Neem is a tree in the Mahogany family and all parts of this tree, oil, bark, leaves and fruit, have long been used for medicinal purposes in India. The health benefit claims of Neem range from helping dry skin to treatment of diabetes and certain kinds of cancers. Unfortunately, there have been few scientific studies done on the various components of this tree so there is little scientific evidence to support the health benefit claims of Neem.
However, when you look at the fact that Neem is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-septic and anti-fungal common sense will tell you that Neem would have certain health benefits as an anti-septic spray helping to fight and prevent infection. The anti-viral and anti-fungus properties make it a good choice to clear up nail fungus. And when used as a skin cream/oil it can ease itchiness, redness and dryness. A good product for itchiness is the Neem based Anti-itch Formula from Daniel’s Promise. We got to use some at the tail end of summer and it seemed to work well for my oldest boy, who is like a bug beacon. I have also been using it with success on dry and itchy winter skin with success.
But, perhaps one of the best health benefits of Neem is it’s use as an insecticide. Unlike most insecticides on the market today that use harmful chemicals Neem uses no harmful chemicals and is perfectly safe to ingest yet it has been proven to be an effective insecticide which means that eating produce treated with neem can be made safer and healthier than ever before. In addition, because Neem is not harmful to animals or to the environment using it as an insecticide protects our ground water and the rest of our environment as well as reducing the chemicals in the soil and the water. The result is not only healthier food to eat, but, healthier water to drink as well.
While it has not yet been proven it is also believed that Neem can modify imbalances that cause diabetes, digest ailments, and some nervous disorders as well as it may be a natural contraceptive. It also works as a natural insect repellent for both adults and children and may help prevent a number of skin disorders. Neem may also prevent plaque.
While most of the evidence supporting the health benefits of Neem is based on centuries of anecdotal evidence it should be understood that this is often the case with any kind of herbal medicine. The fact is, most of the medicinal qualities of Neem were discovered long before modern medicine and for many years modern medicine focused it’s studies on developing synthetic medications that mimicked the characteristics of healing plants rather than study the plants themselves. It has only been in recent year with so many synthetic prescription medications coming under fire for their dangerous side effects that scientists have begun studying the healing plant themselves to determine their benefits.
While Neem may not have all the health benefits that anecdotal evidence proclaims but, there is little doubt that this plant and all it’s parts have many health benefits both for us and for the environment.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about The Winter Blues or more specifically Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and what to do if you suffer during the winter months. One of the things I mentioned that I was doing to combat SAD on my part was to fill the air with negative ions. Quite simply negative ions create positive vibes. Columbia University has done extensive research on these invisible molecules that you typically find near waterfalls, mountains, and beaches. Just think about how the image of those three things effect you. I just think about breathing in the air around a waterfall and I get happy. These places tend to make us euphoric. But why? The studies have lead researchers to believe that negative ions produce biochemical reactions in our blood stream that increases levels of serotonin. A boost in serotonin helps alleviate depression, stress, and it gives us a boost of energy during the day.
So it goes to follow that if you use a negative-ion generator in your home you can benefit from the negative ions and the biochemical reaction they will create inside your body. Negative-ion generators also usually (from what I have seen) tend to be coupled with air purifiers. The air is cleaned of pollutants and allergens and it gets dosed with the happy molecules. I have been using air purifiers to do just that in my own home for well over a month now and have been VERY happy with the results.
I have two of the Permatech Ionizing Air Cleaners by Bionaire. With those we use Aer1 Ready Air Purifiers that get rid of germs and allergens. We have cleaner indoor air, it smells nice and clean in the house, allergens and germs are being filtered out, and optionally you can use the negative ion generator to fill the air with mood boosting negative ions. Typically I let the machine downstairs run for most of the day with the ion generator running for 3 to 4 hours in the morning. In the late evening I turn on the unit upstairs and we all breathe in fresh air while we sleep. They are slim units so we don’t worry about space. They have a washable pre-filter, which helps maximize filtration by the HEPA-Type filter, a filter service reminder, speed options, and a remote control. I can remember that I forgot to turn it on or off while I am sitting at my desk and just click the remote control to take care of that. Time to turn off the ionizer? Done in one click.
