Archive for May 2011 | Monthly archive page

Pandas aren’t the only creatures who enjoy a good bamboo snack.  Humans have been using the young shoots and sap of the plant for thousands of years in stir fries, curries, dumplings, and even wines and vinegars.  Luckily, we don’t have to forage as far as pandas to find our bamboo, and can pick up canned, sliced, tender shoots in the Asian foods aisle of our local grocery store.

Looking for an unusual dish to impress a crowd of culinary connoisseurs  at a Memorial Day potluck? Consider the following:

1 lb. fresh spinach 1/2 cup peanut, vegetable, or corn oil 1/4 cup finely shredded bamboo shoots 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon sesame oil

1.  Wash leaves with cold water and drain well.

2.  Using a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a pan or skillet.  Cook the bamboo shoots for about half a minute while stirring constantly.

3.  Add the spinach leaves and stir until wilted.

4.  Add the salt and sugar and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

5.  Add sesame oil and stir for half a minute.

6.  Transfer to plate without adding excess liquid from the pan.  Enjoy!


“No!  Ooooh no you don’t!” Five minutes before I had to walk out the door to attend a music practice I started yelling at my own brain. “Don’t you even think about it!”  A shining, electric splotch of quicksilver began to form on the left side of my visual field.  Like an oil slick, it began to spread its way towards my right eye, bleeding television static snow all over the entire universe.  Forget whatever else was on the schedule for the day.  It was time to hunker down, and wait for this migraine to pass.

Being chemically sensitive, I have relatively few options to combat the lightning storm in my head.  After a couple post brain-battering hours, I scoured the internet for some natural alternatives to prescription migraine medicines.  Here are a few of the most promising remedies:

1.  Butterbur- This plant, found growing in Northern Asia, Europe and areas of North America, can be taken as a tea, extract or capsule.  Studies have shown that 50-75 mg of butterbur extract twice a day decreased the occurrence of chronic migraines.  Side effects were generally mild digestive complaints.  Since the plant is in the ragweed family, those with grass allergies should avoid the drug.  Anyone with kidney and liver disease should seek an alternative remedy.

2.  Feverfew- This European herb has been used as a healer for headaches, arthritis, and fever for centuries.  In the 980’s, it began to be used as a therapy for migraines.  Feverfew should not be taken with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because of its blood-thinning properties.  Due to some of its side effects (gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nervousness) and its close relation to chamomile, ragweed and yarrow, sufferers should consult their doctors concerning any allergies or sensitivities before taking the supplement.

3.  Magnesium- This element is found naturally in green vegetables and helps to regulate blood sugar, as well being essential to muscle and nerve function.  Around 300-600mg each day may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.  Magnesium citrate may be the most effective form, and it is not recommended taking a magnesium/calcium blend for headaches.

4.  5-HTP- 5 Hydroxytryptophan is a form of amino acid created in the body and used in the production of the neurotransmitter seratonin and the hormone melatonin.  It can be bought as a supplement derived from plant seeds.  At a dose of 600mg a day, 5-HTP may reduce the number of severe headaches.

5.  Niacin-  AKA Vitamin B3, taken right as the headache starts can relieve a good deal of the migraine’s vice-like grip.

6.  Mangosteen-  This fruit has pain-easing and anti-inflammatory properties and can help with dulling sensitivity to stimuli.  Extract or smoothie should do the trick.

7.  Acupuncture-  For those who are not leery of needles, a visit to the acupuncturist could possibly manipulate the body’s electrical signals enough to decrease the number and intensity of headaches.

8.  Aromatherapy- Essential oils are quick and inexpensive ways to combat pain and stress.  Chamomile, rosemary, lavender and peppermint have been noted as some of the most effective for migraines.  The oils can be placed in a diffuser, or applied directly to the temples, head and neck.  Coupled with a cool washcloth, the oils should provide relief from pain and nausea within fifteen minutes.

