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The Benefits of Peppermint

Looking for a natural way to soothe some common ailments? Consider peppermint. The dried leaves of the peppermint plant offer more than a pleasing aroma and flavor, they have medicinal applications as well. Peppermint can be used:

  1. As a chest rub to ease breathing with the common cold
  2. For relief of indigestion and nausea
  3. As a treatment for gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease

Be aware that peppermint tea can worsen the heartburn experienced with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and may also promote flow of bile from the gall bladder and complicate gallstones - consult your doctor if you have these conditions. Also, don’t give peppermint tea to babies or young children: the menthol it contains can cause a choking sensation in youngsters of this age.

When choosing peppermint, look for oil containing at least 44% free menthol or teas with 100% pure peppermint leaves. You can buy pure peppermint leaf tea in most supermarkets. Brew it in a covered container to avoid loss of volatile components, and drink as much of it as you like, hot or iced.

Is Peppermint Safe During Pregnancy?


Vitamin D and Sperm Speed

The higher a man's blood levels of vitamin D, the speedier his sperm swims. This new finding from the University of Copenhagen follows a study conducted in 300 healthy men. The researchers correlated sperm "motility" or movement with vitamin D levels and also found that stimulation of human sperm with activated vitamin D can speed their forward movement. The researchers noted that semen quality in Danish men seems to be following a negative trend and is contributing to a very high incidence of fertility problems among Danish couples. While the new findings suggest that vitamin D has a beneficial effect on sperm movement and function, the investigators said that they don’t yet know if vitamin D supplements will help improve sperm quality in either normal or infertile men. They added that at present there is no known medical treatment proved to improve semen quality in well designed studies. The report was published in the June 2011 issue of Human Reproduction.

Explore the Men's Health Center.


4 Ways to Treat Sinus Congestion

Yesterday's post discussed some dietary and lifestyle changes that can help to prevent or minimize sinus issues; today we discuss four ways to reduce the symptoms. If you are experiencing sinus drainage, congestion or pain, consider the following:

  1. Acupuncture. It can be remarkably effective for relieving acute sinusitis. Acupuncture can ease pain and promote sinus drainage within minutes of the placement of the needles.
  2. Hot compresses. Help promote sinus drainage by placing very warm, wet compresses over the whole sinus area (in your upper face) frequently. Work up to as much heat as you can comfortably stand for 10 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  3. Steam inhalation. Inhaling steam with a little oil of eucalyptus in it may ease sinus clogging.
  4. Saline flushes. Flushing your nasal passages with a warm saline solution can help relieve sinus congestion and prevent sinus infections. Do this two to four times a day if you have an active infection. You can use a neti pot, a traditional, Indian nasal-irrigation device shaped like Aladdin's lamp that lets you pour the water into your nose. Or simply dissolve a ¼ teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water and pour some of the solution into your cupped hand and inhale it through one nostril while a finger from your opposite hand compresses and blocks the other nostril. Alternatively, you can sniff the solution from a small cup or squirt it into your nostrils with a rubber-bulb syringe. The idea is to inhale enough water to spit it out through your mouth.

Also try making this ginger tea!


5 Ways to Help Sinus Problems

Chronic sinus problems don't necessarily require drugs or surgery - diet and lifestyle play important roles. Besides avoiding polluted, dusty and smoky environments (and secondhand smoke), try the following to help reduce the symptoms of chronic sinus problems:

  1. Eliminate milk and all milk products from your diet (including prepared foods that list dairy and its byproducts as ingredients). This can lead to dramatic improvement after about two months.
  2. Take astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), the root of a native Chinese plant that boosts immune system function. The usual dose is two capsules twice a day unless otherwise directed on the package label.
  3. If you take an antibiotic for sinus infections, be sure to take a probiotic to restore the friendly bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract and that may be wiped out by antibiotics.
  4. Don't smoke.
  5. If you suffer from allergies, consider equipping your house - or at least your bedroom - with a good air filter. A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is a good choice - it removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.

Don’t miss tomorrow's post for four ways to treat sinus congestion symptoms.


