Monday, February 21, 2011

5 Foods That Help You Sleep

By Melanie Haiken,

Should you let yourself have that midnight snack if you're having trouble sleepingand you think hunger might be part of the problem? Here are five foods that can actually help you drift off:

Can't Get a Good Night's Sleep? 5 Surprising Reasons

1. Cherries. Fresh and dried cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body's internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries and found high levels of melatonin recommend eating them an hour before bedtime or before a trip when you want to sleep on the plane.

2. Bananas. Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.

3. Toast. Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger insulin production, which induces sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals that relax you and send you to sleep..

4. Oatmeal. Like toast, a bowl of oatmeal triggers a rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which many people take as a sleep aid..

5. Warm milk. Like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases relaxing serotonin. It's also high in calcium, which promotes sleep.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


by Katherine Butler


There are more loopholes and lawlessness in the world of beauty than flies on a bacon-covered cupcake. Seriously, someone might as well be spackling green paint on cans of oil for all the falsely organic stuff out on the shelves. As we may have mentioned once or twice, you need a PhD to determine what’s organic, what’s natural, and what’s a toxic waste dump disguised as face cream.

So what to do? We know to avoid parabens (preservative linked to cancer,) phthalates (solvent linked to reproductive issues,) petrochemicals, sodium laurel sulfate, and anything with fragrance in it. But what about all the other chemicals we see? We can spend our days plugging product ingredients into the Skin Deep database.

Let’s start with one of the most essential beauty products, the scrub. Sure, we can pick up a scrub at your local Whole Foods. (And consider our review of several popular products here.) But why not step into the kitchen and make it ourselves? Our faces and bodies are covered with dead skin cells and the best way to send them off into the afterlife is to use a good scrub. So check out our two favorite recipes for scrubs you can mix up in your own kitchen.


Courtesy of Narine Nikogosian’s “Return to Beauty”

Nikogosian reports that walnuts are “packed with beta-carotene, vitamin E, and alpha-linolenic acid which help your skin stay soft, smooth and supple.” Like the sweet stuff? Honey helps slough away dead skin cells.

Mix 1 teaspoon of finely-ground walnuts with 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix well. Massage this gently over your face for five minutes. Focus on your T-zone (chine, nose, and forehead). Rinse with warm water.


Eating tons of sugar? Not so good for your skin. But using it to exfoliate your dead skin away? Nothing’s sweeter than that. A brown sugar scrub can give you the same results as a gentle chemical peel.

Purchase a bag of brown sugar. The dark the better, as light sugars tend to dissolve quickly. Add two tablespoons of water to a small bowl of sugar, but be sure it is not enough to dissolve it. Wet your face. Using circular motions, work the sugar over your skin. Leave the paste on for ten minutes. Then rinse.

Image: avlxyz


by Katherine Butler


Want a centuries-old beauty trick? Tie on your sunbonnets and lean in. (Yes, now I am whispering.) Honey is the secret to everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but it comes pretty darn close. It’s the multi-tasker of natural beauty. Cleopatra made milk and honey baths infamous. Poppea, wife of Rome’s Emperor Nero, used milk and honey to maintain a youthful appearance. And best of all? It is everywhere and it is relatively cheap.

From your farmer’s market to local grocer, almost everyone carries a stock of honey. Naturally, you want to try to use organic honey. But beware of green washing – while many claim their honey is organic, it is nearly impossible to discern where the bees which created it foraged. They could have easily been exposed to pesticides, fertilizers and more. Some recommend buying farmer’s market honey, where you can talk to the grower about how his or her bees were cultivated and how the honey was bottled.

So just why is honey so awesome?

It’s a fantastic moisturizer.
Honey is a natural humectant. This means it draws in and maintains moisture, making it an excellent albeit sticky solution for dry skin. Want a great homemade moisturizer? Mix two tablespoons of warm honey with two tablespoons of organic yogurt. Whisk the mixture together and apply to your face for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water. And try not to annoy any neighboring bees in the process.

