Jayne’s Sick Tricks

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With the stress of my recent move, and this being the season for it, I’ve just been hit really hard with a massive head and chest cold. I thought I would share with you some of the many natural remedies I use when myself or a family member gets sick, as this has been the persistent theme of my last two weeks!

Let me start by saying these recommendations are by no means a replacement for, or to be taken as, professional medical advice. These are simply the methods I have researched, applied, and found to be useful in my family. I recommend doing your own research for anything that you are not completely comfortable trying. That being said, however, most of these remedies are pretty benign, and unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding (if so, you should really research ANYTHING novel you attempt trying with your body) they should be fairly innocent!

So let’s start off the list with my first recommendation:

The best, and most effective time to hit viruses and bacteria with natural remedies is at the initial onset of symptoms.. As soon as you feel that first throat tickle, that early sniffle, or any symptom that you suspect to be the beginning of something, hit it with all you’ve got.. Once something really has a hold of your body, it is much harder to boot it out, and often times you end up in for the long haul. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother with herbal and natural remedies if you’re right in the thick of it, only that it will work better next time if you kick it out before it gets in the door :). Some of these remedies will prevent flus or colds from catching hold altogether if used early and effectively.

Herbal / Homeopathic Supplements I have used and found helpful (You can find these at your local health food store):

1). Oil of Oregano: This tastes awful, but it works. This herb has caught on like wildfire, so there are a lot of sub-par versions floating around. Make sure to buy organic, “wild” oregano. If it is super cheap, beware. You generally get what you pay for. Follow the directions on the label. Take this at first onset of symptoms. If you are right in the middle of a cold or flu, I personally wouldn’t bother much with it. There are some alternatives below.

2). Elderberry syrup: This remedy can be taken at onset of symptoms (for best results), or if you are fully ill. This is a powerful natural antioxidant and source of vitamin C that boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Plus, unlike oregano oil, it doesn’t taste nasty and is sold in dilutions safe for kids. Have fresh elderberries around? Eat ’em up, yum! They will work even better 🙂

3). “Respiractin”: For ANY respiratory concerns, including those brought on by colds and flu, such as coughs, wheezing, asthma related symptoms, this supplement is amazing. Filled with a mix of herbs that are natural respiratory tonics, they support your lungs in healing and expelling mucous. I have used this for myself, my husband, and my son. It can be used acutely to give fairly quick relief, or preventatively. Follow directions on the label.

4). “Stodal” by Boiron (Homeopathic): I used this homeopathic preparation for treating my toddler’s cough. It actually seemed to help quite a bit. I don’t claim to truly (other than surface level) understand how homeopathy works, but it definitely does for our family. I have used several of Boiron’s remedies on my son with success. Try this one out. I even found it at Walmart.

Food based remedies and relief:

1). Immune Boosting, Sore Throat & Tummy Tea: I make my own immune boosting, sore throat, cough, and tummy trouble treating tea for my family when we are sick. You can also include any of these (organic, please) ingredients in your cooking, in as close to raw form as possible, to achieve their immune boosting benefits. The ingredients and what they benefit are: peppermint (tummy), a few cloves (tummy, throat), a few slices of lemon with peel on (throat, immunity), raw honey (throat, immunity), sliced raw garlic (immunity), sliced, raw ginger root (tummy, immunity), fair trade, cracked apart cinnamon stick (respiratory tract).

My son won’t drink this tea, he is extremely picky about beverages. But I sneak a lot of the ingredients into other food dishes that i make, especially honey, cinnamon and garlic. If you aren’t into the garlic taste, you can skip it, but it is really beneficial for your immune system, so I highly recommend keeping it in if you can handle it.

2). Avoiding milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese as much as possible.. These dairy products are known to increase mucous production, which is not something you need during a cold or flu. It is best to avoid them when you are sick for that reason, unless you have a kid that you just really need to get some food in and one of these is the only thing he will take. Otherwise, best to steer clear until that mucous dies down!

3). Aloe vera inner filet gel:. This is a great remedy for sore throats, and upset stomachs. Also works great for heartburn, FYI. I like “Lily of the Desert” products the best. Do make sure it is the inner filet and not the whole leaf, as the whole leaf tends to purge your bowels.

