Higher creatinine can occur after CT — even without contrast.

Contrast media is often blamed for what appears to be contrast-induced nephropathy (CIN) in patients getting CT scans. But Chinese researchers have found that elevated rates of serum creatinine — a marker for CIN — can occur after CT even in

There are lots of reasons why patients could have higher serum creatinine levels after CT exams, according to two studies presented by researchers from Peking University First Hospital in Beijing at the 2013 International Symposium on Multidetector-Row CT. Clarifying those reasons is critical, according to the group.

“There are many factors affecting creatinine levels, especially among inpatients,” said Dr. Xiaoying Wang in her presentation. “Many patients have severe diseases where, due to the disease, doctors find it is not appropriate for them to have contrast-enhanced CT.”

Nailing down renal impairment

The findings don’t necessarily fit with conventional wisdom on contrast-induced nephropathy; however, they do highlight the multifactorial nature of impaired renal function and remind clinicians that several factors must be present for a CIN diagnosis, Wang said.

“The definition of CIN is clear and simple, but in practice it’s not easy to define,” she said. CIN requires an absolute or relative increase in serum creatinine (SCr) compared to baseline values, a temporal relationship between the rise in SCr and exposure to a contrast agent, and the exclusion of alternative explanations for renal impairment — which means looking for these explanations.

“Generally, as radiologists it is easy for us to detect an increase in serum creatinine, but it is not very easy for us — sometimes not even easy for nephrologists — to exclude alternative reasons for renal impairment,” Wang said.

In an effort to identify at-risk patients, in Wang’s practice, patients making appointments for contrast-enhanced CT are asked about a range of factors suggestive of CIN risk. The literature shows higher levels of risk for patients with a history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, renal impairment, liver disease, renal-toxic medications, and a few other circumstances, though the studies used to identify the risk factors involved intra-arterial injection of contrast agents, Wang said.

Study 1: Are at-risk patients really more at risk for CIN?

For patients undergoing contrast-enhanced CT between 2010 and 2012, her group analyzed the association between risk factors and the subsequent development of CIN. The researchers examined a total of 2,556 patients, of whom 1,243 formed an observation group. The patients were measured for SCr before contrast-enhanced CT as well as 48 to 72 hours after CT; if SCr levels rose by the second test, the patient was referred to a nephrologist, and SCr was measured again seven to 10 days later.

In all, 68 (5.5%) of the 1,243 patients were diagnosed with CIN, including 12 with acute renal failure. (Fifty-one patients recovered and five were lost to follow-up.) However, the study showed no statistically significant difference in the development of CIN between the patients with risk factors and those without.

Of the patients who were not at risk, 4.5% (17/375) developed CIN, while in the at-risk group, 5.9% (51/868) developed the condition (p = 0.21). Among patients with no history of chronic kidney disease, only female gender (p = 0.03) and the use of low-osmolar contrast media (p = 0.03) were associated with a significantly increased risk of CIN.

Logistic regression analysis of risk factors showed several that increased the odds of CIN, including a history of diabetes mellitus (odds ratio [OR] = 1.83), history of tumor (OR = 1.54), use of nephrotoxic drugs (OR = 1.69), frequent use of contrast media (OR = 1.13), and use of low-osmolarity contrast media (OR = 2.28). In addition, women had an odds ratio of 1.69, and those older than 75 had an odds ratio of 1.26. The difference was only statistically significant in women (p = 0.04), however.

“These [risk] factors are not very strong to [predict] the incidence of CIN,” Wang said.

Study 2: Is ‘CIN’ risk really higher after noncontrast CT?

To continue to refine risk-factor prediction, the group recently completed a prospective cohort study of 623 patients who underwent CT with and without contrast. Of the 623 patients, 171 formed an observation group that received multiple SCr tests to allow the nephrologist to confirm a temporal association between increased SCr and contrast administration.

Among these 171 patients, 99 underwent contrast-enhanced CT and 72 had CT without contrast. There was no statistically significant difference in demographics and CIN-related risk factors between the 171 patients and the remaining 452, Wang said.

In all, 17 (9.9%) of the 171 patients developed what appeared to be CIN. Dividing up the patients between those who received contrast and those who did not, seven (7.1%) of the 99 who got contrast developed CIN. Meanwhile, 10 (13.9%) of the 72 patients who did not receive contrast developed “CIN.” Again, the difference in CIN rates between those who did and did not receive contrast was not statistically significant (p = 1.414).

