Two Natural Remedies for Sinus Pain and Congestion Relief

Two Natural Remedies for Sinus Pain and Congestion ReliefI am just starting to get over being sick.  I don’t often get sick but when I do, I can typically treat whatever I’ve got going on naturally with my herbs.  Namely Fire Cider.  So, when I woke up with a really sore throat and chills, I started with my usual Fire Cider and Ecchinacea Tincture, plenty of vitamins, fluids, and rest.  Four days passed and it just kept getting worse.  What started as a sore throat kind of cold had me laid up in bed and was starting to feel like it was turning into a sinus infection.  I had missed work and my beloved herbs just weren’t doing the trick.  Here’s the thing with treating yourself naturally: you have to know when to say I need to get help.  In my case, I actually tried going to the doctor but that was an effort in futility as she “just couldn’t fit me in.”  (That in itself can turn into a whole a post about what’s wrong with today’s medical establishment, but I don’t want to get too side tracked here…)  I eventually went to a walk in clinic and found out that I had a sinus infection AND an ear infection.  Oy.  I got some meds and went back home to bed.  I was in bed with this crud for a WEEK.  Today marks Day 11 and I’m just starting to feel like myself again.  I’m still totally congested and not even close to being 100%, but at least I’m back on my feet, going to work, and getting some stuff done.

While I was laid up, the sinus pain and pressure as well as congestion (still got the congestion going on actually!) that I was dealing with was bad.  I’m no stranger to a sinus infection and I still thought it was bad.  But there are a few things that will bring some relief.

Hot Compress

One of my favorite ways to get some relief is with a hot compress.  A hot compress will help relieve some of the pain and it will also help loosen the mucus to help ease drainage.  Just get yourself a bowl full of hot water and a washcloth.  I like to keep the bowl nearby so that when the cloth cools, I can dip it back in again.  Just lay your head back, close your eyes, and place the folded cloth over your eyes and nose.  I like to put another small towel on top to help keep the heat and moisture in.  Some people like to alternate with a cold compress, but I find that the cloth cools enough on it’s own before I dip it back into the bowl of hot water.  Apply the hot compress several times during the day.

Steam Inhalation

I’m not usually a fan of wet heat, actually really hot conditions in general (you’ll never see me in a Bikram yoga class), but I really loved doing a steam inhalation during this cold.  It was so relaxing, I actually felt like I was going to start dozing while I was doing it.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  You can use the pot for your inhalation, just be careful you don’t burn yourself on the sides.  I boiled water in my tea kettle and poured it into a lovely, large glass bowl.  Here’s my favorite part: I added essential oils of Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Peppermint to it.  Eucalyptus is well known for it’s use in inhalants and vapor rubs; it is a decongestant and expectorant, among other things.  Peppermint has a high menthol content, making it helpful with respiratory problems as an expectorant.  And I used Lavender primarily for it’s relaxing qualities.  Essential oils are quite powerful, so you don’t need a lot.  I only used a couple of drops of Eucalyptus and Peppermint; maybe only one drop of the Lavender.   Once my water and oils were set, I leaned over the bowl with a towel over my head and inhaled as deeply as could through my nose.  It didn’t take long before I was coming up to grab some tissues to blow!  If you get light headed or just need some cool air during your inhalation, just take a quick break.  I know I did a few times.  Stick with it for about 5-10 minutes; you can do this, too, a few times during the day.

Other Ways to Find Some Relief

  • Humidity, in general, helps with sinus congestion, including: hot soups and teas, hot showers (but don’t go crazy here, as hot showers are extremely drying to your skin), and using a humidifier.
  • Some people swear by their neti pot.  I have a love/hate relationship with it, personally.  I love the concept of it and when I can do it right and see results, I love it.  But, truthfully, I just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet and have struggled with getting the right angle to get the water to flow out the other nostril.  So, yeah, that’s the part I hate.  =)  But, if you’re a fan of the neti, use a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract to help fight an infection.
  • Saline mists are another way of irrigating your nasal passages.  You can purchase some over the counter or you can make your own and use it with a bulb syringe.
  • Please keep in mind that saline mists are a very different thing than decongestant sprays.  Decongestant sprays may bring fast relief, but used over time, they lead to nasal passage damage, inflammation, and the inability to respond to the decongestant.
  • Eating spicy foods can also help open up your nasal passages.  If you’re sick and feeling up to, make sure you do the preparation, too.  It’s part of the treatment!  I know that grated fresh horseradish root always helps clear me up.  Other options include chile peppers and wasabi.

