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It is Spring, and, in temperate climates, this is the time of year for many when grass and pollen alergies flare up. Fortunately, there is a safe, inexpensive, natural herb for this that is effective for many people. The European herb Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) has been tested recently in clinical trials with impressive results.
In one British study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal, a group of Swiss researchers showed that one tablet of butterbur four times daily was as effective as a popular antihistamine drug in controlling symptoms of hay fever, and it did it without the traditional symptom of drowsiness that sometimes occurs with over the counter antihistamines. In a second study, a group of British researchers found that Butterbur was effective in quelling symptoms of grass allergy, specifically.
Butterbur is available in most health food stores as a powdered herb or as an extract. It is inexpensive in either form, and either form can be effective. Just make sure that you follow the dosing instructions provided by the manufacturer.
So, if Spring alleries have you sniffling and red eyed, give Butterbur a try.
Butterbur is a shrub that grows in Europe and parts of Asia and North America, typically in wet, marshy ground. The name, butterbur, is attributed to the traditional use of its large leaves to wrap butter in warm weather. Butterbur has historically been used for a variety of health issues such as pain, headache, anxiety, cough, fever, and gastrointestinal and urinary tract conditions. It has also been used topically to improve wound healing. Today, traditional or folk uses include nasal allergies, allergic skin reactions, asthma, and migraine headache.
The leaves, rhizomes (underground stems), and roots of butterbur are commonly used to make solid extracts used in tablets. Some butterbur extracts are also used topically.
In a clinical trial of 125 participants, butterbur was just as effective as a commonly used oral antihistamine for allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes. There is some evidence that butterbur extract can decrease the symptoms associated with nasal allergies.
There is not enough evidence to show efficacy and safety of butterbur for allergic skin reactions and asthma.
Butterbur has also been shown to be helpful against migraines.
Side Effects and Cautions
The raw, unprocessed butterbur plant contains chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). PAs can cause liver damage and can result in serious illness.
Only butterbur products that have been processed to remove PAs and are labeled or certified as PA-free should be used.
Several studies, including a few studies of children and adolescents, have reported that PA-free butterbur products are safe and well tolerated when taken by mouth in recommended doses for up to 12 to 16 weeks.
The safety of longer-term use has not been established.
The safety of butterbur during pregency has not been established so pregnent women probably should avoid it.
Butterbur can cause belching, headache, itchy eyes, gastrointestinal issues, asthma, fatigue, and drowsiness.
Sources and Dosage
You can purchase butterbur tablets from a natural foods store or a pharmacy. The Mayo clinic recommends looking for the U.S. Pharmacopeia's "USP Dietary Supplement Verified" seal on herbal supplements, which means they have been through a voluntary testing process to ensure quality.
Butterbur may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to plants such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.
Follow the dosage recommendations on the package carefully.
What is Aromatherapy Massage?
Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy where highly concentrated plant oils, called essential oils, are added to the massage oil or lotion.
How does aromatherapy massage work?
When you inhale essential oil molecules, messages are transmitted to the brain where they affect heart rate, stress level, blood pressure, breathing, memory, digestion, and the immune system.
Each essential oil has different healing properties. For example, some calm while others energize.
Here are some widely used essential oils and their properties:
- Calming – chamomile, lavender, geranium
- Uplifting – ylang ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli
Energizing – rosemary
Cleansing – rosemary
Decongesting – eucalyptus, pine, tea tree
Why do people get aromatherapy massage?
Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to providing relief from emotional stress and its resulting conditions. These can include, but are not limited to:
- Muscular tension
- Post-partum blues
What can I expect during an aromatherapy massage?
One or more essential oils will be selected based on what you need, and are mixed in with the massage oil or lotion. The subtle aroma of the essential oils fill the air around you during the massage. After the massage, the massage therapist may suggest a blend that you can use at
home in between massage treatments.
Massage is not recommended for certain people:
- If you have an infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds, the
- essential oils mike cause irritation.
Massage is not recommended immediately after surgery
Massage is not recommended immediately after chemotherapy or
- radiation, unless recommended by your doctor
Massage is not recommended if you are prone to blood clots. There is
- a risk of blood clots being dislodged. If you have heart disease, check
- with your doctor before having a massage
Pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are
- considering getting a massage. Massage in pregnant women should be done
- by massage therapists who are certified in pregnancy massage.
Massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin,
- unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent
There are a few things that you can do to help ensure the effectivness of your massage therapy. One, simple, and often overlooked step you can take is to avoid eating a heavy meal before the massage. You should avive for your massage therapy hungry, but you should not feel overly full, either.
Also, if it's your first time at the clinic or spa, arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to rest and relax before starting the massage.
Keeping bad cholesterol, what doctors call low density cholesterol or LDL, under control is important for good cardiovascular health. Fortunately, there are many natural strategies that can be used to lowercholesterol. Here are a few of the best researched ones:
Life Style Changes
Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to lower cholesterol in many people.
Lose Weight: Carrying some extra pounds — even just a few —contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10percent of your body weight can help significantly reduce cholesterol levels.
Some Supplements Can help to Lower Cholesterol
Some of the herbal and nutritional supplements that may lower cholesterol include:
Garlic: According to some studies, garlic may decrease blood levels of total cholesterol by a few percentage points. Garlic may prolong bleeding and blood clotting time, so garlic and garlic supplements should not be taken prior to surgery or with blood-thinning drugs such as
Other herbal products: The results of several studies suggest fenugreek seeds and leaves, artichoke leaf extract, yarrow, and holy basil all may help lower cholesterol. These and other commonly used herbs and spices - including ginger, turmeric, and rosemary - are being investigated for their potential beneficial effects relating to coronary disease prevention.
Dietary Approaches to Lowering Cholesterol
Increased consumption of dietary fiber, soy foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant compounds similar to cholesterol (plant stanols and sterols) can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol, or bad
Fiber: Only plant foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains) contain dietary fiber. The soluble fiber found in foods such as oat bran, barley, psyllium seeds, flax seed meal, apples,
citrus fruits, lentils and beans are particularly effective in lowering cholesterol.
Soybeans: Substituting soybeans or soy protein for other proteins have been shown to prevent coronary heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Soy protein is present in tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yogurt, edamame, soy nuts, and many other food products made from soybeans.
Phytosterols: Phytosterols (plant sterol and stanol esters) are compounds found in small amounts in foods such as whole grains as well as in many vegetables, fruits, and vegetable oils. They decrease LDL cholesterol, mostly by interfering with the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Phytosterols can be found in spreads (like the cholesterol-lowering margarines Benecol, Promise, Smart Balance, and Take Control), dressings for salads,and dietary supplements. Additional phytosterol-fortified foods include Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice, Nature Valley HealthyHeart chewy granola bars, CocoVia chocolates, Rice Dream Heartwise rice drink, and Lifetime low-fat cheese.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the rate at which the liver produces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.They have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, decrease the growth of plaque in the arteries, and aid in thinning blood. Aimfor at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel,herring, tuna, and sardines per week. Other dietary sources ofomega-3 fatty acids include flax seed and walnuts. Supplement sources include fish oil capsules, flax seed and flax seed oil. If you are considering taking omega-3 fatty acids, first discuss with your health care provider if omega-3 fatty acid supplements are right for you, especially if you are currently taking blood-
Dietary fiber, soybeans, and phytosterols decrease cholesterol levels by different mechanisms. Therefore, it is not surprising that the combined dietary intake of these foods and other plant
substances, along with a low intake of saturated fats, is more effective at reducing cholesterol levels than each individual substance alone.
Avoid Trans Fats
Avoid partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils.These man-made oils are sources of trans fatty acids known to increase LDL cholesterol. They lower heart-protecting HDL (good)
cholesterol and increase the inflammatory response in the body.You can now find trans fats listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of packaged foods. Minimize consumption of trans fatty acid-
Use Common Sense When Trying Any of the Above Remedies
Remember, before you add any supplements or alternative therapies to your diet, talk to your health care provider. Some supplements may interact with other medication you may be taking or have dangerous side effects. Also, never substitute a supplement or alternative therapy for cholesterol lowering medication your doctor has prescribed for you without your doctor's approval.
Hot stone massage is a natural therapy in which warmed stones are carefully positioned on parts of the client's body to bring about therapeutic benefits. The stones used are typically river rocks or other very smooth-surfaced stones made of basalt. These stones are heated in sanitizing water before use. The high iron content in basalt helps the stones retain heat during the massage. Hot stone massages are beneficial on both physical and psychological levels.
