Green Living 101: Greening your office

November 22, 2010

Guest Post by: Sarah Outlaw

Many people are opting to change a room in their homes into a home office. It may be an entire room, part of a den, or a little nook in the kitchen. Wherever you decide to set up your home office you may want to consider some “greener” more Eco-friendly options.

Furniture:
Most of the office furniture on the market today is made of cheap particle board. This may seem like the economical choice due to affordability but it costs more in the long run. Particle board furniture tends to break, chip, and scratch very easily so it is less durable and needs to be replaced more frequently. Particle board, while seemingly a “green” choice because it is made up of recycled wood or wood waste, is not because of the formaldehyde resin used the bonding agent for the furniture. Formaldehyde will outgas and leach into the surrounding environment and may cause irritation to the eye, lungs, and bronchial passages. Some better options would be to go to your local Goodwill, antique or thrift stores and find real wood furniture that you can reclaim and refurbish to meet your needs. Be sure to use non-toxic finishing products if you are doing any staining or polishing. Another option would be to check yard sales, Craigslist, or even Freecycle.

Paint:
When choosing the paint for any room in your home, not just the office, always look for low VOC (volatile organic compounds), low odor paint. It is easier to find now at Lowe’s or Home Depot because there is a higher demand for it than there used to be. Using this paint will eliminate the headaches and nausea that can accompany a painting project. It is also much safer and healthier for you and your family.

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

Computers:
It is very frustrating that as soon as you buy any technology it is almost immediately out of date. Something bigger (or smaller) and better comes along just a few months down the road and you are left with a “substandard” device. While there is nothing we can do about the constant advancement of technology, which is not necessarily a bad thing, there is something you can do about making your technology a little more Eco-friendly. Laptops consume less energy than a PC and are portable so you can easily take your home office on the go. Dell has a sleek new Eco Bamboo computer that looks very promising! If a PC is a must, look for smaller computers with an Energy Star monitor. Computers also have ratings for the amount of toxic materials present or used to make them. EPEAT ratings are the EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to determine if a PC meets specific safety criteria. Buying an EPEAT certified PC is a crucial step in reducing hazardous and non-hazardous waste and energy during manufacturing.

The average American buys a new computer every three years. This means one person can go through approximately 60 computers in a lifetime! That is a lot of waste! When you are replacing your PC, please consider recycling it by sending it back to the manufacturer or donating it. It is imperative that electronics stay out of the landfills because the leach mercury, lead, and cadmium into the groundwater and contaminate the air.

Printers:
A printer is a must for every office unless you are able to go completely paper-free. Choose Energy Star printers and purchase recycled printer paper. Companies like HP are boasting new Eco-Friendly printers that are said to have energy and paper-saving features. It pays to do the research to find the best options for you and the environment.

If you own a small business and are in need of Eco-friendly products and services, I have found Eco-Office Gals to be a great resource.Utilizing the above tips and resources should be of help when designing your ideal Eco-friendly home office. Every “green” choice matters in the health of your family and of our planet.

Sarah Outlaw is a work-at-home wife and mother of 3 who is passionate about natural living, natural medicine, and real food. She is the owner of 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique, and is a Certified Health Coach & Natural Living Consultant.


Top 10 Aromatherapeutic Essential Oils

July 30, 2010
lavender & Honey Bee photo from My Little Eye on Etsy

photo by My Little Eye on Etsy

Aromatherapy is the use of scent to affect therapeutic change on the body: physiologically, psychologically, or otherwise. Researchers find that these effects are measurable and can be quite significant. First all, a few tips about aromatherapy:

Essential oils are the compounds found in medicinal plants that give the plant its smell and taste. These oils are very valuable medicinally and therapeutically. The volitile oils in aromatic plants often provide much of the the medicinal action of the herb. For example, carminative herbs, such as aromatic seeds (coriander, cumin, anise, fennel, carraway and dill seeds) act on the digestive system to expell gas and to ease digestion. It is the volitile oil of the seed that does this work! Aromatherapy uses the essential oils of these plants therapeutically to impact a person’s well-being via smell, and can be a great adjunct therapy.

