Natural Health
Better living through nature


Natural Prevention and Treatment for Bug Bites

I spend a lot of my evenings and weekends outdoors. Tending the garden, doing house chores, and feeding our pets while also chasing my daughter around our farm.  We love being outside and enjoying the natural beauty we have around us. The downside to this is the amount of bugs, particularly mosquitoes. I have gotten 30 to 40 bites while pulling weeds in the garden before. Not only is the aftermath uncomfortable, but it’s also dangerous due to disease that spreads through these mosquito bites. I prefer using a natural approach to prevent and treat most common ailments.

diy-spray
Bug spray Photo by Getty Images/ChesiireCat

Here is DIY bug spray recipe that’s worked well for my family:

Homemade Bug Spray with Citronella and Lemongrass

Ingredients:

• 2 oz (60ml) Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) hydrosol
• 16 drops of citronella java essential oil (Cymbopogon winterianus)ointment
• 4 drops lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon citratus)
• 1 tsp aloe vera gel
• 4 ml Solubol dispersant
• 2 oz (60 ml) glass spray bottle

Directions: Blend all the ingredients together in the glass spray bottle. You will need to shake the bottle before every use. Avoid your face. Use often and re-make the product every few weeks; this recipe does not include a preservative.

(If you like the general idea of this recipe, but prefer the scent of patchouli and frankincense, then check out this great recipe from Aromahead.)

bite-remedy
Beeswax  Photo by Getty Images/Premyuda Yospim

Itch-Relief Salve

Sometimes you may get adventurous (or forgetful!) and not bring your bug spray with you. As a result, you could end up with itchy bites all over your body. There is a great solution for this, and it does not require using any store-bought chemical. You can rest assured and know there is a more natural approach to remedy this situation.

Here is a bug bite anti-itch recipe to rescue your body from those stubborn bug bites:

Ingredients:

• 1/2 oz beeswax
• 1 oz coconut oil
• 1/2 oz jojoba wax
• 14 drops of lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
• 7 drops of peppermint essential oil (Mentha x piperita)

Directions: First, melt the beeswax in an old pot on the stovetop.  You can set the wax inside of a heatproof glass container and fill your pot about ¼ full with water; this will allow you to melt the wax using a double-boiler method. You will then add the coconut oil and jojoba wax.  After the waxes are melted and fully mixed with the oil, you can then remove the pan from the stovetop and add the essential oils. Stir to combine.

At this point, pour the hot liquid into a safe container. The aromatherapists at Aromahead recommend using a lip balm tube for easy application. You will most likely need a plastic pipette to prevent spills.

After the stick cools down for a few hours, you are ready to use it! Simply rub the stick on bites for instance itch relief.

Making these remedies ahead of time is a great idea. Keep both the bugs spray, and the itch remedy balm nearby. Remember, this is not a substitute to prevent or treat allergic reactions. These recipes have been a wonderful and natural alternative that my family has used to protect ourselves during the heavy mosquito season.

Ayurveda Summer Practices & 5 Ayurvedic Summer Fruits

It’s summer time! Ayurveda calls the summer season as ‘Grishma Ritu’. As the sun rays become more powerful, the body feels as if squeezed with increasing atmospheric temperature. This in turn weakens the Kapha, day-by-day, and strengthens Vata.

Ayurveda is called the science of life because it gives great importance to the preventive aspects of health. If you notice the ancient classical textbooks on Ayurveda, the initial chapters have been devoted to the daily and seasonal regimens.

Ayurveda Summer fruits

What Ayurveda has to say about summer?

  • Salt, sour, and pungent tastes should be avoided
  • Rigorous exercises and too much exposure to sunlight should be avoided
  • Preference should be given to sweet tastes
  • The food should be light, unctuous, and cool in properties
  • Cold water should be used for taking shower
  • Intake of alcoholic beverages should be limited or forbidden
  • Diet should include white rice, watery meat soups, water flavored with camphor powder or trumpet flower, churned spicy yogurt, milk, leafy vegetables, and seasonal fruits

What are the ideal fruits for summer?

