Good To Nose Baraka Blog

It’s Time For The Neti Pot Challenge!

Written By: Sue
May 11, 2017

Neti Pour Paul #2Last spring, I wrote about taking the neti pot challenge and want to do it again. After all, it’s allergy season and unlike a cold that may hit with little warning, allergies usually come on in stages. At first, your eyes and nose may mildly itch or you may wake up with a slightly stuffy nose. These early symptoms are an indicator it’s time to take out your neti pot. While they can be easy to ignore, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to get relief.

So here’s the challenge- and it’s really simple:

Rinse once or twice a day for one week to see if your symptoms improve. If they do, it is my hope that you’ll continue.

Here are suggestions to get started:

  • Don’t WAIT! If there is the smallest clue that pollen is in the air, RINSE! Or if you see a friend having symptoms before you, RINSE! Don’t put it off until you are suffering. It won’t be as effective.
  • Switch between isotonic and hypertonic rinses. A hypertonic can help with inflammation. See this link.
  • Rinse immediately after mowing the lawn, gardening or being exposed to high amounts of pollen.
  • Rinse if you are experiencing increased symptoms.

If you take the challenge, write to let us know what happened. Or maybe you have other helpful suggestions.  If you do, we’ll send you a FREE bag of our Baraka Mineral Salt Rinse. Just address the comment DEAR NETI POT CHALLENGE.

Happy Rinsing!!!!!

Seasonal Allergy Relief and the Herbal Highway

Written By: Sue
April 21, 2017

It’s that time of year again. While I’ve blogged about seasonal allergies in the past, I came across some new ideas listening to the Herbal Highway on KPFA in northern California. This show is hosted by two prominent herbalists Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes, who discuss the benefits of medicinal herpollenbs for a wide range of health issues, including seasonal allergies.

Last month host Sarah Holmes talked about allergy prevention as well as systematic relief. She’s a big fan of prevention, explaining once the immune system has become overly reactive, it can be difficult to calm down. In other words, once you are suffering, it becomes more challenging to find relief. So start early!

Along the lines of prevention, Sarah discussed specific herbs that help to strengthen the immune system so it’s less reactive. Below is a summary of some of her suggestions:

Astragalus root – This plant builds deep immunity and cleans the blood. It also helps tone the spleen and strengthens white blood cells.

Shitaki or turkey tail mushrooms -Sarah suggested using them daily in your food.  Steam mushrooms for 30 minutes, then add them to a stir fry with a little miso. She also found it convenient to prepare a large quantity all at once and add to other meals throughout the week.

Mullein – This plant is used to strengthen and open the lungs. Use as a tea. Because it has hair, wrap in a cheese cloth when steeping. Good with mint or nettles. Drink 4-6 oz. of tea 3 times a day. If you using a tincture, take 8-10 drops once a day; twice a day if you suffer from asthma.

Nettles – Great tonic for the nervous system. Nettles help to alkalize the blood and reduce histamines. Not so good for acute situations. You can make a tea or add to your soups.

DIGESTION AS PREVENTION

In addition, Sarah spoke about paying attention to food sensitivities. For example, if drinking beer makes you congested or eating broccoli gives you gas, reduce or eliminate these foods during allergy season. This will lower your chances of creating an over-reactive histamine response. Remember, you want to calm things down.

Increase intake of bitters, kale, mustard greens, and dandelion. These plants help to stimulate and clean the liver. Do daily for one month. A dandelion tincture should be taken before a meal to help stimulate the liver; take 8-10 drops.

Dandelion tea – Steep covered for a few hours before you drink.

Sarah also discussed systematic relief. This means treating the symptoms after they occur. She’s not a fan of this, believing it’s a western mindset to wait until there’s a problem.

SYSTEMATIC RELIEF

Ambrosia– Reduces mucus secretions
Eyebright– Use for weepy eyes or itchy Eustachian tubes.
Take 10 drops per tincture every hour. Up to 18 drops but try to use less. Large doses push the body like drugs.

Other suggestions:
Yerba mansa– Relieves chronic sinus issues; take 8 drops, 1-2 times per day. Can be hard on stomach. Take with food.

Yerba santa– Helps with cough.

Marshmallow root – Use if having irritation and inflammation of lungs. Wrap in cheesecloth and place in cold water for 4 hours. Squeeze. Drink 4-6 oz.

Cayenne – Helps open lungs. Helps with calming asthma. Reduces inflammation.

Garlic – Antispasmodic

Horse radish – Good for clearing the sinuses.

