Category Archives: General Health

Natural deterrent to aphids

FeverfewBattling with aphids (greenfly) in the garden?  Commercially available insecticides often contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is derived from nature.  Rather than buying bottles of commercially prepared and potentially hazardous chemicals, you can harness the power of nature in deterring greenfly just by some clever planting. 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a pretty daisy-like plant that contains pyrethrins – very similar to the chemicals in commercial sprays.  Plant Feverfew amongst your flowers and it’s presence will deter the little insect marauders. DaisyGolden feverfew is a pretty plant in its own right – as the name suggests its foliage is a yellow/golden colour – and all plants will readily self-seed all over the garden if you allow them to.  (This plant is also used as a traditional herbal remedy for migraine).

BeeWhilst it is possible to make your own insecticidal spray or powder from these plants I wouldn’t advise it as it is toxic to bees. In its plant form it seems to work well enough for me and does no harm to bees.  Some sources claim that it will deter bees from the garden, although I have never found this to be the case and have often seen bees visiting the feverfew flowers.  

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Sleep, Rest and Recoup

tired

Tips for a restful night’s sleep

If you’re reading this, logic tells me that you are concerned about lack of sleep.  First of all, it’s important to say that  while 8 hours is the accepted norm for a good night’s sleep, you needn’t necessarily feel bad because you routinely sleep for less than this.  Some people actually only need 4 hours (Margaret Thatcher being a famous example), while others are out for the count for a full 12 (just about every teenager on the planet).  

However, sleep deprivation, when your body is telling you that you need more rest (!),  can be both debilitating and depressing and no one really wants to resort to potentially addictive chemicals to solve the problem. There are so many possible causes, cures and herbal remedies that I thought it might be helpful to put together a whole list of them.  I hope you’ll find something here to help. 

Herbal Help

Lavender has been known for centuries to induce relaxation and can be used in a number of ways: a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled on the corner of your pillow will help, as will  lavender oil in a cold diffuser placed in the lavender-1bedroom.

A warm bath, at the optimum time of two hours before bed, helps to regulate body temperature to an ideal level and is particularly helpful when combined with lavender products like bubble bath and body lotion.

Herbal teas can also prove useful – chamomile and valerian (which is often combined with hops) are both well-known for aiding relaxation and sleep.  While both will help with insomnia, I’ve read recently that valerian, especially when combined with ‘chaste tree’ may help with sleep maintenance. 

Extra help and accepted wisdom

Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise during the day can help to stop stress hormones from interfering with sleep.

Try to avoid heavy meals just before bed – a minimum two hour gap between meal and bed is a good idea.

art-deco-girl-11Avoid caffeine drinks like regular tea, coffee and cola in the evening.

Is your actual bed ‘up to muster’?  The lifespan of a bed depends largely upon quality but as a rule of thumb, if your bed is ten to twelve years old you should probably replace it.  (Here’s a tip: If you suffer from backache, it may just be your bed)!

Equally, do you need new pillows?  There are a huge variety of pillows out there – foam, feather, down – and it may just be that a change of pillow would help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Try to avoid sheets with a high synthetic content.  Sheets with a high cotton content allow your skin to breathe, which in turn makes the bed feel more comfortable.  (I tend to buy sheets with a maximum cotton / minimum polyester content, simply because I’ve found some pure cotton sheets can be an absolute swine to launder).

Environment

Try to ensure that your bedroom is furnished fairly simply and is clutter free.  Psychologically, a clutter free bedroom makes for a calmer and more relaxing atmosphere.

Look at using colours for walls, carpets and soft furnishings that you personally find relaxing.  Traditionally shades of blue and green evoke feelings of calm and relaxation in many people but you may have something else in mind.  (For example, I always seem to opt for gentle creams). 

Try not to watch TV or work in bed.  Your bedroom should become associated in your mind with your own haven of peace and utter relaxation.

off-to-bed1The best temperature for a relaxed sleep is surprisingly cool, i.e. 68 degrees.  Fit individual thermostats to radiators if you can so that you can keep your bedroom at this temperature (and save money)!

It goes without saying that minimising noise and light will also help – it’s strange but true that even though you are asleep you will become aware of increasing light levels in a room where the curtains / blinds allow the morning light to percolate through.

If you live in a quiet area and it is safe to do so, leaving a ‘top light’ /small window slightly ajar to let in some fresh air is a good idea.  Good sleep doesn’t happen easily in a stuffy, ‘sealed’ room with stale air.

