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7 Best Natural Home Remedies & Spot Treatments for Acne (Pimples)

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acne pimples hormones red swollen painful bump pus natural remedies

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the US, affecting up to 50 million Americans every year. Approximately 85% of people aged 12-24 experience at least minor acne.

Over-the-counter commercial acne treatments does not always work and can cause further skin irritation. Prescription acne treatments often contain antibiotics and can lead to antibiotic resistance.

A study of 468 acne patients who were treated with antibiotics found that 178 participants carried resistant strains of one or more bacteria found on the skin.

How Acne Develops

Acne is a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit, a structure in the skin consisting of the hair shaft, hair follicle, erector pili muscle (which causes goosebumps) and sebaceous gland. These units are densest on the face and chest.

The sebaceous gland produces a mixture of fats called sebum, which moisturizes the hair and skin. Hormonal activity can lead to increased sebum production (which is why acne is common during puberty and is one of the symptoms of PMS and pregnancy).

Propionibacterium acnes bacteria grow inside the pilosebaceous unit and feed on sebum. When sebum production is elevated by hormones, the fats combine with keratin (protein) in the skin to form plugs called comedones which block the opening of the hair follicle. Uninflamed comedones appear on the skin surface as blackheads or whiteheads.

The low oxygen levels and excess sebum within the blocked follicles create an environment where Propionibacterium acnes can thrive and multiply. Most of the skin damage associated with acne is not caused by the bacteria itself, but by the body’s immune response to it.

Inflammation is created when white blood cells arrive to fight the bacterial infection. The comedo turns red and swells into a papule, better known as a pimple. A pustule is created when fluid within the inflamed comedo accumulates dead white blood cells.

Types of Acne Lesions

A comedo (plural comedones) is a plug or clog in a hair follicle made of sebum and keratin from dead skin cells. All types of acne lesions are formed from a comedo.

  • Blackheads are uninflamed comedones which are open at the surface of the skin, exposing the sebum and dead skin cells.
  • Whiteheads are uninflamed comedones which are closed at the skin’s surface. The comedo protrudes to form a bump, but doesn’t break through the skin.
  • Papules are inflamed comedones. They appear as reddened bumps and can cluster into a rash. They may cause irritation or itching and can become crusty if picked or scratched.
  • Pustules are inflamed comedones which are filled with white or yellow pus. The pus is a byproduct of the immune response to the infection caused by Propionibacterium acnes. It consists mainly of dead white blood cells and bacteria. Picking or squeezing the pustules will release the pus but can lead to scarring.
  • Nodules are large papules that form deep within the skin. They feel like hard lumps and are often painful to the touch.
  • Cysts are large pustules that form deep within the skin. They look similar to boils and feel like soft, fluid-filled lumps.

Clinical Classifications of Acne

  • Comedonal acne: uninflamed blackheads and whiteheads
  • Papulopustular acne: inflamed papules and pustules
  • Mild acne: fewer than 20 comedonal lesions, fewer than 15 papulopustular lesions or fewer than 30 total lesions.
  • Moderate acne: 20-100 comedonal lesions, 15-50 papulopustular lesions or 30-125 total lesions.
  • Severe nodulocystic acne: multiple cysts and nodules covering large areas on the face, neck, back, chest or shoulders.
  • Acne conglobata: multiple nodules covering large areas that are interconnected under the skin.

Alternative Acne Treatments

Hundreds of home remedies and alternative treatments for acne can be found online. The majority of these haven’t been subject to randomized controlled trials.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they are all entirely ineffective, but some of them could do more harm than good. Astringent agents, such as lemon juice or vinegar, may dry out the skin and stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

The natural acne treatments described below have all been scientifically tested. They get to the root of the problem by decreasing sebum production, inhibiting the growth of Propionibacterium acnes or reducing inflammation.

7 Research-Based Natural Remedies for Acne

1. Tea Tree Oil

tea tree oil green leaves essential acne soothes natural remedies

Tea tree oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that it exhibits broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against bacterial, viral and fungal skin infections. Lab tests have revealed numerous compounds in tea tree oil that are active against Propionibacterium acnes.

A small pilot study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology tested a tea tree oil gel and face wash for the treatment of mild-to-moderate facial acne. Participants applied the tea tree oil products to their faces twice daily for 12-weeks. Average number of acne lesions fell steadily over the course of the study: from 24 at the start, to 15 at week 8, and dropping to 11 by week 12. No serious side effects occurred.

An Iranian study evaluated the efficacy of tea tree oil in the treatment of acne. Researchers randomized 60 patients with mild-to-moderate acne into a treatment group and a placebo group. Both groups received gels in similar packaging. The gel given to the treatment group contained 5% tea tree oil. Patients were instructed to apply the gel over the affected area twice daily and rinse it off after 20 minutes.

After 6-weeks of treatment, there was a 44% reduction in acne lesions for the tea tree group, whereas the placebo group did not experience a significant reduction in total lesion count. The tea tree group also had a 41% reduction on an acne severity index compared to no significant difference in the placebo group.

A clinical trial published in the Medical Journal of Australia compared tea tree oil to benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient found in many over-the-counter acne creams. A total of 124 patients with mild-to-moderate acne were randomized to receive either a gel made with 5% tea tree oil or a lotion made with 5% benzoyl peroxide.

After 3 months, both treatments resulted in a similar reduction in the number of inflamed and non-inflamed acne lesions. However, the tea tree group experienced significantly fewer side effects such as irritation, itching, burning and dryness.

Method: Mix 1 part pure tea tree essential oil with 9 parts water. Dip a cotton swab in the solution and apply to affected areas. You can also try adding tea tree oil to your favorite face mask.

Alternatively, purchase a tea tree blemish gel from a drug store or a health products retailer and use as indicated.

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2. Green Tea

green tea leaves acne natural remedies

Excess sebum production is associated with pore enlargement and is one of the causes of acne. Green tea is rich in a catechin flavonoid called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

Research has shown that EGCG inhibits an enzyme found in sebaceous glands and reduces sebum secretion. Interestingly, green tea seems to improve acne whether taken orally or used topically.

A Bosnian study examined the effects of green tea on skin sebum production. Healthy male volunteers applied an emulsion containing 3% green tea extract to their cheeks over a period of 12-weeks. Researchers used grease spot photometry to measure sebum production at weekly intervals. Skin sebum levels fell continually and were 60% lower by the end of the study.

A clinical trial published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine examined the effects of oral green tea extract on adult acne. A total of 64 women aged 25-45 with moderate-to-severe acne were randomized to receive green tea supplements or placebo supplements. Participants took a capsule 3 times a day, 30 minutes before each meal. Those in the tea tree group took in a daily dose of 856 mg of EGCG.

After 4-weeks, the tea tree group had significantly fewer inflammatory lesions in the areas around the nose, mouth and chin compared to the placebo group. They also experienced an added bonus of a significant reduction in total cholesterol levels.

A clinical trial published in the Saudi Medical Journal evaluated the effectiveness of a tea lotion in comparison with a zinc sulfate solution for the treatment of acne. A total of 40 acne patients aged 13-27 were randomized into 2 groups. One group was given a 2% tea lotion and the other received a topical 5% zinc sulfate solution. Both groups were instructed to use the treatments twice daily for 2 months.

Inflammatory acne lesions were counted before and after the trial period. The 2% percent tea lotion decreased the number of pustules and papules by approximately 50%. The 5% zinc sulfate solution was beneficial but did not have a statistically significant effect.

Method: To use green tea topically, dip a cotton bud in liquid green tea extract and apply directly to pimples twice a day.

To take green tea orally, simply substitute green tea for coffee, black tea or your favorite beverage.

Alternatively, take green tea supplement capsules. Read the label and choose a product with at least 200 mg of EGCG. A combination of topical and oral green tea may produce the best results.

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3. Low Glycemic Load Diet

low glycemic index load diet blood sugar carbohydrates insulin vegetables protein fruits

The glycemic index (GI) scores food on a scale of 0-100 based on how much they raise blood sugar levels. High GI foods tend to be high in sugar or refined carbohydrates.

The glycemic load (GL) of a food is calculated by adjusting the GI for a typical serving size. Foods with a low GL have less of an effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than foods with a high GL.

Research has shown that insulin increases the production of androgen and other hormones which stimulate sebum production and trigger acne.

A Korean study published in the European Journal of Dermatology investigated the influence of diet on acne. Researchers recruited 783 acne patients and 502 acne-free controls and asked them to fill in food questionnaires.

Vegetable and fish intake was significantly higher in the control group than in the acne group. The acne patients had a significantly higher intake of instant noodles, junk food, carbonated drinks, snacks and processed cheese. The data showed that a high GL diet played a role in acne exacerbation. Irregular dietary patterns were also found to aggravate acne.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested whether a low GL diet improves acne. A total of 43 male acne patients aged 15-25 were randomly assigned to a diet with 25% energy from protein and 45% from low GI carbohydrates or a control diet which emphasized carbohydrate-dense foods. Acne lesion counts and severity were assessed every 4-weeks by dermatologists who were not told which participants were on which diet. Insulin sensitivity was measured at the start and end of the study.

After 12-weeks, the low GL group had a significantly greater overall reduction in total and inflammatory acne lesion counts than the control group. They also lost more weight and had a greater improvement in insulin sensitivity.

A clinical study at Seoul National University Hospital investigated the effect of a low GL diet in the treatment of acne. A total of 32 patients with mild-to-moderate acne were randomly divided into 2 groups. The treatment group was assigned a low GL diet with 25% of calories from protein, 45% from low GI carbohydrates and 30% from fats. The control group was instructed to eat carbohydrate-rich foods.

After 10-weeks, there was a significant correlation between a decrease in total number of acne lesions and a reduction in the glycemic load. The average number of acne lesions decreased by 71% in the low GL group. There was no significant reduction in acne lesions in the control group.

Method: Avoid foods that are high in sugar or starch. Base meals around a protein source and low-carb vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions, celery or cucumber.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides an online table of glycemic index and glycemic load for 750 foods.

There are also many books available which detail low GL diet plans.

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4. Probiotics

probiotics acne yogurt kimchi fermented gut health bacteria sauerkraut natural remedies

Probiotics can help maintain your overall health by increasing the ratio of ‘good’ bacteria to ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. Laboratory research has shown that various types of bacteria demonstrate antimicrobial activity against Propionibacterium acne.

A review article published in Beneficial Microbes notes that gut microbes could be linked to acne severity by their ability to influence systemic inflammation, blood sugar control, oxidative stress, tissue fat content and mood.

A Russian study examined the intestinal microflora in 114 acne patients and found that 54% had impaired bacterial microflora. Giving these patients probiotics along with their usual acne treatment reduced treatment time by 50%.

One of the causes of adult acne is dysregulation of insulin signaling. A pilot study published in Beneficial Microbes evaluated the effect of probiotic supplementation on insulin signaling and acne improvement. A total of 20 male and female adult acne patients were randomized to receive a liquid probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus or a placebo. Skin biopsies were obtained from all patients before and after treatment.

After 12-weeks, the probiotic group showed a 32% reduction in acne, as well as a 65% increase in skin expression of genes involved in insulin signaling. No such differences were observed in the placebo group.

A study published in The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery tested whether probiotics could reduce the side effects imparted by systemic antibiotics used to treat acne. A total of 45 female adult acne patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group received probiotic supplements, another received the prescription antibiotic minocycline, and the third group was treated with both probiotics and minocycline.

After 4-weeks, all patients showed a significant improvement in total acne lesion count, with continued improvement over the course of the study. After 12-weeks, the group treated with both probiotics and minocycline had a significantly greater decrease in total acne lesion count than patients in the other two groups.

Two patients in the minocycline-only group developed vaginal candidiasis as a side effect. The researchers concluded that probiotics provide a synergistic anti-inflammatory effect with systemic antibiotics while also reducing potential adverse events.

Method: Learn to make your own sauerkraut and other naturally lacto-fermented pickled vegetables. You can find recipes and instructional videos online.

Try Asian fermented foods and drinks such as tempeh, natto, miso, kimchi, kombucha or kefir.

Natural yogurt with live active cultures is a good source of probiotics, but do not add it to your diet if you suspect your acne is triggered by dairy products.

If you choose to take a probiotic supplement, read the label. Look for a product with multiple species of bacteria that contains at least 10-15 billion CFU (colony forming units).

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5. Zinc

zinc acne inflammation salmon seafood shrimps beef cheese spinach mushrooms cocoa pumpkin seeds garlic bean almonds natural remedies

The immune system responds to acne bacteria by producing inflammation around hair follicles and sebaceous glands in the skin. This inflammation leads to the redness and swelling characteristic of pimples.

Research has shown that a zinc deficiency causes elevated inflammation in response to bacterial infection. Oral zinc supplementation can help to regulate the immune system and control inflammation, reducing the frequency and severity of acne outbreaks.

A Turkish study examined the effect of zinc deficiency on the development of acne. Researchers recruited 47 acne patients and 40 acne-free controls who were matched for age and gender. All of the participants were given blood tests to determine their zinc levels.

Statistical comparison of the acne and control groups showed that acne patients had significantly lower zinc levels. Zinc levels were low in 54% of acne patients, compared to only 10% of control group subjects.

A study published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica examined the efficacy of oral zinc sulfate for treating acne. A total of 54 acne patients were randomized to receive either 0.6 grams of zinc sulfate daily or a placebo. After 6-weeks, acne improved by about 33% in the zinc group, significantly more than in the control group.

A clinical trial published in Dermatology compared oral zinc supplements to the prescription antibiotic minocycline for the treatment of acne. A total of 332 acne patients were randomized to receive either 30 mg of elemental zinc or 100 mg of minocycline over 3 months.

In the zinc group, the total lesion count had fell by 50% and 31% of patients had more than a 66% decrease in papules and pustules. Minocycline was 17% superior to zinc with respect to change in lesion count, however researchers concluded that both minocycline and zinc gluconate are effective in the treatment of inflammatory acne.

Method: The best dietary sources of zinc are seafood, beef, lamb and pork. Oysters are an incredibly rich source (if you like them and can afford them). Plant-based sources of zinc include wheat germ, baked beans, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, or even if you get most of your calories from carbohydrates, you may be zinc deficient. Plant-foods are poor sources of zinc compared to animal foods. In addition, phytates found in grains and legumes inhibit absorption of zinc.

Taking a daily 30 mg zinc supplement could help to reduce acne outbreaks. There are several types of zinc capsules on the market and some are more bioavailable than others. For maximum benefits, choose zinc picolinate or zinc methionine.

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6. Barberry

barberry berberis vulgaris red berries pink flowers inflammation acne natural remedies

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is widely used in eastern and western traditional medicine. Research has shown that berberine and other compounds in barberry have antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which could help reduce acne.

Berberine also lowers blood sugar, helping to control insulin and other hormones which trigger excess sebum. A rodent study found that that berberine suppressed sebum production by 63%.

A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements examined the effect of barberry extract on acne. A total of 49 adolescents with moderate-to-severe acne were randomized to receive either 600 mg daily of barberry extract or a placebo. Acne lesion counts and acne severity scores were documented at the start of the trial and after 4-weeks.

In the barberry group, acne severity scores and counts of facial noninflamed, inflamed and total acne lesions all declined by an average of 43-45%. There were no significant changes in acne severity or lesion counts in the placebo group.

Method: Choose a supplement capsule containing berberine from barberry extract. Take two 400 mg capsules a day with meals.

You might also like to try barberry bark herbal tea, available in loose leaf or tea bags.

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7. Aloe Vera

aloe vera green spikey gel clear plant acne anti inflammatory soothing healing natural remedies

Aloe vera has antibacterial properties and is a common home remedy for minor cuts and burns. While it may not prevent acne outbreaks, it could help to speed up the healing process of acne lesions.

Laboratory research has shown that aloe gel contains compounds called glycoproteins which accelerate the healing process by reducing pain and inflammation. It also contains polysaccharides which stimulate skin growth and repair.

Aloe vera may also help to fade marks and scars left on the skin after acne has healed. A study published in Planta Medica demonstrated that a compound in aloe vera gel called aloin acts on melanin to lighten skin.

A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment examined the efficacy and safety of the combination of tretinoin cream and aloe vera gel for the treatment of acne. Tretinoin (Retin-A) is a topical acne medication which may produce side effects such as redness, dryness, itching and scaling. Researchers conducted a trial to see whether combining tretinoin with aloe vera could reduce adverse events.

A total of 60 subjects with mild-to-moderate acne were randomized to receive either a tretinoin cream or a combination of tretinoin cream and aloe vera gel. After 8-weeks, the combination therapy was significantly more effective in reducing inflammatory, non-inflammatory and total acne lesion scores than tretinoin alone. Skin redness was also significantly less severe in the tretinoin and aloe vera group.

Method: If you have an aloe vera houseplant, cut off a leaf at the base, slit it lengthwise and remove the clear, viscous gel. Wrap the unused portion of the leaf and store in your refrigerator.

Apply to your acne morning and evening after washing your face.

For convenience, you can purchase tubes of pure aloe vera gel from health product suppliers.

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Final Word

Some of the remedies above may work better for you than others, depending on your skin type and hormone levels. The best way to find out which method works best for you is to perform your own experiments.

Stick to one treatment for at least 12-weeks and keep a daily or weekly record of your pimple count. Alternatively, simply take a selfie every week and compare before-and-after photos.

Meanwhile, follow these acne care tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Use nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic toiletries, sunscreens and cosmetics.
  • Gently wash affected areas with a mild, nondrying cleanser twice a day and after sweating. Scrubbing or vigorous washing can make acne worse.
  • Do not unnecessarily dry the skin with astringents, exfoliants and toners.
  • To avoid scarring, do not squeeze, pop or pick at acne.

8 Health Benefits of Vitamin D and How to Get More of It

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vitamin d sunlight strong bones benefits

Vitamin D is often associated only with strong bones, but it plays a much wider role in maintaining one’s overall wellness. Vitamin D receptors are located in cells throughout the body including the skin, brain, heart, breast, prostate gland and cells of the immune system.

According to a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 77% of Americans have a deficiency in vitamin D levels, affecting their overall health.

Vitamin D from Sunlight

vitamin d sunlight uv rays melanin

The main natural source of vitamin D for humans comes from adequate amounts of sunlight exposure.

Short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun convert a substance in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D. Anything that interferes with the penetration of UVB radiation into the skin will affect the synthesis of vitamin D..

Melanin, which creates skin pigmentation absorbs UVB radiation, so darker-skinned people in northern climates are more likely to be vitamin D deficient.

Sunscreen with SPF 15 decreases the synthesis of vitamin D by 99% when applied properly. The amount of sun exposure you need to get adequate vitamin D depends on your skin type, your location, season of the year and time of day.

Vitamin D from Food Sources

vitamin d food sources salmon mushrooms sardines eggs cheese dairy peas fish natural sources

Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks and beef liver. However, these may give you less than you think.

One study found that wild-caught salmon had 500–1000 IU vitamin D in 100 grams, while farmed salmon (the most widely consumed fish in the US) contained only 100-250 IU per 100 grams.

According to the NIH, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU per day. Most people get far less than this on a daily basis. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated the average vitamin D intake from food alone ranged from 204-288 IU per day for males and 144-276 IU for females.

8 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Vitamin D

1. Prevents Osteoporosis

osteoporosis vitamin d weak pain knee joints bones calcium break fracture menopause

Calcium is the most important mineral for building strong bones. Our bodies continuously removes calcium from our bones and replace it with new calcium from our diet.

Vitamin D plays a vital role in helping our bodies absorb calcium from food. If you don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D, you have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, especially for post-menopausal woman.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become less dense and more likely to break after a fall or minor accident. In addition to building strong bones, vitamin D helps to prevent falls by improving muscle function in the legs.

A year-long trial in Scotland examined the effect of vitamin D supplementation on bone mineral density. A total of 305 healthy women aged 60-70 were randomized to receive either a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement, a 1000 IU vitamin D supplement or a placebo. At the beginning and end of the study, the participants had scans and blood tests to determine bone mineral density of the hip and spine.

After one year, bone loss at the hip was significantly greater for the placebo and 400 IU vitamin D groups compared with the 1,000 IU vitamin D group. Bone loss was negligible for women on the higher dose of vitamin D.

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examined the efficacy of vitamin D supplements for preventing non-vertebral and hip fractures among adults aged over 65. Researchers analyzed data from 12 trials for non-vertebral fractures and 8 trials for hip fractures comparing oral vitamin D with calcium and/or a placebo. They grouped the trials by low dose (less than 400 IU of vitamin D per day) or higher dose.

Analysis of the data showed that a higher dose of vitamin D (482-770 IU per day) reduced non-vertebral fractures by at least 20% and hip fractures by at least 18%. The lower dose had no significant effect.

A pooled analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the dose requirements of vitamin D for the prevention of bone fractures. Researchers combined data from 11 double-blind, randomized, controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation involving a total of 31,022 participants with 1,111 incidents of hip fracture and 3,770 other non-vertebral fractures.

Low doses of vitamin D supplements did not significantly reduce the risk for fractures. However, doses ranging from 792-2,000 IU daily reduced the risk of hip fracture by 30% and the risk of other non-vertebral fractures by 14%.

A clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society set out to determine the effect of 4 vitamin D supplement doses on the risk of falls in elderly nursing home residents. A total of 124 nursing home residents were randomly assigned to receive 200 IU, 400 IU, 600 IU, or 800 IU of vitamin D or a placebo daily for 5 months.

The 800 IU vitamin D group had a significantly reduced number of fallers and a reduced incidence rate of falls compared to those taking lower doses or a placebo. The high dose of vitamin D reduced the risk of falling by 72%. Lower doses were not significantly more effective than the placebo.

