Please Don’t Drink Raw Water

I’m all for sustainable development. Eco-friendly houses, recycling, and renewable energy are all great things to be looking into using. Given the current anti-plastic trend, it probably isn’t surprising that people are looking for an alternative to bottled drinking water. One that doesn’t waste the tons of plastic which are needlessly created and disposed of by the bottled water industry every year.

Raw water is not the answer.

Devotees of raw water claim that water taken directly from its natural source has a whole host of health benefits that bottled and tap water lack, thanks to the presence of mineral compounds and probiotics. These things may well be present in raw water. But so will harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, unfiltered, untreated and unsterilized water is currently being bottled and marketed in San Francisco for $36.99 for 2.5 gallons. So it is certainly the case that raw water won’t help to save money!

The Science

The claims made by the companies and people fooled by this particular trend point to the fact that raw water contains minerals and probiotics that are destroyed by sterilisation and filtration in other forms of water. This is ignoring a simple fact about drinking water. We don’t drink water for any sort of nutrient value. We drink water to remain hydrated. Minerals and probiotics should be taken in as part of a balanced diet plan, through food. Water is not meant for nutrition purposes, and the dangers inherent of raw water easily outstrip any potential benefits.

There are a whole range of pathogens that can be transmitted in water. Campylobactor from bird droppings, cryptosporidium from cattle, E.coli and giardiasis, to name just a few. Depending on where the raw water comes from, it could have also washed through rocks containing things like arsenic and radon. Admittedly, that isn’t common and it is very likely the sort of thing that a reputable company would check before selling a product, but it is still a possibility.

Worse yet, untreated water has historically been the cause of deadly outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, which means that if demand for raw water climbs high enough, we could be looking at returning to the sort of infectious cycle that killed hundreds of people before we understood the root causes of these diseases.

What About Tap Water?

Tap water has been my answer to the cost – both financially and environmentally – of bottled water almost since the bottled water craze began. I have to admit that I still fail to see the point in paying £3 for a bottle of water, when I can get easily twice as much water for £0.50 from the tap.

But according to the people selling raw water, I’m a fool. According to them, tap water has lead, chlorine, fluoride, and most of the time prescription drugs in it, because it is recycled water from other people’s drains.

As I grew up in a house with a passionate water engineer for a father, I am fully aware of where and how the water in my taps is sourced, treated, and transported to me. And I am absolutely fine with each step in that process, as it means that I am 100% certain that when I drink water from my tap, it will not be contaminated with some of the truly horrific water-borne parasites and diseases that untreated water can contain.

So, please, before you go and buy any raw water, consider simply using the water from your tap. I can guarantee that it will be cheaper, and it will probably also be a lot healthier.

Why You Should Avoid Ear-Candles

Ear-candling involves placing a tube of cloth into your ear canal and getting a trusted friend to set the top of it alight. Exactly where this started is cited as many places, but most commonly it is referred to as Hopi Ear Candling, a fact which the Hopi tribe of Native Americans dispute strongly.

Wherever they originated, the claim is that the process creates a low-level suction force which draws wax and other debris out of the ear canal. Some people claim that this process claim that impurities are also drawn from the sinuses or even the brain itself, although exactly how this works is vauge at best.

Products

Most ear candles are relatively cheap, ranging between £5 to £10 in the UK. They can be made of either linen or cotton, which is usually left unbleached because practitioners of ear-candling claim that chlorine is bad for the ears. These cloth tubes are soaked in wax or paraffin and allowed to harden – although some manufacturers only use pure beeswax because they claim that paraffin is a carcinogenic. Some waxes contain herbs or other substances, included sage, chamomile, rose, rosemary, burdock, and many others.

Method

Most instruction direct the person undergoing the procedure to lie on their side. A collecting plate is placed above the ear, and the candle is inserted through a hole in the plate and into the ear canal. The candle is lit, and usually trimmed as the wick burns down. Some practitioners use a toothpick to maintain a hole in the top of the hollow candle so that it maintains its ‘chimney-like’ appearance. Once the candle is blown out and removed, a cotton swab is used to gently remove visible earwax from the ear.