  1. Mango: As per Ayurveda, ripe mango pacifies Vata, is sweet and sour in taste and increases Kapha and Virility.
  2. Grapes: Ayurveda considers grapes as the best among fruits. It is aphrodisiac, improves vision, and keeps the bowels clear. The sweet taste makes it ideal for summer season. It has light, unctuous, and cold in properties. It pacifies Vata and cures bleeding disorders, bitter taste of mouth, cough, fever, alcoholic intoxication, and emaciation.
  3. Pomegranate: It is sweet in taste and pacifies tridoshas—Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They are stomachic, light, unctuous, constipative, appetizer, and carminative in action.
  4. Watermelon: This summer favorite is extremely hydrating and best suited for season. It cools the body and pacifies. It should not be combined with any other food items and is better to be eaten alone.
  5. Plums: They are sour in taste, vitiate Pitta and Kapha. It pacifies Vata and is a laxative. In addition, plums are powerhouses of nutrients and cures digestive problems.

Fruits are summer super fruits and are healthy for digestion and assimilation. Fully ripened, fresh fruits appropriate to the season can act as nectar. As per Ayurveda, fruits with the above mentioned qualities get immediately digested and converted to Rasa (one among the seven tissues). These fruits also increase the Ojas (energy and vitality) and provide immunity. Remember to go for organic fruits from your local market whenever possible.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

In Honor of International Yoga Day 2018

Yoga is one of the most popular workout regime in recent times. With its origin in India, the word yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘To unite’. In simple words, I would say yoga is the union of the self and the spirit.

Due to an increase in popularity worldwide, June 21st is celebrated as International Yoga day.

The idea of International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, during his speech at the UNGA, on 27 September 2014.

During the month of June and  as we celebrate the International Day of Yoga, I would like to share a few facts on yoga, its relationship with Ayurveda, and my journey with these two sciences.

yoga silhouette
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that originated in India reportedly more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite.

The earliest written record of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, is generally believed to have been written by Patanjali, an Indian yogic sage who lived somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga?

The benefits of yoga are innumerable. It constitutes Asanas, or postures, Pranayama, or breathing exercises, and focused concentration to unite the body, mind, and spirit together.

It helps to achieve increased flexibility, strength, balance and stamina of the body, and prevention of joint pain and tenderness. These are just the benefits on the body. In addition, it helps in stress reduction, provides better sleep patterns, improved self-confidence, and alignment of your body with mind.

Also, there are specific yoga postures advised for most of the diseases and in pregnancy and postpartum.

Relationship Between Yoga and Ayurveda

Both of these sciences, which have their origin in the Vedic texts, address health and wellness practices. If Ayurveda is the healing aspect, yoga is the spiritual/practical side of the Vedic teachings.

The teachings of Ayurveda are mainly for the achievement of ‘Purusharthas’ – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Dharma means righteousness or duty, Artha means wealth, Kama means desire, and Moksha means liberation. An individual can realize him or herself by balancing and fulfilling these four objectives. In this, the Moksha or ultimate liberation and identification of self can be achieved by the practice of yoga.

Understanding the body constitution, which is the prime diagnosis tool of Ayurveda, can be utilized to identify the correct yoga according to individual. Though all yogis are not familiar with the sister science Ayurveda, all Ayurveda practitioners will know the basics of yoga.

Yoga day 2018
Photo by Arya Krishna

My Experience with Yoga and Ayurveda

I was introduced to Ayurveda under the guidance and prayers of Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi in Amrita School of Ayurveda, Kerala, India. Ours was a Bachelors in Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery Course, for a duration of five years which has the yoga education for 18 months’ time.

I still remember my first yoga class. It was on Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutations. And the class was given by Swami Dayalu. From that day my relationship with yoga was truly divine. I was a trained classical dancer from the age of four and the knowledge of classical Bharatanatyam dance helped me in doing the yoga poses with flexibility.

During my pregnancy and post-partum, I practiced yoga. I tried to incorporate yoga and Indian classical dance to form Nritya Yoga, or the Yogic dance.

As an Ayurveda practitioner and yoga practitioner I would like to say yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice which can help you deal with almost all the diseases of body and mind. It can be done in a curative aspect. But, remember to practice and perform yoga under the guidance of a knowledgeable person.

The International Yoga Day was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly or UNGA. Practice and spread this divine science.

