Healthy Lifestyle

Garden Planning – Companion Planting

 

It’s a wise idea for new gardeners to familiarize themselves with companion planting for best success in the home garden. Certain plants offer protection to other plants against pests and disease. Today we’ve picked three very easy to grow plants that offer protection to each other. At the end, we’ll give you a few more ideas of what to plant and what not to plant next to each other for a successful garden!

Green Beans – This is another plant whose seeds are directly sown into the ground. They are prolific producers that sprout quickly. Half runners are very popular because they are so tender but be advised that you’ll need to grow these alongside a trellis since they are a vining plant. Also, these beans have strings which have to be removed prior to eating. If you are looking for a simpler option, bush beans are the route to go. Beans really give back, helping to fix nitrogen levels in the soil, which makes them a great companion planting for another easy to grow option in the garden. . .

Radishes – Radishes need nitrogen to thrive, which means they will thrive if you have companion planting in mind and place them near the green beans. These fast growers will produce in as short a time span as 21 days, making them a great “quick reward with little effort” for those of us impatient to have something pop up quickly. You’ll want to provide constant moisture and stay on top of harvesting so that they are crisp and mild flavored. To determine when to harvest, simply push back a little garden soil to see if there’s a bulb and pick and taste a few. Not crazy about raw radishes? Try baking them in the oven to bring out a little sweetness. Radishes are a great companion planting for . . .

Cucumbers – Radishes are natural repellents of cucumber beetles! Other than that pest, cucumbers are super simple to grow. If you try sowing from seed, they will need to be started indoors about three weeks before going outside into the ground, after the last spring frost. They need well drained soil and ample sunlight. It’s a good idea to build a trellis for these plants to produce optimally.

Here are some other good companion plantings to keep in mind. . .

 

  • tomatoes with asparagus
  • eggplants with peppers
  • melons/squash with corn

 

And on the flip side of companion planting here are some combinations to avoid. . .

 

  • Keep the strawberries away from pest prone cabbage.
  • If you want both crops to grow hardy, keep the onions away from the beans and peas.
  • Fennel should just pretty much be planted far away from everything!

Check back next week as we’ll focus on the superstars of the summer garden!

Whole Foods Spotlight – Bananas

When talking about foods that are nutritional powerhouses, there are few better to wax poetic over than humble bananas. Not only does it come in its own packaging, making it ideal for busy folks on the run, inside that yellow peel is a treasure trove of nutrients and vitamins! Here are some of the top apPEELing (sorry, couldn’t resist) health benefits of eating  bananas. . .

 

  • Bananas are a significant source of potassium which plays a key role in cardiovascular health. Lack of potassium can also cause muscle cramping so if you are getting those charley horses in the middle of the night, it’s time to reach for a banana. You’ll be helping your bones as well since potassium plays a key role in retaining calcium in the body.

 

  • Tryptophan is also found in bananas. When consumed, tryptophan is converted into serotonin which elevates mood and relieves stress. It also helps to regulate sleep patterns, body temperature, memory and appetite.

 

  • For digestive health, bananas are a super hero of the fruit world. They are a natural antacid, giving relief from heartburn and acid reflux. Because they coat the lining of the stomach against acid, they are the only raw fruit recommended to people suffering from stomach ulcers. The pectin in bananas aids in digestion and removal of toxins and heavy metals from our system. They produce enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients during digestion. They play the role of prebiotic, acting as a food source for friendly bacteria in the gut. A banana can also be a soother for two very opposite problems, soothing both constipation and diarrhea.

 

  • The high water content and levels of Vitamin A in bananas help to repair dry and damaged skin cells. By ingesting the fruit or using a banana face mask, you can help restore moisture to the skin and renew damaged cells. Many also swear by banana peels for treating acne and it’s also effective at neutralizing the itch from bug bites.

 

They are a perfect food all in their own cute yellow package but we’ve included a few tasty banana recipes below as well. Enjoy!

 

Brown Sugar Banana Overnight Oats

Banana Bread Scones

Dairy Free Banana Chocolate Ice Cream

Garden Planning – Part One – Early Spring Crops

Have you been thinking about growing some of your own food? While it’s a bit too early in most of the country to really start digging in the dirt, this is the perfect time to do a little garden planning! Whether the prospect seems a little overwhelming or you are just hoping to keep the process as simple and productive as possible, over the next few weeks we’ll be offering some suggestions for you of the easiest items to grow in a home garden. Today we’re focusing on those crops that can be planted in these early days before true spring arrives.