Essential oils are very potent, and usually only a few drops is all you need (indeed all you can tolerate) and should not be taken internally as a general rule. The essential oils are extracted during steam distillation of the whole plant, which results in the botanical hydrosol (or distillate) and the pure essential oil. Because of their strength, they should always be diluted in a carrier oil, such as sunflower seed or jojoba oil, depending on your goals for treatment.  Finally, fragrance oils are synthetic copies of pure essential oils and are NO SUBSTITUTE. Always buy the pure essential oil and not its cheap imitations, as the copies do not have any therapeutic benefit whatsoever.

Top 10 Aromatherapy Oils

1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Relaxation, Mood-elevator

2. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Mood-elevator (better to stick your nose in the plant, as the pure essential oil is quite expensive!)

3.  Orange (citrus sinensis): Anti-depressant, stimulating

4. Peppermint (mentha x piperita): Stimulating, awakening, enhances awareness

5. Rosemary (rosmarinus officialis): Improves memory and cognitive functioning; energizing

6. Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata): deep relaxation, aphrodesiac, creates euphoric feelings

7.  Rose (Rosa spp.): Instills love & compassion; relaxing

8.  Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Calming, anti-depressent, mood-elevator, anti-inflammatory

9. Cedar (Cedrus spp.): Emotional fortitude; enhances clarity (Himalayan cedarwood is my favorite!)

10. Basil (Ocimum basilicum): overcomes grief & melancholy, moves stagnant depression

Note: Sandalwood (Santalum album) is noticeably missing but it has become so incredibly expensive that most people are unable to utilize its benefits.

What essential oils are your favorites? I’ll be sure to write future posts about further DIY uses for essential oils and how to apply aromatherapy to your regular life, and of course I’d love to hear your favorite uses here too! Here are some posts you may find interesting:

Fragrant Oils to Condition and Nourish your Hair
Hydrotherapy with Salts
Want to Know More about Natural Insect Repellents?

* Photo copyright by Monica Wiesblott @ My Little Eye : http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mylittleeye


Herbal Remedies Tip #6 – Herbal Mouthwash for Healthy Gums

November 17, 2009

Blue bottles for storing mouthwash I’m kind of on a roll here with natural mouth care, so why stop now? Personally, I prefer not to use alcohol-based mouth washes that permeate the market and either make my own, or use ‘more natural’ mouthwashes such as those made by Tom’s of Maine. Happily however, recipes abound for making your own mouthwashes. You can use witch hazel in mouth wash blends too, but try to obtain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

In the recipe below, peppermint and anise seed freshen breath.  Myrrh tincture/extract helps strengthen the gums, and is also antiseptic and also mildly preservative.  The tincture/extract may be made with grain alcohol (but a very small amount in the recipe) or vinegar.

 

Recipe #1:

1 cup boiling water
2 tsp dried peppermint
1 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp myrrh tincture

Pour the boiling water over the peppermint and anise seed. Cover and steep until cool. Strain and add the myrrh. Store the mouthwash in a bottle and shake before using. This will keep for a week or so if stored in the refrigerator.

 

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

Recipe #2:

  This recipe avoids even an alcohol extract in favor of sage-infused vinegar. To infuse, simply fill a small jar with sage, fill with warmed apple cider vinegar, and allow to steep for 2-6 weeks. Alternatively, you could heat-infuse the herb in a non-metal (non-reactive pot) and allow to infuse (so that vapors are coming off of the vinegar), covered, for 30 min-1 hour.  Again, try to btain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

1 cup witch hazel distillate
1/2 tsp sage-infused vinegar
1 tsp peppermint
1 tsp spearmint

Recipe #3:

1 cup water
1 tsp vegetable glycerin
1 tsp aloe vera juice (ingestible!)
6 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix the ingredients together and store in a covered container, using within a few days. Peppermint essential oil helps fight odor-causing bacteria, and aloe soothes gums

REF: Laurel Vukovic


Herbal Remedies Tip#7 – Turmeric for Inflammation

November 9, 2009
turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric is the Indian spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow color, but this commonly used spice contains potent therapeutic activity. Indeed, it is a key ingredient in Kicharee, a therapeutic food from Ayurvedic medicine made up of mung beans, rice, ghee and spices turmeric, cumin, and coriander.