5 Hormone-Balancing Rules That You Need To Know Right Now

Hormones are known as chemical messengers in the body, which can impact overall health. Glands and organs secrete these messengers throughout the body, therefore, it is vital that your hormones are balanced. For men and women, hormones that occur include estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline, and insulin. They travel through the endocrine system, the blood, and to various tissues in the body. Even the slightest imbalance can cause significant health problems. The most common causes of hormonal imbalance could be a poor diet, allergies, genetics, or even exposure to toxic chemicals. But balancing hormones is not as hard as it may seem, and there are many effective ways to keep an eye on them without chemicals or additives.

pexels-photo-179912
Photo by Pexels

1. Cut Down On Sugars

To restore your hormones, one important rule is to make sugar an occasional treat. Sugar is known to cause a fluctuation in hormones easily. It can impact blood sugar levels, weight, and even appetite. Excess sugar intake can disturb the balance of insulin in the body, resistance to insulin and leptin can also cause the body to store fat instead of burning it. This happens because the hormone fails to keep the metabolism going, which influences energy levels. By making a conscious rule to cut down on sugar,  you reduce its effect on estrogen and testosterone levels in the body. You can reduce the intake of sugar in everyday food, like coffee, tea, curries, chocolates, etc. And gradually shift to sugar-free alternatives.

2. Get Plenty Of Rest

Science shows that a lack of sleep can impact the normal functioning of the body. Apart from your diet, a lack of sleep could be disturbing your hormone levels. Aim for at least 7-8 hrs of sleep every night so that your body’s hormone levels are balanced. Hormone imbalance can be caused by merely disturbing your body’s natural circadian rhythm. If you are wondering how sleep can impact hormones, it's because just like you, even your hormones work on a specific schedule. Lack of proper rest can stimulate the stress hormone, cortisol, contributing to depression and anxiety. It can disturb your diet and other routines, impacting hormonal well-being.

3. Good Digestive Health

One healthy and productive way to balance your hormones is through your gut. By eating healthy at every meal, you don’t have to worry about your hormones. Aim for good digestive health, as your stomach determines how balanced your hormones will be. If you eat healthily, then you don’t have to worry about fluctuating estrogen or testosterone levels as much. You can do that by eating foods that are good for digestion, like clean proteins, such as chicken, legumes, seeds, and seafood; antioxidant-rich veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and spinach; and healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil. You can even introduce healing spices and herbs into your meals. All these foods can help you build a healthy hormonal balance.

4. Add Probiotics to Your Diet

Another rule to live by for hormonal health is to include probiotic foods in your diet. You can find probiotics in foods like bread, yogurt, kefir, sourdough, sauerkraut, and more. They act quickly to balance hormones by repairing the gut lining and function. Many foods we eat can cause inflammation in the body, but probiotics fight undigested food particles that can impact the body’s overall functioning. They do the work of enzymes in the gut that help break down food into smaller particles, making it easier to digest. These healthy bacteria can boost the production and regulation of critical hormones in the body like leptin and insulin. You can say that, in a way, probiotics are digestive-friendly food that can regulate normal hormone levels.

5. Avoid Too Much Stress

Stress plays a significant role in hormonal imbalance, as well as overall health. That’s right, something as severe as chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance, and even without realizing it your habits and lifestyle could be impacting fluctuating hormone levels. For example, a hectic work schedule, stressful exercise routines, or an extreme diet, could upset the hormonal balance. Even emotional stress can impact your everyday life and your hormones. Yoga and meditation are a few among many soothing methods that can calm your nerves and regulate normal hormonal function.

These are just a few lifestyle changes that can help balance your hormones. They can either help you overcome the symptoms in the initial state or naturally reduce its effect. However, in some cases, one would require synthetic hormonal treatments, particularly if symptoms are neglected for a long time. These hormone-balancing rules can be made naturally, and without the help of a doctor, however, it is always suggested to first consult with a doctor before any medication to overcome symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Make sure always to keep a track of your hormones and how you are feeling, this way it will help you respond to those symptoms accordingly.

Ayurvedic Principles: Why You Should Wake Up Early

Among the classical Ayurveda textbooks, the one close to my heart is Ashtanga Hridaya, written by Acharya Vagbhata. In Ashtangahridaya textbook, the second chapter deals with Dinacharya (Dina in sanskrit means day, and charya in sanskrit means regimen) or the daily regimen. From the view point of scholar Vagbhata lets look at the art of daily regimen with Ayurveda.

woman doing yoga at sunrise in field
Photo by Andressa Voltolini on Unsplash

Primary charya or regimen mentioned is 'ideal time to wake up' is Brahma Muhurta.

Time to wake up. It is advised to be awake at Brahma muhurta (45 minutes before sunrise). Though it might seem difficult to wake up at such an early hour (around 5 in the morning), the physical and mental benefits you obtain by waking up early are permanent and amazing.

Have you ever thought about why the Ayurveda classics ask you to wake up early?