Lettuces – For a new gardener, starting plants from seed can be a difficult and intimidating prospect. Lettuces are a great option as they can be directly sown into the soil. A few weeks after planting in the garden, you will want to go over the area and thin out the seedlings a bit. Since it’s a cool weather plant they can be sown in early spring or fall and are tolerant of a little bit of frost. If temperatures dip below 45 degrees or there’s snow in the forecast, covering the plants with plastic or a sheet should help to protect them. To keep a continuous supply, replant every two to three weeks.

Potatoes – It depends upon what zone you live in and soil temperatures but traditionally, in many parts of the United States, potatoes are planted in the garden around St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of days before you plant them, you’ll want to quarter the seed potatoes and store them in a warm dark place, allowing them to toughen up and dry out a little. In a typical garden, you’ll want to plant them about 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart and mulch them with straw. However, if space is limited, you can always try bucket planting.

Peas – Sweet, delicious peas are a favorite in the home garden as they are relatively easy to grow and produce well. The seeds are small and should be planted shallowly, no more than a ½ inch deep. This allows them to germinate and sprout quickly, usually in about a week. Sow the seeds about 2.5 inches apart and as the plants grow, you will want to install some sort of trellis for them to climb.
Check back with us next week for more ideas for your spring garden!

#TBT – Anise Seed – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on sweet anise seed! 

Anise is a delicate white flowering plant with feathery leaves closely related to star anise, fennel and licorice. Native to Egypt, Greece, Crete and Asia Minor, it was the Egyptians who first began cultivating the plant. The Romans often included the spice in baked goods served at the end of decadent meals as the seeds provide protection against indigestion and flatulence. It was given the nickname Solamen intestinorum or “the comforter of the bowels.”

In France, Spain, Italy and South America, the seeds are used primarily in the production of cordial liquers such as Anisette. In Germany of the 1800’s, the spice was so popular, they flavored their bread with whole aniseseed. It is a remarkably versatile herb, used in both sweet and savory dishes.

It’s uses for human and animal alike, abound!

  • The oil of anise has long been used to destroy lice and other biting insects and to treat skin irritations. The oil is also said to work well in combination with cheese on mousetraps!
  • Some beekeepers say that anise oil is the fastest way to attract bees if there are no flowers around and putting the oil on bee boxes will help attract and encourage their return.
  • In addition to providing relief from excess gas and indegestion, the essential oil has been used to eliminate intestinal worms. It also provides relief from aches, pains and menstrual cramps as it has antispasmodic properties.
  • Anise has also been traditionally used in the treatment of  clearing congestion in the lungs and respiratory tracts, bronchitis and asthma. Teas with anise are very soothing during cold and flu season!

German Spelt Bread

Cinnamon Anise Tea

Homemade Italian Sausage

#TBT – Rosemary – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week it’s the refreshing memory enhancer, Rosemary!

Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, rosemary or rosmarinus officinalis derives from the latin words for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus) meaning “dew of the sea.”  Throughout time, this woody fragrant herb with evergreen like “needles” for leaves has been valued for its invigorating scent, for culinary enhancement and medicinal qualities. During the Middle Ages it was thought to be a love charm. Often, brides would wear a headpiece made of the herb. It has long been associated with improving memory and used as a symbol for remembrance for the dearly departed. Interestingly enough, modern studies are showing that the herb does positively enhance memory, speed and accuracy and helps keep one alert.

Rosemary has traditionally been used to improve circulation and is often used in massage to help decrease muscle cramps and soreness. Suffer from cold hands and feet? Mix a bit of rosemary oil into a carrier oil and use it to massage these areas regularly. It aids in circulation, so using it for massage is a wonderful. Even just inhaling the scent is ideal for helping to relieve migraines and headaches. If battling a cold, you might want to make yourself a rosemary tea. The eucalyptol within rosemary aids in loosening chest congestion and since it’s rich in anti-inflammatory tannins it also helps to soothe a sore throat.

If dandruff is an issue for you, try mixing a few drops of rosemary oil into your shampoo. However don’t apply the oil directly to your scalp as that could cause additional flaking. For centuries it’s been used, especially in the Mediterranean region, to stimulate hair growth.

In the garden, rosemary is a solid butterfly attractor and it helps ward off mosquitos! It likes very well drained soil and enough room to grow and can reach 4 feet high and spread out over 4 feet. Pruning it will help to keep it from getting lanky and it’s often used in topiary gardens as it holds beautiful shapes. It can also be grown in smaller containers both indoors and outdoors.

Last but not least, rosemary is a beautiful herb to cook with, perfectly pairing with meat, potatoes and other root vegetables, as well as enhancing many desserts. Along with the smell of pine trees, cinnamon and peppermint, rosemary is one of those scents closely associated with the holidays and all the comfort foods of the winter season.