Long story short, listen to your body and know when to seek help.

Most illnesses respond well to natural treatments, rest, and nourishment.  But if your body doesn’t respond in an appropriate manner or quickly enough given the situation, consult a medical practitioner (ideally one who is open to and versed in holistic treatments).  In the case of a possible sinus infection, if you have such symptoms as yellow or green mucus discharge, persistent fever or stiff neck, pain for more than 24 hours, persistent nausea or vomiting, you need to seek professional medical advice.  Using natural sinus pain relief is awesome when it’s simply a mild chronic pain or related to a common cold or allergy, but if you have severe pain that is not responding to any natural techniques, you need to see your doctor.

How to Make Powdered Herbs

If you read the post earlier this week on how to make your own herbal supplements, you may be wondering about the powdered herbs that go inside the gel capsules.  In that post, I talked about simply ordering your powdered herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, but there is another way that is both easy and economical: simply powder them yourself.  Herbs tend to lose their efficacy quicker when they are powdered, so doing it yourself only as you need them will help preserve your herbs over time as well.

Garam Masala Photo

  1. If you grow your own herbs, simply harvest, dry, and store them for later use.  Make sure that your herbs are completely dried before storing.  If they are brittle enough to crumble easily, they should be good.  Any moisture left in the plants will cause them to rot.  This is the most economical way of getting your dried and powdered herbs.
  2. If you don’t grow your own herbs, you can still order them from a sustainable source like Mountain Rose Herbs in dried form instead of powdered.  In the example that I used the other day, you may choose to make some Echinacea herbal supplements, but perhaps you’d like to have the herbs on hand to make an infusion as well.  By ordering your herbs dried, you can do both!
  3. In order to powder your dried herbs, you have a few tool options.  The folk method is tried and true and is certainly a connection with herbalism’s roots: the mortar and pestle.  I will say this, though, as nostalgic as the mortar and pestle is, it’s also a lot of work.  I actually prefer to use a modern tool: a coffee grinder.  Some people like using their food processor, Vitamix, or Magic Bullet, but I only powder small amounts of herb at a time and find that a coffee grinder works perfectly.  Here’s a tip: Keep a coffee grinder specifically for herbal use.  You wouldn’t want your morning cup of coffee to taste like lavender or your lavender massage oil to smell like coffee!  I got a brand new one from a thrift store for just a few dollars.  You don’t need anything fancy, in fact, this one is only $10 on Amazon and I’m sure it would work just fine.
  4. Simply add some of your dried herb material to your grinder of choice and either add some elbow grease (if using the mortar and pestle) or press a button.  Whizz until your herbs are a fine powder.  It shouldn’t take long to grind herbs down, but spices and bark will take a little more time or effort.  Make sure you allow your grinder’s motor to rest, if need be.  Once you’re happy with the consistency of your herbs, let the powder settle before you open your grinder, otherwise, you’ll have an herb cloud escape.  Make sure you clean your grinder well after each use.

That’s it!  Easy, huh?  One of the benefits of making your own herbal supplements that I neglected to mention the other day was that by doing it yourself, you have absolute control over what goes into them.  Some companies include fillers, additives, and preservatives.  Seems kind of silly when it’s so simple to make your own herbal concoctions.

Powdered herbs are also used a lot in cooking; such as garlic powder, turmeric, garam masala, or cinnamon.  Other herbal medicinal applications include poultices, salves, extracts, and liniments.

 

A Super Simple Way to Save Money on Your Herbal Supplements

As more studies come out in support of herbal supplementation, the general population is finding it more acceptable to try taking some Echinacea when they feel a cold coming on or to try talking to their doctor to see if St John’s Wort would help with their seasonal depression.  I believe in herbs and have seen time and again that they are effective.  Some people might argue that herbal supplements are a little pricey, but they don’t have to be… if you make them yourself!