I think I have already seen a big improvement in my mood since using them but how to do verify something like that? Especially when you are also doing a variety of other things to combat moodiness as well. I can only say that I think they help. I KNOW they help with making the air cleaner and fresher though. We recently took a fake Christmas tree off the hands of some family members and it had been stored in their really musty basement. When we set it up at our house it stank to high heaven and made the whole house smell like rank basement. My first instinct was to break out the “birthday cake” soy candle and that worked only as long as it was lit, to mask the smell. Then I remembered (DUH!) that I could turn on the air purifier. Within 24 hours the smell was gone and I haven’t noticed it since. It was silly of me to forget because when we first moved to Ohio we were living in a 150 year old house and it smelled really old. My parents brought a similar but bigger air purifier into the house and within a few days all we smelled was clean air (no scent at all).
All in all, we are pleased as punch to have these purifiers. I had high expectations, hoping it would be a mood booster AND clean the air but it works on all counts, I am pleased to say. When we finally get a dog (my daughter is allergic) we will see just how well they filter out allergens too.
Disclosure: I received a free air purifier from Bionaire and Aer1 Filters (click for a filter coupon), plus several free filters to review, all words and opinions are mine of course. Many thanks to them for their generosity!
I don’t usually post about all the various pitches and requests I get (via this blog) that are seeking donations to further a cause or a charity. If the cause sounds good I might tweet about it or post on Facebook but I get so many of these requests and I don’t want to inundate everyone with them. But this week one caught and held my attention. It wasn’t about clean water for third world children or feeding the homeless but it is still something that pulled on my heartstrings and made me open my own wallet. I guess maybe that is because the email sent to me had the secret words in it… Appalachian Trail.
I am thinking that perhaps the email was sent to me specifically because I am an Ohio blogger and Emma Gatewood was from Ohio. I don’t know if the sender had any insight into my love affair with the Appalachian Trail or not, either way they had me hook, line, and sinker with any mention of the AT. It has been my dream since my late twenties to thru hike the AT, which is a 2,181 mile long trail that extends from Georgia to Maine. It takes about 6+ months to hike it start to finish and I want to do it so very badly. Every year I dream of the day when my family and I can pack up and hit the mountains together for that once in a lifetime experience. And sometimes I acknowledge that it may have to wait until my kids are grown but either way I don’t think I will ever consider my life complete until I have done it. It’s at the top of my bucket list.
Anyway, Emma Gatewood was the first woman to ever thru hike the trail solo. That is an amazing and courageous accomplishment. I would never consider hiking it alone (to chicken) and I admire any lady that has the stones to do that. BUT there are several other wow factors to share as well. She made this hike in 1955 at the age of 67 and after raising 11 children!! She also ended up becoming a pioneer for ultralight backpacking because she made this trek with only a pair of Keds sneakers, an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. If you are familiar with what long distance hikers are toting around nowadays you will understand how amazing this woman was. But that is not all. She ended up hiking the AT two more times after that initial foray, she hiked The Oregon Trail (2000 miles), and she helped start The Buckeye Trail (1,444 miles) in Ohio.
Eden Valley Enterprises is a not-for-profit corporation that specializes in living history programs and storytelling through theater, usually about historical figures that accomplished amazing things. They recently premiered a storytelling program about Emma to a sold-out house at a community center in Ohio and that spurred them to try and bring Emma’s story to life as a film documentary. It will be produced by Peter Huston of FilmAffects and WGTE (PBS Toledo) has agreed to be a broadcast sponsor and production partner for it.
If this sounds like a worthwhile cause to you, donate via Kickstarter or directly via PayPal or check to Eden Valley.
Never heard of the Appalachian Trail? Let me suggest some of my fave books!
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
Walking Home: A Woman’s Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail
Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail
Photo Credit: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Over the weekend I read a great article on The Washington Post about the fact that women are reclaiming domestic activities.. ala cooking, canning, knitting and such, and it asks whether this is empowering or a step backwards for women’s progress. I think the article is beneficial because it is rightly painting domestic tasks in a favorable light and shows that women who pursue such things are finding enjoyment in them. But I also think it misses a larger point about feminism and domesticity.
