Health Benefits of Organic Greater Celandine

Health Benefits of Organic Greater Celandine | greater-celandine | General Health Organics Special Interests

Chelidonium majus, or greater celandine, has a long history of use in many European countries. Ancient Greeks, Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides all called celandine an effective detoxifying agent. The Romans used celandine as a blood cleanser. The French herbalist Maurice Mességué cited celandine tea for help with liver problems.

Its use also extends to traditional Chinese medicine, and it’s become an important part of western phytotherapy. Extracts of greater celandine have exhibited a broad spectrum of toxicity to harmful organisms as well as liver protecting activity. This has led to the inclusion of greater celandine in liver and gallbladder cleansing and support protocols.

Benefits of Greater Celandine

Greater celandine extract has strong antioxidant potential, specifically from the alkaloid and flavonoid components. [1] The greatest content of the beneficial alkaloids has been found in the root, sometimes achieving 2-3% concentrations. This has prompted greater celandine to be included in preparations designed to support the biliary tract and liver, [2] such as Livatrex®, my enhanced blend of herbs that help detoxify and support the normal function of the liver and gallbladder.

Greater celandine extract has been shown to support bile production. Extra bile helps the body’s digestion processes perform more effectively, specifically by breaking down fat and facilitating toxin removal.

Greater celandine contains chelidonic acid, which has been found to relieve discomfort and be aggressive against certain harmful organisms. In one study, chelidonic acid was found to temper indications of ulcerative colitis and provided the foreground for examination into greater celandine’s therapeutic role in relieving other intestinal irritation. [3]

Defense Against Harmful Organisms

The School of Stomatology at China Medical University studied the effects of greater celandine extract on streptococcus; researchers noted significant activity against harmful organisms. [4] The University of Milan in Italy also found greater celandine extracts and isolated compounds to exhibit significant activity against harmful organisms. [5]

The Department of Tropical and Subtropical Crops at Czech University in the Czech Republic tested the activity of extracts from 16 Siberian plants against five species of microorganisms. Greater celandine was among the five plants shown to have the highest activity. [6]

Considerations

The preliminary reports really provide a positive glimpse into the potential for greater celandine. As always, consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, especially if a history of liver disease exists in your family. A few reports have been passed around of some people experiencing liver problems as a result of very large amounts; however, these reports are anecdotal. Regardless, if you’re pregnant or nursing, avoid greater celandine for the time being.

References

  1. Nadova S, Miadokova E, Alfoldiova L, Kopaskova M, Hasplova K, Hudecova A, Vaculcikova D, Gregan F, Cipak L. Potential antioxidant activity, cytotoxic and apoptosis-inducing effects of Chelidonium majus L. extract on leukemia cells. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Oct;29(5):649-52.
  2. Táborská E, Bochoráková H, Dostál J, Paulová H. [The greater celandine (Chelidonium majus L.)–review of present knowledge]. Ceska Slov Farm. 1995 Apr;44(2):71-5. Review. Czech.
  3. Kim DS, Kim SJ, Kim MC, Jeon YD, Um JY, Hong SH. The therapeutic effect of chelidonic acid on ulcerative colitis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2012;35(5):666-71.
  4. Cheng RB, Chen X, Liu SJ, Zhang XF, Zhang GH. [Experimental study of the inhibitory effects of Chelidonium majus L. extractive on Streptococcus mutans in vitro]. Shanghai Kou Qiang Yi Xue. 2006 Jun;15(3):318-20. Chinese.
  5. Colombo ML, Bosisio E. Pharmacological activities of Chelidonium majus L. (Papaveraceae). Pharmacol Res. 1996 Feb;33(2):127-34. Review.
  6. Kokoska L, Polesny Z, Rada V, Nepovim A, Vanek T. Screening of some Siberian medicinal plants for antimicrobial activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Sep;82(1):51-3.

 


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Buying Local Honey: What You Need To Know

Buying Local Honey: What You Need To Know | local-honey | General Health Organic Market Classifieds Organics

One of my favorite long-term food choices in our pantry is honey. Storing honey is a popular choice amongst preppers. After all, its versatility coupled with the capacity to last a lifetime is a perfect investment for your long-term food stores. Many are aware of the additives put into honey and ultra-filtering that inevitably removes all of the health benefits it possesses in its natural state. In fact, recent laboratory tests have revealed that 76% of the honey purchased in common chain grocery stores has been ultra filtered.

Why Buy Local?

Buying locally will ensure you get the purest form of honey around. As well, purchasing in bulk quantities will help you add to your natural prepper pantries and save a buck at the same time. When raw honey is left in its natural state and is unfiltered, it contains pollen, enzymes, antioxidants and many other beneficial compounds that researchers are just beginning to learn about.

Buying Local Honey: What You Need To Know | honey-vs-raw-honey | General Health Organic Market Classifieds Organics

Benefits of Raw Honey

  • Has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.
  • Due to its low water content, it’s a poor environment for the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Acts a cough suppressant and soothes a sore or scratchy throat.
  • Boosts immunity, and protects against infections in wounds.
  • May improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
  • Contains phytonutrients, which have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties.
  • Honey from certain flower sources contain friendly bacteria that are good for digestion.
  • Minor source of vitamins B2 and B6, copper, iron, manganese.