 A Super Simple Way to Save Money on Your Herbal Supplements

I just made my first batch of herbal supplements in capsule form.  To date, the most popular forms that my herbal medicine would take is tea and tincture (although, I do love my salves!).  I heard about the Capsule Machine a long time ago, but realized that I NEEDED to get one when I discovered a post from Frugally Sustainable with her Anti-Inflammatory Capsule recipe.  Being the active girl that I am, I can’t avoid the occasional ache and pain, so I really wanted to try treating them herbally.  The Capsule Machine is this awesome little device that allows you to fill your own gelatin capsules with whatever herbal powders you like.    It is so freaking simple to use!  Here is a great video from John Gallagher at LearningHerbs.com on behalf of Mountain Rose Herbs giving you the how to:

Okay, so how is this going to save you some moolah?

By doing it yourself and buying your supplies in bulk (which, let’s face it, the supplies aren’t very big so the “bulk” won’t take up too much room)!  Let’s say that you want to get some Echinacea supplements to have on hand during this brutal winter that we’re having.

You already saw how easy it is to operate the Capsule Machine, now let’s see how doing it yourself breaks down.

So, let’s see…  Yes, you have the initial investment of the Capsule Machine, but after that…

  1. If you want to use the vegetarian capsules on Amazon for $17.75, it would cost $4.44 for 250 capsules.
  2. You will not use that whole 4oz of powdered herb, but definitely at least half of it at $3.50.
  3. Your grand total for homemade Echinacea Purpurea Root Capsules is $7.94.
  4. It should also be noted that each of the empty 00 capsules holds 700mg, which is almost double that of the NOW Foods sample bottle.

That is 43% LESS than that bottle from NOW Foods on Amazon!!

Spiced Pear Freezer Jam Recipe

Hello my Green Friends!  How have you been??  To say that I fell off the face of the Earth for a little while seems to be a bit of an understatement, but all is well.  We’ve been super busy getting things done around the house, work’s been getting fairly busy, and we got to take a trip to WI for my honey’s brother’s wedding.  The trip was extremely busy but it was really nice to see the family and visit with some friends.  We were able to enjoy real fall weather while we were up North!  It was in the 50’s during the day, so we got to wear jackets!  That may not sound that unusual but it was a nice change from the 80 degree weather that we’re still getting in FL.  On our last day, we visited an apple farm and got some hot apple cider, apple fritters, apple cider doughnut holes, and some apple butter.  Such delicious fall goodies!  The trip really got me in the mood for fall, even though once we got home, I immediately put on shorts and a t-shirt.

Spiced Pear Jam 1

Over the summer, when the local strawberry farms were in full production, I tried making my first freezer jam and it was delicious!  I used the last of the jam as a filler in a strawberry shortcake style cake recently and knew that I had to replenish my jam stock.  Strawberries are no longer in season, but pears are and they are perfect for that taste of fall that I’m craving!  I’ve never made a pear jam before, so I did a little research and came up with a new freezer jam recipe to try.  I don’t have all of the paraphernalia required to can, so that’s why I stuck with the freezer jam, but I’m sure this recipe would work just as well if you were to can it instead (although the process may be slightly different).

I prefer low sugar jam recipes and discovered that Pomona’s Universal Pectin is highly recommended.  Not only is it good for low sugar recipes, but you can also use honey, agave, maple syrup, stevia, xylitol, sucanat, or even frozen juice concentrate.  It keeps indefinitely, is gluten free, and vegan!  Every package comes with a set of recipes and directions (also available on their website here) and I do recommend you check it out because it does work differently than other pectin since it is 100% citrus pectin with no added sugars, preservatives, additives, or dextrose.

This recipe made 6 cups or 3 pint jars.

Spiced Pear Jam 3

Low Sugar Spiced Pear Freezer Jam

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mashed pears (I used 5 large Bartlett pears)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I did use granulated sugar for this recipe, just to keep things simple (since I’m still fairly new to jam making!), but I think experimenting with honey will be next on my list.
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 3/4 cup water (for dissolving pectin)
  • 3 tsp pectin
  • 4 tsp – 12 tsp calcium water (instructions included with pectin)
  1.  Clean your containers.  I used Mason jars, of course!
  2. Prepare your fruit and combine with lemon juice in a large bowl.
  3. Add sweetener, cinnamon, and ginger to fruit and stir well.
  4. Bring 3/4 cup of water to boil.  Put in blender and add pectin powder.  Vent lid and blend 1-2 minutes, until all powder is dissolved.
  5. Add hot liquid pectin to fruit and stir until well mixed.
  6. Add 4 tsp calcium water, stir well.  Jell should appear.  If not, continue adding 1 tsp calcium water and stirring well until jell appears.  Jell may be softer than cooked jam.  (It took the total 12 tsp for me.)
  7. Fill containers to 1/2″ of top, put on lids, and store in freezer immediately.  Store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Keep in refrigerator after thawing.