Probably considered one of the ‘favorite’  herbs by nearly all practicing herbalists, turmeric is a powerhouse from Ayurvedic (east Indian) medicine, and part of a 3-5,000 year old tradition. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be used for internal inflammation,  as well as topically for muscle strain. Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a fabulous remedy for arthritis and chronic health issues rooted in excess inflammation. Because turmeric is antibacterial, it may be used topically in powder or paste form by applying it directly to a wound or sore.

Apply the powdered herb paste or extract of the fresh turmeric rhizome externally, but be warned that it may turn the skin yellow (temporarily), or take  300 mg of turmeric internally twice daily as a capsule, or 40-60 drops twice daily of the alcohol extract of the fresh rhizome.  Add liberally to food, as it is a perfect ingredient for soups, curries, egg, and vegetable dishes. 

As part of my work as an herbalist, I  make liver tonic tinctures that include turmeric for supporting liver function and livers under strain from diseases like Hepatitis.  I also use turmeric in my Botanical Assist Pain Relief cream for arthritis and/or menstrual relief. Check out my etsy shop for other Therapeutic offerings.


Herbal Remedies Tip #5 – Herbal Tooth whitener

November 4, 2009

strawberry As a follow up to my recent Herbal Remedies Tip #4 – Tooth Powder for Natural Mouth Care, in which I gave you a basic recipe for making your own herbal tooth & gum powder, I am writing this brief post to give you a few tips on natural tooth whitening.

Many chemical tooth whiteners on the market are very irritating to gums, even painful, and have short-term benefits at best. Regular beverages such as coffee and tea stain the teeth, and while you can do your best to keep stains at bay through brushing, you will still need regular teeth cleanings twice a year. That said, there are some natural remedies you can try to help eliminate stains.

Herbal Tooth Whitener:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp 3% hydrogen peroxide
Dip toothbrush into the mixture and brush for three minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Fllow with regular tooth paste or herbal mouth rinse.

Strawberry Whitener:
To lighten tooth stains and whiten your teeth, crush a fresh strawberry and rub it onto your teeth. The natural alpha-hydroxy acids found in strawberry should help lighten teeth. Follow by rinsing with water.

REF: Laurel Vukovic


Herbal Remedies Tip #4 – Tooth Powder for natural mouth care

November 3, 2009

Herbal tooth powderThere are plenty of natural or slighly-more-natural-than-Crest toothpastes on the market, but many of them still contain ingredients such as chemical foaming agents like sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). While most of us can (and do) withstand constant contact with sulfates, some people develop allergies such as contact dermititis, which can sometimes lead to more severe skin infections because of broken skin. If you do have an allergy to SLS, you should by all means avoid this allergen as dermititis and broken skin can lead to vulnerability to MRSA infections.

I have no allergy to SLS, per se, but I also like the fact that you can treat various mouth problems with herbs. The power of cloves was recently driven home to me when at my stepmother’s dental practice. I had a cavity (hey! from when I was 18!) refilled three times with a modern filler and I experienced continual discomfort and pain for months, both during and between repeated efforts. Finally, they dusted off the clove oil filling and at last! Pure comfort. It was also nice to have the aroma of clove oil surround me during the procedure. For whatever your reason, you might want to experiment with creating your own tooth powders or trying herbal tooth powders that are already sold by successful etsy sellers such as Joyful Girl Naturals

Herbal tooth powders have been in use for centuries in one form or another, and modern blends contain ingredients such as baking soda, herbs such as chamomile (soothing, anti-inflammatory), sage (strongly astringent), cloves (pain relieving), goldenseal (antibiotic), marshmallow root (anti-inflammatory, demulcent), myrrh (healing), plantain (healing and demulcent). Sage, which some call the “tooth herb” can even be used fresh to treat conditions like gingivitis.

