Health Living Tip #14: Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree essential oil has numerous health benefits including healing ear infections, skin irritations, acne, and disinfecting the home. Join me for more healthy living tips in my 31 Days of healthy living tips series. AlexisMathews.com

Tea tree essential oil is derived from the tea tree in the swampy area of the southeastern Australian coast. Tea tree oil is most commonly applied to the skin for a variety of health conditions. As with other essential oils, tea tree should not be taken internally. Much like oregano oil, tea tree oil is very versatile and a must have in your natural health first aid kit. Tea tree oil has a very unique smell, one that makes this oil easy to identify even in an unlabeled amber bottle.

Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

1. Helps with Infections

When applied topically, tea tree oil can help with a number of infections. Most commonly use for acne issues, tea tree oil is also helpful in treating lice, nail fungal infections, athlete’s foot, and ringworm. 

2. Antiseptic

When used topically, tea tree oil can treat skin abrasions, burns, insect bites, boils, and ear infections. Tea tree oil is one of the few oils that can safely be applied neat, that is directly on the skin without dilution in a carrier oil. 

Personally, I use tea tree oil most often to treat and prevent ear infections in my children as well as prevent infections in the ever occurring akin abrasions. Tea tree oil is one of the few oils that I purchase in a large volume because of the frequency with which it is used. 

There no known side effects or drug interactions with tea tree oil.

Medical Disclaimer

Healthy Living Tip #13: Arnica

Healthy Living Tip Arnica 

Arnica is a well known pain relieving homeopathic source in the alternative medicine community. Arnica is used for swelling, bruising, arthritis pain, sunburns, and skin irritations. 

In nature, arnica is a flower that appears similar to a daisy with bright yellow flowers and is found in wooded areas of North America as well as southern Russia, and Europe.

Health Benefits of Arnica

Arnica is used to increase circulation and treat bruising, pain and swelling caused by minor injuries. Arnica contains natural anti-inflammatory compounds and is available from most natural health stores. You can find arnica in gel, ointment, cream, or homeopathic tablet forms. The most common form of arnica application is externally using the cream, gel, or ointment. While arnica can be taken internally, be cautious in only taking homeopathic tablets as they are dosed correctly for internal use.

Boiron arnica is my favorite source for this natural pain reliever. They sell the gel, cream, ointment, and homeopathic tablets.

Typical uses for arnica include:

  • muscle sprain
  • arthritis
  • muscle soreness
  • muscle swelling
  • insect bites
  • circulatory issues
  • bruising
  • sunburn

In my family we use arnica so often that I have a bottle of the cream in every bathroom as well as the kitchen. The homeopathic tablets are in my purse, numerous vials in the kitchen, and at least a couple in my bathroom. With a large family there is always someone that has a muscle pain for one reason or another. I also know massage therapists who use arnica on their clients to reduce muscle pain after a deep tissue massage.

If you’ve never tried arnica, I highly recommend adding a bottle of the cream and a homeopathic vial to your arsenal of natural remedies.

 Medical Disclaimer

Healthy Living Tip #12: Probiotics

Probiotics restore gut health and help the immune system. Join me for 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips. AlexisMathews.com 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics are cultured strains of bacterium found in cultured or fermented foods. Probiotics promote digestive health, help with allergies and asthma, and support the immune system. Probiotics are most commonly found in yogurt and kefir which for those of us following a plant based diet makes finding a vegan source challenging. Thankfully, there are numerous fermented vegetables that are safe for vegans to eat and still reap the health benefits that probiotics provide.

Everyone should be adding a probiotic to their daily regimen. Whether taken in capsule form or through food sources, our gut and immune system need the support that only probiotics can provide.

Benefits of Probiotics

  • produce vitamins
  • helps to break down and digest food
  • manages the growth of microbes such as yeast
  • helps with intestinal issues such as urinary tract infections and diarrhea
  • potentially helps with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic UTIs, diarrhea cause by antibiotic use, autoimmune diseases, colitis, and ulcers

Vegan Probiotic Options

Probiotics pose a problem for vegans because the most common strain of bacteria in probiotics is grown on cheese. Although the cheese source is removed prior to packaging and consuming, this causes an ethical issue for vegans. The bacteria, lactobacillus is found in most probiotics labeled as “vegan” or “vegan friendly”. If you wish to avoid this bacteria you will need to closely read the label of the probiotic you are considering purchasing. Health wise there is nothing wrong or inferior about lactobacillus, it simply poses an ethical issue for vegans that do not want to promote or encourage the dairy industry.