Spiced Pear Jam 2

My pear jam came out tasting just as delicious as fresh fruit and wonderfully warming with the added spices.  I couldn’t help but make a couple of baguettes to go along with the jam!  This would make a great hostess gift if you’re visiting for the holidays.  Just add a label (you can find some fun, vintage style free printables that you can customize from World Label here) and wrap in a tea towel with a raffia ribbon.

Have you tried making jam?  What are some of your favorite flavors?  I’m suddenly thinking about all kinds of yummy sounding flavors like pear vanilla, peach blackberry, plum cardamom, raspberry lime…

Beat the Heat: How To Make Refreshing Fruit Water

I actually love drinking water. I love a crisp, clean glass first thing in the morning, after a workout, when I wake up in the middle of the night… well, you get the idea. But not everyone is as crazy about plain old water and, let’s face it, variety really is the spice of life. So, if you need a little variety or if you’re one of the millions that are suffering from this recent heat wave, you’re going to need some hydration options.

One of the easiest ways of adding variety to my water routine is by using my Sodastream Soda Maker. Now, I don’t use it to make any sugary sodas (although, they do sell lower calorie soda syrups or you can make them yourself), but simply to make carbonated water. The fizzy water over ice with a splash of lemon or lime juice is so refreshing! You can also mix in some fruit juice for even more variety.

I also make my own fruit and herb infused waters. You’re not going to believe how simple it is when I tell you…

Fruit Water

  • Grab your mason jar (you know how I love my mason jars) or any pitcher, for that matter.
  • Fill it about 1/4 or 1/3 of the way with fresh fruit and herbs.
  • Muddle a little to release the juices; you don’t need to crush your fruit unless you like a lot of pulp floating around. You also don’t need any fancy tools here, a spoon will muddle just fine.
  • Pour in your clean, cool water.  I recommend spring, filtered, or sparkling water.
  • You can drink immediately, but I like to let the water infuse for a little while (anywhere from 2 hours to overnight, depending on the herbs used) with the fruit to get the most fruit flavor in the water.
  • Enjoy!

It’s *that* easy.

Optional:

  • You can fill the rest of the jar with ice before adding water, if you’d like to enjoy your drink sooner rather than later. The ice also acts as a natural strainer, if you’d like to keep the fruit in the container. The ice will actually last some time while refrigerated.
  • You can also strain the fruit/herbs out of the water if you plan on storing in the fridge for a few days. Honestly, mine never lasts that long, so I never bother doing that.
  • If you’d like it a little sweet, add some honey or agave to keep it healthy; avoid granulated sugar.

Here are a few fruit or fruit and herb combinations to spark your creativity:

-strawberries and lemon
-raspberries and lime
-all citrus
-all berry
-cucumber and mint
-watermelon and rosemary
-peach and lemon verbena
-honeydew, mango, pineapple, basil
-lemongrass and mint
-orange and cardamom
-blackberry and rose

I always have some flavor of fruit/herb water going in the fridge (even if it’s just lemon water) and often, the flavor is dictated simply by what I have on hand (fruit never goes to waste around here!). Get creative! I’d love to hear what combinations you come up with in the comments below.

Beat the Heat: Basic Heat Wave Relief Tips

thermometerThe Northeast and parts of the Midwest have been undergoing unbelievable temperatures this week resulting in the first official heat wave of the summer season.  Ugh!  I’m in Florida and we’ve been dealing with the heat, humidity, and daily rains that are typical for us this time of year.  Luckily, we haven’t had triple digit weather!  It sounds like meteorologists are forecasting some rain for this weekend and with it, hopefully, some relief but, in the meantime, I thought we’d talk about some ways to beat the heat.  I’ve got some basics here for you today and will follow up next week with a few more posts including yummy fruit water, a cooling herbal spray, and even some cooling foods.

Water!