Many factors affect creatinine levels, especially among those like the inpatients in this study, who have a wide range of medical conditions and are prescribed a variety of medications, Wang concluded. Even factors ranging from higher muscle mass to recent ingestion of cooked meat can result in higher SCr levels.

“That’s how we explain the higher SCr levels among noncontrast CT patients,” she said. “The increase of serum creatinine level after CT examination may occur without iodine contrast administration.”

She cautioned, though, that the sample sizes were small in both studies.

Excluding alternative explanations for renal impairment is crucial for diagnosing CIN, Wang concluded, and large, prospective cohort studies are needed to determine the true incidence of CIN in contrast-enhanced CT.

Source: auntminnie.com

Bismuth-carrying nanotubes track stem cells in CT.

Texas researchers have succeeded in trapping bismuth in a nanotube cage, and the resultant structure could be used as a CT contrast agent to track stem cells, according to a new study in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

Specifically, the investigators from Rice University, in cooperation with the University of Houston and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, are inserting bismuth compounds into single-walled carbon nanotubes to make a more effective CT contrast agent. In tests using pig bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, the researchers found that the bismuth-filled nanotubes, which they have dubbed Bi@US-tubes, produce CT images of higher attenuation than those with iodine-based contrast agents .

Bismuth has been used before as a contrast agent, but putting it in nanotube capsules allowed the researchers to get the substance inside cells in high concentrations, permitting the acquisition of CT images of the cell. The relatively high contrast is achieved with low bismuth loading (2.66% by weight) within the tubes, without compromising cell viability.

Bismuth is a heavy element and therefore is more effective at diffracting x-rays than almost any substance, according to study co-author Lon Wilson, PhD. Going forward, the nanotube surfaces can be modified to improve biocompatibility and their ability to target certain types of cells. They can also be modified for use with MRI, PET, and electron paramagnetic resonance imaging systems, he said.

The researchers are now working to double the amount of bismuth in each nanotube. They would also like to combine bismuth and gadolinium into a single nanotube to produce a bimodal contrast agent suitable for tracking in both CT and MRI, Wilson said.

Source: auntminnie.com

Is the STEM skills shortage overblown or even non-existent?

With the rising emphasis on tech across the business landscape, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills appear to be in high demand. Yet, one analysis finds the alleged shortfall of these skills isn’t all it appears to be.

Robert Charette, writing in IEEE Spectrum,  says that despite the handwringing, “there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs.” He points to a study by the Economic Policy Institute that found that wages for U.S. IT and mathematics-related professionals have not grown appreciably over the past decade, and that they, too, have had difficulty finding jobs in the past five years. He lists a number of studies that refute the presence of a global STEM skills shortage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for one, estimates that there was a net loss of  370 000 science and engineering jobs in the U.S. in 2011.

There isn’t even agreement on what STEM jobs are, Charette points out. Even agencies of the U.S. government don’t agree. The U.S. Department of Commerce puts the number of STEM jobs at7.6 million, which “includes professional and technical support occupations in the fields of computer science and mathematics, engineering, and life and physical sciences as well as management,” he relates. The National Science Foundation, on the other hand, estimates there are 12.4 million STEM jobs, taking in health-care workers,  psychologists and social scientists. Other data from Georgetown University finds that a majority of STEM graduates actually leave the STEM field altogether after ten years.

Perhaps what is needed is more polymath skills — blending STEM with other disciplines such as business, law, or even the arts — to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Building a software company takes more than programming abilities — it takes business savvy and vision.

STEM skills do have an important role in economic growth, Charette opines. “There is indeed a shortage — a STEM knowledge shortage.” While a STEM-based university degree isn’t necessary, “improving everyone’s STEM skills would clearly be good for the workforce and for people’s employment prospects, for public policy debates, and for everyday tasks like balancing checkbooks and calculating risks.”

Ironically, while many non-STEM jobs require some level of STEM skills, many STEM jobs themselves are being displaced. Many of the skills needed in today’s marketplace — from auto repair to graphic arts to accounting — call for computer proficiency, as they now entail work built on software. At the same time, many functions that may have required engineers and mathematicians are being automated — algorithms have replaced many high-level mental tasks and processes. Even computer programmers and operators are finding their jobs are being automated. Perhaps non-STEM professionals need more STEM, but STEM professionals need more liberal arts.

Mary Anne Moser on Beakerhead, the Burning Man of Science.