If you choose not to take a probiotic with lactobacillus you have two options. The first of which is to source a probiotic that does not have this bacteria. There are numerous effective probiotics that use other beneficial strains of bacterium. The second option is to add cultured or fermented foods to your daily diet. If you choose this option, which I highly recommend, again be cautious of the label to make sure you aren’t eating a fermented food with the dairy sourced bacteria.

In eating fermented foods you are not only consuming the bacteria as nature intended but you are also saving money in your food budget. Fermented foods are by far less expensive that probiotics in capsule form.

If you are looking for a truly vegan probiotic you need to be aware of the following items to consider when reading the label:

  • Magnesium stearate; make sure you look for vegetable magnesium stearate
  • Gelatin capsules; typically made from horse, cow, and sheep hoof leftovers
  • Casein; a milk protein to avoid for numerous health reasons
  • Honey, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax; all sourced forms bees which some vegans choose to avoid
  • Cholecalciferol; an animal version of vitamin D
  • Vitamin A; sourced from animal or fish livers

Vegan fermented probiotic sources

  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • cultured vegetables such a pickles or carrots
  • coconut kefir
  • kombucha (a fermented drink)

If you still prefer a capsule probiotic I recommend Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Ultimate Probiotic Formula

I have purposely omitted the fermented soy sources from the above list. For a variety of health reasons I do not eat soy and do not promote or encourage the consumption of soy here on my blog.

Repair your gut and immune system health, add some probiotics to your daily diet. Your body will thank you!

 Medical Disclaimer 

Healthy Living Tip #11: Oregano Oil

Healthy living tip, Oregano Oil is a potent anti bacterial agent. Join me for 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips. AlexisMathews.com

Health Benefits of Oregano Oil

  1. Parasite infections: Oregano oil has been shown to be more effective than prescribed medications at fighting parasitic infections.
  2. Helps prevent food borne illness as well as alleviate the symptoms if you have food poisoning. Not only may adding the oil to foods help to kill such bacteria, but using the oil if you have food poisoning may help to alleviate your symptoms.
  3. Inhibits the growth of e.coli and therefore prevents urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  4. Fights off yeast infections including those resistant to drugs.
  5. Treats nail fungus and athletes foot. Effective when applied topically to skin or nails as well as in a foot soaking bath.
  6. Inhale over a steam bath to treat sinus infections.
  7. Treats colds and infections when applied under the tongue. Dilute 1 drop of oregano oil in 1 drop of carrier oil such as EVOO. Place 1-2 drops under your tongue then rinse with warm water after a few minutes.
  8. In cleaning products. There are numerous natural cleaning recipes on Pinterest which use oregano oil.

Oregano oil is pricey but thankfully just a little bit goes a long way in treating a whole host of issues. I have applied this oil to my dog’s belly when a rash appeared and within a few hours there was a tremendous amount of improvement in her reaction. I have also used oregano oil to treat an infection on my daughter’s foot. Her toe was warm to the touch but an obvious source of the infection was not apparent. After 2-3 applications per day for 3 days the infection was completely clear without the need for medical intervention.

Oregano oil should definitely be one of the essential oils that is always in your first aid kit, whether at home or on the road.

Thank you for joining me for another healthy living tip as part of my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips series.

Healthy Living Tip #10: Peppermint

Discover the health benefits of peppermint. Mint in herb or essential oil form possess a wide variety of advantages in healthy living. AlexisMathews.com

The peppermint plant is derived from the cross between a water mint and spearmint plant. It grows abundantly in Europe and North America. If you’ve ever tried to grow peppermint, you know how easily it grows, and grows, and grows. Plant peppermint cautiously as it will invade the entire growing area very quickly and prove very difficult to irradiate should you want to remove the plant. In the past I’ve grown peppermint in a container to prevent its invasive nature.

Health Benefits of Peppermint

1. Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBS by as much as 50%.

2. Peppermint can also act as a muscle relaxant on both the intestines and body muscles such as the low back thereby relieving pain in those areas.

3. Helps with upset stomach and indigestion. If you have an upset stomach try adding a couple drops of peppermint oil to a glass of water and drink it, you should begin to feel relief soon there after.

