Natural Health
Better living through nature

5 Tips For Starting a Meditation Practice at Home

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I think it’s safe to say that meditation is trending. Mindfulness and meditation have become the cure-all for many diseases, and are the current shining stars in the wellness world. It seems as though every few weeks a new study or finding comes out about the benefits of practicing present-moment awareness. Stress relief, weight loss, heart health, increased happiness, heightened productivity and even rebuilding the brain’s gray matter in just 8 weeks are some of what seem to be the infinite perks of meditation.

Okay, we get it – everyone should meditate.

But, it’s not all that cut and dried. Meditation seems like second nature for some, but for many people, it can feel hard and unachievable. If you feel an aversion to meditation, you’re not alone. Many cringe at the thought of sitting in one spot and trying to “zen out.” Additionally, there are so many false beliefs about meditation that can easily create resistance.

For example, a common misconception is that meditation is difficult and you have to know how to stop “thinking thoughts.” That alone can be a scary concept!

The truth is, it’s actually quite easy to get started with a meditation practice. If you’d like to begin, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips to kickstart your path toward your new meditation routine.

Just Breathe

Yup, that’s it! Anytime, anywhere. If you’re feeling stressed or just need a quick pick-me-up, stop and take a giant deep breath, fill your belly up with air, expand your rib cage and slowly release through the nose on the exhale. The slower your in-breath and out-breath, the better. Becoming conscious of your breathing opens up the door to mindfulness. We often forget to breathe fully and consciously because it can be an involuntary function. But the cool thing is that it’s also something that can become voluntary and controlled. Many gurus and sages teach that when you master breathing (through the practice of various pranayama techniques) you can balance your chakras and master your life. Now, I can’t promise that you will start levitating once you become a pranayama wizard, but what I can say is that the breath is the fastest way to draw your attention inward, into your body and the present moment. If there’s one easy way to start a mindfulness practice it’s to pay attention to your breath at any given moment.

Mark it on the calendar

Just like any other task or activity that you deem important, put meditation on the schedule. Play with meditation times and find what works best for you. Meditation is easiest for me immediately when I wake in the morning. I roll onto my back and place my awareness on my breath, repeat a silent mantra and set an intention for the day. Another prime time to meditate, in my experience, is before bed. Mornings and evenings are when my kids are asleep and there is quiet and fewer disturbances. Find what works for you and stick it on the calendar.

Start with a simple mantra

One of the easiest mantras to use is the sanskrit word OM. OM is the “sound of the universe”, so it’s an easy one to connect to for most adults and children alike. Repeat the word silently in your mind and “hear” the mantra as if someone is saying it to you. Mantras are an “instrument of the mind” and a way to train yourself to concentrate on one thing. When your mind begins to wander to a thought, sound in the environment or otherwise, simply guide your awareness back to the mantra. It’s just that simple. The more you practice using mantras, the easier it will become to not only focus on the mantra, but also increase concentration in your daily life, making zeroing in on one task or goal much easier.

Use a guided meditation

If you’re stumped about where to start, I highly recommend an online video wellness site that has tons of yoga and meditation classes. They have various meditation series’ led by experts that easily guide you through mindfulness practices. Everything from “meditation for surrender”, “getting focused” and even an energy meditation series is offered. I’ve noticed that my kids will also join in with these, so I’m able to put them on during the day.

Try a meditation device

I know what you’re thinking, “A meditation device!?” Yes, there are some great tools that can gently help you become more aware of your wandering mind and teach you to be in more control of your thoughts. A brain-sensing headband that connects to your smart device to give you real-time feedback about your brain activity. Throughout your meditation, you will hear a soft breeze in the background and if your mind begins to have increased activity or thoughts, you will start to hear more turbulent wind. In this way, it trains your brain to calm your mind and bring it back to focus. There’s also the Meaning to Pause bracelet, which sends a gentle vibration to its wearer every 60-90 minutes to remind you to pause, breathe, and check in with your physical, mental and emotional state. This bracelet, though it may not be able to teach you to meditate, will encourage coming back to center and the present moment throughout the day, which is a great start.

