Archive for July, 2009

Now although you lucky readers who live in the northern hemisphere are heading into Summer, here in Australia winter is well and truly upon us, and with that comes sub zero temperatures, icy winds, rain, fog and snow so it stands to reason that coughs and colds are inevitable.

And as we all know, once one person in the family affected, a cold  quickly  spreads from person to person until everyone in the house is sick with running noses, temperatures, coughs, achy bodies and many other symptoms.

And what with the cost of Doctors visits  becoming more and more expensive, taking a full house off ailing patients to the doctor  can be very costly.

So we have found  a more natural approach to helping ease the symptoms of coughs, colds and  flu  which can actually be used just as well for summer colds.

I am lucky enough to have an earth mother who brews lotions and potions from natural ingredients and this tea was first introduced to me by her many years ago. The first time I used it was to help my grandfather recover from a summer cold which left him bed ridden for 5 days.  And although once a cold has taken hold the ailments often need to run their course, taking this remedy will certainly ease the symptoms.

I personally use it as a preventative measure at the beginning of winter so find I am less likely to contract a cold but if I do this tea increases the speed of my recovery.

This is what you will need:

  • Teapot a strainer is not required but can be helpful
  • Enough hot water to fill the teapot
  • grater or microplane

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large lemons
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 small red chilli with the seeds removed
  • A handful of fresh mint
  • A handful of fresh lemon balm (if you grow it)
  • 3-4 sultanas
  • Honey to taste

Method:

  • Grate the lemon zest of both lemons into small or large pieces I like to do it into small pieces.
  • Peel and grate both cloves of garlic and the ginger.
  • Remove the seeds from the chili and chop very finely, making sure to wash your hands very carefully afterwards to remove any residual chili oil from your fingers.
  • Roughly chop the mint and lemon balm.

Put all the ingredients including the sultanas into the teapot with a big splash of honey.
Cover it with the boiling water.
Cover the tea with the teapot lid and allow to sit for 2-3 minuets.
Pour into a mug and drink it up.
Don’t throw the tea out or make a new one, when all the water is gone, just refill the teapot with more hot water and continue drinking.

I have prepared this tea many times for the family, my friends  and colleagues.  Generally  I have found that this tea helps to relieve symptoms within 2 days.

So when winter hits your place next, be prepared with my tea and thumb your nose at coughs and colds.


This article written by Ishta, a free lance writer who contributes to a number of blogs.

An Introduction to the Religion of Islam

Islam is essentially a peaceful religion.  However, many people do not know that – because it is impossible to write about Islam and Muslims without recalling the terrible events of September 11th 2001.  The two seem to have become inextricably linked and that has, understandably, damaged the public perception of what it really means to be a Muslim.  So, before we take a look at Islam, let’s clear up some misunderstanding about 9/11.  The dreadful terrorist attack is believed to have been orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden, who claimed responsibility.  But is Bin Laden a Muslim and what do other Muslims really think about that tragic day?

Osama Bin Laden’s religion

Bin Laden was born to a wealthy family and was raised to be a Muslim – but his family were devout followers of Wahhabi Muslim.  This is a breakaway group that is believed to have been started by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab who wished to purge Islam of ‘unwelcome innovations’.  Wahabis didn’t just disapprove of non-Muslims – they also committed violent acts against other Muslims, who they saw as not strictly following the religion.  In 1801 – 1802, they took over the holy Iraqui cities of Karbala and Najaf, slaughtered many of the people and destroyed holy tombs.  This is the way of thinking that Bin Laden was brought up to believe in – not the peaceful path of Islam.

Muslim reaction to 9/11

Virtually all leaders of Islam and Muslim organizations spoke out to condemn the terrible events of that day.  The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia (the highest official of Muslim religious law), said that  “…hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts.”

Reprisals

Following 9/11, there were many attacks on Muslims living in America, many who had been born there.  On September 17th, six days after the Towers fell, George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington DC and spoke out against reprisal attacks, saying “…those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.