4. Similarly, peppermint has been shown to help babies with colic as well as over the counter medications.

5. Peppermint water helps prevent nipple pain and cracks in breastfeeding mothers.

6. Peppermint oil applied topically helps shingles patients and prevents reoccurrences for up to 2 months.

7. Inhaling peppermint can improve memory and alertness. Pass the peppermint oil, I’m a tired mom of many.

8. Peppermint oil when added to toothpaste can help prevent cavities and freshen breath.

9. Relieves cough and congestion when applied on the chest or inhaled using a diffuser.

10. Relives headaches and stress when applied to the temples or in a bath.

11. Antibacterial and antiseptic properties when applied to the scalp with shampoo. Helps with dandruff and lice.

Peppermint Oil is an essential oil that I always have on hand, most often numerous bottles so that there is always one within reach. Make sure you are purchasing this and all of your essential oils from a reputable organic source. I love Mountain Rose Herbs for all of my essential oils.

Thank you for joining me in my 31 Days of Healthy Living Series.

Healthy Living Tip #9: Lavender

Healthy living tip, lavender. Discover the health benefits of this amazing plant. AlexisMathews.com

In day 9 of my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips we will look at the health benefits of lavender. Whether in tea, oil or herbal form lavender has a wide variety of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Lavender Tea & Essential Oil

1. Relaxation

The scent of lavender when inhaled through a glass of hot tea or through aromatherapy using lavender oil promotes relaxation. Inhaling lavender has been shown to slow down the central nervous system thereby promoting relaxation. The action on the nervous system can help with stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

2. Digestion Issues

Lavender tea is great for helping with an upset stomach, nervous stomach, and indigestion. The oils in the tea are thought to act on the smooth muscle of the intestine, as seen in animal studies. A study published in the November 2004 “Life Sciences” journal reported that lavender oils protected against the formation of gastric ulcers in rats and relieved indigestion.

3. Convulsions & Spasms

Lavender oil is thought to act on the calcium channel in cells thereby reducing the effects of convulsions and spasms.

Health Benefits of Herbal Lavender

1. Vitamin A

Herbal lavender when added to food is a low source of vitamin A. However, the vitamin A in floral lavender is excellent for eye health. Adding herbal lavender to your recipes can help prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, night blindness, dry eyes, and eye infections.

2. Calcium

Floral lavender is a moderate source of calcium in your daily diet. When added to recipes this herb can help ward off osteoporosis and ease the symptoms of your menstrual cycle.

3. Iron

Eating lavender will add a significant amount of iron to your diet. Iron is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Low iron levels will lead to anemia and fatigue.

Safety Concerns of Lavender

Lavender in either herbal or oil form has no known interferences. However, it is recommended that if you are taking medications for anxiety or pain you may want to avoid lavender as it could enhance the effects of these drugs.

Healthy Living Tip #8: Holy Basil

Healthy Living Tip Tulsi

Holy basil is a small shrub with sweet smelling leaves and is used throughout south Asia and India for its medicinal purposes. Holy basil, otherwise known as tulsi by Hindus is primarily consumed as an herbal tea.  The chemicals in holy basil pain, swelling, and inflammation. Other chemicals found in tulsi may lower blood sugar in diabetics.

When used as an herb in recipes, holy basil gives off a peppery taste. Thus, in many recipes it is referred to as hot basil.

Research is also being done to investigate holy basil oil on cancer patients. Preliminary tests show that the oil has positive effects in rats with some types of cancer.

Uses for Holy Basil 

  • common cold,
  • influenza (“the flu”) 
  • H1N1 (swine) flu
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • bronchitis 
  • earache 
  • headache 
  • stomach upset
  • heart disease
  • fever
  • viral hepatitis
  • malaria
  • stress
  • tuberculosis

It is also used for mercury poisoning, to promote longevity, as a mosquito repellent, and to counteract snake and scorpion bites.

My favorite way to add tulsi to my daily diet is in my morning tea. You can find tulsi in a wide variety of flavors if you do not like the original taste.

For more health benefits and cited scientific research on the effects of holy basil please visit this article.

Healthy Living Tip #7: Ginger

Healthy living tip, the benefits of ginger. 31 days of healthy living tips from AlexisMathews.com

Health Uses of Ginger

Ginger is used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Everything from stomach distress, pain, burns, food flavoring, laxative, and anti-gas are all common uses of this amazing underground herb.