How to Get Your Kids More Interested in Yoga

Do we ever think about how our lifestyle changes affect our kids? Our children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressure, incessant lessons, video games, malls, and competitive sports. In addition to all of these came the quarantine and stay-at-home stress. These all are highly stressful for children, and yoga can help combat the effects of this stress effects.

June 21st is International Day of Yoga. So, as a part of this celebration let's explore how yoga can be beneficial to our little people.

Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility and strength, coordination and body awareness. Also, their concentration and sense of calmness improves with yoga.

Yoga for children is quite different than yoga for adults. The greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of yoga: stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being. Children hate to be idle. With my toddler, I never instructed her to do anything, but she started following me on the yoga poses while I practiced. She was 2.5 years old when she first did the sukhasana—an easy pose, with simple cross-legged seated asana in hatha yoga.

Yoga for Kids

Tips to Increase Your Kid's Interest in Yoga

  • Let them imitate the movements and sounds of nature while doing different poses. For example, if they are doing the cobra pose (Bhujangasana) let them hiss along with the pose.
  • Mostly children love to talk, and they love to move—both of which can happen in yoga. You can’t except your child to stay idle and chant mantras while doing yoga. They can even sing their favorite rhymes or jump while doing the frog pose.
  • We want kids to fall in love with yoga and incorporate it into their lifestyle for the great physical, mental and emotional benefits it has to offer. Keep it fun. Show them charts, picture boards or even ask them to imagine themselves as a giant apple tree while doing the tree pose. There by we can improve the imagination and cognition in kids.

Let’s now look at the developmental considerations in yoga for children:

Preschool Age (3-6 years)

Ideally total duration is 10-20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, focusing and creating awareness is hard in this age group. So, try to focus on awareness for 2-3 minutes. They can try doing Sukhasana (Easy pose), Boat Pose, Bow Pose, Cat pose, and Child pose.

School Age (7-12 years)

They can practice for 30-45 minutes. Poses can be incorporated in a story or game for school kids.

Yoga practices can be designed to foster developmental, preventative, therapeutic, and/or transformational aims. Developmental uses of yoga are geared toward nurturing inherent capacities and facilitating mastery, e.g., strengthening the physical body, increasing energy and stamina, building coping capacity, and enhancing attention, concentration, and memory.

Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Yoga provides training of mind and body to bring emotional balance. It is claimed that yoga leads to alignment and harmony. Yoga may contribute to healthy development and good mental health; health promotion for children needs to include improvement of their attention, self-esteem, empowerment, and self-regulation.

Yoga may assist them in developing in sound ways, to strengthen themselves, and be contributing social beings.

Forest Bathe for Your Well-Being

Shinrin-yoku was developed in 1982 in Japan for preventative health care and as healing medicine. Shinrin in Japanese means "forest," and yoku means "bathe," which means taking in the forest with all your senses.

Dr. Qing Li conducted studies in the early 2000’s which proved that forest bathing lowers stress hormones, suppresses the fight or flight system, enhances the rest and recovery system, reduces blood pressure, and increases heart rate vitality. The research is helping to establish Shinrin-Yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.

Walking In Forest

Forest bathing is not the same as hiking. To forest bathe, all you need to do is visit a forest, park, or natural wooded area with minimum noise from traffic and humans. If there is water movement close by, that is even better, and the trail should be easy to walk on at a slow pace. You do not need to walk more than ½ mile as you guide yourself through a forest or park. A 2-hour walk is enough time for you to slow down, focus on your senses, and find a place to sit and observe nature.

Forest Running Stream

If you only have a short time to forest bathe, 20 minutes is all you need to start clearing your mind. Do not let other thoughts enter; just focus on the trees. At the end of your walk, celebrate with a snack and tea. You could bring a thermos with tea or have a knapsack with a teapot, cup, and container of hot water and focus on the teatime.