Sarah went on to discuss many more things, but this was my takeaway. Listen to the entire show at the Herbal Highway.

What is Natural?

Written By: Stephani
June 23, 2016

IMG_3772When To Believe The Word “Natural” On Product Labels

Most of us have encountered the word “natural” on product packaging. You might be looking for a chemical-free face cream or wanting to buy a healthy drink. As you read the label —scanning the ingredient list– you see words that don’t seem so natural, such as “xanthan gum” or “4-methylimidazole.” This begs the question, “What do I know about natural preservatives or plant derivatives?” You then turn your attention to the front of the label again where the word NATURAL is big and bold. This convinces you to buy it.

Many of us are immune to the word natural by now yet I’ll admit that when I’m in a rush and don’t have time to scrutinize the label, the word NATURAL is enough to convince me to buy it.

So what makes something natural? That depends on who you ask.

The FDA says this on its website: “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

For me, this definition is vague. The absence of artificial flavors, coloring or synthetic substances doesn’t make something natural to me. What if it contains GMOS, hormones or pesticides?

According to a Consumer Report survey, most people think the word natural means this when it comes to processed foods:

  • No pesticides
  • No GMOs
  • No chemicals were used during processing
  • No artificial ingredients or coloring

Today the word “natural” is hotly debated in company boardrooms. Some companies are using it as described by consumers above and others are using it to green-wash products. In the meantime, opportunist law firms are capitalizing on the vagueness of the definition. Law firms are finding ingredients in products that can be challenged.  Read this article about the rush of lawsuits in recent years.

What does the FDA have to say about this? Earlier this year, they asked the public to comment on what they believed is the definition of natural. Currently, the comments are in review.

I think the word natural means something not only taken from the earth, but if processed into a juice or made into a puree, cooked or any number of things– the processing does not fundamentally alter the product.

Personally, I don’t believe product labels unless I know the reputation of the company.  As most of us know, some companies have better integrity than others.

When it comes to a product I use every day like olive oil or toothpaste or facial cream, I do a little research. Since I use these products daily, the ingredients could have an accumulative effect in my body and I want to ensure they aren’t harmful in the long term. If you don’t have time to research your products, take the recommendation from my friend: Don’t buy a product labeled “natural” if it has a word you’ve never heard of before, one you can’t pronounce or one that reads like a lab report.

Product Transparency

Written By: Sue
June 9, 2016

t-relief picLarge Corporation Deceit

What if you couldn’t tell the difference between products? What if the product you thought you were buying was a different product all together- different ingredients, from a different company and packaging that are barely distinguishable from the product you had come to trust over the years. It happens… more often than you think.

In this blog, I’m steering away from sinus health to write about what could be of interest to readers when it comes to buying trusted name brands.

Since the late 1990s, Big Food corporations are buying established natural products companies. For example, Annie’s is now owned by General Mills, and Honest Tea is owned by PepsiCo. There are no big announcements when this happens, which leaves consumers in the dark. Most times, the packaging retains a write up about the original founders as if they are still involved in the company. In the last decade, the acquisitions of natural products have accelerated because the public is demanding healthier alternatives. In other words, there is money to be made and now these large corporations are not only buying established businesses, but they are funding and partnering some start-ups anticipating the next trend. Sort of like what happened with the start ups in the tech industry years ago. There’s almost a frenzy about it.

Below I’m going to give you a case study around a product called Trameel.

If you typically stock your medicine chest with natural remedies you probably have Traumeel at home. In fact Traumeel (an anti-inflammatory) has quite a following and for a while it was even sold in stores like CVS.

I’ve used Traumeel for about 20 years because it’s effective with bruising or minor strains.  As I’ve gotten older, I find it useful on my achy knees. Nine months ago, I bought new tube of it. I noticed that it had been renamed to T-Relief. Or so I thought. I took it home and a week later used it on my knees, but something was different – it wasn’t as creamy and didn’t absorb as well. I didn’t think anything more and went out on a hike. But the T-Relief didn’t work. I chalked it up to age and applied extra amounts on my knees before my next few hikes to see if that would make a difference. It didn’t and life went on until one day I came across an old tube of Traumeel in my drawer. I grabbed the T-Relief and began comparing the packaging. Although it was different, it was also similar enough for me to think it was the same product.

Here’s the story:  In Aug of 2014, Heel, the German manufacturer of Traumeel pulled out of the US. They sold the rights to Medinatura to continue selling many of Heel products, however, Traumeel was not one of them.