4). Oil Pulling with Coconut oil: This is a traditional technique used for generations, involving swishing in the mouth, for about 15 minutes (yes, minutes, get comfortable), about a tablespoon of oil. I put some extra virgin coconut oil on a spoon, let it melt in my mouth, and swish. If you are really stuffed up, this is a bit uncomfortable as you have to keep opening your mouth to take a breath. BUT, that being said, this can be a excellent reliever of congestion and toxin build-up in your lymphatic system, so it is believed. Do not swallow the oil afterwards – although it can be beneficial to also eat raw coconut oil, spit it out this time. Supposedly it is “pulling” toxins from your system, so you would not be benefitting in swallowing them.

5). Making Vitamin C and Antioxidant Filled Smoothies: I love blending up a bunch of fruit and nutritious goodies into a smoothie for myself and sick family members. Load it up with fresh berries, apples, oranges, and leafy greens (you can’t even taste them with the fruit). Add some honey, a bit of lemon juice, cinnamon, coconut oil, and chia seeds for extra benefits such as immune boosting power, omega fatty acids, and protein to name a few. Plus, your little ones should love it, and it’s a great way to get some yummy, vitamin rich fluids in. I love my electric hand blender for this!

Other Tricks:

1). Breathe deeply during a hot shower, or using a hot steam humidifier: Inhaling steam has powerful benefits for congestion, both in your head, and chest. Stand or have your sick kiddos stand in the shower, or if too little, busy them with an activity in the hot bathroom. Try and engage in this for at least ten minutes, and consider purchasing a humidifier for nighttime and nap time use. They are relatively inexpensive, and I found mine to be supremely helpful in reducing my son’s nighttime coughing episodes.

2). Add some eucalyptus oil to your steamy experience by adding some in a sink or bowl of hot water and breathing it in, or buying a therapeutic aromatherapy diffuser and filling a room with it that way. Eucalyptus is amazing for clearing congestion. For my toddler, I used a diffuser, and put a few drops of the oil on his bedtime snuggle buddies. For adults, you can also add peppermint oil, although this is not recommended for young children, as in some rare cases it can actually work backwards and increase mucous production. If you find this is the case for you, just go back to straight eucalyptus.

3). Make your own vapour rub: See my article on making your own vapour rub HERE.. Put it on the chest and on the feet.

4). Engage in some lymphatic massage to drain your sinuses and ear canals. Watch THIS video for a thorough explanation of an amazing massage technique that truly works to relieve congestion. Have a little one with an ear infection? Try this lymphatic drainage technique several times a day before trying antibiotics if you are comfortable doing so. Some parents swear by this method for naturally treating ear issues in little ones. Make sure to oil up your hands to make the procedure more comfortable for sensitive skin.

So there you have it, a look into my repertoire of sick tricks. What do you use in your home as natural remedies for colds, flu, and allergies? Do you prefer natural remedies, or do you feel safer with drugstore remedies? To my displeasure, I know I had to cave and rely on some Benylin for some nighttime relief this time around, as this head cold has been particularly nasty. If you do prefer natural remedies, when do you throw in the towel and run to the pharmacy? I hope some of these remedies work for you, and that you stay relatively healthy during this cold and flu season.

Get your ‘Green’ on WITHOUT the toxins!

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I know it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of all the fun green coloured treats on St. Patty’s Day. But did you know that food colouring can be quite toxic to your body, especially yellow colouring (which is often mixed with blue to make your lovely green hues)?

There have been studies done which demonstrate not only carcinogenic and disruption of certain natural functions in animals, but ADHD like tendencies in children exposed to drinks containing food colouring. (Please do some basic research on the topic if you have the time, it’s best not to blindly trust my blogger opinion). So, if you are overloading on these colourants on holidays like today, you could be dealing with toxic bods and some hyperactive kids to boot. Doesn’t sound very celebratory to me!

Never fear, though, as always, I have some alternatives for you!

Today, for breakfast, we made “green eggs” (minus the ham) simply by adding some pureed kale to our scramble. You can add pureed kale to a lot of dishes (including just a bowl of yogurt) to green it up! It really doesn’t add a lot of flavour (or texture, if you puree it fine enough) and you are adding lots of great vitamins and minerals instead of yucky toxins. Spinach also works, but I find kale to be slightly superior if you have the option! If you want a burst of flavour, add some pesto!