Last year, the people of Calgary, Alberta celebrated the 100th anniversary of theCalgary Stampede, in which more than a million people gather to enjoy one of the world’s largest rodeos and agricultural fairs. During the event Naheed Nenshi, their mayor, was seen riding on a 2,000-pound mechanical spider, and then declared that 100 years from now we will be celebrating a different kind of event called Beakerhead. Wait … what is Beakerhead?


Formally, Beakerhead is a celebration of art, science and engineering that launches on September 11, where 40 distinct events (including robots like the giant spider that Nenshi rode) will spill out onto the streets of Calgary.

The more informal description comes from the president and co-founder, Mary Anne Moser: “It’s Burning Man meets The World Science Festival meets Maker Faire.” And while that is quite a blockbuster smash-up, Beakerhead appears to be very much a first of its kind. On the site you find such titles as “Made In the 80s” and “Diespace: Life and Death With Art and Technology” and “Catharsis Catapults.” More than 70 collaborations between scientists, artists, inventors and general enthusiasts will culminate in this four-day program in which the events are “uncurated” and act as individual experiences that apparently make up a pretty expansive whole.

SmartPlanet caught up with Moser to understand the scope and purpose of Beakerhead and why she believes that now, more than ever, we need an immersive and very public, hands-on approach to art and engineering.

SmartPlanet: Beakerhead sounds like it will be a massive event, especially for an inaugural launch. Can you give us a sense of scope?

Mary Anne Moser: There are over 40 distinct events and 70 collaborators. It’s a first so we have no experience with actual numbers. We are sitting on the edges of our seat waiting to see how will the streets fill during Beakerhead. Will we get ten thousand? Will we get twenty-five thousand?

A lot of it is happening in the central part of the city but all the universities and colleges are also involved and they form a larger ring.

We are hoping tens of thousands of people will have an experience that is fairly immediate and then through tweets and instagrams, a hundred thousand online.

I know you describe it as Burning Man meets Maker Faire and all kinds of other existing, world-class events. Yet you deliberately do not call it a “festival” or “conference.”

I guess it’s part of walking the talk of innovation. Festivals and conferences are good, it’s just that Beakerhead isn’t one. We’re hoping that the idea catches on that Beakerhead isn’t something you attend, it’s something you do.

You’ve also explained that Beakerhead is uncurated. What do you mean by that?

There are programming guidelines, but it is uncurated in a sense that everyone can take part. Different organizations staging exhibitions or performances. Their brand and their quality control is up to them. The barrier to entry is on the floor.

Since the events are spread out all over the city, are you providing shuttles or transportation?

No, we are asking people to ride their bikes.

Right. You mentioned something called “art cars” and “art bikes.”

An art car or art bike is just something that you have dandied up. A lot of art cars start with a chassis and then they turn into creatures or just sort of fantastic vehicles ideally that people can hop on/off.

Who is building the art cars and the art bikes?

There are a lot of groups making art cars –- father/son [pairs]; groups of students; wacky inventors. The art car is very much established as something you see at Burning Man, so there are lots of examples of what an art car would look like. And we have been running workshops since early spring.

Workshops where people can show up and just create?

Yes. Not everybody has a welding torch in their backyard so we wanted to provide the right environment. The Calgary Board of Education has jumped on this and they ran a summer program for students to build an art car.

Can you describe one of the more “out there” events?

We are having a catapult catharsis competition where people can fling the things they love to hate.

What kinds of things will people be flinging?

It appears a lot of people have something against Barbie. I do believe somebody is building a Barbie catapult. But maybe it is your ex’s suitcase. I am a little worried about the team called “Engineers Without Morals.” We are not sure what they will be flinging. However, what fun to build something that you can use as a therapy.

The groups are building the actual catapults?

Yes. Teams can be up to 20 people, and they are building big catapults that require a lot of creative engineering. Teams will have a theme and whatever it is that you are flinging or venting your frustrations on will be part of that theme.

What other events are you looking forward to?

We are also choreographing a night called the Tremendous and Curious World of Beakerhead. It will be in Calgary’s primary concert hall that holds about seventeen hundred people.

We picked people who are clearly living in both the art and science world and while the show is choreographed, it is also very hands on, the audience will be involved.

How will the audience be involved?

We are featuring a physicist who is also an opera singer. A lot of people don’t know whether they are a baritone, an alto, or soprano, so she is going to do an experiment with the audience using their voices.

Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station, has recently returned to Earth and we thought the audience might want to help recreate something he might be missing.

What do you think he might be missing?

Maybe there are vistas that you get or perspectives that you get from space that you would not get on Earth, like the sun rising over the Earth’s horizon. Maybe the audience can help show Chris that again.

What motivated you personally to start something this big and ambitious?

I co-founded and run an intensive program at the Banff Centre for the Arts that teaches scientists and science-related people how to bring science and engineering into popular culture. You can only do that for a little while before you realize you better put this into action yourself.

To be honest it started with the spark of an idea and ideas are small and easy. But then other people start saying, “Hey, that is a good idea.” All of a sudden there is no stopping. it just grew and grew.

How did the fundraising go?

Immediately after we decided this would be a fun thing to do, the stock market crashed. After 2009, I have been quite impressed by the number of companies that have been willing to step up to support an event that has never existed. We also have good government support.

Why do you think you’ve received such strong support?

I think in part many are realizing that when our rational and creative sides come together it can be very powerful from an economic perspective. Plus, it is a great way to solve some of the problems that we are facing as a culture.

Like what problems?

We have to be creative about energy. We have to be creative about sustainability. We have to be creative about our food supply. This is not just something that you can sit in the lab and solve. You need both rational and creative problem solving.

It is very difficult to learn those skills in school because that is not how our system is set up. Right now we still ask kids to choose between the science stream or the art stream. The programs are few and far between that have been asking people to draw on both of those sides. That is exactly the kind of citizens of tomorrow that we need. I think everybody realizes that, companies realize that, governments realize that, school boards realize that, universities realize that.

So one great way to have the rubber hit the road is through something like Beakerhead.

You mention that Beakerhead is open to collaborations. What kind of collaborations are you looking for? How would one enter Beakerhead?

A good example is an artist last year who wanted to do an installation that involved lots and lots and lots of light bulbs, and she needed an electrical engineer. So she approached Beakerhead. We have a big network of engineers that we can draw on, so in a way it is like a matchmaking service. We are open to collaborating with anyone, anywhere across the planet (or beyond).

What are the practical things that you want people to take away from Beakerhead?

If we could make a little dent in the perception that science and engineering is out of reach of the average person; if we help people feel more welcome in those worlds, that would be an important outcome.

Anything else?

The other is — and this is to quote the physicist Brian Greene — we do think that science and engineering is the greatest adventure story on earth, so we just want people to have fun.

A lot of the literature supports the importance of fun and play, but it’s true when you think about it: When did you have a good idea when you were in a bad mood?

It just does not happen. If I am feeling sour or depressed, I do not get very many creative ideas. We have our best ideas when we are delighted, or with friends. We need to create that kind of cultural climate that says, ‘Hey, yes, this would be awesome,’ ‘Hey, yes, try that,’ ‘Hey, yes, that will work.’ It is all a part of that ethos of: Fail early, fail often. It’s all rolled up in making a world that is fueled by human ingenuity.

Source: smartplanet.com

Bayer and FDA Knowingly Exposed Thousands of People to HIV.

Bayer Sells AIDS-Infected Drug Banned in U.S. in Europe, Asia – Unearthed documents show that the drug company Bayer sold millions of dollars worth of an injectable blood-clotting medicine — Factor VIII concentrate, intended for hemophiliacs — to Asian, Latin American, and some European countries in the mid-1980s, although they knew that it was tainted with AIDS. Bayer knew about the fact that the drug was tainted and told the FDA to keep things under wraps while they made a profit off of a drug that infected its patients.

If these allegations are true, then both Bayer and the FDA are at fault for this catastrophe. FDA regulators helped to keep the continued sales hidden, asking the company that the problem be ”quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public,” according to the minutes of a 1985 meeting

Source: rawforbeauty.com

How to Listen to Your Heart, Even If Your Mind Disagrees.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” ~Steve Jobs

We’ve all been there. Stuck in the middle of our decision making mode. Our heart tells us one thing, while our mind tries to keep us safe. Two totally different directions. One feels right, while the other is the most logical option.

What have you been following in the past? Do your decisions sound right or feel right? Take a look at where you are right now. Your life might be filled with logical and safe decisions. Which is great, but it’s leaving a lot of unused potential on the table.


You would love to be free flowing, in love with your decisions and place you’re at in your life. For some reason you’re not there yet. You’re close, but always feel on the fringe.

