How to Protect Your Dog’s Health Naturally

Friday, July 27, 2012 0 comments

If you own a dog, you will no doubt be aware that your dog can suffer from health problems just as much as you. Some problems are “doggy related,” whereas other problems are similar to those suffered by humans. A dog’s physical make-up and anatomy is not the same as a human, so it is always important to consult a qualified vet in the event of ill health in your dog. However, there are some natural ways in which you can help protect your dog too; just make sure to take advice before using them, if you are unfamiliar with any of the following suggestions.

Dogs are very open to the use of essential oils in aromatherapy practice. However, there is not much substantial research or evidence in the use of essential oils with animals. In addition, there is little recorded advice on how a dog might react to a particular essential oil, except for those case studies carried out by individuals. If you think essential oils might be a solution to the natural healthcare of your dog, consult a qualified aromatherapist who is experienced in the area of essential oil use with dogs. You can also study an aromatherapy book on the subject such as Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kirsten Leigh Bell.

Essential oils can be used to protect your dog’s natural health for such problems such as flea control, stress, minor cuts and grazes. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is a good essential oil to start with for dogs as it is gentle in its actions and is suitable for a multitude of complaints.

There are some Bach flower remedies that are specifically made for animals, such as Bach rescue remedy. Bach rescue remedy is a natural stress aid for pets. It contains the same ingredients as Bach rescue remedy for humans. It can be used by adding a couple of drops of the mixture onto your dog’s food or by adding a couple of drops into the dog’s drinking water. It is recommended for situations where you dog might undergo stress, such as visits to the vet, after a shock or mistreatment or when the dog is causing excessive barking through stress.

Just as human problems can be treated with homeopathic remedies, so can a dog’s problems. Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like” and helps to stimulate the dog’s natural immune system. Dog problems that can be addressed with homeopathy include allergies, arthritis and skin irritations (source). If you are unfamiliar with homeopathic remedies, consult a qualified homeopathic and ask your vet about the suitability of such a remedy for your dog.

You might think that a dog who lives in the country is safe from less dangers than a dog who lives in the city, where noise, pollution and other dangers exist. However, country living is not without dangers for a dog, depending upon where you live. To use an example, I live in Arizona where spider and snake bites are high risk areas for my dog. In addition, foxtails, spikelets of grass with seed heads that can detach and lodge themselves in a dog’s ear, can cause pain, discomfort and infection and more for a dog.

To protect your dog from dangers such as these, make sure he is supervised when outside or contained in an appropriately fenced in area to protect him from these dangers. Dogs are naturally curious and will poke their nose into something and ask questions later – perhaps at the price of a bite or more.

There are various natural health remedies and solutions to protect your dog from illness and other dangers. Just make sure that you take appropriate advice and know how to use the product on your dog before giving it to him.

Photo by  jpctalbot

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Make Your Own Body Scrub

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 0 comments

Body scrubs are a great way to get rid of “dead” skin cells and re-vitalize your skin. If you have never tried a body scrub before, your body is in for a treat! There are many cosmetic beauty treatments out there that you can buy from pharmacy and grocery stores, but perhaps some of the best type of natural skin care treatments are the ones which you can make simply and easily yourself at home. You just need a few basic ingredients to get started and then you can make your own body scrub!

Most body scrubs have a “base” of sugar or salt. However, if you are making a facial scrub, it is best to use something less abrasive for your base, such as oatmeal. The skin on your face is more sensitive and delicate and you use a facial scrub in a different way to the rest of your body.

However, with regard to using salt and sugar as a base, you will want to use a quality salt or sugar. If you are making a salt scrub, choose a salt base such as Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts. If you are making a sugar scrub, choose a sugar base such as brown sugar or turbinado sugar. Both salts and sugars are available in different granule sizes; choose a size you are comfortable with for using on your own body and skin type. Some granule sizes are more abrasive than others so, if you have delicate skin, you might want to start out with a smaller granule size.

The salt, sugar or other base product in a sugar scrub acts an exfoliant that rids the body of any dead skin; the salt or sugar granules act as miniscule scrubbing “beads” as you massage the scrub in circular movements over the skin. Once you’ve applied the scrub to your body, leave on for 10 -15 minutes and gently wash off. Your skin should feel silky smooth!