Where to Find Local Honey

A few years ago, I was lucky to find a local honey supplier in my area that sells us 20 pound buckets of honey. For a family of five, (see food calculator here) this is enough honey for a year for my family. We usually end up purchasing one to use for the year and another for long-term storage. I have found that scouting out local farmers markets can put you in direct contact with local beekeepers who are more than willing to sell you honey on a regular basis. As well, they have other great products they can sell you like bee pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, and even a beehive, if you are interested. Additionally, farmers markets are great for finding local produce, meat and other food sources. I have also found beekeepers selling honey through Craigslist.

What to Ask Local Honey Suppliers

Today, I wanted to share some tips with you about buying and locating local honey sources. If you plan on purchasing honey from a local supplier, make sure they can answer these questions:

  1. What are the kinds of flowers the bees have been foraging on? Knowing the kind of flowers that the bees used for nectar and pollen will give you a good indication of how robust the flavor of the honey will be.
  2. Do they mix the honey with any additives? Purity of honey is another issue the USDA does not look into when giving out their sacred “USDA organic labels.” Most store-bought honey isn’t even honey at all. It’s a combination of additives like sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup (check your maple syrup too, folks!) to make it more honey-like. An advantage to buying from local honey sellers is that they sell a far superior product compared to the honey you purchase in stores. Not only is local honey in more of a pure state, but you have more of a variety that is unavailable in supermarkets. There are tests that you can do to test your honey. Learn about honey purity laws here.
  3. Has the honey been filtered to remove pollen? Many honey companies filter their honey to remove any minute particles, pollen and bits of honeycomb. Unfortunately, when companies ultra-filter their honey, they force the proteins out of honey removing the natural health properties in the process. The result is a clearer honey that companies market as healthy, when in reality, ultra-filtered honey does not have many health benefits at all. Most local suppliers skip this step and keep the honey pure.
  4. Is it organic honey? I added this because I wanted to inform you all that it is very difficult to find real 100% organic honey. In fact, it’s near to impossible! Honeybees fly an average of 2 miles from their hives in their search for nectar and pollen. A hive would have to be in the center of a minimum of 16 square miles of organic plants. This is extremely difficult to do considering there are neighbors, golf clubs, businesses, etc. who still believe in chemically treating lawns and gardens with pesticides. Wild plants sound good but there could be an issue there if the hives are near any land where herbicides are used, including BLM land. So, here’s the fact on organic honey: There are no standards for USDA certified organic honey. They simply do not exist. According to the USDA Rules and Regulations, “…honey does not require official inspection in order to carry official USDA grade marks and since there are no existing programs that require the official inspection and certification of honey,…” So the organic honey you are purchasing at the store is only a ploy to inflate the price and make more money.

Buying locally is your best bet in taking steps to buy the purest form of honey and create a natural prepper pantry. If you decided to purchase honey at the grocery store, make sure you purchase raw unfiltered honey. I have been purchasing local honey for years and have only had one container crystallize; and that was a year after I purchased it. Use these tips when looking for local honey sources.


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The Benefits Of Organic Shampoo

The Benefits Of Organic Shampoo | shampoo | General Health Organic Market Classifieds Organics Special Interests

Shampoo seems like a harmless enough item. But in reality, many shampoos contain chemicals that your body absorbs. Chemicals, like parabens and sulfates, interfere with the endocrine system and can up your chances for serious diseases. [1] With this reality staring us right in the face, it only makes sense that we seek out healthier, all-natural options.

Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

When shopping for shampoo and conditioners, read the labels before purchasing. Here are a few of the specific ingredients you need to look out for:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfates — Known to cause cataracts in adults and improper eye development in children. Regardless, it’s used in most store-bought shampoos and conditioners.
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate — A surfactant moderately associated with organ toxicity.
  • Derivatives of Lauryl Alcohol — Thought to be harmful to the organ system and can cause irritation to the skin and the eyes.
  • Propylene Glycol (Antifreeze) — High concern for skin and lung irritation and organ toxicity.
  • Olefin Sulfonate (Deodorized Kerosene) — Possibly harmful to organ and hormone function, also highly irritating.

Ingredients Commonly Found in Organic Shampoo

Organic shampoos and conditioners usually contain much safer plant-based products. Tea tree is common and has been used for a long time to support scalp health and dandruff, not to mention fighting bad breath. Certified organic tea tree also has antiseptic elements that can aid in controlling naturally-occurring microbial levels that can result in different forms of scalp irritation.

Another popular ingredient in many organic shampoo and conditioner products is beta glucan. Beta glucan has immune-enhancing properties both internally and topically. [2] It helps to soothe inflamed cells of the scalp, which is particularly beneficial for people who suffer from skin conditions.

The Bottom Line: Organic is Best

True organic shampoo and conditioner products offer a wealth of benefits for your hair and scalp that will be immediately noticeable. Organic products gently infuse your hair follicles and skin cells with natural minerals, herbal extracts, and oils. If you are looking for shampoos that stimulate healthy hair growth, look for products made with aloe vera and coconut oil, as they naturally moisturize your scalp. If you need enhanced shine and moisture for your hair, organic shea butter is an important ingredient to look for in your organic shampoo.