You’ve tasted the times in your life when you’ve been fully immersed in your decisions. Engaging with the uncomfortableness of not having a plan, but at least it felt right. If only you could be here more often.

You Haven’t Given Yourself Time to Develop Heart-Centered Confidence

Living in tune with your heart can be a totally new concept. Today we’re so wrapped up in making decisions based on endless pro and con lists, that we never allow any space for new opportunities or potentials. The notion of living in a “cause and effect” mechanistic world pervades our every thought.

Even though we’re notoriously bad at predicting the future, we pretend as if we have the insight of Merlin’s crystal ball. Not bad, but we can only predict so far. I’m guessing most of your decisions come in the form of receiving an innate feeling you know you should see out, but that’s usually overridden because it doesn’t seem possible.

As humans we love falling back on routine. Our same thoughts and habits pervade our everyday existence. We can either let these thoughts and beliefs, based on our past, direct our lives or we can inject new life into them.

The decision is up to you.

The moment your eyes open in the morning you’re faced with decisions. This route or that route to work. Take the new job, or move across the country. Most decisions aren’t life changing, but still add up to our overall life experience. By adding more space and deeper feeling into your decision making process you bring more possibility into your life. It’s time to start learning how to navigate these new waters.

All you need to do is balance two aspects of your being, the heart and mind.

Logic and Analytic Thought Dominate Our Culture

Logic and analytic thought saturate our world, there’s no way around it. Since the start of the scientific revolution we’ve been on a binge of rationality. A well thought out piece of writing is truly a beautiful thing, but when rational thinking dominates the spectrum of your life, you’re leaving spontaneity and the potential for unseen growth on the table.

Rationality isn’t inherently bad, but since we’re imbalanced we end up playing life with half of the chips. We can see the dominance of rationality, fear and control throughout the world. From global issues such as global warming, to the governments of repression. Worldwide issues can give us a glimpse into where our inner worlds have gone wrong.

In this case, an imbalance of logic over the subtleties of an intuition based language. Instead of following our heart and operating with trust at the forefront we place a higher degree of value on conforming and what makes the most sense. The biggest issue here is our individual nature is lost in fear of rebellion from the whole. We’ve created a cultural footprint that’s almost impossible to step out of.

Rebellion is met with resistance, and a lot of times that resistance wins.

We can only forecast our lives based upon the information we have at the present. By strictly living in the realm of rationality we cut off contact to the deeper source of life and the random events that change us and the course of history. The freewheeling nature of a heart-centered decision reaches farther than the contents of our mind can follow.

It’s time to change course and start navigating the deeper waters.

Bring the Power Home and Awaken the Heart

In utilizing your heart you open an entirely new stream of possibility into your life. By making decisions with your heart wide open you develop the trust muscle. In doing this a new source of self-love and trust emerges where there was only emptiness before.

Big changes and shifts in your life seem a little less scary as you begin to become familiar with the presence of uncertainty in your life. By living in tune with the part of yourself that always has your greatest interests in mind you’ll bring more of what you’re looking for into your life. This isn’t woo woo law of attraction imaginings, but instead, a way of viewing and feeling through the world instead of judging and analyzing yourself into a box.

When you first begin to make decisions from the deeper part of yourself you’ll feel massive resistance. The feeling of uncertainty is simply the mind trying to grapple with your decision. The amount of evidence currently in your palm doesn’t compute with the path you’re about to take. Your decision might go against the grain of your peers and family, but if the decision feels right then it’s what you have to do.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. The process of building your inner trust muscle takes time and can only blossom through action. Just as an iron sword is forged in the heat of a fire. Your life’s path can only unfold through coming into contact with the realities of life. In bringing your heart to life you awaken a fire within that has more force than all of the willpower you could ever muster.

How do I begin to unravel the hidden yearnings of my heart?

Start to Lay the New Decision Making Foundation

A house won’t last very long without a proper foundation, especially if you’re building a cabin to withstand the elements. A gust from a big bad wolf will knock it down in an instant. If you want your new decision making power to last longer than the first gale force wind thrown at you then it’s time to get to work.

The following steps will start to build a momentum of their own if you engage with them daily. For some that means building routines, while for others that means setting aside some time or space, or even setting a reminder on your phone to step back into your new decision making mechanism.