Forest Walking Path

Visiting the forest can also let you experience aromatherapy. As the sun shines on trees and plants, they emit terpenes. Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds that are present in plants and essential oils. When walking in a forest of spruce trees, you may receive benefits from the essential oil emitting from the tree. The needles and twigs have volatile constituents, which can alleviate respiratory ailments, strengthen the immune system, help with the nervous system, and relieve muscular aches and pains. You may receive benefits from the effects of smelling the essential oil in the forest but not as intense as using a distilled oil in a diffuser.    

Creek Running Through The Forest

You can bring the forest indoors by growing plants in your home. Plants in the house can make us feel calm and happy but are also important because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which our bodies need to be healthy.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon our hearts as for that subtle something that quality of air that emanates for old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. -Robert Louis Stevenson


  • Clifford, M Amos (2018) Your Guide to Forest Bathing
  • Arvay, Clemens G. (2018) The Biophilia Effect

Myrrh Essential Oil: A Divinely Rich Essence

Myrrh—an aromatic, rich, precious resin—was widely used in ancient times throughout the Middle East, but especially in Egypt, for incense, perfumery, medicine, and as a preservation ingredient in the embalming process.  It was particularly prized as a remedial aid for infections of the respiratory tract, mouth, and skin and as a digestive stimulant.  Myrrh was also one of the three gifts said to have been brought by the three wise men to the baby Jesus to support a state of grace and preserve divine essence.  The name "myrrh" derives from the Arabic "murr," meaning "bitter." 

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil is valued for many of the same uses as the resin. Known for its rejuvenating and revitalizing effects on the skin, it is often used in natural antiaging products to delay wrinkling and improve the skin’s texture and tone. I swear by myrrh essential oil’s “youthifying” effects and often add a few drops to my facial oils and creams. A little goes a long way. It also successfully promotes the healing of all manner of minor wounds, inflamed skin conditions (such as weeping eczema and psoriasis, hemorrhoids, and acne), and environmentally damaged, dry, chapped, cracked skin.

Myrrh essential oil has a superb reputation as a remedy for inflammatory and infectious conditions of the mouth and throat (bleeding gums, gingivitis, ulcers, bad breath, pyorrhea, receding gums, thrush, general sore throat, laryngitis, and tonsillitis). It also serves as a most useful respiratory antiseptic with drying and purifying properties that help alleviate infection and loosen and expectorate mucus during cases of bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, coughs, and colds.

myrrh resin and cobalt bottle

From Herb To Oil

The scrubby, thorny myrrh tree has knotted branches, small three-part leaves, and white flowers. When pierced or incised, the trunk and larger limbs yield a pale-yellow liquid that hardens into the reddish-brown drops known as myrrh or myrrh gum resin. These are dried to be distilled into essential or used as incense. The tree is native to the Middle East, northeast Africa, and southwest Asia, though its growing range has been extended by cultivation. The essential oil is primarily distilled in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan. 

Myrrh essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the crude gum oleoresin. A lovely, sweeter CO2 is also produced in lesser quantity, as is a resinoid and resin absolute. It is an oily, pale yellow-to-amber, viscous liquid with a rather unique odor: warm, sweet-balsamic, slightly spicy-medicinal-astringent, smoky-musty.

Important note: The myrrh tree belongs to the same plant family (Burseraceae) as frankincense (Boswellia carteri, B. sacra, B. frereana, and multiple other Boswellia species). Both species grow slowly in arid climates, and due to the popularity of their resins, the wild trees cannot sustainably produce enough to fill the global demand. They are both considered vulnerable and near-threatened. I ask that you use the beloved myrrh and frankincense products judiciously and sparingly. Frankincense and myrrh are now being cultivated to help satisfy demand, but as I said, their growth is very slow.