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2. Treats Depression

depression mood anxiety vitamin d sad alone lost serotonin

Vitamin D receptors are found in the areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus, that are linked to the development of depression.

While the role of vitamin D in the brain isn’t fully understood, some researchers theorize that it may increase levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated the relationship of vitamin D with the prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders. Researchers analyzed data from 5,371 men and women involved in a Finnish health survey. The participants included 354 people who have been diagnosed with depression. Blood samples were used to measure vitamin D concentrations for all subjects.

Those with the highest levels of vitamin D had a 35% lower risk of depressive disorder than those with the lowest levels. The protective effect of vitamin D remained even after adjustment for depression risk factors such as divorce, illness or unhealthy lifestyle.

A Turkish study investigated the link between mid-pregnancy vitamin D levels and postpartum depression. Study participants included 179 women with no known risk factors for postpartum depression. They were screened for vitamin D levels when they were 24 – 28 weeks pregnant.

At one week, 6 weeks and 6 months after delivery, participants were assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). There was a significant relationship between low vitamin D levels in mid-pregnancy and high EPDS scores in all 3 follow-up periods.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Internal Medicine examined the effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects. Researchers recruited 441 men and women with a BMI over 27.

All of the subjects completed a standard questionnaire called the Beck Depression Inventory at the start and end of the study. They also took blood tests to determine their levels of vitamin D. The participants were randomized to receive 1 of 3 treatments: 2 capsules of vitamin D, 1 capsule of vitamin D and 1 placebo capsule, or 2 placebo capsules.

At the start of the study, participants with low vitamin D levels scored significantly higher for depressive traits than those with higher vitamin D levels. After 1 year of supplementation, subjects in the 2 groups given vitamin D showed a significant improvement in depression scores, whereas those in the placebo group did not improve.

A meta-analysis published in Psychosomatic Medicine reviewed the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depression in 7 randomized controlled trials. Researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation had a moderate, statistically significant effect on depressive symptoms for patients with clinically significant depressive symptoms or depressive disorder.

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3. Boosts Our Immune System

cold flu cough infection vitamin d boost immune system viral sick blowing nose

The peak of the flu season occurs in the winter, when vitamin D levels in the population are at their lowest.

A study which analyzed data from the 1,918-1,919 influenza pandemic found that the lowest flu-related death rates in the US were in southern cities with the highest amounts of UVB light. The most flu fatalities were in northern cities with the lowest amounts of UVB radiation.

Vitamin D helps to boost the immune system and protect against colds and flu in two ways. It modulates the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines and stimulates production of antimicrobial proteins that fight viral infections.

A prospective study was conducted in Greenwich, Connecticut to determine whether the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections was associated with vitamin D levels. Researchers recruited 198 healthy adults who volunteered to have their blood drawn monthly from September to January. They were also asked to report any cold or flu symptoms they experienced over this period.

Participants’ blood samples were tested for vitamin D levels. Those who reported symptoms had nasal swabs tested for the presence of a viral respiratory tract infection. Analysis of the data showed that the higher the vitamin D concentrations in the blood, the lower that risk for colds or flu. Participants with low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to develop a viral respiratory tract infection than those with higher levels.

When researchers at the Winthrop University Hospital conducted a trial to determine whether vitamin D would prevent osteoporosis, they came up with an unexpected result. Researchers randomized 208 African-American postmenopausal women to receive either a placebo or 800 IU vitamin D per day for 2 years followed by 2,000 IU per day for a third year.

Patients were followed up every 6 months to have their bone mineral density measured. During these visits, they were asked about their overall health including incidence of cold or flu.

In a report published in Epidemiology and Infection, the researchers noted that 8 women in the vitamin D group experienced cold or flu symptoms compared with 26 women in the placebo group. Only one subject in the vitamin D group experienced cold or flu symptoms while on the higher dose.

A controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effect of vitamin D supplements on seasonal influenza in children. A total of 430 Japanese school children were randomly assigned to receive tablets containing 1,200 IU of vitamin D per day or placebo tablets during the flu season from December to March.

In the vitamin D group, 11% of children developed influenza type A (bird flu) compared with 19% in the placebo group. Vitamin D reduced the risk for this type of viral infection by 42% for all participants. For those who had not been taking vitamin D prior to the study, the risk was reduced by 64%. Vitamin D supplements also protected against asthma attacks in children previously diagnosed with asthma.

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4. Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

Alzheimers disease dementia memory loss brain cells vitamin d cognition

Several population studies have shown that people who are deficient in vitamin D are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The cognitive changes, such as memory loss, that take place in Alzheimer’s disease occur when amyloid-beta protein fragments accumulate in the brain to form insoluble plaques.

Laboratory research has shown that vitamin D helps the immune system to clear excess amyloid-beta and inhibits brain cell death induced by amyloid-beta.

A Danish population study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia investigated the association between vitamin D levels and risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers measured blood levels of vitamin D in a cohort of 10,186 adults who were free of any type of diagnosed dementia.

During 30 years of follow-up, 418 participants developed Alzheimer’s and 92 developed vascular dementia. After adjusting for other risk factors such as high cholesterol and obesity, the researchers observed an association between low vitamin D levels with a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

A study published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders examined the association between vitamin D status and cognition in 225 patients who were diagnosed as having probable Alzheimer’s disease.

The patients were tested on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a common diagnostic tool used to measure cognitive impairment and screen for dementia. Their blood samples were tested to determine vitamin D levels. Analysis of the data showed that patients with sufficient vitamin D levels scored significantly better on the MMSE than vitamin D insufficient patients.

A study at the University of California at Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center assessed associations between vitamin D status and cognitive function. A cohort of 382 ethnically diverse adults over age 60 were clinically assessed for cognitive impairment or dementia.

Their blood levels of vitamin D were measured and categorized as deficient, insufficient, adequate or high.

At the time of enrollment in the study, 18% of participants were diagnosed with dementia, 33% had mild cognitive impairment and 50% were cognitively normal. Average vitamin D levels were significantly lower in participants with dementia.

After 5 years of follow-up, rates of decline in episodic memory and executive function were significantly higher in participants with deficient or insufficient vitamin D. Vitamin D insufficiency was associated with a level of decline in episodic memory performance that was 3 times greater than in individuals who remained cognitively normal.

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5. Protects Against Breast Cancer

breast cancer vitamin d cell death antioxidant pink ribbon survivor

Breast cells are capable of converting vitamin D to a hormone which has anti-carcinogenic properties.

Laboratory research has shown that the hormonally active form of vitamin D inhibits the proliferation and spread of cancer cells and stimulates cancer cell death. Having sufficient vitamin D from sun exposure, diet or supplements lowers the risk for developing breast cancer and can increase survival rates for breast cancer patients.

A meta-analysis published in Medicine evaluated the association between circulating vitamin D and breast cancer risk. Researchers pooled data from 9 prospective studies, comprising of 5,206 cancer cases and 6,450 controls. They found that for post-menopausal women, the higher their vitamin D levels, the lower their risk for breast cancer.

A population-based study conducted in Ontario, Canada investigated the association between sunlight exposure and risk of breast cancer. Researchers recruited 3,101 women aged 25–74 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 3,471 healthy age-matched controls. The participants filled in breast cancer risk factor questionnaires that included questions about hours per day spent outdoors in the months of April–October.

The researchers compared women with the highest sun exposure to those with the lowest sun exposure during 4 life periods. Those who spent the most time outdoors during their teenage years had a 21% lower risk of breast cancer. Sun exposure reduced the risk of cancer by 24% for women in their 20s-30s and by 25% for women in their 40s-50s. Older women aged 60-75 benefited the most from time spent outdoors, with a 41% reduction in breast cancer risk.

A 4-year trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the efficacy of calcium alone and calcium plus vitamin D in reducing the risk of all types of cancer. A total of 1,179 healthy Nebraskan woman aged 55 and older were randomly assigned to 3 groups. One group received placebo supplements, one group received 1,450 mg calcium supplements and one group received calcium plus 1,100 IU per day of vitamin D. The risk of developing any type of cancer after the first year of the trial was reduced by 77% for women taking calcium and vitamin D. Calcium alone reduced the risk for cancer by 41% compared to the placebo.

A Korean study investigated the association between vitamin D status and the prognosis of breast cancer patients. Researchers tested blood concentrations of vitamin D for 469 breast cancer patients at diagnosis and categorized them as deficient or non-deficient. The patients had their vitamin D levels tested again at annual follow-up visits for up to 4 years after diagnosis.

Patients aged over 55 and those with advanced-stage cancer who were non-deficient in vitamin D had a significantly better survival rate compared to those with vitamin D deficiency. At the one-year follow up, patients who remained non-deficient and those whose vitamin D levels had improved were also more likely to survive over the course of the study.

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6. Protects Against Prostate Cancer

prostate cancer screening vitamin d UV light rays antioxidant

Vitamin D appears to have a protective effect against prostate cancer. Population studies have shown that prostate cancer is most common in Northern climates with less UV light than southern climates.

In the US, African-American men, whose dark skin does not absorb as much UV radiation, are 2 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than Caucasian men.

Laboratory research has shown that cells in the prostate can convert circulating vitamin D to an active hormone. This hormonal form of vitamin D inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells.

A prospective study investigated the association between vitamin D status and prostate cancer risk. Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed 18 years of data from the Physicians’ Health Study. They compared pre-diagnostic levels of vitamin D in 1,066 men who later went on to develop prostate cancer with the vitamin D levels of 1,618 cancer-free controls matched for age and smoking status. Men whose vitamin D levels were below average had a significantly increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

About 14% of men of European decent carry a genotype that makes them more prone to develop prostate cancer. The researchers found that vitamin D interacted with this genotype to modify cancer risk. Low vitamin D levels increased the genetic risk for cancer. For men with above average levels of vitamin D, the genotype was no longer associated with any increased risk.

A study published in Clinical Cancer Research evaluated the association between vitamin D and prostate biopsy outcomes. Researchers in measured the vitamin D levels of 667 men in Chicago urology clinics who were undergoing their first prostate biopsy due to an elevated prostate-specific antigen level or an abnormal digital rectal examination. Biopsies remove a small portion of tissue to check for cancerous cells.

For African American men, vitamin D deficiency was significantly associated with increased odds of prostate cancer diagnosis. Among all men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer following the biopsy, severe vitamin D deficiency was positively associated with more advanced staged tumors and higher risk categories.

A clinical trial held in Charleston, South Carolina investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation in 44 low-risk prostate cancer patients. The participants all received daily 4,000 IU vitamin D supplements. Biopsy procedures were performed before enrollment in the study and after one year of supplementation.

At the second biopsy, 55% of patients had a decrease in cancerous cells or were in a lower cancer risk category. Compared to similar patients in a medical database who had not taken vitamin D, the supplemented patients had a lower rate of cancer progression and a significantly higher rate of improvement.

The researchers note that a combination of active surveillance and vitamin D supplementation may decrease the need of invasive treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy, for patients with low-risk prostate cancer who respond to the treatment and remain stable or improve.

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7. Fights Inflammatory Bowel Disease

inflammatory bowel disease stomach pain ache vitamin d immune system gi tract

Research suggests that vitamin D may fight against many immune system disruptions that occur in inflammatory bowel disease.

Vitamin D protects the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract which forms a barrier against pathogens and induces the production of antibacterial enzymes. It also maintains immune tolerance and reduces inflammation.

A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences examined the relationship between vitamin D levels and clinical disease activity in patients with ulcerative colitis. Researchers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania went through medical records and identified patients with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis who had been tested for vitamin D status.

They found 15 ulcerative colitis patients with normal vitamin D levels and 19 who were vitamin D deficient. Patients with low vitamin D levels were statistically more likely to have increased disease activity, with 68% of deficient patients displaying active disease, compared with 33% in the vitamin D sufficient group. Among the deficient patients, 47% were treated with corticosteroids, whereas only 7% of the vitamin D sufficient patients required such treatment.

A pilot study published in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology examined the effect of vitamin D supplementation on 18 patients with mild-to-moderate Crohn’s disease. The participants took 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day for 2 weeks. The dose was raised incrementally until the patients’ vitamin D levels were optimal or until they were taking 5,000 IU per day. Patients were evaluated for severity of symptoms using the Crohn’s disease activity index (CDAI) at the beginning and end of the 24-week study.

Vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced overall CDAI scores, and all but one patient had a lower CDAI score. The scores indicated that 67% of the patients were in remission at the end of the study. Quality-of-life scores also significantly improved.

A clinical trial published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics assessed the effectiveness of vitamin D3 treatment in Crohn’s disease. A total of 94 patients with Crohn’s disease in remission were randomized to receive either 1,200 IU vitamin D per day or a placebo.

After 12 months, the relapse rate for patients in the vitamin D group was 13%, less than half the 29% relapse rate for the placebo group. The researchers suggest that vitamin D treatment may potentially reduce the use of remission-inducing drugs such as corticosteroids.

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8. Lowers Blood Sugar for Type 2 Diabetes

diabetes type 2 blood sugar insulin pancreas health sodium salt vitamin d

Beta cells in your pancreas produce the hormone, insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes occurs when beta cells do not produce enough insulin or when cells in the body become insulin resistant, resulting in dangerously high blood sugar levels.

Vitamin D seems to play a role in pancreatic beta cell function. Research on mice has shown that removing vitamin D receptors from beta cells decreases insulin production by up to 60%.

A meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care assessed the strength of the association between vitamin D levels and risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from of 21 prospective studies involving 76,220 participants and 4,996 cases of type 2 diabetes.

The analysis revealed a trend where the higher the vitamin D levels, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants with the highest blood levels of vitamin D were 38% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to participants with the lowest levels.

A controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on metabolic health factors related to obesity. Researchers recruited 35 patients aged 14-16 from an adolescent diabetes and obesity clinic. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either a daily 4,000 IU vitamin D supplement or a placebo.

After 6 months, the vitamin D group showed significant improvement in 3 blood markers for insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity. Researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation helped to repair the damaged blood sugar metabolism associated with obesity.

A randomized controlled trial examined the effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation on blood sugar metabolism in adults with a high risk of diabetes. A total of 92 participants were given daily supplements containing either 2,000 IU of vitamin D, 400 mg of calcium or a placebo. At the start and end of the trial, participants underwent an intravenous-glucose-tolerance test.

After 16 weeks, those in the vitamin D group showed a significant improvement in insulin production and secretion from pancreatic beta cells. The calcium group showed no significant difference in insulin response.

An Iranian trial tested the effects of a vitamin D fortified yogurt drink on patients with type 2 diabetes. A total of 100 diabetic men and women were randomly allocated to receive either plain yogurt drinks or yogurt drinks containing 500 IU of vitamin D and 170 mg calcium. They consumed 2 drinks a day with lunch and dinner. Blood tests were performed before and after the trial.

After 12 weeks, the group who drank vitamin D fortified yogurt had significantly lower blood sugar levels and increased glucose regulation compared to the plain yogurt group. They also had less vascular inflammation, lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and higher HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.

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Final Word

The only way to know whether you’re getting sufficient vitamin D is to take a 25(OH)D blood test. You can ask your doctor for this test or you can order an in-home test online.

With the in-home test, you prick your finger and send a small blood sample to a laboratory. Your results will usually be available within 2 weeks.

The Endocrine Society clinical practice guidelines for vitamin D state that the desirable blood concentration is 30 ng/ml or greater. They also report that adults may require at least 1,500-2,000 IU per day of vitamin D supplements to consistently reach this level.

If you live in a climate with dark winter days, or spend most of the day indoors, vitamin D supplements may improve your health in a variety of ways.

How to Make Your Own Natural Homemade Shampoo – 10 Best Recipes

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natural diy homemade shampoo chemical free ingredients

If you want to limit your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals, a good place to start is with your health and beauty products. Commercial shampoos, body wash and shower gels tend to contain a long list of unfamiliar and unpronounceable ingredients that may contribute to allergies, breathing problems, skin irritation or a variety of unexplained long-term health issues.

When you make your own shampoo at home, you know exactly what goes into it. You can choose all natural ingredients and experiment with different blends to create a perfect shampoo custom-made for your hair type.

What’s in Commercial Shampoos?

commercial shampoo chemicals ingredients generic toxins

Grab your shampoo off the shelf and try to read the very small print on the back. You’ll probably find some of the following ingredients listed.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a detergent and foaming agent widely used in cleaning products. It is a major ingredient in most brands of shampoo, used to create a good lather.

Research has shown that SLS is a skin irritant which causes an inflammatory response. In fact, it is even used as an irritant for testing products used to treat skin conditions. Laboratory tests have shown that SLS inhibits DNA synthesis in human thymus cells, weakening the immune system.

Propylene Glycol (PG)

Propylene glycol (PG) is a humectant and solvent used in anti-freeze and aircraft de-icing fluid. It is also used as a moisturizer in cosmetics products. The FDA classifies propylene glycol as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). However, there have been numerous cases of propylene glycol toxicity in humans.

One review article lists reported adverse effects including central nervous system toxicity, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures and lactic acidosis.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

Polyethylene Glycol, usually listed on shampoo labels as PEG, is a petroleum-based chemical with a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. It binds water, dissolves oil, lubricates and thickens products. In shampoos, it is used to create a smooth, creamy texture. Many cases of allergic reactions to PEG have been reported. It can cause contact dermatitis and even severe anaphylactic reactions.

Dimethicone

Dimethicone, also known as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), is a silicon-based polymer with viscoelastic properties. Many people are more familiar with it being the main component in silly putty. When used in shampoos, it forms a lubricating coat around each strand of hair, adding shine and making it easier to comb.

PDMS has been known to cause contact dermatitis. More worryingly, PDMS is produced from cyclotetrasiloxane (often referred to as D4) and may contain residual amounts. Cyclotetrasiloxane is a known endocrine disruptor and can have harmful effects on the body’s hormone system.

Fragrance

Fragrance seems like an innocent enough ingredient, but toxic substances could be lurking behind this name. If a shampoo derives its fragrance from plant extracts or essential oils, it will most likely display that fact prominently on the label. If not, the fragrance may often be obtained from phthalates.

This group of chemicals is present in hundreds of products. Their health effects on humans remain largely untested and US labelling laws do not require them to be listed. According to the CDC, phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population. Adult women have higher levels of urinary metabolites than men with usage of soaps, body washes, shampoos and cosmetics that contain phthalates.

6 Basic Ingredients of Homemade Shampoos

natural homemade shampoo ingredients diy toxins chemical free

If you want to avoid exposure to the substances listed above and other toxic chemicals, experiment with the method and recipes detailed here to create safe and effective shampoos. Any of these shampoos can also be used as an all-over body wash.

1. Liquid Castile Soap

castile soap glycerin plant oils natural toxin chemical detergent free diy homemade shampoo ingredients

Castile soap is named for a region of Spain renowned for its olive oil and was originally made with olive oil and animal fat. Modern Castile soap is made using plant oils mixed with an alkali to form a natural soap with the glycerin retained.

The most well-known brand of Castile soap is Dr. Bonner’s, though other niche brands are available. The organic ingredients in Dr. Bonner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap include coconut oil, olive oil, hemp oil and jojoba oil. It also contains citric acid and vitamin E.

Most importantly, to people concerned about their health and the environment, Castile soap is popular for what it does not contain. It’s free from petrochemicals, oleochemicals, detergents, artificial foaming agents and artificial fragrances. This makes it an ideal base for an all-natural shampoo.

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2. Water

water distilled deionized diluted castile soap natural diy shampoo ingredient

Liquid Castile soap is highly concentrated and should always be diluted before using on hair and skin. If you live in a hard-water area, use distilled or deionized water in your DIY shampoo.

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3. Vegetable Oil

vegetable oils glossy shiny hair olive sunflower almond sesame natural diy homemade shampoo ingredients

Vegetable oil in shampoo will help make hair glossy and shiny. You can use olive oil or go for one of the many oils commonly used in natural beauty products. Some suggestions include: coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil, sweet almond oil or argan oil.

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4. Xanthan Gum

xanthan gum thickener stabilizer powder fermented sugar whey natural diy ingredient hair shampoo

Xanthan gum is a thickener and stabilizer widely used in foods and cosmetics. It is the byproduct of fermented sugars or whey with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. Castile soap diluted with water is thinner and runnier than commercial shampoos, the addition of xanthan gum creates a more familiar consistency.

Xanthan gum powder can be purchased online or in health food stores. The shampoo recipes below call for ¼ teaspoon, but if you find your shampoo is still too watery, try using ½ teaspoon instead.

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5. Essential Oils

essential oils fragrance properties dandruff hair growth strength scent natural diy shampoo ingredients

A few drops of essential oil will add a nice fragrance to your shampoo. Some essential oils have properties that will help fight dandruff or enhance hair growth. While the recipes below call for a certain amount of essential oil, feel free to add a few more drops if you prefer a stronger scent.

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6. Herbs

herbs fresh dried seeds leaves natural hair diy shampoo ingredients

Fresh or dried herbs can add a delicate scent to shampoo and help to treat common hair problems. Infuse herbs in ½ cup of boiling water and strain before adding to the soap.

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10 Recipes for Homemade Shampoos

1. Aloe Vera Shampoo – Dry Hair

aloe vera gel plant nourish elastic moisture dry hair shampoo

This recipe combines Aloe Vera gel, instead of water, mixed with Castile soap. Aloe vera nourishes the hair and makes it more elastic. Almond oil penetrates the hair and helps it to retain moisture.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup aloe vera gel
  • 2 teaspoons almond oil
  • 6 drops clary sage essential oil
  • 6 drops Melissa (lemon balm) essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine as per basic method described above.