Try this recipe at home in your own kitchen, using a VERY clean coffee grinder to grind dried herbs into a powder. (It’s actually best to own a coffee grinder that you have on hand for grinding herbs and grains). You can also purchase dried organic herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs. Baking soda whitens your teeth and freshens breath. Sea salt tightens the gums, peppermint oil and/or tea tree oil fights bacteria and adds refreshing flavor.

2 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt (not table salt)
1/4 tsp powdered sage
1/4 tsp powdered myrrh (or substitute another herb depending on your needs)
3 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix the ingredients (through a sieve preferably) and store in an airtight container. Use half a teaspoon each time you brush. You can sprinkle the powder on your toothbrush, or make a paste using water, botanical hydrosols, or ingestible natural aloe vera.

 


Immune Boosting Herbs talk @ Holistic Moms Network meeting

October 7, 2009

 

herbs

herbs

Tonight I had the pleasure of presenting about the use of herbs to fight colds and flus, particularly with regard to the treatment of small children. The presentation was delivered to a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network. It’s fun presenting to the choir, more or less, as this group is made up of parents who are interested in holistic health & living in all respects. And such a lovely group of people, dads and moms alike!

We were able to talk about the energetics of foods and herbs, the use of preventative versus acute herbal remedies, and dosages for small children & infants. I am again reminded of how wonderful it is to share knowledge and information about our botanical allies, and of course giving such talks only reinforces that for me. I was reading a bog post on ProBlogger this morning about weighing the cost-benefit of speaking at events for free. In other words, what’s in it for the business? For some people, attending a far away conference to speak without compensation means that they have to figure out why the trip would be worthwhile, whether through contacts, networking, or business sales. I definitely identify with that when I think about my ‘day job’ in Public Health. I also make decisions like that when it comes to my business, Lilith’s Apothecary. But when it comes to herbal medicine, if I can afford it, I am more than happy to participate in any way I can. It’s true that I do indeed have an herbal bath and body business of sorts, but I don’t educate about herbs because I want to sell products. In fact, I hardly even indicated that I have a business tonight. Instead, I want others to learn how to make the products for themselves! Sure, I can make it for you if you don’t have the time or desire (i.e. I can’t sew, so someone has to sew things for me!), but if you want to make your own herbal syrup, by all means! Let’s do it. And doing it together is so much fun.

Holistic Moms Network
NJ/Philadelphia Chapter
Collingswood, NJ 
Thanks for having me!

Other posts that may be of interest:
What to do about H1N1: 5 Tips
Nervous About Swine Flu? Look to Herbal Medicine for Immune Boosting
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part I
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part II
Herbal Facial Steams for the Cold and Flu Season


Natural Remedies Tip #3 – Hydrotherapy with Salts

September 10, 2009

bath_teaLGHydrotherapy, or the use of water as therapy, involves the practice of purifying the body, whether in terms of detoxification or ritual purification, and has been in practice for millenia. The Romans and Greeks utilized water-based cleansing and bathing rituals, building elaborate bath houses and saunas, as have many other cultures throughout history. Water itself is seen as sacred in many mythological traditions –so much so that its use for deep cleansing is probably universal. Using water through the use of baths, saunas, steams, or rubs increases circulation of blood & lymph and helps the body detoxify by increasing perspiration.

Using salts, whether epsom, sea salts, or mineral-rich dead sea or himalayan salts can enhance the detoxification process. Salts draw impurities from the body, help heal infections, reduce inflammation, and add mineral content to the body &  aid in cleansing.  Adding salt to a bath replicates natural mineral springs, often seen as sites of healing, cleansing, and transformation. Bathing with mineral rich salts are also wonderfully relaxing and even serve to soften the skin. Salt water baths, all told, are much better for the body than chemically-produced bath bubbles! Below I include two recipes that incorporate the use of salts for your own water rituals.