Psychological Benefits: The centering, grounding scent of myrrh is beneficial i n cases of apathy, emotional coldness, weakness, and lack of motivation. It cools heated emotions and calms states of fear, panic, and hysteria. It also fortifies and revitalizes the spirit, building confidence in those who are afraid to speak up about their feelings. It promotes spiritual awareness and is recommended for meditation and prayer; it can also be used to ease the anguish of grief.

Essential Properties In A Nutshell: Tones and tightens skin tissue: highly antibacterial; astringent; anti-inflammatory; best remedy for mouth, gum, and throat irritations and infections; powerful respiratory antiseptic and expectorant; stimulating; warming; strengthens and fortifies the emotions; grounding and centering to the mind.

Safety Data & Usage Information

 Generally nonirritating and nonsensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and use with children under 2 years of age.

Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application.  My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.

The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of myrrh essential oil with regard to its benefits for oral health. Combined with peppermint essential oil, it works like a charm!

soothing myrrh mouthwash and gargle

Soothing Myrrh-Mint Mouthwash & Gargle Recipe

With a combination of warm, resinous notes and stimulating, sharp mint, this bracing, mouth-tingling blend offers antibacterial, astringent, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties that help tone and tighten gum tissue, neutralize bad breath, soothe a sore throat, relieve laryngitis, and aid in alleviating mouth ulcers and inflamed gums. It is tasty and effective! Note:  This recipe is safe for folks 12 years of age and older.

Essential Oils:

• 1 drop myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil
• 1 drop peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil


• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 cup purified water, hot or tepid (hot water is more soothing for sore throats and laryngitis)

To Make The Mouthwash:  Combine the sea salt with the drops of myrrh and peppermint essential oils in a small mug. Pour in the water and stir to blend. Use immediately.

To Use:  First, rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water, then gargle and swish with half of the mouthwash for up to 30 seconds (or for as long as you can tolerate). Spit it out in the sink (do not swallow). Repeat with remaining mouthwash., If you are suffering from a sore throat or laryngitis, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, or pyorrhea, repeat several times per day until the condition improves, making a new batch each time.

Yield:  Single use

Photos by Mars Vilaubi

stephanie tourles's essential oils a beginner's guideRecipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide, (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

How to Keep Your Hands Healthy and Hydrated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks down the science of hand washing and why it works for preventing the spread of illness.

Throughout your average day there are several times you should be washing your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After using the restroom, changing a diaper, or handling pet waste
  • After handling pets or their food
  • After touching garbage

During times of a pandemic, like COVID-19, you should also be sure to cleanse hands after being in public spaces and touching surfaces that may have been touched by others, such as gas pumps, door handles, or shopping carts.

woman washing hands with soap over white sink bowl

With so much hand washing going on in recent months, you may have notice that you skin has become dry and cracked. Use these tips from a board-certified dermatologist to keep your hands soft and healthy!

How to prevent hands from cracking and staying hydrated:

  • Moisturize one to two times a day with a cream such as Cerave Cream or Aveeno Eczema Cream
    Choosing a fragrance-free formula is also a good idea.
  • It is generally best to opt for cleansers that only have gentle ingredients.
  • Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel prevents dryness without clogging pores and absorbs into the skin quickly without leaving any residue and is perfect for year-round use.
  • Avoid antibacterial soap, which can be drying.  Unless you're instructed to use antibacterial soap for medical reasons, then just use the regular stuff instead.
  • I don’t think you can use too many products as they will all be absorbed into your skin.
  • Other products can be added to target specific concerns, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne, or hyaluronic acid for irritation or dryness.