When I look at the T-Relief packaging and see the similarity it bears to Traumeel, I imagine that someone wanted me to believe it was Traumeel. In addition, there is a statement across the top reading “now more arnica” but how could there be more arnica if the product had never been in distribution before… unless of course they are referring to Traumeel. And check this out: if you do a google search and type in “traumeel discontinued” you will come up with a page that has side by side pictures of Traumeel and T-Relief. There is very little distinguishable difference in the packaging. And there is a list of what makes T-Relief favorable over Traumeel. Things like “safe for the stomach and liver” as if Traumeel were unsafe for your stomach or liver or “no petroleum or mercury” as if Traumeel had included this in their formula!

Since I’m in touch with buyers in health food stores all around the country, I asked them if they knew that T-Relief wasn’t Traumeel and the answer was a resounding NO. They all believed it was the same product just renamed.

Being a business owner, I can understand why Medinatura wanted me to continue to use what is now T-Relief. As a consumer, I probably would have given it a try. It still wouldn’t have worked, but at least I would not be questioning Medinatura’s intentions.

Is this story common? Maybe not quite like this since it is rare that a company doesn’t buy the entire product line. But what is common- is the lack of transparency. In order to uncover who owns what, you can download this app called Buycott (buycott.com). This app gives you the ability to scan barcodes and uncover who is the owner.  In addition, another great website is Cornucopia.org. They are a nonprofit that evaluates how organic are your organics. Please write us if you know of other ways to call out companies for who they truly are.

Climate Change and Allergy Seasons

Written By: Sue
June 1, 2016

bee flower (800x533)Global Warming is Increasing Pollen

If you feel that Spring allergies have worsened in the last few years, you aren’t imagining things.  Climate change has increased pollen production and there are two main factors of climate change contributing to this:

  1. Carbon dioxide, the gas which traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, helps plants increase their rate of photosynthesis.
  2. Warmer global temperatures extend the growing season. An extended summer and/or spring, increases the number of blooms and fungal spores known to exacerbate allergies.

Scientist Lewis Ziska, Ph.D., a weed ecologist at the Agriculture Research Service division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, explains that changes are occurring in regards to plant growth and thus pollen production. An example is the weeds around the Baltimore area. In rural areas, weeds normally grow between 5-6 feet, but in the city weeds reach between 10-20 feet. It hasn’t always been like this. These super-sized weeds have more pollen and with the longer growing season- imagine how it’s going to affect your sinuses?

Below I’ve divided the country into regions to help determine which pollen might be in the air, depending on the time of year. Trees are typically the first to bloom, followed by grasses and weeds.

West

Tree = February to June

Grasses = May and June

Weeds = late spring thru fall

Midwest

Tree = March to June

Grasses = summer

Weeds = fall

South

Tree = February to May

Grasses = can last year round

Weeds = late summer to first freeze

Northeast

Tree = Feb/Mar thru June

Grasses = May-June

Weeds = August thru Oct

The Midwest and Northeast have some of the highest pollen counts in the country; in addition to warmer weather, these regions also tend to have more rainfall. Florida, Ohio and California have most cities that report the highest pollen count.

If you’d like to know what to do to get relief, check out our previous blogs on the subject.

Take The Neti Pot Challenge!

Written By: Sue
April 20, 2016

neti salt & spoonRelieve Spring Allergies Early in the Season

For those of you who put away your neti pots, bring them out! It may be the end of cold/flu season, but if you suffer from allergies, use a neti pot BEFORE the season is in full bloom. Unlike a cold that may hit with little warning, allergies usually come on in stages. At first, your eyes and nose may mildly itch or you may wake up with a slightly stuffy nose. These early symptoms are an indicator it’s time to rinse. While these symptoms are easy to ignore, the longer you wait, the more likely inflammation will set in making it more difficult to get rid of. Then you might be tempted pop a decongestant.  So I dare you to do something different this year. Be proactive, take the neti pot challenge!

The challenge is simple: Rinse once or twice a day for one week to see if symptoms subside. If they do, I hope you will be motivated to continue.

A few years ago, I was stricken with an allergy headache because I didn’t take the time to rinse. It took me several days to get the inflammation under control and I missed work. Boy, I regretted not being proactive.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Don’t WAIT to start rinsing! If there is the smallest clue that pollen is in the air, RINSE! Or if you see a friend has symptoms before you do, RINSE! Don’t put off it until you are suffering. It won’t be as effective.
  1. Switch between an isotonic and hypertonic rinses. A hypertonic can help with inflammation. See this link.
  1. Rinse immediately after cutting the grass/gardening or if you are experiencing increased symptoms.