Why This Does Not Work

Since earwax is naturally sticky, the negative pressure needed to pull wax from the canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process. Ear-candling has been tested, and it does not produce any form of suction whatsoever. Researchers who measured the pressure during candling have found that no negative pressure is created.

The notion that the ear canal is in any way connected to structures beyond the eardrum is also false. Anyone with a basic knowledge of anatomy – or access to a local library – should be able to realise this very quickly. The external ear canal, with an intact eardrum, is not connected to the brain or the sinuses.

Dangers

Candling poses several very real dangers. The most serious of which are caused by the hot wax or paraffin from the candle dripping into the ear. There have been cases where this has actually punctured the eardrum, requiring surgery in order to reverse the damage. Even when this does not puncture the eardrum, the added wax can cause ear canal blockages which require minor surgery in order to remove.

There have also been cases where people have been burned or fires have been started by the use of ear candles.

Given that adding things to the ear can bring with it the chance of infection, and ear candles go reasonably deeply into the ear canal, they also bring with them a serious risk of secondary ear canal infections of various kinds.

In short, ear candling is a dangerous and useless procedure, and places those who use it at significant risk without offering any documented benefits whatsoever.

Top Ten Healthy Herbs and How to Use Them

Herbs are very good for us. Not only do they add various flavours to our food without piling on the calories, they have wonderful health benefits that many people are only just beginning to truly appreciate. A basic knowledge of how food can help to keep you healthy while eating brilliantly is key to the foundation of a truly healthy life. To help you decide which of the bewildering array of herbs to pick, here’s a list of ten you shouldn’t be without.

Rosemary

Rosemary has been shown to can boost memory and concentration. It also helps with muscle and joint pain when applied topically. It tastes great when added to hearty food like meat and potatoes.

Parsley

Parsley is usually only seen as a garnish, and as such most people don’t eat it. This is a shame, since it is rich in vitamin A and C, and is also high in antioxidants. It has been proved to help reduce high blood pressure. It works well with chicken dishes.

Ginger

Ginger is a good anti-inflammatory, and has been used topically to help to ease arthritis for centuries. When taken internally, it helps to ease gastrointestinal problems, from IBS to diarrhoea and nausea. Best of all, there are wonderful tasting desserts which call for ginger, making it a welcome – and tasty – addition to your kitchen.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another anti-inflammatory, but it also has antibiotic properties. Like ginger, it is great for preventing and treating issues like diarrhoea and indigestion. It can also help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. It also doesn’t have to be kept just for desserts. Using it as part of a glaze for roasts and vegetables can add a wonderful touch of heat.

Garlic

Most people seem to know that garlic is good for them. It helps to ease the symptoms of colds and flu, it helps relieve hypertension, and is a great boost to the immune system. It tastes great in stews and soups of all kinds, and is commonly found in Mediterranean cooking.

Nettles

Yes, stinging nettles. Not a plant many think of as a herb, but a great addition to any kitchen. It helps to reduce inflammation, particularly that associated with arthritis. It is also great for controlling dandruff and improving the overall health of your hair. It can be infused into a refreshing tea, along with being used in soups, pesto and polenta recipes.

Chives

Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, and has been shown to reduce the risk for gastric cancer. While sprinkling chopped chives over salads and pasta is a great finishing touch, cooking with them is just as good, particularly when adding them to potato recipes.

Coriander

Coriander has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, along with helping to reduce cholesterol levels. Add it to roasted vegetables or nourishing stews, or look at Indian and Thai meals.

Bay Leaves

Bay really comes into its own in the winter months. It contains an oil called cineole, which helps to ease the discomfort of blocked sinuses. It also boosts the immune system, and can help to prevent heart disease. They add a mild spice to stews, soups and sauces of all kinds, but should not be eaten whole, so remove them before serving.

Dandelion

Another unusual herb, dandelions are often overlooked as a food herb. They are a natural mild diuretic, which make them useful for treating high blood pressure and liver and kidney issues. It makes a great tasting addition to salads, a wonderful infused vinegar, and a lovely after-meal tea.

There are thousands of other herbs that can be used. They are easily available and make for a great way to help to boost your health while tasting great.