Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Natural Health
Brain, head, eyes
Feeling down? Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tai Chi, and yoga are known depression-fighters; SAM-e, full-spectrum lighting, prayer, gratitude, and positive affirmations may also help. For fatigue with depression, try acetyl-L-carnitine (an amino acid derivative). Take 500 milligrams two or three times a day.
Head: Biofeedback, a relaxation technique that sends brain-wave info to the user via headphones and fingertip electrodes, can prevent migraines. Magnesium supplements or herbs such as butterbur or feverfew may also help headache sufferers.
Eyes: Keep your vision sharp with bilberries, which are packed with antioxidants—even more than their blueberry cousins. Bilberry smoothie, anyone?
Sinuses, jaw, throat
Prone to sinus infections? Try aromatherapy—research shows that oils from dill, bishop’s weed, and cumin work as well as or better than antibiotics against eight types of common bacterial infections. An herbal combination called Kan Jang can make sinus infections and the common cold more tolerable and reduce recovery time.
Jaw: Biofeedback paired with cognitive-behavioral-skills training (a mind-body type of therapy), can significantly reduce pain from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Throat: Fight germs and kill bacteria with a tea tree–oil gargle (11⁄2 tablespoons of pure tea tree oil to 1 cup of water). Swish and spit. (Don’t swallow.)
Flaxseed, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, reduces inflammation and tumor growth. Start with 1 tablespoon of ground organic golden flaxseed daily for a week, and work up to 4 tablespoons; drink lots of water to avoid constipation.
Tummy: Excuse you! Get rid of your burping and bloating with digestive-enzyme supplements that help your body process sugars, starches, proteins, and fats; they’re available in capsule form. Mint (drink it in tea; leaves) has long been considered a tummy soother, too. And enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules (the enteric protects your tummy lining—never ingest essential oils in liquid form) may ease irritable bowel syndrome.
Pelvis, urinary tract, colon
To relieve menstrual cramps naturally, try taking black cohosh, magnesium supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamins C, B, and B6—all of which are thought to ease pain; calendula oil (made from marigolds) applied topically may help, too. Castor oil packs placed on the abdomen may also decrease pain, reduce inflammation, and increase relaxation. And acupuncture and magnet therapy have been shown to dramatically reduce menstrual cramps and pelvic pain.
Urinary tract: It’s not an old wives’ tale: Cranberries, in juice or capsules, can keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall—and this can help fight urinary tract infections. The herb uva ursi (bearberry) might provide some relief, too; it contains a natural antibiotic that soothes irritation and reduces inflammation caused by bladder infections.
Colon: Research shows that hypnotherapy improves irritable bowel syndrome in most patients who try it. And probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus GG or Bacillus coagulans, can help maintain healthy gastrointestinal flora and restore balance after a bout of traveler’s diarrhea.
Although magnet therapy for low-back pain is controversial, anecdotal studies do reveal that it may have some merit for the open-minded. For proven results, try acupuncture—relieving chronic low-back pain is one of the things it does best, research shows. In fact, recent trials in Germany showed it to be almost twice as effective for chronic low-back pain as conventional therapy. Meditation reduces pain, too.
Butt: Heat therapy reduces muscle spasms and increases blood flow. Moist heat—heat packs, a microwaved damp towel, or soaking in a hot tub—penetrates deeper than dry heat. But be warned: Heat increases swelling, so don’t use heat packs after an injury.
Breathing from deep in your belly removes more carbon dioxide from each breath. It can even strengthen lungs weakened by chronic bronchitis or asthma. Practice breathing by trying to squeeze more air out at the end of each breath. Or, take a Kundalini yoga class.
Liver: Detox your liver with milk thistle seed (silymarin) capsules, which stimulate regeneration of damaged liver cells. Its active ingredient may even stop liver-cancer cells from growing.
Skin, hands, bones
One way to prevent or lessen wrinkles is to build collagen, which becomes thinner as a woman’s hormone levels fall. Try natural progesterone cream (rubbed into the thin skin behind your knees or on your chest), foods rich in phytoestrogens (soy), and antioxidant supplements (vitamins C and E; glutathione; and pine bark or grape seed extracts).
Bones: Vitamin D has emerged as a potent way to strengthen bones, as research has shown that calcium is virtually useless without enough of it. For those who don’t get much sun (which produces D), try a daily supplement with 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
Hands: Lifting weights and doing breathing exercises may help warm up cold hands and feet.
Knees/calves, feet, toes
Massage is a proven way to de-stress overused and tight muscles, including those in the calves and behind the knees. For chronic knee pain from degenerative joint disease, try magnet therapy. Magnets may reduce pain and increase mobility, according to a University of Texas Medical Branch study. How do magnets work? They may restore the natural electromagnetic balance of the body and increase blood flow to the area in pain.
Feet: To ease the chronic pain of plantar fasciitis, try acupuncture or natural anti-inflammatories such as ginger, turmeric, or boswellia.
Toes: Yoga for your toes? Why not? Your toes could use a good relaxing stretch too, to fend off cramps and other foot problems. Try using a pair of toe stretchers.