1. A proper foundation takes time

Trying to make any lasting change takes time. Especially, if it’s worthwhile. We all wish for habit changes to be as simple as turning on a light switch, but sadly this is never the case. If it was we wouldn’t value it as much.

Think about it, what holds more value, a handcrafted good, every stitch made with love, or a mass produced burlap sack? I’ll leave that judgement up to you.

If you were to start weight lifting or any kind of training, it would be impossible to start lifting heavy or training intensely right away. You need time for lasting growth.

Set aside some time every day and commit to it. You can’t build momentum by rolling a ball once. Every day push it a little farther. The first few times you’re priming your heart and it will feel awkward, so be ready for this.

Start the process by continuously asking yourself the following questions:

Where do I feel this decision?

Am I doing this because I feel it’s what I “should” do?

Is this in tune with the best version of myself?

How do I feel moving forward?

By consciously playing in the realm of the heart you’ll start to be able to see patterns and actually see if you’re living in tune with your highest self. By asking these questions you start to allow the mind and heart to play together nicely. You enable the mind to take a back seat through asking questions laced with deeper purpose and feeling.

 2. Think of it as learning a new language

If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language you know firsthand how confusing the process can be. Or maybe you’ve even experienced being dropped into a country where you don’t speak the language. Definitely, a sink or swim moment!

Think of this process along the same vein. If you really want to become fluent you have to immerse yourself as frequently as possible. You must cultivate drive, persistence, and inner-trust, soon it will become easier to flow through life and your decision making process.

Instead of having a decision come in the form of a weighing of good and bad, it will show up with a feeling. You need the courage to let this deep feeling impulse direct you. Make sure to watch out for the emotional swings we all feel. You have to overcome these and realize these won’t lead you where you want to go.

You’ve gotta’ go deep, my friend. You can’t assume your hunger pains or fatigue are telling you to quit your job and grab a burger. The deeper current is where you want to swim.

When you have a deep feeling you’ll know it, it feels like love, lightness, intense fear, deep unknowing, or nervousness you’ve never felt before. For everyone it shows up differently, I can’t give you the details of your inner experience.

That’s where the trust muscle comes in. Feel it and run with it.

3.  Start small and develop a toolkit of feeling

As you continue to ask yourself questions on a daily basis certain patterns might start to show up. Try to take notice of these. Maybe when you immerse yourself in writing, time dissolves and you’re left feeling refreshed after the experience. This wont happen every time, but if it happens more often than not, then it’s where you need to be.

Life is a grand experiment anyways, so you might as well conduct your life in the same manner. In doing a series of mini-experiments you’ll learn to distinguish your fleeting impulses from your heart-centered callings. In this case action is key.

You can either act based upon these or let them float by. The choice is always in your hand, when you let your mind override these feelings. Discounting them as silly, childish, or impossible, you’re really not valuing your own innate potential and value as a human being.

Before you start to rationalize why you shouldn’t take action, do yourself a favor and take a baby step. Try recognizing your deeper feeling current and act from it. See what happens. As you take action, confidence in your ability to trust the greater workings of the universe will begin to arise.

You can never trace your steps going forward, only after you’ve taken action will patterns begin to emerge.

4. Reflect on the direction and ask questions

We’ve all had the feeling of falling off, doing things not in alignment with who we truly are. This can happen even when we’re attempting to follow our hearts if we never check in and see how far we’ve come. Our mind is a tricky beast and has the ability to allow us to diverge from where we truly want to be. All while thinking we’re still on track.

You must make time to reflect, on the process, on your life, and on your new path of learning. By following the process of engaging with deep questions, seeing when deep feelings arise, taking aligned action and taking notes you’ll be well on your way to developing the ability to listen to your heart.

The strength of this way of feeling through life will allow you to override your mind. You’ll be able to lean on yourself and trust your decisions, even if your mind says they’re irrational. You’ve learned to trust and navigate the deeper current.

Reflect on your path as often as possible. Your decisions may look like a smattering of stars dotting the sky, but after a while you’ll be able to build constellations out of your own life.


Chamomile Benefits: Growing Your Own Medicine.

Chamomile marks many people’s first venture into herbalism, and it’s usually because they have problems sleeping. The value of the plant as a mild relaxant has made it a popular choice in prepared teas found in nearly every grocery store. But chamomile benefits don’t stop there—this flowering jewel is able to provide an array of health perks. What’s more, growing chamomile at home is quite an easy task.

