $70-worth of savings in coupons from EWG-approved companies.

Brilliant Earth Silver Charm Pendant

A Brilliant Earth Charm Pendant, $75
This lovely silver charm pendant is made from recycled silver and is ethically sourced. And, with each purchase before December 11th, Brilliant Earth will make a donation to the International Rescue Committee that provides creative and comforting toys to kids in need. If you want to spend a bit more, they also have a lovely recycled silver wave pendant with an ethically sourced sapphire.

For the Green Thumb

Back to the Roots Mushroom Farm

Back to the Roots Organic Mushroom Farm, $20
Grow your own organic gourmet Peal Oyster mushrooms in just 10 days! This kit comes in a box ready to go, just mist and watch the mushrooms pop up—this is also great for kids! There are larger options available, like this Shittake or Pearl Oyster Mushroom Log from Terrain.

Boskke Hanging Plant

Boskke Sky Planter, $18
For your surrealist gardener friend, try this upside-down hanging planter made of recycled materials. An internal reservoir system gradually feeds water to plant roots, and makes a super cool modern room decoration!

Hanging Tillandsia

Hanging Tillandsia, $32
Hanging plants is all the rage—this dainty and adorable aerophyte (meaning, it can live on the air alone) can be placed in a little glass bauble for a perfect self-sustaining terrarium. This could be a perfect space-brightening gift for someone with a…not-so-green thumb?

For the Eco-Techie

GoalZero Solar Recharging Station

GoalZero Solar Recharger, $75
This portable solar panel and USB re-charger has your back when you need to re-charge your phone or other small electronics. With just 4 hours of full sun, you will be fully loaded and ready to go!


Eco Amp, $10
This environmentally-friendly iPhone speaker amplifier is constructed from FSC-certified 100 percent post-consumer paper and printed with soy-based ink for a bunch of funky cool patterns.

Driftwood iPod Dock

Driftwood iPhone Dock, $62 (limited time sale)
This supercool iPod dock is constructed from driftwood found on the Maine shoreline. Each is unique and adds a modern, natural style to your room. It amplifies whatever you are listening to by resonating through the hollow wood. There are also options for iPhones 4, 5, 6, and 6 Plus.

For the Tea-Lover

Aiya Ceremonial Matcha Tea Set, Deep Soil

Aiya Matcha Tea Set, $88
This Japanese tea ceremony kit includes a 30 gram tin of matcha tea, a bamboo whisk and scoop, and a matcha tea bowl, plus a 20-minute documentary explaining the proper method of preparing traditional matcha tea. There are various options for style of bowl and you can upgrade the type of matcha: ceremonial, organic or premium.

Numi Flowering Tea

Numi Flowering Tea Set, $40
Winter is the perfect time to start a new tea-drinking habit, and this flowering tea set is as fun to brew as it is to drink. This tea set comes with a 16-ounce glass teapot through which you can watch a hand-sewn tea and flower ball blossom into a beautiful exotic flower suspended in the water as it brews.

For the Foodie

Theo Holiday Chocolate Bar

Theo Holiday Chocolates, $16
Give the gift of fair trade, organic, non-GMO and tasty chocolates this holiday season! This collection of four bars of holiday chocolate is $16, though any option from Theo really is delightfully delicious.

Mockingbird Meadows Medicinal Honey Sampler

Mockingbird Meadows Medicinal Honey Sampler, $62
Try these herb-infused raw honeys for a multitude of health benefits, including relieving stomach aches and carsickness, inducing restful sleep and boosting immune function. These are produced by contributing Mother Earth Living writer, ethnobotanist and author, Dawn Combs.

Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll

Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll, $17
Another gift that keeps on giving! If you know someone keen on food experimentation or homesteading, encourage them to make their own cheese, following recipes from Rikki Carroll in this wonderfully comprehensive guide. This is a delicious addition to any cook’s shelf. Also, check out more Mother Earth Living approved books at the Mother Earth Living Bookstore!

Nibblr Snack PackNibblr Snack Pack, Chai Mix

A snack subscription from Nibblr, $23
Give the gift of healthy snacking with a subscription to a healthy snack service. Nibblr provides healthy nut and fruit mixes, as well as some sweet and chocolate-y mixes delivered right to your door. This holiday season, they’re selling a four-box gift subscription for $23.

