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Ahhh, lovely lemongrass.  It's botanical name is Cymbopogon citratus.  The plant has a strong lemony scent prized for its freshness.  This perennial grass is native to Asia, is cultivated in India, and has been traditionally used in Asian cooking, particularly Thai food.  In modern times, lemongrass has been used extensively in cosmetics and cleaning products for its fresh lemon scent, but Traditional Chinese Medicine has used it to relieve headaches and and abdominal pain. 

In herbal medicine and aromatherapy, Lemongrass has a variety of uses.  Lets take a look at some of its uses:

Lemongrass has been used to reduce joint and muscle pain and help headaches caused by viral infections.  It can also help relieve exercise-induced muscle soreness.  Lemongrass has the ability to reduce nervous tension, ease stress, boost mood, and uplift spirits. 

Because lemongrass can fight bacteria and microbes both in and on the body, it can inhibit wound infection or infections of the urinary or respiratory tract.  That antibacterial action also acts as a deodorant, combating body odor. 

Taken as a tea, lemongrass can be diaphroetic, meaning it induces sweating and thereby can relieve or reduce fever.

Specifically, I use it in a variety of products for its therapeutic qualities, including salt scrub, aromatherapy spray, and lotions.

Lemongrass Lotion on Poppyswap
Lemongrass salt scrub on Poppyswap

Resources:
http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/lemongrass.php
http://www.herbcompanion.com/Herb-Profiles/An-Herb-to-Know-26.aspx
http://www.livestrong.com/lemongrass-essential-oil/
Herbalpedia The Herb Growing & Marketing Network www.herbalpedia.com

 
 
I love candied ginger!  If you remember from my earlier post on ginger, it is a wonderful treat and can help with upset stomach, nausea, and inflammation.  You can find the previous entry here.  I've been making candied ginger because it is a great way to get a tasty dose of ginger to aid digestion or tame an upset stomach.  Here is my recipe:

Peel and slice thin as much fresh ginger as you like (the finished recipe keeps for 2-4 weeks, if you can keep from snacking on it.  I find 4 ounces makes a nice small batch.)
Put sliced ginger in a sauce pan and add just enough water to cover.
Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes or until soft.
Strain ginger, reserving liquid
Weigh out the cooked ginger and then weigh out an equal amount of sugar.
Put sugar, ginger, and 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid back in the pan.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat.
Continue to cook until sugar begins to recrystallize and looks "dry."  This is rather subjective, but once you do it, you'll understand.
Pour ginger out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and separate so there is just one layer of ginger.
Allow to cool completely.  Once cool, store in an airtight container.

The byproducts of candied ginger have great uses too.  The cooking liquid has some of those great ginger properties.  Feel free to drink it as a tea.  It will be quite strong, so you may need to dilute it.  The sugar left on the parchment after the ginger has cooled is great for crumbling on ice cream, gingersnap cookies, or even in your coffee.  We regularly snack on candied ginger after dinner to help digestion, when we have an upset stomach, a headache, or other aches and pains.  The ginger will be quite strong and most children (and some adults) may not like the potency, but our family loves it!
 
 
A cold sore is a cluster of blisters, typically on the lips or around the mouth, caused by the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV-1).  Approximately 80% of the population is infected with HSV-1, but it affects everyone differently.  Less frequently, you can have an HSV-1 outbreak in your nose or eye.  If you've ever had a cold sore, you know how difficult and uncomfortable an outbreak can be. After the initial infection, cold sores outbreaks are typically caused by stress like high sun exposure, colds, or emotional stress.  There is no cure for HSV-1; between outbreaks it lies dormant in your nerve fibers.  Approximately one-third of suffers get sores in the same spot every time.

Last Tuesday morning, I began to feel the burning and tingling on my upper lip that signaled I was going to get a cold sore.  I immediately started reading and searching through my herbal resources, eager to find a way to use herbs to help me heal more quickly.  While I'm not sure what aspects of treatment were most effective, I was able to make what is typically a 10-14 day ordeal last only 7 days with the following:

1) Perhaps the best known natural treatment for cold sores is L-Lysine.  L-Lysine is an amino acid found in fish, turkey, chicken, and legumes that interferes with the virus' ability to multiply.  In addition to dietary sources, you can buy L-Lysine as a supplement from your local drug store.  The dose I use during an outbreak is 1000 mg (1 gm) 3 times a day, as this seems to be the most common recommendation.  People with frequent outbreaks can take 1000 mg a day to reduce or prevent future outbreaks.

2) Vitamin C.  To help support my immune system, I took 1000 mg of vitamin C twice a day for 3-5 days.  Similar options would include Airborne or Emergen-C twice a day.

3) Dietary Changes.  Avoid foods high in the amino acid Arginine, which is found in chocolate, peanuts, and most nuts.  (Yes, I successfully avoided chocolate during an outbreak.  It can be done.)  Arginine stimulates virus to multiply and basically counteracts the L-Lysine.  Also avoid citrus fruit and juices while the virus is active.

4) Aloe.  I have an aloe plant on my coffee table that provides me with healing juice for a multitude of injuries and ailments.  In this case, once blisters formed, I cut a leaf and applied aloe juice directly to the blisters as often as necessary.  This reduced the pain and swelling and also helped dry up the blisters.