It can work as an anti-ager and acne treatment.
Honey helps slough away dead skin cells, renewing skin. It is also packed with antioxidants, which can help combat the signs of skin damage. It also has antimicrobial properties, which makes it an excellent treatment for acne. This means honey can help clear blockage in pores as well as fight bacteria causing pimples. It is much easier on the skin than many of the harsh chemical acne treatments on the market.

It can help heal scars.
As we have already reported, honey is a superstar for scar treatment.Because of its antimicrobial properties, it has been used for centuries to treat wounds. And because it is also a fantastic moisturizer, it can help skin along on the road to recovery. You can place honey on your recovering scar and cover it with a layer of gauze to help along treatment.

It’s good for your hair.
For the same reason it’s a good moisturizer for your skin, honey works great on your hair. Some use it as a deep conditioner. Mix half a cup of honey with one tablespoon of olive oil. Work into your hair and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse like you’ve never rinsed before! Your hair will be soft, silky, and hopefully not too sticky.

It gives you fresh breath.
Worried about your breath? Consider gargling with antimicrobial honey. Mix one tablespoon with a half cup of water. Some suggest throwing in a dash of cinnamon or a squeeze of lemon. Gargle away. And don’t forget to throw a little honey in your tea for sweet, fresh breath.

Image: vickyb


by Katherine Butler


I just ran across an organic rose petal face cream that goes for around $200. Now, I’m sure it’s amazing organic rose petal face cream. But am I about to spend a couple hundred of my hard-earned clams on it? That’s about as likely as me becoming a marginally famous red carpet staple known for wearing shirts as dresses. (As in, not very. Worst trend ever.)

Luckily, history presents us with some options. After all, moisturizing isn’t a 21st century phenomenon. Cleopatra is said to have bathed her skin in donkey’s milk. And the women of the Oregon Trail didn’t have organic boutiques in which to shop for skin care between birthing babies in covered wagons and fighting off rapid raccoons with their bare hands. But they may have stuck their bare faces to the dusty wind and dreamed of the creamy white skins on the illustrations in Godey’s Lady Book.

So put on your Laura Ingalls Wilder sunbonnets (I have two), saddle up, and check out these tips and recipes for homemade moisturizers. Why? Because there’s a whole world of DIY makeup up there – and what’s better than organic ingredients you can control yourself?

For Dry Skin – Treat your skin to one tablespoon of organic sesame or olive oil. Use sparingly – I have found out the hard way that too much olive oil takes about three decades to absorb into your skin. You will be amazingly hydrated, but you will feel like salad dressing if you use too much. Also great for dry skin – mix two tablespoons of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and one egg. Apply to your skin for 15 minutes and rinse.

For Irritated Skin – Combine one tablespoon of organic rose hip oil, one tablespoon of organic olive oil, one tablespoon of organic aloe vera juice. Mix with three drops of organic chamomile oil. Mix the oils into a jar, shake well, and apply.

For Oily Skin – From Narine Nikogosian’s Return to Beauty. Take one small lemon, one tablespoon margarine, and one teaspoon almond oil. Peel the lemon and cut it in half. Warm margarine, mix with lemon and oil until creamy. Apply after cleansing.

For Normal Skin – Take two tablespoons of mashed organic strawberries, ½ mashed organic banana, and one tablespoon of mashed organic blueberries. Add two tablespoons of organic honey. Apply to face for 15 minutes, wash off with cool water. Fruit contains natural antioxidants great for your skin and the honey will moisturize.

Image: sunshinecity


by Tina McCarthy

facial ingredients

We all want fresh, radiant skin, but you don’t have to throw down big bucks for an expensive facial at the day spa to achieve this youthful glow. Using ingredients from around your home (and your garden, too), you can make an assortment of 100% natural facial masks to suite all skin types for a tiny fraction of the cost.

