23 July 2010

14 ways honey can heal

The fossil record tells us honeybees have been around for 150 million years or more. No one knows when we discovered the treasure hidden in their hives, but paintings of beekeepers lining the walls of a cave in Spain prove that we have been practicing the art of beekeeping for at least 7,000 years. Honey is versatile. It has been prized as a sweetener, as medicine, as an offering for the gods, as currency, and as a symbol of love. In Greek mythology, for example, Cupid dips his arrows in honey before aiming them at our hearts.
According to ayurveda, honey is the nectar of life. Because it is created from the essence of a flower's sex organs, it has a natural affinity with reproductive tissue. It can also heal sore throats, colds, coughs, ulcers, burns, and wounds. And when ingested with a healing herb (like ashwagandha), honey travels to the deepest tissues, transporting the chemical properties and the subtle energies of medicine to the cellular level.
Ayurveda says that raw honey is medicine, but cooked honey is a slow poison. Why? In its natural form, honey is rich in minerals, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and carbohydrates. But heat strips honey of most of its nutritional value and transforms the honey molecules into a non-homogenized glue that adheres to mucous membranes and clogs subtle energy channels. Cooked honey creates cellular toxicity and may lead to immunological dysfunction. It can also clog the arteries and lead to atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries), hampering blood flow to the vital organs. So as a general rule, honey should never be cooked, and nothing should be cooked with honey. Instead, add raw honey to yogurt, warm tea, or spread it on bread or toast.
Ayurvedic texts are full of honey-based remedies for a wide range of ailments, such as:
For obesity, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol, drink a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of honey and 5 to 10 drops of apple cider vinegar early in the morning daily. (Ayurvedic texts say honey scrapes fat and cholesterol from the body's tissues.)
To relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, take 1 teaspoon of honey with 200 mg powdered guggulu daily.
To heal oral ulcers, apply 1 teaspoon honey and a pinch of turmeric to canker sores, mouth ulcers, or sores on the tongue. This mixture will generate saliva and draw out toxins; spit it out to speed the healing process. For internal ulcers, mix a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey twice daily.
To heal a wound, dress it daily with sterilized gauze brushed with honey; dispose at night.
For the common cold, mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with 1 teaspoon honey and eat two or three times a day.
To clear your sinuses, take a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of fresh ginger juice and honey two or three times a day.
For asthma, eat a mixture made of 1/2 teaspoon bay leaf powder, 1/4 teaspoon pippali, and 1 teaspoon of honey two or three times daily.
For nausea, vomiting, and/or indigestion, mix one part lemon juice with one part honey. Dip your index finger into this mixture and lick it slowly twice daily.
For anxiety, drink 1 cup of orange juice with 1 teaspoon of honey and a pinch of nutmeg powder twice daily.
To help reduce the craving for cigarettes, chew small pieces of pineapple with 1/2 teaspoon of honey before smoking.
For abdominal pain, take a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon ajwan (celery seeds), and 1 teaspoon of honey before lunch and dinner daily.
For chronic fever, make a tea of 1 teaspoon of holy basil (tulsi) and 1 cup of hot water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper powder and 1 teaspoon of honey. Take two or three times a day.
To aid poor circulation, mix 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon trikatu, and 1 teaspoon honey in 1 cup of hot water. Steep for 10 minutes. Take twice a day.
To stop hiccups, mix 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon castor oil in a container. Dip your index finger into the mixture and lick it. Repeat every 10 minutes until your hiccups stop. (Hiccups are due to spasm of the diaphragm, and these ingredients in equal proportion are anti-spasmodic.)
Did you know? To make one pound of honey, a swarm of honeybees flies about 24,000 miles and visits 3 to 9 million flowers.
Because its qualities are heating and sweet, honey is good for kapha and vata, and in moderation with pitta.
Please Note: Raw honey is not recommended for infants under the age of 18 months, the very elderly, or others with compromised immune systems.