References:

  1. Bledzka D, Gromadzinska J, Wasowicz W. Parabens. From environmental studies to human health. Environ Int. 2014 Jun;67:27-42. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.02.007.
  2. Heike Stier, Veronika Ebbeskotte and Joerg Gruenwald. Immune-modulatory effects of dietary Yeast Beta-1,3/1,6-D-glucan. Nutrition Journal. 2014, 13:38. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-38.

 


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Small Space Gardening

Small Space Gardening | vertical-garden | Agriculture & Farming Organic Market Classifieds Organics

We don’t always have the option of moving out into the sprawling countryside to live off of the land. Our jobs dictate that we live near a city and, as a result, our yards are smaller and may not provide adequate space for a large garden. As well, those that are renting homes may also be limited on what they can do with a yard.

Patio or container gardens are a great solution to this issue. You can grow fruit trees, herbs, vegetables and fruits from the convenience of your patio while using underutilized space. As well, walls and window boxes can grow herbs, vegetables and fruits to make use of vertical space and provide you with a lovely focal point.

Urban and suburbanites can garden in their small spaces using vertical gardening and small space gardening techniques such as grow bags, vertical garden systems and containers. Some of the most popular are:

  • Vertical gardening systems
  • Window boxes
  • Grow bags
  • Containers
  • Garden boxes
  • Pallets
  • Hanging planters

Do some research on your part to determine what the best type of small space gardening is best for you. There is an unlimited amount of solutions you can find for this type of gardening on YouTube.

Plants Prefer Lots of Drainage

As well, ensure that your pots and containers have adequate drainage holes at the bottom. Plants do not like to sit in soggy soil and quickly develop root rot, as a result. Planting shallow-rooted plants such as small herbs, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, and green onions can be grown close to one another and will help plant roots stay shaded from the hot sun. This is a principle of xeriscaping and will also help to cut down on watering.

To keep plants healthy, water only when soil feels dry. The best way to determine when to water is to insert your index finger 2-3 inches into the soil. If the soil feels dry, it needs water. If it is still moist, then it can go another day until it needs to be watered.

Soil For All Seasons

Quality soil is essential in growing container plants. Because the plants will not get getting essential nutrients from the ground, you need to ensure that the soil you use is suitable for containers. Perlite, vermiculite, calcined clay (kitty litter), and sand are the mineral aggregates most commonly used in potting soils, and adding these would be beneficial to the success of your garden. The following is a mix that can support container plants for a year or two without additional fertilization.

Mix 2 gallons each of:

  • peat moss
  • perlite
  • compost
  • garden soil

with 1/2 cup each of:

  • dolomitic limestone
  • greensand
  • rock phosphate
  • kelp powder

Place a 1/2-inch mesh screen over my garden cart and sift the peat moss, compost, and garden soil to remove any large particles. Then add the remaining ingredients and turn the materials over repeatedly with a shovel, adding water if the mix seems dry. Source

What Kind of Plants to Grow?

Growing compact plants with smaller root systems is another way to garden in small spaces. Many herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender and sage will continue growing in most parts of the country and do not need to be replaced each season, thus making them wonderful additions to a year round patio garden.

Make a concerted effort to purchase heirloom quality seeds. These type of seeds are bred for their flavor and not their durability for shipping and mass distribution. Additionally, these seed types will produce fertile seeds that can be saved for subsequent growing seasons, which many sustainable-minded folks prefer. The following is a listing of plants that grow well in containers:

  • Bush tomatoes – requires staking
  • Peppers
  • Greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, kale
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers – requires a trellis
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Most herbs

As well, consider adding some colorful flowers such as petunias, marigolds, or roses to attract beneficial insects to help pollinate your patio garden.

My Personal Experience

On a personal note, even though I have an area of my yard devoted to larger-scale gardening, it is simple not large enough for what I want to accomplish, and I have decided to extend my garden on a back patio. This is the area where I have my herbs, lettuces and bush variety vegetable plants growing. I have found that I prefer container gardening because weeds are less likely to invade the growing space and the plants are so close I pay more attention to how they are growing.

I have utilized a lot of grow bags in my patio garden. In the grow bags, have planted potatoes, onions and strawberries and they are really doing great. I have my herbs and radishes planted in ceramic containers. My green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers are still not ready to be set out, but I plan on using 5-gallon plastic containers for them.

As one wise man once said, “There are never problems, only solutions.” Even though we don’t live in the sprawling countryside, you can still enjoy organic, homegrown vegetables and fruits from the convenience of your patio. This small investment will help your family save money at the grocery store, eat more healthy and have a lovely scenery to enjoy during the summer months.


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Organic Food Benefits Human Health

Organic Food Benefits Human Health | organic-standards-1024x687 | General Health GMOs Organics

A Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA)  report published in December 2016 suggests what organic food consumers have known all along.

A diet consisting of these foods contributes to human health. Studies of their use show a lower risk of childhood allergies.

Adult consumers are less likely to be overweight. At the same time, it’s hard separating organic food consumption from other lifestyle practices contributing to or harming human health.

According to the STOA report, “consumers who regularly buy or consume organic food have healthier dietary patterns, such as a higher consumption of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products and a lower consumption of meat, compared to other consumers.”