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2. Rosemary Shampoo – Rejuvenating

rosemary leaves needles oil shampoo ingredient hair growth balding scalp

In traditional herbalism, rosemary is thought to help stimulate the scalp and hair follicles to encourage hair growth and prevent thinning or premature balding. It is also commonly used to enhance brunette hair and darken gray hairs.

Pour ½ cup of boiling water over ½ cup fresh, chopped rosemary leaves. Leave to steep for 15 minutes, then strain.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup rosemary infusion
  • 1 teaspoon jojoba oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine the liquid infusion with the other shampoo ingredients as per basic method.

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3. Beer Shampoo – Thicker Hair

beer dark german hops softens strengthens thickens hair shampoo natural

Beer yeast contains minerals and nutrients that help to plump up hair follicles, adding body and fullness to fine hair. Hops in beer softens and strengthens brittle hair. Hops essential oil has a rich and spicy-sweet scent.

To ensure that your shampoo contains active yeast, choose a German-style hefeweizen. This unfiltered wheat beer remains cloudy due to suspended yeast particles. Popular brands include Erdinger Weissbier, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Samuel Adams Hefeweizen, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen and Flying Dog Hefeweizen.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup hefeweizen beer
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 10 drops hops essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Pour out half a cup of beer and allow it to sit overnight to go flat. Combine ingredients as per basic method. Shake the shampoo bottle before using to distribute the yeast particles throughout the solution.

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4. Peppermint Shampoo – Hair Growth

peppermint leaves hair growth natural shampoo ingredient

Peppermint oil stimulates healthy hair growth and increases hair thickness, number of follicles and depth of follicles.

A study on mice showed that peppermint oil was more effective at promoting hair growth than the popular hair-loss treatment minoxidil (Rogaine).

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup water or peppermint infusion
  • 1 teaspoon jojoba oil
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

If you want to pack a real peppermint punch in this shampoo, make an infusion of fresh or dried peppermint leaves to use instead of plain water. Leave the lathered shampoo on your head for five minutes before rinsing to allow the peppermint to invigorate your scalp.

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5. Orange Shampoo – Greasy Hair

orange fresh juice greasy hair natural shampoo ingredient

Oranges contain a compound called limonene which is widely used in cleaning products and cosmetics for its fragrance and for its ability to dissolve oils. Petitgrain oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of the orange tree, whereas orange oil is extracted from the rind of the fruit.

Argan oil has been shown to reduce sebum levels on the skin. In one study, a cream containing argan oil reduced oily skin areas by 42%.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon argan oil
  • 6 drops petitgrain essential oil
  • 6 drops orange essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method.

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6. Tea Tree Shampoo – Dandruff

tea tree leaves green anti fungal dandruff natural hair shampoo ingredient

Tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties and is effective in combating the Pityrosporum ovale fungus which is thought to be a cause of dandruff.

In one study, participants who used a tea tree oil shampoo daily for 4-weeks showed a 41% improvement in dandruff severity.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon argan oil
  • 12 drops tea tree essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method. Leave the lathered shampoo on your head for five minutes before rinsing to allow the tea tree to act against the dandruff fungus.

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7. Chamomile Shampoo – Blonde Hair

chamomile flowers yellow blond hair highlights dyed diy natural shampoo ingredient

Chamomile is a rich source of a yellow flavonoid called apigenin. Chamomile flowers have been traditionally used as a natural yellow dye for wool. Camomile shampoo intensifies blond hair’s radiance and enhances golden highlights.

To make a chamomile infusion, put five chamomile tea bags in a cup, cover with ½ cup boiling water and leave to steep for 15 minutes.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup chamomile infusion
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 5 drops bergamot essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method.

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8. Mint & Eucalyptus Shampoo – Invigorating

eucalyptus mint leaves invigorating refreshing natural diy hair shampoo ingredients

The refreshing, energizing scents of mint and eucalyptus will help wake you up during your morning shower.

To make an infusion from garden mint, pick a handful of leaves and roughly tear them. Put them in a cup and cover them with half a cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Gently scrape the leaves with the back of a spoon to release more of the mint oil, then strain.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup mint infusion
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method.

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9. Coconut Shampoo – Conditioning

coconut milk water moisturizing conditions soft silky dry frizzy hair fat natural diy shampoo ingredients

The lauric acid and vitamin E in coconut moisturizes and conditions hair, leaving it soft and silky. In this recipe, canned coconut milk is substituted for water. Due to the fat content in coconut milk, there is no need to add additional oil unless you have dry or frizzy hair.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond oil (optional)
  • 10 drops orange essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method.

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10. Floral Shampoo – Relaxing

floral rose lavender neroli oil relaxing sleep natural hair diy shampoo ingredients

This is a good choice to use as a shampoo and/or body wash if you take a warm bath or shower before bedtime to help you sleep.

Lavender oil, neroli oil and rose oil all have calming properties that can help decrease anxiety when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Research has shown that inhaling lavender oil improves sleep quality.

  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops neroli essential oil
  • 4 drops rose essential oil
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine ingredients as per basic method.

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Basic Method

Mix together ½ cup liquid Castile soap, ½ cup water and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a plastic jug. Add 1/4 teaspoon (or 1/2 teaspoon for thicker consistency) xanthan gum powder and whisk briskly until it dissolves and the liquid begins to thicken. Mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Pour the mixture into an old shampoo bottle. Ingredients may naturally separate, so be sure to give the bottle a good shake before each use.

Caution

Castile soap may strip color from dyed hair and may not be suitable for use on permed, chemically treated or damaged hair. When you make your first batch of homemade shampoo, test it first on a small strand of hair before using it on your entire head. Some people find that the Castile soap is too harsh and works better for them in a dilution of 2 parts water to 1 part soap.

Vinegar Rinse

apple cider vinegar spray rinse water balance natural ph level hair diy shampoo

Shampoo made with Castile soap is slightly alkaline. To rebalance your hair’s pH levels, use a vinegar rinse. Dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water. Transfer to a spray bottle.

After shampooing and rinsing, towel dry your hair to remove excess water. Spritz the vinegar solution all over your hair, then comb through.  The vinegar odor will dissipate as your hair dries.

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Final Word

Use the recipes above as a starting point. Experiment with different variations of the basic recipes until you find a shampoo with a scent you love and leaves your hair silky, soft and bouncy.

You can vary the ratio of soap to water, try different types of oils, infuse herbs from your garden or windowsill, or combine different essential oils for their various fragrances or health benefits to find the one that works best for you.

9 Health Benefits of Green Tea & Matcha Powder

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green tea leaves acne natural remedies

For centuries green tea has been one of the most popular beverages consumed in Japan and China. Its popularity is now rising in the west.

A 2014 article in the Washington Post reports that Americans are drinking 40% more green tea than they did in 2000. Much of this rise in consumption is due to the increasing knowledge of green tea’s numerous health benefits.

What is Green Tea?

Green tea, black tea and oolong tea are all made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but are processed differently. To make green tea, freshly harvested leaves are immediately steamed to prevent oxidation and fermentation. This process preserves the green pigment in the leaves and many of the natural polyphenols.

Polyphenols are micronutrients that come from certain plant-based foods. Laboratory research has shown that green tea leaves contains 6 times more phenolic compounds than an equal weight of black tea leaves.

Most of the polyphenols in green tea are a type of flavonoid known as catechins. There are 6 primary catechin compounds in green tea. Of these the most abundant and most active is a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been widely studied for its role in preventing and treating diseases.

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Matcha Green Tea

matcha green tea powder leaves grinded antioxidants natural health benefits

Matcha is a fine powder made from Camellia sinensis leaves that are grown in shade. The low levels of sunlight cause the plants to produce more chlorophyll, turning them a deeper shade of green.

After harvesting, the stems and veins are removed from the leaves. The leaves are then dried and grounded into a powder which is whisked into hot water or milk to create a concentrated green tea beverage.

When you drink matcha, you are consuming the entire tea leaf and not just a tea infusion with strained tea leaves. This means a cup of matcha is a much richer source of catechins than a cup of brewed green tea.

One analysis found that the concentration of EGCG in matcha was at least three times higher than the highest levels found in standard green tea. The shade-growing process causes the tea plant to produce more L-theanine and caffeine, so matcha is richer in both.

L-theanine is an amino acid which has a calming, relaxing effect when consumed on its own. In tea, it appears to have a synergistic effect with caffeine, helping to promote wakefulness and attention while mitigating caffeine side-effects such as raised blood pressure.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that a combination of L-theanine and caffeine improved alertness and cognitive performance while reducing tiredness.

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9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Green Tea

1. Lowers the Risk of Breast Cancer

breast cancer green tea natural health benefits

Laboratory research has shown that the EGCG in green tea inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells and decreases their viability. In one study, rats with mammary gland tumors were fed a diet containing green tea catechins or a standard diet. After 36 weeks, 94% of the rats in the catechin group survived, compared to 33% of rats on the standard diet.

A case–control study conducted in Southeast China investigated the relationship between green tea consumption and breast cancer. Researchers collected diet and lifestyle data from 1,009 female breast cancer patients and 1,009 healthy age-matched controls during a face-to-face interview. Participants were asked about their tea consumption patterns including questions about types of tea they drank and the usual frequency of cups consumed.

The risk of breast cancer was significantly lower for green tea drinkers and declined with increasing duration, quantity and frequency of green tea consumed. Cancer risk was lowest for women who had been drinking 2 or more cups a day for 20 or more years. Those who drank the most tea had a 39% reduction in cancer risk.

A meta-analysis published in Carcinogenesis examined population studies which provided data on green tea or black tea consumption and breast cancer risk. The combined results from 4 studies indicated that women who drank the most green tea had a 20% reduction in risk of breast cancer compared to those who drank the least. Interestingly, the data also indicated that high black tea consumption slightly increased the risk of breast cancer.

Researchers of another study found that, compared to non-tea drinkers, estrogen levels were 13% lower in women who regularly drank green tea and 19% higher in women who regularly drank black tea. Estrogen is known to promote breast cancer. This suggests that green tea may reduce breast cancer risk due to its cancer-fighting catechins and by lowering estrogen levels.

2. Lowers the Risk of Colorectal Cancer

colorectal cancer cells green tea natural health benefits

Since green tea is orally ingested, its polyphenols are readily available to organs in the digestive tract such as the colon.

Laboratory research has shown that EGCG or a combination of green tea catechins inhibits the growth of human colon cancer cells and induces cancer cell death. Research on rodents has shown that green tea inhibits several inflammatory markers associated with colon cancer and exerts a potent preventive effect on colon carcinogenesis.

A large Chinese cohort study examined the effects of green tea consumption on colorectal cancer risk. Researchers analyzed data from health and lifestyle interviews with 69,710 women aged 40 to 70. Participants were asked about the type, amount and frequency of tea consumed. Information on tea consumption was reassessed in a follow-up survey 2 to 3 years later.

During 6 years of follow-up, 256 women developed colorectal cancer. Analysis revealed that women who reported drinking green tea regularly had a 57% lower colorectal cancer risk. The reduction in risk was most evident among participants who reported regular tea drinking at both the initial and follow-up surveys. The protective effects of green tea persisted after adjustment for known cancer risk factors.

A pilot study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention tested the efficacy of green tea extract for the prevention of colorectal adenomas (benign tumors that are the precursors to most colorectal cancers). Researchers recruited 136 patients who had their colorectal adenomas surgically removed.

After ensuring they were still adenoma-free a year later, participants were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group received supplements containing 1.5 grams of green tea extract per day and the control group received no supplements.

After 12 months, the patients underwent a follow-up colonoscopy. In the green tea extract group, 15% of patients showed a recurrence of colorectal adenomas compared to 31% of patients in the control group. The size of relapsed adenomas were also significantly smaller in the green tea group than in the control group.

3. Reduces Abdominal Fat

abdominal visceral fat stomach green tea bmi index natural health benefits weight loss

Green tea appears to be particularly effective at targeting visceral fat. This type of fat is stored in the abdominal cavity and is associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Research suggests that the caffeine and catechins in green tea work synergistically to augment the release of energy from stored fat.

In one study, 10 men spent 24 hours in a respiratory chamber on 3 separate occasions after ingesting either green tea extract, caffeine or a placebo. Green tea extract caused the men to burn significantly more calories. Caffeine alone had no effect on calorie burning compared to the placebo.

A trial published in the journal Obesity investigated the body fat reducing effects of green tea. Researchers recruited 240 Japanese men and women with visceral obesity. The volunteers were randomized into 2 groups. Both groups were given cans of green tea beverages to drink daily with their evening meal. The treatment group’s beverage contained 583 mg of catechins and the control group’s beverage contained 96 mg of catechins.

After 12 weeks, the high catechin group had lost significantly more weight than the low catechin group. They also had a greater decrease in body fat mass, visceral fat area, waist circumference and hip circumference.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition evaluated the influence of a green tea catechin beverage during exercise-induced weight loss. A total of 107 overweight and obese men and women were randomized to receive one bottle per day of a beverage containing 625 mg of catechins with 39 mg caffeine or a control beverage containing caffeine, but no catechins.

Participants were instructed to increase their activity level, with a goal of at least 180 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. They were also required to attend at least 3 supervised exercise sessions per week.

There was a trend toward greater loss of body weight in the catechin group compared to the control group throughout the 12-week trial. Percentage changes in total abdominal fat and subcutaneous abdominal fat were significantly greater in the catechin group.

4. Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes

diabetes insulin resistant hormone blood sugar fuel fat green tea natural health benefits

Insulin (hormone) allows the cells to take in sugar from the blood to be used as fuel or stored as fat. When the cells become insulin resistant, blood sugar levels become too high, leading to type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that drinking green tea can increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.

A Japanese study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined the relationship between green tea and risk for type 2 diabetes. A cohort of 17,413 healthy men and women aged 40 to 65 were followed for 5 years. All participants completed a questionnaire on consumption of coffee and black, green or oolong tea. During the 5-year follow-up, 444 subjects developed type 2 diabetes.

Drinking 6 or more cups of green tea per day lowered the risk of diabetes by 33% compared to drinking less than one cup a week. Drinking more than 3 cups of coffee was also protective. There was no association between consumption of black or oolong teas and the decreased risk of diabetes.

A clinical trial published in BioMed Research International investigated the effects of green tea on diabetes risk factors. A total of 123 patients who had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic were randomly assigned to 2 groups. The experimental group drank one cup of green tea 3 times a day before meals for 14 weeks. The control group drank warm water.

During the trial, waist-hip ratio increased significantly in the female control group, whereas the female experimental group did not experience any changes. Green tea reduced ALT (alanine aminotransferase) levels in women by 13%. High blood levels of ALT is a predictor of type 2 diabetes. Another diabetes risk factor is decreased arterial pressure. Average arterial pressure did not decrease significantly in the green tea group, but men and women in the control group experienced a critical decline.

5. Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease

alzheimers disease neurological disorder plaque brain forgets memory green tea natural health benefits

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain.

Several animal studies have shown that the main catechin in green tea, EGCG, helps to protect the brain from neurological disorders. Laboratory research has shown that EGCG binds to beta-amyloid and inhibits plaque formation. EGCG also reduces the toxicity of beta-amyloid in cells.

A Japanese study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the association between green tea consumption and cognitive function. Researchers collected data from 1,003 participants aged over 70. The subjects completed dietary questionnaires on how many cups of green tea they consumed in a typical week. Research assistants tested participants’ cognitive function using the Mini-Mental State Examination, one of the tools used to diagnose Alzheimer’s.

Higher consumption of green tea was associated with lower cognitive impairment. Drinking 4-6 cups of green tea per week or one cup per day reduced the risk of cognitive impairment by 38%. Drinking 2 or more cups a day reduced risk of cognitive impairment by 54%. The researchers note that their results might partly explain the lower prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in Japan than in Europe and North America.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the neural effects of green tea extract on brain activation in humans. Functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans were recorded while 12 volunteers performed a challenging working memory task. They each repeated the task 4 times at one-week intervals after consuming either: a 250 ml green tea drink, 500 ml green tea drink, 250 ml placebo drink or a 500 ml placebo drink.

The fMRI scans revealed that green tea increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a key area that facilitates working memory processing in the human brain. The higher dose of green tea increased brain activity more than the lower dose. A similarly designed follow-up study showed that green tea improved performance on the working memory task.

6. Lowers the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

cardiovascular heart disease stroke anti inflammatory blood vessels clots chest pain green tea natural health benefits

Green tea helps to prevent heart disease and stroke in at least three ways. Anti-inflammatory flavonoids in green tea works to relax blood vessels, allows blood to flow more freely and reduces the chance of clots.

Catechins in green tea decrease the gut’s absorption of cholesterol, naturally lowering cholesterol levels. Antioxidants in green tea helps to prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol which leads to atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries).

A study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation tested the effects of green tea on the brachial artery. The width of this artery, which runs from the shoulder to the elbow, is a predictor of risk for cardiovascular disease. A wider artery reduces the risk of blood clots which can cause heart attacks and stroke.

A team of 14 healthy volunteers were given either 6 grams of green tea, 125 mg of caffeine (the amount contained in the tea) or hot water on 3 separate occasions. Dilation of the brachial artery was measured before and after they drank their beverage. Participants’ arteries significantly widened within 30 minutes of drinking the green tea. Neither caffeine nor water caused a significant effect.

A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effect of green tea on total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. Researchers analyzed data from 14 trials with 1,136 participants. In all of the studies, the treatment group consumed either green tea or green tea extract and the control group consumed a placebo.

The results showed that green tea significantly lowered total cholesterol and LDL, and had no effect on HDL. The researchers suggest that green tea could be incorporated into a dietary program as part of public health policy to improve cardiovascular health.

A prospective population study published in the Annals of Epidemiology investigated the association between green tea consumption and cardiovascular disease among elderly Japanese people. A cohort of 14,001 participants aged 65-84 completed questionnaires about their frequency of green tea consumption. During 6 years of follow up, there were 1,224 total deaths and 405 deaths due to cardiovascular disease.

Compared to people who drank less than one cup of green tea a day, those who drank 7 or more cups reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by an amazing 76%. Their risk for death by all causes was reduced by 55%.

7. Improves Oral Health

oral health periodontal diseases cavities halitosis bad breath gums tooth decay gingivitis plaque buildup green tea natural health benefits

Numerous studies have shown the beneficial effects of green tea for oral conditions including periodontal diseases, dental cavities and halitosis.

Laboratory research has shown that green tea catechins restrict the development and colonization of harmful bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis, which cause tooth decay and gum disease. Green tea reduces bad breath by suppressing the production of volatile sulfur compounds.

A Japanese study published in the Journal of Periodontology investigated the relationship between the intake of green tea and periodontal disease. Researchers analyzed data from 940 men who underwent a comprehensive preretirement health assessment. A dentist examined each participant for signs of gum disease and all the men completed a questionnaire about their tea drinking habits.

The results showed that the men who drank the most green tea had the best periodontal health. For every cup of tea consumed per day, there was a modest decrease in the 3 signs of gum disease measured. Periodontal pocket depth, loss of connective tissue attachment and bleeding on probing were all significantly reduced in green tea drinkers.

A comparative study tested the anti-plaque efficacy of a green tea mouthwash A total of 60 healthy children aged 9-14 were given dental treatment (scaling and polishing) to bring their plaque levels to zero. They were then randomly assigned to receive one of three types of mouthwash: 50% green tea extract diluted in water, a commercial fluoride mouthwash or a prescription germicidal mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate. The children were instructed to rinse their mouth twice a day after brushing.

After 2 weeks, the children were assessed for gingival status, plaque, oral hygiene and salivary pH. The green tea extract mouthwash was significantly more effective at reducing plaque than the other 2 mouthwashes. It was equally effective as chlorhexidine gluconate for maintaining healthy gums and more effective than fluoride. Green tea was also equally or more effective for sustaining pH levels and improving oral hygiene.

8. Protects the Liver

alcoholic liver non alcoholic fatty liver disease cancer green tea antioxidants natural health benefits

Oxidative stress plays a key role in alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer.

Green tea catechins can help to protect against liver disease and can even help to treat existing liver conditions. The EGCG in green tea reduces oxidative stress in liver cells through its potent antioxidant activity.

A randomized controlled trial published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine investigated the effects of green tea in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients. NAFLD is a type of liver disease associated with poor diet, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Researchers recruited 17 NAFLD patients aged 20-70. The participants were randomized to receive cans of green tea beverages containing either 1,080 mg catechins, 200 mg catechins or a placebo with no catechin content. They were instructed to consume the beverages daily with meals. Patients underwent full physical examinations and abdominal CT scans to determine the size of their liver.

After 12 weeks, body fat was significantly reduced in the high-catechin group compared to the other 2 groups. The high-catechin group also had significantly reduced liver fat content and liver inflammation, as well as decreased blood levels of markers associated with liver disease.

A systematic review published in Liver International analyzed data from 10 studies on green tea and liver disease conducted in China, Japan and the USA. Eight studies demonstrated a significant protective role of green tea against diseases such as liver cancer, cirrhosis and fatty liver disease. Four studies showed a positive correlation between green tea consumption and improvement in signs of liver disease. Researchers concluded that increased consumption of green tea may reduce the risk of liver disease.

9. Increases Longevity

longevity live long life premature death diseases cancer green tea natural health benefits

Green tea helps to lower the risk of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and some types of cancer.

It is also reasonable to assume that drinking green tea would help to protect against premature death. Indeed, a number of population studies have provided evidence that people who regularly drink green tea tend to live longer than non-tea drinkers.

A Japanese study published in JAMA investigated the associations between green tea consumption and mortality. Researchers followed-up a cohort of 40,530 adults aged 40-79 for 11 years. None of the participants had a history of stroke, coronary heart disease or cancer at the start of the study. All of them completed a questionnaire about consumption of green tea, oolong tea and black tea.