9.  Biofeedback- Through biofeedback, a person can learn to control and reduce the reactions that are triggered by severe headaches.  By noticing certain bodily fluctuations such as pulse, temperature and tension, a sufferer can bring these under conscious awareness and eventually identify and alter the patterns that appear during a migraine.  Devices that monitor the body’s changes can be used at first in order to make the sensations available to be observed by the brain.  Eventually, biofeedback will aid the patient in preventing the headaches before they start and help lessen the pain through relaxation techniques.  Levels of stress hormones and seratonin have been lowered through biofeedback, affecting the rate and intensity of migraines.



Ladies: being the environmentally conscious fashionistas that you are, you have committed to buying natural, sustainable fibers such as bamboo, hemp and organic cotton, purchasing fair trade accessories, and maybe even doing a little sewing to re-purpose old, worn out clothing.

Yet, as you are in the bathroom getting ready before a big occasion where you want to look your best, you gaze down at ye olde makeup kit and see nothing but brightly colored chemicals that are soon to find themselves applied dangerously close to vital sensory organs.  Luckily, there are more non-toxic, eco-friendly alternatives to keep you stylishly up to date and still remain in Mother Nature’s good graces.

1.  Nail Polish- Anyone who has ever nearly been knocked down by the fumes emanating from a freshly opened bottle of nail polish could be reasonably suspicious as to the ingredients making up the little pots of enamel.  While the names for the various shades sound flirty and attractive, their components, such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen and industrial disinfectant that can also cause dizziness, headaches, eye and respiratory problems, heart palpitations, and death when ingested) toluene (capable of causing neurological damage due the body’s inability to process the chemical) and phthalates (endocrine disrupters linked to obesity and birth defects in mice) are decidedly less compelling.

For vegan safer alternatives, take a look at The Chic Ecologist’s list of nail colors featuring Sparitual‘s vegan line, No Miss natural and cruelty-free shades, Priti NYC which also offers polish for kids, and Zoya‘s huge collection of colors. Other “3 Free” brands, or lacquers that do not use the hazardous chemicals mentioned above, are Sheswai and Acquarella.

2. Lips-  When offering a smooch, you might not want your lips to be associated with coal tar, sheep fat, petroleum, artificial stabilizers, lake dyes (which can cause cancer), lead, pigment producing insects or chemical preservatives.  Some nasty components of lipstick like methylparaben have been linked to cancer and endocrine disorders.  Others like retinyl palmitate have proven to be toxic to pregnant women, and others such as acetate and propylparaben are moderate irritants.

For a kiss without concern, use products with natural ingredients.  NVEY Eco Lipsticks and Lip Lustres come in a diverse palate and are made from elements that you can actually pronounce.  Honeybee Gardens acts as balm and tint in one, and Vapour Organic Beauty makes a myriad of lip products.

3.  Eyes- Bet you never thought that what you added to your eyes could so drastically affect your lungs, kidneys, reproductive system and liver.  Phthalates, which keep mascara from running can keep your bodily processes from running as well.  Depending on the brand,  dangerous color additives, preservatives, emulsifiers and even small amounts of mercury can be found in the composition of the cosmetic.

Alima sells relatively inexpensive minerals-based shadows in addition to loose powder eyeliners.  For cream shadows, RMS has several colors that also double as nourishing eye creams.  For mascara, direct your eyes towards  NVEY’s formula in either black or brown.  For a liquid liner, take a peep at Suncoat’s smudge resistant mixture in several varieties.

For more cosmetic reviews and safety ratings, visit EWG’s Cosmetic Database to evaluate your favorite brands.  What do you have in your cosmetic bag?

Is it possible to live in harmony with our environment while maintaining the comforts of 21st century living?  Proponents of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings and communities believe we can.  The concept of living in structures where carbon emissions, construction costs and rates of energy consumption are balanced by efficient design and conscious practice is beginning to gain traction in a world concerned with global climate change.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be converted, shifted and measured.  ZNE buildings attempt to achieve through various technologies and architectural techniques to engineer homes and businesses that produce or save as much energy as they use.  Defining guidelines differ across Europe and North America (where most of this innovative development is taking place) but several key principles outlining the functions of are held in common.