“These dietary patterns are associated with various health benefits, which include a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

Recent studies show pesticides to be far more harmful to human health than previously thought. Some of their ingredients, including ones called inert or non-toxic, actually amplify toxicity enormously.

Monsanto’s Roundup used in producing GMO crops is most toxic of all, a major human health hazard, information the company wants suppressed.

Organic farming avoids these toxins, the main reason why these products are healthier for human consumption, especially for children during their formative cognitive development years, as well as for pregnant women.

Vitamin and mineral content of organic and conventional foods are similar. Higher amounts of phenolic compounds and less cadmium are believed to protect against certain chronic human diseases.

Antibiotics in animal food production contributes to increased bacterial resistance, reducing their effectiveness when used for medical purposes.

Pesticide and cadmium exposure, along with bacterial antibiotic resistance are major public health issues. Organic food production minimizes or eliminates these risks.

Healthy dietary practices promote human health. Organic foods have a positive effect. Consuming these foods lower the risk “several chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

It’s a whole lot better being well than ill.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Have a Medicinal Garden

7 Reasons Why You Should Have a Medicinal Garden | herb-garden | Agriculture & Farming Natural Medicine Organics

Growing medicinal plants are a great way to ensure garden sustainability and more notably, have access to natural medicine when you need it most. When I introduced more herbs in my garden, I noticed it had a profound impact on the vegetables and fruits I was growing. It also encouraged beneficial insects and birds to visit my garden and this helped cut down on plants being eaten.

Because of this observation, I changed my focus from solely growing to eat and, instead, worked to create a welcoming growing environment. Not only were my plants healthier, but I had access to natural herbs to use for making extracts and poultices. The following are reasons I feel gardeners should adopt adding medicinal herbs to the garden.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Have a Medicinal Garden

  1. Have access to multiple forms of natural medicine for future needs. When you have fresh cut herbs to use for natural medicine, you have access to the freshest forms of their healing properties. For example, what if you cut your hand and did not have a bandage. Did you know that the sage leaf can be wrapped around a wound and used as a natural band-aid? Or, if the bleeding from that cut was so bad that it wouldn’t stop. Did you know that a few shakes of some cayenne pepper can help control the bleed? Or, if you have a severe bruise, make a poultice. It’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to use herbal medicine.
  2. Calm your senses with medicinal teas. Herbs like lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, catnip, and peppermint have a natural sedative quality to them to help calm your spirits or help you sleep better at night. Taking a handful of leaves and adding them to a cup of hot water will create a soothing cup of herbal tea. Here are some great herbal tea remedies to start with.
  3. Many medicinal plants and herbs are perennials and will come back year after year. The more established the plants are, the more they will produce each year. This will save you money in the long run! I bought a small oregano plant three years ago and it is the size of a small shrub. I have so much oregano now that I can use it for culinary uses and experiment with making my own tinctures and astringents. As well, my echinacea has produced so many “baby” plants that I have dug them up and transferred them to another part of my property where I am creating another medicinal garden.
  4. Feed your livestock! Livestock can also benefit from growing herbs in the garden.  Not only can they be added for additional nutrition, but you can use herbs to make natural cleansing shampoos and even clean wounds. Some herbs I feed my animals are oregano, comfrey, lavender, mint, and sage.  Note: not all herbs are healthy for your livestock, so do research to find out which ones are good for your animals.
  5. Another added benefit of having a thriving medicinal garden is that bees love it! This promotes bee sustainability and a healthier garden, as well. The blossoms put out by the flowers and herbs will attract bees that will, in turn, happily pollinate your vegetable and fruits. Consider planting some of these beneficial flowers in addition to herbs:
    • Asters (Aster/Callistephus)
    • Sunflowers (Helianthus/Tithonia)
    • Salvia (Salvia/Farinacea-Strata/Splendens)
    • Bee balm (Monarda)
    • Hyssop (Agastache)
    • Mint (Mentha)
    • Cleome / Spider flower (Cleome)
    • Thyme (Thymus)
    • Poppy (Papaver/Eschscholzia)
    • California poppies (Eschscholzia)
    • Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea)
    • Lavender (Lavandula)
  6. Regrow from cuttings on your windowsill. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, mint, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, lemon balm, and thyme are perfect for starting in a glass or canning jar. Simply add water and set in indirect sunlight – it’s that simple! Read more here.
  7. Herbs can be great companion plants for the vegetable garden. Don’t feel handcuffed to only growing vegetables, but herbs can be planted nearby to do double duty as companion plants. Companion planting can also help control the insect balance in your garden and repel some of the more unwanted guests like mosquitoes. Some favorite companion herbs are pairing basil with tomatoes, chamomile near cucumbers, garlic planted near apple, pear and peach trees, roses, cucumbers, peas, lettuce or celery. Read more about which herbs are great companions here.

Ready Nutrition writer and herbalist, Jeremiah Johnson has written extensively on how to cultivate a medicinal garden to use in a long-term emergency. His favorite medicinals are what he refers to as the 3 G’s: garlic, ginger, and ginseng. You can read his article on the subject.

To better understand natural medicine and using herbals for health, I strongly recommend you read more on the subject. The following books come highly recommended:

Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria,” by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor, by Cat Ellis (Herbal Prepper)

This is not a new gardening concept, yet is still not widely used. When you are planting your garden, consider adding a few herbs and watch the benefits grow before your eyes.