Over the course of the study, 4,209 participants died. Analysis of the data showed that drinking green tea reduced the risk of death from all causes. Drinking 5 or more cups of green tea per day lowered the risk of death by 23% in women and 12% in men. (The researchers speculate that the difference may be down to the fact that more men in the study were smokers.) Black tea and oolong tea consumption was not associated with reduced mortality.

A very large Chinese study used data from the Shanghai Health Study to examine the link between green tea and mortality. A total of 51,920 men and 64,034 women aged 40–74 were interviewed in person about their tea drinking habits. The men were followed up for an average of 8 years and the women for an average of 14 years.

Over the course of the study, 2,741 men and 3,776 women died. Overall, green tea consumption reduced the risk of death during the study period by 5%. However, for participants who had never smoked, the risk was reduced by 11%.

A Chinese study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society investigated the association between tea consumption and mortality in the very old. Researchers collected data on frequency of tea drinking from 9,093 adults aged 80 and above. Over the following 7 years, 6,280 participants died. Daily tea drinkers had a 10% reduction in mortality compared with non-tea drinkers.

Final Word

If you regularly drink tea or coffee, switching to green tea in particular is a good way to protect yourself against a variety of diseases. Coffee has its own health benefits, but green tea is a good option if you want to cut down on caffeine.

Don’t be put off by studies where participants had to drink 6-7 cups of green tea per day to reap the most benefits. Most of this research comes from Japan where tea cups hold around 4-6 ounces, much less than a typical 12-ounce coffee mug.

If you don’t like the taste of green tea, supplement capsules are available. These can vary widely in the amount of EGCG and catechins they contain. Learn to read the labels. A capsule containing 175 mg of EGCG is equivalent to drinking 2-3 cups of green tea.

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7 Best Natural Home Remedies & Treatment for Allergies & Symptoms Relief

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allergies food rhinitis itchy watery eyes sneezing seasonal rash wheezing natural remedies

According to the CDC allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology reports that the prevalence of allergic diseases in the industrialized world has continued to rise for more than 50 years. Roughly 8% of U.S. adults have hay fever and 8% of children have a food allergy.

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an over-reaction of the immune system to a substance in the environment that causes little or no problem for the majority of the population.

The body reacts to an allergen by making antibodies and releasing inflammatory compounds such as histamines. The inflammatory process results in a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

Different Types of Allergies

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal tissue caused by an airborne allergen. Symptoms include stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and itching. There are 3 main types of allergic rhinitis:

  • Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis is a reaction to mold spores or pollens from trees, grasses or weeds.
  • House dust mite allergy is a reaction to proteins in the excrement of dust mites, microscopic organisms that thrive in warm houses.
  • Pet allergies are a reaction to dander (flaky, dead skin cells) from mammals, most commonly from cats.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to a particular food. According to the FDA, these 8 most common allergenic foods account for 90% of food allergic reactions.

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish
  4. Crustacean shellfish
  5. Tree nuts
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

Food allergy symptoms range from mild to severe. They can include a raised itchy rash (hives), swelling of the face, difficulty swallowing, an itchy mouth, vomiting, abdominal pain, wheezing or shortness of breath.

Other Allergies

People can have allergic reactions to a wide variety of triggers including medications, insect stings, environmental chemicals, food additives, latex and cockroaches.

7 Research-Based Remedies for Allergies

1. Probiotics

probiotics allergies natural remedies fermented foods gut health

The intestinal microbiome performs a critical role in the development of immune tolerance. Research has shown that certain strains of gut bacteria can help to prevent the immune system from overreacting to non-harmful substances. When these bacteria are not present in the gut microflora, allergic reactions are more likely to occur.

Using probiotics to increase the amount and diversity of beneficial bacteria could be helpful in treating a range of allergies and autoimmune diseases.

A study analyzed data from 1,879 participants in the American Gut Project to determine the association between gut microbial population and the risk of allergies in adults. The participants provided fecal samples and filled in questionnaires about their allergies. More than 80% of subjects reported reactions to at least one allergen.

People with allergies, especially to nuts and seasonal pollen, had markedly fewer bacteria species in their fecal microbiota than people without allergies. Their microbiota showed a reduction in Clostridiales and an increase in Bacteroidales. Researchers noted that this bacterial imbalance could be targeted to improve treatment or prevention of allergies.

A randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested whether a combination of probiotics could improve quality of life for people with seasonal allergies. During the spring allergy season, 173 participants were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group received a supplement containing Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum. The control group received a placebo supplement.

Throughout the 8-week study, participants completed daily and weekly questionnaires that asked about their allergy symptoms and how those symptoms affected their activities at home and at work. Over the course of the study, the probiotic group showed a significant improvement in quality of life scores compared with the placebo group. The probiotic group also reported a significant decrease in symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose and runny nose.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology evaluated the use of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus in combination with oral immunotherapy for treating peanut allergy. Oral immunotherapy involves feeding allergic people very small doses of peanut protein and gradually increasing the amount.

A total of 56 allergic children were randomized to receive either the combination therapy or a placebo. After 18 months of treatment, 82% of children in the probiotic group had no allergic reaction to peanuts compared to less than 4% in the placebo group.

A follow-up study published in the Lancet found that 67% of the original participants who received combined treatment with probiotics were still eating peanuts 4 years later. Four of the treated children had experienced an allergic reaction to peanuts, but none had an anaphylaxis (life threatening) reaction.

Method: Increase the beneficial microbes in your gut by consuming naturally fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee or tempeh.

Before buying yogurt, read the label to ensure it contains live, active cultures. Many commercial brands are pasteurized, a process that destroys good bacteria along with the bad.

If you use probiotic supplements, take them on an empty stomach and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. This will reduce the chance of bacteria being destroyed by stomach acid.

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2. Omega-3

allergies natural remedies omega 3 essential fatty acid anti inflammatory

Omega-3 essential fatty acids have protective effects in inflammatory diseases including allergies.

Research suggests a causal relationship between decreased intake of omega-3 in modern diets and an increasing number of people with allergic diseases. Laboratory tests have shown that omega-3 DHA reduces levels of immunoglobulin E, an antibody that is critical for the onset and maintenance of allergic diseases.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the association of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with allergic sensitization and allergic rhinitis. A total of 568 adult participants were interviewed 3 times about their food intake over the previous 24 hours. Researchers used this data to calculate their average dietary intake of essential fatty acids.

Blood tests were used to detect participants’ sensitivity to common allergens including cat and dog dander, pollen and dust mites. Participant’s blood was also tested for levels of fatty acids.

Subjects with the highest levels of EPA (a type of omega-3 found in fish oil) in their blood were significantly less likely to be sensitive to allergens or to suffer from allergic rhinitis. A higher dietary intake of ALA (a type of omega-3 found in nuts) was also associated with a decreased risk of allergic sensitization and allergic rhinitis.

A randomized controlled trial published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy examined the effects of fish oil on the early development of allergies. Researchers randomly assigned 420 infants into 2 groups. The treatment group received fish oil supplements containing 280 mg DHA and 110 mg EPA. The control group were given a placebo.

After 6 months, infants in the fish oil group had significantly higher levels of DHA and EPA and lower levels of omega-6 arachidonic acid. Analysis of blood samples showed that they also had significantly lower allergic responses to house dust mites and milk proteins.

Method: Increase your intake of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines.

You can also boost your levels of omega-3 by taking a daily supplement containing DHA and EPA. Choose from fish oil, cod liver oil, krill oil or algae oil.

Avoid supplements labeled Omega 3-6-9.   If you eat a standard modern diet, you are probably already getting too much omega-6. Omega-9 (found in olive oil) is not an essential fatty acid.

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3. Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean diet allergies natural remedies raw fresh fruits vegetables fish whole wheat anti inflammatory A Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in omega-6 fats, has been associated with a lower prevalence of asthma and allergies. This could be due to antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables which seem to have a protective effect.

The use of olive oil in place of vegetable oils and margarine, along with higher consumption of fish, may also help to lower the incidence of allergies by reducing inflammation caused by an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

A study published in the BMJ journal Thorax examined whether high consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, typical of a Mediterranean diet, could be protective against allergies and asthma. Researchers collected data from 690 children aged 7–18 on the Greek island of Crete. Parents completed a questionnaire on their child’s allergic and respiratory symptoms along with 58-item food frequency questionnaire. The children underwent skin prick tests with 10 common airborne allergens.

A daily intake of grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes had a protective effect against wheezing and allergic rhinitis. Children who consumed nuts more than 3 times a week were also less prone to wheezing. In contrast, consumption of margarine raised the risk of wheezing and allergic rhinitis.

A study published in the journal Allergy assessed whether a Mediterranean diet for mothers and their children reduced childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis. Researchers collected data on the food intake of 1, 476 Mexican children over 12 months via questionnaires given to parents. They also used questionnaires to assess the mother’s food intake during pregnancy. Data on childhood symptoms was obtained through an asthma and allergies questionnaire.

For children, greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet including vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereal and fish was associated with having less asthma, wheezing, allergic rhinitis, sneezing and itchy-watery eyes. Children with the highest adherence to the diet reduced their risk of asthma by 60% and their risk of allergy symptoms by 21-36%.

Method: There are different versions of the Mediterranean diet, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Maximize your intake of vegetables, legumes and fruits
  • Switch to wholegrain bread and pasta
  • Increase the amount of fish in your diet (especially oily fish) and limit red meat
  • Use olive oil in place of high omega-6 fats such as corn oil or margarine
  • Snack on fruit and nuts
  • Avoid fast food and processed food
  • Enjoy an occasional glass of red wine with dinner

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4. Vitamin D

allergies natural remedies vitamin d deficiency omega 3 cod liver oil sunlight eggs peas cheese dairy fish

Since the 1960s, the incidence of allergic diseases has increased worldwide, with industrialized countries at higher absolute latitudes (furthest away from the equator) having the highest prevalence.

One theory to explain this phenomenon is vitamin D deficiency. As populations become more prosperous and more westernized, more time is spent indoors. Less exposure to sunlight results in lower vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D plays an important role in immune function. Research has shown that the vitamin activates regulatory cells that inhibit the release of chemicals that cause or worsen allergies, so allergies are more likely to occur in people who are vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency can alter the composition of gastrointestinal microbiota, leading to an imbalance in the immune system.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a study to estimate the incidence of anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) throughout the United States. They analyzed a billing database including 24 pediatric hospitals in 18 states for all patient encounters billed as anaphylaxis over a 5-year period. They then divided the hospitals geographically along a north-south line extending roughly from Washington, DC to Sacramento, California.

Anaphylaxis cases caused by food, serum, immunization and other allergens were all more common in the northern hospitals. The north had double the cases of food allergy anaphylaxis compared with the south. Researchers suggest that this north-south gradient might be due to differences in vitamin D status.

An Australian study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology investigated the role of vitamin D in the development of childhood food allergy. Melbourne, the major Australian city furthest from the equator, has the highest reported prevalence of infantile food allergy in the world. Researchers recruited 5,276 infants attending one-year-old immunization sessions in Melbourne clinics. The children were given skin-prick tests for 4 common food allergens. Blood tests were used to determine vitamin D levels.

Australian children with vitamin D insufficiency were 3 times more likely to be allergic to eggs and 11 times more likely to be allergic to peanuts. They were also more likely to have multiple food allergies compared with children with sufficient levels of vitamin D. Researchers concluded that vitamin D sufficiency may be an important protective factor for food allergy during the first year of life.

Method: If you live in a Northern climate, aim to expose your skin to sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day between April and September.

To keep your vitamin D levels up during the winter, consider taking a daily supplement. Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D as well as omega-3.

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5. Quercetin

allergies natural remedies quercetin histamines anti inflammatory antioxidant apples red onion kale berries

Quercetin is a polyphenol from the flavonoid group. It is found in varying quantities in a wide range of plant foods including apples, red onions, sweet potato, kale, cranberries and blueberries.

Research has shown that quercetin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also inhibits the release of histamines during exposure to allergens. Histamines are known to trigger allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.

A Japanese study assessed the effect of apple polyphenols on clinical symptoms of persistent allergic rhinitis. The 33 patients enrolled in the study were allergic to house dust mites and had experienced moderate or severe symptoms for at least 3 years. The participants were randomized into 3 groups.

The low-dose group received a drink containing 50 mg of apple polyphenols. The high-dose group received a drink containing 200 mg of apple polyphenols. The control group received a placebo. Patients had one drink a day for 4-weeks.

Nasal signs and symptoms were scored independently before and after treatment using a 4-point scale. Consumption of apple polyphenols led to greater improvements in nasal discharge, sneezing attacks and swelling in the nasal passages compared with the placebo. Nasal discharge improved more in the high-dose group than the low-dose group.

A study published in Acta Bio Medica tested the efficacy of a quercetin supplement for relief of seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms. At the beginning of the study, the 23 subjects had nasal and eye symptoms typical of seasonal allergic rhinitis. They also tested positive for pollen allergy. Participants were given a supplement containing quercetin along with vitamin D and Perilla frutescens (an Asian herb traditionally used for respiratory complaints).

After one month of supplementation, patients showed a 70% reduction in total symptom scores and had reduced their use of anti-allergic drugs by 73%. They had highly significant reductions in symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, watery eyes and red eyes.

Method: You should be able to achieve 50 mg a day of quercetin by including a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. According to the USDA, a whole apple, eaten with the skin on, contains about 4 mg of quercetin per 100 grams, so a medium apple could contain up to 10 grams. Red onions contain 32 mg of quercetin per 100 grams, kale contains 23 mg, cranberries contain 15 mg and sweet potato contains 10 mg.

The recommended dose for hay fever is 400 mg twice a day in between meals. For general maintenance, you can take 100-250 mg of quercetin up to 3 times a day.

If it is difficult for you to obtain quercetin from diet alone, you can take a supplement during allergy season.

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6. Stinging Nettle

allergies natural remedies stinging nettle histamines allergen green leaves tea

Stinging nettle is an old folk remedy for hay fever.

Laboratory tests have shown that nettle extract inhibits several key inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies. In particular, it reduces the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. Some doctors recommend taking freeze-dried stinging nettle supplements before the start of hay fever season.

A clinical trial published in Planta Medica assessed the efficacy of stinging nettle supplements for treating hay fever symptoms. A total of 69 volunteers were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group were given 300 mg of freeze-dried stinging nettle capsules and the control group were given a placebo. All participants were told to take 2 capsules upon onset of hay fever symptoms and to record their responses within 1 hour. Subjects took an average of 18 doses during the trial period.

In the stinging nettle group, 32% reported dramatic improvement and 84% reported moderate improvement in at least 1 symptom (runny nose, stuffy nose or watery eyes). When asked to make an overall assessment of the nettle supplement, 58% rated it as moderately or highly effective. When asked to compare it to other hay fever medicines, 48% rated it as the same or more effective.

Method: You can ingest stinging nettle as a food, as a tea or in a supplement capsule.

  • Wearing gloves, pick the tops of young nettles before they begin to form flowers. Cooking the nettles neutralizes their sting. Use them like spinach in soups, stews or pasta dishes.
  • To make nettle tea, stir a tablespoon of dried nettle leaf into 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep for about 10 minutes, then strain into a cup.
  • Nettle supplement capsules can range from 200 mg to 900 mg, so follow the dosage instructions on the label. Do not take nettle supplements if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

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7. Butterbur

butterbur allergies natural remedies herb antihistamine white

The herb butterbur has been used as a folk remedy for allergies and asthma.

Laboratory tests have shown that the active ingredient in butterbur, petasin, blocks the action of leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals involved in allergic reactions. Trials on patients with allergic rhinitis have shown that butterbur is just as effective as antihistamine drugs.

A study published in Phytotherapy Research compared butterbur extract to the pharmaceutical antihistamine fexofenadine (Allegra) for treating allergic rhinitis. Researchers randomized 330 people with hay fever into 3 groups. One group was given butterbur supplement tablets, the comparison group received fexofenadine tablets, and the control group was given a placebo.

Butterbur and fexofenadine were both significantly superior to the placebo in improving allergic rhinitis symptoms. The herbal supplement was just as effective as the pharmaceutical drug, with no significant difference in symptom improvement.

Another randomized controlled trial published in the BMJ compared the efficacy and tolerability of butterbur with the pharmaceutical antihistamine cetirizine (Zirtec). Researchers recruited 125 outpatients who had been diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Subjects were randomized to receive either butterbur tablets or cetirizine tablets for 2-weeks. At the beginning and end of treatment, patients filled in symptom questionnaires. They also had a full medical examination and laboratory tests.

Improvement in symptom scores was similar in butterbur and cetirizine treatment groups for all items tested. Clinical assessment scores were also the same for patients in both groups. Some patients in the cetirizine group reported side effects of drowsiness and fatigue. The researchers recommend that butterbur should be considered when the sedating effects of antihistamines must be avoided.

Method: When purchasing butterbur supplements, check the label for phrases like ‘free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids’ or ‘PA free’. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), found in some butterbur products, can damage the liver or lungs if ingested.

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Final Word

If you take steps to control your allergies with natural remedies, you may see a range of other health benefits. By ensuring that you get sufficient vitamin D and adopting a diet that includes probiotics, oily fish and a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts, you can boost your immune system and lower your risk for a range of inflammatory diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

If you take prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines and experience unwanted side-effects, it may be worth experimenting with herbal alternatives. Keep a daily symptoms diary to discover which remedies work best for you.

8 Best Natural Home Remedies & Treatment for Back Pain Relief

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back pain lumbar spinal cord injury numbness tingling natural remedies

Back pain is a very common condition. According to the NIH, about 80% percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetime. It is the greatest cause of work-related disability and one of the top reasons for workplace absences.

The American Chiropractic Association notes that back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor (after respiratory infections) and that half of all working Americans experience back pain symptoms each year.

Back pain can be felt anywhere from the neck down, but the majority of cases are associated with the lower back or lumbar spine. The pain can develop due to problems with the bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, nerves or spinal cord. However, most cases are described as ‘non-specific’, meaning there is no obvious cause.

Back pain tends to last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The pain is considered ‘chronic’ if it persists for more than three months.

Usual treatments for acute back pain include over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen, muscle relaxers or prescription painkillers such as codeine.

Severe or chronic back pain may be treated with physical therapy or manual therapy (chiropractic). Surgery is only recommended for specific medical conditions and used as a last resort.

None of the home remedies here will provide instant pain relief. However, they can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of your back pain over time. They can also help to lower your risk of experiencing back pain in the future.

8 Evidence-Based Home Remedies for Back Pain

1. Vitamin D

vitamin d sunlight inflammation weak bones muscles back pain natural remedies

Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption and building strong bones. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to the softening of bone surfaces in the spine, weaker muscles in the back and inflammation in the vertebrae.

Research has shown that patients with low back pain have significantly lower blood levels of vitamin D than healthy controls.

A Brazilian study investigated the association between back pain and vitamin D deficiency in 9,305 postmenopausal women. Blood tests showed that 24% of the women had low levels of vitamin D. Questionnaires revealed that they had more back pain than women with normal vitamin D levels, and the pain was more frequent and more severe. The low vitamin D participants also reported more restrictions to daily activities such as putting on socks or getting out of a car.

A clinical trial published in Pain Physician assessed the impact of vitamin D supplementation on 68 patients with chronic lower back pain. All of the participants were deficient in vitamin D and had been experiencing back pain for at least 3 months. They filled out pain and disability questionnaires at intervals throughout the study.

Patients were given high-dose vitamin D supplements for 8 weeks or until blood tests showed that their vitamin D levels were within normal range. They were then given a maintenance dose of vitamin D for 6-months.

Pain scores significantly decreased after 2 months of supplementation. After 6 months, 63% of patients achieved effective pain relief, defined as a 50% or greater reduction in pain scores. Patients also had a significant reduction in functional disability.

Method: While foods such as oily fish, eggs, liver and mushrooms provide some vitamin D, it’s difficult to obtain all you need from your diet.

Your body produces vitamin D in response to UV rays of sunlight. If you live in a sunny climate, try to expose your skin to the sun for at least 15 minutes a day between the hours of 12 pm to 2 pm.

If you live in a climate with cold, dark winters, you may need a daily 10 mcg vitamin D supplement to avoid deficiency. Vitamin D also helps to battle against seasonal anxiety and depression.

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2. Medium-Firm Mattress

mattress medium firm stable support spine back pain side sleeping natural remedies

Although extra-firm mattresses are often recommended for people with back pain, a medium-firm mattress may be a better choice.

Research has shown that when a person lies on their side on a hard mattress, only the hip and shoulder are supported and the spine flexes toward the mattress. On a soft mattress, the hip and shoulder sink down and the spine bends away from the mattress. A medium-firm mattress offers the best support for the lower back.

A controlled trial published in The Lancet assessed the effect of mattress firmness on 313 patients with chronic lower back pain. The participants were randomly assigned to sleep on either a firm mattress or a medium firm mattress. They were not told which type of mattress they had received.

After 90 days, the group who slept on the medium-firm mattresses had less pain in bed, less pain on rising and less disability than patients with firm mattresses. Throughout the study, participants with medium-firm mattresses also had less lower back pain during the day and while lying in bed.

A study published in Applied Ergonomics tested the effect of prescribed mattresses on 27 patients diagnosed with lower back pain and stiffness. For 3 weeks, participants slept in their own beds and rated their back and shoulder pain, sleep quality and comfort. The patients’ beds were then replaced with medium-firm mattresses layered with foam and latex. They continued rating their pain and sleep quality for the following 12 weeks.

Back pain and stiffness progressively improved while sleeping on the new mattress and physical discomfort decreased. There was also a significant decrease in the number of ‘poor sleep days’ per week.