Advice for strengthening your nails:

  • Wear gloves when hand washing dishes or cleaning.
  • Do not use antibacterial soap. 
  • Moisturize cuticles with Aquaphor, Vaseline or CND Solar Oil.
  • DermaNail Conditioner – use twice a day; Helps dry, brittle nails.
  • Biotin – a vitamin which accelerates nail growth (My favorite is vitafusion Gummies for Hair, Skin, and Nails because it contains a good amount of Biotin and is also a multivitamin.)
  • Keep nails short; file nails gently; avoid nail trauma (such as using them to open packages or remove lids from cans).
  • For soft nails – use Nailtiques 2 Plus Lacquer or Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails Strengthener
  • Use nail polish remover that does not contain acetone.

Visit the CDC for more tips on proper hand washing techniques.

Image by Martin Slavoljubovski from Pixabay

How to Make the Outdoors Your Gym

Outdoor Gym
Adobe Stock/Dudarev Mikhail

Even the most basic gym should have all the equipment needed for a complete workout, so why does it often feel so lacking? We drag our feet through the front door, push out a couple sets of bench press, bore ourselves on the treadmill for 15 minutes and then leave. Only the most dedicated gym rats can make it through those places without going crazy. There has to be a better way.

Believe it or not, there was a time when there were no gyms and humans were all in much better shape, but over the centuries our sedentary lifestyle has caught up to us and now there's nothing left but to do the bare minimum at the gym each week. But if you just stepped outside you would see a world just waiting to be your natural gym.

If you're ready to step out of the globo-gym and embrace the outdoors, here are some great places to get started.

Trail Running

Trail running grew from niche hobby to popular sport thanks to events like Ragnar, which give trail runners a place to socialize and compete (though must run for non-competitive fun) across some of the most scenic trails in the country. But if you don't live near the national parks of Utah or the redwood forests of Northern California, chances are there is still a trail waiting for the tread under your shoes.

Check with local parks to find good trails, and grab some of the few essentials for an exhilarating and challenging workout. A good pair of trail running shoes from Merrell, Salomon, or La Sportiva offer the support and traction needed for rugged terrain and a hydration pack from CamelBak or Osprey will provide plenty of water on the trail.

Stadium Climbs

We all don't have the luxury of climbing the steps at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but every town with a decent high school football program also has a stadium that can double as the perfect outdoor gym — and running up the stairs is just the beginning. There are a variation of different elevated push-ups you can do thanks to the different heights of the bleacher seats. And when it comes time to run the steps, add some variety to your stride by skipping a step, two-stepping (when both feat touch each step before moving on) or broad jumping steps. This provides a killer cardio session while also adding in great footwork.

Competitive Shooting

Target and sport shooting is a big part of outdoor life, but it doesn't do much for physical fitness outside of hand-eye coordination. But there is a new activity growing in popularity that tests accuracy and endurance.

The "3 Gun" competitions require you to quickly navigate a course and shoot targets with a shotgun, handgun and rifle. It's tons of fun for anyone who loves to shoot and requires more movement than traditional target shooting. If you need to purchase guns for sport shooting, check local and online retailers for their selection of firearms.

Park Workouts

If you think park workouts are a puny alternative to a real gym, think again. Monkey bars might be fun and games for kids, but they can deliver serious muscle building and toning for adults. The various bars and rings found in parks and playgrounds are perfect for pull-ups, dips, muscle ups and other body movements that will build grip strength, improve mobility and target muscles that you might neglect in a tradition free weight gym.

Jim Burch is a copywriter from Phoenix and avid admirer of alliteration. His goals are to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, see all 30 baseball stadiums, and eliminate the improper use of "literally," but he figuratively can't even.

Raw Juice Shots: Nature's Delicious Immunity Boosters!

In these uber-chaotic times, when stressors of economic uncertainty, food insecurity, social distancing, the expanding global pandemic, and media bombardment of incessant doom & gloom abound, our immune system is being challenged. Why?  When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cancer cells is reduced.  Our immunity shields are lowered thus we’re more susceptible to serious illnesses.  We’re often in a steady state of fight or flight, adrenaline is pumping all too often, we’re deeply fatigued, and our body’s stores of stress-reducing nutrients such as vitamins B and C, and calming minerals such potassium, calcium, and magnesium are being consumed at an accelerated rate in order to help us cope.  Additionally, the stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes—white blood cells that are part of our immune defense and act to recognize antigens, produce antibodies, and destroy cells that could cause damage.