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7 Laws Of Gardening: Time-Tested Tips For Growing A Successful Garden

7 Laws Of Gardening: Time-Tested Tips For Growing A Successful Garden | gardener | Agriculture & Farming Organic Market Classifieds Organics

We all have the best of intentions in the beginning of summer. We plan on spending the season growing a beautiful lush garden. As the summer drags on, avoiding the heat becomes the top priority. From the neglect, your garden suffers. The plants may not be thriving, there may be bug infestations, or root rot. Inevitably, if there are enough issues, you give up altogether and call it a summer.

What you may not realize is there are laws that you must follow to ensure your plants have the best environment to thrive in. These gardening laws are essential in giving your plants a fighting chance at giving you a big harvest.

7 Laws For Successful Gardening

1. Start with good quality seeds. Seed quality plays an important role in a successful garden. As such, it is important to know seed characteristics such as trueness to variety, germination percentage, purity, vigor, and appearance are important to farmers planting crops and to homeowners establishing lawns and gardens. Further, growing heirloom seed varieties will ensure you can collect the seeds for subsequent harvests.

2. Feed the soil. Your plants need nutrients in order to grow healthy and produce fruit and vegetables. Ensuring they have these present in the soil will save you time and money on fertilizer.

I love incorporating the lasagna-style or sheet mulch gardening with the square foot gardening method. This is the best opportunity to introduce compostables to the soil. Composting is a great way to provide some added nutrients and condition the soil. Fertilizers will give the plants just what they need to produce healthy fruit. Building your own composter can help you make use of any organic materials, as well as getting onto the journey to self-sustainment. I also add soil amenders to make my soil really healthy. Some of the amenders I use are:

You can purchase these items at a garden store, online or find a local source on Craigslist. I recently purchased 60 pounds of earthworm castings for twenty-five dollars. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

3. Balance the amount of sunlight with the ideal temperatures. Who  knew gardening was a balancing act? But in order to get a good harvest, you have to balance to amount of sunlight your plan gets with the ideal temperature. If your garden or patio area receives full sun all day long, it can wreak havoc on your gardening endeavors. Keep in mind that plants need at least six to eight hours of sunlight to grow to their maximum potential. That said, the temperature plays a key role in plant health. Keeping plants between 70-90 degrees F will help the plants grow to their potential. Transplants especially will benefit from shade cloth. There are different percentages of shade cloth ranging from 25% – 70% or more. This will allow you block out the heat from the sun and help the plant thrive. All you need to do is drape the cloth over a support structure. Many gardeners use ladders, pvc hoop-style structures, or purchase products specifically manufactured to support shade cloth. Here are plans to build a shape canopy for the garden using pvc pipe. Read more here.

4. Regular waterings will prevent plant stress. Having an irrigation system in place with a timer will be less work for you and will ensure your plants are getting a balanced amount of moisture at each watering. This also will help you not over-water your plants which can be just as bad as not watering at all.

5. Protect the roots with mulch. Mulching the roots is a trade secret many successful gardeners use to protect the plant’s delicate root structures and prevent weeds from growing. You can use fallen leaves, straw, wood chips or newspaper to shade the roots. This will keep the roots moist and not stress the plant out during the warmest parts of the day. As well, the natural mulch will compost down over time and help your soil in the process.

 6. Talk to your plants. I know that I’m going to get some comments about how crazy I am for listing this, but I believe in talking to your plants. While there is no evidence to suggest that plants respond to affection, some plants do have a limited ability to communicate with one another. Though plants lack the ability to receive and process sound waves, evidence suggests that some plants can communicate with each other through the use of chemical signals. Additionally, vibrations that travel through the soil or in the air may have an effect on plant growth. It may be possible for plants to pick up on the vibrations created by human speech and maybe even by the chemical signals that humans release without knowing it.

7. Give your plants some friends. Many use companion planting in organic gardens to let nature do most of the work instead of chemicals. In theory, using this type of gardening, essentially creates an agroecosystem. Nothing goes to waste and everything is interdependent. The bi-products of these plants (dead heads, frail looking plants, etc.) can be used as soil conditioners. This makes for great efficiency and good use of space. Read more about which companion plants to use in vegetable, fruit and herb gardens.

Above all, visit your garden regularly. When you spend time in the garden, you will be less likely to neglect it. By following these simple laws of gardening, you can have a successful garden, year after year.

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DIY: 10 Herbal Tea Blends You Can Grow In Your Garden

DIY: 10 Herbal Tea Blends You Can Grow In Your Garden | chamomile | Agriculture & Farming Natural Medicine Organic Market Classifieds Organics

From a sustainability standpoint, herbs are one of the easiest plants to produce. Many of the herbs we grow are perennials and will produce for many years. Drying herbs is a great way to save money and use for cooking or to enjoy for aromatherapy needs. That said, we haven’t completely put these perennials to their full potential.