You can combine both salt and sugar together in a body scrub or use each ingredient separately. I am a big fan of sugar scrubs but there is no reason why you couldn’t substitute salt in the following recipe (or split half and half):

3 oz sugar (brown/turbinado)0.8 oz sweet almond oil30 drops of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil.

The above recipe makes approximately 5 oz sugar scrub.

Simply combine the ingredients together in a bowl and either use straightaway or store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. This recipe is intended for home use only.

To make a more complex sugar scrub (with additional natural health benefits), add in other (appropriate) vegetable oils, essential oils and products such as honey. Both vegetable oils and essential oils contain therapeutic properties for different skin types, depending on the type of oil. In addition, choose high quality vegetable oils that have been cold processed and quality essential oils from a reputable supplier.

There are various ways to make an aromatherapy facial scrub but this is one recipe that I came up with for a client who was pleased with the results; this recipe is for oily skin. You will need to use different types of essential oils for other skin types:

0.5 oz ground oatmeal0.5 oz ground almonds5 drops of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil5 drops of lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil.

The above recipe makes 2 oz facial scrub.

Simply combine the ingredients together in a bowl; when you are ready to use the scrub, add a small amount of water to it in order to make a paste. Apply to your face and leave on for about 10 minutes; wash off gently. Discard any unused scrub mixture that you have added water to.

This article is a very basic introduction to making natural aromatherapy body scrubs. There are many different ingredients that you can use and combine to make natural scrubs at home. You can either read a good book on the subject or take a course in natural body product making to learn more; just make sure you understand the effects on your body of any ingredients you use. Used correctly, this is both a fun and natural way to take care of your body!

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, Kathi Keville, Mindi GreenThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Beauty Products, Sally W. Trew, Zonella B. GouldAuthor’s is a certified clinical aromatherapist.

Photo by mhaithaca

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Edible Wild Salads

Sunday, July 22, 2012 0 comments

Years ago a friend lost his job as an engineer. Rather than seeking employment in the corporate world, he decided to farm. Not growing up on a farm, it took several years of poverty for them to see the fruits of their labor.

Why am I telling you this? One day his wife confided in me that the only fresh salads they got were from the weeds in the backyard. Unbelievable? Not really. The herbs growing in our backyards contain many more nutrients than the bags of iceberg lettuce in the produce section of the grocery that most of us call a salad. Let me introduce you to a wild salad—one of highly nutritious herbs—growing in my yard.

The chief of salad greens, dandelion (Taraxaum officinale) cleanses your liver and kidneys and promotes digestion. It also delivers boron, calcium, and silicon; making it an excellent choice for preventing osteoporosis and other bone and muscle conditions.

“Young dandelion leaves make delicious sandwiches, the tender leaves being laid between slices of bread and butter and sprinkled with salt. The addition of a little lemon juice and pepper varies the flavor,” states the classic book on herbs A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve.

Grieve also says that when boiled, the young leaves of chickweed (Stellaria media) “can hardly be distinguished from spring spinach, and are equally wholesome.” A crawling perennial, this wholesome herb grows about six inches tall. It has hairy stems, ovate leaves, and star-shaped white flowers (from which the name stellaria comes). Chickweed is native to Asia and Europe, but you can now find it in most parts of the world. It is a wonderful addition to skin products and also contains compounds that aid digestion; making it the perfect salad green. “Apart from its medicinal uses,” says Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH in his Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, “chickweed is a tasty and nutritious vegetable.”

Another ideal addition to your salad is lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album). Amazingly, this European relative of spinach actually tastes like spinach. It branches like a tree and unchecked, can reach up to six feet tall. However, for your salad, you would want the young, tender leaves. Diamond shaped, they appear to have white powder on the undersides. High in beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron, lamb’s quarters provides more nutritional punch than its cultivated cousin. Some folks even harvest it from their field before plowing and can or freeze it just as they would spinach.

Now that we have the foundation for our salad, with what shall we top it? I could add a few red clover blossoms, a cup of wild berries, some sprigs of mint, or even some chopped green onions—all from the backyard.