Domesticity can be tied quite closely to self sufficiency and empowerment. Empowerment allows us to throw aside the shackles of slavery… slavery to corporations that provide products and services to us because we are not able to provide them for ourselves. The lack of these domestic skills is not empowering, as many modern feminists have tried to make us believe all these all years. Women were encouraged to look at their duties and situations as a homemaker and home “producer” and see it as something that was holding them back from “real power”. Those feminists were wrong though. Women had power already. They had the power to provide for their families, take care of them by nurturing them with real home cooked foods, and heal them when they became ill. They were producers rather than just mindless consumers. They worked with their partners to create good lives and healthy families and their contributions were every bit as valuable as men’s. In my opinion modern feminism did a lot of destructive things but one of the worst was that it made women shun domesticity. Women traded away a skills set that made them self sufficient, wise, and powerful. They traded it away because they thought it made them equal to men when in actuality it worked to enslave them AND their families to corporations and businesses who saw the potential in this movement to create consumers dependent on them for survival and basic necessities.
I think it is great that women are realizing that they find joy in domestic tasks and deciding that it is “feminist” of them to pursue whatever joyful path they want. But instead reclaiming domesticity simply because it is fun, why not encourage it because it is smart and empowering? And this isn’t just about women either. Men and women need to reclaim domesticity. It is not a duty that subjugates them. It is a powerful life choice that makes them more self sufficient and in control of their finances and future. It is actually incredibly sad when the idea of taking care of one’s self is considered a radically new idea or an antiquated one. How did taking care of one’s self ever go out of style? How did we ever buy into that load of malarkey? I will leave that to the social anthropologists.
One thing IS clear though, domesticity is making a comeback because we have so many broken systems in this country that are failing us. We cannot trust big agricorp or food corporations to feed us safe and nourishing foods. We can only rely on them to provide us with something that resembles food and that may or may not be tainted with toxic ingredients and chemicals. We cannot trust other corporations to provide us with safe household products, clothing, toys, and housewares either. When profit comes first we get lead laced, pesticide laden, planet killing products. We get bodies burdened with chemicals and carcinogens we never even dreamed we were being exposed to. We get government agencies working right along side them to tell us that “all is well. We’ve got your back.” Reclaiming domesticity is about standing up and telling them they are no longer our master. We can do that thing our ancestors did from the time of hunter-gatherers. We can take care of ourselves dagnabbit! Sure it may look a little different now and it may be a long road to learn some lost skills but every step we take to reclaim that part of our heritage is a step closer to self sufficiency and freedom. Oh, and it is kind of fun so that makes it easier.
Where to start? Usually the easiest place to start for many is with food. You can start making more of your own food from scratch and growing some of your own food. We have even better tools and gadgets than out ancestors did and there is no shame in buying them if the end result is going to be a better nourished and ultimately more self sufficient family. Get the right tools to Create a Real Foods Kitchen and start learning how to bake, cook, preserve, pickle, marinade, soak, sprout, ferment, etc. Growing your own food can start with one or two crops like some potted herbs in the window or a potted tomato plant on your patio. Start small and go bigger as you can and as experience allows. Square Foot Gardening is a classic book that shows you how to grow food in small spaces. I also like books like The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. It gives you insight into new ways to increase your self sufficiency from butter making, to curing your own bacon (if you eat it), to making bee boxes. For a more modern and romantic twist I absolutely adore any book by MaryJane Butters but especially MaryJane’s Ideabook – Cookbook – Lifebook. She is the Martha Stewart of farming and homesteading whether you actually live on a farm or in the city.
Winter is the perfect time for planning your new endeavors and also to try things like sewing, quilting, knitting, and soapmaking. If you already do these things then work on teaching your kids, boys and girls. These skills need to be passed on! I sew myself, but I have never quilted so that is something I really want to pursue this year. Take classes or learn from family if you need to but LEARN. Other ideas to think about include raising animals for their products, food foraging, making your own beauty products, making your own cleaners and detergents, woodworking, composting, learning about car mechanics or solar energy installation, masonry… the list is endless and the amount of knowledge you have access to at your local library is vast. In fact I have have read some amazing books lately that delve into this area and all are new releases. Domesticity is really catching on eh?