Harvesting Your Tea

Growing your own herbal tea blends is almost effortless. Many herbs prefer to be on the “dry” side during the growing season, so you can skip a few waterings and they will be ok. In fact, many herbs can be grown in containers on a sunny window sill or patio. Most herbs will fit into a 1 gallon sized growing pot, but make sure your container has a nice-sized hole so that surplus water can drain away. Herbs do not prefer to have their roots sitting in water or saturated soil. A larger volume of potting mix dries out more slowly, so use the largest pot you can. It’s better to combine two or more plants in a large pot than to use several little pots.  Further, fertilize your herbs once a month to ensure your herbs have adequate nutrients.

Prune your herbs regularly to harvest the tender leaves. This will also keep plants bushy and discourage them from blooming; often, blooming will change the flavor of the leaves. Harvest the oldest stems individually with scissors rather than pruning the whole plant to keep a steady stream of leaves coming.

As well, if you are using fruit trees, when you are pruning them, save the leaves and cut leaves or blossoms to make teas with. Harvest the leaves, blossoms, or the root in some cases such as ginger, dandelion and echinacea, and thoroughly dry outdoors for 10 days, or use your food dehydrator at a setting of 95 degrees Farenheit until completely dry.

Some of the easiest herbs I have grown are:

  • Mint
  • Lemon Balm
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Dandelion
  • Calendula
  • Lavender
  • Stevia

And, the easy fruit bearing plants I grow are:

  • Rose hips
  • Lemons
  • Blackberry
  • Strawberry

Harvesting Tips:

  • Most herbs are at their peak just before they bloom.
  • Harvest all your herbs at the end of the season, once a frost is forecast. You can dry the herbs whole and store for winter teas or for use as seasonings.
  • Harvest early in the day, after the dew has dried, but while the herbs are still lush in the cool of the morning.
  • Be careful not to tear or crush the herbs until you are ready to use them. You don’t want to waste any of the essential oils.

Tea blends can make great gifts for friends and family! You can easily make homemade tea bags out of coffee filters. For an easy tutorial, follow these instructions. My family usually enjoys a cup of tea with raw honey and some fresh lemon, but that is not always the case. Here are some of my favorite tea blends.

10 Delicious Herbal Tea Blends

Tension Soother

  • 4 teaspoons lavender
  • 3 teaspoons chamomile
  • 2 teaspoons lemon balm
  • 2 teaspoons rose petals

Tummy Tamer

  • 1 teaspoon Calendula
  • 1 teaspoon chamomile blossoms
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed

Sleepy Blend

  • 1 teaspoon chamomile
  • 1 teaspoon lemon balm leaves
  • 1 teaspoon catnip
  • 1 teaspoon lavender flowers

Immune Booster

  • 4 tablespoons rose hips
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon chips
  • 1 teaspoon hibiscus flowers
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • ½ teaspoon lemon peel

Cold/Flu Tea

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup dried echinacea leaves
  • ¼ cup dried peppermint leaves
  • ¼ cup dried lemon balm leaves
  • 3 tablespoons dried elderberries or ¼ cup dried elder flowers

Autumn Blend

  • 3 teaspoons nettle leaf
  • 2 teaspoons spearmint leaf
  • 2 teaspoons lemon balm
  • 1 teaspoon mullein leaf
  • two teaspoons dandelion leaf and root, combined
  • 1 teaspoon rose hips
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root (dried cut and sifted)
  • 4 cups of water

Winter Blend

  • Juice of two oranges (approx 1 cup)
  • 3 teaspoons dried pomegranate seeds
  • 1 4″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups water

Pregnancy Blend

*check with your healthcare provider to make sure this blend is right for you.

  • 3 teaspoons dried red raspberry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried rose hips
  • 1 teaspoon dried nettle
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon chips
  • ½ teaspoon dried fennel seed
  • ¼ teaspoon dried spearmint leaves

PMS Tea Blend

  • 2 teaspoons chamomile
  • 2 teaspoons nettle
  • 2 teaspoons red raspberry leaf
  • 1 teaspoon lemon balm

Chai Spice Mix

  • 3 tablespoons cardamom
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger

Tea Preparation:

To make a nice tasting cup of tea, first warm your teapot with scalding-hot water. Then place your ingredients directly in the pot (or tea ball). For a mild tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. of dried leaves or blossoms. Cover the cup with a lid or plate (this helps keep the vital nutrients and beneficial properties of the herbs in the cup and not evaporating into the air). Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Serve the hot drink “as is”, or — if you wish — flavor it with grated fruit rind, lemon juice, or honey. For a greater medicinal effect, make a decoction by gently boiling 1/4 cup of the tea blend in 1 qt. of water until about half of the water has boiled off. Drink 2-3 small cups of the tea daily.

Storing Your Tea Blends

After mixing up your favorite blend of herb tea, add them to a glass jar and store in a dark place. I use large mason jars for storing my tea blends. As a general rule, figure on about one to two teaspoons of dried herb(s) per cup of tea. (Double the amount of ingredients if you’re using fresh herbs.) And remember that you can get more flavor out of the leaves, blossoms, and berries if they are crushed before using.

Consider adding these medicinal plants to your garden and enjoy them year after year. In addition to tea blends, many of these herbs can be used for other natural medicinal needs, such as salves, lotions, tinctures and decoctions.


