Aloe Vera

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HISTORY

Over 250 species of aloe exist on earth. Aloes are very low maintenance succulents. The most cultivated species is the Aloe Vera Barbadensis in North Africa. Preceding 1700BC, the Ancient Egyptians discovered the many health benefits of this plant. They used it in creams, encouraging anti-aging through cell regeneration, and discovered the anti-viral properties and cleansing aspects of the aloe. They called it the “Plant of Immortality” for this very reason.

HEALTH BENEFITS

The features of the aloe vera plant are the clear gel, resin, aloin, and latex (the underside of the skin). It also consists of 96% water and many vitamins, such as B12 and C, and minerals such as potassium, iodine, zinc, and manganese. Aloe vera consists of amino acids, which are beneficial when applied topically (on the skin), as it is an anti-inflammatory, and relieves muscle and tendon pain.

CAUTION

Aloes are not to be ingested as a whole. Commercially-sold aloe vera is the best to ingest, as it does not contain latex, the yellow substance found just underneath the skin. The latex causes a laxative affect and should only be applied topically.

GROWING ENVIRONMENT

Like other succulents, aloes grow best when planted in cactus potted soil mix or regular potting soil with additional perlite sand. Each spring, fertilise the plant with phosphorus-heavy, water-based fertiliser. For indoor aloes, place near south or west-facing windows for proper lighting. Dry conditions are ideal for aloes, so water once the soil is completely dry and have drainage holes to allow water to move through – this prevents standing water from drowning the plant.

REPOTTING

The larger aloes need to be repotted, and baby plants (offshoots from the mother plant) need to be repotted separately. This reduces the droopiness of the mother plant and allows smaller plants to have adequate room to grow. When removing the small aloes, pull by the main root mass. If the roots are tough, use a knife to cut them. Leave plants that have been divided separate overnight in a warm, dry place to help recover any root damage, then replant them.

The Benefits of Tea

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Tea has a lot of natural helpful power for our lives and we can improve our lives by having tea each morning.

Tea can boost your mental health, help your heart and organs, help you feel good and look good, make you feel better and prevent sicknesses. Make sure you read the packaging before you buy to make sure it isn’t more sugar than actual tea.

Photo by Stephen Bendall

To wake up and feel energised:

  • Green Tea
  • Coconut tea
  • Bright spark tea

To relax and fall asleep:

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Relaxation Tea

For digestion and nausea:

  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Wellbeing tea

For a sore throat:

  • Throat soother tea
  • White tea
  • Echinacea

For inner health:

  • Australiana
  • Hemp harmony
  • Longevity

You can find most of these teas in the Tea Tonic gourmet range at Stockland’s wandering teapot.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

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Coconut oil is a natural oil that is made of a unique combination of fatty acids that can have a positive effect on your health. There are many benefits to using coconut oil such as aiding in weight loss, improving brain function, moisturising skin and killing bacteria.

Coconut oil is packed with healthy saturated fats that produce different effects on your body than other fats in your diet. These healthy fats increase fat burning and provide quick energy to your brain and body. It aids in brain function through the use of fatty acids that act as a secondary fuel source that provides to the brain and nervous system. Coconut oil also helps alleviate dry skin because of its vitamin E content and antioxidant action on the body. The anti-microbial properties in coconut oil can also help with acne, eczema, staph infections and psoriasis. Coconut oil also has lauric acid, which is believed to have anti-viral, antifungal and antibacterial properties which aid in fighting infections.

Adding two tablespoons a day to your diet can have a positive effect on your health and applying it to your skin each night before bed can have you feeling like a new person.

The Best Plants to have in Your Home

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Houseplants can be a great way to add life to a room and improve the feeling of your home

  1. English Ivy

English ivy needs sunlight so this plant can benefit from being placed near a window or door. If it doesn’t get enough sunlight it becomes sickly and prone to pests. English Ivy has been named as an effective air cleaner by NASA.  In many places across the world, English Ivy grows outdoors and can become invasive and considered a weed so it needs to be watched and monitored to ensure it doesn’t get out of control. When the vines become too long you can trim them back. It can attach to surfaces with tiny roots that can cause damage to walls, so be careful not to let your roots grow around any surface. To ensure there is no damage, regularly move your plant from different windows. Before watering an English Ivy make sure to feel the soil as they like to be on the drier side. If the soil is damp to touch on the top then it will not require water. Also, ensure that there is good drainage. If you have cats or dogs you should be mindful that this plant is considered toxic to them.

 

  1. Rubber plant

Buying a younger rubber plant allows it to adapt better to indoor living rather than buying a more mature plant. The plant thrives outside and grows to impressive heights but if you would prefer a smaller to medium-sized indoor plant then putting it in a small pot can restrict its growth. Rubber plants like a lot of bright light but not from direct sunlight. The rubber plant benefits from a sunny spot that is shielded by a sheer curtain. When the rubber plant becomes droopy and loses its lower leaves and lustre then the plant needs more light and water. In the warmer months, the rubber plant needs to be kept moist and benefits from having the leaves misted. In cooler months the rubber plant may only need to be watered twice a month. If you have cats or dogs you should be mindful that this plant is considered toxic to them.