Natural Home Products 9-piece cookware set

Natural Home Products Nine-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware, $89
Nothing says “I love you” better than durable stainless steel! Natural Home’s recycled stainless steel is high-quality, dishwasher safe and scratch-resistant. This nine-piece nesting cookware set, including three saucepans with lids, two skillets and a bamboo slotted spoon, costs only $89 (marked down from $170!).

Mother Earth News Peace Blend Coffee

MOTHER EARTH NEWS Peace Blend Coffee, $11
This fair-trade organic coffee is subtle and smooth—a perfect addition to your morning routine. There are three roasts to choose from, and whole and ground options.

Natural Home Products Pizza Cutter

Eco-friendly kitchen gadgets and utensils!
One great way to subtly ask for a build-your-own pizza party invite is to give your friend an eco-friendly pizza cutter, made from recycled stainless steel and bamboo, for just $3!

For Kids

Eco-Stars Crayons

Eco Stars Recycled Wax Crayon, $10
These fun, star-shaped crayons are 100 percent recycled and recyclable (including the packaging!), are nontoxic, and made in the U.S. A box set of 20 crayons offers 100 points of color!


Eco-Dough, $20
These earth-friendly eco-doughs are made with organic fruit, veggie and plant extracts and essential oils—no strange ingredients or chemicals for your little one’s hands! A package comes with five fun, vibrant colors.


EarthOpoly, $25
Your kids will learn about keeping the Earth clean and happy as they work their way around the board becoming caretakers of parks and beautiful places, collecting Carbon Credits and trading them into Clean Air. This game is made with recycled materials and vegetable-based ink.

Mancala board

Mancala Board, $20
This popular African stone game is crafted out of locally sourced, sustainably harvested pine, and comes with 60 beautifully colored stones.

Little Nursery Rhymes

Little Nursery Rhymes, $16
This adorable set of 10 tiny books, each filled with a beloved nursery rhyme, is made from recycled materials with vegetable-based ink, and includes 10 classic nursery rhyme stories including “Little Miss Muffet,” “Twinkle Twinkle” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”

For the Eco-Conscious

Klean Kanteen Classic 18oz Water Bottle

Klean Kanteen Water Bottle, $18-33
Show that you care about someone’s health and hydration with a nontoxic, reusable water bottle. These stainless steel water bottles are free from all BPA and other toxins, and is unlined and uncoated so you don’t have to worry about plastic or epoxy leaking into your loved one’s water.

Brush with Bamboo Starter Pack

Brush with Bamboo Toothbrushes, $20 for 4
Is someone you know trying to convert to zero-waste living? Give them a helping hand by introducing them to Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes, USDA-certified biobased product with no BPA or toxic chemicals, with a biodegradable handle and recyclable nylon bristles that comes in compostable packaging. They also sell bamboo drinking straws!

Be Good Pixley Socks

BeGood Socks, $20 for 2 pairs
These comfy and fun socks are made from organically combed cotton and local sourced yarn, plus every purchase gives 12 gallons of purified water to rural areas in Kenya and Uganda.

Subscription Options to Mother Earth Living

Mother Earth Living Gift Subscription! $15
If you love our magazine, then everyone you know will love it too! Give a one-year (6 issues) subscription to your friends and relatives. Print and digital subscriptions are available! Bonus, you could keep your print issues in a special MOTHER EARTH NEWS binder.

Check out some easy DIY gift ideas, too!
Don’t forget to wrap everything in earth-friendly wrapping paper, or at least try not to use tape!

Happy gift-giving!


A staple in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, turmeric is one of the world’s most versatile herbs. When ground, turmeric’s rhizome (underground stem) yields a vibrant yellow powder that’s abundant in health-boosting properties—as little as 1/4 teaspoon a day has measurable healing effects. This powder also makes a wonderful addition to homemade body-care products, home crafting and—most deliciously—cooking. A member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), turmeric stains whatever it comes into contact with so use it with caution.