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6 Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Body

6 Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Body | yoga-exercise | General Health Organics Special Interests

What’s going on with your fitness routine? Where are you at with it? If you’re on the up swing- that’s awesome, stick with it. If you’re not, why not? What happened to hitting the gym this week? Did Monday quickly turn into Friday and the evenings faded away under a glow from the television set? Is that you? Turn it off, better yet, cancel the service. There is an epidemic of unhealthy bodies in this country and it’s caused by an epidemic of “don’t feel like it.”

The weight loss industry is huge, and, unfortunately, so is the propensity for the average person to not comply, over the long term, with their plans to eat right and exercise often. Those organic fruits, vegetables and raw foods don’t eat themselves and exercise doesn’t happen by osmosis. Despite the ridiculous tactics portrayed in most of the marketing (propaganda) churned out by the weight loss industry ad wizards, a healthy body weight is not the product of shortcuts or nightly 12 oz. curls. Provide your body with nutrition and keep it physically fit, that’s it. It’s been said that 90% of success is just showing up. If you’ve been slacking off on showing up, here are a few quick tips to get you back on track and make your intentions your reality.

1. Eat and Eat Well

Calorie consumption isn’t a 0 sum game, your body needs a certain amount of calories to operate. “Ate a 100 calorie snack, burned 100 calories on the treadmill, awesome!” is not the philosophy to live by. Skipping meals and severely limiting calories won’t provide your body the nutrition it needs. The key is to eat organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Skip the chips, throw away the prepackaged junk. If you’re indulging in low-quality fast foods, stop it immediately. That toxic sewage isn’t going to provide your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.

2. Eat Appropriate Portions

Portion control is an area many adults fail at (underscoring the importance of developing these habits early). Before helping yourself to seconds, ask yourself if you’re really even hungry, or just reaching for another scoop out of habit. It’s not necessary to completely deprive yourself of the foods you love, just limit their portion size. Instead of eating it all tonight, it might make a great left over lunch tomorrow.

3. Eat On a Seat

Eating on the run is an easy way to lose your momentum. Why? Because eating on the run is often eating food purchased out of convenience, which means little planning and a high likelihood of it being from a fast food restaurant, vending machine, or gas station. Plan your meals so that you can sit down, relax and enjoy your food. If you do need a snack to go, nature provides a number of choices in natural, biodegradable wrappers- apples, bananas, and plums, are already perfectly packaged and easy to eat when time is tight.

4. Eat With Your Family

Support each other as a family in your quest to eat in a healthy way and exercise regularly. Your parents, offspring, or siblings can benefit from nutritious foods too, so keep them on hand and hold each other accountable. Be the example in your family, set the bar. When everyone is on track, it’s easier to resist tempting foods, such as sodas, chips, candy, and cookies. Or, even better…

5. Avoid Temptations

The easiest way to avoid the temptations of less-than-healthy foods is just to keep the house free of temptations, period. You’ll be surprised how true, “out of sight, out of mind” really is. Instead, keep the pantry stocked with fruits, veggies and whole grain snacks.

6. Roll With It

It’s important to understand everyone occasionally trips and falls. You may be out for your birthday and have a second piece of cake. You may be out to dinner with an old friend and indulge a little more than normal. These things happen, they’re called life, just don’t let these special occasions get ahead of you. The rarity of special occasions is what makes them special. The cumulative effect of complying with a solid daily-life plan is what sets you up for more enjoyable special occasions. It’s easier for your body to absorb the occasional indiscretion when you’re on track the other 90% of the time. Never focus on perceived failures, only on successes you’ve had and the successes you are still working to achieve.


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4 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Gardener

4 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Gardener | garden | Agriculture & Farming Organics Special Interests

Gardening is a skill and anyone who tells you something different is not being totally honest.  That being said, having a successful gardening experience depends on many outside factors including, but not limited to soil conditions, available sunlight, the length of the growing season, seed quality, pest control and even a bit of luck.  Still, many of these factors can be overcome with skill, perseverance, and experience.

In this article, Dan Chiras shares his time-proven tips on what it takes to become a successful gardener.

If Dan’s name sounds familiar, it is because he is the author of two Prepper Book Festival titles, Survive in Style: The Prepper’s Guide to Living Comfortably through Disasters and Power From the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity.  Today, however, the focus is on gardening and on acquiring a much-converted green thumb.

Growing a Green Thumb

Over the years, many people with whom I’ve discussed gardening confess to lacking a green thumb. My response is always the same: gardening is a lot easier than you’d think. With a little knowledge, anyone can graduate into that elite cadre of green-thumb gardeners.

If you’d like to be one of them, read on. I’ll let you in on the main secrets of successful gardening.

Green Thumb Gardeners are Soil Builders

Individuals with the greenest thumbs are typically those with the richest soils. Although a gardener may have purchased a home that came with a yard endowed with rich topsoil, the excellent soil in which they grow their fruits and vegetables is most likely due to the fact that they’ve spent several years building it. That is, they have enriched their soil with good old organic compost.

Great gardeners are also avid “mulchers.” Mulch is a layer of organic material like straw or bark that reduces the evaporation of water from the soil. This, in turn, helps plants meet their needs, even on blisteringly hot days. It also helps you by reducing the amount of water you need to apply to your garden. It saves energy, water, and time.