Ginger contains chemicals that reduce nausea and inflammation. Research has shown that the chemical primarily works on the intestines and stomach. However, some evidence points to ginger acting on the brain and nervous system to help with nausea.

Fresh ginger juice can be applied to skin to treat burns. While ginger oil can be applied to treat skin pain.

Stomach Troubles

  • motion sickness
  • morning sickness 
  • colic
  • upset stomach
  • gas 
  • diarrhea 
  • nausea caused by cancer treatment
  • nausea and vomiting after surgery
  • loss of appetite.

Pain

  • arthritis 
  • muscle soreness
  • menstrual pain
  • upper respiratory tract infections
  • cough
  • bronchitis
  • chest pain
  • low back pain

The chemicals in ginger have profound health effects on the body. Ginger is undeniably a fresh herb you should always have in your refrigerator as well as dried and powdered in your pantry. 

If you would like recipes, health tips, and use suggestions for ginger please follow my Grab Some Ginger pinterest board.

Healthy Living Tip #6: Plant Based Diet

Healthy living tip, plants based diet. 5 benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. Health Matters. Life Matters. AlexisMathews.Com

A plant based diet, otherwise more commonly known as a vegan lifestyle is incredibly near and dear to my heart. If you’ve read my blog for any time you know that my recipes are only vegan and one of my missions and passions behind pouring so much time and effort into this blog is to encourage each and every one of you to adapt a plant based diet.

For years and years my mother-in-law encouraged all of her children to reduce their meat consumption and lead a more plant based diet-like lifestyle. Typical of children we all brushed her off and continued eating our steaks, seafood, and dairy products. It wasn’t until my father-in-law and cardiologist uncle-in-law decided to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle cold turkey did the rest of the family take notice.

Now that my husband, seven children, and I have been vegan for quite some time and have experienced the health benefits first hand there is no way we can in good conscience go back to our omnivorous lifestyle.

Unlike my other articles in this series, I am going to focus on our personal experiences rather than hard scientific facts.

Health Benefits of a Plant Based Diet (aka Vegan Lifestyle)

1. Diabetes

My husband was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes 8 years ago just before our oldest daughter was born. It was a shock and an enormous adjustment for our family to change our eating habits and lifestyle to help him lower his blood sugar. Being that he is insulin dependent, unless his body heals itself he will never be free of the daily need for insulin injections. Prior to adapting a vegan lifestyle my husband took approximately 25-30 insulin units every day. Some diabetic patients take 25-30 units of insulin at every meal because their health and food choices are so poor. Since changing our diet to a strictly plant based diet my husband has lowered his total insulin units per day by over half. On an average day my husband takes 6-15 units and more often than not is able to skip 1 meal per day because his sugar levels are incredibly consistent. 

In reading T. Colin Campbell’s books The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, he clearly warns diabetics to closely monitor their sugar levels after adapting a plant based diet because of the positive effects it has on their insulin levels. My husband undoubtedly experienced this positive effect and because of his increased health and decreased need for supplemented insulin we can not in good conscience ever go back to consuming animal products.

2. Sleep

I am a notoriously horrible sleeper. Even as a child I can not remember waking up from a night of 8-10 hours of sleep feeling refreshed or rejuvenated. I was always tired in the mornings getting ready for school and took forever to get dressed because I’d fall asleep on the floor outside of my closet. Even as an adult and new parent I relied heavily on cream and sugar ladened coffee to wake up enough to get out the door for work or to wake up enough to care for my children. Needless too say sleep has never been my strong suit.

Until I became vegan that is. I can distinctly remember about 4 weeks after removing animal products from our diet I woke up one morning feeling awake, alert, and incredibly well rested. I had honestly never felt that before in my nearly 40 years. Nothing else had changed, only my diet. I knew I was now sleeping deeper and getting more rejuvenating and healing rest because my diet was clean and whole.

You will remember in my healthy living tip #2 that sleep is incredibly important for our overall health. I am so happy that I am finally getting the sleep that my body needs to heal and rejuvenate for optimal health.

3. Energy

Sleep and energy almost go hand in hand. You definitely need sleep to have more energy the following day. I definitely have more energy throughout my day and no longer experience the 3pm afternoon energy crash that sends you running for a sugar or caffeine pick-me-up. Those days are gone, my energy is consistent throughout the day because of my clean diet that is based on plants and the foods that fuel my body.