Apparently matcha (a kind of green tea) can also be sprinkled into icings and sauces to add a green hue without much flavour. You can buy a box of the tea bags, and just rip one open when you need it – or make the tea and use the water (although you might get a little more of a yellowish hue this way).

If you are making a milkshake or a dip, you can also add avocado for a mild flavour and a decent colour burst. Make sure you add some lemon juice as well so your avocado doesn’t brown as fast! Or just serve up some fresh guacamole as a dish on its own 🙂

If you want to keep it even more simple, just serve some foods that are naturally green, such as those listed above, or: cucumber, celery, green salads, zucchini, grapes (pleeeeeease make sure these are organic), green apples, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and seaweed. Serve up some minty cocktails if you are wanting an alcoholic drink (mojitos, anyone)? The leaves are so vibrantly green you shouldn’t need a colorant to add more!

So we’re keeping it safe by lowering our toxins (green should really be a healthful food option, should it not?). BUT, please also remember to keep it safe this St. Patty’s Day by NOT drinking and driving – find a safe way home by deciding on a designated driver, taking transit, calling a cab, or a volunteer designated driver service. Plan ahead so you aren’t stuck with a difficult decision!

Dr. Oz’s DIY Baking Soda Toothpaste Faux Pas!

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Okay, so I was watching Dr. Oz today as it was mentioned to me he was doing a special on uses for baking soda. Expecting to give him a nod after seeing some repeats of some of my favourite tricks, I instead was horrified to see what his colleague demonstrated as a whitening toothpaste.

What Dr. Oz had concocted is absolutely NOT something I would EVER recommend brushing your teeth with. Baking soda on teeth? YES. Kudos for getting this far. BUT – and here is where my warnings about utilizing acids and bases properly when mixing household and body products come in – baking soda + pureed strawberries + lemon juice for your teeth? WHAT? NO!

Let me tell you why.

First of all, what is happening here is you are scrubbing your teeth with lemon juice, which is an acid, known for stripping the enamel from your teeth.. Insert annoying game show buzzer here. Hello, cavity time! And then, as is absolutely NOT recommended, you are applying an abrasive substance (baking soda) immediately upon weakening the enamel, further stripping your teeth. You should never brush your teeth with ANY toothpaste immediately after weakening the enamel. AND you are adding some sugar in the form of the strawberries, to sit on your teeth and rot. Will your teeth get whiter? Probably, baking soda does a great job at that. Will you get cavities? I’m gonna say yuuuuppp.

At the very best, the acid of the lemon juice is combining with the base of the baking soda, causing a chemical reaction and creating a completely inert substance with none of the cleansing and antibacterial qualities of baking soda (which is really the only ingredient of the three you should be applying to your teeth). I was completely baffled by this recipe being propogated by someone who should know better.

Do you know what I have for you instead of this DIY disaster? My own brilliant whitening toothpaste recipe, which utilizes baking soda (a natural whitener, cleanser and antibacterial agent) and coconut oil as the active cleansing and protective ingredients (coconut oil has been shown to have some amazing protective benefits for teeth). I already posted it a while back for you here, but I will make it easy on you and include it below as well:

NATURAL, FLUORIDE FREE, WHITENING TOOTHPASTE:

4 parts baking soda
2 parts extra virgin coconut oil
1 part vegetable glycerin*
A few drops (to taste – depending on quantity – unfortunately you may have to experiment) peppermint essential oil. I find about 3-4 drops per 1/4 cup of paste does the trick.

*Please make sure this is vegetable glycerin, and food grade if possible. Other forms of glycerin are largely made with petroleum. You don’t want that in your mouth any more than you want fluoride in there, IMHO.

Mix mix mix! It helps to add the coconut oil, peppermint and glycerin first, and then mix in the baking soda part by part. If it is too thick, add more glycerin or oil. Too runny? More baking soda! Mix until you get your desired consistency if the ratio doesn’t turn out right. I find it varies a bit based on quantity. The exact ratio doesn’t change the effectiveness very much (unless you are widely changing it).

If your coconut oil is too hard to mix as is, heat it a bit in a double boiler first – but don’t allow it to melt completely, or your toothpaste will separate too much after mixing.

Try your toothpaste out! I just scoop it directly out of a small mason jar with my toothbrush (wetted a bit). Use generously, and expect some drool ;). Seriously. It makes me drool a bit. Saltiness, maybe? Anyway. Moving on….