You know the drill…  Get your 8 cups daily.  But in the heat, it’s important to drink more because you lose so much of your body’s hydration through sweat.  If you’re going to be outside for any extended amount of time or working out in the heat, be sure to have a sports drink or snack to replenish the electrolytes and salt that you lose through sweat.  Coconut water is a great alternative to the sugary sports drinks: it has more potassium and natural sodium than the sports drinks on the market.  Wellness Mama has a great recipe for making your own sports drink, too!

Timing Your Workout

If you are going to be outside, try to avoid the hottest hours of the day which usually fall between 10:00am and 3:00pm.  If you workout outdoors, definitely try to plan to get out in the early hours of the day or later in the evening when the temperatures are a bit cooler and the sun isn’t so extreme.  Try not to do any intense workouts if you’re not used to the heat because you’ll reach your target heart rate much quicker.  As a reaction to heat, your body will increase blood flow to the skin in an effort to cool off.  This means that there is less blood flow to your muscles and an increased heart rate.

Clothing and Sunscreen

Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing will help perspiration (your body’s way of cooling itself) evaporate from your skin.  Lighter colors won’t absorb as much heat from the sun and wearing a hat will help keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes.  Be sure to wear sunscreen: sunburn will keep your skin from cooling off and it’s dehydrating.

Check out my post Be Sun Smart! for some more helpful tips.

Sunburn: All Natural Damage Control

Sunburn

Okay, so we had a little chat the other day about staying safe in the sun, but… well… sometimes accidents happen.  Maybe you forgot to reapply your sunscreen or you missed a spot.  Maybe you were outside longer than you intended and didn’t have a cover up or hat with you.  I’m not going to berate you for getting a burn because, well, sometimes shit happens.   So, let’s talk damage control now.  Here are some all natural home remedies that you can do now to help heal your poor raw, red, inflamed skin.

Cooling Relief

Take a cool bath or a gentle shower.  Hot water will actually intensify the pain, so you definitely want to avoid that.  If you have an adjustable shower head, put it on a gentle setting; high pressure will hurt your burn and if you have blisters, you’ll run the risk of popping them.  Avoid using any harsh detergents,  bubble bath, or any soaps with artificial fragrance.  Stick with a gentle, all natural soap and be sure to rinse completely.

Vinegar is an astringent that will help soothe sunburn pain.  Mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (you can also use white vinegar, if that’s all you have) in with your cool bath for relief.  Don’t worry, the smell will subside.  You can also put some ACV in a spray bottle and keep it in the fridge to spray on your burn later.

Use a muslin bag (or a tea towel or cheesecloth to create a bag) and fill with oatmeal (rolled oats, not instant).  Mix in some powdered milk, too, if you have some.  Hang the bag from the faucet and let your tub fill with cool water for your bath.  An oatmeal bath is incredibly soothing for a burn.

If you can’t air dry when you get out, gently pat yourself dry.  Rubbing a towel, no matter how soft, over a fresh burn hurts and will only irritate it more.

For some cooling relief outside of the bath or shower, you can also place cool compresses on your skin.  Dampen a wash cloth or tea towel with cold water and apply to the affected area.  Re-wet and reapply as often as necessary.  If you have some chamomile tea, brew a strong pot and let it cool.  Mix a few drops of lavender essential oil (it will help relieve sunburn pain AND even help prevent peeling) and use a clean cloth compress.

Topical Relief

aloeApply aloe vera to the burn.  Check the label before you buy a bottle, though: you want pure aloe vera; many manufacturers add all kinds of nasty ingredients including artificial preservatives and rubbing alcohol (which will only further dry out your skin).  You can also do what I prefer, and just cut a leaf off an aloe plant (aloe is so healing that the plant will actually heal itself where you cut the leaf off).  Slice down the center of the leaf and apply the gel from the inside to your burn.  You don’t have to rub it all the way in; actually, it’s best if you don’t.  Reapply as often as necessary.  You can put your leftover aloe in some plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later.  The refrigeration with keep the aloe fresh and the cool gel will feel amazing on your burn later.  I actually usually have a stash of aloe in the freezer for emergencies: put some of the gel into ice cube trays and freeze.

Burn around the eyes?  Place some cucumber slices around and on your eyes for cooling relief.

Calendula is a well known herb for treating skin conditions, so you can apply calendula ointment to help heal the inflammation.

Witch hazel is an incredible astringent herb that has been shown to have long lasting anti-inflammatory relief.  Moisten a cloth with witch hazel and apply often. 