 

  1. Peace lily

Peace lilies are a great addition to a dull room with the beautiful lily sprouting from the crisp green foliage. They are a great way to clean up the air in a room as they have been named on the NASA list of top air-cleaning house plants. Peace lilies enjoy indirect sunlight and shade, making them a great indoor room addition. They have even been known to be successful in offices with no windows and fluorescent lights. Peace lilies are more tolerant to under watering than over-watering. If wilting occurs, check the roots. If the roots are damp or soggy then it indicates root rot, so ensure your pot has good drainage.

 

  1. Aloe plant

Aloe plants come in many different colours and shapes and can add texture to any room. The leaves of an aloe plant can also come in handy as a natural remedy for burns. Snap off a leaf from the aloe plant and add the gel from inside the leaf to sunburn, burns, cuts and rashes for relief. They love to be in sunlight but will tolerate a few hours of shade if needed and love dry climates. In summer months soak the aloe plant thoroughly and leave to drain. Allow the aloe plant to dry completely between watering.

 

  1. Bamboo palm

Bamboo palms can add warmth and colour to your home. The palms benefit from bright indirect sunlight. Once you have purchased your bamboo palm it is best to re-pot immediately into a pot that is 2 inches larger and has good drainage for the best results. Water when the soil is dry to touch on top and ensure the plant is draining to avoid the plant dying. Bamboo palms enjoy a dry room but benefit from water spraying to keep them hydrated.

Dad’s Story Living with dementia

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STORY BY MARIANNE KRESSE

My life and that of my family over the last few years has changed dramatically and all because of two phone calls. The first was at 5.47am on Saturday 22nd November 2014 notifying us of the death of our much beloved mum. The second happened nearly a year later at 8.43pm on 16th November 2015 from the Hervey Bay Hospital telling us that dad had had a bad fall and was being admitted to hospital. He’d been alone and unconscious for several hours before a neighbour had found him in the back yard.

Unexpected calls at unexpected times always set your heartbeat racing, but when you have elderly parents that live over 1,200 kms away those calls cause an even greater dread. Mum’s passing set the family along the path of grieving, but dad’s struggle and decline through dementia has been our family’s most difficult, frustrating, sad and challenging issue yet.

Dad’s memory had been fading for a while even before mum’s death, with mum always saying that they made a great pair- she had the brains while he had the legs. Mum had been in a wheelchair for the last few years of her life and although this restricted her lifestyle she was still very bright and connected even at 86. Not so obvious was my dad’s steady loss of memory. From little things such as forgetting where his car keys were, to driving all the way to Maryborough for bread and coming home with everything but, dad’s lapses were managed with humour and perhaps a little frustration.

But with mum gone, dad’s routine of taking care of her in addition to the grieving that goes with the tragedy of losing someone you have lived with for more than 57 years began to take its toll. When it became apparent that perhaps dad was not taking as good a care of himself as he was telling us, my sister and I with our partners, made the difficult decision to leave the security of jobs and homes in Sydney and move up to Hervey Bay to take care of him. At first our care was only moderate with us mostly looking, but not interfering, by doing simple checks on things such as ensuring he ate and took his medicine daily. A good way to follow this up with subtlety we found was by inviting ourselves to go shopping with him, checking his freezers and pantry regularly and watching how much trash he threw out. Garbage is always a good indicator of activity. Slowly over the first year we could see his lapses but by the end of 2016 and with another fall that saw him again in hospital it became apparent that he could no longer live on his own.

My sister and I then decided to roster ourselves in two week stints, with us living with him… watching over him, but endeavouring to let him go through his daily duties without interference. Our company was a welcome thing…. at first. But as time progressed dad started to forget more and more things. The more we prompted reminders for him to make himself breakfast, take his tablets or feed his dog, the more he retaliated, the more he began to ignore us and the angrier he became at us for as he stated ‘taking over his life’. He was becoming that 16 year old adolescent, constantly rebelling with an anger and frustration that became quite wearing. For although we could see his confusion, feel his anxiety and see the waving of his angry fist quite regularly as he began losing more and more of his memory, he still did not recognise or admit that there was a problem.

Unfortunately once things are lost they are very difficult to recover. Losing one activity quickly rolls onto losing another until before you know it, nothing is as it was. Dad’s decline over the last half year in particular has been quicker than expected and has left us quite unprepared for its outcome. Dementia is a dreadful disease that sees concise active minds lose their logic.

It creates a confusion and communication breakdown that steals vocabulary and often leaves its victim quite lost and frustrated. It slowly steals the essence and memories of the person you love, the most recent ones often being the first to go. As such it is a very difficult disease to watch and deal with if you are the loved one taking care. Little actions such as my sister starting to feed the birds some bread triggers new memories and actions in dad that make no real sense. It is not unusual to find dad sitting in his chair in the lounge room feeding his German shepherd by tearing up pieces of bread and throwing them at her as if he were feeding the birds. And although it is quite amusing to see his dog patiently sitting by his feet with bits of bread covering her head and body, there is also a sadness… a sense of loss that is heartbreaking.