5)  Tea.  I drank a soothing herbal tea containing camomile, lavender, and other soothing herbs.  An outbreak is usually a reaction to stress, so relax, de-stress, and let your body heal.  Traditional Medicinals makes a tea called "Easy Now" that I enjoy.

6) Lavender.  Once my cold sore got to the scabbed and healing stage, I applied lavender essential oil directly to the sore 2-3 times a day.  This helps it heal faster and prevent infection.  Other essential oils such as Tea Tree may be equally effective; however, Lavender is the only oil that can be applied directly to the skin as is.  Other essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil as they may cause skin irritation and/or other adverse effects.

Here are links to some of the resources I used for this entry:

National Institute of Health "tutorial" on cold sores

Things to keep in mind/Disclaimer:

These treatments are generally accepted as safe and I have obtained them from reliable resources.  However, I am not a master herbalist or licensed health care provider.  Please see your provider to confirm these treatments are safe for you, as any existing medical conditions or medications you are taking may be affected by the aforementioned treatments.  If you get an HSV infection in your eye, see your health care provider immediately.  HSV-1 infection in the eye can cause blindness if not treated properly.
 
 
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Ginger is a powerful plant that has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years.  The part typically used is thought of as a root, but is actually a rhizome.  I've often enjoyed the flavor of ginger and use it often in my Asian-style cooking but recently discovered just how helpful it can be for medicinal purposes. 

One of the best known medicinal uses of ginger is for nausea.  This is true of nausea from motion sickness, chemotherapy, and morning sickness in pregnancy.  On our recent vacation I was struck with a bout of motion sickness and was able to use natural ginger candies to settle my stomach.  It is safe to use during pregnancy for motion sickness, but check with your healthcare provider for appropriate dosing.  Controlled clinical studies have found ginger to be more effective in relieving nausea than popular over-the-counter remedies such as Dramamine.

Ginger is also used to relieve inflammation and pain.  It inhibits the production of cytokines and stimulates blood circulation.  This makes it useful in treating conditions like arthritis.  I personally have also found it very helpful in temporarily relieving my migraine pain.  I make a tea using 1/2 tsp powdered ginger and a couple shakes of cayenne.  You want to feel the cayenne spice on your tongue, but still be able to drink it.  Prescription medications for migraine are ineffective for me, so this tea has helped me stay functional during the worst of my migraines.

Some other ailments that can benefit from ginger include asthma and allergies, high cholesterol, colds, and seizure disorder.  Check with your naturopath or other alternative healthcare provider whether this may be beneficial to your situation.  Ginger can increase the potency of some medications.  Avoid use of ginger if you are on blood thinners such as Plavix, Coumadin or daily aspirin, or if you are taking a sleep aid.

For more information on ginger, visit the University of Maryland, Bastyr University, or watch this video from Natural News.



 
 
Today, Grist.com posted a great article on the obesity epidemic in the US and how it is no longer about just burning more calories than you ingest.  It is about the chemicals in our environment.  The chemicals in our food, our shampoo, and cleaning products... specifically endocrine disruptors like BPA plastics and phalates.  Here is the complete article: http://www.grist.org/living/2011-06-28-is-your-shampoo-making-you-fat
 
 
Dr. Mercola discusses a recent study that shows common moisturizing creams containing mineral oil can increase risk of skin cancer.   Mineral oil is a petroleum product and there's nothing natural about it.
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/21/is-your-moisturizer-causing-skin-cancer.aspx
 
 
Today's post isn't exactly pertinent to natural personal care and household products.  This is personal.  As a cancer survivor, I'm asking you to watch this powerful film about Dr. S. Burzynski and his cancer treatment.  It is a full length film (1 hour 48 minutes) and is free to watch only until June 20. 
No, I am not a patient of Dr. Burzynski.  I wish I was.  As a result of the treatment I did receive, I will be on medication for the rest of my life.  There is no telling what the long-term effects of the radiation therapy I underwent will be.
 
 
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Looking to make your own toothpaste? We've been using this recipe in our house for over a year now and it is awesome, though the baking soda taste can take a little getting used to.

2 Tbsp Coconut oil
3 Tbsp baking soda
a pinch of Stevia powder.
Essential oil to taste (10-20 drops)

Melt or soften the coconut oil if necessary, mix in remaining ingredients. Store in a small lidded jar (I use a 4 oz canning jar). 

Not all essential oils are safe to ingest so use only oils from common culinary sources like peppermint, spearmint, sage, rosemary, orange, lemon, and lime.

After using this for 6 months, my dentist said my teeth are in the best shape she's ever seen them.  When I told her what I was doing differently, she said it goes against everything the ADA (American Dental Association) tells them... Imagine that!

 
 
"Scrubbing Yourself Clean and Purging Germs… But At What Cost to Your Health?"
In the linked video above, Dr. Mercola recommends some key features to look for in your bath and body products.  Unfortunately, we aren't able to afford the USDA Organic certification he recommends, but we are working toward using organic ingredients in our products.  In lieu of that, he recommends using products whose ingredients you recognize and can pronounce, which is what we strive for.