[Infographic] 18 Science-Backed Sleep Tips to Make You More Productive

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How often do you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep? If you live for the lazy mornings that Saturday and Sunday bring, but feel like you can’t catch enough z’s during the week, you may be sleep deprived. That’s because you can’t catch up on sleep — you need consistent and restful sleep to feel truly rejuvenated. 



If you want to get more rest, you should consider the many things that factor into a good night’s sleep. Daily habits like the foods and drinks you consume, amount of activity, and emotional interactions can have an impact on how efficient your sleep is. To help you get the best sleep possible, GetVoIP created this visual on things to avoid, tips for getting to bed quickly, and how to optimize your environment to rest easy.



Source:[Infographic] 18 Science-Backed Sleep Tips to Make You More Productive

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Non-Traditional Homes: Are They Right for You?

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Log cabins, tiny homes, and manufactured homes all have their charms, as do traditional homes. Neither is the best. It is only a matter of what is best for you.

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Chai Tea Muffins

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Chai tea is a mix of sweet and spicy (cinnamon) and these muffins are infused with the flavors of the tea. The longer you steep the tea the better for more amazing chai-essence. These muffins make a great afternoon treat with a cup of Chai Latte on the side. Enjoy!



Ingredients



1 cup coconut milk or any non-dairy milk you prefer

2 Bigelow spiced chai tea bags

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

¼ cup grape seed oil

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup spelt flour

¾ cup brown rice flour

¼ cup almond flour

2½ tsp cinnamon

1¼ tsp ginger

¼-1/2 tsp allspice



Directions



1. In a medium sauce pot bring coconut milk to a simmer. Add tea bags and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 15+ minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Strain the coconut milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining wet ingredients and whisk to combine.

4. In a separate mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

6. Divide batter into lined muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins have set and a toothpick comes out clean.



[Editors Note: Bigelow Tea has a variety of Chai teas including Vanilla, Chocolate, and Caramel which would all work nicely with this recipe but the Bigelow Spiced Chai Tea Bags would be the best.]




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Father of Two Schizophrenic Sons Discusses Chilling Struggle In New Memoir

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Every year Americans break about 6.8 million bones. But unlike broken bones and other physical afflictions, mental illnesses aren’t something you can simply put a cast on and heal. They’re intense, ongoing mental battles that require an immense amount of strength and willpower to overcome. And, unfortunately, Americans living with mental illness often face a […]

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Why We Need Bugs to Grow A Healthy Garden (+ How To Attract Them)

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The biodiversity in our garden can do so much for its healthy maintenance. You will be surprised as to how many lifeforms there are in your soil aside from the plants that you try to grow. In this article, we are going to talk about different strategies for getting more bugs in your garden (not pests).



Why Do You Need Bugs in Your Garden



It is important to understand that not all bugs are ready to lend a hand in the upkeep of your garden. There are some who are considered pests. These pests – bugs or insects – can do more harm instead of good by eating the plants. But that is not all. Some insects suck the nutrients from the plants causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In due time, these plants will have stunted growth and become susceptible to disease.



It is vital for you, as a gardener, to attract beneficial bugs because they will protect your plants from detrimental pests. A number of bugs love to prey on other insects and therefore act as a natural pesticide.



By eradicating those injurious pests, you help promote a healthy environment. Beneficial bugs also enrich the soil by creating holes that enhance aeration and mixing of components that enrich the soil and encourage plant pollination in the long run.



Types of beneficial insects you will need



Predators love eating slow and small insects. They do not technically choose which one to attack. It may take time for them to come to your garden since they would love to go where there is an abundance of ‘food’. Damsel bugs, ladybird beetles, and wheel bugs are common examples of predators in your garden.



Parasitoids, from the word parasites, attach to certain insects which would serve as their host. Eventually, these hosts will die since the parasitic bug has consumed all their nutritional elements after laying eggs in or on them. They come as your first source of defense. Unlike predators, parasitoid defends you from an immature insect.