Uses For Turmeric 

1. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY: Chronic inflammation can stress and injure cells, which in turn can trigger disease—everything from heart disease and cancer to joint issues and skin problems. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. Curcumin, the active substance in turmeric, lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

2. REDUCE ARTHRITIC PAIN: Thanks to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, researchers believe turmeric may be effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain, as well as reducing swelling. Curcumin is often combined with bromelain or piperine (found in peppers) to help increase its absorption in the body. Doctor Andrew Weil recommends 400 to 600 mg of standardized 95 percent curcuminoids, three times a day for patients with arthritis.

3. CANCER PREVENTION: There has been a great deal of research on turmeric’s anticancer properties. Research is ongoing, but evidence suggests curcumin may help prevent, control or even kill several types of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate and skin cancer. This may be because curcumin is a strong antioxidant, protecting the body’s cells from molecular damage.

4. ANTI-FLU: Test tube and animal studies suggest turmeric may effectively kill bacteria and viruses. Mix the following ingredients to make a deliciously warming turmeric toddy to prevent and treat cold and flu: 12 ounces hot water, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root, 2 pinches cayenne powder, 1 tablespoon honey, juice of 1/2 lemon. Drink up to three times a day. You can also sprinkle turmeric powder over a slice of honey-drizzled toast.

5. BRAIN BOOST: Curcumin may also prevent the onset of dementia, as it has been shown to break down amyloid-beta plaques in lab-based studies. People who eat curry two to three times a week may have a lower risk.

6. SKIN POULTICE: Use turmeric powder to make a poultice to treat skin inflammation. Mix 1 tablespoon ground turmeric with enough water to form a paste. (For an even more powerful poultice, add a little curcumin extract.) Spread the paste between two strips of gauze and place on the affected area and cover with an elastic bandage. Make sure to change daily.

7. BRIGHTEN TEETH: One of turmeric’s most surprising uses—especially considering it stains nearly everything it touches—is its ability to whiten teeth. Mix about 1/2 tablespoon dried turmeric powder with a small bowl of water to form a thick paste. Apply paste to toothbrush and brush as normal. (Be sure to rinse well, and maybe follow-up with an additional brushing.) On top of its whitening powers, turmeric’s antifungal and antibacterial properties will boost oral health, as well.

8. FACE MASK: Turmeric is wonderful for skin. Use it to reduce signs of aging, decrease the appearance of dark circles and clear up acne via a DIY face mask. To make, combine 1/4 teaspoon turmeric with 2 teaspoons flour, a few drops of honey and a few drops water. If it’s too thick, add more water; if it’s too thin, add more turmeric or flour. Massage paste into skin using circular motions, let sit for 10 minutes and then rinse with a warm wash cloth.

9. TREAT SCALP CONDITIONS: Another of turmeric’s body-care benefits is its ability to deter dandruff and improve the condition of your scalp. Mix turmeric with a good-quality carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba, and massage into your scalp. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then shampoo and style as usual.

10. HENNA: Before henna became a part of Hindu bridal ceremony tradition, turmeric was used to ornament brides. Use this golden spice to fill in beautiful red-hued henna tattoos, creating a lovely contrast of color. To apply, dampen a small paintbrush in water and coat it in turmeric. Paint the area of the henna pattern you want to stain yellow; let dry, then wipe off the excess. Don’t wash the area until 12 hours after applying.

11. DYE EGGS: You can also harness turmeric’s staining powers to naturally dye Easter eggs. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons ground turmeric to a boil, then let simmer, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature; strain. To use, pour mixture into a glass jar, stir in 2 tablespoons white vinegar and submerge hard-boiled eggs until they’ve reached the desired yellow.

12. SCRAMBLED EGGS: In a skillet over medium heat, sauté a tablespoon of turmeric in olive oil, then spread around the pan. Pour about four whisked eggs into the pan and stir while cooking until no longer runny for a delicious and healthful breakfast.

13. CURRY: Turmeric’s most commonly used in curry. For an inexpensive recipe, check out this Potato Peanut Curry recipe.

14. GOLDEN MILK: Use this wonderfully pungent herb in an Ayurvedic concoction known as Golden Milk. Mix 1/4 cup turmeric powder with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and cook until a thick paste is formed. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of this turmeric paste with 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon almond oil. (Save the remaining paste in the refrigerator for future use). Flavor the mixture with honey, stir over low heat and bring just to a boil. Finally, blend until you have a foamy and delicious healing beverage.