Energy use- The amount of energy produced on site should be at least equal to the amount of energy needed by the building.  This includes the energy required to transport electricity through transmission lines from source to final destination. Many ZNE’s strive to function off the main electrical grid, becoming completely self-sufficient and even sending power back into the system.

Emissions- ZNE’s strive to be carbon neutral, meaning any burning of fossil fuels involved in construction must be offset by the creation of renewable energy from the building.  Some even go as far to count the carbon burned through commuting to and from the ZNE location as well as the “embodied energy”, or amount of fuel used to manufacture, distribute and dispose of the materials used.

Zero off-site energy use-  To achieve a 100% ZNE rating, any purchased carbon offsets must come from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, water or biogas.

How do ZNE’s go low?  First, computer programs and traditional architectural principles are applied in the design phase to incorporate passive solar heating and natural conditioning, wind patterns, and the composition of earth beneath the building to reduce heating and cooling costs.  Every detail is considered, from the overhang of a door to the location of a window in relation to the sun’s journey across the sky.  Not only are the energy profiles of the materials and initial models taken into account, but the entire lifetime of the building.  This means that each element must be durable, recyclable, and able to be neutralized by renewable energy.  As with LEED certified buildings,  ZNE locations have a wide array of energy-saving features.  LED lights replace traditional fluorescent bulbs, high efficiency appliances monitor and save electricity, and natural heating  and cooling, insulation, heat recycling aid in controlling indoor climate with the least amount of power possible.

Once a ZNE structure is up and running, it meets its electricity needs in a number of ways.  Some of these strategies are used exclusively, while others are harnessed in combination.  Solar cells, wind turbines, biofuels, and in some special locations, even microhyro or geothermal strategies are all sources of clean energy.  Through a mix of conservation and renewable energy harvest, it is possible to function autonomously, although some ZNE communities still opt to connect themselves to the grid in order to draw power for those times when their demand exceeds production.

Whole Zero Energy neighborhoods are popping up around the United States and offering an exciting opportunity to live in a more sustainable fashion, creating jobs in the private sector, and aiding the fight to combat climate change and environmental degradation.  Firms that specialize in green building such as Zeta and Zero Energy Design tout the long-term monetary savings of energy-conscious development and state of the art renovations.  Their projects are inspired by the landscape, unique to each client, and ready to meet the demands of an energy-hungry and fuel strapped future.  Just as in basketball, when it comes to winning the game in inspirational green design, it ain’t nothin’ but net.

In middle and high school, I can remember few healthy lunch choices.  At first, I thought that this could be due to lack of availability, but it turns out that maybe I was just unaware of my options because of where they were in relation to my field of vision.  As a hungry adolescent, I was probably only concerned with what was fast, within immediate reach, and had the highest cost-to-taste-ratio.  Sure, it was difficult to resist the high fat and sugar items, like chips, cinnamon rolls and pizza, but even after I had made a concerted effort to change my habits, I still found it hard to escape the onslaught of bright packaging and glistening slices of pepperoni under the cafeteria heat lamps.  Where the devil were the apples?  I knew they were hiding somewhere.

30 million children are fed by the National School Lunch Program each year, and administrators are trying to figure out how to guide their students toward making healthier eating decisions.  Once more nutritious food is introduced into the cafeteria, the battle for the lunchroom tray is still far from over.  Kids, especially teenagers, don’t generally like to be told what to do (I think most of us can recall some cringe-worthy photos of unfortunate fashion choices during our younger days).  Some schools have seen cafeteria room attendance drop when the menu makes a shift to more wholesome fare, and kids instead satiate their junk food jones at off-campus fast food joints or from vending machines.