But this only begins our produce foraging experience. My backyard, and probably yours as well, also has herbs for health, ones for tea, and fruit for dessert. What have you eaten from your backyard lately? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.


 Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. GrieveEncyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH


If you are not familiar with foraging, please use a field guide for proper identification or have an experienced forager accompany you before eating wild foods.

Photo by Chiot’s Run

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Essential Oils for Your Skin Type

Friday, July 20, 2012 0 comments

Essential oils are added to many skin care products as a natural way of looking after your skin. However, there are many different essential oils to choose from; some essential oils are more suitable for certain skin types than others. Here’s a look at some suitable essential oils for different types of skin.

You can add essential oils to various skin care products; these includes facial scrubs, moisturizing lotions, foot creams and sugar scrubs. You can make your own skin care products at home or use a cosmetic base to which to add the essential oils. If you know little about using essential oils, consult a qualified aromatherapist for further advice on the amount of essential oils to use in your products and any contra-indications for using a specific essential oil. In addition, pick up a good book on the subject.

Different parts of the body require different types of base products; for example, you wouldn’t normally use an essential oil blend for your feet on your face. The following is a quick guideline to the types of bases you should choose for the different parts of the body:

feet – choose a richer, thicker emollient cream for your feet, particularly if you are treating dry skin. In addition, if you are making up a foot scrub, try a salt scrub, or a sugar scrub with large, abrasive particlesface- choose a gentle exfoliant for your face. If you are using a scrub, choose ground oatmeal or apricots over sugar and salt scrubs. Try a gentle moisturizing lotion that has been specifically blended for the facebody – use a general lotion or oil base for your body but pay attention to your skin type and any specific problem areas that might need extra care.

If you have oily skin, you will probably suffer from spots and blemishes on your skin. Oily skin is caused by the over production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Teenagers are prone to oily skin, in addition to women suffering from PMT, or as a result of an illness. Oily skin can produce acne.

Essential oils that are antiseptic and anti-bacterial are a good choice for dealing with oily skin; these include:

tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)lemon (Citrus limon)grapefruit (Citrus paradisi).

Dry skin is the opposite problem of oily skin; the sebaceous glands do not produce enough sebum. In addition, environmental factors, such as weather, can cause your skin to dry out. Dry skin can lead to itchy, red patches on your skin and it is likely that you could suffer from sensitive skin too if you have dry skin.

Use essential oils that are balancing and are gentle on the skin, if you have dry skin; these include:

rose (Rosa damascena)lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)jasmine (Jasminum officinale)neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara).

If you have mature skin, it is likely that you will also have wrinkles. Essential oils encourage the re-generation of skin cells by stimulating the circulation of blood (source: The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood). Essential oils for mature skin include:

myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)rose (Rosa damascena)clary sage (Salvia sclarea)fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Adding essential oils to skincare bases are a natural way to take care of your skin; however, you need to understand your skin type and the type of product base that you are using to choose the most suitable product for your body. Used correctly, essential oils are a useful tool for skin care.

The Complete Guide to Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann WorwoodAromatherapy: An A-Z, Patricia DavisAromatherapy for Women, Shirley PriceAuthor is a certified aromatherapist.

Photo by QuintanaRoo

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Herbal Foot Care Health

Thursday, July 19, 2012 0 comments

As summer approaches, your feet are suddenly thrown into the limelight! Throughout the winter months, feet usually stay bundled up in comfy socks, shoes and boots (unless you are lucky enough to live in a more tropical climate) and, as a consequence, feet often become thought of “as out of sight, out of mind.” However, your feet are perhaps one of the most important parts of your body, and feet deserve a little bit of love with natural skincare whatever the season. Use this summer as you starting point to better foot health!

Did you know that on average your feet will carry you the equivalent distance of four times the circumference of the world in your lifetime? In addition, women have four times as many foot problems as men. If you think foot health is not a big deal, consider the fact that approximately 75% of Americans will experience some form of foot problem throughout their lives (source).

Taking these few foot facts into account, feet deserve better care than we are usually apt to give them!