Fish for Women's Hearts

Eating plenty of heart-healthy fish can lower women's risk of heart failure - but only if it's cooked right. The benefit to cardiac health was seen in women who consumed five or more servings of fish a week compared to women who ate less than one serving of fish per month. These findings come from research that followed more than 84,000 postmenopausal women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative for an average of 10 years. The investigators found the method of preparing fish was just as important as the kind of fish eaten. Consuming even one serving of fried fish per week was linked to a 48 percent increase in the risk of heart failure among the women. The study suggested that the women who reported eating more baked and broiled fish (a recipe to try: Lemon Baked Halibut) tended to be healthier than women who ate fried fish. What's more, they were more physically active and fit, better educated, less likely to smoke and less likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The study was published in the May 24, 2011 issue of Circulation: Heart Failure.

Watch out for these 3 Fish to Avoid!


4 Reasons to Eat Watermelon

A summertime favorite, watermelon is more than just a refreshing afternoon snack - it has health benefits, too. Watermelon is:

  1. Low in calories
  2. Rich in antioxidants
  3. A good source of vitamins C, A, B6 and B1
  4. A good source of the carotenoid lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers

It is also versatile, lending its sweet flavor and crisp texture to everything from tomatoes to cheese. When choosing, look for a hefty, symmetrical, unblemished melon. A creamy yellow spot on the bottom indicates ripeness. Add this colorful fruit to your summer menu for a healthy way to cool off - perfect for any hot day!

Or try watermelon in this refreshing Summer Melon Soup


Running from Heart Disease?

How fast you can run when you're in your 40s or 50s may say more about your risk for heart disease than your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking history, and whether or not you have diabetes. This finding, from two separate studies at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, showed that 55-year-old men who can run an eight-minute mile, regardless of other contributors factors, have only a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, while those who need 15 minutes or more to run a mile have a 30 percent lifetime risk. To reach their conclusions, the investigators reviewed data on more than 11,000 men who had treadmill exercise tests before 1990. The study was published in the April 12th, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The second study found that fitness levels were also helpful in identifying the long-term risk of heart disease in women. Here, the research team followed more than 66,000 men and women ages 20 to 90 for up to 36 years (or until they died) and again found that  adding fitness to the traditional risk factors for heart disease significantly improved the ability to classify the participants' lifetime risks. This study was published in the April 5th, 2011 issue of Circulation.

My take? This is welcome news. It reinforces the importance of aerobic exercise for cardiovascular health and shows that keeping fit does more for cardiovascular health than focusing on cholesterol levels or even blood pressure. Aerobic exercise conditions our hearts and arteries and respiratory systems, increases stamina and general fitness and promotes cleansing of the blood by stimulating circulation and perspiration. This type of activity increases the flow of oxygen to all organs, enabling them to work more efficiently. It also burns calories, undoing some of the damage we do by eating too much. In addition, it strengthens the immune system, reduces stress, lowers serum cholesterol and tones the nervous system.

More on Exercise & Fitness


Is Healing Touch Right for You?

Healing Touch (HT) is an "energetic therapy" believed to facilitate health, healing and well-being by restoring balance in the human energy field. Treatment is intended to affect an energetic space - sometimes termed a field or biofield - postulated to surround, inhabit and impact the human body. HT is said to influence these fields by applying hands-on pressure, manipulating the body or placing the hands in or through the field.

Because HT therapy requires only a receptive participant and a practitioner, it can be used for nearly any indication or ailment - it has been used to:

  1. Calm and prepare patients for surgery, chemotherapy and other anxiety-provoking procedures
  2. Help wounds heal and shorten the length of hospital stay
  3. Help prevent or minimize chronic pain, headaches, migraines, generalized anxiety and sleep disturbances
  4. Facilitate a spiritual connection
  5. Help people with emotional distress

It may be especially useful for patients who are in pain but unable to tolerate traditional massage or touch, such as fibromyalgia and burn patients. However, it should be noted that non-contact "energetic" therapies are controversial, as neither the presence of external energy fields nor their effects have been measured scientifically. While manipulation of biofields might produce beneficial effects, it is also possible that the therapeutic value of healing touch and other non-contact therapies may simply be the state of relaxation created by a skilled practitioner, which may decrease blood pressure, make breathing slow and rhythmic, and generally allow the body's natural immune resources to take over and promote healing.

Learn more about Healing Touch, including what to expect in a session and how to find a qualified practitioner.