Prince Charles speaks up for Islam

On December 13th 1996, Prince Charles gave a speech in Sussex, England, which he titled “Building Bridges between Islam and the West”.  He said “…I start from the belief that Islamic civilisation at its best…has an important message for the West in the way it has retained an integrated and integral view of the sanctity of the world around us.  I feel that we in the West could be helped to rediscover the roots of our own understanding by an appreciation of the Islamic tradition’s deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order.”

So what is ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’?

Muslims say that Islam itself has no concept of ‘fundamentalism’.  They say that this term was originated by the media in the west, to include those who wish to follow the ‘fundamental principles’ of Islam and live their lives according to those principles.

They go on to say that a practicing God fearing Muslim can not be a fanatic or an extremist because Islam is a religion of moderation.

What does the word ‘Islam’ mean?

It has two meanings, peace and a conscious and willing submission to the one Almighty God, Allah.  This submission requires Muslims to act on Allah’s Holy word (as written in the text of the Qur’an) and also on what Allah’s Prophet, Muhammad, entreated followers to do.

Peace is achieved by getting rid of one’s ego and submitting to Allah.

What about Muslim Sects?

Muslims do not have sects but there are two major ‘groups’ of followers within Islam.  These are the Shia (15% of Muslims) and the Sunni (85% of Muslims).  Both groups follow the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, pray five times a day, fast for the month of Ramadan and make the pilgrimage to Mecca, called the hajj.

How the Sunni and the Shia differ: The Sunni follow the Prophet Muhammad.  The Shia (who mostly live in Iran and Iraq) follow the Prophet Muhammad and the teachings of Ali, who was the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law.

Who was Muhammad and what is the Quran?

The Prophet Muhammad was born into a noble tribe in Mecca, Arabia, in 570 AD.  He was  descended from the Prophet Ishmael who was the son of Abraham.  Muhammad’s father died before he was born and he lost his mother at six years of age.  He was raised first by a nurse (which was customary in those times) and then by his grandfather and an uncle.  In his youth, he liked to meditate in a cave and at the age of 40, he became a Prophet because the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in that cave.  For the next 23 years, the Angel gave him the revelations which were compiled into the Quran.  This book, which Muslims believe is the word of God, has been kept in its’ original form.  Muslims say that it confirms the words of the Torah, the psalms and the holy gospels.

Do Muslims worship Muhammad?

No they don’t.  They believe in all prophets and that includes Adam, Abraham, David, Noah, Moses and Jesus.  Muslims simply believe that Muhammad was the last of all of the prophets.  They don’t worship any human being – believing that only God (Allah) is to be worshipped.

What is the Muslim opinion of Jesus?

Many people don’t realise that Jesus is held in very high regard in the Islamic faith.  Muslims believe him to be the promised Messiah, born of the Virgin Mary to bring the word of God.

What are the ‘pillars of Islam’?

There are five main pillars of Islam, which all Muslims are required to follow.  They are:

1.  The belief in one God (Allah) and the belief that the Prophet Muhammad is his messenger.

2.  Praying to Allah five times each day.

3.  Fasting during the month of Ramadan.

4.  Charity

5.  Hajj – the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca (if one can afford it financially and one is physically fit enough to make the journey).

These are called pillars because Muslims liken them to a building, which needs all of the pillars to be of an equal height and strength.  Therefore, it is necessary to follow all of the pillars of faith.

In addition to the pillars, the moral codes of Islam demand truthfulness, honesty and many other qualities which make a ‘good’ human being.  Once all of these are in place, the ‘building’ is complete and perfect.

Are there things that Muslims can’t do?

Yes.  The Quran teaches that it is forbidden to eat pork or any product derived from pork.  Muslims may not eat meat from an animal which died before it was slaughtered.  They mustn’t eat any animal that is carnivorous or drink blood.  They are also forbidden to use alcohol or recreational (i.e. non medical) drugs.

What is Sharia?