There are several varieties of chamomile, all members of the Asteraceae family. Most popular in herb gardens and commercially prepared teas, however, is German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), also sometimes called Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, or scented mayweed.

This plant is an annual (dies off in the cold season) and grows in small bushes to be about 20 to 30 inches high. It has smooth stems with long, narrow leaves, and little white flowers that used in herbal preparations. These small flowers resemble small daisies, with yellow centers and a strong, pleasant scent.

Brief History of Chamomile

The first recorded use of chamomile occurred in Ancient Egypt. The plant was held in high reverence for its ability to cure ‘Ague’, what is very much like an acute fever. Because an acute fever can be relatively common, extremely uncomfortable, and usually just goes away with time, a cure for the illness probably made chamomile quite popular.

The word chamomile comes from the Greek Chamomaela, which translates to “ground apple”. In Spain, it is still called the “Little Apple”. These titles likely come from its scent.

Over the years, the herb has been used for flavorings, incense, beverages, and for treating a variety of health ailments.

Chamomile Benefits: Healing Uses of Chamomile

Perhaps the most widely known use of chamomile is in its benefits as a mild relaxant or sedative. It has been used in this manner for centuries and can be found in grocery store aisles under names like “Sleepy Time Tea” for precisely this reason. Taken 30 to 45 minutes before bed, chamomile can help you relax and prepare for a restful slumber.

But despite its popularity as a soothing relaxant, chamomile benefits don’t end there.

Much of Chamomile’s ability to heal is due to phenolics within the plant. Phenolics represent a large family of compounds including flavonoids, quinones, phenolic acids, and other antioxidant compounds; they provide a range of health benefits, including protection against stress and healing cells. But what else is Chamomile good for?

Researchers with the American Chemical Society found that chamomile’s phenolics have antibacterial activity, suggesting it could be useful in boosting the immune system and fighting illnesses like the common cold. In addition, study subjects who drank the tea on a regular basis had elevated levels of glycine, a protein known for relieving muscle spasms, which could explain it’s relaxing qualities.

Chamomile has also been shown to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antimutagenic properties, according to researchers with the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center.

While science is slowly unlocking all of Chamomile’s benefits in the lab, there is no question that individuals throughout history have experienced the benefits even without the science to back it up.

Through tradition and folk healing over the years, chamomile has also been used to treat:

·         Anxiety

·         Insomnia

·         Digestive problems like nausea and bloating

·         Menstrual cramps

·         Migraines

·         Burns and scrapes

·         Rashes like eczema

·         Mouth sores and gum disease

Even better news? You can easily grow your own chamomile to experience chamomile benefits.

Growing and Harvesting Your Own Chamomile

Like growing oregano or growing parsley, growing chamomile is fairly easy with some basic tips. Because there are several varieties of the herb we know as chamomile, these tips are specifically geared towards growing the variety known as German chamomile.

The plant is best grown from seed, rather than potted as an already partially grown plant. Seeds can be started indoors and moved outside after fear of the last frost has passed. Otherwise you can direct sow in the soil in late spring.

Chamomile seeds need sunlight to germinate. This means you don’t want to completely bury them in the dirt or plant them in a heavily shaded area. Instead, scatter the seeds and lightly mix with the top soil. As for water, the plant doesn’t need to be overwatered, but it shouldn’t be completely dry between soakings either.

When the flowers on your chamomile plant begin opening up, harvest them. The more you harvest, the more that will grow. You should be harvesting every few days. Cut the stem just above a lead node, or where a leaf joins the stem, then remove the flower and place in a basket or on a drying rack.

Move the flowers around from time to time to ensure they are drying completely. Once they are thoroughly dried, you can store the flowers in a glass jar in your cabinet. They will keep for several months as long as they are kept dry and out of the sun.

Using Medicinal Chamomile

There are many applications for dried chamomile including tinctures and essential oils though the easiest and most often used is an infusion or tea. For stomach ailments, muscle spasms, and help in falling asleep, use about one tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water. Pour boiling water over the herbs and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

If you want to use chamomile topically– on rashes, cuts and other skin ailments, for instance—you can create a compress by simply making a more concentrated “tea”. Once the tea has cooled, dip a cloth in it, wring it out and apply to the affected area. You can similarly use this tea as a facial or hair rinse.

From your skin to your stomach or even a stressed mind, chamomile is a master-soother, and one you can easily add to your healing herb garden. Experience chamomile benefits today, and share your thoughts with others!

Source: http://naturalsociety.com