Just Brush It Off

image copyright Yupedia

The other day I visited a new massage therapist/holistic health practitioner in Falls Church who recommended, among other things, that I use dry brushing.  Several years ago, my naturopath recommended that I include dry brushing in my daily routine, so it was already something I was accustomed to, and genuinely enjoy.

This technique has been used for hundreds of years. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and increases blood flow to the surface of the skin, which stimulates the lymphatic system and increases the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Dry brushing also stimulates hormone and oil-producing glands, opens your pores, removes dry skin cells, helps break up fat deposits, and leaves your skin feeling soft and looking rosy. Plus, it feels wonderful!

While it is important to clean our skin regularly to get rid of dirt, oils and environmental pollutants in order to keep our pores clear and our skin healthy, skin also plays an important role in our health – it is our largest eliminative organ, excreting 25-30 percent of the body’s toxins every day! The less our skin is able to eliminate waste, the more strain is placed on our liver, kidneys, lungs and mucous membranes, and the more likely our bodies our to harbor toxins, which can lead to disease, weight gain and, horrors, cellulite!

Giving yourself a dry brush massage is easy. It is best to do it before a bath or shower so the dead skin cells can be rinsed off. Use a soft, natural, vegetable bristle brush that is designed specifically for this purpose. You can find them in spa stores and many natural food stores. You can also use a dry loofah. Begin by brushing from your fingers and toes and work in circular motions up your limbs toward the heart. Brush all of your skin, using light pressure, except the sensitive skin of your face and inner things. Finish off by brushing from your back towards your stomach. If you don’t have a body brush, you can also use washcloth or loofah, but the dry brush feels the best!

If you integrate dry brushing into your regular bath or shower routine, you will see noticeable improvement in the appearance of your skin. Enjoy!

Tea Tree Toothpaste and Other Natural Ideas for Dental Health

image copyright Preserve Products

The following post is by guest blogger, Allison Brooks.

Since we humans come from nature, why separate ourselves from her bountiful remedies? Studies over the past 15 years have shown an increasing interest in natural healing, and many integrative doctors use complementary treatments to treat patients for a variety of ailments. Increasingly, dentists are adopting the trend by helping treat certain oral ailments using non-invasive therapies. There are several Maryland and DC dentist offices that use herbs and other natural remedies to treat a plethora of ailments. They also offer advice on the subject to practice natural routines at home.

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is one of the oral ailments that can be treated with natural and herbal remedies. It affects the deeper supporting tissues of the gums and the infections then spread to the lower parts of the tooth. Gum disease is triggered by plaques formed around the enamel of the tooth. The plaque is formed from a mixture of bacteria, starch and sugar. If the plaque is not removed mechanically by frequent brushing, the plaque will harden underneath the gum line, which leads to gum disease. The main symptoms of gum disease are swollen gums and/or bleeding gums.

image from healthysnips.com

Tea tree oil is a natural substance that has been associated with dentistry for hundreds of years. And in the 1920s, Dr. A. R. Penfold published research showing that a tea tree salve could be used to rid gums of infection and leave behind a completely germ free surface. After more scientific evidence proved the tea tree’s effectiveness, it became a basic household remedy for oral and skin infections. Tea Tree toothpaste is now commercially produced and is very effective in alleviating the symptoms of gum disease (although it does not remove plaque surrounding the tooth).

Brands like Desert Essence and Jason Natural offer toothpaste with tea tree, and are available at natural food stores, including Whole Foods. It is best to go with tea tea products like these, since it is not recommended that you use undiluted tea tree for oral care. The Intelligent Dental blog offers recommendations and cautions to keep in mind when using tea tree. For example, tea tree oil should never be taken internally, since it can cause nerve damage and other problems if ingested. People with celery and thyme allergies should not use tea tree oil, since tea tree shares a potential allergen, d-limonene with these plants. And pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using tea tree oil.

image copyright The Telegraph

Cranberry Juice really helps in the prevention and the progression of gum disease. It does this by taking away the bacteria’s ability to stick to the tooth. Concentrated cranberry is available in a pill form at most natural food stores. Cranberry juice is also a rich source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is one of the most popular cures for gum disease. Vitamin C repairs cell damage and connective tissues especially along the gum lines. This vitamin is also a very powerful antioxidant which helps by removing free radicals. The antioxidants help to eliminate the free radicals that are responsible for most of the gum damage being caused. And Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore strongly reduces the chances of developing gum disease. While it is available as a supplement in many milk products, sun exposure is an excellent source for vitamin D (although you have to balance this with the need for sun protection to prevent skin cancer!).