What is a school to do?  What applies in real estate apparently also holds true for the dining room;  Location, location, location.  According to the Atlantic’s article, “How Smart Cafeterias Could Fight Childhood Obesity“, simply rearranging the position of the nutritious foods, and in some cases they way in which it was presented, created dramatic results.  An upstate New York School simply moved a salad bar near a natural bottleneck in the lunch line and created an increase in veggie consumption by 300 percent.

Another New York school swapped stainless steel fruit containers for better-lit, more attractive baskets and saw a 105 percent increase in apple and orange selection.  The USDA is currently funding a program at  Cornell to study the behavior and economics of childhood nutritional behavior in order to find easy and cheap ways to influence healthier eating habits.

Do these incredibly simple and dramatic solutions sound a little far fetched?  Consider your last trip to the supermarket.  Where was the bakery or the dairy aisle?  Chances are they were towards the back.  Many stores do this to lure the shopper past items they would not usually need.  Since bakeries tempt us with delicious aromas and we almost always need to buy some sort of milk product, they place those departments in the hinterlands to force a tour-de-grocerie.

Even the height of the item on the shelf and temperature of the building subtly influence our purchases.  Chilly environments trigger our body’s natural impulse to hoard and consume food. Products at eye level are more likely to be purchased than ones that have to be hunted for.  According to the documentary Beer Wars, companies such as InBev know this, and have taken great pains to place as many of their brands at eye-level as possible in order to maximize the visual field and marginalize smaller producers.

Public health experts, such as Rupal Sanghvi, founder of HealthxDesign, are looking into how altering the design of supermarkets can create more community influenced stores that encourage informed consumption.  They argue that obesity and diabetes are problems that affect entire populations, often those that are less economically developed and need to be addressed as matters of social justice.  The debate over whether public money should be spent altering essentially private businesses continues, but as many urban communities begin to create initiatives to increase the number of socially and nutritionally minded enterprises in their areas, the free market may go green purely out of self-interest.  Just take a look at the success of the Whole Foods chain or WalMart’s decision to carry organics.  For a more in depth investigation into Sanghvi’s work and her partnership with the Parson’s School of Design, peruse Sarah Rich’s article, “A Better Way to Fight Obesity:  New, Smarter Supermarkets.

Next time you go shopping, take a little time to examine your surroundings.  What does your store look like, and how do you think you would rearrange its elements to encourage wise decisions?  Where do you buy food and why?


Disclaimer:  Bambu Batu does not promote the defacement of public property, nor does it intend for this article to encourage anyone to recreate their own al fresco version of the Mona Lisa on anything but the artist’s personal premises or at the behest of a client.

That being said, how cool is this?  Instead of using paint or markers which contain toxic chemicals, some environmentally-minded taggers are beginning to use moss as a living medium for their creative endeavors.  Mosses are bryophytes, or non-vascular plants, which means that they do not have water-carrying veins or vessels.  They also lack seeds or fruit and remain relatively small throughout their lives.  Mosses photosynthesize like other green plants, but do not absorb nutrients through their roots.  These simple plants reproduce through spores, and can also be propagated by the adventurous artist with a blender and a quick trip to the grocery store.

Want to try your hand at creating a green wall or mural in your garden?  Here’s how;

1.  Gather one small hand full of moss, 2 cups of butter milk or yogurt (vegan yogurt will also work), 2 cups of water or beer, 1/2 tsp of sugar, and corn syrup (optional).

2.  Wash the moss to remove as much dirt from the roots as possible.

3.  Break the moss into small pieces and place into a blender.

4.  Add the buttermilk/yogurt, beer/water and sugar.  Blend until the mixture has a smooth, paint-like texture.  Add corn syrup to thicken mixture if needed in order to avoid dripping upon application.