Gina DeBacker Headshot Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.


Creating art with leaves and nature can be fun, interesting, meditative and inspiring. Plus, it can connect you with the outdoors in an enjoyable and relaxing way. Here are a few great ideas to get you started.

Lily collecting leaves
Photo by Kristy Severin

1. Collecting Leaves

This can be such an enjoyable activity, whether you're alone or with family or friends. Spending time outside in nature and taking the time to look closely at the world around you can bring such a sense of peace and wonder as you may find something unique and wonderful or even something you've never noticed before. Take notice of the brightness of a particular red maple leaf or how different trees lose their leaves and change colors at different times. Once you've collected your leaves, you can begin creating art as you wish.   

Leaf Rubbings
Photo from KC Edventures

2. Leaf Rubbings

This can be the start of a small project or an extension of a layered piece of art. It's a simple way to create art with leaves that can be done alone or with children of all ages. By simply placing paper on top of your leaves and rubbing them with crayons, you can create a detailed leaf in any color and preserve its beauty. 

Leaf Mandala
Photo from Pinterest

3. Leaf Mandalas

Mandalas, a meditative process of arranging the leaves in a circular patterned shape, can act as permanent or temporary art. 

Leaf Garland
Photo from G Sheller

4. Leaf Garland

Arranging leaves in patterns by stringing them through yarn, twine or string can be a lovely decoration for your home or even a great gift for a friend. 

Leaf preserved in beeswax
Photo from The Magic Onions

5. Preserve Leaves in Beeswax

This is a natural way to preserve the beauty of a leaf.

Leaf Book
Photo from Pinterest

6. Leaf Identification Book

Another enjoyable way to arrange some of the beautiful leaves you may have collected, start your very own leaf identification book. 

Kristy SeverinKristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.


Menstrual Cup Variety 

Menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s when Lenoa Chalmers patented the first one. Women didn’t take interest and they fell off the radar until the 60s to similar fanfare. It wasn’t until the 70s to mid-80s that reusable menstrual cups hit the market—and stuck. The Keeper was the first menstrual cup to succeed where others had failed and it's still widely available today.

Just the Facts

70 percent of American women use disposable feminine hygiene products. On average that equals 11,000 tampons or pads.
• For a box of 36 tampons, average prices hover around $7 per box.
• Tampons and pads must be changed at least every 6 to 8 hours to avoid leaks, health concerns and other unwanted problems.
Average menstrual cycle lasts 5 to 7 days, from ages 12 to 50.

Let’s assume every woman buys one box of tampons every month. That’s close to $90 per year. Given these figures, one woman is likely spend more than $3,000 on her period alone during her lifetime, not to mention the many other costs associated with female reproductive organs. Thankfully there’s a simple, affordable solution: reusable menstrual cups.

Now I know what you may be thinking:

“OMG, I am not sticking something up there!” or “No way, that’s so gross!”

Having been there myself, I assure you it's not as gross or horrifying as you imagine it to be. If you use tampons you “stick something up there” every month anyway. Plus, once you get over the initial gross-out factor, it’s really not that bad. I swear!

The Diva Cup

The Diva Cup comes in two sizes: One for women who have had children and one for those who have not. I used the smaller of the two—for women without children—for about a year. At the time I loved it, but unfortunately due to some health issues its use was discontinued.

Diva Cup, size 1 and 2

Although the company recommends replacing your cup annually, I know people who have had the same one for several years without a hiccup. Even at $40 per year, that’s still cheaper than a year’s worth of tampons!

Freedom: Who’s really going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of leak-free protection?! No one! I was able to go hiking, camping, rock climbing and swimming without worrying about if and when I’d need to head to the restroom or if I’d packed enough tampons.

Easy to find: I’ll be honest, I had no clue about the world of menstrual cups until a friend ranted and raved long enough to convince me to try a Diva Cup. Luckily, they’re easy to find at local natural-food stores or some chain supermarkets such as Hy-Vee.

Ease of use:
I could just be bad at following directions, but it wasn’t just a simple insert cup like this and go scenario. One of two things happened: I wound up spending more time in the bathroom making sure things were accurately situated, or I was making more frequent trips to the restroom to adjust things because I was uncomfortable sitting or moving in a certain way.