While these natural remedies are a great way to enhance healing and prevent disease, the mechanical action of brushing the teeth is the best method of preventing gum disease. Brushing regularly, flossing, eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of Vitamins C and D, and regular dental checkups are important in supporting your dental health.

Allison Brooks recently graduated from University of Mississippi, with a degree in biomedical  anthropology. She is currently living in Florida, and doing field studies to support an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures. Her current studies have peaked her interest in traditional and natural healing remedies, and have inspired her to spread the word about nature’s healing bounties.

An Interview with Karen Lee of EcoKaren

EcoKaren's bottle cap birds' nests

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Lee, Co-Team Leader of the EcoEtsy Street Team (a group of Etsy crafters who are dedicated to earth-friendly practices), and owner of EcoKaren, a company offering eco-friendly, green, and reusable products for you and your home.

Karen also writes a very thoughtful and timely blog on the green living, including environmental issues and eco-friendly products.

Please tell me about your company! What do you make? What types of materials do you use? And what is your focus/mission?

Ecokaren carries one-of-a-kind, handmade, eco-friendly items. No two items are exactly alike as I only use materials (resources) I already have. When I do buy any new supplies, I buy sustainable materials like organic fabric and yarn. I also use freecycle and thrift stores to repurpose items that people want to throw out. My latest project is handmade journals that incorporate leftover paper from my kids’ end-of-the-year notebooks. The journals are handmade using coptic stitching and Japanese binding methods.

Upcycled journal by EcoKaren

My mission is to use existing resources for functional and practical eco-creations instead of buying new materials. If I look around, I can always find things to make with them. So, my shop’s focus may not be “home decor” or “jewelry” or “fashion” but it’s whatever I find that’s available that I can make something with, at that moment. I have fun being spontaneous and coming up with things to make by looking at a heap of fabric scrap and notions. And to take it one step further, I try to make items that will help reduce waste, contribute to being green, and also save money… like reusable utensil holders that allow you to carry your own utensils instead of using disposable plastic ones. It cuts down on plastic usage, reduces waste and saves money since you don’t have to throw away utensils!

portable utensil holder by EcoKaren

What inspired you to start your company?

I am a “retired” chiropractor. I sold my practice to support my family full time. So, while waiting on the sidelines for my two active teenagers to finish their after school activities, I picked up knitting and crocheting again, after stopping for fifteen years. I gave away numerous finished goodies as Christmas and birthday gifts to family and friends and they suggested that I sell them. That’s when I found Etsy. I sold my organic knitted washcloths and repurposed plastic bottle cap birds nest magnets when I first opened my first shop, ‘ecogeneration’.

So you are a chiropractor! How has this background influenced your choices as a green mom/blogger and eco-crafter?

Chiropractic philosophy is very much in line with taking care of the planet – our mother Earth. The chiropractic tenet is based on the belief that power that made the body heals the body. If we screw up our body, only the body can heal itself. We can use external interventions to help the process sometimes but in the end, the body has to do the healing. The life force in our body has the power to heal itself. Well, I believe the earth is like the human body. Given a chance, the Earth has its own life force to heal itself too. However, we are constantly abusing the Earth that we are making it impossible to do that on its own. So, like the way our body needs external interventions, the Earth needs us to help it heal. I want it to have the best possible chances for it to do its magic and get better. Being a chiropractor, I see myself as a healer, or as a helper in its healing process, and not the destruction process.