In a study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 59 men and women kept a record of their back pain and sleep quality for 4-weeks while sleeping in their own beds. They also completed a stress questionnaire. Participants’ beds were then replaced with new medium-firm ones. They rated their back discomfort and sleep quality for a further 4 weeks and repeated the stress questionnaire.

The medium-firm bedding systems reduced back pain by approximately 48% and improved sleep quality by 55%. Symptoms of stress also significantly decreased.

Method: If your mattress is uncomfortably hard or soft and saggy, it may well be contributing to your back pain. While a new medium-firm mattress is an expensive investment, it could be cheaper than repeated visits to a chiropractor.

If you can’t afford a new mattress, look for bargain deals on a memory foam mattress topper. A medium-density foam (60kg/m³) will provide medium-firm support.

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3. Fish Oil

fish oil inflammation back pain arthritis joint essential fatty acid omega 3 natural remedies

Fish oil, rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation associated with a range of health conditions.

For example, a meta-analysis of 17 randomized, controlled trials found that omega-3 supplementation reduced joint pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and menstrual cramps. Research suggests that the omega-3 found in fish oil could also be an effective treatment for back pain.

A study published in Surgical Neurology investigated the use of fish oil for pain relief. Researchers followed 250 participants that had been evaluated by a neurosurgeon for neck or back pain. Most of the patients had been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease (DDD), and all of them were taking prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control their pain.

For 2 weeks, the participants were given daily fish oil supplements containing 2,400 mg of omega-3 EFAs. Patients were then asked to cut the dosage of omega-3 in half and were given the option to reduce their use of NSAID medications.

After an average of 75 days on fish oil, patients returned questionnaires about spine pain, joint pain and level of NSAID usage. The survey data showed that 60% of patients had an improvement in overall pain and joint pain, and 80% were satisfied with their improvement. As a result, 59% of patients had stopped taking NSAIDs and 88% said they would continue to take fish oil supplements.

More evidence that fish oil can reduce back pain comes from a trial involving 20 patients with asthenopia, the medical term for eye-strain. Asthemopia is often associated with back pain because both conditions are common in people who sit in front of computer screens for hours at a time.

The participants were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group received a supplement containing fish oil along with bilberry extract and lutein (thought to be effective for maintaining eye health). The other group received a placebo.

Before and after 4 weeks of supplementation, subjects completed a questionnaire about their symptoms. Symptoms such as eye fatigue, eye flicker and eye redness did not improve significantly more in the treatment group than in the placebo group. However, the fish oil supplement did significantly improve symptoms of low back pain and shoulder stiffness.

Method: You can increase the amount of omega-3 in your diet by eating at least 2 portions of oily fish a week. Examples include trout, salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines.

Alternatively, take a fish oil supplement or an algae-based omega-3 supplement containing DHA and EPA.

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4. Yoga

yoga stretches poses back pain strengthen muscles flexibility natural remedies

Several aspects of yoga practice can reduce back pain. Holding certain yoga positions strengthens muscles in the back.

Yoga stretches reduce muscle tension and promote flexibility in back muscles and joints. Yoga poses improve posture, align the body, and help to maintain the natural curvature of the spine.

A randomized trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared the effectiveness of yoga and usual care for back pain. Researchers recruited 313 volunteers who had visited a general medical practice with chronic or recurrent low back pain.

Participants were randomized into 2 groups. The intervention group was offered a 3-month program of weekly 75-minute yoga classes. The control group continued with usual care. All participants filled in a standard back pain and disability questionnaire at the beginning and end of the study. The yoga group had significantly greater improvements in back function at 3, 6, and 12 months compared to the usual care group.

A randomized trial compared the effectiveness of yoga and physical therapy for chronic lower back pain. A total of 320 patients being treated for back pain were assigned to 3 groups. One group received yoga classes every week for 3 months, one group had 15 visits to a physical therapist over 3 months, and a third group received self-help educational materials. During the 9-month maintenance phase of the study, patients continued yoga or physical therapy exercises at home.

The yoga and physical therapy groups showed almost the same amount of improvement in pain and physical function at 3 months and one year. Both interventions produced similar improved scores for quality of life. The yoga and physical therapy groups were also about 21% less likely to use pain medication after 3 months compared to the education group. Researchers concluded that yoga was just as beneficial as standard physical therapy for treating lower back pain.

Method: If it’s inconvenient for you to attend a yoga class, you can practice at home. Videos that demonstrate yoga poses for back pain are available online. You can also purchase ‘yoga for back pain’ DVDs. For best results, aim to do at least two 60-minute yoga sessions a week.

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5. Sleep

good sleep growth hormone muscle repair back pain joint spine natural remedies

Lack of sleep aggravates back pain in several ways. During sleep, the body releases growth hormones which stimulate muscle repair. Without adequate sleep, strained back muscles don’t have a chance to recover and are less able to support the spine and keep it in aligned.

Research has shown that the spinal discs have an internal 24-hour body clock. Disruptions to circadian rhythms due to irregular or inadequate sleep may contribute to degenerative intervertebral disc disease. In addition, lack of sleep lowers the pain threshold, intensifying the perception of backache.

A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatology investigated the effect of sleep quality and pain intensity in patients with acute lower back pain. Researchers analyzed data from 1,246 patients with recent-onset lower back pain. At the beginning of the study, and for the following 12 weeks, patients recorded their sleep quality on a 4-point scale ranging from ‘very bad’ to ‘very good’. They also rated their back pain on a 10-point scale ranging from ‘no pain’ to ‘worst possible pain’.

Analysis of the data showed that for every one-point decrease in sleep quality, back pain intensity increased by two points. On the 10-point scale, patients with very bad sleep quality rated their pain as 6 points higher than patients with very good sleep quality.

A Finnish study investigated the association between sleep disturbances and lower back pain in 360 working male firefighters. Participants filled in health questionnaires at the beginning of the study that asked them to estimate how many days they had experienced radiating or local lower back pain in the last 12 months. They also filled in a questionnaire about sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue. The men provided additional data after 3 years and at the end of the 13-year study.

The prevalence of radiating lower back pain increased from 16 to 23% during the 3-year follow-up and rose to 29% during the 13-year follow-up. Participants who reported sleep problems at the beginning of the study were almost two and a half times more likely to develop new back pain or to develop chronic radiating back pain.

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain examined the bidirectional relationship between back pain and sleep quality. A total of 80 patients with lower back pain completed a sleep diary. A subgroup of 50 patients wore an electronic armband to measure their sleep over the course of a week. All of the participants rated their back-pain intensity twice a day.

The data showed that difficulty falling sleep, waking after sleep onset, or poor quality sleep were all followed by a day with higher back-pain intensity. The researchers detected a vicious cycle. A day with higher back pain scores was associated with a decrease in sleep quality the following night, as well as an increase in time taken to fall asleep and waking up during the night.

Method: Follow these 7 Tips on How to Get Better Sleep.

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6. Sitting Time

sitting time office computer use standing breaks back pain stiffness natural remedies

Increasing numbers of people in the industrialized world spend most of their working day seated in an office chair. Sitting increases stress on the spine and back muscles.

Research has shown that individuals who are sedentary in an office environment are more prone to back pain than those who move around more. Fortunately, research also suggests a simple solution to reduce lower back pain symptoms: frequent, short, standing rest breaks.

A Danish study investigated the association between sitting time and lower back pain in 201 blue-collar workers. Participants were recruited from 7 occupations with varying amounts of time spent seated. Workers were asked to rate their worst intensity of lower back pain during the past month on a 10-point scale ranging from ‘no pain’ to ‘worst imaginable pain’.

All of the participants were fitted with accelerometers on their thighs and torso which they wore for 4 continuous days. The devices objectively measured sitting time and recorded the data. Analysis showed that high sitting time was positively associated with high lower back pain for occupational sitting time, leisure sitting time and total sitting time.

A study published in Human Factors compared interventions aimed at reducing musculoskeletal discomfort in a sedentary workplace. Four different workstations were installed in a call center: a conventional workstation, a sit-stand workstation, a conventional workstation with software that reminded workers to take a standing break, and a sit-stand workstation with break-reminder software. Worker discomfort was measured by a survey and by video monitoring.

Short-term discomfort in the shoulders, upper back and lower back was significantly reduced when workers were periodically reminded to take a break, independent of workstation type. Productivity increased by about 10%.

Method: If you spend most of the day sitting in front of a computer screen, try to move every 20 minutes. Stand, straighten your back and roll your shoulders.

If you can, set an alarm on your PC or phone to remind you to get up once an hour and walk to the water-cooler, coffee machine or around the office.

Use your breaks to take short outdoor walks rather than eating at your desk or checking email. Take every opportunity to move. If you don’t need to type-in data, stand and pace when talking on the phone.

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7. Sitting Posture

sitting posture slouching stress spine back pain lumbar recline computer use office natural remedies

One study of office workers found that subjects largely worked in a screen-oriented upright position and rarely reclined in their seats.

While it’s true that slouching over a desk is bad for your spine, constantly sitting up straight can also lead to back pain. A reclining position will shift your weight onto the backrest, allowing back muscles to relax and takes the pressure off spinal discs.

A study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America used whole-body positional MRIs to determine which sitting position put the least biomechanical stress on the lumbar spine. The researchers recruited 22 healthy volunteers with no history of back pain and asked them to assume 3 different sitting positions.

They were scanned slouching forward at about a 70-degree angle, sitting straight upright at a 90-degree angle or reclining backward at a 135-degree angle. Measurements were taken of spinal disk height and movement in each position.

The relaxed, reclining sitting position was shown to cause the least strain on the lumbar spine, most significantly when compared with an upright seating posture.

Method: Experiment with adjusting your office chair so that you naturally lean back slightly rather than sitting up straight or leaning forward. Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Your back should be in contact with, and supported by the chair.

If you need to sit upright to type, adopt a relining position when performing other tasks such as reading reports.

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8. Exercise

exercise aerobics core flexibility endorphins blood flow muscle strengthening back pain joints spine natural remedies

A general exercise program that improves muscular strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness can help to decrease back pain in several ways:

  • Increased core muscular strength supports the lumbar spine.
  • Increased flexibility of tendons and ligaments in the back enhances range of motion and functionality.
  • Aerobic exercise stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to soft tissues in the back, accelerating the healing process and reducing stiffness.
  • Exercise raises levels of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, providing a natural form of pain relief.

A systematic review published in Healthcare examined the effects of exercise and physical activity on back pain. Researchers complied data from 14 studies of exercise intervention programs for adults with non-specific chronic lower back pain.

They found that all types of exercise studied were beneficial for back pain sufferers including moderate aerobic exercise, muscle strength and core stabilization exercises, and stretching and flexibility exercises such as Pilates.

A randomized controlled trial published in Clinical Rehabilitation compared an aerobic walking program and a muscle strengthening program for 52 sedentary patients with chronic lower back pain. One group performed moderate-intensity treadmill walking. The other group conducted a series of muscle strengthening exercises. Both programs involved 2 sessions a week for 6-weeks.

At the beginning and end of the study, patients conducted a 6-minute walking test and back muscle endurance test. They also filled in questionnaires about back pain and disability.

Both exercise groups significantly improved in all outcome measures. Back pain was reduced by 20% in the aerobic exercise group and 15% in the muscle strengthening group.

Method: The ideal exercise program for back pain involves muscle strengthening exercises, aerobic activity and flexibility exercises. However, most people find it difficult to stick to this type of regime. Since any form of moderate intensity exercise is helpful for back pain, choose a type of physical activity that you enjoy and can fit into your daily routine.

You don’t need to join a gym or a sports team. Around 150 minutes per week of brisk walking, cycling, hiking, swimming or dancing can all be beneficial.

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Final Word

Back pain is often preceded by minor discomfort, so listen to your body. Be aware of your posture and avoid positions (such as slouching or twisting) that strain your spine or back muscles.

If you’re sitting and notice your back muscles start to feel tense, stand up and stretch or go for a walk. If you can’t find a comfortable sleeping position, or frequently wake up with a stiff back, consider a new mattress.

Be sure to see your doctor if your back pain is accompanied by other worrying or worsening symptoms. Back pain that occurs along with abdominal pain, numbness in the groin or buttocks, incontinence, or weakness in the legs could be the sign of a serious problem.

7 Best Natural Home Remedies & Treatment for Eczema & Psoriasis Relief

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Eczema psoriasis skin disease red itchy patches dry cracked bumps natural remedies

Eczema and psoriasis are distinct skin diseases with a number of things in common. Both are related to problems with the immune system.

Eczema and psoriasis result in symptoms of inflamed, red, cracking and itching skin. Both are subject to flare-ups and remission periods.

The standard treatments for eczema and psoriasis are also the same, such as corticosteroid creams, and in severe cases, immunosuppressant medications. The natural remedies described below may be equally helpful for both conditions.

Eczema

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition. According to the NIH, it affects 10-20% of children and 5-10% of adults.

The majority of eczema cases develop between the ages of 1-5 years old. While it is primarily a childhood disease, some cases persist into adolescence and adulthood. Eczema tends to occur periodically. It can even clear up for years before returning.

Eczema symptoms can include:

  • Discolored skin patches on various parts of the body
  • Dry, thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Small, raised bumps that may leak fluid and crust over
  • Itching, which may be severe, often worse at night
  • Raw, swollen sensitive skin

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory disorder caused by an immune system imbalance. Children with eczema often develop autoimmune disorders such as asthma and allergies.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis vulgaris is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by an overgrowth of skin cells. A 2013 World Health Organization report notes that while the worldwide prevalence of psoriasis is around 2%, studies in developed countries show prevalence rates of 4.6% on average.

Psoriasis can occur at all ages, but is primarily seen in adults. Though the condition is lifelong, the severity and areas of affected skin can vary over time. Most types of psoriasis cause symptoms for weeks or months that subside for a time until the next flare up.

Psoriasis symptoms can include:

  • Red plaques of skin covered in loose silvery scales
  • Small scaly spots
  • Skin that cracks and bleeds
  • Pain and itching
  • Stiff, swollen joints

Psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system that attacks healthy skin. White blood cells trigger inflammation and increased, rapid production of skin cells, which results in psoriasis plaques.

7 Science-Backed Natural Remedies for Eczema & Psoriasis

1. Fish Oil

fish oil eczema psoriasis omega 3-6 fatty acids anti inflammatory allergies natural remedies

Humans evolved on a diet containing equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Modern Western diets tend to contain about 15 times more omega-6 than omega-3.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, and a diet low in omega-3 increases the risk for many inflammatory diseases, including eczema and psoriasis. The best dietary source of omega-3 is oily fish.

Studies have shown that children who eat fish regularly are less likely to develop eczema and that fish oil or omega-3 supplements can improve symptoms for eczema patients.

In a Danish study, 26 patients with psoriasis were put on a low-fat diet supplemented with 30 ml of fish oil daily. After 4 months, 58% of the patients showed moderate or excellent improvement and 19% showed mild improvement. Laboratory tests revealed that the fish oil helped to inhibit the production of an inflammatory substance called leukotriene B4 which plays a role in eczema and psoriasis.

In a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, patients with atopic dermatitis were divided into 2 groups. The experimental group received a daily supplement containing 10 grams of fish oil. The control group received a supplement containing olive oil. After 12 weeks, the fish oil group had a significant improvement in itchiness and in overall severity of eczema.

A Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the effect of early fish consumption on allergic diseases. Researchers followed 3,285 children from birth to age 12. Approximately every 4 years, parents filled in questionnaires about lifestyle factors and symptoms of allergic diseases in their children.   At age 8, all the children had their blood tested for markers of common allergies.

The researchers analyzed data on the frequency of fish consumption at age 1, and signs of allergic diseases up to age 12. They found that those who ate fish at least twice a month in their first year were 75% less likely to develop eczema, asthma, seasonal allergies or food allergies.

A randomized controlled trial published in the British Journal of Dermatology examined the efficacy of omega-3 supplementation on 53 adult patients suffering from atopic eczema. The treatment group received a daily supplement containing 5.4 grams of DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish). The control group received a supplement containing omega-6 fatty acids. After 8 weeks, the omega-3 group showed a significant clinical improvement in atopic eczema compared to the control group. They also had a significant reduction in blood markers for inflammation.

Method: Aim to eat at least 2 portions of oily fish a week. Examples include salmon, trout, mackerel, swordfish, sardines, herring and fresh tuna.

Try to reduce your consumption of high omega-6 vegetable oils such as sunflower oil or corn oil and replace them with olive oil or coconut oil.

Fish oil contains substantial amounts of vitamin A, so if you choose to take a fish oil supplement, do not combine it with a multivitamin. Too much vitamin A can be toxic.

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2. Probiotics

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People with eczema and other atopic diseases tend to have different gut bacteria than healthy people.

Digestive diseases can lead to weakened immune systems, mental health disorders, and neurological diseases. Other health issues that are affected by digestive disorders include thyroid imbalances, joint pain, skin disorders, chronic fatigue, autism, ADHD, and numerous other disorders.

Everyone, including children can benefit from probiotics. A lot of times, our beneficial microbes are accidentally wiped out by systems that are intended to get rid of bad bacteria.

A healthy gut helps our body to fight against diseases and cancer-causing cells. 80 percent of our immune system is found in our digestive system, so it is vital to maintain appropriate levels of probiotics in our gastro-intestinal system.

One study found that several species known to be associated with inflammation were significantly higher in infants with eczema. These infants also had lower levels of good bacteria that have anti-inflammatory properties. It may be possible to prevent or treat eczema by using probiotics to change the mix of gut bacteria. However, it’s unclear which particular strains of bacteria are most effective.

A study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine tested the use of probiotics for the treatment of eczema in infants. Researchers randomly assigned 40 babies with eczema to treatment and control groups. All of the infants were scored using a standard diagnostic index for atopic dermatitis. Researchers also measured levels of Bifidobacterium bifidum (an anti-inflammatory bacteria) in the stool of each infant.

The babies in the treatment group received B. bifidum supplements for 4 weeks. Levels of B. bifidum in their stool samples increased sharply and their scores on the atopic dermatitis index were notably reduced. There were no significant changes in bacteria levels or dermatitis scores in the control group.

A placebo-controlled trial published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology investigated the effects of Lactobacillus sakei supplementation in 75 children with atopic eczema–dermatitis syndrome. Patients aged 2-10 years old were randomized to receive either a daily L sakei supplement or a daily placebo. They were scored on a diagnostic index of dermatitis before and after 12 weeks of treatment. Their blood was also tested for markers of inflammation.

There was a 31% average improvement in dermatitis scores in the probiotic group compared with a 13% improvement in the control group. Significantly more patients in the treatment group achieved improvements of at least 50%. The probiotic group also had lower levels of inflammation markers which were significantly correlated with their lower dermatitis scores.

A small study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy tested the effects of a probiotic yogurt on 10 adult patients with intractable atopic dermatitis. The participants were randomized to receive either a yogurt containing Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis or a placebo yogurt. After 4 weeks, they were crossed over to the alternative treatment. After each intervention, symptom scores were recorded and stool samples were taken.

Scores for itch and burning improved when patients ate the probiotic yogurt. Tests showed that the probiotic dynamically altered the patients’ microbiota, increasing levels of beneficial bacteria which tend to be lower in people with dermatitis.

Method: Add probiotic foods to your diet such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, Kimchi or raw milk. If you buy a commercial yogurt, look for one that contains live cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus thermophilus.

If you choose to try a probiotic supplement, make sure it contains at least 10-15 billion CFU (colony forming units). A multi-species supplement will give you the best chance of improving your microbiome.

Some probiotic supplements also contain prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria and help it to multiply more quickly.

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3. Oatmeal

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Oats contain phenolic compounds called avenanthramides that have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When oats are applied topically to the skin, the avenanthramides act to reduce itching and irritation.

The high concentration of starches and beta-glucan in oats help to protect skin and keep it moisturized. Very finely ground oatmeal, known as colloidal oatmeal, is a common ingredient in lotions for dry skin or dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are often treated with medications such as topical corticosteroids.

A study published in Dermatology tested whether a topical emollient made with oats could reduce the amount of topical corticosteroids used in infants with atopic dermatitis. A total of 173 babies were randomly divided into 2 groups. The treatment group received the oats emollient and the control group did not. Parents who treated their babies with the oats emollient reduced their use of corticosteroid cream by 42%, and the infants’ dermatitis showed significant improvement. Infants’ and parents’ quality of life also significantly improved.

A clinical study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology evaluated an oat-based skincare regimen for atopic dermatitis. A total of 50 dermatitis patients were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group received an oat-based body cream to be used twice daily (or more often if required) and an oat-based body wash to be used once daily in the shower or bath. After 2 weeks, the patients who used the oat products had significant improvements in scores of eczema severity and perceived itchiness. They also reported decreased discomfort and improved skin texture.

Two clinical trials published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology evaluated the effects of a 1% colloidal oatmeal cream on patients with atopic dermatitis. In the first trial, 29 patients used the cream for 14 days. Itch severity improved immediately after application. Scores on a dermatitis assessment and eczema severity index improved by day 3. After 2 weeks, 83% of patients has a 20% or greater improvement in itch and 86% had a 20% or greater improvement in dermatitis assessment scores.

A follow-up trial evaluated the moisturizing effects of the oatmeal cream in 30 dermatitis patients. Water loss through the skin was significantly reduced and skin hydration was significantly increased.

Method: Oatmeal baths, especially with colloidal oatmeal, are a popular home remedy for eczema and psoriasis. It forms a milky dispersion that keeps the oats suspended in the water for maximum contact with your skin. You can purchase colloidal oatmeal, but it’s easy to make your own:

  • Grind whole oats in a blender until they are the texture of whole wheat flour.
  • Run a warm bath and shake about one cup of colloidal oatmeal into the water as it fills.
  • Stir the water with your hand until the oats dissolve, then soak for 15 minutes.