Orange Upside Down Cake with Rosemary

DIY Mini Rosemary Wreath Garland

Lavender Rosemary Wax Melts

Eye Health and Nutrition

 

In regards to eye health, you have probably heard “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” from mom several times throughout childhood. There are several foods that contain vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health. Protect your peepers by consuming more of the following. . .

Brightly colored Fruits and Vegetables – Yes, carrots are on the list of top foods for eye health. So are bell peppers, strawberries, pumpkin, corn and canteloupe and other yellow, orange and red fruit and veggies. Carotenoids are the compounds responsible for this bright coloring and help decrease the risk of many eye diseases. The Vitamin C found in many of these fruits and vegetables also lowers your risk of developing cataracts. Mom was right! Carrots and other foods which contain Vitamin A or retinol help your body to synthesize a pigment in your eyes that operates in low light conditions called rhodopsin. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness.

FishCold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer protection against dry eyes, macular degeneration and cataracts. Tuna, Salmon, anchovies and trout have high levels of a type of omega 3 called DHA, a fatty acid esential for the health of the retinas but one that our bodies don’t make efficiently. We need to replenish DHA with food rich in this nutrient.  Low levels of DHA are linked to dry eye syndrome.

Nuts – Pistachios, walnuts, almonds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and also offer healthy doses of vitamin E for eye health. Vitamin E helps protect membranes of cells throughout the body against free radicals, including parts of the eye. Cataracts may be formed due to oxidation in the lens of the eye and Vitamin E offers preventative help.

Leafy Greens – Spinach, kale, collard greens and seaweed are rich in luteins, nicknamed the “eye vitamin” as it is incredibly important for eye health. When we consume foods rich in lutein it is deposited in high quantities in the retina. It helps to fight free radical damage caused by exposure to sunlight, reduces eye fatigue and light sensitivity, protects against the development of cataracts. and halts the growth of cancerous cells. Lutein can also be found in those brightly colored fruits and veggies mentioned above!

Eggs – Another great source of both lutein and Vitamin A to protect against night blindness, dry eyes and general eye health and function.

Legumes – Kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils are good sources of zinc which assists the body in absorption of Vitamin A and reduce one’s risk of macular degeneration.

Taking Care of Your Liver

The liver is our largest internal organ, roughly the size of a football and is positioned under the lower rib cage on the right side of the body. It’s also considered a gland because it secretes chemicals used in other bodily functions. The liver is essential for survival as it helps clean our blood by eliminating harmful chemicals, produces bile which helps us break down fats in food and turns glucose into glycogen and stores it for when the body needs a quick burst of energy.

Liver cells also make many proteins required for blood clotting and the maintenance of fluid within the circulatory system. Detoxification is another key responsibility; it converts ammonia into urea which is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. It also breaks down alcohol, drugs, medication, insulin and hormones in the body. Finally, the liver acts as a storage unit in the body for vitamin B12, A, D and K as well as folic acid and iron.

With all of the important processes your liver is responsible for,  it makes sense to take really good care of it! Here are some ways to keep it in tip top shape. . .

  • Moderate your alcohol intake. It can damage the cells of the organ and leads to scarring called cirrhosis, which can be deadly. The National Institue on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism defines moderate intake as up to four alcholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day with a maximum of 14 weekly drinks for men and 7 drinks for women. 
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Doing so will keep you from the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which also leads to cirrhosis.
  • Watch your intake of painkillers such as acetaminophen as it is damaging to the liver if taken too much.

A healthy diet is also beneficial to the liver. Check back with us next week when we’ll share several foods that are beneficial to the health of your liver!

 

#TBT – Rose – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. In honor of Valentine’s Day we are focusing on the rose!

Fossil evidence dates the rose as 35 million years old and there are around 150 species spread through the world. The Chinese were most likely the first culture to begin garden cultivation of roses, some 5,000 years ago. Throughout time the rose has come to symbolize romantic love and you are bound to love some of the surprising health benefits of this sweet smelling queen of flowers.

Dietary Benefits

Rose hips, the flowers which have swollen to seed are commonly used in tea and have been used throughout the ages to aid in relieving bladder infections, menstrual cramps and diarrhea. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, a natural antioxidant which can block some of the damage that can result from exposure to toxins and helps to support the immune system The flower petals are also edible and can be mixed into salads! The petals contain polyphenols which research shows help to prevent cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis.

Skin and Hair Health

Rosewater is a perfect choice for sensitive and irritated skin. Along with balancing out oily skin, softening, deep cleansing and toning the skin, rosewater also provides relief from irritation and itching. Those battling acne will want to reach for the rosewater as it contains antibacterial properties to dry up the acne, a natural antiseptic called phenyl ethanol and its a good moisturizer to boot! Rose essential oil is also useful in maintaining a healthy scalp and hair and many swear by it’s ability to prevent hair loss.