Becoming a green mom, a blogger, and eco-crafter all stem from the same philosophy. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist by any means. But practically speaking, I have been living an environmentally responsible life because of my mother. She lived a very frugal life as an immigrant and she taught me how to save and reuse. She was being green even before it was a trend. So I learned from her how not to waste our valuable resources. In addition, as a Chiropractic Doctor (doctor means ‘to teach’ in Latin), I used to teach my patients on how to stay healthy. Actually, I used to talk about many of the issues I currently write about on my blog. I used to relate nutrition, industrial chemicals, farming practices, pesticides and herbicide to health. Environmental issues weren’t really labeled as such, but I was addressing them when I spoke to my patients about how their environment affects them. Now, I carry the same torch when I blog about these issues. Spreading the word and ‘teaching’ my readers on how to be green is my way of helping to heal the planet.

As co-leader of the EcoEtsy Team and an eco-crafter, what is your advice for new (and experienced) crafters who want to make their businesses more eco-friendly?

When I joined EcoEtsy team as a new seller on Etsy, I was so inspired by the members’ creativity and their passion on being eco-friendly. I learned so much from reading the team’s blog, forum discussions, and team events. I was humbled by so many great sellers who cared about their eco-friendly crafts, business practices and educating others how to be green. So when the opportunity came along to become a co-leader, I took the challenge. I knew I couldn’t do it alone but I also knew that the members will be very supportive so I dove in head first. And guess what? I was right. The team is full of energetic, smart, and earth-caring members. We have a new blog, we had our first Earth Day Auction and raised over $450 (after expenses) to donate to the World Wildlife Fund, and I am planning our Fall event (already!). Being a member of EcoEtsy (and becoming a co-leader to give back to the team) was the smartest decision I ever made. And that is best advice I can give crafters who want to be eco-friendly – surround yourself with others who have the same mission. You need the support of others who think like you. You need to ask questions on what is more green, bamboo or organic, paper or plastic, reuse or buy new, etc. There are so many resources available on being green now that it’s almost impossible NOT to be green. And what’s better. It saves you money!! Imagine, never having to buy shipping supplies and being green at the same time!

One easy practical tip I want to share is to utilize your computer to the maximum. I save everything as pdf files and don’t keep any paper copy (saves paper). Do online banking and forget about paper statement (safer for identity theft too). Use e-mails and save them in a separate folder on your hard drive. Use internet shipping service and have the mailman pick up your goods to be shipped (no need to drive to the post office). There are so many things you can do online now that you don’t need to keep any physical files or papers or statements.

Once you realize the financial benefit of being eco-friendly, you’ll never go back to your old habits. Pretty soon, you will find yourself making the same changes at home too.

We recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. What are your plans (both professional and personal) for the 50th Anniversary?

Professionally, I hope to continue to be blogging and sharing eco living tips, but also shouting about the discovery of smart alternative energy that does not involve destroying the environment. I hope we will be celebrating the discovery renewable and sustainable energy sources. I hope we won’t ever have to deal with the disaster that is going on in the Gulf again. I hope I’ll be blogging about that happy news.

Personally, I hope to be living off the land and getting off the grid. My hubby is not a farmer, but he’s so fed up with the current state of the environment that he’s willing and ready to learn to be one. We talk about moving up state NY and buying some land and not worrying about where our food is coming from or relying on unreliable utility companies for energy (we had two black outs this past winter). As I get older, I yearn for a simpler life. And in ten years, who knows? Maybe I will be able to.

Thank you, Karen! You can find Karen on Twitter, Facebook and Etsy. And I highly recommend you check out the EcoKaren blog.

2009 NIH Mind-Body Week Cancelled

recovery.gov

Yesterday, I received the following email from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mind-Body Week directors:

Dear Yoga Week Listserv, I am writing to inform you that the NIH has decided to cancel the proposed NIH Mind-Body Week (MBW), scheduled for Sept 8-11, 2009.  Subsequent to initial discussions among planners about a MBW event, the NIH was given the enormous opportunity and attendant responsibility of funding an unprecedented $8.2 billion to support scientific research priorities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  The period proposed for holding the MBW is exactly when much of the NIH will be focused on ensuring that all of the successful ARRA applicants receive their awards prior to the end of the NIH fiscal year on September 30, 2009.  We appreciate your efforts in developing MBW and regret any inconvenience caused by the change in plans.