16 July 2010

Nine myths and facts about lightning

Scientists have been studying lightning for hundreds of years. Although they have a pretty good idea about what causes it, there is still more to learn about these mysterious sparks of electricity.
Given that summer is peak season for thunderstorms, it's probably a good idea to brush up on your lightning facts, particularly if you have some outdoor adventures planned.

Tornadoes and hurricanes are more dangerous than lightning
Myth: Lightning kills more people (about 58) each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. In fact, it is the most underrated weather hazard, according to the National Weather Service. Only floods are routinely responsible for more deaths than lightning.

You can get struck by lightning when you're inside
Fact: It's true that being inside a building when lightning strikes is your safest bet, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take some precautions.
If a building gets struck the electrical current will most likely travel through the wiring or plumbing before going into the ground. That's why you should stay off of corded phones (cellular and cordless are okay) and away from running water (so no showers or hand- or dish-washing). Don't use stoves, computers, or anything else that's connected to electricity. Here are some more indoor safety tips.

Lightning always takes down planes
Myth: The reality is that lightning regularly strikes airplanes, but rarely causes plane crashes. On average, each U.S. commercial plane gets hit at least once a year. Most airplanes are made of aluminum, a good conductor of electricity, and there are also strict lightning protection requirements for planes.

You need to unplug major electronics in a storm
Fact: Electrical surges generated from lightning can damage electronics even if your house isn't struck. Unplug your computer, television, and other electronics before a storm hits because you can't necessarily depend on a surge protector You can be struck if you try to unplug your gadgets during a storm.

You should avoid cars during a thunderstorm
Myth: Cars are actually one of the safest places you can be in during an electrical storm if you can't be inside a building. Just make sure you're in a car with a hard top. Golf carts and convertibles don't count.

Lightning never strikes twice
Myth: Lightning can hit the same spot more than once during a thunderstorm.

It's not safe to be outside during an electrical storm
Fact: If you're outside, then try to find a grounded building or car to take cover in. If you can't, then here are some tips to minimize your risk: Avoid open fields and tall isolated trees or other tall objects. Stay away from water. Don't lie down on the ground.

You should stay indoors until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder
Fact: Most people are not struck at the height of a thunderstorm, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from where it is raining, but if you can hear thunder you are within striking distance.
The NWS suggests following this advice: "When thunder roars, go indoors and stay there until 30 minutes after the last cap of thunder."

You can tell the distance of a storm by counting
Fact: Surprisingly, that old childhood trick you learned is based on fact, not fiction. Light travels faster than sound so lightning is seen before thunder is heard.
Here's how it works according to the Federal Emergency Mnagement of website: "You can estimate how many miles away a storm is by counting the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to get the distance in miles."

14 July 2010

7 amazing auroras seen on Earth ... and beyond

The world's biggest light show

The world's biggest light show

The flickering lights over our northern- and southern-most skies at times seem like a mystical offering. Good ole northern lights (aurora borealis) and southern lights (aurora australis) — visible 65 to 72 degrees north and south latitudes respectively — are actually just natural light shows that exist in our ionosphere.
Scientists say auroras are created when a solar wind of charged particles from the sun crashes into the Earth's upper atmosphere over the polar regions. As a result, auroras are generally spotted closer to the north or south poles. You can see them here.

Bear Lake, Alaska

Bear Lake, Alaska

This photo was taken by a U.S. Air Force airman who was stationed nearby. NASA explains that auroras occur most often when the sun is in the most intense phase of an 11-year sunspot cycle. Sunspots increase in number due to violent solar flare eruptions. This means more electrons and protons are added to the solar particles sent into the Earth’s atmosphere. Consequently, this brightens up the northern and southern lights considerably.