4. Digestion

I know this is not a topic any of us want to talk about but it is incredibly important for our overall health and well being. If you are not digesting and evacuating your bowels multiple times everyday your body is storing toxins and food waste that is detrimental to your health.

Trust me I know, this topic is one we could all easily ignore. I used to use the bathroom 2-4 times per week to clear my bowels before being vegan. I thought this was my normal. I always shrugged off suggestions from others, including my husband, that it was not indeed a normal schedule. What else was I supposed to do? I didn’t need to go so I didn’t.

Then I began feeding my body what it was designed to digest, plants and plant products rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Then everything changed. 2-4 times per week turned into 2-4 times per day. I felt cleaner, leaner, and healthier. No longer was I bloated or constipated. Finally my digestive system was working properly and ridding my body of the energy draining toxins that were poisoning my body.

5. Weight Loss

Weight loss was not one of my goals or purposes when we removed animal products from our diet. We did it for health reasons not for vain weight reasons. After a few weeks however, I noticed that my love handles were gone and I could fit into jeans that I hadn’t even thought about trying on for years. These jeans by the way fit perfectly, no squishing or jumping around to get the button and zipper closed. I hadn’t started exercising, the only change I had made was the food and drink I put in my mouth. Nothing more nothing less.

I’ll take the weight loss, especially as I march closer and closer to the big 4-0. My metabolism is naturally starting to slow down as I age but eating a plant based diet is counter acting the slower metabolism and my weight is holding steady at where I was 15 years ago.

Honestly, I could go on an on about the health benefits of living a plant based diet lifestyle. The advantages are health reasons are nearly limitless. Please, if you have nay questions please do not hesitate to contact me regarding a plant based diet lifestyle.

Thank you for joining me for day 6 of my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips.

Healthy Living Tip #5: Sugar

Healthy living tip #5: Avoid Sugar. Diabetes, immune system suppression, depression, and weight gain are all linked to sugar consumption.

Sugar is everywhere in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Processed foods are packed with unnecessary sugars including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Sugary treats and drinks are so prevalent in the SAD that most children are addicted to sugar before their second birthday.

You must stop and seriously consider the effects all of this sugar is having on your health.

Here are 3 serious health effects that sugar has on your health.

1. Diabetes

According to theAmerican Diabetes Association consumption of sugary drinks such a juices and soda are linked to developing type 2 diabetes. The ADA also recommends avoiding sugary drinks to prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes. Just one 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.  

Think diabetes can’t happen to you despite the soda you can’t seem to resist. No one is immune to the effects of a high sugar diet. Diabetes can be crippling and fatal when left uncontrolled. I think we can all agree that we would rather be walking around in our 50s and 60s rather than wheel chair bound due to the effects of diabetes simply because we couldn’t stop drinking juices and sodas.

2. Damages Your Immune System

Sugar suppresses your immune system, specifically the production of phagocytes within hours of consumption. Phagocytes are the cells in your immune system that surround and breakdown foreign material in your body. Suppressing these cells allows bacteria and pathogens to invade your body and cause you to fall ill.

There is no coincidence that cold and flu season occurs during the time of year when we consume the greatest amount of sugary treats and desserts.

Sugar also interferes with the transport of vitamin C through our bodies thus allowing our bodies to fall ill easier. Vitamin C is needed in the production of phagocytes as well as to neutralize cancer causing free radicals that float around in our bodies. Insulin transports vitamin C as well as sugar in our bodies. If insulin is too busy with the sugar molecules then the Vitamin C is left unable to do its very important job of keeping our bodies healthy.

3. Weight Gain

According to this WebMD article eating less sugar allows for weight loss and eating a high amount of sugar causes weight gain. Sugar is addicting plain and simple. When you have one piece or one bite of a sugary treat you want more. And more. And more. And the cycle continues until you are sick, walk away, or run out of treats.

Why are we doing this to our body for the quick “drug high” caused by sugar consumption? Break the addiction, detox your body of sugars, and start on your road to a healthier life. A sweet treat is not worth all of the negative effects it has on our bodies.

Please know that this is not exhaustive and I want to encourage you to do your own research into the additional negative health effects sugar has on your health.

You are invited to join me for the other healthy living tips in my 31 day series.