While it is disappointing that this much anticipated event is being cancelled for this year, it is also heartening to know that health research is being supported on such a large scale. The funding will go toward things like the financial support of grant-funded positions for students and educators, biomedical research and development, as well as research into effective public health initiatives and health care delivery.

This infusion of research funds has important implications for health care delivery and illness prevention efforts. For example, there are many great cancer prevention programs that have been created by our nation’s top academic researchers, and have been shown to be effective in their trials at a local level. However, they often don’t have the funding to develop these programs into packages that can easily be used by others (e.g., schools, hospitals, municipalities) on a national scale. Some of the NIH-designated ARRA funds will go toward the development of these important programs.

Update on NIH Mind-Body Week: The Science and Practice of Stress Management Modalities

Image ©NIH Mind-Body Week

Image ©NIH Mind-Body Week

Heart disease and cancer may be our top killers, but it’s a lack of stress management that is really hurting our nation’s health. In response to this epidemic, the National Institutes of Health will be holding the first annual Mind-Body Week from September 8-11, 2009. This event is dedicated to the science and exploration of stress management topic, and all events are FREE and open to the public.

There will be four days of stimulating lectures, workshops and classes covering topics such as Interpersonal Neurobiology, Mindful Parenting, the Science of Yoga and Yoga Therapy, Meditation for Stress Management and much more.

There will be over 100 featured teachers and lecturers (details will be on the official website in July 2009!). Some of the keynote speakers include Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Myla Kabat-Zinn, James S. Gordon, M.D., Tara Brach, Ph.D., Timothy McCall, M.D., Roger Jahnke, Ph.D., Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D, Dan Siegel, M.D. and Josie Briggs, M.D. And yours truly will be presenting a talk on “Striving Toward that Elusive Work-Life Balance” on September 9.

Besides my talk :), I’m especially looking forward to talks by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Karen Soltes and Robin Carnes on how the iRest® Yoga Nidra protocol is being used to help US Military personnel suffering from combat stress, and Esther Sternberg on how stress makes you sick.

The program will be held at the Natcher Building and other buildings around the NIH Main Campus (Building 45), 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.

2009 NIH Yoga Week: Exploring the Science and Practice of Yoga

yogaweek

my lotus flower candle holder

Mary’s Note: See my new blog post for an update on the schedule and location of NIH Mind Body Week 2009.

The week before last, I was fortunate to be able to attend a day of programming at the National Institute’s of Health’s (NIH) first annual CORE Week, where I heard wonderful speakers on Reiki, stress reduction, excercise and meditation, from the perspective of pracitioners and researchers. 

I was eager to attend after having experienced the first annual NIH Yoga Week last May, which was the first of this type of event to be held by the NIH. It was a truly groundbreaking event in that the NIH, a 120-year-old US government agency, endorsed a practice that 30 years ago, would have been considered very alternative. The first yoga week, in May 2008 received national attention with over 1300 participants – it also resulted in National Yoga Month, a National Health Observance being designated for every September from now on.  

If this sounds good to you, mark your calender from September 8-11, 2009, when the NIH will hold its second annual Yoga Week. Highlighting the science and practice of yoga, this four-day series of events is open to the public. You will not only learn about the benefits of yoga but also experience them first-hand through hands-on instruction. Yoga Week will focus on yoga, yoga therapy, yoga research, and presentations on meditation, stress management, and other mind/body modalities. There will also be an opportunity to gain Continuing Education credits through Yoga Alliance and several other health education partners. And it’s all completely free!

This week of events will take place in Bethesda, MD. I encourage you to be a part of this innovative and enjoyable event. For more information, contact Dr. Rachel Permuth-Levine at levinerac [at] mail [dot] nih [dot] gov.