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4. Vitamin D

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People with autoimmune diseases often have a genetic problem which leads to difficulties with vitamin D metabolism, causing a deficiency.

A study conducted over one year found that 58% of patients with chronic plaque psoriasis were deficient in vitamin D compared to 30% of healthy controls. In winter, vitamin D deficiency rose to 81% in psoriasis patients, but remained at 30% for the control group.

Vitamin D performs many biological functions that can help improve skin disorders. It promotes the integrity of the skin permeability barrier, suppresses inflammatory responses, enhances antimicrobial activity and inhibits over-proliferation of skin cells.

Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation is a safe and effective treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

A Japanese open-design study tested the effects of vitamin D3 on 17 patients with psoriasis. Most of the patients had been receiving treatment for their condition, but agreed to stop taking all psoriasis medication before the start of the study. All patients were given 1 microgram of oral vitamin D3 daily. Their psoriasis was clinically evaluated every 2 weeks. After 6 months, 76% of patients displayed moderate or greater improvement.

A clinical trial published in the British Journal of Dermatology assessed efficacy of oral vitamin D3 in 85 psoriasis patients. The patients were given 0.05 micrograms of vitamin D3 daily. Their dose was increased by 0.05 micrograms every 2 weeks as long as calcium concentrations in the urine remained normal. Over the course of the study, 88% of patients has some level of clinical improvement of psoriasis and 27% had complete improvement. After 6 months of vitamin D3 therapy, the average psoriasis area severity index score was reduced from 18 to 10.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology investigated the effects of vitamin D on atopic dermatitis. The researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 95 dermatitis patients and assessed the severity of their condition. They found that the frequency of winter exacerbations and of bacterial skin infections were higher in patients who had low levels of vitamin D. They then selected 22 patients with vitamin D deficiency and a history of skin infections to receive a 2000 IU vitamin D3 supplement daily. After 3 months, their atopic dermatitis symptoms showed significant improvement.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology tested vitamin D supplementation for winter-related atopic dermatitis in children. A total of 107 dermatitis patients aged 2-17 were randomly assigned to receive 1000 IU of vitamin D3 per day or a placebo. After one month, the children who took vitamin D had a clinically and statistically significant improvement in scores on an eczema severity index.

Method: Sun-exposure raises levels of vitamin D in the skin and can be helpful for eczema and psoriasis, however it’s important to take precautions to avoid sunburn. The best source of vitamin D is through dietary sources such as fish oil, however, if you have problems metabolizing vitamin D, you may need to take a daily supplement instead.

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5. Oolong Tea

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Oolong is a semi-green partially fermented tea. Studies have demonstrated that tea-drinking can suppress certain types of allergic reactions. Researchers believe that the polyphenols in oolong tea may have anti-allergic properties which help to prevent overactive immune responses.

A trial published in the Archives of Dermatology tested the effectiveness of oolong tea in 118 patients diagnosed with refractory atopic dermatitis. All of the participants were receiving standard eczema treatments at an outpatient clinic. They were instructed to drink a cup of oolong tea 3 times a day after meals. Representative skin sites were photographed at various intervals throughout the study.

After one month, 63% of patients showed a marked or moderate improvement. The initial severity of eczema had no influence on the clinical outcome. After 6 months, 54% of patients still showed a good response.

Method: To prepare the tea from loose leaves, use 2 teaspoons per cup, add freshly boiled water, steep for 5-minutes and strain. Drink 3-5 cups a day. Oolong tea has about half as much caffeine as coffee.

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6. Oregon Grape Root

oregon grape root bush blue berries eczema psoriasis skin disease mahonia aquifolium antimicrobial anti inflammatory antifungal natural remedies

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is not a grapevine, but a bush that produces waxy blue berries. It is commonly found in the forests of the North American Pacific coast.

The bark and root of the plant contains alkaloids with antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Research on skin cells from patients with psoriasis has shown that Oregon grape root inhibits abnormal skin cell growth and reduces inflammation.

A study conducted by the Dermatology and Cosmetic Center investigated the efficacy and safety of a topical cream containing Oregon grape extract for mild-to-moderate psoriasis. A total of 200 subjects were randomized to use either the Oregon grape cream or a placebo twice a day for 12 weeks. At intervals throughout the study, a physician assessed patients’ symptoms on a psoriasis severity index and patients completed a quality of life questionnaire. Both psoriasis severity and quality of life significantly improved for subjects in the Oregon grape extract group compared to those in the control group.

A review in the American Journal of Therapeutics examined the worldwide clinical experience with Oregon grape extract topical cream for the treatment of plaque psoriasis. Reports on 3 clinical trials conducted in different countries all showed statistically significant favorable results.

In one study, patients with bilateral psoriasis were treated with Oregon grape oil cream on one side their bodies and Dovonex cream (a prescription psoriasis medication) on the other. When patients were asked to compare the results, 63% rated the Oregon grape oil cream as equal to or better than the standard dermatological cream. The researchers concluded that Oregon grape is a safe and effective treatment for patients with mild-to-moderate psoriasis.

Method: Oregon grape root creams and lotions are available from herbal product retailers. Alternatively, you can make your own by mixing 15 drops of Oregon grape essential oil into one ounce of jojoba oil.

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7. Evening Primrose Oil

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One factor in the development of atopic eczema may be a defect in the functioning of an enzyme that converts linoleic acid (found in common vegetable oils) to gamma linolenic acid.

Gamma linolenic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid which the body converts to substances that decrease inflammation and inhibits skin cell growth. Evening primrose oil is a rich source of gamma linolenic acid and several studies have found that it is an effective treatment for eczema.

A meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Dermatology analyzed 9 controlled trials of evening primrose oil for the treatment of atopic eczema. Four of the studies were parallel trials in which one group of patients was treated with evening primrose oil and another group was simultaneously treated with a placebo. The other 5 studies were crossover trials in which the same subjects were treated with both evening primrose oil and a placebo in random order. In all of the studies, doctors and patients both scored the severity of eczema symptoms before and after treatment.

In the parallel studies, the effect of evening primrose oil was significantly better than the placebo. Both patient’s and doctor’s scores for severity of eczema showed a highly significant improvement after treatment with evening primrose oil.

Results from the crossover trials were similar, with both patient’s and doctor’s scores for eczema symptoms showed improvement after the evening primrose oil treatment. There was a substantial and highly significant improvement in itchiness in response to the evening primrose oil, whereas this symptom showed no response with the placebo.

In studies where blood levels of gamma linolenic acid were measured, there was a positive correlation between improvements in eczema severity scores and a rise in fatty acid levels.

Method: Take one 1,000 mg or two 500 mg evening primrose oil supplement capsules daily with a meal.

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Final Word

No two cases of eczema or psoriasis are exactly the same and a remedy that works for someone else might not be as effective for you. The only way to discover the best methods to improve your specific symptoms is to try out a number of different remedies.

If you experiment with supplements, probiotics, oolong tea or dietary changes, keep in mind that they will take time to make changes to your immune system and inflammatory responses. Most of the studies discussed above treated patients for 4-6 months, so don’t give up on a method if you fail to see immediate results.

12 Best Essential Oils You Need to Know About – Health Benefits & Uses

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essential oils natural health benefits remedies

Fragrant plants have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years across many cultures. Methods for capturing the ‘essence’ of plants were first discovered in the Middle Ages.

Essential oils are distilled or extracted from large quantities of flowers, leaves, peels, resin, bark or roots. For example, it takes about 220 pounds of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender oil.

This makes essential oils a highly concentrated source of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals help the plants thrive and also wards off unwanted pathogens. Each type of oil has a different chemical composition that affects its scent and its benefits for mental or physical health.

Scientists are exploring the use of essential oils in the treatment of various disorders, especially where the standard drug therapy has unwanted side effects.

Different essential oils can be inhaled, used topically or, in some cases, taken orally. Oils are helpful in treating a wide range of conditions due to their variety of phytochemicals they each contain. These 12 essential oils and 3 carrier oils described below all have health benefits supported by scientific research.

12 Essential Oils & Their Benefits

1. Lavender Oil

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An old folk remedy for insomnia is to sleep on a pillow stuffed with lavender flowers. Research has confirmed that lavender oil is an effective sleep aid.

It seems to work by slowing the activity of the central nervous system. Inhaling the scent of lavender has a relaxing, soothing effect which can also help improve symptoms of anxiety.

The scent of lavender has even been used to calm fearful patients in dentists’ waiting rooms. Lavender oil also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that allow it to be used as an effective pain reliever.

Insomnia

Researchers at the University of Minnesota investigated the impact of lavender oil on 79 students who reported having sleep issues. All of the participants filled in questionnaires that asked about their quality of sleep and general well-being. They were also taught to practice good sleep hygiene.

In this randomized controlled trial, half of the students received a lavender inhalation patch and half received a placebo patch to wear on their chest in bed. After 5 nights of sleeping with the patches, the participants repeated filling in the questionnaires. Compared to the control group, the lavender oil group showed a significant improvement in scores for sleeping well, feeling energized and having vibrant senses, as well as an overall improvement in well-being.

Anxiety

A controlled clinical study published in the journal Phytomedicine tested the efficacy of a lavender oil supplement for patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD affects 6.8 million adults in the United States. It is characterized by excessive and persistent worrying and frequently expecting the worst.

GAD is often treated with benzodiazepine drugs which induce sedation and can be addictive. Researchers randomized GAD patients into 2 groups. One received a common benzodiazepine (lorazepam) and the other received lavender oil capsules. All participants completed a standard anxiety symptoms rating scale before and after the treatment.

After 6 weeks, both groups had an almost identical reduction in overall anxiety scores: 45% for the lavender oil group and 46% for the lorazepam group. Physical and psychological anxiety symptoms both decreased to a similar extent in the 2 groups. The lavender oil supplement was shown to be just as effective as the drug treatment with no risk of addiction or drowsiness.

Period Pain

A clinical trial examined the effects of aromatherapy massage with lavender oil on menstrual pain and cramps in 80 nursing and midwifery students. All of the participants rated their pain on the first day of their periods as six out of ten or above.

The patients were instructed to phone the researchers when they were feeling pain at the onset of menstruation. They then received a 15-minute abdominal massage with either lavender oil (diluted with almond oil) or with a placebo oil. They rated their pain both before and after the massage.

The next month, each patient received the alternative treatment. Pain scores were significantly lower following the lavender massage compared to the placebo massage.

Another study found that simply inhaling the scent of lavender oil significantly decreased period pain compared to inhaling a placebo oil.

Acute Pain

Kidney disease patients experience severe pain when large needles are inserted at the start of every dialysis session.

A crossover study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine tested the effects of lavender oil on 34 dialysis patients. The intensity of pain for each patient was measured with a numeric rating scale during the insertion of arterial needles under 3 different conditions.

In one session, there was no intervention. In another, 100% lavender oil was applied to the skin at the needle site. In a third session, a placebo was applied to the skin. Lavender oil significantly reduced patients’ intensity of pain compared to no intervention or placebo.

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2. Peppermint Oil

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Peppermint has long been used to soothe an upset stomach. It has an antispasmodic effect which calms the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and allows food and digestive gas to pass through the system more quickly.

It also helps the body to digest fats by increasing the flow of bile. Research has shown that peppermint oil capsules are an effective treatment for dyspepsia and IBS.

When applied topically, the menthol in peppermint oil stimulates cold receptors in the skin. This sensation helps soothe itchy, irritated skin, making peppermint oil a good home remedy for insect bites or hives.

Topical peppermint oil has another, somewhat surprising use. It promotes hair growth by stimulating the dermal papilla and increasing blood circulation to the hair follicles.

Indigestion

Dyspepsia is a common condition caused by impaired digestion which may include symptoms such as discomfort after eating, abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, nausea or belching up food.

A German study compared the effects of a peppermint oil supplement to cisapride, a drug which increases the speed of digestion and is used to treat gastric reflux.

Researchers randomized 118 outpatients with dyspepsia into 2 groups. One group received capsules containing 90 mg of peppermint oil and 50 mg of caraway oil. The other received the recommended dose of cisapride.

Pain scores were measured before and after 4-weeks of treatment. Both groups of patients had a statistically equivalent reduction in intensity of pain, frequency of pain and other dyspeptic symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A systematic review published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology assessed the safety and efficacy of peppermint oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers analyzed data from 9 randomized placebo-controlled trials including 726 IBS patients.

Peppermint oil was found to be significantly superior to a placebo in improving overall IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. Side effects of peppermint oil were mild and transient. Researchers concluded that peppermint oil capsules are a safe and effective treatment for IBS.

Hair Growth

A rodent study published in Toxicological Research compared the effects of peppermint oil to the popular hair regrowth treatment minoxidil (Rogaine).

Researchers shaved the backs of 20 mice to expose bald skin. The mice were then randomized into 4 groups based on different topical applications: salt water, jojoba oil, peppermint oil diluted in jojoba oil and minoxidil. Each solution was applied to the shaved backs of the mice once a day for 4-weeks.

At the end of the study, researchers used fluorescent microscopy to observe and measure the number, elongation, thickness and depth of hair follicles.

Mice in the peppermint oil group showed the most prominent hair growth, and their hair grew back faster than mice treated with minoxidil. Compared to the other treatment groups, they had a significant increase in follicle number, follicle depth and dermal thickness. Researchers concluded that peppermint oil could be used as a therapeutic alternative medicine for hair loss in humans.

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3. Lemon Balm (Melissa) Oil

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Lemon Balm (also known as Melissa), is known for its calming properties. In the middle ages, it was grown in monastery apothecary gardens and used as a sleep aid and general panacea.

Lemon balm contains compounds called terpenes that act on neurotransmitters in the brain to produce a relaxing effect. Lemon balm oil has been shown to reduce negative reactions to stressful situations and calms agitation in people with dementia.

Stress

A cross-over study investigated the effects of lemon balm on laboratory-induced stress in 18 healthy volunteers. Each participant received a 300mg dose of lemon balm extract, a 600mg dose of lemon balm extract and a placebo given in random order on 3 separate days.

They then completed a 20-minute computer test called the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS) battery. The DISS presents 4 tasks at once via a split screen and requires participants to attend to them simultaneously while their speed and accuracy is scored. The test has been shown to increase negative mood, arousal and stress.

Results showed that the 600mg dose of lemon balm counteracted the negative mood effects of the DISS, with significantly increased ratings for calmness and reduced alertness. Moreover, when participants ingested the 300mg dose of lemon balm, their speed of mathematical processing increased with no reduction in accuracy.

Dementia

A randomized placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology investigated the effects of lemon balm aromatherapy on 72 patients with severe dementia. Care staff applied a topical oil to the patients’ faces and arms twice daily. The active treatment group received lemon balm oil combined with a base lotion, while the control group received sunflower oil. Clinically significant agitation and quality of life indices were monitored over the 4-week trial period.

In the lemon balm group, 35% of patients had an overall improvement in agitation compared to 11% in the placebo group. Quality of life also improved significantly for patients who received lemon balm. They spent less time socially withdrawn and more time engaged in constructive activities.

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4. Copaiba Oil

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Copaiba oil is distilled from resin secreted by trees in the genus Copaifera which grow in the Amazon rainforest. Copaiba resin has been used medicinally by South American natives for hundreds of years.

The copalic acid in copaiba oil halts the growth of several species of dental bacteria and research has focused on its potential applications in dentistry.

Copaiba oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is often marketed as a treatment for arthritis, however most of the evidence for its efficacy comes from rodent studies. A 2017 review published in Integrative Medicine pointed out that copaiba had not yet been tested in a randomized trial against a placebo in human arthritis patients or tested in comparison to anti-inflammatory medications.

Oral Health

A Brazilian study evaluated the antibacterial activity of copaiba oil on common microorganisms found in dental plaque. Samples of 3 strains of Streptococcus bacteria were collected from adult volunteers with cavities and gingivitis for testing. The researchers also tested standard strains of 4 other types of dental Streptococcus.

The bacteria were incubated for 24 hours in Petri dishes containing either copaiba oil, chlorhexidine (an antiseptic) or a base gel used as a control. The copaiba oil gel demonstrated antibacterial activity against all the strains of Streptococcus tested and performed better than chlorhexidine against Streptococcus mitis.

Inflammation

In a study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, researchers investigated the action of copaiba oil on arthritis in rats. The rats were fed copaiba oil at either a high or low dose for 18 days. Both doses improved paw swelling and presented systemic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. However, the researchers also found evidence of liver damage in healthy control rats who were fed copaiba oil.

In another study, researchers evaluated the anti-inflammatory and healing effect of copaiba oil treatment on injuries to rats’ tongues. They found that copaiba oil reduced inflammation by decreasing the number of white blood cells infiltrating the injured tissue.

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5. Bergamot Oil

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Bergamot is a Mediterranean citrus fruit with a distinctive spicy scent. Bergamot essential oil is widely used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety.

Anxiety

Research has shown that inhalation of bergamot oil can be just as effective as the benzodiazepine drug diazepam for reducing anxiety.

Heart Disease

In the south of Italy, bergamot juice is a folk remedy for heart problems. Research indicates that specific flavonoids in bergamot, which are not found in other citrus fruits, can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease.

Stress

A Japanese cross-over study examined the effects of aromatherapy with bergamot oil on mood and stress-levels in 41 female university students. Each of the participants was exposed to 3 experimental conditions in random order.

In one scenario, they simply rested for 15 minutes, in another, a diffuser filled the air with water vapor as they rested, and in a third, a diffuser filled the room with water vapor containing bergamot essential oil. After 15 minutes, saliva samples were collected and the volunteers completed questionnaires about anxiety and mood.

Following the bergamot aromatherapy session, the participants had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. They also had lower scores for anxiety, anger, confusion and physical and mental fatigue.

High Cholesterol

A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated the effects of a bergamot flavonoid extract supplement on 80 men and women with moderately high cholesterol. All of the participants were given a daily dose of the bergamot extract for 6 months.

At the start and end of the study, their cholesterol levels were measured with a blood test and the thickness of their arterial walls were measured with an ultrasound scan.

Six months of bergamot supplementation significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, while HDL ‘good’ cholesterol significantly increased. Small, dense LDL, the most dangerous kind of cholesterol, decreased by 67%. Arterial wall thickness, a sign of atherosclerosis, also significantly decreased.

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6. Neroli Oil

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Neroli oil is distilled from the fragrant blossom of the bitter orange tree, Citrus aurantium, which is native to tropical and subtropical Asia.

Research on mice has shown that limonene, one of the major chemical components of neroli, acts as a muscle relaxant and has a sedative effect. Neroli oil aromatherapy can help lower blood pressure and relieve symptoms associated with menopause.

Menopause Symptoms

A Korean study investigated the effects of neroli oil inhalation on 63 postmenopausal women. The participants were randomly assigned to 3 groups. One received a 1% solution of neroli oil diluted with almond oil, one received a 5% solution of neroli oil and a control group received pure almond oil.

Each woman was instructed to sit in a comfortable place, pour the oil onto a fragrance pad, hold the pad near their nose and inhale the scent for 5 minutes. The subjects self-treated twice a day for 5 days. The women took blood pressure tests and completed menopause symptom questionnaires before and after the aromatherapy treatment.

Compared to the control group, both neroli oil groups had significant improvements in physical symptoms of menopause. The 5% neroli oil group had significantly lower systolic blood pressure, and both neroli groups had significantly lower diastolic blood pressure. Interestingly, both neroli oil groups also had a significant increase in sexual desire.

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7. Tea Tree Oil

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Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the Australian tea tree plant. Aboriginal people used tea tree leaves for treating wounds and preventing infections.

Tea tree oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties which makes it a useful treatment for a number of skin conditions. It is also a natural insecticide and is even used in commercial head lice treatments.

Athlete’s Foot

A study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology investigated the efficacy of tea tree oil for treating athlete’s foot. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a 25% tea tree oil solution, a 50% tea tree oil solution or a placebo solution.

All 158 athlete’s foot patients were instructed to apply the solution to the affected area twice daily. After 4 weeks, there was a marked clinical response seen in both of the tea tree oil groups. The cure rate for patients in the 50% tea tree group was 64%, compared to 31% in the placebo group.

Acne

A randomized, placebo-controlled study examined the efficacy of tea tree oil for treating mild-to-moderate acne. A total of 60 acne patients were divided into 2 groups. One group received a 5% tea tree oil gel and the other received a placebo gel.

The patients were instructed to apply the gel twice daily for 20 minutes and then to wash it off. After 45 days, patients in the tea tree oil group has significantly less acne than those in the placebo group. Tea tree oil was nearly 4 times more effective at reducing the number of pimples and pustules and nearly 6 times better at reducing acne severity.

Dandruff

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology tested the efficacy of tea tree oil in 126 patients with mild-to-moderate dandruff. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 5% tea tree oil shampoo or a placebo shampoo, which was used daily for 4-weeks.

The tea tree oil groups showed a 41% improvement in dandruff severity compared with 11% in the placebo group. Patients’ self-assessment scores for itchiness and greasiness also significantly improved in the tea tree oil group.

Fungal Nail Infections

A study published in the Journal of Family Practice compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil and the anti-fungal medication clotrimazole for the treatment of fungal infections. The participants included 117 patients diagnosed with fungal infections of the toenail. The patients were randomized into 2 groups.

One received a 100% tea tree oil and the other received a standard 1% clotrimazole solution applied twice daily. After 6 months, results for the 2 treatments were almost identical with 61% of the clotrimazole group and 60% of the tea tree group showing partial or full resolution. Three months later, 55% of the clotrimazole group and 56% of the tea tree group reported continued improvement or resolution.

