Natural Health
Better living through nature


A Fall Favorite: The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

L.CleekWhen you're carving pumpkins, you’re bound to be left with a surplus of pumpkin seeds. While many people simply scoop out and discard the seeds as they prepare to carve their jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, offer many health benefits.

Pumpkin seeds were first used by Native American tribes, who found the seeds to be useful in eliminating intestinal parasites. The tribes also used pumpkin seeds to treat kidney problems. The seeds are still used to prevent kidney stones, but it is not known how this works.

A 2005 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 68 percent of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. A magnesium deficiency can eventually lead to serious conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes if left untreated. One way to make sure you don’t fall into this category is to regularly incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet. Pumpkin seeds are so high in magnesium that just one quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 87 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium for an adult.

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Pumpkin seeds can prevent and fight kidney stones,
osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Photo by Food Thinkers/Courtesy Flickr

A great source of phosphorus and manganese, pumpkin seeds also contain protein, iron, calcium, zinc and a variety of vitamins including B, K and A. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the zinc in these seeds has proven to help prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. Omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin seeds create a natural anti-inflammatory effect so arthritis-sufferers can find relief without the negative side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Phytosterols, a naturally occurring compound found in pumpkin seeds, have been found to be helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol.

Pumpkin seed oil helps keep testosterone from inflicting damage on the male prostate cells and therefore helps reduce prostate cancer development. Pumpkin seeds help ease difficult urination by inhibiting enzymes associated with prostate enlargement. Pumpkin seed extract can also help those with incontinence issues by increasing testosterone levels and strengthening the pelvic muscles.

Though it is best to eat pumpkin seeds raw to preserve the nutritional elements, there are many other delicious ways to enjoy them.

• Add pumpkin seeds to soups or salads for a nutty flavor.
• Mix pumpkin seeds in with sautéed vegetables.
• Combine pumpkin seed oil with honey and olive oil for a healthy salad dressing.
• Roast pumpkin seeds with an endless combination of spices.

Try this easy recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Seeds!

Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Teeth Looking Healthy and Clean

For most people, brushing their teeth is part of their morning ritual, usually one of the very first things they do in their day. Many people also make it part of their nightly ritual, doing the same thing before they go to bed. Likely, there is some flossing and extra brushing throughout the day added in.

The priority of and frequency in which people brush their teeth shows their importance; teeth are perhaps one of the most important parts of your body to keep healthy and clean. Not only is your smile one of the first things people may notice about you, but you also need your teeth to eat and feed your body.

While keeping your mouth clean and healthy is important, it can be a strain on the environment. Excessive water used when brushing your teeth, plastic in toothbrushes and floss, and other environmentally stressful factors can be easy eliminated while retaining the health of your teeth.

dark-haired woman smiling
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Keeping Your Smile Healthy

Besides wanting a beautiful, white smile, there are many important reasons to prioritize your oral health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, unclean and untreated teeth can lead to significant health issues:

...In many cases, the condition of the mouth mirrors the condition of the body as a whole. Recent reports indicate a relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and stroke, heart disease and preterm low-birth-weight babies. Likewise, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning your dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem

Basically, keeping your teeth clean and regularly visiting a dentist could have a significant impact on the quality and span of your life. Plus, rotting, unbrushed, or even just poorly brushed teeth can leave a malignant odor in your wake, putting off the people around you. Also, it’s always nice to keep your teeth and avoiding dentures as long as possible.

Fine Tuning Your Dental Routine

Clearly, oral health is important. But how do keep your pearly whites fresh and shiny without causing too much damage on the environment? Well, two of the most important dental health care tips are ones that you have likely heard many times since you were a child—and they are natural, too.

Toothbrushes and toothpaste are the most notorious uses of plastic related to oral health. Especially because there is not a lot of variety when you to to the store. However, you can order bamboo toothbrushes online, and shop for plastic-free toothpaste containers as well. For example, some companies sell powder toothpaste in tablet form that use minimal packaging.