Step Two of the Neti Pot Challenge:

Write and let us know what happened. Or maybe you have other helpful suggestions.  If you do, we’ll send you a FREE bag of our Baraka Mineral Salt Rinse. Just address the comment DEAR BARAKA in caps.

Happy Rinsing!!!!!

Surfers Sinusitis

Written By: Sue
April 16, 2016

lukas surf

Sonoma County Surfer- Lukas Walsh. Photo Courtesy of Lukas Walsh

Surfs Up… Your Nose!!!!

If you surf and have postnasal drip, sinus pressure or a congested nose, you most likely have surfers’ sinusitis. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus cavities and can cause anything from sinus pressure to post nasal drip. Any sinus issue occurring over 12 weeks, is considered to be a chronic problem. You can ignore it for a while, but over time it may become something bigger. Sinus pressure can turn into an infection and that post nasal drip could produce a cough.

Below is a plan to recover from chronic problems and maintain healthy sinuses.

RECOVERY – Nasal rinse a few times a week with a hypertonic rinse.  A hypertonic rinse (made with purified water and extra amounts of salt) can help reduce inflammation. In addition, it can help flush out an infection and particulate matter.  If you think you have an infection, rinse daily with a hypertonic to see if it helps. Two weeks with this routine should greatly improve your sinuses. In addition, if you can stay out of the water for a few days…..even a week, please do! By keeping your sinuses away from the dirty waters, you will allow them to settle down and be less inflamed.

If you aren’t recovering as quickly as you would like or if you think you have deeper sinus issues, acupuncture can be an effective way to treat it. If you are tempted to reach for antibiotics, it’s been proven that they aren’t effective for most sinus issues.

PREVENTION – Now that you have cleared up your symptoms, you will need to develop “good nasal hygiene” when you return to the water.  Surfers who recovered from and stayed free of sinuses issues, did the following for maintenance:

  1. Avoid mucky or polluted waters. Don’t surf after a big rainstorm.
  2. Clear any excess water from the sinuses as soon as you leave the water. Bend over and hang your head between your knees. Tilt your head in a 2 o’clock and 11 o’clock position, this should release any trapped water.
  3. Rinse your sinuses with a saline solution as soon as you can. Flush each nostril with at least 10 oz of water (use a full Baraka Neti Pot on each side). This will rinse out any particulate matter such as sand or bacteria.
  4. Some surfers recommend using nose plugs to avoid excess water from entering the nasal cavities. Ask around to see what people are using.

I hope this helps. After learning what obstacles surfers face by simple being in our polluted ocean waters, we put together a Surfers Special Kit. Write us if you have any questions or suggestions. Surfs Up!

Adventures In A Health Food Store

Written By: Sue
April 12, 2016

storeHow Healthy Is Your Health Food Store?

Like many people, I shop at a natural health food store because I believe the quality of the products is better than a conventional grocery store. And I’m willing to pay for it. When I imagine where these products come from, my mind conjures up free-range cows, cozy family gardens and beer fermented in small batches. Unfortunately, my images are idealized. This is not to say that there isn’t milk from free-range cows and the beer isn’t fermented in small batches, but for the most part (and this may surprise you), the products come from the Big Food companies. Believe it or not Big Food companies dominate the store shelves!

After 20 years of owning a business that sells to natural grocery stores, I see small artisan businesses that are committed to quality and sustainability, removed from shelves in favor of products made by large corporations. While not all stores are doing this, if it’s a Big Box health food store, you can bet it’s happening. And the trend has gained momentum in the last decade. Sure you can still find local granola; but when weighed against all the other cereals on the shelf, the local granola takes up a fraction of the space.

My conclusion? I need to know just as much about the products I buy in a natural grocery store as I would in a conventional grocery store. Maybe even more! In a conventional grocery store, the product ownership isn’t deceptive. When you buy Corn Flakes from Kellogg’s the box says so. In a health food store, when you buy Bear Naked Granola, you don’t know it’s owned by Kellogg’s since the packaging doesn’t say so.  Watch this amazing video by the Cornucopia Institute on the deception of cereals.  I’m assuming that Kellogg’s did not put its name on the Bear Naked Granola packaging, because most of us shopping in a health food store wouldn’t buy it. We don’t believe Kellogg’s has in mind our best interest. Especially when they support GMOs.