So please, don’t believe everything you see on TV.. This recipe of Dr. Oz’s may have had some devastating effects on your teeth. Do some research (and feel free to research my ingredients as well) before you try any personal care products!

Greening your Home: Reduce Waste!

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Due to some recent health complications, and some time constraints due to moving, I have unfortunately had to bow out of the Queen of Green’s springtime volunteer green coaching project. I am super bummed to not be able to contribute to the level that I wanted to, but I thought I would blog on my personal journey with waste reduction this week, to complement the module the current green coaches are taking their families through.

Let’s take a journey through my ideas for waste reduction in the home, as well as some of my future aspirations!

Ways I currently reduce waste in my home:

Ahem….this first one is obvious: I DIY my household cleaning and body products, reducing and eliminating a LOT of plastic waste.
I do not use paper towel or other disposable cleaning products. I use washcloths, towels, and a microfiber mop.
I used cloth diapers for my son.
I use washable menstrual pads.
I use cloth napkins at the dinner table.
I bring my own cloth bags to the store, and I do not put my produce in plastic bags. I have reusable plastic bags at home that I store my produce in. I have had the same bags for many, many years now. If I don’t remember to bring my own bags to the store, I ask for paper bags, fill them right up, and use them to line my under the sink compost container.
I use compostable bags for any of the garbage I DO put out to the curb. Yes, I buy them. No, they aren’t cheap. But I do it!
I try when I can remember to bring my own containers for leftovers to restaurants.
I do not use plastic wrap, and I wash my plastic bags when I do use them. You can wash plastic bags hundreds of times over if you are careful! I store most food in reusable containers.
I do not buy bottled water, instead I have a wonderful countertop filtration system from Aquasmart which I LOVE. Only problem with this is the disposal of the filters after they are done. I could work on this….
When I can find what I need, I buy clothing and household items secondhand. I am a huge fan of thrift stores and craigslist!
I buy clothing only when I need it. Read: a current item is breaking apart and un-mendable, or I have changed size drastically. I do not shop for fashion, unless I REALLY have to attend a fancy dress event (most of my wardrobe is casual and practical). I try to buy mostly cotton or other natural fibers.
I donate used household / baby items and clothing or sell them on craigslist.
I tell others about my aversion to plastic and buying everything new to discourage them from buying me anything in that vein!
I carefully consider the packaging whenever I am shopping for a new item, or when buying groceries. Anita’s Organic packages most of their products in paper. I love their flours, grains and popcorn!
I buy durable, quality items, instead of cheaping out. I make sure I am buying something that will last, and at the very least is made out of biodegradable, sustainable materials when possible. No use sending something for recycling or to the trash sooner than it needs to go.
I do not rush out to buy the latest electronic gadget. I use my cell phones, cameras, and the like until they are DONE (ie. broken, or unusable due to software requirements). I was the longest of any of my friends to convert to a touchscreen phone, and I only did so when mine was garbage. This was after several large mishaps that I managed to salvage it from.
I recycle as much as possible from the items I do buy with packaging. I wash ALL of my food containers and recycle them, no matter how nasty the contents. No trashing just because I don’t feel like dealing with spoiled food. I seek out options for recycling items my curbside collection won’t take.
I have had to momentarily stop personally composting, but for the time being am adding 100% of my food waste to my municipal yard waste bin. Find out if your city will take your food scraps! Most are on board with this now.
I grow many of my own vegetables seasonally, reducing the packaging required to ship / deliver them to the store.
I bake a lot of take along snacks, to reduce the need to grab for a wrapped granola bar or the like.
I do not giftwrap, and choose to buy green gifts when I can. If I absolutely need to wrap something, I will use one of my coveted gift bags that I have collected from gifts from others, or I will drape some sort of cloth or blanket over it that I take home with me afterwards. This works great for kids.
Some of you may groan at the next one, but I maintain the belief that it’s okay to let it mellow if it’s yellow, and flush it down when it’s brown. Why do I need to flush away every pee? Especially my hubby’s or son’s that don’t even accompany any TP? I really think that folks should get on board with this, to save a TON of water.

Finally, when shopping, I consider “Do I really need this?” when making decisions, and try to curb the desire to buy for the sake of a deal, promotion, or novelty. I think about whether I can use something at home in a similar way, borrow something from a friend or family member, or just do away with the idea altogether.

