Posts Tagged Plants
July 19, 2012
Thursday, March 01, 2012
By: Paula Rothstein
[NaturalNews] Circumventing reliance on sugar is something akin to a national pastime as many individuals seek unique ways to lessen their daily intake. This sort of dependence sends food marketers into a frenzy resulting in numerous products boasting “sugar free” or “low calorie” on their labels. For decades, thishas generallybeen achieved through the use of artificial sweeteners; however, the safety of these products is finally gaining appropriate public attention. One interesting if somewhat confusing alternative – “sugar alcohol” – is now offered in an ever-increasing number of products. It warrants a closer look.
What exactly is sugar alcohol?
Truly a misnomer, this sweetener is neither sugar nor alcohol even though it does share the chemical structure of each. Sugar alcohol, also known as polyol, is created by adding hydrogen atoms to sugar. For example, in the case of sorbitol, one of the more widely used sugar alcohols, hydrogen is added to glucose.
Potential benefits and risks
Extracted from chemicals in plants such as berries and fruits, its sweetness is achieved using less calories. While this sounds like an excellent outcome, like all deals that sound too good to be true, a price eventually must be paid. In this particular instance, it is the body’s inability to absorb the sugar alcohol that results in a lower caloric count. The price is paid by your small intestines. Therefore, when the unabsorbed sugar alcohol passes through your intestinal tract it can result in a laxative effect, causing bloating, diarrhea or abdominal pain.
Common sugar alcohols
There are several sugar alcohols being used in products today, each of which should appear on the ingredient list of the specific food or drink. Contained within the list you most commonly will find one of the following, most of which end with the letters “ol”:
Hydrogenated glucose syrups (HGS)
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysis’s (HSH)
Not all sugar alcohols are created equal
Each sugar alcohol occupies a different place on a scale of tolerable to intolerable. For example, mannitol and sorbitol are known to be the worst offenders when it comes to gastric distress. They should be consumed with caution. At the other end of the spectrum is erythritol which can be absorbed in the small intestine and, therefore, does not cause a laxative effect.
The one sugar alcohol which appears to be the most promising appears to be xylitol. Several studies have demonstrated xylitol can positively affect tooth enamel and bone mineral density. This explains why you frequently see it being used in chewing gum. However, although useful in smaller quantities, overconsumption remains a problem.
On the other end of the scale, sorbitol poses a unique health challenge for diabetics. Our bodies are capable of converting glucose into sorbitol within the body. However, this conversion process is greatly accelerated in diabetics. Because the accumulation of sorbitol has a hard time exiting the body, it causes the cells to swell, thus increasing the risk of nerve, kidney, and blood vessel damage as well as the development of cataracts. For that reason, it would be advisable to avoid sorbitol if you are diabetic.
As always, if your food carries any sort of health claim, you should carefully scrutinize the ingredients contained therein. The bottom line is that even though sugar alcohols may be safer than other artificial sweeteners, you will still want to limit their consumption or avoid them altogether if you are prone to gastric distress.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
By: Tara Green
[NaturalNews] Growing your own herbs can add a new dimension to your cooking and give you the opportunity to save money by making your own herbal teas, tinctures and salves. Some people think herb gardening is an option only available to those who have access to a plot of land, but this is not true. Even if you live in an apartment or condo with no outdoor space, you can still grow your own herbs.
Choosing the right plants
First, think about your apartment or condo’s gardening potential. The ideal situation for an indoor garden is to have windows which face south with no obstructions so your plants can bask in several hours of sunlight. If most of your windows face north or are hemmed in by other buildings, you can choose plants which require little sunshine, or you can purchase a grow light and timer. Consider the placement of heat sources in relation to your plants — indoors plants are unlikely to be effected by overnight chills but too much heat can be bad for them.
Also take your own habits into account — are you frequently away from home or are you able to tend your plants on a daily basis? Indoor plants obviously do not receive rainfall, so you may need to choose very low maintenance plants if you travel regularly. If you have pets that would interfere with plants, you may also want to think about where you can place the plants so your animals cannot reach them.
Unless you are an experienced gardener, it is best to start your indoor herb garden by selecting herbs which grow easily. Chives are a good option for those living in cooler climates or people who do not have windows with abundant sunshine. Parsley also has low sun requirements but grows more slowly so you will not be able to harvest it as quickly as chives. Bay trees are also relatively easy to grow, but like parsley, they require more of a time investment. This plant is also susceptible to scales if it becomes too dry so you will want to be sure to attend its water needs carefully.