There are a few natural remedies that I haven’t tried yet, but only because I so very rarely get a sunburn.  Here are a few of them… Yogurt is supposed to be quite cooling to a burn.  Apply full fat, unsweetened yogurt to your burn and let set to cool your skin; rinse off in a cool shower.  The tannins in black tea help soothe and heal a burn: make a pot of strong tea, let cool, dampen a clean cloth in the liquid and apply the compress to the burn.  A folk remedy that’s been around for ages is to apply potato peels to the burn.  The potato provides moisture and its antibacterial properties will help heal.

As your burn begins to heal and doesn’t appear to be quite as red, raw, and painful anymore, treat your skin to some TLC and slather on a good moisturizing lotion.  I really love Lush’s Dream Cream.  It’s a little pricey but a little goes a long way.  It’s *that* moisturizing.  Vitamin E oil is incredibly moisturizing and is an antioxident so it will help repair the damage.  Look for lotions containing it or apply it directly to the skin.

The Basics

A sunburn can be very dehydrating, so make sure you keep  hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Be extra careful to protect your burn if you’ll be back in the sun before it heals.  Stay in the shade, wear protective clothing, and put on sunscreen of at least SPF 30.  Lightweight, loose fitting clothing will be much more comfortable and less irritating to your burn.

This may sound crazy, but it takes your skin three to six months after a sunburn to heal and return to normal.  Three to six months!  In that time, you’ll burn even faster than you did before so please take necessary precautions to prevent that!!  Check out my article on how to Be Sun Smart.

Blisters and Infection

Blisters and infection are a post all onto themselves and, hopefully, your burn wasn’t so extreme as that.  If you do have severe blistering with red streaks extending away from the blister, feel faint or dizzy, extreme thirst but no urine output, fever, or nausea, seek medical attention.

 

Be Sun Smart!

Beach Chairs with UmbrellasIt’s official!  Summer has arrived!  And with summer, we have the beach and pool, barbecues and parties, baseball, bicycling, volleyball, and all kinds of other amazing outdoor activities that we spend the winter pining for.  But along with all of that outdoor fun, comes the sun.  I *love* spending time outside, but (not to be Debbie Downer) skin cancer is in my family, so I take a few precautions before heading out.  Even if your family history doesn’t include the C word, you should still protect your skin.  Sun exposure can lead to freckles, wrinkles, and discolored areas of skin.  The sun’s UV light damages elastin and when these fibers break down, skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose the ability to go back into place after stretching.  And nobody wants that.  Here are some things you can do to protect your skin and enjoy your summer!

Sunscreen

  • The No. 1 rule of skin cancer prevention: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater, blocking UVA and UVB rays) daily.  Always apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or more often if you’re swimming and/or sweating.  Sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide actually block the UV rays.
  • Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen.  Picture a shot glass.  Go pull one out of the bar, if you have to.  That’s how much sunscreen you need to apply to get adequate coverage.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your ears, neck, and tops of hands and feet.  They are the most commonly forgotten areas and burn quick.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00am and 2:00pm).  If you are outside, lounging at the beach, at least find you way under a nice umbrella.  And maybe scope out a drink with an umbrella in it, too.

Eat Your Protection

  • You can help protect your skin from the inside out.  Eat a diet with a variety of antioxidant rich foods including colorful fruits and vegetables.  Antioxidants help prevent and repair damage to your body’s tissue.  And what is sunburn/tan?  It is an inflammation of the skin due to overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.  (Doesn’t sound too good like that does it?)  Vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral selenium are thought to be helpful for the skin.  They all fight free radicals; vitamins A and C encourage cell and tissue regrowth, helping the body repair itself.
  • Some antioxidant rich foods include: spinach, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, green tea, spirulina, dark chocolate (2 oz. of the good stuff daily!), pomegranates, berries, kiwi, papaya, citrus fruit.