Head Lice

An Italian study investigated the efficacy of tea tree oil and nerolidol against head lice and their eggs. The substances were tested at different concentrations on 69 head lice and 187 louse eggs collected from school children. A 1% concentration of tea tree oil killed 100% of head lice in 30 minutes.

Nerolidol is a natural plant compound found in many essential oils, including tea tree. The researchers found that a combination of a 0.05 % concentration of tea tree oil and a 1% concentration of nerolidol produced the death of all head lice in 30 minutes and prevented louse eggs from hatching after 5 days.

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8. Rose Oil

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Rose oil is steam distilled from the petals of the damask rose or cabbage rose.

Laboratory research has shown that rose oil contains the antioxidants tocopherol and carotene. Rose oil demonstrates strong antibacterial activity against several different strains. It can also be used in aromatherapy to promote a calm mood.

Anxiety

A rodent study compared the effects of rose oil inhalation to the effects of the anti-anxiety drug diazepam. Rats have a natural tendency to prefer hidden, closed spaces to open, exposed spaces. The more anxiety they experience, the more likely they are to hide. The researchers found that rose oil inhalation significantly increased the number of visits to and time spent in the open arms of a maze. The anti-anxiety effect was similar to diazepam.

A Thai study investigated the effect of rose oil on 40 human volunteers. The rose oil was absorbed through the skin and the participants wore breathing masks to prevent them from inhaling the scent.

Compared to a placebo, rose oil caused significant decreases in systolic blood pressure and breathing rate. Participants in the rose oil group rated themselves as calmer, more relaxed and less alert than subjects in the control group.

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9. Oregano Oil

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Oregano is a familiar herb used in Mediterranean dishes. The essential oil distilled from its leaves and flowers contains a phytochemical called carvacrol which has powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Food Poisoning

A study published in the Journal of Food Protection investigated the antimicrobial activities of carvacrol against antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. Celery and oysters were inoculated with the resistant strain. A 1% carvacrol solution rapidly reduced the Salmonella population on celery to below detection. In infected oysters exposed to carvacrol, the bacteria population was 100,000 times smaller after 3 days.

Fungal Infections

A laboratory study assessed the anti-fungal activity of constituents of essentials oils against oral candida. This fungus causes an infection known as denture stomatitis, in which the area of the mouth covered by dentures becomes inflamed.

The researchers tested 10 organic compounds against 10 strains of candida collected from denture wearers. Carvacrol was classified as very active against oral candida. Researchers concluded that it might be a promising alternative for a topical treatment for denture stomatitis.

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10. Eucalyptus Oil

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Many species of eucalyptus trees are used in Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of medical conditions such as cold, fever, flu and bronchitis. In the modern Western world, eucalyptus oil is commonly used as a home remedy for colds.

Cold, Cough & Flu

Eucalyptus oil is added to a bowl of boiling water. The steam acts as an expectorant and decongestant. Laboratory research has shown that eucalyptus oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Other studies have shown that it is an anti-inflammatory agent and an effective analgesic.

Asthma

A study published in the Journal of Asthma tested the benefits of cineole, the active ingredient in eucalyptus oil, for asthma patients. A total of 247 patients with confirmed asthma were selected for the study. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 200 mg of cineole, 3 times per day in addition to their usual asthma medication.

After 6 months, the patients who received cineole supplements showed significantly more improvements to lung function, asthma symptoms and quality of life compared to the control group.

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11. Clove Oil

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Clove oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties. It has long been used as a traditional home remedy for toothaches.

Oral Health

It’s major active component, eugenol, is widely used in dental materials such as temporary fillings. Clove oil is also found in oral health products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Most of the research on clove oil has been done in the context of its applications in dentistry.

Pain

A study published in the Journal of Dentistry examined whether clove was an effective topical anesthetic. A total of 73 adult volunteers were randomized to have one of four substances applied to their gums: benzocaine 20% gel (a local anesthetic), homemade clove gel, a placebo that resembled benzocaine or a placebo that resembled clove.

After 5 minutes, each subject received 2 needle sticks and rated their pain on a scale ranging from none-to-very severe. The clove and benzocaine gels both had significantly lower pain scores than the placebos. There was no significant difference in pain scores between clove and benzocaine.

Tooth Protection

Fruit juices contain acids and sugars that can dissolve dental enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, erosion and decay. Clove oil contains eugenol and eugenyl acetate, both of which are used in dental care.

A laboratory study published in the International Journal of Dentistry investigated the effect of clove essential oil on tooth erosion caused by apple juice. Human tooth specimens were treated with one of 4 substances: clove oil, eugenol, eugenyl acetate or fluoride. A control group received no treatment.

The teeth were then soaked in apple juice for 24 hours. All of the substances significantly decreased the decalcification of tooth enamel by apple juice compared to the control group. Clove oil was more effective than either of its active components alone. There was no statistically significant difference between the fluoride and clove oil treatment group.

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12. Sage Oil

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The name sage comes from Latin word ‘salvere’ meaning ‘to save’. The herb has a long history of medicinal (as well as culinary) use.

Sage essential oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In aromatherapy, sage oil is used to stimulate the mind and help fight mental fatigue. Researchers are exploring the use of sage for treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in sage leaves also affect fat metabolism and can help to lower cholesterol.

Alzheimer’s Disease

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics tested the use of sage extract for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

A total of 42 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease were divided into 2 groups.   The treatment group received 60 drops of sage extract per day and the control group received a placebo. After 4 months, the sage group performed significantly better on cognitive function tests than the placebo group. They also appeared to be less agitated.

High Cholesterol

A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine evaluated the use of sage extract for treating high cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.

A total of 80 patients were randomized to receive either a 500 mg sage leaf extract capsule or a placebo capsule daily. After 3 months, the diabetics who took the sage supplements had significantly lower levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and higher levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. They also had significantly lower blood sugar levels compared to the placebo group.

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Carrier Oils 

Carrier oils help to evenly distribute essential oils into the skin. They are used to dilute essential oils, allows essential oils to be absorbed further and makes them safer for topical application.

Carrier oils are made from vegetable oils. The best carrier oils are cold-pressed and made from plant sources. Unlike essential oils, carrier oils do not have a concentrated fragrance. However, some have a mild pleasant scent. Examples of carrier oils include:

  • Olive oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Cocoa Butter

The carrier oils described below all have therapeutic properties that can augment the benefits of the essential oils that are added to them.

1. Argan Oil

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Argan oil is extracted from the nut of the Moroccan argan tree. Argan is a popular carrier oil for diluting essential oils.

Argan oil is an edible virgin oil with cholesterol-lowering properties, similar to olive oil. It also contains benefits for hair and skin and is used as an ingredient in commercial shampoos, moisturizers and cosmetics.

Skin Care

A study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging investigated the effects of argan oil on postmenopausal skin elasticity. A total of 60 postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to consume 25 ml of either dietary argan oil or olive oil daily.

Both groups were instructed to apply cosmetic argan oil to their left forearm every night. After 60 days, assessments of skin elasticity were performed on both forearms. Both consumption and topical application of argan oil led to a significant increase in all measures of skin elasticity.

A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology evaluated the efficacy of a sebum control cream containing argan oil for treating oily skin. Researchers recruited 20 volunteers with greasy facial skin and instructed them to apply the test product twice daily for 4-weeks.

Clinical assessment of sebum levels decreased by 33% and areas covered with oily spots decreased by 42%. Questionnaires revealed that 95% of subjects noticed a visible improvement.

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2. Jojoba Oil

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Jojoba oil is produced from the seeds of a woody desert plant native the southern US and northern Mexico. Technically, it is not an oil but a liquid wax. As such, it is a stable carrier for essential oils and does not feel greasy on the skin.

Native Americans used jojoba to help wounds heal. Laboratory research on skin cells has shown that jojoba liquid wax stimulates collagen production and accelerates wound closure.

Acne

A German pilot study assessed the benefits of self-treatment with clay jojoba oil masks on 133 participants with acne. The participants applied the jojoba oil facial masks at home, 2-3 times a week for 6-weeks.

At the beginning and end of the study, they were asked to count their facial pimples, pustules, blackheads and cysts. There was a 54% average reduction in acne counts, averaging 7 blemishes decreasing to 3.

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3. Grapeseed Oil

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The grape seeds used in grapseed oil are a byproduct of the wine-making industry. Grapeseed oil is used as a cooking oil and is widely used in skin care products such as moisturizers and sunscreen.

When consumed, grapeseed oil may help prevent type 2 diabetes. In one study, overweight or obese women were assigned to a weight loss diet with 15% of calories from grapeseed oil. After 8-weeks, they had lower levels of insulin resistance and inflammation than a control group on a 15% sunflower oil diet.

When used topically, phenolic compounds in grapeseed oil can fight bacteria and accelerate wound healing.

MRSA

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a ‘superbug’ notorious for causing infections that spreads throughout hospitals.

A laboratory study published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences measured the antibacterial activity of grapeseed extract against 43 strains of MRSA. A concentration of 3 mg/ml grapeseed extract completely inhibited all of the bacterial strains tested.

Wound Healing

A rodent study published in Phytotherapy Research evaluated the wound healing properties of grapeseed oil. Identical wounds were treated with either grapeseed oil, cranberry oil, petroleum jelly or mupirocin ointment (a topical antibiotic).

Healing was assessed by the rate of wound contraction and levels of hydroxyproline, an amino acid that is a component of skin collagen. After 13 days, reduction of wound area was greatest in the cranberry oil and grapeseed oil groups. Hydroxyproline content was also significantly higher in the animals treated with plant oils.

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How to Use Essential Oils

  • To fill a room with therapeutic fragrance, add a few drops of oil to a candle diffuser, reed diffuser or electric diffuser.
  • Alternatively, put a few drops of an essential oil on a handkerchief, hold it a few inches from your nose and breathe in.
  • Make a therapeutic massage oil by adding 15 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of any carrier oil.
  • Make a skin cream by adding 15 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of jojoba oil, coconut oil or cocoa butter.
  • Make scented bath salts by mixing 1 pound of Epson salts with 15 drops of essential oil. Store in a glass jar and use half a cup of salts per bath.

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Safety Warnings

  • Never apply essential oils directly onto your skin. Always dilute them with water or a carrier oil. If you have any kind of skin reaction to an essential oil, discontinue use immediately. Wash the area off with warm water or rub a carrier oil over the irritated area.
  • Some essential oils should not be taken orally. Most bottles will indicate if the oil is intended for oral or topical use. Essential oils that can be ingested need to be correctly diluted and dosed. Never swallow essential oils from the bottle. If you want to try taking peppermint oil for indigestion or lemon balm oil for stress, buy supplement capsules from a reputable brand and do not exceed the recommended daily dose.

Final Word

Many essential oils appear to have a synergistic effect, so experiment with different combinations. For example, lavender, lemon balm and bergamot all have a calming effect. Try putting a few drops of each into a diffuser for stress-relief after a long day.

One of the benefits of essential oils is that they come in small, portable containers. If you find that inhaling an oil helps with your symptoms, carry a bottle in your pocket or handbag. Put a few drops on a tissue and breathe in whenever you need a boost.

7 Natural Home Remedies for Weight Loss

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weight loss natural remedies

According to the NIDDK, 33% of Americans are overweight (BMI over 25), 36% are obese (BMI over 30) and 6% are extremely obese (BMI over 40).

Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis and some cancers, and your risk increases with higher BMI (body mass index). If you’re overweight, shedding the excess body fat and keeping it off is one of the best ways to improve your health and longevity.

5 Sneaky Causes of Weight Gain

We’ve all heard the message that excess body fat is the result of eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise. If only it were that simple. Weight gain can also be due to factors in our diet and environment that we aren’t even aware of.

1. Environmental Chemicals

Many environmental chemicals have resulted in weight gain when tested on animals in low, non-toxic doses. Examples include heavy metals, solvents, coolants, pesticides and plastics (such as BPA, used in food and beverage containers).

Some of these chemicals known as endocrine disruptors can interfere with weight-controlling hormones. There is even evidence to suggest that exposure to environmental chemicals in the womb may be associated with obesity later in life.

2. Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are chemicals which cause oil to mix with water. They are used in a wide range of processed foods including ice cream, mayonnaise, margarine, chocolate, bakery products and sausages.

A mouse study published in Nature found that emulsifiers alter gut bacteria, causing inflammation. Mice fed water containing emulsifiers became obese and developed metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

3. MSG

Although the flavor enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) is associated with Chinese restaurants, it is used by major fast-food chains and is also found in a variety of processed foods.

A study of 750 Chinese men and women found that those who used the most MSG in their cooking were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t use any. The increase in obesity risk was independent of physical activity and total calories consumed.

4. Artificial Sweeteners

Many people use sugar substitutes as a weight-loss aid, but these sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain.

In a study published in Nature, scientists found that mice fed saccharin, sucralose or aspartame developed glucose intolerance, a metabolic condition associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The artificial sweeteners altered the animals’ gut microbiomes towards a balance of bacteria associated with metabolic diseases.

In a follow-up study on 7 human volunteers, 4 became glucose intolerant after consuming the maximum recommended dose of saccharin for one week.

5. Low-Fat Foods

Gram for gram, fat has more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates, so people tend to assume that foods labeled ‘low fat’ are good for weight loss.

In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers analyzed nutrition information for nearly 6000 foods and found that, overall, products with low-fat claims were not significantly lower in calories than their full-fat equivalents.

Low-fat foods may even lead people to consume extra calories. A study investigating the effects of different fats on satiety found that participants were less hungry two hours after eating regular muffins compared to fat-free muffins.

If you want to lose weight, it can help to avoid processed food, fast food and intensively farmed food. The production methods, containers and the ingredients could all increase your risk for obesity.

Remedies to Help You Lose Weight Naturally

Here are some science-backed methods to help you lose that stubborn weight naturally.

1. Drink Plenty of Water

drink water weight loss natural remedies

Drinking water boosts your metabolism due to a process known as water-induced thermogenesis. When you drink a glass of cold, or even room-temperature water, your system has to burn calories to heat it up to your body temperature (37 C).

In one study, scientists assessed the effect of drinking water by measuring subjects’ oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production in a respiratory chamber. They found that 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30% in both men and women. The effect was sustained for over an hour. The researchers estimate that increasing water consumption by 1.5 liters daily would result in a loss of 17,400 calories or 5.3 lbs. of body fat over the course of a year.

Drinking a glass of water before every meal can be doubly beneficial because it fills you up so you’re not tempted to overeat.

In a trial published in the European Journal of Nutrition, 14 healthy young men were provided with breakfast and told they could eat as much as they wanted. Half of the men were instructed to drink a pint (568 ml) of water before the meal. The water group consumed significantly fewer calories. Questionnaires filled out by the participants showed that, compared to the control group, the water group experienced increased satisfaction and fullness and decreased hunger.

In a study published in the journal Obesity, 48 overweight adults aged 55-75 were given instructions for a low-calorie diet including meal plans and sample menus. Half of the participants were also given cases of bottled water and told to drink one 16-ounce bottle before each meal. Over the following 12 weeks, the water group showed a 44% greater weight loss than the non-water group.

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2. Eat More Fiber

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Fiber is plant material that resists digestion by humans. Insoluble fiber (also known as roughage) passes through your gut without being broken down. It adds bulk to food without adding any calories.

Soluble fiber travels to the large intestine where bacteria convert it into fatty acids which are used as an energy source. It dissolves in liquid and many types form a viscous gel in the gut which slows the emptying of the stomach, leading to prolonged feelings of fullness.

A review article summarizes the results of studies into the effects of fiber on energy intake and body composition. In studies of people on a calorie-controlled diet, fiber increases feelings of fullness following a meal and decreases subsequent hunger. In studies where participants could eat as much as they liked, eating an additional 14 grams of fiber per day resulted in an average 10% decrease in calories consumed and an average weight loss of four pounds over 3.8 months. Fiber has a greater effect on body weight for obese subjects compared with those of normal weight.

In a trial published in the journal Nutrients, 118 overweight adults were given either a supplement containing a combination of viscous soluble fibers or a control supplement made from rice flour. All participants were equipped with a mobile food recording app which provided the researchers with before-and-after images of all food consumed along with the time and place it was eaten. Measurement of participants’ height, weight and waist circumference were taken before and after the trial.

After 12-weeks of supplementation, the fiber granule group had a significant reduction in waist circumference, weight and BMI compared to the control group. Analysis of the mobile app data showed that they ate less often than before supplementation and reduced their intake of grain-based food.

Good sources of soluble fiber include

  • oats, barley and rye
  • pectin fruits such as apples, plums and oranges
  • root vegetables like carrots and potatoes
  • legumes including soybeans, kidney beans and lentils

Method: You can get more fiber in your diet simply by leaving the skin on vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cucumber and fruits like apples and pears. While few people would want to eat an unpeeled piece of citrus fruit, you can zest the rind and use it in cooking. Don’t remove the fibrous membrane surrounding the fruit segments.

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3. Cook with Coconut Oil

cook with coconut avocado oil weight loss natural remedies

Most vegetable or seed oils contain long-chain fatty acids which must be broken down in the intestines and transported to the blood to use as energy or storage in fat cells.

Coconut oil is the best source of medium-chain fatty acids which are delivered directly to the liver for use as an instant energy source. Research suggests that medium chain fatty acids can help promote weight loss by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism.

In one study healthy men were randomly assigned to one of three high-fat diets that differed only in terms of the ratio of long-chain fatty acids to medium-chain fatty acids. They could eat as much as they liked of the foods they were offered. Food intake and total calories consumed were significantly lower on the diet with the highest amount of medium-chain fatty acids. The men in the high medium-chain fatty acid group even lost a little weight, whereas those in the other groups gained weight.

In a randomized controlled trial published in the journal Obesity, 24 overweight men were divided into two groups. One group were put on a weight-maintenance diet containing oils rich in medium-chain fatty acids. The other were given the same diet, but with olive oil (high in long-chain fatty acids). After four weeks on the diet and a four-week washout period the groups switched diets. The men’s body composition was assessed using an MRI scan before and after each four-week trial. Participants lost significantly more body fat on the medium-chain fatty acid diet, especially from the upper body.

A study on overweight women given coconut oil had similar results with a significant reduction in waist circumference.

Method: Coconut oil is very versatile. It can be used in place of vegetable oils for frying or roasting and substituted for butter or margarine in baking. You can even melt it and drizzle it over vegetables or seafood for added flavor.

All types of oil are high in calories, so remember that the idea is to use coconut oil instead of other fats, not in addition to them.

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4. Have Soup for Lunch

soup for lunch weight loss natural remedies

If you take a meal of meat and vegetables, add water and blend it into soup, it will stave off hunger longer than eating the individual food components.

When you eat solid food along with a beverage, the liquid rapidly sieves out of the stomach, reducing its volume. If liquid is thickened with solids, it takes longer to digest, prolonging feelings of fullness.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, one group of volunteers were given a meal of chicken with vegetables along with a glass of water. Another were given the same ingredients served as a blended soup. At intervals over the next 3 hours both groups were asked to rate their sense of fullness on a scale from one-to-ten. The soup group felt significantly less hungry.

In a follow-up study, participants who ate the same meals underwent MRI scans so that researchers could examine the digestive process. The scans confirmed that the volume of stomach contents decreased more slowly after the soup meal than after the solid/liquid meal.

In another study, 24 women ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in a laboratory. Shortly before lunch, they were served either chicken rice casserole, chicken rice casserole with a glass of water or chicken rice soup made from the same ingredients. They could then eat as much as they liked from a lunch buffet. Those who ate the soup consumed significantly fewer calories at lunch than the other two groups and did not compensate by eating more calories at an all-you-can-eat dinner.

Method: For a quick and easy soup, boil two cups of water and add a stock cube. Add fresh or frozen chopped vegetables and simmer until soft or use leftover cooked vegetables. Throw in some chopped cooked chicken or ham. Puree with a stick blender until smooth and season to taste.

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5. Drink Green Tea

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Green tea is an especially rich source of antioxidants called catechins. It also contains caffeine. Both of these substances can increase metabolism, but when consumed together they have a synergistic effect. They help to boost levels of the hormone norepinephrine which signals fat cells to release stored fat into the bloodstream for use as energy.

In one study healthy subjects spent 24 hours in a respiratory chamber designed to measure their energy expenditure. They were given supplements containing either green tea extract, caffeine or a placebo. Those who consumed the green tea extract supplement burned significantly more calories than the control group. They also had significantly higher amounts of norepinephrine in their urine. Caffeine alone (in the same amount present in the green tea extract) did not increase fat burning.

The amount of catechins in a cup of green tea varies depending on the precise type of tea, the ratio of tea to water, and how long it is left to infuse. A large Chinese trial investigated the effects of consuming green tea with different amounts of catechins on body weight and composition. Researchers randomly assigned 182 overweight participants to four groups. Each group was given a different type of green tea ranging from a control drink with the catechins extracted to one with extra catechins added. Subjects drank 2 cups a day for 90 days.

Compared to the control group, the group drinking the extra high-catechin tea showed significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference and intra-abdominal fat. Groups drinking green tea with lower levels of catechins also lost body fat. The researchers concluded that daily consumption of 500–900 mg of green tea catechins can exert a positive effect on abdominal fat mass.

Method: An average cup of green tea contains around 180 mg of catechins, but this can vary depending on a number of factors. To boost the amount of catechins per cup, use a good brand of loose-leaf green tea. Bring the water to a rolling boil before pouring it over the leaves, then leave it to infuse for five minutes before straining.

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6. Eat More Protein

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Protein takes longer to digest than fats or carbohydrates and process of digesting protein burns more calories.