Kulusuk, Greenland

Kulusuk, Greenland

This photo of aurora borealis was taken on Kulusuk, a small island on the east coast of Greenland. In Greenland, the northern lights are most visible on a dark, clear night from September to the beginning of April. They are present all year but cannot be seen during the summer months because of the shining midnight sun. Inuit legend says that when the northern lights “dance in the night sky, it means that the dead are playing football with a walrus skull.”

A red aurora seen from Kangaroo Island in south Australia

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Red auroras are considered among the rarest sights on Earth. People living in south Australia are often treated to aurora australis during strong geomagnetic events. The southern lights are most visible during Australia’s autumn and winter months. Experts say the best way to see aurora australis or aurora borealis is to wait for a dark, clear, moonless night. Viewers should head into rural areas to avoid light pollution from neighboring cities.

Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland

Lapland is home to some spectacular views of the northern lights. Lapland is a geographic region in northernmost Sweden and Finland, though Sweden has no administrative powers. The photographer says this is a shot of the boreal dawn, which occurs 200 days per year. It is never visible when the summer midnight sun is shining.

An aurora is seen in the Arctic

The Arctic

Auroras have had many names throughout the centuries. The name comes from the Roman goddess of dawn, and the Cree call them the "Dance of the Spirits." In the Middle Ages, auroras were simply called a sign from God. NASA refers to them as “the world’s greatest light show.”

Aurora over Canada as seen from the International Space Station

Canada from space

This picture was taken from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA says the ISS orbits at the same height as many auroras. "Therefore, sometimes it flies over them, but also sometimes it flies right through. The auroral electron and proton streams are too thin to be a danger to the ISS, just as clouds pose little danger to airplane.” This image shows auroras borealis over northern Canada. NASA reports that changing auroras look like “crawling giant green amoebas” from space.

A blue aurora on Jupiter


Auroras can also be spotted on other planets. This sharp blue aurora glows half a billion miles away on Jupiter. This photo is a result of a NASA Hubble Space Telescope close-up. One of the many details that make this aurora different from those seen on Earth are the “satellite footprints” within them. As NASA writes, “Auroral footprints can be seen in this image from Io (along the lefthand limb), Ganymede (near the center), and Europa (just below and to the right of Ganymede's auroral footprint).” These emissions, produced by electric currents generated by the satellites, bounce in and out of the upper atmosphere.

05 July 2010

7 Animals With the Longest Life Spans


First on the list are these large saltwater clams that are native to the Puget Sound and have been known to live for at least 160 years. They are characterized by their long ‘necks’, or siphons, which can grow to over 1 meter long.


The word “dinosaur” is commonly used to describe an old person, but when it refers to a tuataras, the term is as literal as it is metaphorical. The two species of tuatara alive today are the only surviving members of an order which flourished about 200 million years ago — they are living dinosaurs. They are also among the longest-lived vertebrates on Earth, with some individuals living for anywhere between 100 and 200 years.

Lamellibrachia tube worms

These colorful deep sea creatures are tube worms (L. luymesi) that live along hydrocarbon vents on the ocean floor. They have been known to live 170 years, but many scientists believe there may be some that have lived for more than 250 years.

Red sea urchins

The red sea urchin or Strongylocentrotus franciscanus is found only in the Pacific Ocean, primarily along the West Coast of North America. It lives in shallow, sometimes rocky, waters from the low-tide line down to to 90 meters, but they stay out of extremely wavy areas. They crawl along the ocean floor using their spines as stilts. If you discover one, remember to respect your elders — some specimens are more than 200 years old.


Koi are an ornamental, domesticated variety of the common carp. The are common in artificial rock pools and decorative ponds. Amazingly, some varieties are capable of living more than 200 years. The oldest known koi was Hanako, a fish that died at the age of 226 on July 7, 1977.


Tortoises are considered the longest living vertebrates on Earth. One of their oldest known representatives was Harriet, a Galapagos tortoise that died of heart failure at the age of 175 years in June 2006 at a zoo owned by the late Steve Irwin. Harriet was considered the last living representative of Darwin’s epic voyage on the HMS Beagle. An Aldabra giant tortoise named Adwaita died at the rumored age of 250 in March 2006.