Aromatherapy

No wonder the rose has become such a symbol of romance and considered an aphrodisiac. The scent of rose essential oil is known to boost the libido and reduce symptoms of sexual dysfunction. The oil has also been used to treat depression, stress, anxiety and headaches.

Ready to reap the rewards of the rose? Here are some links you might want to check out. . .

Rose Petal Iced Tea

Rosehip Jam

Homemade Rosewater

Stay Safe in the Snow – Hypothermia

In our third and final piece on how to Stay Safe in the Snow, we are sharing ways to avoid, recognize and treat hypothermia. In cold temperatures, the body cannot produce heat as fast as it’s losing it and this can lead to serious health problems. Hypothermia happens gradually and people become confused and unaware that this life threatening condition is happening to them.

Avoiding Hypothermia

  • Dress appropriately! Make sure areas most likely to be affected by frostbite are covered including your nose, ears, cheeks, chin and fingers. It is best to dress in layers and it’s best if the outer layer is something wind and waterproof. As for the inner layers, go for wool or fleece. Do not wear cotton as the base layer. Because cotton retains moisture, dries slowly and loses its thermal properties causing your core temperature to drop.
  • Carry at least one thermal heat blanket in your car’s emergency kit.
  • Avoid activities where you might sweat a lot if possible. Stay as dry as possible.
  • Rain, sweat or snow can cause hypothermia in temperatures as warm as 40 degrees Farenheit. Be aware!

Recognizing Hypothermia

  • Uncontrollable shivering means the body cannot warm itself.
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty forming thoughts/confusion
  • Lack of energy/unconsciousness
  • Weak pulse/shallow breathing

Treating Hypothermia

  • If you cannot call 911 or get emergency help, the first thing to do is seek any kind of shelter you can find, the warmer the better.
  • Remove wet clothes immediately. Get into dry clothes and/or  layers of blankets. Skin to skin contact is beneficial.
  • If using warming packs/compresses from a first aid kit, place them on the chest and groin area not the legs or arms. This will force cold blood to rush to the heart.
  • Do NOT drench the body in hot water or rub skin vigorously as this is too taxing on the heart.
  • It’s okay to drink warm liquids slowly but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Since skin may be numb, victims of frostbite may unintentionally harm themselves further. Do not walk on feet or toes affected by frostbite unless absolutely necessary for survival. Don’t rub or massage frostbit areas.Don’t use a fireplace, heat lamp, stove, heating pad or electric blanket for warming this can be damaging to the skin and if the heart is struggling, could cause cardiac arrest. It is good to place afflicted areas in warm-to-the-touch water, not hot.

#TBT – Eucalyptus – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today the spotlight is on eucalyptus!

Eucalyptus is a native plant of Australia where there are over 700 varieties. Aboriginal people considered them a general “cure-all” and the trees have been utilized for paper, mulch, fuel, as windbreakers and for fighting malaria. Because it has an extensive root system it can absorb large quantities of water and so it was intentionally planted in marshy, malaria infested areas to dry up the soil. The plant is also a good example of why humans have to be careful introducing non-native species. In the 1850’s during the California Gold Rush, thousands of acres of eucalyptus trees were planted in the state. Since the climate is similar to parts of Australia, the hope was that it could serve as a renewable source of timber for all sorts of construction including railroad ties for an ever expanding railroad system. However the timber wasn’t suitable for railroad ties as the wood has a tendency to twist when drying. Unfortunately eucalyptus trees release compounds which inhibit other plant species from growing nearby, it’s an invasive species and a fire hazard in a state plagued by drought and wildfires.

All that said, eucalyptus has some wonderful health and wellness benefits and has been used from ancient to modern times for respiratory ailments like bronchitis, coughs and flu. During World War 1, the oil was in high demand to help control a meningitis outbreak and as a treatment during the terrible influenza breakout in 1919. The plant is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, plus it’s a natural decongestant. Studies have shown that for people suffering from non-bacterial sinusitis, symptoms improve faster when given medicine containing eucalyptus oil. It’s also used as a remedy for sore throats and can provide relief when mixed with warm water and used as a gargle solution.

With it’s cool and refreshing smell, eucalyptus has also been used to do away with sluggishness and promote mental alertness. For those suffering from asthma, massaging a few drops onto the chest and inhaling the vapors helps to calm the throat and dilate blood vessels allowing more oxygen into the lungs. The oil is also useful in dental care, the treatment of lice, as a foot deodorizer and skin coolant and for sore muscles. Below are links to some ways to incorporate eucalyptus into your wellness routine.

Cooling Foot and Shoe Deodorizer

Homemade Chest Rub

Frozen Eucalyptus Towels