The list likely could go on, but let’s call it a day there! Hopefully some of my habits have given you a few suggestions!

Some of the things I would like to improve upon:

I want to replace tissue with reusable hankies. I have been lazy in getting around to sewing up some hankies in appropriate, nose friendly fabric.
There are a select few things I cook wrapped in aluminum foil. I just have not found a way around it that I have found an acceptable alternative, especially for barbecuing! Still researching this! Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I would like to start cooking some meals in bulk to allow for quick, nutritious lunches on the go, to replace some of the canned soups and packaged burritos my son eats. Granted, it is very hard to switch him onto new foods, which has made this process doubly hard to be motivated for. Think: I just spent 8 hours cooking and my son won’t eat it, and I now have ten jars of it in the freezer. I generally cook slow, nutritious whole foods meals most of the time, but occasionally I need something quick. This is a tough one!
I need to find a better source for bulk foods in my area, that is affordable, and offers organics. I find it challenging to find a local source for certain bulk organic foods.
Oh, those yogurt containers! These make up a large portion of our plastic recycling. I have not found a bulk organic source, and I do not find it affordable to make organic yogurt from scratch. Hmmm….any suggestions?

How have you been successful or challenged in your waste reduction goals in your household? I would love to hear your stories!

Non-toxic Carpet Cleaner!

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As some of you may know, I recently moved into a new place. As we ALL know, new places usually need a good scrub when we move in! As this one has carpeting in the bedrooms that looked a bit on the older side, I thought they could do with a good shampoo. BUT i absolutely did not want to use some toxic carpet cleaner that would then off-gas into our bedrooms later, and transfer around on our feet. Yuck.

So, there began my experiment with DIY carpet cleaner for carpet shampoo machines like the Rug Doctor. I rented mine from Safeway for about $25, and was looking at the shampoos, which would cost me an extra $15-20 all said and done, even if I was comfortable using them. So not only does this recipe eliminate toxins from your carpets, it saves you QUITE a bit of cash as well.

There are two steps to this process, one being a carpet cleaner, and the other being a rinse. Please do NOT mix the two sets of ingredients hoping to save yourself time. They will cancel each other out, creating something about as good as water (which does an ok job too, but then, why are you bothering mixing anything up and spending the money?).

As always, please spot test if you have darker or coloured carpets. Although these ingredients ARE natural, they may indeed strip certain dyes to a small degree.

To clean:

First, mix in a large bucket about one part liquid castille soap to about 20 parts water. You could even use less if you are being super economical. Around there. Guesstimate, you don’t have to measure things out exactly! Fill up the cleaner reservoir, and go to town on that carpet. You should not get an overwhelming amount of suds.

If you run out of cleaner, just mix up another batch and add. However, it is important to note that you will have to completely empty the reservoir of cleaner BEFORE you add the rinse. Failure to do so will again result in the inert substance I described above. If possible, even rinse the last remainder of cleaner out with water so no residue is left. That being said, don’t add a whole whack-load of cleaner if you only have a bit of carpet left, or you will waste a bunch.

To rinse:

Mix about one part white vinegar to about four parts water. If you desire a scent, add 10-20 drops of the essential oil of your choice (I recommend lavender, any citrus, citronella, or rose). Add to resevoir. Go right over your carpets again with this. Do not be concerned about your carpets smelling like vinegar, the smell will quickly dissipate.

Unfortunately, in the exhausted stupor that comes with moving with a toddler, I did not have the foresight to take a before and after picture of my carpet. But you will not BELIEVE the yucky dirt that came out in the discard water. Holy momma, I am glad I cleaned those suckers!!

Some folks clean their carpet just with the vinegar solution, skipping the soap step. I wanted to make sure mine got super clean, as I wasn’t sure about what had happened on them prior to me being there. But, if you want just a light cleaning, you could definitely skip the soap and just do the vinegar step!

And there you have it! Carpet cleaning is backbreaking work, but at least this way you know you won’t be breathing in any toxic fumes while you’re at it!

NOTE: Some of you may be concerned about manufacturer warnings to not use any other products other than their lines, etc. in their machines. This is, generally speaking, a marketing scam, and there really is not much chance of these ingredients wrecking your machine. If you are really paranoid, just rent a rug doctor, mine was fine afterwards 😉