There are many foot products on the market to heal and protect cracked, sore feet and associated foot problems. However, you can probably make most of your own foot care products at home using just a few natural ingredients. The rest of this article contains information on what I consider to be some of the best ways to protect your feet with aromatherapy products, based on my experience both as an aromatherapist and as a practising reflexologist.

Depending on the aromatherapy product, associated problems and other factors, essential oils for feet vary. However, the following are, in general, used for foot problems. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for further advice:

peppermint (Mentha piperita)rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)lemon (Citrus limon)fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Whether you have hot, tired, aching feet or cracked and dry skin, a foot soak is a great way to start your foot skincare regime. When giving reflexology treatments, I start all of my treatments with an aromatic foot soak, to clean, soften and relax the skin before the actual treatment.

Preparing your own aromatherapy foot soak is simple; the most simplistic way to do this is to fill an appropriately sized bowl or container with warm water. If you have some fragrant roses growing in your garden, add a few rose petals for a bit of luxury! Otherwise, add a few drops of an essential oil or an aromatherapy hydrosol.

Once you have soaked your feet, using an aromatherapy foot scrub will help to get rid of some of the dead skin cells and rough skin patches on your feet. You can use either a sugar or salt scrub for your feet but a salt scrub will be more abrasive and perhaps more effective in removing stubborn dead skin patches. Make your own foot scrub by mixing the appropriate amount of salt/sugar with your chosen essential oils. Apply the scrub to the skin in small circular motions and leave on for about 15 minutes. Wash off and pat dry.

After your feet have been soaked and scrubbed, it is now time to pamper them with either an aromatherapy massage oil or foot cream. The choice of an oil or a cream is a matter of personal preference but here are a few facts to consider in making your choice:

a massage oil is slippy so don’t apply an oil if you intend to be walking around shortly after applicationa cream is usually heavier in consistency than a body lotion and is more suitable for the tougher skin of the feetapply a moderate amount to your feet once a day to moisturize and protect your feet.

Looking after your feet with skincare products should be a year round routine, not just for the summer months when your feet are on display in sandals and flip flops. Make a point of scheduling a time once a week to carry out your full foot care routine (such as foot soaks and foot scrubs) and apply foot cream daily. Your feet will thank you!

Photo by joshme17

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Different Types of Vitamins and Their Uses

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 0 comments

Vitamins are essential to us in order to help our bodies function efficiently and to keep us in good health. Vitamins are found in various foods, in addition to being naturally manufactured by our bodies. However, sometimes we need some help in the form of vitamin supplements; it can be difficult knowing which vitamin supplement to choose unless you know the purpose and function of each one. This article summarizes some of the uses and functions of the most common vitamins.

Vitamin A is associated with eye disorders, such as night blindness, and skin disorders, such as acne. It is also needed for immunity and maintenance of the skin. It helps with bone formation and acts as an antioxidant. (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, Phyllis A. Balch). However, a deficiency in vitamin A is uncommon, with the exception of developing countries (source).

Vitamin A can be found in green and yellow fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, apricots, carrots and yellow squash, in addition to fish liver oils. Some plants and herbs, such as fennel seed, lemongrass, rose hips, sage and hops also contain vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin.

There are several types of vitamin B; these include vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. Vitamin B is a water soluble vitamin. The function of the B vitamins include:

brain function (vitamin B1)nerve health (vitamin B5 & B6)skin health (vitamin B3)eye health (vitamin B2)formation of red blood cells (vitamin B12).

Vitamin B also helps with the functioning of various other functions in the body. Sources of Vitamin B include:

brown riceegg yolksfishmeatmilknutsasparaguspotatoescarrotssea vegetables (vitamin B12) (source).

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant and is important in protecting the body against infection, colds, flu, tissue growth and repair, promotes wound healing and increases the absorption of iron. A lack of vitamin C might be caused by smoking, alcohol consumption and the taking of drugs such as anti-depressants and analgesics (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, Phyllis A. Balch).

Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables such as oranges, tomatoes, cabbage, green peppers and grapefruit, in addition to cranberries, blueberries and lemons (source). Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin.