It’s proven that when large corporations buy an organic brand with a loyal following— say Tom’s Toothpaste— that large corporation (Colgate) changes the formula to include cheaper ingredients (sodium laurel sulfite) in order to increase their profits. It’s the reason Gary Erickson of Clif Bar didn’t sell to Quaker Oats. He knew his whole brand would change.  You can read more about Erickson and his book, Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc.

So where am I going with all this? I’m beginning to review health food stores across the country. From coops to Whole Foods to Earth Fare (if you live on the East Coast) and Natural Grocers (if you live on the West Coast). I want to compare how these stores are managed and who owns the product stocked on the shelves. In addition, I’m searching for the highest quality products that may not make it to your health food store because of the numerous hurdles small businesses have to jump through to get on the shelves. Some of these products can only be found regionally and others only online.

Bottom line: If you pay more for your food because you shop in a health food store, you want to know it is a quality product. Not just some clever branding that catches your eye. I’m out to distinguish the difference.

Final Note: There are a lot of fabulous health food stores out there. I’m exploring what makes them different from the current direction most health food stores are heading.

Pregnancy Rhinitis

Written By: Sue
March 25, 2016

jolene bellyPregnancy & Sinus Congestion

Often pregnant women think they have a cold or allergies when actually they are experiencing something called pregnancy rhinitis. It usually occurs after the second month of pregnancy and symptoms can include sinus congestion, post nasal drip, sneezing, coughing and even a runny nose. No wonder so many women think they have a cold!

The current theories about why this happens are:

  1. The blood flow throughout the body increases to feed the fetus and the small capillaries in the nose swell as they are filled with extra blood. This creates inflammation within the sinus cavity.
  2. Increase in hormones contributes to nasal swelling thus creating nasal congestion. The rise in estrogen produces more mucus and the rise in progesterone thickens it.

While a lot of women turn to pharmaceuticals for relief, I think that is unnecessary. First of all, the list of safe pharmaceuticals is always changing making it unclear as to what is acceptable for pregnant women to take. In addition, nasal decongestants are designed to dry out your sinuses which can also dry all of the mucous membranes in your body. This is not desirable during pregnancy when the body is trying to increase mucus production for the fetus.

Below are safe and natural remedies to help with the symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis:

  1. Drink plenty of water to help thin the mucous.
  2. Steam over a pot of hot water or better yet use a humidifier. Some women get great relief using one in their bedroom when they sleep.
  3. Rinse with a saline solution.

While nasal congestion may be uncomfortable doing pregnancy, it is only temporary and the symptoms should subside a few weeks after delivery.

Toxic House Cleaners

Written By: Sue
March 18, 2016

botanticalsHouse Cleaners and Your Sinuses

Imagine smelling your favorite flower or a loaf of freshly baked bread. For most of us, this evokes a pleasant experience. We might find ourselves breathing deeply and feeling relaxed. Now imagine smelling a typical household cleaner like bleach or a window cleaner. If you’re like me, you wince or take a shallow breath. It’s not exactly a pleasant sensation to remember, yet every day most of us use these potent household cleaners. We seem to tolerate their smell even though our bodies instinctively recoil from them. Maybe it’s time to rethink this.

First of all, there is no federal regulation of chemicals in household products. They can be made of just about anything. Chemical manufacturing companies put all sorts of warning labels on them, but most of us ignore them even though many of these chemicals have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. While you might think you’re only being exposed to them in small doses, it’s impossible to tell what amount creates an illness since no studies have been done.

Think about it this way: when you smell something, the odor molecule makes its way to the olfactory mucosa, which is located at the top of the nasal cavity. From there a signal is sent to the brain which then allows us to identify the odor. While the odor from the flower or bread (nonvapors) quickly leaves our body, a household cleaner (vapor) crosses the blood brain barrier.

In other words, a non-vapor molecule quickly dissipates in the nasal cavity. End of story. While a vapor molecule penetrates the cell wall and quickly gets into the bloodstream, and from there is distributed throughout the body. It has a direct effect on both the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves throughout the body). While some chemicals leave the body as waste, others are absorbed into the fatty tissues in the nervous system including the brain. If enough of the chemical accumulates, it can cause anything from memory loss to kidney failure.

With our world increasingly filled with toxins, why create a toxic home? There are plenty of green cleaning products available. Or you can make your own. I’ve been a fan of Meyers Cleaning Products for years. They can be found in most health food stores. If you want to make your own cleaning products there are many books available at your local herb store or you can easily find recipes online. This link can get you started:  Natural House Cleaners.

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