Ocean quahog

The ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) is a species of clam that is exploited commercially. Researchers have interpreted the dark concentric rings or bands on the shell as annual marks, much like a tree has rings. –Some collected specimens have been calculated to be more than 400 years old.

5 Tips for Teaching Kids to Care for the Environment

Positively Green’s Top 5 Kid’s Tips
1. For the very young: Consider subscribing to the National Wildlife Federation’s publication designed for children ages 1-4.
2. Instead of buying store bought wrapping with all of the icky ink dyes, suggest reusing brown paper bags and coloring your own gift paper for the next birthday party; a perfect activity for children 3-7.
3. Plant a tree with your own hands and share the fun with your 6 to 9 year old child by choosing flowers that are easy to plant at the tree’s base. Talk about how trees support clean air and beautify too.
4. Head to your closest organic fruit farm and pick organic raised strawberries, apples, blueberries or any delicious fruit. Discuss why organic is better than what you typically buy in the store. Even teens will appreciate this experience.
5. Not all wood is the same. Encourage your preschool child to choose toys that are made with FSC certified wood. Unpainted wood toys are typically safer than plastic that contains PVC, and treasured from generation to generation. FSC certification ensures that the wood you buy has been forested responsibly to allow for sustainable growth.

03 July 2010

Top 10 Countries Killing the Planet

10. Peru 

Although Peru hardly seems capable of the harmful environmental impact that larger industrialized countries are capable of, the South America country ranks number 10 overall of countries creating negative environmental impact. Of 179 countries, Peru ranks 2nd for marine capture and 7th for threatened species. Over fishing and illegal trade of endangered species seem to be the culprit: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) lists ten animal species as critically endangered (like the short-tailed chinchilla pictured above) the last step before extinction, 28 as endangered, and 99 as vulnerable in Peru.

9. Australia

About 11.5 percent of the the total land area of Australia is protected, which leaves a lot left (although much of it is arid desert) for unbridled usage, which is how the country ranks 7th worst in habitat conversion. It also ranks 9th for fertilizer use, and 10th for natural forest loss.

8. Russia

Less than half of Russia’s population has access to safe drinking water. While water pollution from industrial sources has diminished because of the decline in manufacturing, municipal wastes increasingly threaten key water supply sources, and nuclear contamination poses immense problems for key water sources as well–landing Russia in 4th place for worst water pollution. Russia ranks 5th in worst CO2 emissions–air quality is almost as poor as water quality, with over 200 cities often exceeding Russian pollution limits. The country ranks 7th for marine capture.