PhotobucketOily Skin

Mash up a cup of fresh organic strawberries and mix in three teaspoons of honey, two egg whites and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Smooth a thin layer over your entire face, leave it on for 1- minutes and rinse with warm water.

PhotobucketDry Skin

Pulverize several almonds and thoroughly blend them with a teaspoon of aloe vera gel and powdered milk and a tablespoon of honey. Gently apply this mixture and use warm water to wash it off after 10 minutes.

PhotobucketCombination Skin

Remove the petals from a single red rose, soak them in warm water, pour out the water and crush them into small pieces. Add a tablespoon of yogurt and honey, two tablespoons of rosewater and mix well. Spread this concoction evenly over your face, wait 10 minutes and rinse with warm water.

PhotobucketAll Skin Types

Grind a tablespoon of oatmeal to a fine consistency and blend it with a tablespoon of yogurt and a teaspoon of honey. Spread this homemade mask evenly onto your face, let it sit for 10 minutes and wash it off using warm water.


beauty solutions

It would be grand to just roll out of bed every morning looking glamorous and fresh, but the truth is that it takes a little work. Here are eight easy and eco-friendly tricks for dealing with some of the most frustrating beauty predicaments without going the high-maintenance route.

Tired Eyes
Everybody knows about sliced cucumbers, but I recently discovered a more effective method. Steep a couple of green tea bags, put them in the refrigerator until they’re cool and place them over your eyes.

Apply a touch of toothpaste overnight and dab blemishes with lemon juice before putting on makeup in the morning.

Oily Skin
If you start your morning off with a hot bowl of oatmeal, this one’s a cinch. Let your leftovers cool, mix in a little bit of honey and apply this homemade mask to your face. Leave it on for five minutes and rinse.

Dull Hair
Next time you pop the bubbly, save a glass of champagne to rinse through your hair for brighter locks.

Bad Breath
Add several drops of lemon juice to that reusable water bottle you carry around all day. When your mouth feels stale, just take a swig and swish. Bad breath bacteria don’t stand a chance against the acid present in lemon juice.

Wet Nails
Who has the time to wait for nail polish to dry, especially after a couple of coats? Dipping them into ice cold water will speed up the process.

Chapped Lips
Lip balm may moisturize, but it doesn’t get rid of dead skin cells. Make your own exfoliating scrub by blending a bit of honey with coffee grounds and massage the mixture onto your lips.

Mix several teaspoons of vinegar with water and massage into your scalp. Wrap your hair in a towel and leave it in your hair overnight. Repeat the process weekly for the best results.



The greener we become, the more we have to scrutinize. I for one have cleaned up my home, my diet, my cleaning products and – of utmost importance – the products I put on my skin. I’m an avid ingredient reader and do the research – after all, my skin is the largest organ of my body! Here’s a list of some common skin and hair care chemicals that are wise to avoid.

Coal Tar: Coal tar is used to treat eczema, psoriasis and other skin disorders and can be found in anti-itch creams and scalp treatments. It’s also a known carcinogen.

Diethanolamine (DEA): A lathering agent in soaps and shampoos, DEA isn’t carcinogenic by itself, but can react with other chemicals in products to create a carcinogen readily absorbed into the skin. Look for DEA in many forms, such as Cocamide DEA, Oleamide DEA and Lauramide DEA.

Formaldehyde: A frighteningly common ingredient in a variety of beauty products. Formaldehyde can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, dry out and irritate your skin and even cause asthma and cancer with repeated exposure.

Parabens: Parabens have had a lot of press lately and I’m finding more and more products specifically labeled “paraben free.” This is because parabens, in their many forms (methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben) have been linked to breast cancer. The FDA claims that parabens aren’t dangerous at very low levels, but when you consider that 25,000 different cosmetics and skincare products contain these chemicals, it’s feasible to build up quite an exposure in a lifetime.