5.  Use a paintbrush to apply to desired surface.

6.  If possible, return weekly to spray the design with water to encourage growth or add another coat of moss paint.

It is now May, and in San Luis Obispo that means wildflowers, the return of the swallows, and Bike Month.  Rated as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the United States by the League of American Bicyclists (Silver Level), SLO pulls out all the stops for one month each year to show its support for riders across the county.

Here at Bambu Batu, we are expressing our cycling pride with a locally printed, American-made, 100% organic cotton t-shirt depicting the two-wheeled wonder in all of its glory.  Other than stylish, environmentally friendly clothing, what are some of the events you look forward to this Bike Month?

Commuter Bike Challenge- Gather together a team and log your commuter stats on the SLO Rideshare’s website for the thrill of victory, bragging rights, and an iron-clad excuse to indulge in the office donuts in the break room.

Bike Kitchen- Tune up your ride at the SLO Bike Kitchen every Wed, Thurs and Sunday from 4-7pm.  Parts, tools and advice are available at low cost for a day fee and also by donation.

Bike to School and Work Week-  Enjoy free coffee from May 16-20 at participating shops by wheeling yourself in for your daily caffeine fix.  Show your helmet for a cup-o-joe.

Bike ‘N Movie- On May 13th, cycle to the YMCA at 6:30 to view a flick without having to worry about hauling thousands of pounds of automobile along with your popcorn.

Full Moon Ride- Howl at the moon with your nocturnal brethren on May 17th at 7:30 starting at the Jennifer Street Bridge.

Amgen Tour of California- Paso Robles will witness world class riders whizzing through town on May 19th.  Grab a spot along the race route to experience a little Tour de France here on the Central Coast!

Bike Fashion Show- The Old Art’s Cyclery (2140 Santa Barbara St.) will be exhibiting the most chic of cycling couture on May 20th, beginning at 7pm.  There will be music, drinks, food, clothing, and models.  What else could you ask for in a good time?

Tweed Ride- Throw on your most dapper vestments for the Running of the Tweed.  Penny farthings, elbow patches, and creative facial hair are all encouraged.  Meet up at the Train Depot on Sunday, May 15th at 12:30pm for tea, music, and hobnobbing with other arcane fashion enthusiasts.

World Bicycle Relief Festival- An organization dedicated to provide access and independence to those in developing nations through the power of bicycles, World Bicycle Relief will be sponsoring a number of fundraising events on May 14.  SLO will be hosting a Poker Run at participating businesses around the downtown area. Delight in music, prizes, and the great feeling of knowing that you have just gambled for positive social change.

Cote de Tolosa Velo Challenge- On May 22 at 7am, join competitive cyclist Larry Brooks on a 52 mile loop including 5,000 feet of climbing, and a lunch at the end of the tour with all of the proceeds being donated to the SLO County Bicycle Coalition.

Wineries by Bike-  Ride through Edna Valley’s wineries on May 22 starting at 11am.  For route maps, visit the SLO County Bicycle Coalition’s site and download your day’s game plan.

Come and enjoy spring here in San Luis Obispo with your family, friends, and favorite be-spoked companion!

For a full schedule of events, visit the Bike Month Calendar.


When you think of renewable energy resources, the first images that come to mind might consist of bucolic scenes of windmill farms amongst verdant hills, arrays of solar panels under blue skies, and charging rivers running through dams to create hydroelectric power.  These visions may not, however, include one of the greatest and most abundant potential sources of energy available: garbage.

We may reach peak oil in the near future, but considering the average American produces about 4 pounds of junk each day, it does not seem likely that we will be running out of trash any time soon.  Companies such as Waste Management realize this and have begun to harness the methane and carbon dioxide produced by the bacteria feed on decomposing refuse.

More than 80 Waste Management sites across the country are beginning to harness landfill emissions by using a system of pipes and wells.  The gas is then filtered, compressed, and subjected to several temperature changes before it can be used to power combustion engines and turbines that generate electricity.  Waste Management uses the low voltage energy it produces to run its own operations, and exports its high voltage electricity into the grid.