In one study participants ate high protein or high carbohydrate meals. Their energy expenditure was measured two and a half hours later. Researchers found that subjects were burning twice as many calories following a protein meal as they did following a carbohydrate meal.

Protein is also more satiating than carbohydrates or fat. A study published in Obesity examined the effects of protein on appetite and satiety during weight loss. Overweight men were put on a 12-week low-calorie diet and randomized into two groups. One group was given a diet consisting of 25% protein and the other were given a diet with 14% protein. The men completed questionnaires every waking hour on selected days. Compared to the lower protein group, the high protein group felt fuller throughout the day, had less desire to eat at night and were less preoccupied with thoughts of food.

Since dietary protein both increases the metabolism and decreases appetite, eating more protein may allow you to lose weight without much effort.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 19 subjects were placed on a high protein diet (30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate) for 12 weeks. They were allowed to eat as much of the food provided as they wished, but were instructed to eat when they were hungry and stop eating when they were satisfied. They were also told to avoid making any conscious effort to modify their body weight. The participants spontaneously decreased their food intake by an average of 441 calories a day and lost an average of 10.8 pounds.

Method: Make high-protein foods the star of every meal and replace snacks like potato or corn chips (carbohydrate fried in fat) with protein foods like beef jerky, nuts or peanut butter.

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7. Start the Day with Eggs

eat eggs breakfast weight loss natural remedies

If your usual breakfast consists of cereal or toast, switching to an egg breakfast could help you lose weight.

Many popular breakfast foods, like bagels, waffles and croissants are high in carbohydrates. They cause a sharp rise in blood sugar which triggers the body to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels, but simultaneously activates fat storage and prevents the body from using fat as energy.

A medium egg contains virtually no carbohydrates, 6.4 grams of high quality protein and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Two medium eggs boiled or poached contain just 132 calories, making them a nutrition-packed natural breakfast choice for weight loss. In addition, eggs have a 50% greater satiety index compared to breakfast cereal or white bread so they help keep you feeling fuller longer.

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 30 overweight women consumed either an egg-based or bagel-based breakfast containing the same number of calories. Three and a half hours later they were given lunch. In the meantime, they filled out questionnaires about fullness and food cravings. Those who had the egg breakfast reported significantly greater feelings of satiety and consumed significantly fewer calories both at lunch and over the following 36 hours.

In another study published in the International Journal of Obesity, overweight or obese men and women were assigned to eat a calorie-matched egg or bagel breakfast as part of a low calorie weight-loss diet. After eight weeks, in comparison to participants on the bagel diet, those on the egg diet showed a 65% greater weight loss, a 61% greater reduction in BMI and a 34% greater reduction in waist measurement. Cholesterol levels did not differ between the two groups.

Beginning in the 1970s, people were advised to limit their consumption of eggs due to concerns that dietary cholesterol would raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk for coronary artery disease. However, numerous population studies conducted in more recent years do not support this theory. A 2012 meta-analysis of previous research concluded that higher consumption of eggs is not associated with increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

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When Diets Don’t Work

diets that do not work or last weight loss natural remedies

Most popular diets do allow people to lose weight in the short term (assuming they don’t cheat). But after ending the diet, people tend to gain the weight back or even put on extra pounds.

A review article looked at the long-term outcomes of low-calorie diets and found that up to two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost. The researchers concluded that there is little support for the idea that dieting leads to long-term weight loss or health benefits.

It could be possible that the type of people who go on diets are those with a genetic propensity towards putting on weight, making them more apt to regain it. A large twin study was devised to test this theory. Researchers tracked the weight and height of 4129 twins from the age of 16 to 25 and collected information about the number of times they had intentionally lost weight on a diet. When they compared pairs of genetically identical (monozygotic) twins, one of which who had dieted in the past and one who had never dieted, they found that dieting increased the risk for accelerated weight gain independent of genetic factors.

Any diet that is unsustainable in the long run is doomed to fail. No one can live on cabbage soup or grapefruit for the rest of their lives. Diets that rely on pre-packaged low-calorie meals or meal-replacement shakes take away the dieter’s own responsibly for making healthy choices. The eating habits that caused people to put on weight in the first place are usually resumed shortly after their weight-loss goal has been reached.

To lose weight and keep it off in the long-term, permanent lifestyle changes are a better approach than a temporary diet. Simply concentrate on eating more healthily, exercising and giving up bad habits.

Here are some examples of common-sense changes that can help with weight loss and weight maintenance.

  • Avoid processed foods and learn to make simple meals from fresh ingredients.
  • If you eat bread products made from white, refined flour, switch to wholegrain.
  • Don’t keep junk food in your cupboards or fridge.
  • Eliminate liquid calories from sugary drinks.
  • Avoid any foods that are battered or breaded and deep fried.
  • Choose foods without any added sugar.
  • If you’re a chocoholic, switch to a dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.
  • Reserve half the room on your dinner plate for non-starchy vegetables.
  • Pay attention to ingredients, calories and nutrition information on labels.
  • Listen to your body: eat when you are hungry and stop when you’re full.
  • Spend less time sitting in front of screens and more time being physically active.

Final Word

None of the methods listed here will result in the kind of rapid weight-loss associated with very low-calorie fad diets. On the other hand, they don’t involve starving yourself either.

Everyone’s bodies are a little bit different. You can try each method for a few weeks to see which ones best fit in with your routines and food preferences, and which ones make the most difference to your waistline.

13 Natural Home Remedies for Hormonal Imbalance

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hormone imbalance menopause periods menses pms natural remedies

Ladies, every woman knows the signs of her menstrual cycle from beginning to end. You live with it just about every twenty-eight days from the age of twelve or so until your forties.

But what if the menstrual cycle isn’t twenty-eight days? What if a significant change hits you out of the blue? It is normal to have ups and downs in the levels of your hormones over the cycle, but large changes aren’t normal.

This could mean a hormonal imbalance.

In order for you to feel your best and to be healthy, a number of hormones in your bodies must work together. If one gets out of balance for whatever reason, the harmony of hormones working together disappears.

What Are Hormones?

hormones imbalance menopause menses periods pms natural remedies balance

Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that have an effect on nearly every aspect of both men’s and women’s health. They are produced in the endocrine glands and control most body functions from telling you when you’re hungry, to the complexity of reproduction, to moods and emotions.

Glands and Their Functions

The endocrine system is the origin of hormones. There are several glands that release hormones that are crucial to women.

1. Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is sometimes called the controlling gland because it starts the cascade of hormones that ultimately end with the secretion of sex hormones. It does this by stimulating and controlling other glands.

2. Adrenal Glands

Adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and play a major role in the release of hormones that regulate the sex drive and cortisol (stress-fighting hormone).

3. Ovaries

The ovaries are the female sex glands. They secrete estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

4. Pancreas

The pancreas is the organ in the body that controls insulin secretion. Insulin, with its effects on blood sugar, is an important hormone for women’s health.

5. Thyroid and Pituitary

In addition to these other glands, the thyroid and pituitary play a part in hormone secretion and supply.

The thyroid gland creates thyroid hormones, which travels to all the organs and controls how the body uses food for energy. Your pituitary gland is referred to as the “master gland” because it tells all your other glands what to do.

Hormones and Their Functions

1. Progesterone

Progesterone readies the endometrium, or lining, of the uterus for a fertilized egg to be embedded. Generally, the endometrium thickens just before onset of your period, then sloughs off if an egg is not embedded.

Progesterone also dampens the muscle contractions that would reject an egg. If an egg is implanted, this hormone also stimulates the supply of blood to the endometrium in order to feed the growing fetus.

With high levels of progesterone, the woman will not ovulate, or produce eggs. Low progesterone levels will usually prevent pregnancy, and if you do get pregnant with low progesterone, you’re at greater risk of a miscarriage. Low progesterone also typically brings high levels of estrogen, leading to estrogen dominance.

2. Estrogen

Estrogen is the female hormone usually thought of first when the subject of hormones comes up. It is the primary hormone for women, initially responsible for directing the female body to grow to its physical form. It’s produced mostly by the ovaries, but also by the adrenal cortex in smaller amounts.

There are three common naturally occurring forms of this hormone: estrone, estradiol, and estriol.

Estrone is the weakest form of estrogen and can be found in women who go through menopause naturally and without hormone replacement therapy. After menopause, this is the only form of estrogen found in women. It’s the least frequently seen type of estrogen and is made in some amounts in fats and other tissues of the body.

Estradiol is the most potent form of estrogen and the one that produces the most effect. It is produced by the ovaries, but also can be converted from other hormones in the adrenal glands and the placenta. Estradiol has been implicated in several of the medical issues women can face. Endometriosis, fibroids, and possibly endometrial cancer can be made worse by high levels of estradiol.

Estriol is the third form of estrogen. It’s a waste product of the metabolism of estradiol. It only has effects on some of the estrogen receptors in the body. Only during pregnancy is it produced in any quantity.

3. Testosterone

Testosterone is usually considered a male hormone, but it is also produced by the ovaries. It is the hormone that stimulates the sex drive in both males and females.

If your level of testosterone is too high, it can lead to acne outbreaks, hair growth on unusual parts of the body, and loss of head hair. It can also lead to polycystic ovary syndrome (POS), a condition that can lead to infertility.

4. Pregnenolone

A hormone that isn’t as well-known as some of the others, but one that has a tremendous effect on women’s health is pregnenolone.

If all of the hormones that affect women’s health are thought of as a waterfall, pregnenolone would be at the top of the waterfall. It has been called the “mother hormone” by some researchers and clinicians because it is the hormone so many other hormones are made from.

Pregnenolone is made mostly in the adrenal glands from cholesterol. It is then synthesized into other hormones, like DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone. Some women take supplemental pregnenolone to ease some of the symptoms of menopause because sufficient levels are needed to maintain hormonal balance.

5. DHEA

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is synthesized from cholesterol and produced in your adrenal glands. It is also a forerunner hormone for estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Like pregnenolone, it’s considered a “mother hormone” because it fuels metabolism in the body. DHEA normally is highest in women in their 20’s, then declines until it’s 80% gone in their 70’s. While age-related decline of DHEA is normal, stress also significantly lowers DHEA.

There are a number of other hormones that are important to everyone’s health, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus only on those listed above. To a great extent, they’re considered the “female” hormones.

Symptoms of a Hormone Imbalance

There are many symptoms women experience when their hormones are imbalanced. The following are the most common:

1. Insomnia

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Low progesterone levels may be behind your sleep problems. In addition to trying to sleep, you may also have trouble staying asleep or going back to sleep after waking up early (sometimes as early as 3 a.m.). Naturally, lack of sleep brings on other issues throughout the day as well.

2. Acne Breakouts

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Period acne is different from the typical acne. It is more inflamed with red papules, and usually appears on the lower part of the face (jawline, chin, cheeks).

Ovaries are female glands that secrete hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. They are vital to our hormonal balances and development. Two weeks before menstruation, estrogen levels drops while the production of testosterone remains the same. Testosterone is mainly thought of as a male hormone but women produce it too, in smaller amounts. As this imbalance grows between the two hormones, testosterone causes the oil glands in our pores to produce more sebum.

During the second half of our periods, progesterone levels rise. Elevated levels of progesterone also increases oil production, but it also causes our pores to swell shut.

When you mix sensitive skin, oily skin, oil that is trapped inside inflamed pores, and bacteria, you get breakouts.

3. Foggy Thinking

Low levels of estrogen can lead to difficulty concentrating and remembering. This can occur during your period, in the time leading up to menopause (perimenopause), and in menopause itself. Abnormal cortisol levels, the hormone that helps fight the effects of stress, may play a part in this issue as well.

4. Cravings

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When lack of sleep due to hormonal imbalance is a problem, you may often crave sweets. Both males and females can fall prey to this craving. If salty foods are craved, it may be an indication of minerals being lost in urination and may indicate adrenal glands being under stress.

5. Digestive Issues

Flare-ups with digestive problems are common during periods. This may be because estrogen and progesterone levels vary during this time. Thyroid hormone may also play a part.

6. Feeling Tired

This can be a result of not sleeping well due to hormone imbalance. Night sweats and hot flashes interrupt sleep and may be due to low levels of estrogen. Insomnia may be due to progesterone being out of balance.

7. Mood Swings

Anxiety and depression alternating with elevated moods may be due to low testosterone levels.

8. Weight Gain

Gaining weight around the middle of the body is a common issue with women whose hormones are out of balance. Estrogen levels that are high can be a contributing factor. If progesterone levels are out of balance as well, this weight can be very hard to lose. Your thyroid may slow down metabolism, causing your pancreas to store fat around the middle.

9. Headaches & Migraines

Progesterone imbalance may be a factor if you have headaches and migraines during your periods or menopause.

10. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

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The terrible duo of menopause. Every woman who has gone, or is going through menopause knows the discomfort of waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat. Or feeling like you’re completely burning up any time of the day or night for no reason. Estrogen levels much too high, combined with much too low progesterone levels are likely to be the culprits.

11. Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is typically brought on by low levels of estrogen. This makes for painful intercourse and leads to relationship problems.

12. Breast Changes

Breast changes can be brought on by high levels of estrogen. Breast tenderness, lumps, fibroid tumors, and cysts can occur with high estrogen levels. Progesterone levels that are imbalanced can also lead to breast tenderness.

13. Loss of Libido

Low estrogen levels can cause you to lose interest in sex. Vaginal dryness and breast tenderness also adds to your lack of sexual interest.

14. Increased Likelihood of Infections

Estrogen levels that vary from too high to too low can make women more likely to get infections. High levels of estrogen may lead to multiple yeast infections, while low levels of estrogen may bring on urinary tract infections.

The Time of Your Life — Menopause

That time of life when massive changes are taking place in your body, including many hormonal imbalances. Some women seem to cruise through this time of change, while others suffer.

If you find yourself suffering through the “change of life,” it’s probably due to the hormone changes and imbalances more than anything else. But with sound, natural ways to re-balance your hormones, this time of your life can be a more free and pleasant time.

Let’s take a look at natural ways to deal with the hormone changes taking place in your bodies.

Treatment Options

1. Hormone Replacement Therapy

Since menopause is the typical time women have problems with hormones and imbalances, the first thing people think about as a treatment option is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is taking prescription medications to replace hormones, typically estrogen and progesterone, that are not being produced by the ovaries.

HRT has been seen as a risk in several serious health risks. The Women’s Health Initiative was a study begun in 1991 and scheduled to run for 15 years. It studied a large group of women of various ages and the effects of HRT.

The study was ended after 10 years because of the findings that suggested serious health issues. Some of those findings included:

  • The incidence of breast cancer increased in women who were taking estrogen plus progesterone.
  • Heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots in the lungs and legs were seen more often in women taking estrogen plus progesterone.
  • The number of women with fractures or colorectal cancer decreased when taking estrogen and progesterone together.

In general, the risks associated with HRT appear to be greater than the benefits associated with this replacement therapy. Another finding was that HRT seems to make mammograms less effective in early abnormality detections.

How to Balance Hormones Naturally

There are other options for dealing with the symptoms that come from imbalanced hormones. These options are more natural, utilizes natural foods, plant-based herbs, and supplements. They appear to be useful for reducing these symptoms, no matter what a woman’s age is.

Please consult with your healthcare provider before starting any of these supplements or before stopping any prescribed medications you may be currently taking.

The following suggestions for healthy foods and supplements can be helpful for balancing hormones, regardless of what age you begin having symptoms of imbalance.

1. Add Healthy Fats

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Coconut oil, avocado, butter from grass-fed cows, and wild caught salmon are good sources of healthy fats. Various kinds of fats are used by your body to produce hormones. They also lower your inflammation risk, increase metabolism, and can lead to weight loss.

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2. Balance Between Omega-3 & Omega-6

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Recently, there has been a big increase in inflammation and associated illnesses in the U.S. Much of this is due to an over-abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids (poultry, eggs, cereal, whole grain bread, hemp oil, vegetable oils, nuts) and not enough Omega-3 (mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, tuna, sardines, anchovies, egg yolk, walnuts).

One type of Omega-6 women should increase is GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). This can be found in supplement form or in hemp seeds. Some studies have shown GLA to support good levels of progesterone.

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3. Limit Alcohol & Caffeine Intake

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Too much caffeine acts just like too little sleep. It ramps up the system, increases heart rate, improves alertness, and changes the way the brain uses hormones.

Too much alcohol adds to estrogen dominance, limits the functioning of the pancreas, and lowers testosterone levels.

4. Lifestyle Changes

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One effective way women can deal with imbalanced hormones is to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. Another is to increase exercise to an appropriate level.

Beneficial exercises include 45-minute workout sessions, circuit training (improves insulin response, increases testosterone and stimulating growth hormones), yoga (decreases adrenalin and boosts GABA, the calming neurotransmitter) and weight training (stimulates growth hormones).

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5. Add Vitamins and Minerals

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Some of the vitamins women need in their diets to support healthy hormone levels include vitamin B6, vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals can be consumed as supplements or in foods like whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, seafood, and poultry.

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Herbs

Herbs also can be valuable in helping to balance hormones. There are basically two broad categories of herbs to be considered: phytoestrogenic and non-phytoestrogenic.

The phytoestrogenic herbs contain plant-based estrogen compounds. When these are eaten, they add plant-based estrogens to the body. This may lead the body to not produce estrogen of its own. While herbs can be beneficial in re-balancing hormones at any age, you must be careful in using phytoestrogenic herbs since they contain estrogen compounds.

Younger women who consume these herbs could actually add to their imbalance by ceasing to produce estrogen naturally. These types of herbs could be of more use for women who have at least started menopause.

6. Black Cohosh

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Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is one of the oldest phytoestrogenic herbs used to help balance hormones and battle the symptoms of menopause. This herb acts like estrogen in the body and relieves hot flashes. It is said to decrease inflammation often seen in hormone imbalance.

Black cohosh also helps regulate menstrual periods and relaxes the uterine muscles to help with menstrual cramps.

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7. Ginkgo Biloba

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Ginkgo biloba is also a phytoestrogenic herb that increase cognitive abilities. This can help women who suffer from memory lapses during menses or menopause. Non-phytoestrogenic herbs nourish and stimulate the pituitary and endocrine glands so they produce natural hormones better. These hormones are said to regulate estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels.

By stimulating and nourishing a woman’s own glands, these herbs appear to be safer to use than the phytoestrogenic herbs. Both menstruating and menopausal women may benefit from use of these herbs for hormonal imbalances.

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8. Chasteberry

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Chasteberry, also known as vitex, is one of those herbs that doesn’t fall into a specific category. It is very effective in relieving symptoms of PMS and menopause. For menstruating women, chasteberry is great at reducing uterine fibroids, clearing up acne, improving fertility, treating endometriosis and amenorrhea, and increases lactation.  In menopause, vitex is highly effective against night insomnia, hot flashes, and anxiety.

Chasteberry creates a balance between progesterone and estrogen. It helps reduce tenderness and soreness of the breasts by regulating how much prolactin is secreted by the pituitary gland.

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9. Ashwagandha

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Ashwagandha is a root herb that is said to help with sleep, cognitive functions, and sexual arousal. Improving sleep can be a general help in dealing with symptoms of hormone imbalance. This herb draws blood to the women’s reproductive organs and increases sexual drive and sensitivity. Ashwagandha can also help with hot flashes, depression, and anxiety.

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10. Macafem

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Macafem (Lepidium meyenii) is a root that contains unique alkaloids and has been used over 2000 years. Macafem contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. These nutrients naturally improves the body’s endocrine system and supports the regulation of the hormonal system.

During menopause, estrogen levels drop, which can lead to night sweats, hot flashes, fatigue, depression and anxiety, mood swings, night insomnia, and low libido. Macafem is a non-phytoestrogenic herb that helps to relieve symptoms of menopause. It increases libido, balances hormones, and raises energy levels.

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11. Rhodiola

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Rhodiola is another non-phytoestrogenic herb that works directly on the brain. It has some effect on the pituitary in the production of estrogen. It also helps the body handle stress more effectively, lowers cortisol, helps burn belly fat, increases focus and memory, ramps up energy levels, and fights mood disorders. If you take this supplement, make sure it is guaranteed Siberian-grown and has had exposure to some stress.

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Bioidentical Hormones

Bioidentical hormones have been shown to be effective in helping women handle the imbalances of hormones that may occur. These are compounded substances made from natural ingredients and are, as the name implies, identical to human hormones.

This category of treatment options for hormone imbalance may be beneficial for women who are still menstruating as well as those who are in menopause. It’s important for you to consult with your healthcare professional before using them.

12. Bi-estrogen

Bi-estrogen has been shown to be helpful in alleviating vaginal dryness, making intercourse more comfortable, and in reducing UTIs. Estriol is the component of bi-estrogen that helps in this regard. Estradiol, the second ingredient, helps with vaginal dryness as well as night sweats and hot flashes, promotes sleep, and reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

13. Tri-estrogen

Tri-estrogen adds estrone to the combination of estriol and estradiol in bi-estrogen. This combination is frequently given to women who are of low normal or below normal weight.

Some mild side effects may be encountered with bio-identical hormones. These usually go away with an adjustment in dosage levels.

Final Word

Up to 80% of women may suffer from the symptoms associated with hormone imbalance at some time in their lives. Most women who go into menopause will have these symptoms, but it is possible for women as young as 18 to begin having some symptoms. If these occur only during the woman’s period, they will go away once the period is over. But a large number of women suffer these symptoms at other times in their cycle as well.

With the adverse effects possible with hormone replacement therapy as traditionally used, having alternative ways of handling these symptoms is valuable. Using herbal, food, and lifestyle changes to deal with hormone imbalance will not work immediately. Changes that come naturally take time. However, the benefits of natural approaches to hormone balancing are worth the time and effort.

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