The heat from the stones helps your muscles relax, allowing the massage therapist to manipulate your deep tissues more effectively. Overly tense muscles can hinder the massage procedure, so if your muscles are extremely tight or stiff, the heated stones may provide the extra relaxation you need for the massage to be beneficial in releasing tension and easing sore muscles.
While all types of massage can help relieve pain caused by tense muscles, stiff joints or injuries, a hot stone massage may provide greater relief due to the intense nature of the massage. Because the hot stones allow the massage therapist to penetrate deeper, you may find that a hot stone massage leaves you feeling physically better than a Swedish or deep-tissue massage that does not incorporate heat. It is important to let your massage therapist know if you feel that the heat from the stones is too much or that the pressure she is using is too harsh. Exessive pain or discomfort during the massage process can cause more harm than good after the massage is over.
Typically, a massage therapist allows the heated stones to rest on trigger points in your body for a while before beginning the actual massage. As the heat from the stones penetrates into your deeper body tissues, your blood vessels dialte, resulting in improved circulation. Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, which tenses the muscles, and brings about a buildup of fluid and lactic acid in them. Increased circulation delivers more blood and oxygen to the muscles, which can help to flush out the excess fluid and lactic acid, and, thereby, eases aches and pains.
Massage therapy can result in mental benefits as well as physical ones in many people. You may find that the relaxation afforded to you through a hot stone massage helps ease some of your mental stress and tension. The relaxation afford by a hot stone massage may also help you combat anxiety and depression.
Winter is a Great Time for a Hot Stone Massage
If the winter months in your area are very cold, this is probably the best time to try hot stone therapy because, in addition to all of the benefits mentioned above, it really helps to get the chill out of your body. If you live in a warmer region, hot stone therapy is still of benefit for the muscle relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation it brings.
Most massage salons offer it now-a-days, and will gladly incorporate it into your session if you ask. If you are in Atlanta, stop by Jo Jo's Massage and give it a try, but no matter what city or state you live in you should be able to find a good salon that offers this treatment.
It's cold and flu season, and with that comes many discomforts, including nasal congestion. A stuffy nose can also be caused by allergies and from the over use of certain nasal sprays.
In this blog, I present some of the simpler and more effective remedies that I have been able to compile on this topic in the hope that, whatever the cause of your stuffy nose, there is something in here that will help you.
Signs and Symptoms of Nasal Congestion
Nasal Congestion (also referred to as blocked nose or stuffy nose) occurs when the nasal passage is blocked and stuffed due to swollen mucous membranes that line the nose. Nasal congestion can interfere with hearing and speech. Significant congestion may interfere with sleep, cause snoring, and can be associated with episodes of sleep apnea (not breathing during sleep).
Causes of Nasal Congestion
A congested nasal passage occurs when the membranes lining the nose become swollen. Congestion can be caused by many of the same things that cause a runny nose including colds, allergies, sinus infections, and the flu. Overuse of some nasal sprays or drops can also lead to congestion. In most cases, a stuffed nose is usually caused by a virus and typically goes away by itself within a week.
Natual Remedies for Nasal Congestion
Oil of Oregano: Oil of Oregano has long been regarded as a natural remedy for sinus or lung congestion since it helps to strengthen the body's immune system. Simply mix 2 or 3 drops of oregano oil with juice, and drink this daily. Improvements are normally noticed within 3-5 days.
Tea Tree Oil: Tea Tree Oil has wonderful properties that make it a great natural agent for curing the three main types of infectious organisms: fungus, bacteria, and virus. Therefore, it can be inhaled to help clear nasal congestion as follows:
- Add 3 to 4 drops of Tea Tree Oil to 1 cup of boiling water.
- Inhale the vapours for 5 to 10 minutes.
Vitamin C: Histamine is an inflammatory molecule that gets released in the body in response to infections or sources of irritation. When histamine levels in the nasal sinuses and passages are high, nasal congestion can result. Taking 1000 mg of Vitamin C three times per day can help to reduce histamine levels, which can therefore help reduce nasal and sinus congestion.
Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalyptus Oil acts on receptors in the nasal mucous membranes to reduce the symptoms of nasal congestion:
- Add 3 to 4 drops of Eucalyptus Oil to 1 cup of boiling water.
- Inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes.
Echinacea: Echinacea is an herb that stimulates the production of white blood cells, accelerating their maturation within the lymphatic tissue, and speeding their travel to the area of infection, where they help to fight invaders in the body. A study has found that people with cold and nasal
congestion who drank 3 cups of Echinacea Tea every day for 5 days felt better sooner than those who drank tea without echinacea.