Clothing and Accessories

  • You know that poor pale kid that you see in the water at the beach in a soaking white T-shirt?  He’s actually onto something.  All fabric disrupts UV radiation to some degree, but clothes with a UPF rating of 15-50 does the best job of it.  Not everyone needs to wear special clothing, but it is something to consider if you’re fair skinned or sun-sensitive, children are good candidates, and people spending time at a high elevation, in equatorial regions, or on reflective surfaces (think snow, sand, and water).  While the pasty kid at the beach has the right idea, he isn’t doing too terribly much good in that white T-shirt: it only fall between UPF 5 and UPF 8, so it can let through as much at 20% UV radiation.
  • Protect your face, ears, and neck with a wide brimmed hat.  There are so many fun options for hats!  I always have a baseball hat in my truck, but (admittedly) that’s really not the best option for sun protection.  The wide brimmed, floppy hat not really your thing?  Check out the sporty bucket hats that have UPF protection!  I have one with UPF 50 and love it.  I also love sporting one of my straw cowboy hats.
  • Please, please, please protect your eyes!  Sunglasses with UV protection are a must for protecting your eyes from the UV light that’s not just glaring down from the sun, but also bouncing off the sand and water into your eyes.  You can even find contact lenses with UV protection.

Prevention

Okay, I know we don’t really want to talk about the C word (ssssh… cancer), but here are a couple important points.

  • If a close relative has had breast or ovarian cancer (studies have shown that people with the gene mutation that ups your hereditary risk for these cancers also makes you more likely to develop melanoma) or has had melanoma, see a dermatologist 1-2 times a year for a skin screening and be sun smart.
  • Do your own skin screenings in addition to seeing a dermatologist to familiarize yourself with existing moles and marks and to notice any changes or new growths.  Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any concerns.  Do not ignore any part of your body: melanoma most often occurs in places that you’ve been burnt, but can show up anywhere (including hard to imagine places like under your nails).

You don’t have to be afraid to go outside and enjoy the warm weather, just be smart about it!  Apply some sunblock, throw on a hat and go play some volleyball!

Three Easy Steps to Clean Up A Broken CFL Bulb

With the eco revolution that’s been going on in recent years, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that everyone has heard that switching their incandescent bulbs to CFL’s is the way to go.  Yes, they cost more upfront, but over the course of the bulb’s life, CFL’s save.  They use about 75% less energy to provide the same amount of light and last about six times longer.  CFL bulbs also generate 70% less heat so not only are they safer to operate, but they also reduce the cost of cooling homes and offices.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.

cfl green background

Here’s the thing, though.  CFL’s contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass.  Under normal operation, this is perfectly fine and is no cause for alarm.  If a CFL bulb breaks, the mercury is released into the air as a vapor and it is very important to clean it up and dispose of it properly.

Cleaning Up A Broken CFL

  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes.  Keep all people and furpeople out of the area while it’s airing out.
  • Use a piece of stiff cardboard to scoop up the large pieces of glass.  Super sticky tape like packing tape will help pick up any small pieces and shards.  Put all broken pieces in a sealable container like a glass jar with a lid or a ziplock style plastic bag.  Do NOT vacuum; it could actually spread the mercury vapor.
  • Contact your local government about disposal.  Some municipalities require CFL bulbs (whether they are broken or not) to be recycled.  Others don’t have this requirement and will allow you to throw them away with your trash.  If you can, continue to air out the room for a few hours and store the broken CFL outside until you can dispose of it.

Personally, I don’t feel right just throwing a broken CFL away with my regular garbage, only to have that glass and mercury sit in a landfill.  Most hardware stores in my area recycle CFLs including Ace, Lowe’s, How Depot, and True Value.  If you are unsure of where your local recycling center is, you can look it at Earth 911.

By the way, don’t freak out if you break a CFL.  It is only a small amount of mercury (less than 1/100th of what’s in a mercury thermometer), but it is still important to take proper clean up steps for the safety of your family and the environment.

For more information, check out the EPA’s page about cleaning up broken CFL’s.

Mother’s Day Eco Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is just around the corner!  Have you already made plans for the mom(s) in your life?  My fur baby (Jack the cat) already gave me the KitchenAid Mixer ice cream maker attachment as a fantastic early Mother’s Day present.  I can’t wait to start experimenting with it (there is so much extraneous stuff in some commercially made ice cream)!  If you have any (healthy) ice cream/sorbet/sherbet/frozen dessert recipes, please share in the comments!  Anyway, if you have an eco-friendly mom in your life or you’re trying to get her to be a little more eco-conscious, here are some ideas for celebrating her this weekend!