The fact is when you wake up early in the morning, before sunrise, the predominant dosha according to time is Vata. Vata is powerful and  an active dosha. You can perform your activities with more energy if you wake up at Vata period of the day. But if you are waking up late, the next dosha cycle of the day is Kapha. Kapha is generally in slow pace, and you will have a feeling of heaviness and drowsiness if you wake up in the Kapha period of the day.

Also the morning environment is generally one of peace and serenity. If you want to wake up early, you will always try to sleep at an early hour. This helps in regulating a proper biological rhythm in your day-to-day activities. An improper lifestyle is the major cause most of the diseases in life, such as diabetes, obesity, insomnia etc. Therefore a proper biological rhythm ensures health to the body and mind.

Devote some time in the early hours for yoga or meditation. Practice sun salutations or any meditation technique which nourishes the mind.

The environment is devoid of any types of pollution at this time. Enjoy the cool breeze or chirping of birds and refresh yourself at this early hour.

Ashtanga Hridaya says, "If a person wakes up in Brahma Muhurta his health will always be maintained"  It also says one who wakes up at an early hour gains beauty, praise, intelligence, money, health, and longevity of life.

Have you noticed new born babies? They naturally wake up at the early morning hours. Our body is tuned in such a way by Mother Nature. But we try to change the rhythm or pattern given by nature which is one of the major causes of all the lifestyle disorders. The birds, animals, and those close to nature wake up at Brahma Muhurta.

If you are a person who wakes up at 9 am in the morning, don't force yourself to wake up at 5 am after reading this article. But gradually try to develop a habit of waking up early. For example, go to sleep half an hour earlier than your usual routine, and try getting up at 8.30am on the first day. Follow this routine for a week. Then gradually make you way to 8am. Likewise, gradually adapt to an early hour waking habit.

Remember the slight difficulty you are facing initially can bring about a peaceful, healthier future to you.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

Coriander for Migraines

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, someone living in almost one in four households in the U.S. suffers from migraines, and 85 percent of them are women. Once thought to be triggered by blood vessel constriction, researchers now suspect migraines may involve impaired neural signaling, which qualifies the condition as a neurological disorder. Coriander, fairly-well-studied for its antioxidant value and beneficial effect on arthritis and rheumatism, is showing promise as an effective treatment for migraine.

coriander seeds in bowl with wooden spoon
Photo by iStock/SharafMaksumov

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seed refers to the dried fruit of a flowering annual in the parsley family that is native to the Mediterranean region, as well as northern Africa and western Asia. While the seed is called coriander, the mother plant is known as Chinese parsley, dhania, and cilantro, the leaf of which is widely used in Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern and Spanish cuisines. Due to the presence of pinene and linalool, coriander imparts a nutty, citrusy flavor to curries and spice blends like garam masala. Coriander is also a flavoring agent in gin (along with juniper berry), Benedictine, Chartreuse and Belgian wheat beers. The seed is also a pickling spice.

An Ancient Remedy Becomes New Again

In the Ayurvedic and Iranian traditional systems of healing, coriander has long been regarded a viable therapy for headache when infused in hot water and the steam inhaled. New research shows that the seed is also helpful in reducing the duration, severity and frequency of migraines. In one study published in 2016, for example, which involved 68 subjects and a syrup made from coriander, the treatment group experienced 50 percent less pain, length of attack and frequency of occurrence than the control group.

In March 2018, researchers at the Kerman University of Medical Sciences of Iran published the results of a double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 88 migraine patients and a traditional Iranian herbal migraine remedy that contains coriander combined with the flowers of the violet and damask rose. At the end of four weeks, the subjects in the treatment group reported reduced duration, severity and frequency of migraines over the placebo group.

A review published in the March 2018 issue of Food Research International notes the neuroprotective activity of coriander and its ability to counter migraine. The authors further describe the seed as anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, anxiolytic, antimicrobial and analgesic, and suggest that coriander is a functional food that modulates disease pathways that otherwise lead to cancer, neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. These effects are due to a variety of flavonoids, polyphenols and terpenoids. Of particular interest is the terpenoid linalool, which is found in the seed in a concentration of 60-70 percent.

How to Use Coriander

Powdered coriander seed is enjoyed in a variety of foods, such as curry, dhana jeera and other Indian dishes, often partnered with cumin and black pepper. The powdered seed may also be encapsulated. The standard dose for adults is 1-5 grams powdered coriander, three times per day.