Finding Your Way
As you likely know, some people respond better to any particular remedy than others. That being the case, you might need to try more than one of these before you discover which one works best for you, so a little self-experimentation is in order.
Try as many of these remedies as it takes. It is also safe to use them in combination, so mix them up a bit if you want to. Once you find the approach that works best for you, apply it at the very first sign of any recurrance to prevent it from getting worse.
I am sure that many of my readers have discovered effective pallatives for sinus congestion. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section. The more knowledge we share, the better off everyone is. Let's all do our part.
Check back tomorrow for my next post on natural healing. See ya then!
The previous two installments of this series on heartburn covered remedies. In this final blog post on the subject, my intent is to present a few simple strategies that can prevent heartburn from occuring in the first place.
If you are prone to get heartburn, try making these changes:
Aviod foods that can trigger heartburn. Avoid specific foods that you have learned from experience can trigger heartburn for you, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods.
Eat more fiber. Fiber keeps your digestive tract moving and healthy. A diet that is high in fiber can help to reduce the chances of heartburn developing.
Reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
Watch when you eat. Eat your last meal at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
Keep a diary. Write down what you have eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
Toss the cigarettes. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and for so many other health reasons, now is always the perfect time to quit.
Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about 6 inches. Don't bother raising your pillows, though, that is not effective for heartburn.
Exercise. Exercise may protect against the acid reflux that leads to heartburn.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you to prevent the onset of reflux and hearburn. If heartburn occurs anyway, look once again at my previous two posts; they cover proven natural remedies.
If any of you have any other suggestions on this topic, I would love to hear them from you.
Also, if you have tried any of these suggestions, I would love to hear how they worked out for you. I always welcome your comments.
Well, that's about it for today. Check back tomorrow for my next post on natural health and healing. See you then.
In the first installment of this three part series on heartburn, I discussed a few natural supplements for heartburn that have been proven to be useful. In this, the second part of the series, I want to address two approaches that are often touted as being helpful for heartburn control, and reveal whether or not they work and why.
You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it's true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. If you are going to use milk for any possible short-term relief it might provide, drink only fat-free skim milk, don't overdo it, and, because overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn, drink no more than 8 ounces of skim milk at a time as a snack in between meals.
Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, remember that it is a rich source of bone-building calcium, so there are other good reasons to drink it.
Is Chewing Gum an Effective Way to Get Heartburn Relief?
It may sound strange, but the act of chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus. When you pick a pack of gum, just make sure it's sugar-free so you also protect your teeth.
Strategies to Avoid Heartburn
In this post, and in the previous one, I have revealed several heartburn remedies, but it is better by far to prevent it from occuring in the first place. Therefore, in tomorrow's post, the last in this series, I will discuss heartburn prevention. Be sure to check back then.
In this three part series of blog posts I address one of the more frequent discomforts of our modern age, heartburn, and what can be done about it.
Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. Some of the symptoms, however, are similar to those of a heart attack or heart disease. Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. It is triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This can create a burning discomfort in the upper abdomen or below the breast bone. Occasional heartburn isn't dangerous, but chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can sometimes lead to serious problems.
You are probably well aware that medications can help calm the burn, but natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes may be another way to get some relief.
What Causes Heartburn?
With gravity's help, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, keeps stomach acid in the stomach. The LES is located where the esophagus meets the stomach below the rib cage and slightly left of center. Normally it opens to allow food into the stomach; then it closes again. However, if the LES opens too often or if it does not close tightly enough, stomach acid can reflux, or seep, into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation.
Which Natural Heartburn Remedies Really Work?
One commonly used "natural" heartburn remedy is calcium. It's also the active ingredient in most over-the-counter antacids. If you find yourself popping antacids like candy and you are having heartburn more than a couple of times a week, it is time to see the doctor. You may have a condition called GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems, even cancer. However, stopping the acid reflux can help to prevent such complications.
Do Herbal Heartburn Remedies Work?
Most of the research on herbal heartburn remedies has centered on a product called Iberogast. Iberogast is a liquid formulation of nine herbs. It was develped in Germany in 1961, and it is available without a prescription. The herbs in Iberogast include:
- Clown's mustard plant
- German chamomile
- Greater celandine
- Lemon balm
- Milk thistle
Studies have shown that Iberogast reduces acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping, and nausea. It's not clear, however, which herb in the mix relieves symptoms. Plus, peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it's not a good idea to take it if you have GERD.