One of the most exciting new developments in trash-to-treasure-technology is the development of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) cars that operate with specially designed engines to run on biogas.  Biogas can be collected from landfills directly, or after sewage and other organic material have been fermented in a large biodigestor.  Fuel cells, like the ones already used by vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, can also be fabricated as fuel sources.

Soon, public transportation and fleets of company cars may run on the byproducts of human castoffs and bacteria refuse instead of fossilized organic matter.  The infrastructure models and engineering plans we have been hearing about for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could potentially be reworked to suit the recycling of human waste products.

Our government has also been taking a closer look at garbage and hot, gaseous expulsions (insert your own jokes here). The US Environmental Protection Agency has created the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), a voluntary assistance program that partners with communities, businesses and non-profits to find financing and assess project feasibility for organizations looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate compliance costs.  Over 500 partnerships have been formed so far, helping to add to the the nearly 1.2 million homes already powered by landfill-generated electricity.

Would you drive a car powered by biogas?  How would you feel about using landfill materials to generate electricity for your home?


As a science nerd and ecologically-minded individual, I recognize the inherent worth of all creatures and their roles in the environment.  As a human being with an allergy to insect bites and a kitchen I’d like to keep free of invading hoards, I want to know how to keep the little buggers away from my living space.  Being an aforementioned tree-hugger, I have been searching for non-toxic, alternative methods of maintaining a pest-free home.

1.  Ants- To block ant chemical trails, lay down cinnamon, chalk, cayenne pepper or petroleum jelly.  By obstructing the signals ants use to communicate with one another, you can prevent them from making a highway to your pantry.  Pet food can should be placed in a small moat of soapy water, ensuring no scouts identify your animal’s kibble as a food source.  Stationing attractants near a nest outdoors may persuade the ants to stay outside and keep from venturing further.

For an all-out assault, you may opt to sprinkle cornmeal near their colony.  This makes the ants thirsty, seek water, and explode from over-drinking.  Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or pure amorphous silica aerogel applied directly to the insect will kill them by causing them to lose too much moisture.  Boric acid mixed with jelly as bait will also exterminate foragers.

2.  Rats and mice- As in may areas of life, sometimes the best offense is a good defense.  Be sure to seal all gaps and openings to your home with caulking, duct tape, and weatherstripping.  Hardware cloth is a good material for screening ducts and floor vents.  Raising wood piles, cutting tall weeds and cleaning up after pets can help reduce rodent habitat and food materials.

Instead of buying poison bait that can cause other animals (including humans) to fall ill, live Have-a-Heart traps, glue traps, and fatal snap-traps catch the animals and leave the disposal up to the Pied Piper.  The food used to tempt the rodents should be sticky to allow for a loaded spring enough time to work, and traps should be positioned near burrows and along pathways.

If cleaning up after a rat-trap leaves you a bit squeamish, there are always electronic repellent sound devices that disrupt rat rapport and mice musings.  The sound is not heard by humans, and can be plugged into a three-pronged outlet.  When all else fails, it might be time to adopt a cat or take up falconry.

3.  Cockroaches- Not surprisingly, these little guys are not only resistant to a possible nuclear winter, but to most chemical pesticides as well.  Your best bets are the  boric acid solutions and desiccating dusts mentioned above.  The dust should be inserted into drilled holes in infested walls and the boric acid applied directly to the cracks and crevices where the roaches live.

4.  Mosquitoes- To prevent mosquito breeding, eliminate as much standing water as possible.  To keep water from collecting, regularly clean gutters and properly drain potted plants.  Adding natural predators to the mosquito’s environment will reduce the number of larvae who make it to maturity.  Fish should be added to shallow ponds and plants that encourage beetles, dragonflies and damselflies can be added as attractive repellents.  Installing bat boxes provides homes for the flying rodents during the day and give them a place to return to after a midnight skeeter feast.  Certain strains of bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis) added to water containing mosquito larvae will kill them once ingested.