This is the Muslim law which comes from two sources, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad.  Islamic laws exist to protect the basic human rights of each individual.  This includes a right to life, property laws, political freedom, religious freedom and upholding the rights of women and minority groups.  In areas where Muslims are devout, there is a very low crime rate.

But isn’t Islam oppressive to women?

Muslims don’t believe that it is.  Over 1400 years ago, Islam gave women the right to divorce, the right to be financially independent and Hijab – the right to be recognized as dignified women.  Under Islam, married women can keep their maiden name.  They can also keep any money that they earn and spend it how they choose.  One of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings was “…the best among you is the one who is best to his family.”  However, it is true, that some Muslim men do oppress women – but this is not due to Islam.  It is because of cultural habits that are non-Islamic or because of an ignorance regarding their religion.

But the women have to cover up so much…

Islam believes in modesty and that no-one (women or men) should be viewed as a ‘sex object’.  For both sexes, the rule is that garments should not be too thin or too tight – to avoid showing the shape of the body beneath.  Men have to cover at least from their knee to their navel.  In general, Islamic women cover all of their body apart from their face and their hands.  However, this is due to choice and respect, not oppression.

Muslims are not all terrorists – but peaceful people with a strong faith and a good sense of morals.  It is such a pity that they are not often viewed with that in mind.  We hope that this has helped to spread a little understanding.

I Can’t Sleep – Help for Insomniacs

I Can't SleepIt’s miserable when you can’t sleep.  We all have nights like that.  For true insomniacs, life can become very difficult and it can even affect your health.  Don’t despair, we’re here to help!

How lack of sleep can be bad for you

Prolonged sleep loss can affect how you function physically and mentally.  This isn’t news to insomniacs but did you know that insufficient rest can cause the following:

  • depression
  • heart disease
  • raised blood pressure
  • irritability
  • slower reaction times
  • slurring of speech
  • tremors

Sleep deprivation is a recognized form of torture.  An experiment showed that laboratory rats who weren’t allowed to sleep at all, died after two to three weeks.  Luckily, even insomniacs do fall asleep eventually through sheer exhaustion but their sleep is not restorative.  Let’s take a look at how you can help yourself to get a good night’s sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed, alert and looking forward to the day ahead.

Is Counting Sheep an ‘Old Wives Tale’?

Apparently not!  We may offer it as a flippant form of advice but it does work and there is a scientific reason why.  In the 1970’s, two psychologists from Harvard researched how effective it was to ‘count sheep’.  They discovered that doing this forced both sides of the brain to work at the same time.  This prevented the form of brain activity that can cause insomnia!

Visit your physician

The major cause of insomnia is stress, anxiety and tension.  Unfortunately, when you lose out on sleep, those are exactly the things that you feel – so it becomes a vicious circle.  If your physician confirms that there is no physical cause for your insomnia, move on to the next suggestion.  You may be offered medications but try and use these only as a last resort.

Supplements that can help you sleep

There are certain supplements that you can take to help you fall asleep naturally and have a restful nights sleep. These include:

  • L-Tryptophan – is an essential amino acid that helps with relaxation and restful sleep. It’s also said to be helpful for treating depression.
  • 5-HTP – This supplement has many benefits. When taken into the body it converts into serotonin which helps to elevate mood. Serotonin is required to produce melatonin and we need melatonin to regulate our sleep-wake cycles.
  • Melatonin – As described above, melatonin helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles. This supplement has received some fantastic reviews on iHerb.

Sleep Formulas that can help you sleep

You can also purchase sleep formulas that contain one or more of the above supplements. These are some of the highly rated ones:

  • MRM Relax All – This product has received some fantastic reviews. However, this product should not be used on a daily basis as it can cause dependency issues.

Try a relaxing bath before bed

For extra help, use ‘relaxing’ aromatherapy bath oils such as lavender.  Don’t soak for too long though – it can make you feel exhausted instead of relaxed.

Magnesium baths may also help as magnesium is a natural relaxant. You can buy either magnesium oil or magnesium flakes and add to a bath as directed. It’s soothing and also makes your skin feel soft. If you’d rather make your own magnesium oil check out this post – How to Make Your Own Magnesium Oil.