Flossing is another natural way to care for your teeth. Flossing gets rid of enamel-eroding acids and toxins that can cause plaque and lead to gum disease. According to dental experts, not flossing can have severe consequences resulting in expensive dental procedures:

  • Root planing and scaling to remove tartar below the gum line can cost upwards of $1,600.
  • Surgical treatments for periodontitis can cost over $3,000.
  • Since gum disease can attack the bone, you could end up spending $300 to $400 per tooth is you require bone grafts.
  • Even simple tooth extraction can cost $100 per tooth, and then you are left choosing between dentures and dental implants. Dentures can cost up to $8,000 a set, and dental implants typically cost an average of $4,250 per tooth.

Flossing can eliminate these risks and fight gum disease directly. Plus, you can look into getting no-waste or biodegradable floss in order to be truly natural and eco-friendly, and it will only cost a few dollars.

Another easy way to change up your dental routine is not running the faucet while you brush your teeth. Not doing this is an easy way to save water that you can start immediately without having to go to the store to buy special products.

Eco-Friendly and Natural Tooth Tips

If you are on board with all of the tips so far and are looking for more, here are some more tips to consider.

Keeping your teeth healthy is one thing, but keeping them white is quite another. Wine, coffee, and mustard and more can stain your teeth to a not-so-appealing color. However, you don’t have to resort to expensive whitenings or harmful chemicals to get your pearly whites back to white.

With natural teeth whitening, you can avoid harsh chemical in your body—and also get in some healthy snacks. For example, putting bananas and strawberries on your teeth for a while will help brighten them up. Then, you can have the rest of the fruit and berries as a snack.

You can also look into making other concoctions to keep your smile attractive. Making an herb mouthwash, for example, will not only keep your breath fresh, but it can also reduce inflammation to maintain a healthy mouth.

Lastly, if you’re not convinced by the eco-friendly toothpaste options you find, you can just make your own. Though there are many ways to do this, the easiest—and perhaps the best—is made out of baking soda and water, adding enough of both to make a paste. You can also add a few drops of peppermint extract to get the fresh taste in your mouth.

If you are feeling more crafty and want something more creative, you can make your own charcoal toothpaste out of wood ash and a few other ingredients. Charcoal toothpaste is a natural dental trend that eliminates plaque and whitens your teeth. Here is the recipe:

  • Wood Ash
  • Baking Soda
  • Orange Peels (optional)
  • Lemon Peel (optional)
  • Bentonite Clay
  • Xylitol
  • Calcium Carbonate

Hopefully, these tips will help you to change up your dental routine, allowing you to maintain cleaner teeth, a healthier mouth, and a brighter smile—all while reducing your environmental impact.

6 Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you’re like many adults, a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed supplement, if you’re vegetarian) is a common part of your daily routine. If you’ve never given much thought to why you take this supplement (apart from "because it's good for me"), then it’s time to take some appreciation for this little pill! Fish oil supplements are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which do an amazing array of wonders for the body. Just check out these health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids!

fish-oil 

Heart Health 

The majority of us likely take fish oil supplements because they promote good heart health. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Omega-3 can also lower high blood pressure and help prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, by slowing development of plaque buildup—all of which helps prevent heart disease and lowers our risk for heart attacks and stroke.

Mental Health 

Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in maintaining brain health, making omega-3 useful in both treating and preventing a variety of mental disorders. Studies have tied omega-3 fatty acid deficiency to a number of mental health problems, and have also shown that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve symptoms of depression, ADHD and age-related cognitive decline and dementia, as well as disorders such as Schizophrenia and biopolar disorder.

Diabetes 

One of the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are their ability to reduce inflammation—a useful tool in preventing type 1 diabetes, which is often triggered by inflammation. A study conducted on children who were at risk for type 1 diabetes found that children who consumed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were 55 percent less likely to develop islet autoimmunity, antibodies that attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreases and are a precursor to type 1 diabetes. Omega-3 can also be useful in treating issues such as low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, or fat, in the blood in those who already have diabetes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints. Several studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements improves morning stiffness and joint pain. (Limited studies have been done on omega-3 fatty acids’ ability to prevent and treat osteoarthritis, but the results are hopeful.)