Tales From the Sustainable Underground: A Wild Journey with People Who Care More About the Planet Than the Law – This book is all about becoming an activist for social change through homesteading and self sufficiency. It has lots of great info about intentional communities, alternative energy, and it also delves into some areas that are culturally taboo, like pot growing. It is partly about green anarchy and partly about smart self sufficient choices. It is a fun and entertaining read though it may be a bit “out there’ for some. ;)
Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes – A lovely book that has lots of backyard eggs/chickens stories, photos, and recipes. I just love personal stories mixed in with yummy recipes.
Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life – Reading this book is like picking up the journal of a whimsical farmer/artist. It talks about all sorts of farming topics and give instructions and diagrams but all are hand drawn. It is an amazing collection of knowledge but also a work of art. Look at the cover art and you will get the idea.
The Wisdom of the Radish: And Other Lessons Learned on a Small Farm – This follows the story of a young couple that graduate from college and decide they want to be farmers, without any actual experience with farming, and what that entails… complete with successes and failures. It is a fun read and applicable I think to anyone who wants to get into small scale farming, whether it be for business or for self sufficiency.
When making our New Year’s Resolutions every year we need to think about what we can do or what we can learn to be more self sufficient and dare I say it… domestic.
What is on your list?
Is there really any greater gift, than the gift of health? No, not likely. Being healthy and fit takes us a long way on our journey to happier lives and it helps to ensure we are around to share our lives with our loved ones. It gives us greater energy and happiness. It keeps us young.
You may need gift ideas for loved ones who consider themselves gym rats and fitness enthusiasts or you may want to encourage someone who wants to be. Either way these gifts are perfect for those who want to prioritize fitness and greater health. Some I would consider “green” in their design or materials and others I have added because they are high quality and designed to last, even if they are not technically green. Enjoy!
Shoes – There are many brands of green and/or minimalist shoes out there so if you want to buy shoes for your loved one you may want to do your homework and see what they like and what they use their shoes for. Some good ones to try:
Garmin Forerunner – Most fitness nuts want to track their progress and compete against their own times. This nifty device is considered one the best tools to do that. It tracks your distance, time, pace, and heart rate. Works for running, walking, hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, and even windsurfing. Also has GPS. This is on my wish list for sure!
Mp3 player and Headphones – Whether at the gym or outside the workout goes mush faster and is much more enjoyable when you have tunes to listen to. You ideally want something small for fitness though, like the iPod nano or the shuffle. Both clip onto your clothing! Don’t forget the eco headphones to.
Sustainable Workout Clothes – Workout clothing that is ‘environmentally conscious’ is widely available now. Some of my faves include:
Eco Yoga Mat – Got any yoginis in the family? Well, then an eco friendly mat will be perfect. Most conventional mats have some toxic nasties in them and there are a few options now that are healthier for us and for the planet. Try the Gaiam Eco Reversible Yoga Mat (Peacock). Non toxic TPE, no PVC or latex, eco conscious company.
Gym Bag – Anyone who hits the gym a few times a week will need a bag to cart around all their stuff… swim suit, change of clothes, towel, toiletries, mp3 player, headphones, heart rate monitor, water bottle, etc. I have the Gaiam Everything Fits Recycled Gym Bag and it is roomy enough for all my stuff, has a pocket for wet stuff, and has a rope band on the bottom for holding a yoga mat.
Mountainsmith Approach 3.0 Recycled Backpack – Great for day hiking and backpacking AND made of recycled materials.
Tubbs Women’s Frontier Snowshoe – Man oh man do I want these! High quality, affordable, snow shoes.
Fitness Books: If your giftee happens to love fitness and reading then perhaps you could incorporate both pursuits. You might try a Winter Trails book specific to their state or an athletic memoire like Becoming Odyssa or Hiking Through.