Mother's Day Violet

Flowers

Many people order flowers for mom from one of the really well known flower delivery websites (not naming names, you know the ones).  I was horrified to learn recently that they don’t always use local florists (baffles the mind).  Sometimes, the flowers that you order come from hundreds of miles away and are delivered via a shipping company. I’m willing to bet they aren’t buying any carbon offsets to makes up for that kind of transport.  Not to mention the chemical fertilizers and preservatives used on the flowers.  But there is a better way!

  • Check out this list of five online organic florists from ecosalon.  It includes companies that are committed to sustainability, offer free overnight delivery, a small family run farm, and one that’s committed to local education programs.
  • Pick up some flowers from your farmers market or local organic florist and deliver them to mom yourself.  You’ll be helping support local, independent business, buying organic, and saving the shipping!
  • Do you have a garden?  Go pick some stems.  Wrap them in some brown paper and twine for a lovely, handmade, rustic look.  Or make an herbal wreath out of a grapevine wreath and dried herbs from the garden.
  • Does mom have a green thumb?  Instead of flowers, give her a plant.  The choices here are endless.  If mom enjoys fruit, you can get her a fruit tree or even a blueberry bush.  She’ll think of you every time she shops from her garden.  Even indoor plants make for great gifts.  Not only are they beautiful, but they also help cleanse the air.  If you’re crafty, make her a terrarium.  Seed bombs and heirloom seed packets are fun little gifts, too!

Food

Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year in the restaurant industry.  Avoid the crowds and the exorbitant price tag with these ideas.  If mom is a foodie, I’ve got you covered, too.

  • Make it yourself!  Whether it’s brunch or dinner, there are so many amazing, healthful choices for menus for Mom.  She’ll appreciate the effort that went into cooking a special meal for her (especially if you don’t usually do much cooking!), she’ll be able to spend some quality time with her family, and (this is probably a biggie) she won’t be the one doing the cooking.
  • If you do want to take her out, research a restaurant that sources their food locally.  You will be supporting an independent business that also supports local farmers/dairies/etc and you’ll be eating fresh, in season food.
  • Help mom eat fresh, in season food all year long by giving her a membership to a CSA.  I had been a member to a local CSA that would deliver a box of fruits and veggies to my doorstep and absolutely loved it!  The produce was amazingly fresh and delicious and I loved experimenting with new stuff that I had never had before.  Find more information about your local CSA options from Local Harvest.
  • We can’t forget the chocolates here.  If you’re going to get mom the yummy sweet stuff, go with Fair Trade chocolate.  Black & Green is easy to find at most traditional grocery stores and almost always stocked at organic groceries.  They also make cocoa.  I’m just saying.  (If you want to stock mom up, Amazon offers multi-packs.)
  • Instead of just taking mom out to eat or cooking for her, make a day of it!  Pack up some scrumptious foods and take her on a picnic.  You’ll be able to spend time with your other mother, Mother Nature.

Gifts

What kind of celebration would it be without a present?  I am (obviously) a HUGE fan of going the handmade route, but there are plenty of other green options, too.

  • So, you cooked dinner for mom?  Send her home with leftovers in some new glass storage containers (glass helps reduce your exposure to the chemicals that leach from plastic containers)!  We’ve slowly started replacing all of our plastic storage with the heavy duty glass Pyrex containers and they are great!  If mom is more of a vintage kind of girl, hit up your local thrift store or check out Etsy and ebay for old school containers.  Then pack up all of her leftovers in reusable grocery bags.  I have some Chico Bags that I’ve been using for years, I’ve heard great things about Envirosax, or even just a simple, heavy duty canvas tote would be perfect.
  • Send mom for an organic (your skin is your largest organ, after all!) spa day.  I’ve always loved Aveda for massages and treatments.
  • If sending mom for a spa day is a little out of your price range, make her some pampering gifts like a sugar or salt scrub, a bath soak, some beeswax or soy candles, and a lotion bar.  If there are little kids running around, offer up an evening of babysitting services so she can relax and have the house to herself to indulge in her gifts.
  • Is mom crafty?  Get her some supplies for her favorite craft!  Better yet… spend some time crafting with her.  Pick out a project with her, get some supplies, and have her teach you (or you teach her).
  • Make a family scrapbook for her.  Or treat her to a family portrait session with a photographer and have a print framed.
  • Think you’re too old to make mom a card?  Think again.  You can make something quite elegant yourself and mom would appreciate the sentiment of a handwritten note more than anything from the store.