Less obvious but worth mentioning anyway:

Airing the room each day, allowing a fresh supply of oxygen to flow through your room will keep it smelling sweet and welcoming.

Toss back the covers each morning to allow cool air to permeate the bed covers.  Even half an hour of this while you shower will keep the bed smelling fresh (not to mention keeping any mites at bay)!

Make the bed each day – an un-made bed doesn’t exactly call you to its gentle embrace, now does it?

Change the bed sheets each week (hopefully you knew that one already)!

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I really, really hope something here will be of help.  Let me know how you get on and…

Remember if this is an on-going problem and you feel at all concerned you should still talk to your doctor.

sleep-soundly

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Beautiful Eyes: Preventing & dealing with dark circles

Beautiful eyesAs the new year comes around we all tend to take a critical look at ourselves and if what you see in the mirror right now isn’t quite what you’d like to be seeing, then the following may interest you.  Set out below are a few pointers for anyone concerned about dark circles under their eyes. 

The most obvious and common cause of dark circles is a lack of several good nights’ sleep  – the perceived wisdom being that a minimum 8 hours per night is needed for optimum benefit.  Alcohol consumption alters the quality of our sleep, so if you’ve crashed out for an 11 hour session in bed after an all-night bender, the fact of the matter is that you may still be sorely in need of a good night’s sleep!

Alcohol consumption generally may also have put your kidneys and/or liver under stress and an outward symptom of that is dark circles under the eyes.  Do your system a favour, therefore, by cutting out the alcohol in favour of cool, clear water and those dark circles may soon be a thing of the past. 

Equally, poor diet can put our liver and kidneys under strain.  Increase your intake of green, leafy vegetables and fresh fruit and avoid heavy foods like butter, cream, rich salad dressings and chocolate.  Cut out fried food, coffee and any heavily processed food and drinks.

Dark rings under the eyes can be a sign of anaemia (a lack of iron in the diet).  The remedy may be to follow the dietary advice above but if this is an on-going problem, or you are in any way concerned, you should certainly visit your doctor for advice.

Unfortunately some of us are pre-disposed through our genetic make-up to have dark circles under our eyes and it’s a problem that becomes worse as we age and the skin under the eyes becomes thinner.  If you think this may be the case for you then relatively inexpensive cosmetic eye creams may help disguise the problem as many have light reflecting properties that make the eye area look generally lighter and more youthful.  (Look for something, for example, like l’Oreal eye cream, formulated and packaged for men and women). Don’t use regular moisturiser on the eye area.  It’s too heavy and may weigh the skin down, causing bags! 

Concealer may also help, although you need to use a light hand when applying it.  (I’m not making any money out of recommending this but I’ve always found Yves Saint Laurent ‘Touche Eclat’ (Radiant Touch) to be very useful when I need a fake boost.  Again, use it judiciously or else you will look like a panda)!

Remember, in all cases, if you are at all concerned, or it is an on-going problem a quick visit to the doctor is probably in order.

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Storing food: Tin cans and aluminium

TinManWhenever you open a tin of food, if you’re not going to use the whole amount put any spare in a bowl or other food container, cover and store in the fridge.  Never store food in an opened tin, either the original or re-using old, (cleaned!) tins.  This is because when a can has been opened and the food is exposed to the air the metal of the can may start to transfer.  (This doesn’t of course apply to tins specifically manufactured and supplied with a reasealable cap, such as cocoa).

Similarly, be careful when using kitchen foil to store food.  Acidic foods like rhubarb, tomatoes and many soft fruits may well react with aluminium foil, allowing trace metal to migrate into the food.  At best your food will have a metallic taste, at worst it could present a health risk.

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Filed under General Health, General house tips, Uncategorized, What's Cooking?

Christmas Countdown, 7

Santa in white robeWe’ve reached the end of my Christmas countdown prompts.  Hopefully spreading all that has to be done over a much longer period has not only made life easier for you, spreading the cost over several weeks has made it slightly easier to bear the cost financially. 

Before I give my very last prompts, here is a reminder of the checklist in its entirety.  Tick them off and give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve been organised enough to get all this done! If not, don’t worry, this list may still be a useful reminder and the point is to not get yourself all twisted up about Christmas.  It’s trite but true – Christmas is about families and friends  getting together.  Everything else is just tinsel in one form or another.

So here is where we are so far …..