Pollinators, unlike the first two types of beneficial insects, are not there to combat pests, but they are undeniably important insects to take care of. They are important so that your fruits and vegetables can set crops. Ants, bees, beetles augment the growth and development of seedlings through cross-pollination.



Read about 10 Fruits and Veggies You Can Plant With Your Kids




How to Get Bugs to Your Garden: 5 Ps to Success!



Patience



The key to getting bugs to your garden is patience and persistence. You can’t build a colony of beneficial bugs in just one day (unless you purchase them). You will need to spend some amount of time and effort getting to know the pests in your garden so that you can choose the best match.



Pesticide



It is highly advisable to use natural pesticides before releasing your purchased beneficial bugs. However, these pesticides must be sprayed only when there is a high population of pests already. You have to take precaution when using pesticides, even natural ones. If the contents of your pump sprayers are broad spectrum pest killers, you will end up killing all the insects in due course. Yes, you read that correctly, even the good guys will either be dead or they will relocate in another garden. With this in mind, opt for oils, soaps, and other botanical solutions.



Plants



Plant plants that will save your plants. I know, this may sound redundant or even funny, but trust me, it’s sensible. Even humans thrive in locations where they find comfort and food. Use this strategy to harbor beneficial bugs longer.



An insectary is important because it will nest different kinds of bugs that will help you promote your garden’s health. Plant flowers so that helpful insects that feed on nectar and even pollen will enjoy. Put daisies, cosmos, oregano, thyme, and umbels in the ground for growing. They are not only good sources of food; they also serve as a good playground and hiding spots for your beneficial bugs.



Is Your Garden Hose Toxic?



Provide Water



Hydrating the lifeforms in your garden is crucial or else they will die or leave your garden. Make sure that there is an abundant source of water even when the weather is dry. Check your irrigating system, water your plants regularly, and you might want to leave small water containers with water.



Practice Spraying Wheast or Sweeteners



This formulation can provide additional sources for beneficial insects. This is a mixture of 1 part sugar and 1 part yeast. It is an inexpensive way to attract bugs to your garden. Commercial formulations, on the other hand, contain whey, which is why the name wheast was derived.



If you plan to do it on your own, combine the sugar and yeast until it turns into a paste. Get wooden stakes and apply a liberal amount of the wheast. Carefully organize the wooden stakes on different parts of your soil. Alternatively, you may create a dilution by adding water to the paste and spray.



As for the sweetener, dilute 10 tablespoons of sugar or honey in 1 quart of warm water. Directly spray this formulation to insects with soft-bodies like aphids. The parasitic animals will then get attracted to the smell and will serve as their open invitation.



I hope you learned something with this article. If you have more ideas, feel free to share them with us through the comment box below!

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DIY Hydroponic Gardens

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An outdoor garden isn’t an option for everyone. Setting up an indoor hydroponic gardening system allows for you to grow your own vegetables, berries and herbs year-round.

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Are There Toxins Lurking in Your Family’s Clothes?

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We do everything we can to limit our family’s exposure to toxins. We avoid the Scary Seven, choose organic food whenever possible, and studiously read labels on our personal care products. But when it comes to everyday contact with harmful chemicals, there’s one place we don’t always remember to look: our clothing.

Our skin is our largest organ that can absorb toxins, and while we typically talk about personal care products like lotions or deodorant when we say “what goes on the body goes in the body,” the same reasoning applies to our clothing. 

There are thousands of toxins used in the fashion industry, and many of them stick around long after you wash them. Most of today’s synthetic fibers are treated with chemicals, which can travel into the bloodstream after being absorbed by the skin. These chemicals are especially worrisome in exercise clothing. With the popularity of the “athleisure” look, we often wear our yoga pants well beyond the studio, and in the process are exposed to toxins on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of hormone disruptors such as phthalates, PFCs, dimethylformamide (DMF), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and nonylphenols (NPs).