Flexibility: To insert a menstrual cup, you first have to fold it in some fashion. I didn’t find the silicone to be very pliable. This made it more difficult to hold the cup in its folded shape long enough to get it comfortably inserted.

Comfort: It made life in general more comfortable in terms of worrying, but physically I always felt a bit of discomfort. The stem was rigid and sometimes felt like it was poking me, and I could always kind of tell it was there.

Cleaning: Be warned: Prepare for gross-out feels. The stem is a short, hollow tube meant to make removing your cup easier. Removal was easy enough, but occasionally menstrual blood would get into the open part of the stem. There were also measuring lines on the inside of the cup. Both of these made it difficult to clean thoroughly at times.

Most of my gripes are, more than likely, just personal. No two bodies are like, and as such no two vaginas are either. As a woman in her mid- to late-20s, without children, I ultimately decided that The Diva Cup was too large for my body. Even though I was using the smallest size, it always felt present, which made emptying and reinsertion less than optimal.


Once my health concerns were under control, I still wanted to use a menstrual cup for all the pros I had experienced with my Diva Cup. At this point, I had learned that menstrual cups have a cult-like following, so like any internet-savvy girl would, I hit up Google to help me make a decision! I knew it would be easy to find real-life reviews and comparisons on YouTube and blogs. However, I didn’t realize there were so many options.

After a lot of reading and YouTube watching I decided that Lunette, a Finnish company, would be the best to try next. There are women out there who have tried them all (or close to it). If you’re on the fence about which cup to choose, watch one of these informative videos.


Lunette is also available in two sizes and runs around $40. After my experience with The Diva Cup, I still opted for the smaller of the two cups (Model 1). Although this is often recommended as a “starter cup” for younger girls, this cup has been perfect for me. I don’t even notice it’s there except when it's time to empty it or it isn't sitting right in my body (which is a much easier fix than it was with The Diva Cup).

Longevity: The company says to replace your cup when any signs of damage are observed—this could be holes, any kind of abrasion or drying/flaking. I’ve had my Lunette cup for close to a year; I’ve not seen any signs of wear, but I also follow the care instructions to a tee. Keep in mind: If you choose to buy a colored cup it may be more difficult to notice discoloration.

Freedom: Again, no one is going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of protection. Since using the Lunette cup, I’ve begun aerial dance classes without fear or worry (on top of the activities I was able to do freely with The Diva Cup.)

Ease of use: This cup is so easy to use! Both models are made of "softer medical grade silicone" and it's so flexible! The cup easily holds its folded shape making insertion extremely easy.

Cleaning: Care instructions for most cups are pretty universal with a few caveats here and there. The stem on this cup is flat and sealed. Both the inside and outside of the cup are free from lines or ridges (perfectly smooth). These simple features make cleaning a breeze. (Try the Lunette Feelbetter Liquid Wash, which is specifically designed for silicone and smells heavenly.)

Easy to find:
At the time of purchase, Lunette wasn’t available at any of my local stores. There was one location offering them in the neighboring city, which I choose to order online from. However, there is now a U.S.-based online store on their website that makes purchasing even easier. Check “Where to Buy Globally” to support local retailers and business owners.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about my experience with Lunette. It’s far more comfortable in every way, and just as affordable as The Diva Cup. Sure, I can’t just run to the store and a buy a new one tomorrow, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I also like that it comes in a variety of colors and has several “accessories” to pair with it. Quite frankly, I’m kind of in love with it.

Make Menstrual Cups Your Product of Choice

I would suggest getting familiar with your body and natural cycle to best choose which cup is right for you, even if it's not the Diva Cup or Lunette. The Lunette site has a wealth of information about understanding your anatomy and cycle that can be helpful to women of any age.

Regardless of your choice, menstrual cups are great for the environment, will save you a ton of money and give you peace of mind. If you’re new to menstrual cups, give either one of these a try and if it doesn’t suit you, move on to the next or a different brand entirely. Lord knows, there are plenty to choose from!

What do you think about menstrual cups? Have you tried a number of brands available? What's your favorite reusable feminine hygiene product? Share your experiences, thoughts and tips in the comments below to help others find the perfect, natural solution that fits their lifestyle.

Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on .

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