Have a massage

If you have a helpful partner, a full body massage can work wonders.  Slow, firm, gentle strokes are best and even a backrub or scalp massage can be of benefit.

Play yourself a lullaby

There’s a reason we do it for babies!  Make sure the music is gentle and soothing.  It doesn’t even have to be music.  You can buy CD’s of sounds that are incredibly relaxing.  Think of waves breaking gently on the shore…  Just be sure that you have a player that turns itself off automatically.  You really don’t want to have to spoil all that relaxation by having to turn it off.

Meditation

One of my favorite meditation pieces is by Andrew Johnson. I find that listening to Andrew’s “Deep Relaxation” is an excellent way to get to sleep. He has an incredibly smooth voice that has me drifting off quite quickly. No more lying awake staring at the ceiling.   You can download the Deep relaxation mp3 directly from the Andrew Johnson website or from Amazon.com.

Have a drink of warm milk

A mug or glass of warm or hot (but not cold) milk taken 15 minutes before you go to bed can help to make you relax.  This is because the calcium in milk is known to be soothing on the nervous system.  If you tend to go to the bathroom during the night, make it a small mug!

Try a herbal tea

Many people can’t take milk for various reasons so try a herbal tea.  Choose one that is advertised as helping you to sleep.  Flavors to look for include chamomile, anise, fennel or catnip.  All of these contain natural ingredients which can promote restful slumber.

The following ‘sleep enhancing’ teas have received quite good reviews:

Have a snack before bed

This means a small snack that’s low in protein and high in carbohydrate, such as a small glass of juice and a cookie.  Eat this around an hour before you intend to retire for the night.  Other foods that can help you to drop off include eggs, chicken, turkey, cashew nuts and cottage cheese.  This is because they contain L-tryptophan which is an amino acid necessary for restful sleep.

Try to avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.

It is tempting to have a ‘nightcap’ but it doesn’t help you to sleep.  It makes you dopey for all the wrong reasons and actually stops you reaching a deep level of sleep which is where the refreshed feeling comes from.

If you’re a smoker and unable to sleep, the first thing you probably do is light up.  Try to avoid this as it floods your system with nicotine which is a stimulant and will only wake you up more.

Caffeine is another stimulant which coffee drinkers are well aware of.  Did you know that there is also caffeine in tea (not herbal teas), drinking chocolate and cola?  Try and avoid these from early evening onwards.

Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature and is well ventilated

If your room is too hot, it will keep you awake.  The same goes for too cold.  The ideal is a steady temperature of 60 to 65 degrees.  Make sure that the window has been open during the day to allow fresh air in.

Is your mattress and pillow comfortable?

It sounds obvious but if your body can’t relax, sleep will remain elusive.  A firm mattress will support you properly, be kind to your spine and help you to sleep better.

A cool pillow can help and you can now purchase cool memory foam pillows that respond to your body’s change in temperature throughout the night. And if you want the mattress to stay cool you can buy a cool memory foam mattress.

Watch your position

Sleeping on your back is the most effective position for letting body relax properly as all of your internal organs will be resting where they should be.  If you really can’t do that, sleep on your right side rather than your left.  Lying on your left side allows your major organs to press up against your heart which can cause stress and palpitations.

Wherever possible, don’t sleep on your stomach.  It puts pressure onto all of your organs and can prevent you from taking adequate breaths.  It can also give you a stiff neck and cause problems with your upper back.

Fit some physical activity into your day

Office workers who work cerebrally rather than physically are far more prone to insomnia than manual workers.  Your body needs a certain amount of activity to help you relax properly later so even if you can fit in 15 minutes worth it will help.  Make sure this is at least 30 minutes before going to bed as your body needs to slow back down again prior to sleep.

Try and stick to the same bed time

Your body is far more likely to respond favorably if you give it a good routine.  You may find it boring but your body will thank you with a good nights’ sleep!  If the time arrives and you don’t feel sleepy, force yourself to go to bed anyway and you will be surprised how easily sleep does come.