Mulch also helps hold weeds at bay. If you’ve applied a thick enough layer, mulch will prevent weeds from growing. They can’t get the sunlight they need. Those weeds that do manage to pry their way through the mulch are much easier to pull. Weeds come up more easily when yanked from moist soils.

Moist soils also increase the likelihood you will remove most, if not all, of their roots when you pull them out. If severed, roots of weeds often give rise to new plants. Whatever you do, don’t cut weeds off at the base of the stem and leave the roots in place. Some weeds (like Russian thistle) come back with a vengeance. So, be sure to pull weeds root and all.

Mulch decomposes over time, adding to your soil’s fertility. There’s no need to dig it in. Just keep adding mulch on top of old mulch that’s breaking down and becoming part of your topsoil. That’s the way Mother Nature builds soil.

Remember this green thumb aspirants: nourish and protect your soil with compost and mulch and it will return the favor many times over.

4 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Gardener | Dan-Chiras-Green-Garden-400x299 | Agriculture & Farming Organics Special Interests

Here is a photo showing Dan’s bountiful green garden.

Green Thumb Gardeners are Vigilant

Another key factor that contributes to a green thumb is vigilance. In my experience, the most successful gardeners are the most attentive. They’re in their gardens every day or two pulling weeds while they (the weeds, that is) are still young. They also keep an eye on their plants for signs of disease or insect damage. When they spot a problem, they address it quickly.

Attentive gardeners also pay close attention to weather and soil moisture and use these parameters to determine when watering should occur. They don’t necessarily follow a watering schedule. That’s because how often you need to water your garden and how much water you need to apply depends on many factors, such as the temperature, rainfall, and humidity, the organic content of your topsoil, the water requirements of plants, and how much mulch you have applied.

An accomplished gardener doesn’t water because it’s been five days since he or she last hauled out the sprinkler. He or she waters when the soil and plants say “How about a drink?”

The best way to determine when it’s time to water is to dig into the soil with your hands or a trowel. If the soil’s moist an inch or so down, and your plants have established deep root systems, you can probably hold off on watering. If the soil is dry, retrieve the hose and sprinkler from your garden shed and take care of things.

An ever-vigilant gardener pays attention to his or her plants for wilting leaves. They are a tell-tale sign that the soil is drying out. Water immediately. Better yet, pay closer attention to soil moisture content and weather so plants don’t have to cry out for emergency action.

4 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Gardener | Dan-Chiras-Tomatos-400x400 | Agriculture & Farming Organics Special Interests

Vigilance is important at harvest time, too. Overlook a zucchini for a day or two and it will transform into a log suitable for building a small log cabin or carving out a dugout canoe. If you don’t check your green beans during the harvest season very often, you’ll find those tender green beans have grown large and become leathery.

A Green-Thumb Gardener Knows Plants

Successful gardeners understand that not all plants are created equal. Some like acidic soil. Some like sandy soil. Some like lots of sunshine. Some thrive in partial sun or shade.

While that seems like a lot of information to hold in your cranium, it doesn’t take long to understand the requirements of common vegetables and flowers. Seed packets can help you learn about the requirements of fruits, vegetables, berries, and flowers you’d like to grow. Read the information that comes with seedlings you purchase at your local nursery. Books on gardening also contain a wealth of information on the topic.

Armed with this knowledge, head to your garden to plot a strategy for successfully planting sun lovers and the rest of the gang. Veggies that grow well in partial sun, are typically delegated to the less sunny locations in a garden or are planted in the shade of taller plants like tomatoes and corn.

It’s Not about the Tools

A green-thumb isn’t about owning a lot of fancy tools or the latest garden gadgets. You just have to build great soil and then continue to replenish it with compost and mulch each year until you hang up your gardening gloves one last time.

You need to be vigilant, as well, paying attention to weeds, disease, wilting, insects, and soil moisture. A two-minute stroll through your garden each day is all that it takes. It’s a great time to have that evening glass of wine.

A great gardener watches the weather and tends to her garden as dictated by temperature, rainfall, and humidity. Lest we forget, a great gardener plants according to their plants’ needs for sunshine.

There’s more to being a successful garden, but that’s it in a nutshell. If your life is too busy to start a garden, consider hiring someone to help out. Or, enroll your children and/or spouse to help with this task. Kids often love to garden alongside eager adults! If the world goes to hell in a hand basket, your garden will be up and running.

To learn more about food self-sufficiency through gardening, check out my book, Survive in Style: The Prepper’s Guide to Living Comfortably through Disasters.  It is available on my website and also at Lehman’s along with all of my other books.

Additional Resources

There are plenty of great resources available for free on the internet.  Here are a few.

For more information on composting, log on to http://www.howtocompost.org/.

For mulching, visit http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/landscaping/mulch-your-way-to-better-landscape-design.

And for tips on irrigating a garden go to https://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/irrigating.html.

The Final Word

In my younger years, I had a reputation for having a green thumb.  It came naturally, or so I thought.  Initially, I did all of my gardening in containers.  Later, as I expanded to raise beds, I realized that having a green thumb was not a natural trait. It was a skill.

Whether you have gardened successfully in the past or are just getting started, Dan’s secrets, and especially his emphasis on building up the soil, are well taken.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get started!

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


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Source: Alternative news journal

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