Iberogast is readily available on the internet.
Can Other Types of Supplements Help?
One study showed that a dietary supplement containing a combination of melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid relieved GERD symptoms even better than the heartburn drug Prilosec. A number of other studies have shown that melatonin alone helps protect the digestive tract.
Is There More That I Should Know?
Yes, in fact, there is. Check back tomorrow for part two of this series on heartburn where I discuss some other home remedies that can help.
Inadequate sleep is associated with a variety of chronic ailments including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, among others. Most people need between eight and nine hours a night for optimum rejuvenation, and yet, most Americans get less than that, and are, therefore, sleep deprived. In my previous two blog posts on insomnia, I discussed various herbal sleep aids. Now, we will look at some other kinds of natural remedies that you might try.
Melatonin is the master hormone for regulating our sleep cycle. Melatonin levels in our bodies rise naturally just before we fall asleep and decline through the night, hitting a low point about two hours before we wake up.
So it makes sense that melatonin supplementation can help us to fall asleep. Take 1 to 3 milligrams two to three hours before the desired sleep time.
Melatonon is not going to knock you out like a sleeping pill willl, but it can help to make falling asleep easier. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that enhances the reparative function of sleep.
Taking 300 milligrams of the amino acid L-Theanine, can help to reduce tension and stress. L-Treanine can be found in most health food stores.
By exposing sleep-deprived people to specially designed full-spectrum lights (10,000 lux fluorescent bulbs) for 30 minutes in the early morning, scientists have helped them get to sleep earlier and stay asleep longer. One theory is that regular exposure to such light in the
morning triggers a more advantageous nighttime release of melatonin, the hormone that keeps your body clock on a regular schedule, ensuring that you feel sleepy in the evening and stay asleep through the night.
Light therapy can work wonders for people who find it difficult to fall asleep before midnight and who are sluggish in the morning.
There are several companies that sell light therapy lamps. I have not tried any of them, so I cannot recommend any specific one, but here are a few links that youo might want to research on your own:
Light in the blue spectrum can disrupt circadian rhythms and keep you awake. Exposure to blue light late at night can wreak havoc with your body clock. Blue light is emitted by computers, routers, televisions, cable boxes, and even some digital clocks. Keep your room pitch-dark at night, and cover all digital clock, DVD player readouts, and other such displays that emit blue light.
Being that own and operate several theraputic massage salons, you knew that I would get around to this one eventually. Various types of massage can help to end a stubborn bout of insomnia by relaxing the muscles and releasing pent up energy in the body. Massage aimed at
promoting a return to a healthy sleep pattern can be effective regardless of the time of day it is received, but many people find that an evening massage is the most effective.
Types of Massage
While any type of massage might be effective, those seeking a restroation of natural sleep patterns usually rely on either Swedish massage or on traditional Asian massage.
Swedish massage is light, soothing, and relaxing. If insomnia is caused by mild tension, Swedish massage can be very effective. Swedish masage also helps to promote flexibility. If sore muscles or muscular
stiffness are interfering with sleep, Swedish massage can be of great benefit.
Traditional Asian massage goes deeper than Swedish massage. For some, it can be a bit uncomfortable at first as the knots and blockages are addressed. However, in the end, if applied expertly, traditional Asian massage techniques can release these energy blockages, and rebalance the entire body's energy flows resulting in deep relaxation, and a feeling of healh and wholeness that allows sleep to come more easily.
While the idea of energies flowing through your body might lead one to think that this can only be invigorating, the truth is that pent up, non-moving energy makes us tense and restless. Relieving blockages and restoring natural internal energy flows through massage allows us to relax, and to regain our connection to our deepest self, and harmony with the rest of humanity. In this way, traditional Asian massage
therapy can help us to let go of interpersonal tensions, and to once again find a feeling of wholeness, balance, and connectedness with the Universe. Now, that is restorative!
Be sure to tell your massage therapist what you are trying to achieve to that she can apply the most effective techniques for your needs.
Well, that about covers it. I hope that somewhere within these three posts on getting a good night's sleep you have found some tips that you can use to get the rst you need. Remember, without adequate sleep, no natural healing can take place, so always make getting adequate sleep a
top priority in your life.