If you really can’t sleep, get up

Opinion is divided on this one.  Some say that you should stick it out and teach your body that staying awake doesn’t result in you getting up.  The argument is that if you do get up when you can’t sleep, your body will come to expect that and so it will continue to refuse you sleep.

Others say that it’s best to put a time limit on sticking it out.  If you’re still awake after half an hour, get up but don’t do anything stimulating like watching TV, going onto your pc or doing crafts – and certainly not ironing!  Just sit quietly doing absolutely nothing and then go back to bed.  Your body will soon get the message that it’s not worth staying awake for this!

When you wake up…get up!

Just as you choose a routine time to get into bed, choose a routine time to get up.  This should be the same time throughout the week – including on the weekends and even during holidays!  Harsh, we know, but how much do you want to sleep?

Try getting up earlier

This is a hard one but it will pay off.  When you are starting your new routine of going to bed and getting up at set times, try setting your getting-up-time for half an hour earlier than you normally would.  This extra half an hour will make you that much more tired at the end of the day, helping you to sleep.  Once you’re able to go to sleep easily, you can try pushing your getting-up-time half an hour forward to your ‘usual’ time.

Keep your bed just for sleeping…

…alright…we’ll allow you one other activity, which is also known to promote sleep!  But that’s all.  No laptops, reading, watching TV, doing puzzles or anything else.  You’re teaching your body that bed is for sleep.

Don’t take naps

This is a difficult thing to do especially if you’re not sleeping well at night.  However, it’s not rocket science to realize that if you sleep during the day, your body won’t need so much sleep at night.  You have to break the cycle.

Avoid lights in the bedroom

We have so much that is illuminated.  Digital alarm clocks, mobile phones that we often charge up on the bedside table, streetlights…how is a person to sleep with all of that light?  Change your alarm clock for one without an LED numbers.  Put your mobile under a dark cloth.  Get blackout curtains.  If you don’t like the dark, you can have one nightlight.  Your body needs darkness to relax properly so give it what it needs.

Herbal medications

If you really, truly, genuinely have tried all of the above – all at the same time – and they haven’t worked, we’d be very surprised.  If you still can’t sleep, you may wish to try the herbal sleep aids that you can get at your pharmacy.  Follow the instructions to the letter.

If you still can’t sleep…

We’d advise you to return to your physician.  They will probably suggest all of the above, so be sure that you really have attempted these first.  It’s a good idea to keep a sleep diary.  Just note down what you have done each night to help you sleep as well as what time you went to bed and got up and then how you slept.

Your Doctor may refer you for sleep studies and then if appropriate, offer you some form of medication to help.  But only as a last resort.  Please give these suggestions a try.  You will feel so much better for a good nights sleep!

The Healing Power of Crystals – Malachite

malachite-natural-crystal-sphere-congo

With increasing numbers of people turning to ‘natural’ remedies, crystals are hugely popular for their alleged healing abilities.  This is not just a recent fad.  Crystals have been used for centuries as aids to healing and wellbeing.  One of the oldest is malachite (pronounced Mal uh kite).

What is it?

Malachite is a green carbonate mineral which is commonly called copper carbonate.   Its name is from the Greek word ‘molochitis’ which means ‘mallow green stone’.  It was used as a green pigment in handmade paint from the time of the ancient Greeks until around 1800.

Its’ color can range from a bright green to an almost black shade of green.  The banding of the crystal makes it particularly appealing when sliced and highly polished.

As a result of its’ beauty and rarity, it was hugely popular as a sign of wealth in Imperialist Russia and was quarried extensively in the Urals.  In 1835, miners in the Urals found a boulder of the best quality malachite that took nine years to free.  It took twelve years to bring it to the surface and it was found to weigh over 260 tons.  It was used to decorate the homes of the Tzars and St Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Malachite heals through the ages.

Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians first mined malachite as long ago as 4,000 BC.  They believed that the area of Sinai where it was mined was ruled by Hathor – Goddess of beauty, happiness, love and women.  Malachite was much sought after because it was the easiest of copper-containing-minerals to reduce to a copper metal, which was then made into bands worn around the forehead and upper arms.

The Egyptians noticed that slaves who mined malachite didn’t succumb to the cholera epidemics that often wiped out huge numbers of people.  As a result, it became very popular in jewelry and amulets for its’ protection.

Malachite in Kohl

We are all familiar with the hieroglyphics showing Egyptian women with heavily painted eyeliner which was called Kohl.  One of the ingredients was udju, made from malachite.  It was undoubtedly to do with beautification but it was recently discovered that galena, a base ingredient in kohl, also has disinfectant and fly repellent properties – which would have kept their eyes healthier despite the ever-present flies and hot Egyptian sun.

The wearing of Kohl was also believed to give phychic protection against the ‘evil eye’.  Some believe that women also wore it to attract the protection of the Goddess, Hathor.

Ancient  Greeks
The Greeks also used malachite to make jewelry which was believed to keep away evil spirits, bad spells and negative thoughts.

The Middle Ages

Because malachite has a swirling pattern which is something like a ‘protective’ peacock feather, malachite was believed to be a strong force against evil and black magic.  It was a ‘safety’ stone for children, who were encouraged to carry a piece.  It was said that if the child was in danger, the malachite would break; warning the child and giving it time to get away.  A piece was often fastened to a baby’s crib to ward off evil spirits and prevent nightmares.

It was also called ‘the midwife’s stone’ – a name which some still use for it today.  This is because it was believed to bring relief for menstrual pain and also give a woman an easier labor.

Malachite is associated with:

Chakras – heart and throat

Signs of the Zodiac – Libra, Scorpio and Capricorn

Planet – Venus

Element – Earth

How Malachite can help you

If you wish to use malachite and find that it doesn’t seem to be helping a situation, try combining it with copper to increase its’ power.  This can be achieved by wearing jewelry made of copper and malachite or by carrying a piece of both.

Malachite is a strong stone of protection.  If you feel as if you are being victimised or ‘got at’, try carrying a piece in your pocket or wear some jewelry containing it.  It is believed to absorb negative energies from both the outside world and from the wearer’s own body.

It is good for clearing atmospheric pollution due to radiation and electro magnetic waves.  People with many items of ‘technology’ in their homes, or who live under electricity pylons often feel unwell.  Try counteracting this by wearing malachite or place a piece of it on each pc monitor, TV, microwave etc.

Stuck in a rut?

Malachite helps to give you the courage to take risks, move away from unwanted associations and old patterns of behaviour.  It releases inhibitions and helps you to let go of negative past experiences and previous traumas which you may feel have been holding you back from reaching your true potential.  If you’re feeling emotionally numb, it can help you to open your heart.

Problems once a month?

This crystal can help to smooth out mood swings caused by menstrual periods or menopause.  It can help with cramps and helps with labor.

Other uses…

  • Helps you to take responsibility for your own actions and their repercussions so that you stop blaming others and spreading negativity.
  • Helps to lighten mental upsets.
  • Can help with dyslexia.
  • Boosts the immune system and nervous system.
  • Lowers blood pressure.

Helps with

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Epilepsy
  • Travel sickness
  • Vertigo
  • Eye problems
  • Helps the liver to get rid of toxins from the body

Malchite and your chakras

Malchite can help to clear and strengthen all of your chakras.  These are the ‘energy points’ of the body and it is believed that they need to be operating properly to allow a strong flow of energy throughout your body, for optimum physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Malachite is particularly associated with the heart chakra.  Wearing or carrying it can help to get rid of potentially self-destructive tendencies towards over romanticizing a situation, person or relationship and therefore encourage pure, true love.  This includes self-love, which is often overlooked but which is the basis for positive interactions in all relationships and in the workplace.

If you are undergoing any form of heart ‘trauma’, whether it is due to physical illness or the experience of emotional abuse, abandonment, separation, infidelity, divorce or bereavement – then malachite is the stone for you.

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