When bats and dragonflies are not enough, there are natural oils and plants to ward off the little blood-suckers.  Burning citronella candles on a night without wind controls the pests within the immediate vicinity.  Planting lemongrass, floss flower, basil, catnip and eucalyptus will have the bugs shirking your garden and also provide a pretty good stock of herbs for cooking.  Orange and cedar oils have been touted as effective repellents for a number of insects, and can be sprayed around the home without fear of poisoning pets or family members.

What kinds of critters do you wrestle with, and what kind of green alternatives have you tried?


* Word of the day: Katsaridaphobia (an enhanced fear of cockroaches)

** Book of the week: “Wicked Bugs” by Ann Stewart




In honor of San Luis Obispo’s upcoming Native Plant Week (April  17-23), Spring, and the heaps of pollen swirling on the breeze, Bambu Batu presents the top 8 natural ways to beat allergies this season.

1.  Native honey-  Eating locally farmed honey helps to inoculate the immune system by letting the body get used to very small doses of pollen.  For best results, eat 2-3 spoonfuls of native, unfiltered honey each day for for several months prior to the height of allergy season.  Browse your farmer’s market for some sweet relief!

2.  Neti pot- When your head feels like its been stuffed with enough cotton to soak up the Atlantic, drain your sinuses with a saline solution using a Neti pot.  The little ceramic container helps to flush out nasal passages, relieve pressure, and soothe irritation.  The salt rinse works by allowing the small hairs (cilia) in your sinuses to better remove mucus, bacteria and allergens.  Sure, inserting the spout of what looks vaguely like a magic lamp up your nose may take some getting used to, but its a great alternative to taking medications and leaves your head feeling clean and clear.

3.  Spring cleaning- Give your home a good wipe-down and and allow air to circulate.  Dust is composed of a myriad of elements that can cause coughing, sneezing and inflammation.  Some of these appetizing ingredients  include pet dander, mite feces, molds and fungi.  To curb the growth of irritants, maintain a constant low humidity in living spaces, run fans, and vacuum regularly.  While a little tidying can do a lot of good, be careful not to go too overboard!  Vigorous cleaning may eliminate the small amount of allergens on which our immune systems practice.  Some household chemicals may also increase immune reactions, so play it safe by using “green” or environmentally friendly products that easily biodegrade and contain less caustic substances

4.  Quercetin- This plant-derived compound helps to stabilize cells in the respiratory system that trigger the release of histamines and cause allergy attacks.  Quercetin is commonly found in citrus, tea, onions, apples, parsley, lettuce, onions, and wine and can also be bought in supplement form.  Sufferers should take about 1,000 mg each day between meals and start about six weeks before allergy season reaches full bloom.

5.  Allergy-fighting foods-  Recent studies have shown that people with diets rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, (found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed, grass-fed meats and eggs), were less likely to suffer from allergies.  For decongestion, add spicy foods like horseradish, chili or mustard to meals.

6.  Stinging nettle-  As a natural antihistamine, nettle prevents the immune system from over-reacting to environmental irritants.  You can avoid the pain of touching this common weed and find its freeze-dried extract in capsules at your local health foods store.  This supplement does not cause drowsiness or dry mouth like most proscription medications and 300mg a day should provide relief for several hours.

7.  Butterbur- This European plant derivative has been shown to be as effective in fighting symptoms as cetirizine, the active ingredient in the Zyrtec.  Four doses of 32mg each day should alleviate discomfort.  However, Butterbur is in the same family as ragweed, so those sensitive to these plants should show caution before considering this remedy.

8.  Apple cider vinegar-  Good for more than just salad dressings, 1-3 doses of 1/8 cup of vinegar throughout the day can prevent attacks and keep the itching and watery eyes at bay.  Either dilute the vinegar in 16oz of water to form a tonic, or if you are feeling brave, take a shot from the bottle.  Add a a little local honey to buffer the tangy flavor and boost the allergy fighting power!