One of the easiest ways to take coriander—and the most useful should a migraine strike—is to prepare the seed as tea: steep 2 teaspoons crushed seeds in a cup of boiling water; strain and drink up to three times per day between meals. In cooking, the whole seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack or added to rice, vegetable dishes and soups.

Sensible Cautions

If you have a known allergy to any food in the carrot family, you should not use coriander. Also, because coriander reduces blood sugar, you should not use this herb therapeutically while pregnant or nursing. Check with your health care practitioner before using coriander if you take prescription drugs for hypoglycemia because the spice may increase their effect.

Yellow Dock: Edible Weed and Digestive Ally

Found in all fifty states and on six continents, yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is an edible, medicinal plant that has naturalized in many parts of the world. In other words, it’s a weed, and one that folks often spend a lot of effort eradicating from their lawns and gardens. Yet, like many underappreciated weeds, yellow dock has a lot to offer in both nutritional and health benefits.

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Photo by Sarah Baldwin

Health Benefits of Dock

Yellow dock is an important digestive ally, with bitter properties that activate the liver and gall bladder, aiding in the digestion of fats and absorption of nutrients. The root is often used as a gentle, but effective laxative. Meanwhile, the plant’s cooling properties ease inflammation of the digestive tract.

This herb has a long history of use as an alterative, a term that can be a little confusing. This is what folk healers might call a “blood cleanser,” and it indicates a plant that improves the metabolic functioning of the body to encourage the breakdown and elimination of toxins and waste. Thus, yellow dock is indicated in chronic skin conditions like acne and eczema, which often have an underlying cause in liver congestion.

How to Identify Yellow Dock

Yellow dock’s genus name, Rumex, means “lance-like” and describes the narrow shape of the leaves, while crispus means “curly” and refers to the undulating leaf margins. Although most modern herbalists prefer R. crispus, several dock species have historically been used interchangeably. Narrow leaves with very wavy edges and pale green stems are a couple of ways to differentiate R. crispus from other Rumex species. When in doubt, you may need to dig up a plant and take a cross-section of the root, which has a yellow hue--hence the moniker, “yellow dock.”

Dock can tolerate infertile soil and tends to thrive in waste areas. However, we must take care not to harvest this plant from polluted areas, as it accumulates heavy metals such as cadmium and lead from the soil. (In fact, this principle goes for all wild plant foraging!)

Kitchen and Apothecary

A great addition to your home apothecary, yellow dock is easily extracted into a tincture or herbal vinegar. Vinegar is especially good for drawing the abundant minerals from this nutrient-dense plant. Dock is high in vitamins A and C and a variety of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. The plant is also helpful for anemia due to its iron content as well as its ability to promote better absorption of iron.  Try adding yellow dock or dock vinegar to iron-rich foods, such as nettle, chickweed, and seaweed.

A word of caution: yellow dock also contains oxalic acid, which may contribute to kidney stones and other health conditions. But before you panic, consider that many common foods like spinach and rhubarb also contain oxalic acid. Most folks can tolerate eating some raw spinach, but it’s a good idea not to over-consume. To reduce oxalic acid levels, avoid harvesting during very dry conditions and blanch the greens for a few minutes before eating.

Yellow dock leaves make a tangy, delicious addition to omelets, frittatas, quiches, soups, curries, stir-fries, and pasta dishes like lasagna. Stems of larger leaves can be tough, so it’s best to remove them before cooking. You can also add the plant’s root to various recipes, such as soup or roasted roots.

Dock Leaf Chips

One of my favorite things in life is taking advantage of nature’s bounty—weeds—to make inexpensive, healthful culinary delights. As a substitute for kale chips, dock leaf chips are a weedy alternative that are equally chock full of nutrients. The process is simple:

  • Harvest dock leaves, the younger and more tender the better. Remove larger stems.
  • Toss lightly with oil and place in a single layer in food dehydrator trays. Salt to taste.
  • Dehydrate until dry and crispy, which usually takes a couple of hours.
  • Store in a paper bag to preserve freshness.

Note: I prefer the dehydrator because it tends to preserve the color better, but you can also use an oven.  Bake at 250 degrees for just a few minutes until crispy.

Sarah Baldwin is immersed in the world of herbalism, writing and teaching about the physical and spiritual benefits of healing plants. She is the author of The Herbal Healing Deck, an earthy and mystical oracle deck featuring guidance and wisdom from medicinal plants. Sarah is a regular contributor to Plant Healer Magazine and The Herbarium and has also written course material for The Herbal Academy. Her interests include gardening, yoga, meditation, dance, and music.