Phenylenediamine (PPD): An ingredient used in hair dyes (including eyelash dye), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has run studies that show a higher incidence of cancer among hairdressers and cosmetologists; they have the highest PPD exposure. Although PPD is not approved for products that come in contact with the skin, hair dye usually gets on your forehead or ears for up to 30 minutes. Why take the risk?

Phthalates: The subject of much controversy because of hormone-disrupting phthalates being found in plastic baby bottles and teethers, let’s not forget that they’re a common ingredient in cosmetics, too.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): A foaming agent in soaps and shampoos, SLS and SLES are skin irritants and can enter the heart, brain and liver through the skin and accumulate in these organs.

Toluene: Found in nail polish and hair dye, this is a nasty one. Toluene is toxic to the nervous system, and breathing it in can cause dizziness and headaches. High exposures can lead to birth defects and miscarriage, so watch out if you work in a nail salon. Use toluene-free brands of nail polish instead.

Fragrance: Because of an FDA loophole, cosmetic companies can hide a whole slew of chemicals, many of which are phthalates, under the label “fragrance.” Read more about the dangers of fragrance, and avoid this ingredient like the plague.

Triethanolamine (TEA): TEA is used to balance PH and is a common ingredient in “gentle” cosmetic products, but unfortunately it’s been known to cause allergic reactions, is an eye irritant and can cause dry hair and skin. With consistent use, TEA is absorbed into the body and accumulates, where it can become toxic.

Hydroquinone: A skin-bleaching ingredient, hydroquinone is banned in Japan, the European Union, and Australia, but it’s still in use in the United States and other countries worldwide. Hydroquinone is found not only in Asian and African skin-lightening products, but in creams to lighten age-spots as well. There’s some evidence that hydroquinone is a carcinogen, and is linked to ochnronosis, a condition in which grayish brown spots and bumps occur on the skin.

When choosing cosmetics, read the ingredients, do your homework and go as simple and natural as possible. You really don’t need all that extra junk to be beautiful.

Source: EWG

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

By Paula Spencer,

Looking people straight in the eye may or may not reveal their honesty -- but the eyes *can* tell you about cholesterol, liver disease, or diabetes, if you know what to look for.

"The eye is a unique window into health," says ophthalmologist Andrew Iwach, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. "It's the only place in the body where, without surgery, we can look in and see veins, arteries, and a nerve (the optic nerve)."

The eyes' transparency explains why common eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration can be detected early with regular eye exams.

"Unfortunately, people get busy and delay not only eye exams but regular physicals. That's why eye doctors sometimes discover other issues, like diabetes or high blood pressure," Iwach says. Especially vulnerable, he says: People like caregivers, who worry about others around them while neglecting care for themselves.

Keep your eye out for these 14 problems.

1. Red flag: Disappearing eyebrows

What it means: Shaved eyebrows are a fad (or fashion, if you will) in some circles. But when the outer third of the brow (the part closest to the ears) starts to disappear on its own, this is a common sign of thyroid disease -- either hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). The thyroid is a small but critical gland that helps regulate metabolism, and thyroid hormones are among those critical to hair production.

More clues: Brows tend to thin with age naturally. But with thyroid disease, the brow-hair loss isn't evenly distributed; it's a selective dropout on the ends. There's usually a loss of hair elsewhere on the body, too, but the brows are so prominent, it's often noticed here first. Early graying is a related sign of a thyroid problem. Women are more often affected than men, and hyperthyroidism especially strikes women in their 20s and 30s.

What to do: Mention this symptom to a dermatologist or your regular doctor. Most other symptoms of both hyper- and hypothyroidism are notoriously broad and general. Before you see a doctor, make note of any other changes you've noticed, possibly concerning weight, energy levels, bowel or menstrual regularity, mood, or skin changes.

2. Red flag: A stye that won't go away

What it means: The vast majority of the time, a small, raised, often reddish bump along the inner or outer eyelid margin is just an unsightly but innocuous stye (also called a "chalazion"). But if the spot doesn't clear up in three months, or seems to keep recurring in the same location, it can also be a rare cancer (sebaceous gland carcinoma).