Macular Degeneration 

A 10-year study of almost 40,000 women found that women who consumed a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 35 to 45 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration than those who did not.

Menstrual Pain 

Several studies have shown that taking omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements can reduce pain associated with menstrual cramps by reducing inflammation.

Image: Photo By Matt Allworth/Courtesy Flickr


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living.

How To Find A Good Mental Health Counselor

Many people have a difficult time in finding an effective mental health counselor. Just like everything in life, you have your good counselors and you have your not so great counselors. The key is to find someone that will help you solve your current mental health problems.

people

Here are a few suggestions on how to find a good mental health counselor for your mental health recovery.

1. Talk to your doctor or primary care physician. Your medical or family doctor is a great source in finding a good counselor. Explain to your doctor your problems and he or she can put you in the right direction in seeking the proper help.

2. Go to your local hospital. Your local hospital is another source you can use to find a good counselor. A hospital is also a good source of finding many different mental health programs in your area. Hospitals know a lot of good counselors and programs in your area and they can lead you in the right direction.

3. Ask your friends and relatives for advice. Use your network of friends and relatives to see if any of them know of any good counselors in your area.  Many churches and nonprofit agencies have a variety of mental health programs in your area. Asking the people who run these programs can lead you in the right direction.

4. Join a local support group. Go to a support group in your area and ask if anyone knows of a good counselor that could help you with your mental health issues.

5. Always ask for someone who has a good reputation. Remember that finding a counselor to help you depends on how you interact with the counselor and how they interact with you. It may take a couple of tries to find the right person, but do not give up. Finding a good counselor will pay off in the long run, so be persistent in finding the right person for you.

6. Always find a counselor that you can work with. The key components of having an effective mental health counselor is affordability and  the ability to effectively talk to your counselor. If you do not see any improvement in your mental health condition after a couple of months of working with your current counselor, you may want to find someone else.

Edible Weeds 101: The Health Benefits of Chickweed

A creeping annual with tiny white flowers and oval-shaped leaves, chickweed grows without cultivation throughout most of North America. Like other edible weeds, chickweed has many health benefits.

chickweed flowers 

Vitamins and minerals

Fresh chickweed contains high amounts of vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, D and B. Iron, calcium and potassium can also be found in chickweed.

Weight loss

Chickweed has traditionally been said to aid weight loss. This weed both curbs appetite and acts as a diuretic, helping its eaters to lose water weight.

Respiratory ailments

Chickweed can soothe mucus membranes and help relieve many respiratory conditions, including asthma, allergies and bronchitis, as well as itchy, inflamed eyes. Research has even shown that chickweed can prevent the growth of bacteria that leads to tuberculosis.

Skin care

Chickweed’s soothing properties also extend to skin care. Chickweed can soothe inflamed and irriated skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rashes and burns, as well as heal cuts.

chickweed weed 

How to Enjoy Chickweed 

Chickweed leaves can be steamed or added raw to salads. You can also make a tea from the leaves by steeping them in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes.

Photo Credits (top to bottom): Photo By Paige Filler/Courtesy Flickr; Photo By fyrefiend/Courtesy Flickr. 

Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays

With warmer days right around the corner it’s time to think about sun protection. While the importance of sunscreen has been well-drilled into our brains, our skin isn’t the only part of our body that needs protection from UV rays. Our eyes are also susceptible to UV damage—and can even be sunburned! Known as photokeratitis, this “sunburn of the eyes” can cause red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eyes, sensitivity to light and tearing.

mom and daughter in sunglasses 

Exposure to UV radiation can damage eyes, aging them prematurely and leading to conditions such as cataracts, damage to the retina and age-related macular degeneration. Children are particularly susceptible to eye damage from UV exposure as the lenses in their eyes are more transparent and filter out fewer rays, allowing more UV radiation to reach the retina.