Read more about phthalates

Other clothing to watch out for is anything labelled “easy care” or “wrinkle free”, waterproof or water repellant, sweat resistant, anything that’s been treated to be antibacterial or antifungal, and flame retardant. Reactions to these toxins can vary from allergy-like symptoms to more serious health problems:

  • Fatigue

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Itching/burning

  • Rashes that may turn cancerous

  • Headaches

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Vision problems

  • Inflammation

  • Recurring sinus infections

  • Liver damage

How to avoid toxins in clothing:

  • Avoid fabric with screen printing or plastic prints

  • Stick to natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, and wool

  • Stay away from performance fabrics (sweat-wicking, etc.)

  • Wash clothing before wearing

  • Line dry when possible

  • Ditch fabric softener and dryer sheets and buy (or make) natural laundry care products

Read more about natural cleaning products

While it may not be possible to avoid all exposure to toxins, it can be minimized significantly by being careful about which products we eat, use, and wear. By reading the labels on clothing carefully before you bring it into your home, you can make the best choice for you and your family.


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This smart lighting system features app-controlled dimmable LED bulbs

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We’re now seeing a number of ‘smart’ LED bulbs on the market, which can be controlled via an app or smart home hub, allowing for automated or scheduled lighting changes, the adjustment of their color temperature, and remote lighting management.

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Essay: Fatherhood vs Motherhood

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Fatherhood too has an important role to play in the growth and development of a child. Here we will explore the importance of both fatherhood and motherhood and why the emphasis shouldn’t be tilted so heavily in one’s favor.

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9 Scientifically Proven Ways to Boost Your Mood Naturally

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Most of us get down in the dumps occasionally, feel a little blue, or struggle with some lingering or periodic sadness or gloominess. It is ideal to have effective natural options that could bring us back into balance emotionally and mentally.



Fortunately there are some scientifically proven ways (or darn close) to boost your mood and happiness quotient without the need for medication. You may want to discuss some of the following options with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to help determine the best dose for you.



Read about 5 ways to reduce stress and boost your mood naturally



1. Adaptogen herbs. Use of adaptogen herbs such as ashwagandha and rhodiola rosea can help regulate the nervous system, restore emotional balance, and improve mood. In a recent review of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), for example, investigators reported that the herb has anti-stress and neuroprotective qualities and is “a potential drug candidate to treat various clinical conditions, particularly related to the nervous system.”



Similarly, the authors of a nine-study review of the effect of rhodiola rosea on major and mild depression among more than 800 adults reported that the herb had “possible antidepressant” and “possible beneficial effects on mood.” If you choose to use these or other adaptogen herbs, such as Siberian ginseng or astragalus, follow the dosing directions on the label or consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider.



Read about 9 ways to lower cortisol naturally and why you should



2. Color therapy. Although there’s no conclusive evidence that exposure to colored lights or, more specifically, color therapy (aka, chromotherapy) can significantly change a person’s mood, there’s also no evidence that it doesn’t. Anecdotally, color therapy has been shown to modify people’s mood and emotional state. The idea is based on the impact of colored light with different frequencies on the serotonin and melatonin pathways in the brain.



For example, positive responses are usually associated with orange, indigo, violet, and blue, which is the color most used therapeutically. Blue is said to reduce stress and tension in the body, while indigo and violet help relax the body and mind. You may want to experiment with colored lights or consult a color therapist for ideas on how to best utilize color in your life.



3. Essential oils. The delightful aroma of lavender, bergamot, or other essential oils can be refreshing, but can it also lighten your mood and relieve depression? According to some scientists, it can. In a study involving stress reduction for teachers, researchers found that dispensing bergamot essential oils for 10 minutes significantly reduced blood pressure and heart rate. Lavender and rosemary essential oils have been shown to lower stress in nursing students. Bergamot also has been found to reduce anxiety in people with mild depression and mitigate pain in cancer patients.



Consider using a diffuser in your home or office and choosing a mood-balancing essential oil such as bergamot, lavender, rosemary, or geranium.



4. Exercise. Physical activity is one of the least expensive and more effective ways to chase away the blues. That’s because exercise causes the body to release chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive natural high. The secret is to make sure your exercise choices are fun, so select activities you enjoy, such as dancing, tennis, rebounding, or jazzercise. Exercise to music, with a friend, or join a team. Make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle so you’ll always be one step ahead of the blues.