To help shore up our immune system and strengthen its protective shields, we need to get ample, restful sleep, fresh air, regular exercise, sunshine (lots of vitamin D), laughter (it’s great medicine), lots of self-care (warm, fragrant baths, aromatherapy massage, foot rubs, meditation time, etc.), plus consume a diet that’s loaded with vital nutrients.  So, with this blog, I’m going to share a couple of recipes that I use to nutritionally boost my immune system . . . in a most delicious way!  Raw juice shots are small, uncomplicated, quick-to-make, nutrition-packed, energy elixirs, usually a half-cup of liquid or less per serving, that deliver a rapid shot of power and quickly digested vitamins, minerals, potent antioxidants, and other phytochemicals. They’re the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for both adults and children.

If you enjoy these recipes, additional raw shot elixirs are available in my best-selling book, Raw Energy In A Glass: 126 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well-Being.

Try more recipes from Stephanie's book: 

raw juice shots in glasses

Morning Power Shot Recipe

This recipe—a reader favorite—is my version of a spicy, ginger-flavored lemonade. Ginger root is a pungent, moderately hot herb that enhances energy by increasing circulation throughout the body.  Combined with a pinch of cayenne and vitamin C-rich lemon juice, this blend enlivens the senses; provides a rosy glow to the complexion; warms the body from head to toe; helps relieve indigestion, constipation, and motion sickness; clears sinus and respiratory congestion; eases the pain of arthritis; and even freshens breath.  I guarantee this tasty, powerful shot will give you a bigger energy boost than you’d get from a shot of espresso – sans the caffeine jitters!


- 1/2 cup purified water
- 2 teaspoons ginger root, peeled, very finely minced
- 2 teaspoons raw honey (more if you want it sweeter)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper powder

To Make The Power Shot:

  1. Heat the water to just shy of a simmer in a very small saucepan. Remove from heat.
  2. Put the lemon juice, ginger root, honey, and cayenne in a medium-size mug and then pour in the hot water. Stir to blend and allow the mixture to steep for a few minutes.  The longer it steeps, the stronger and more potent the ginger becomes.
  3. Drink quickly, ginger bits and all, when the juice blend is comfortably warm. Feel the hot energy coursing through your veins!

A good source of: antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and natural sugars

Yield: 1 serving

Deep Purple Vibrations Shot Recipe

A feel-good, look-good drink if there ever was one!  Simply made using only dark purple, antioxidant-rich grapes blended with tart lime juice, it will quench your thirst, lift your energy, and, with abundant natural sugars, satisfy a raging sweet tooth.  Most kids love this drink, especially if you give it a goofy name, like Purple Monster Juice.  Beats a box of pasteurized juice any day!

Highly alkaline (stress makes your body acidic) and energetically cooling, grapes will help the body to eliminate excess heat and acid. Enjoyed on a regular basis, the anti-inflammatory action will help soothe achy joints, too.


- 1 cup dark purple, seedless grapes
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Pinch of sea salt (optional)

To Make The Power Shot:

  1. Place the grapes, lime juice, and salt, if desired, in a high-powered blender and blend on high until smooth and frothy, about 30 seconds.
  2. Serve immediately, complete with all of the fiber, as I do, or strain through a mesh strainer to yield a more clarified beverage. Mix with a splash of carbonated water to make a natural, yummy sparkling soda!

A good source of: antioxidants galore, plus vitamin C, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, natural sugars, and fiber (if you don’t strain it out)

Yield: 2 small servings

Recipes excerpted from, Raw Energy In A Glass: 126 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well-Being, (c2014 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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