More clues: Actual styes are plugged-up oil glands at the eyelash follicle. Fairly common, they tend to clear up within a month. A cancerous cyst that mimics a stye, on the other hand, doesn't go away. (Or it may seem to go away but return in the same spot.) Another eyelid cancer warning sign: Loss of some of the eyelashes around the stye.

What to do: Point out a persistent stye to an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the eye). A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. The stye is usually removed surgically.

3. Red flag: Bumpy yellowish patches on the eyelid

What it means: Xanthelasma palpebra, the medical name for these tiny yellow bumps, are usually a warning that you may have high cholesterol. They're also called "cholesterol bumps" -- they're basically fatty deposits.

More clues: Sometimes people mistake these bumps for a stye, but with xanthelasma, there tends to be more than one bump and they're quite small.

What to do: See your doctor or a skin or eye specialist. A diagnosis can usually be made by sight. An ophthalmologist can also examine the eye and see deposits; for this reason, in fact, sometimes high cholesterol is first diagnosed during a routine eye exam. The problem usually isn't serious and doesn't cause pain or vision problems. A physician will also evaluate you for other signs of coronary artery disease.

4. Red flag: Burning eyes, blurry vision while using a computer

What it means: You might be a workaholic, and you definitely have "computer vision syndrome" (CVS). The eyestrain is partly caused by the lack of contrast on a computer screen (compared with ink on paper) and the extra work involved in focusing on pixels of light. What's more, by midlife the eyes lose some of their ability to produce lubricating tears. Irritation sets in, adding to blurriness and discomfort.

More clues: Does the problem worsen in the afternoon (when the eyes tend to become drier)? Is it worse when you're reading fine print (more eyestrain)? People who wear glasses or contacts tend to be bothered more by CVS. "Sometimes the problem is made worse by a fan positioned so it blows right in the face," the AAO's Iwach adds, noting that the air further dries tired eyes.

What to do: Reduce glare by closing window shades, investing in a computer hood, or checking out antireflective coating for your glasses (if you wear them). Simply tinkering with the contrast of your screen can help, too. White areas should neither glow brightly like a light source nor appear gray. Flat-panel LCD display screens (like those on laptops) cause less eyestrain than older models. Keep reference material close to the same height as your monitor, giving your eyes a break from having to refocus so much.

5. Red flag: Increasing gunk in the eye

What it means: Blepharitis -- inflammation of the eyelids, especially at the edges -- can have several causes. Two of them, surprisingly, are conditions better associated with other body parts: scalp dandruff and acne rosacea (which causes flushed red skin, usually in the faces of fair-skinned women at midlife).

More clues: The eyes may also feel irritated, as if specks have gotten in them. They may burn, tear, or feel dry. The crusty debris tends to gather in the lashes or the inner corners of the eyes, or even on the lids.

What to do: With clean hands, apply a warm, damp washcloth to the eyes for about five minutes at a time to loosen debris and soothe the skin. See a doctor, who may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics, as well as artificial tears.

6. Red flag: A small blind spot in your vision, with shimmering lights or a wavy line

What it means: An ocular migraine (also called an "ophthalmic migraine," "optical migraine," or "migraine aura") produces this disturbed vision, with or without an accompanying headache. Changes in blood flow to the brain are thought to be the cause.

More clues: The visual distortion starts in the center of the field of vision. It might appear as a bright dot, dots, or a line that can seem to move and disrupt your ability to see properly, as if you were looking through a pocked or cracked window. It's painless and causes no lasting damage. Individuals seem to have different triggers (ranging from chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol to stress). A headache, possibly severe enough to cause nausea, sometimes follows.

What to do: If you're driving, pull over until the phenomenon passes (usually within an hour). Do have an eye specialist check it out if vision impairment lasts more than an hour or so, to rule out serious problems such as a retinal tear; or if you also experience other symptoms elsewhere that could indicate stroke or seizure (such as fever, loss of muscle strength, or speech impairment).