5. Light therapy box. Use of light therapy to relieve SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which is associated with the lack of sunlight exposure during the winter months, and major depressive disorder have been shown to be effective. Could the same approach be used to enhance mood in less severe situations?



Although these specific scenarios have not been studied scientifically, the results from other studies suggest use of a light therapy box could be helpful in boosting mood. One reason is that a benefit of using a light therapy box is that it helps increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter necessary for a sense of calm and well-being. Consult with an expert on light therapy to ensure you get the correct device and use it properly.



6. Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are probably most often associated with certain fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, and for helping with a variety of health issues. Depressive mood is one of them. Both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the most common omega-3s, have demonstrated an ability to alleviate depression in people with mild to moderate major depressive disorder. Decades of research have shown us that a deficiency of these fatty acids is associated with depression, and more recently scientists have uncovered some antidepressant properties of these omega-3s.



7. Probiotics. The super highway between the brain and the gut is traveled by countless numbers of signals that affect mood and intestinal health and highlight the relationship between the two. Probiotics are good bacteria that help keep the gut flora in balance, which in turn has a positive impact on mood. Taking probiotics (at least 15 to 20 billion CFUs daily consisting of half a dozen or more different species) can assist in restoring and maintaining that balance.



8. Vitamin D. Scientists have found an association between depression and a lack or deficiency of vitamin D. Although the relationship is not completely understood, new (2017) research indicates that vitamin D reduces elevated levels of calcium ions in brain cells (neurons) that drive depression.



Have your vitamin D levels checked (a simple blood test) and talk to your healthcare provider about a need for supplementation and/or increased exposure to sunlight to help bring your levels up to a healthy level. The Vitamin D Council notes that blood levels of 40 to 100 ng/mL are considered to be sufficient to ideal for vitamin D.



9. Vitamins B6 and B12. The B vitamin family is associated with nervous system function, but vitamins B6 and B12 are especially important when we talk about mood and depression. Vitamin B6, for example, facilitates the production of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood. Low levels of vitamin B12, which is not uncommon among older adults, vegetarians, vegans, and people with digestive disorders, may be linked with depression.



Do a quick inventory: are you getting enough vitamin B6 and B12? While vitamin B6 deficiency is not common, you may want to check your vitamin B12 levels, especially if you fall into any of the aforementioned categories. If you choose to take a vitamin B12 supplement, look for a sublingual option, which is better absorbed.



Sources

Amsterdam JD, Panossian AG. Rhodiola rosea L as a putative botanical antidepressant. Phytomedicine 2016 Jun 15; 23(7): 770-83

Bagetta G et al. Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot. Fitoterapia 2010; 81(6):453–61

Berridge MJ. Vitamin D and depression: cellular and regulatory mechanisms. Pharmacological Reviews 2017 Apr; 69(2): 80-92

Chang K-M, Shen C-W. Aromatherapy benefits autonomic nervous system regulation for elementary school faculty in Taiwan. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011; 2011:946537

Dar NJ et al. Pharmacologic overview of Withania somnifera, the Indian ginseng. Cellular and Molecular Life Science 2015 Dec; 72(23): 4445-60

Lam RW et al. Efficacy of bright light treatment, fluoxetine, and the combination in patients with nonseasonal major depressive disorder: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73(1): 56-63

Mayo Clinic. What’s the relationship between vitamin B12 and depression?

McCaffrey R, Thomas DJ, Kinzelman AO. The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students. Holistic Nursing Practice 2009; 23(2):88–93

McNamara RK. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the etiology, treatment, and prevention of depression: current status and future directions. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism 2016 Sep; 5:96-106

PsyWeb.com. Color therapy for depression

Radeljak S. Chromotherapy in the regulation of neurohormonal balance in human brain—complementary application in modern psychiatric treatment. Collegium Anthropologicum 2008 Oct; 32 Suppl 2:185-88

Smith DJ et al. Adjunctive low-dose docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for major depression: an open-label pilot trial. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 Feb 22:1-5

University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B6

Vitamin D Council. I tested my vitamin D level. What do my results mean?

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