Oregano, rosemary and thyme also grow relatively easily and can be good starter plants for novice herb gardeners. Consider, however, that these herbs are all used in Mediterranean cooking which means they grow naturally in sunny climates. If you choose to grow these plants, they will need abundant light.
Caring for your plants
Once you decide what herbs to grow purchase your seeds and other materials. When buying seeds, always check the expiration date on the package. Plant more seeds than you need, since it is likely only some of them will sprout.
Although a few plants, such as lemongrass stalks, grow in water, most require soil. You will most likely want to buy some potting soil for your indoor herb garden and natural fertilizer for your plants. You will also need containers — these need not be expensive, but you will want to take considerations such as drainage into account. Terra cotta planters can absorb water and cause plants to become overly dry so you will want to use these only with plants with low moisture requirements. If you are re-potting a plant which grew outdoors rather than starting from seed, select a container a few inches larger than the plant’s root ball.
Many plants require more humidity than indoor air naturally provides. You may want to place several plant containers on a tray which you cover with pebbles or marbles and water, being sure to keep the water low enough to prevent root rot. As the water evaporates, it provides moisture to the plant’s leaves. Replenish the water regularly to feed your plants needed humidity. To protect your indoor plants from pests, fill a spray bottle with soapy water and spray the entire plant, including the undersides of the leaves. When you are ready to harvest your herb plant, take no more than half if you want it to continue to grow and produce more for you.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
By: Tara Green
[NaturalNews] Organic gardening avoids the use of chemicals to make plants grow or protect them from insects, relying instead on natural gardening principles used for thousands of years. Permaculture organic gardening goes a step further and also emphasizes growing plants sustainably, working with rather than against the grain of the natural environment. Permaculture organic gardening is growing in popularity as more people realize that it offers an inexpensive and relatively low-maintenance way to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Choosing a location
Observe your property at different times of day. Consider which areas receive the most sun, which are in shade for much of the day. Depending on where you live, if sunshine is a scarce commodity, you will want to expose plants to receive as much as possible. On the other hand, in desert regions, you will not want your plants to be in the area most likely to be parched by sun exposure. Also think protecting your garden from the paths where strong winds tend to blow through your property. Even a small property will have microclimates — notice these and plant accordingly to give different plants either more sun or more shade according to their preference.
Avoid disease-prone plants which require time-consuming chores such as spraying and pruning by the gardener. Select plants which will thrive in your area rather than those which will require extra labor on your part to protect them from the environment. As far as possible, select plants which serve multiple purposes, such as fruit trees which will put forth blossoms in one season, fruit to pick in another, and provide shade for when you want to sit and enjoy your garden’s natural beauty. Native plants are also more likely to attract local pollinators such as bees, and to draw butterflies so that your garden contains even more natural beauty.
Making a home for your plants
Raised beds require less physical effort on the part of the gardener and also benefit plants, providing better air circulation, more protection from spring chills and improved usage of water. Raised beds also mean a small permaculture garden is an option even for apartment dwellers and others with little available space since you can rely on containers and vertical gardening principles.
Feeding your plants
One of the key concepts of permaculture organic gardening is to avoid waste. Having a garden gives you a means of re-using natural waste such as eggshells, apple cores, coffee grinds as well as yard waste which many people throw away. You can either purchase or make a compost bin to turn this organic material into gardening gold which can be used to help your plants grow.
Watering your plants
Modern gardeners who do not follow sustainability principles tend to draw heavily on piped-in water resources, often using hoses and sprinklers to make plants which require abundant water grow in a desert climate. Permaculture organic gardening tries to use natural water as much as possible, maximizing the use of groundwater and rainwater. Rain barrels allow you to collect rainfall and extend its use over longer periods of time.
Protecting plants from pests
Eschewing the use of chemicals does not have to mean a garden full of pests. You can use companion gardening principles, growing plants which deter pests near those which attract them. There is also a natural synergy between some plants which means planting them near each other increases your yield. Also, just as some herbs have a medicinal effect on human health, they also offer benefits to plants which grow near them. For more information about companion planting, visit http://www.appropedia.org/CCAT_companion_planting and http://www.gardeningknowhow.com
If you have space and live in an area where it is permissible to keep poultry, chickens can make a wonderful addition to a permaculture garden. If they are permitted free-range for most of the day, they will consume many pests. Chicken manure also contributes beneficial nitrogen to the soil of your garden.