By Lara Evans Bracciante
HOW TO HUG A TREE
This year, celebrate Earth Day, April 22, by practicing conservation tips from You Can Prevent Global Warming (And Save Money!), by Jeffrey Langholz and Kelly Turner (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003). As global warming becomes less abstract in concept and more of a reality with apparent consequences—drought, disease, floods, and lost ecosystems—doing a few small things that have little impact on your everyday life can contribute to significant, positive changes on the planet.
1. Make the switch. Switch from incandescent light bulbs to long-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs, use dimmer switches, switch to motion sensors, and flip the switch off when you leave the room.
2. Ease up on the big chill. Keep your refrigerator at 37-40 degrees F and the freezer at 5 degrees. If every refrigerator in America were turned up just one degree, atmospheric carbon dioxide release would be cut by three million tons a year. The same is true with air conditioners: one degree warmer means a savings of 5.5 million tons of CO2.
3. Get yard smart. Planting evergreens on the north side of your house can cut heating bills by a third, thanks to the natural windbreaker. Likewise, cut air conditioning costs by incorporating tall shrubbery, high-canopy trees, or trellis vines to shade the roof, air conditioning unit, and sunny walls of the house.
4. How does your grass grow? Consider xeriscape options in dry climates. If you do have a grassy yard, water before sunrise and after sunset, use a sprinkler system with automatic rain sensors, and make sure you’re only watering the grass and not the sidewalks and driveway. Finally, because gasoline-operated landscaping equipment currently has no emissions regulations, consider an electric mower or an old-fashioned push mower, saving energy and getting a workout.
5. Eat responsibly. Beef cattle are the second leading producers of methane, followed by sheep and pigs. Think about eating fewer animal products and more local, organic, plant-based foods. Conventional farming practices vs. organic practices are responsible every year for the use of millions of pounds of chemical pesticides, which contaminate soil, air, and water and have been directly linked to illnesses and diseases, including asthma and cancer. In addition, eating locally grown foods ensures you’re minimizing the energy costs of shipping foods; the average meal travels 1,200 miles by truck, ship, and/or plane to finally arrive at your table.
6. Fight your junkyard war. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Buy products with minimal packaging, and stop junk mail (visit www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglistdave).
NATURAL REMEDIES EASE ALLERGIES
The watery, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and sneezing that come with seasonal pollen allergies, or hay fever, affect an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans. While antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids are the conventional treatments for symptoms, they can also have side effects, including drowsiness, and heart palpitations and arrhythmias. However, natural remedies exist that may go a long way in reducing symptoms and making the spring allergy season more bearable. In addition to vitamin C and the nutraceutical quercetin, which have been shown to reduce hay fever symptoms, the following herbs can also help:
Grape seed (Vitis vinifera), packed full of antioxidant compounds called proanthocyanidins, inhibits the release of histamines — a major element in controlling allergies. This herb is contraindicated in people with ulcers or any history of bleeding disorders and those on anticoagulants, such as warfarin.
Stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioca) has been reported to have antihistamine properties, especially when freeze-dried. Pregnant woman should not use stinging nettle due to evidence of uterine stimulation in animal studies.
Coleus (Coleus forskohlii), while relatively new to the United States, is a popular Indian herb traditionally used to treat allergies. Like grape seed and stinging nettle, this herb inhibits histamine release, in turn easing allergy symptoms. Coleus should not be combined with pharmaceutical antihistamines, decongestants, antihypertensives, or anticoagulants. It is also contraindicated in people with ulcers or any history of bleeding disorders.
This season, bone up on natural antihistamines for a breathe-easy spring.
HYPNOSIS HELPS IBS PATIENTS
Hypnotherapy can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for at least five years, according to recent findings published in the November issue of Gut. While several studies in recent years have proven hypnotherapy provides short-term relief from IBS, which affects nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population, the new study proves long-term benefits — great news for those who experience the diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, lethargy, and bloating associated with the condition.
More than 200 IBS patients received 12 weekly, one-hour hypnotherapy sessions that included individualized ego-strengthening suggestions and image-based suggestions to induce warmth in the abdomen. Subjects were also given an audiotape for home practice. Immediately after the 12-week treatment and up to six years later, patients completed a questionnaire to measure symptoms, including quality of life issues such as anxiety and depression. Researchers concluded that 71 percent of patients enjoyed significant benefits from hypnotherapy and 81 percent of those maintained improvement during the 5- to 6-year time span. The remaining 19 percent of those who originally benefited from the treatment reported that symptoms only got slightly worse.
The study is especially relevant as conventional medicine has had great difficulty in relieving IBS symptoms, and currently less than 10 percent of patients are offered or educated about psychological treatments.