Cypress & Rosemary Purifying Bath
2 cups Epsom salts or Dead Sea Salts
3 drops cypress essential oil
3 drops grapefruit oil
3 drops ginger essential oil
1 Tbsp whole milk or carrier oil (such as olive)
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Add the essential oils to the milk or carrier oil, mix with the salts, and then add entire mixture to a hot bath. Add the rosemary sprig to gently infuse into the bath water, releasing its fragrance. Soak in the tub for 15-30 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Detoxifying Seaweed Bath
1 cup Epsom Salts
1 cup Himalayan, Dendritic, or Dead Sea Salts
1/2 cup dried kelp, dulse or other seaweed
1 cup baking soda (to soften water and smooth skin)

Combine the epsom salts, sea salt, and kelp in a blender and grind into a fine powder. Alternatively, sift together in a flour sifter (this will still be safe for food use because you aren’t using any essential oils). Add mixture to a tub of hot water along with the baking soda. Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Check out my Etsy shop for Water Ritual and Dream Journey bath teas, Sea Milk Detoxifying Soak, and other bathing pleasures.
sea_milk_soak_2


Natural Remedies Tip #1: Heal Skin Rash with Clay

August 5, 2009

Welcome to my new series of weekly tips introducing some easy, home-made, DIY tips for handy remedies using natural, inexpensive, readily available ingredients. These might include remedies for your body, pets, home, natural environment, cooking, or garden. Thank you for visiting to read my first tip. For these posts, I also welcome you to ask me random questions that could be addressed in future tip posts, so please do comment!

Green Clay: Mountain Rose Herbs

Green Clay: Mountain Rose Herbs

Clay! Waaaaay more useful than you might think. Yes, you can make pots with it, but it also helps clear up skin conditions such as rashes, even those caused by bacteria, including MRSA. French green clay is a cosmetic clay that is especially good for bacterial infections, including Methicillin-Resistant Staph. Aureus (MRSA) and is also useful for killing salmonella and E.colli when used internally.

If you have a skin rash caused by a poisonous plant and/or insect bite that is red and inflammed, apply a poultice of cosmetic clay (including bentonite, french green, dead sea, fuller’s earth, kaolin, and other cosmetic clays, though the first two listed are probably the best choices), aloe vera gel, and peppermint essential oil. The clay is drying and draws out toxins, aloe vera promotes healing, and peppermint oil is cooling and temporarily relieves itching. Add a few drops of lavender for added anelgesic (pain-relieving) strength.

Directions:
2 Tbsp cosmetic clay
Aloe Vera Gel
2 drops peppermint essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil.

Mix the clay with just enough aloe vera to make a paste. Add the essential oils, spread the paste on the rash, and let it dry (15-30 min). Reapply the poultice mixture as often as you wish until symptoms subside!

My favorite source for French Green Clay is Mountain Rose Herbs, and thank you MRH for the photo above!


What to do with fresh, local summer fruit?

July 13, 2009

apricot_fool_1Oh, have I mentioned how much I adore the summer months? We’ve been lucky this year (here in the Philadelphia area) with lots of plant-loving rain and cooler-than-usual summer days. I have been thinking that we’ve had an especially long spring, but here it is, nearly mid-July. In any case, here in Philly, there have also been more and more local farmers markets creeping up. Thanks to the Food Trust, one just opened on Temple University’s campus, where I work my day job in the department of Public Health.  Amish farmers come in from Lancaster every Thursday to bring a lovely array of local produce, including all the seasonal berries and fruits.

This week I purchased some lovely looking apricots, a fruit my daughter Maeve has only seen in dried form. She’s a terribly picky eater, as many toddlers are, and so I thought that perhaps making a fruit “Fool” with whipped cream would do the trick, as she’s already sold on whipped cream. All I did was cut up a few apricots, cook them down a bit with some water, drizzle some honey over the cooked apricots, and then fold them into freshly whipped cream.

apricot_fool_2Happily, my sneaky plan worked! She tried the new fruit in freshly-sliced form, as these beauties really are too hard to resist, and then enjoyed a cooked fruit version when folded into freshly whipped cream and drizzled with honey for a delightful summer confection.

09.07.08_maeve_apricotfool Try  William Sonoma’s Raspberry-Rhubarb Fool recipe for another take. Martha Stewart, whose recipes are pretty fool-proof, I must admit, has a blackberry fool recipe, among others, on her recipe-finder.
apricot_fool_3


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