Each day, no matter how hard we try to maintain routine, dad loses another activity from his daily schedule. When you remind him to make breakfast, he will look you in the eye and sincerely state that he has had it. But he is remembering another time, another day… and the memory to him is so real that he does not feel hungry. When you explain that he cannot have eaten because you count the number of slices left in the loaf of bread several times throughout the day he looks at you as if perhaps you are little bit crazy. And maybe we are…. There are certainly days when we feel out of our depth and just as confused and frustrated as he does.

With most of his daily routine now forgotten, dad now spends his days happily and actively ‘fixing things’. It is difficult not to shiver when you hear those words, because for dad they mean a day of unplugging everything in the house from the kettle and toaster, to the phone, side table lamps, computer (and it’s every data cable), his electric chair… the internet router…well you get the idea….he unplugs EVERYTHING. And naturally he has not associated the fact that without power, electrical devices do not work, so when he goes to turn on his lamp or computer and it does not work, he has conversely justified his need to ‘fix things’ and therefore spends the rest of day trying to work out the problem. We plug everything back in and he again unplugs it. This unfortunately has become our daily routine. ‘Fixing things’ and now ‘Sorting things’.

‘Sorting things’ is not necessarily as disruptive as ‘fixing things’ because we do not loose phone or Internet connections, but it can be equally as frustrating. ‘Sorting things’ has become a process of dad collecting all manner of objects and putting them in a special place. Last week we had a half an hour discussion on how he could now sit down and relax, because everything was now sorted. When I asked what ‘everything’ meant, he looked at me in all seriousness and said.. ‘You know stuff…’ Pushing him a little more because ‘stuff’ really gave me no hint of what mischief he had been up to, he waved his hand as if humouring me and said logically that, ‘all the black sticks are now in the one spot!’ Satisfied with his explanation because now everything was ‘all clear’, he sat down to have his lunch. It was an hour later when he wanted to watch TV, that the meaning of ‘all the black sticks’ became apparent as an hour search for the TV remote became the afternoon priority. On searching all of dad’s drawers I finally found the TV remote alongside the stereo, video recorder, Foxtel remotes as well as several old cordless phones and a few current ones. There was even his computers mouse and the white air conditioner remote. When I showed him where I had found the remote, he looked in the drawer and ‘tsked’ in frustration, but only because of his error of sticking the white air conditioner remote amongst the black ones….

My dad will be turning 90 next March and it is difficult to see where the future lies. My sister and I although not trained in dealing with dad’s condition, feel the strain of understanding and coping with his new foibles each day. We are not perfect and definitely do not have the answers to every challenge that dad throws at us on a daily basis, but we try. Thank goodness we have each other, because trying to take care of dad and his declining mental and physical state on our own singularly would be nigh on impossible. We will be doing all we can to ensure that dad spends the rest of his days in the comfort of his own home with the company of his beloved German shepherd. But if you happen to see two dazed and possibly drooling 50 odd year old ladies who look like sisters, wondering around the streets of Hervey Bay muttering incoherently about ‘black sticks’ or ‘fixing and sorting things’, just smile and give us an encouraging pat on the back. We know things will in all essence only get worse, but a smile of encouragement goes a long way to making things easier.

Essential oils

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Essential oils have powerful health benefits and are acquired by concentration and extraction of flowers, roots, barks, stems and seeds of plants which contain natural properties.

Ancient civilisations knew about the benefits of essential oils, but it’s only been in the past 60 years that their medicinal benefits have been rediscovered by Western society.  Their surge in popularity is largely due to their benefits for treating a range of conditions, and in the production of beauty and cleaning products.

They became popular in the 1950s in massage therapy, and in the 70s were used extensively as a major part of alternative and holistic health treatments.They are used topically, by mixing with a carrier oil and applying to the skin for absorption, internally, through consumption, or through aromatic methods through diffusion in the air.  These days they are used to treat everything from migraines to stress.  Essential oils created from rosemary or jasmine can boost confidence and calm the nerves when presenting a speech or attending a job interview.

Jasmine, orange and grapefruit can be used as antidepressants due to their properties which can help calm the nerves. Jasmine is also used to help during childbirth.  Rosemary is known to help improve the memory too, and sandalwood helps with focus.  Peppermint is used to boost energy and can help with digestion.  Lemon can also aid digestion, as well as ease mood swings and treat headaches.  Lavender and rose are popular essential oils used to treat stress and reduce anxiety.  Chamomile also helps improve mood and aides in relaxation. It’s commonly used before bed to help sleep.

Bergamot and ylang-ylang are other essential oils used to reduce stress, but also have properties which help improve skin conditions like eczema.  Ylang-ylang is also known to ease nausea.  Tea tree fights infection and boosts immunity.