Vitamin D is needed by the body for a number of functions such as the absorption of calcium, healthy bones and teeth, thyroid function and blood clotting. The reason that many people become deficient in vitamin D during the winter months is that they do not receive enough Vitamin D from sunlight, a natural source of vitamin D, that enables the body to keep and convert enough vitamin D in the body.

You can find vitamin D in dairy products, eggs and fish liver oils. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

Vitamin E is another anti-oxidant and is a fat soluble vitamin. Anti-oxidants such as vitamin E help to protect against cardiovascular disease. In addition, vitamin E helps to protect against cell damage and in the manufacture of red blood cells. Vitamin E also helps the body utilize vitamin K and vitamin A.

Vitamin E exists in eight different molecule formats within two groups known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, eggs, mayonnaise, liver, nuts, spinach, beet, asparagus, legumes and cold pressed vegetable oils (source).

Vitamin K is important to the role of blood clotting in that it is needed to produce prothrombin. It also helps to promote healthy liver function. Vitamin K is found in asparagus, safflower oil, green leafy vegetables, egg yolks and liver (source). Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.

Most vitamins can be found in similar foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products and fish; vitamins exist in different levels within these foods but if you maintain a healthy diet, you should be absorbing adequate vitamins. However, sometimes the body needs a helping hand if you have a specific disease or problem. If you are unsure about taking vitamin supplements (and how and which ones to take), consult your medical practitioner for advice before using them.

Photo by bradley j

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How Dirt Acts as an Anti-Depressant

Sunday, July 15, 2012 0 comments

Perhaps you’ve had a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor that you thought a bit odd. But if you go in complaining of depression and the doc tells you to take up gardening, hear him out. Research has shown a direct correlation between Mycobacterium vaccae (a bacterium found in soil) and the serotonin levels in the brain.

In a 2007 study, Dr. Christopher Lowry and colleagues at the University of Bristol, England, injected mice with a specially prepared solution of M. vaccae. In the control group, “they found that serotonin-producing neurons in…the dorsal raphe nucleus (region of the brain)…were more active in the treated mice….They also found increases in serotonin itself in the prefrontal cortex.” In a study with a second group of mice, Lowry stated that the bacteria “had the exact same effect as antidepressant drugs.”

But that is not all. Researchers continue to study the effects that this species of the Mycobacteriaceae family of bacteria might have on allergic asthma, cancer, depression, tuberculosis and various skin conditions—including leprosy. Naturally occurring in the soil, this bacterium is also the basis for a vaccine used to treat tuberculosis.

How does this work? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the gastro-intestinal tract, platelets, and central nervous system of humans. About 90% of a person’s serotonin is found in the gut and regulates intestinal movement. The remainder is used by the CNS to regulate mood, appetite, and sleep. It also plays an important role in memory and learning. According to scientists from the Georgetown University Medical Center and a Canadian research institute, “serotonin is passed between key cells in the immune system, and that the chemical is specifically used to activate an immune response.” So, if exposure to M. vaccae through the soil increases serotonin levels in the brain, it stands to reason that the body’s immune system is boosted as well. And, if our body’s immune system is strengthened, than its ability to fight or ward off these other illnesses is strengthened.

So, does gardening, working in the yard, or merely taking a walk relieve the symptoms of depression or some of these other ailments? Lowry’s study shows that simply inhaling or ingesting M. vaccae can boost one’s mood. This finding suggests that simply mowing the lawn or walking a dusty road could expose one to a dose of this mood boosting bacteria. However unlike pharmaceuticals, a person cannot overdose on too much of the great outdoors.

Simon N. Young, Editor-in-chief, Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, and Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, MontrĂ©al, Quebec, reports in “How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain without Drugs” that exposure to sunlight and exercise can both help to elevate the mood in depressed individuals. In this article, Young states that in addition to the decrease in human exposure to bright light, “there has been a large change in the level of vigorous physical exercise experienced since humans were…engaged primarily in agriculture…and that the decline in vigorous physical exercise…may contribute to the high level of depression in today’s society.”

In light of these findings, if you couple the effects of M. vaccae on a person’s serotonin levels with that of the sun and exercise, gardening would be the activity of choice for those suffering from depression.


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