7. Red flag: Red, itchy eyes

What it means: Many things can irritate eyes, but itchiness accompanied by sneezing, coughing, sinus congestion, and/or a runny nose, usually screams "I'm allergic!" When the eyes are involved, the trigger is usually airborne, like pollen, dust, or animal dander.

More clues: An eye allergy can also be caused by certain cosmetics or ointments. Some people, for example, are allergic to the preservative in eye drops used to treat dry eyes.

What to do: Staying away from the allergic trigger is the usual treatment. Antihistamines can treat the itchiness; those in eye-drop or gel form deliver relief to the eyes faster. If the problem turns out to be an allergy to eye drops, look for a preservative-free brand.

8. Red flag: Whites of the eye turned yellowish

What it means: Two groups of people most often show this symptom, known as jaundice: Newborns with immature liver function and adults with problems of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts, including hepatitis and cirrhosis. The yellow in the white part of the eye (the sclera) is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, the by-product of old red blood cells the liver can't process.

More clues: "Other tissues of the body would have the same look, but we can't see it as clearly as in the whites of the eye," says ophthalmologist Iwach. (Skin can also turn yellowish when a person consumes too much beta carotene -- found in carrots -- but in those cases the whites of the eyes remain white.)

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor if the person isn't already under care for a liver-related disease, so the jaundice can be evaluated and the underlying cause treated.

9. Red flag: A bump or brown spot on the eyelid

What it means: Even people who are vigilant about checking their skin may overlook the eyelid as a spot where skin cancer can strike. Most malignant eyelid tumors are basal cell carcinoma. When such a tumor appears as a brown spot, then -- as with any other form of skin cancer -- it's more likely to be malignant melanoma.

More clues: Elderly, fair-skinned people are at highest risk. Look especially at the lower eyelid. The bump may look pearly, with tiny blood vessels. If the bump is in the eyelash area, some eyelashes may be missing.

What to do: Always have any suspicious skin spots or sores checked out by a dermatologist, family physician, or eye doctor. Early detection is critical, before the problem spreads to nearby lymph nodes.

10. Red flag: Eyes that seem to bulge

What it means: The most common cause of protruding eyes is hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), especially the form known as Graves' disease. (First Lady Barbara Bush had it.)

More clues: One way to tell if an eye is bulging is to see whether there's any visible white part between the top of the iris and the upper eyelid, because normally there shouldn't be. (Some people inherit a tendency toward eyes that bulge, so if the appearance seems to run in a family, it probably isn't hyperthyroidism.) The person may not blink often and may seem to be staring at you. Because the condition develops slowly, it's sometimes first noticed in photos or by the occasional visitor rather than by someone who lives with the person every day.

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor, especially if it's present in tandem with other signs of Graves' disease, including blurry vision, restlessness, fatigue, increase in appetite, weight loss, tremors, and palpitations. A blood test can measure thyroid levels. Treatment includes medication and surgery.

11. Red flag: Sudden double vision, dim vision, or loss of vision

What it means: These are the visual warning signs of stroke.

More clues: The other signs of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the arm or leg or face, typically on just one side of the body; trouble walking because of dizziness or loss of balance or coordination; slurred speech; or bad headache. In a large stroke (caused by a blood clot or bleeding in the brain), these symptoms happen all at once. In a smaller stroke caused by narrowed arteries, they can occur across a longer period of minutes or hours.

What to do: Seek immediate medical help by calling 911.

12. Red flag: Dry eyes that are sensitive to light

What it means: Sjogren's (pronounced "show-grins") syndrome is an immune system disorder. It impairs the glands in the eyes and mouth that keep them moist.

More clues: Sjogren's usually affects women over age 40 with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Usually the eyes and mouth are affected together. The person may also have vaginal dryness, dry sinuses, and dry skin. Because of a lack of saliva, it can be difficult to chew and swallow.