Christmas cards written and posted.

The main ‘theme’ of the Christmas meal is organised, whether it is a turkey, goose, or whatever, so that all you need to do now is go and pay and pick it up (oh, and cook it)!  The same goes for extra meats like a ham for boxing day and beyond.

If you’re really organised you have bought, and wrapped, Christmas presents and because you harrassed family members to provide you with a wish list, you know they’re going to like what they receive!

The house is looking pretty good – cleared of junk and ready for the festivities.

You also know that you have all the Christmas gubbins like extra roasting pans etc. to cook and serve the meal.

If you’re an old-fashioned super-woman you may have even made some home-bake goodies like mince pies, ready and waiting in the freezer. 

Here are my last two prompts.  The first is obvious, the second will make you smile…until you need it and it isn’t there:

  • Put up Christmas decorations.  (…Told you it was obvious)!  Timing is totally down to you – there is no ‘right’ time.
  •  Have a quick think about your medicine cabinet and whether you have the basics.  In the haste of preparing food in a busy kitchen it’s awfully easy to cut yourself on a knife or burn your hand on a hot pot.  Then there is the question of over-indulgence – whether it be from alcohol or food.  In other words, make sure you have the basics to keep everyone safe and comfortable!  

You may find the ‘Troubleshooting tips’ of my site helpful at Christmas (listed on my ‘Recipes Page’) – specifically tips for restoring the salt/sweet balance in cooking.  Then there is the hangover cure (listed in ‘Beauty and Health’) that I discovered many years ago that certainly seemed to help (…so I hear ….because I myself never needed it, you understand)! 

I will try to put together a Christmas meal countdown between now and the ‘Big Day’ so if this may be useful to you, please visit again.  

Whatever you do …Have a good Christmas!

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Say cheese please

Teeth to be proud of!If you’ve had a meal ending in something sticky you might think that it would be a good idea to eat a crunchy apple to clean your teeth.  Apples, whilst being good for you in many ways, wont be doing your teeth any favours when used as a cleaner because the fruit acids in them tend to attack tooth enamel.  You’d be far better off eating a cube of cheese. 

Cheese helps to prevent the bacteria on your teeth from turning sugar into damaging acids, it increases the flow of saliva, neutralising any acids and helping to flush them away, and the high calcium and phosphorous content in cheese may also help by replacing some of the minerals in your tooth enamel. 

So next time, just say cheese please.

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Attack of the biscuit beetle

Ooooh!Sooner or later you’re likely to open a packet of flour to do some baking and see tiny little beetles, 2-3mm long, crawling around. Commonly called ‘biscuit beetle’ (Stegobium paniceum), and in the US ‘drugstore’ or ‘bread beetle’ they are, apparently, harmless and unless you see them in large numbers the flour should still be OK to use.  Well that’s the theory.  On the rare occasions I have come across them it has prompted a major session of checking food packets, chucking out and cleaning – but that’s just me.  

It’s important to say that biscuit beetle has nothing to do with cleanliness, so don’t beat yourself up about it if you see some of the little blighters in your kitchen.  The chances are that something you bought contained either the beetle or some eggs, and considering that a single female can lay up to 100 eggs, which will hatch in 1 – 2 weeks, you can see how pretty soon one errant beetle will produce an infestation. They don’t just inhabit flour either, you may well find them on other dried foodstuffs: cereals, pasta, nuts, rice, biscuits; and ordinary sealed packaging is no deterrent because they are able to gnaw their way into new packs.  You can see how pretty soon they can get a foothold in your cupboard!

HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM:

You’re going to need storage containers to store your food in from now on – items like plastic ‘Tupperware’ boxes that you can seal. 

Empty the cupboard and decide whether you want to use anything that you find to be affected. (I’ve already said that my preference is to throw away anything affected and start again).  Modern wisdom seems to be to then use food safe pesticides to treat the cupboard and surrounding surfaces but I can tell you that I don’t  like the thought of pesticides (food safe or not), and all my life I’ve had no further trouble when I’ve used the old-fashioned approach:

Cleared the cupboard, washed all around, including crevices, with hot soapy water (also tackling the counter tops beneath the cupboard) and then either leave the cupboard open to dry very thoroughly or use a hair dryer to make sure that there is absolutely no moisture remaining in it.  Transfer your unaffected food to your plastic, sealable storage containers and then that’s it – you can fill your cupboard again.

Biscuit beetle beaten!

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