7. India
According to the Wall Street Journal, in an effort to boost food production, win farmer votes and encourage the domestic fertilizer industry, the government has increased its subsidy of urea fertilizer over the years, and now pays about half of the domestic industry’s cost of production. The overuse of urea is so degrading the soil that yields on some crops are falling–landing India is 2nd place for environmental impact due to fertilizer use.
India ranks 3rd for water pollution as increasing competition for water among various sectors, including agriculture, industry, domestic, drinking, energy generation and others, is causing this precious natural resource to dry up–while increasing pollution is also leading to the destruction of the habitat of wildlife that lives in waterways. India comes in 8th for another three areas: threatened species, marine capture and CO2 emissions.
6. Mexico
Mexico holds more species of plants and animals than just about any other country: 450 mammals (Brazil, which is more than twice Mexico’s size has only 394 mammals); about 1000 birds, 693 reptiles; 285 amphibians, and more than 2000 fish. As of the mid-1990s, many species were known to be already threatened: 64 mammals, 36 birds, 18 reptiles, 3 amphibians, and about 85 fish. Mexico did not join the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the chief international agreement to stop trade in threatened and endangered plants and animals, in effect since 1975, until 1991, the last Latin American nation to do so. It is perhaps because of these factors that Mexico ranks 1st for threatened species. One of the many reasons? The country ranks 9th for natural forest loss.
5. Japan
Japan ranks 4th for marine capture. By 2004, the number of adult Atlantic bluefin tuna capable of spawning had dropped to roughly 19 percent of the 1975 level in Japan, which has a quarter of the world supply of the five big species of tuna: bluefin, southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin and albacore. After the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, Japanese government started its “whaling for research purposes” the following year, which has resulted in documented cases of “scientific” whale meat ending up on sashimi platters. Japan ranks 5th for both natural habitat conversion and water pollution, and 6th for CO2 emissions.
4. Indonesia
According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia was still densely forested as recently as 1950–yet 40 percent of the forests existing in 1950 were cleared in the following 50 years. In round numbers, forest cover fell from 162 million ha to 98 million ha2. For this, Indonesia ranks 2nd in natural forest loss, which probably has some to so with their taking 3rd place for threatened species. Indonesia is ranked 3rd for CO2 emissions, 6th for marine capture, 6th for fertilizer use, and 7th for water pollution.
3. China
China’s coastal waters are increasingly polluted by everything from oil to pesticides to sewage, helping China earn its 1st place ranking for water pollution. In China, 20 million people lack access to clean drinking water; over 70 percent of lakes and rivers are polluted; and major pollution incidents happen on a near daily basis–the World Health Organization recently estimated that nearly 100,000 people die annually from water pollution-related illnesses.
China isn’t doing much better in terms of overfishing–they take 1st place for marine capture. Add to that 2nd place for CO2 emissions and 6th place for threatened species, and we can see how China takes the bronze for most environmental impact. Chinese environmental protection agencies lack sufficient authority, financial resources and manpower. When there are conflicts between environmental protection and economic development, the former often loses to the latter.
2. USA
You’d think with all of the smarts and resources this country has, it would rank a bit better than Number 2–afraid not. Although it did rank a respectable 211 for natural habitat conversion–that honor is pretty much negated by the country’s abysmal ratings in other areas. Ringing in at 1st place for fertilizer use, this country’s excessive application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertilizers can result in the leaching of these chemicals into water bodies and remove, alter or destroy natural habitats. The USA also ranks in 1st place for CO2 emissions, 2nd place for water pollution, 3rd place for marine captures, and 9th place for threatened species. Not feeling all that proud to be American at the moment.
1. Brazil
In all seven categories considered for the report, Brazil ranked within the top ten for all but marine capture: 1st place for natural forest loss, 3rd place for natural habitat conversion, 3rd place for fertilizer use, 4th place for threatened species, 4th place for CO2 emissions, and 8th place for water pollution. What’s to account for these areas of intense environmental impact? A large portion of deforestation in Brazil can be attributed to the expansive Amazon rain forest (pictured above) land clearing for pastureland by commercial and speculative interests, misguided government policies, inappropriate World Bank projects, and commercial exploitation of forest resources. Soy and cocoa crops, as well as cattle ranching, have had a far-reaching effect. While in the Atlantic forests of Brazil, some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems have been converted to fast growing plantations (mostly non-native eucalyptus) for paper pulp.
The proportional index, which takes into consideration the impact as proportional to the resources available in the country, ranks these as the top ten countries creating the most negative environmental impact: Singapore, Korea, Qatar, Kuwait, Japan, Thailand, Bahrain, Malaysia, Philippines and Netherlands. According to the study from which both of these rankings were taken, “continued degradation of nature despite decades of warning, coupled with the burgeoning human population (currently estimated at nearly 7 billion and projected to reach 9 to 10 billion by 2050), suggest that human quality of life could decline substantially in the near future. Increasing competition for resources could therefore lead to heightened civil strife and more frequent wars. Continued environmental degradation demands that countries needing solutions be identified urgently so that they can be assisted in environmental conservation and restoration.”

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