To protect your eyes from UV radiation, be sure to choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Select a pair that shields your eyes from the sun from most angles, or wear a hat with your sunglasses. The American Optometric Association also recommends picking a pair of sunglasses that are perfectly matched in color, free of distortion and have gray lenses for proper color recognition. A good rule of thumb is to wear sunglasses anytime you apply sunscreen and vice versa. If you wear contacts, be sure to choose a brand that offers UV protection. Not all contacts provide UV protection, and the ones that do offer varying levels of protection, so be sure to talk to your eye doctor about the options.

Image: Photo By yanlev/Courtesy Fotolia 

5 Dangers of Conventional Sunscreens

As the weather heats up in the next month, most of us are likely to spend more time outdoors. Whether you’re hitting the beach or just out working in the garden, summer is the season for sunscreen. But before you slather your body in sun block, take a moment to examine your sunscreen. The market is saturated with sunscreens, but most of the conventional options cause more harm than good.

boy in sun hat 
 Photo By the half-blood prince/Courtesy Flickr. 

How safe is your family's sunscreen?

Many conventional sunscreens only provide partial protection against damaging rays, and some even include ingredients that can speed up the development of cancer-related skin problems.

1. No federal regulations for sunscreen 

Like other beauty products, the FDA has no regulations for sunscreens, meaning manufacturers are under no legal obligation to disclose their ingredients or prove any claims made on product labels. So while that “waterproof” sunscreen you plucked off the shelf says it offers “all-day protection,” it’s unlikely that the manufacturer can back those claims up with solid evidence.

2. Misleading SPF claims 

When buying sunscreen, you’re more likely to reach for a product offering SPF 75 than SPF 30, right? Because the higher the number, the more protection it offers, right? Not exactly. Many conventional sunscreens offer SPFs up to 100, but studies have shown that SPFs higher than 50 don’t offer any more protection—and could even lure consumers into a false sense of security and cause them to apply sunscreen less often. Don’t fall for the numbers game. SPF 30 sunscreen is adequate for most people. Just remember to apply it every two hours!    

3. Cancer accelerant 

Many conventional sunscreens contain a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate that can speed up the development of cancer. Sunscreen manufacturers use vitamin A for its antioxidant, anti-aging properties, but this compound also has photocarcinogenic properties, meaning it can cause cancer-related tumors and lesions when exposed to light.

4. Little UVA protection 

While conventional sunscreens offer protection from UVB rays, they don’t block UVA rays. What’s the difference, you ask? UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, to the base layer of the skin where most skin cancers occur. UVA rays also play a part in aging and cause wrinkles. UVB rays, on the other hand, only damage the top layers of the skin and are best know for creating the redness associated with sunburns. Conventional sunscreens might prevent sunburn-causing UVB rays from penetrating the skin, but they’re letting through the cancer-causing UVA rays!

5. Sunscreens damage the environment.

Despite their “water-proof” claims, many conventional sunscreens wash off swimmers and into the oceans where they can damage aquatic life—especially coral reefs. Common sunscreen ingredients such as parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone, cinnamate and camphor cause serious damage to coral. The chemicals activate dormant viruses in algae called zooxanthellae (which live in the coral, feed surrounding animals and give the coral its vibrant colors) causing the algae to explode and die.

woman in sun hat 
Photo By Brandon Christopher Warren/Courtesy Flickr.

Keep your skin fair and free from damage; use natural sunscreens with UVA- and UVB-blocking ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. 

Many consumers might turn their noses up at the white sheen that natural sunscreens leave behind, but these products offer more protection and advantages over their conventional counterparts. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the common active ingredients in natural sunscreens, block both UVB and UVA rays. Natural sunscreens are also made with biodegradable ingredients and lack chemicals such as parabens that can destroy coral reefs, making them a safe choice for the environment.

Many natural sunscreen companies practice full disclosure of their ingredients and participate in outside testing to prove their claims, making it easier to select a healthy choice. Badger, for example, hired an independent laboratory to test their sunscreens for biodegradability, which they passed.

For a list of natural sunscreen reviews, see Natural Home & Garden’s Summer Survival Guide.


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living.







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