What to do: A doctor can diagnose Sjogren's through testing. Artificial lubricants (such as artificial tears) are usually necessary to protect the eyes, as well as to improve eating. Drinking plenty of water also helps.

13. Red flag: Sudden difficulty closing one eye, inability to control tears in it

What it means: Bell's palsy is an impairment of the nerve that controls facial muscles (the seventh cranial nerve), causing temporary paralysis in half the face. It sometimes follows a viral infection (such as shingles, mono, or HIV) or a bacterial infection (such as Lyme disease). Diabetics and pregnant women are also at higher risk.

More clues: Half of the entire face, not just the eye, is affected. Effects vary from person to person, but the overall effect is for the face to appear droopy and be weak. The eyelid may droop and be difficult or impossible to close, and there will be either excessive tearing or an inability to produce tears. The effects tend to come on suddenly.

What to do: See a doctor. Most cases are temporary and the person recovers completely within weeks. Rarely, the condition can recur. Physical therapy helps restore speaking, smiling, and other tasks that require the facial muscles working in unison, and it also helps avoid an asymmetrical appearance. Professional eye care can keep the affected eye lubricated and undamaged.

14. Red flag: Blurred vision in a diabetic

What it means: Diabetics are at increased risk for several eye problems, including glaucoma and cataracts. But the most common threat to vision is diabetic retinopathy, in which the diabetes affects the circulatory system of the eye. It's the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

More clues: The changes linked to diabetic retinopathy tend to show up in people who have had the disease for a long time, not those recently diagnosed. The person may also see "floaters," tiny dark specks in the field of vision. Sometimes diabetes causes small hemorrhages (bleeding) that are visible in the eye. There's no pain. People with poorly controlled blood sugar may have worse symptoms.

What to do: Someone with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam annually to catch and control the earliest stages of retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, or other changes -- before they manifest as changes you're aware of.

Natural remedies for the 15 most common aches, pains, and health complaints

By Sarah Irani, EcoSalon

(Photo: Flickr / tillwe)

(Photo: Flickr / tillwe)

Is the economy beating you up? It’s time to get creative. Next time you have an ache or pain, forget about a costly trip to the drugstore and test-drive some of your grandmother’s remedies instead. It’ll save money and be gentler on your body and the environment. Recessionistas (and gents), welcome to the DIY medicine cabinet.

1. Stop Bleeding

You’d think it would burn, but a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on a cut will quickly stop the bleeding and actually relieve the pain.

2. Toothache

There’s nothing so bad as the shooting pain of a toothache. You don’t want to ignore a tooth problem, because an infection that close to your brain can be extremely dangerous if it spreads. But in order to reduce swelling and pain while you wait for a dentist appointment, try putting a few drops of clove oil on your tooth and gums, and bite down on a smashed piece of garlic (which has excellent antibacterial properties). This has always worked for me.

3. Rashes and Allergies

Prescription and OTC antihistamines can cause some serious side effects. Before you head for the strong stuff, try green tea, which contains compounds with antihistamine properties. You’ll need to drink 2-3 cups a day to get the full effect.

4. Athlete’s Foot

It’s a foot fungus, and it stinks. Air those piggies, then soak them in salty water, wash them with garlic juice, or soak them with diluted white or apple cider vinegar. All of these things will help kill the fungus.

But you have to be persistent, consistent, and diligent: No matter what treatment you use, do it a few times a day and stick with it until at least a week after you think the symptoms are gone! Fungus excels at hiding out and coming back when you least expect it.

5. Acne and Sensitive Skin

First, you really have to look at your lifestyle, because imbalances in your health can show up in your skin. But in the meantime, wash your face with oatmeal. It’s a gentle exfoliant and draws out oil and impurities.

6. Ear Infections

Ear infections can become quite serious and cause permanent damage, so please see a doctor if your ear ache has become severe.

But if you feel like your infection is mild and at the beginning stages, put a few drops of garlic oil or white vinegar into your ear canal and lay down on the opposite side to let those drops do their work. Garlic and vinegar create an environment that won’t support the bacteria causing the infection. Repeat a few times a day until the symptoms disappear. (If your symptoms last longer than a few days, you should definitely see a doctor!)

7. Sore Muscles and Bruises

After a hard afternoon of rowing with a friend, I resigned myself to a few days of burning muscles and soreness. But my friend saved the day with a tube of arnica cream. He rubbed it on my shoulders and voila, instant relief and absolutely no aches the next day. The humble arnica flower makes an incredible cream that no medicine cabinet should be without. Use it immediately to speed up the healing of bruises, sprains, sore muscles, and other general aches.

8. Flatulence

Some foods, like beans and raw veggies, are more likely to cause gas, but if you find flatulence to be too common of an occurrence, try taking a digestive enzyme with your meals. You can find these at any health food store.

In the meantime, make use of digestive spices such as ginger, anise, peppermint, coriander, and dill. You can make tea with these ingredients or incorporate them into your food.

9. Dandruff

Have you looked at the ingredients in dandruff shampoo? It seems like they contain almost everything in theToxic Ingredients You Must Avoid list. Better to try something natural first before resorting to chemicals. Many people swear by rubbing aloe vera gel onto the scalp (leave it on for 20 minutes than rinse it out). This will certainly help with dry, itchy scalp.

Another remedy is a rinse with apple cider vinegar. Try these remedies a few times before deciding if they work for you. Even dandruff shampoo requires regular use to see results, so give the natural stuff a chance!

10. Headache and Migraine

Try rubbing peppermint or lavender oil on your temples and the base of your neck; sniffing these oils may also help.

Rub a fresh cut lemon or lime on your forehead. Feverfew is a good herbal remedy for headaches.

Have a little caffeine by way of green tea, and don’t forget to use an ice pack for 20 minutes to dull the throbbing.

11. Indigestion and Heartburn

It almost goes without saying – but consider why you’re getting heartburn in the first place. Did you overeat? Too much grease or spicy food? Eating late at night? Scout out the cause and try to stop this before it happens. Then, put down the antacids.

The belching, bloat, and heartburn caused by indigestion come about because you don’t have enough stomach acid to do the job right. A spoonful or two of apple cider vinegar will help break down the excess food that is causing you trouble and bring your stomach back to balance.

12. Constipation

First, drink more water and eat more fruit and salads. You’re backed up for a reason and taking lots of laxatives is not the answer. Meanwhile, drinking a few teaspoons of olive oil mixed with a bit of orange or (diluted) lemon juice can help things get moving.

Another surefire remedy is 1/4 teaspoon of epsom salts drunk in 1/2 a glass of water. Sometimes calorie restriction or avoidance of healthy fats (such as the good fats found in fish, nuts, and avocados) can worsen constipation.

And though it’s counterintuitive, some people relieve their constipation by actually cutting back on grain consumption! True, grains contain fiber, but some people don’t digest grains very well. Other causes of constipation include stress, depression, inactivity, and nutritional deficiencies. If your constipation is chronic, it may be a sign of a more serious problem, so please seek medical advice and adjust your lifestyle.

13. Sore Throat

Sore, scratchy throats are usually a sign of a cold or flu coming on, so you don’t want to ignore this symptom, but you can relieve the pain by gargling with warm salt water a few times a day and then drinking a soothing honey-lemon tea.

14. Burns

So you bumped up against the stove again? Ouch. Rinse first with cold water, but then immediately applyaloe vera gel to the burn.

For those of us who don’t have aloe in the house, slice a potato and rub its cool, soothing juices all over the burn.

And honey, with its antibacterial properties, is also good topical ointment. If you can catch the burn immediately, mustard is also reportedly a great salve.

15. Nausea

The classic cure for nausea or carsickness is ginger tea or candied ginger. You can chew on the stuff raw, if you like, but it’s so spicy and strong it might just make you feel worse.

Sniffing real peppermint or lavender oil can also help.