10 Essentials then and now | Survival

THE 10 ESSENTIALS THEN AND NOW | SURVIVAL

Ever heard of the Ten Essentials? The original list of Ten Essentials was drawn up in the 1930’s to aid mountain climbers and outdoorsmen. A Seattle-based group called the Mountaineers designed the list for two reasons. First, it gave people a list of gear to acquire in case of emergency or accident. Second, it provided resources in the event someone was forced to spend an unexpected night–or longer–in the wilderness.

n 2003, the Mountaineers updated the list by focusing on systems rather than ten specific items. Does this list work for hunters, anglers, survivalists, and other outdoors lovers? See for yourself.

The Classic Ten Essentials

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Fire starter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

The Updated Ten Essential Systems

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Side By Side

The original list includes some great choices, which could help anyone survive an unforeseen situation. Matches, knife, and food qualify as “can’t miss” survival selections. And while the woodland hunter or hiker may not need the sunglasses and sunscreen, they’re important to mountaineers who must battle through snow and ice.

Jumping forward eighty years: the updated list is conveniently compartmentalized, but it also reflects two game changers. Hydration and emergency shelter are the two most critical elements of survival (barring any first-aid items necessary for unanticipated injuries). Water and shelter are glaringly absent in the original Ten Essentials, and the new list thankfully spells this out for a new generation of outdoor adventurers.

My takeaway from this comparison is that the new list is unquestionably superior to its predecessor because it provides a great framework for any outdoor enthusiast to assemble the necessary lifesaving gear. That said, the old list is better than no list at all.

Some Extras?

You bet your pack should contain a few additions. Neither list includes an item for audible signaling. Though the flashlight could signal your position at night, a whistle will work day or night to help attract attention and possibly rescue. Similarly, a signal mirror can also help to signal your distress. But the best signal of all is some form of communication device. Two-way radios, a charged cell phone, or a satellite phone should allow you to call for help more effectively than any rudimentary tool. Add some water-purification items and cordage, and you’ll have a fairly complete survival kit based on the Ten Essentials.

 

Dealing with Bears in the Outdoors

DEALING WITH BEARS IN THE OUTDOORS

Awareness is the first step in Surviving a Bear Attack

The best way to survive a bear attack is to never put yourself in a situation where you are likely to be attacked. When traveling through bear country, that means keeping your distance and being aware that you are in their surroundings; so tread lightly.

  • Always keep your distance: It may sound like common sense, but most people are attacked because they fail to give the bear room.
  • Never seek out a Bear: Unless you’re hunting them, there really isn’t a good reason to seek them out. Every year people are killed because they thought it would be cool to get that picture of a wild bear. These are wild animals; go take your selfie somewhere else!

What to do if you come upon a Bear in the Wild

If you travel through bear country, there’s a good chance you may eventually come upon a bear. Even in the Alps and Dolomites of Italy you could run into bears and other wild animals.

  • When hiking through bear country, you want to make noise. Making noise while hiking, will help make sure you don’t accidentally sneak up on a bear. Make noise, sing, talk loudly, or wear a bell when hiking.
  • If you spot a bear, and the bear is unaware of you, back away slowly and quietly. Once you’re out of the bears line of sight more out of the area!
  • If you see a bear when hiking and it notices you, shouting is usually enough to scare it away. If shouting fails to scare it off, back away slowly. NEVER turn your back to a bear; doing so will kick in it’s natural predator instinct. Bears run faster than 30 mph; You will not be able to outrun it.
  • Never come in between a cub and it’s a mother. This is a recipe for disaster.

Safety Precautions when Traveling Though Bear Country

  • Carrying bear spray is always a good idea when walking through bear country.
  • Wearing a pack, even when day hiking, can provide some extra space between you and the bear. (Keep in mind, I said space NOT PROTECTION). If the bear starts coming towards you, throw the bag onto the ground. Often times the bear will become distracted long enough to allow you to slowly back away and escape.
  • Check with the area Ranger Station for current bear sightings, locations, and any tips that they have.
  • Bears are Wild Animals, they are unpredictable. Even the best tips may fail when it comes to dealing with a wild animal. In Bear Country, carrying a high-power handgun on your side is something I think everyone should do.

Safety Precautions when Camping in Bear Country

Bears and other wild animals have an incredible sense of smell, so cooking or eating any type of food at your campsite increases your risk of an encounter.

In order to lower that risk there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Bears have an awesome sense of smell. In general, dried and canned foods are going to have less of a scent than foods like fish, bacon, and sugary sweets. That being said, bears and other wild animals have an incredible sense of smell, so cooking or eating any type of food at your campsite increases your risk
  • It’s not just food you should worry about. Deodorant, lotions, toothpaste and other scented products can all attract bears and wild animals. When camping it’s a good idea to lay off these types of products, and NEVER leave these products open or stored inside your tent.
  • Your tent should be placed upwind, and at least 100 yards from where you are cooking and eating.
  • All cooking equipment, food and garbage should be sealed in airtight canisters, and if possible strung up high in a tree. If you’re campground offers bear proof garbage receptacles use them.
  • Pet food should never be left out in the open. People with pets often make the mistake of leaving their pet food out in the open; you need to treat this food in the same way you would any other type of odorous product.
  • Don’t sleep in the same clothes you cooked with. Standing over a campfire can infuse your clothes with smells that wild animals love. Before going to bed make sure you change into fresh clothes and store the old ones in an airtight container away from your sleeping area.
  • Don’t try to mask the smell. Spraying air freshener products on your garbage does nothing to mask the smell form wild animals; in fact, it probably will cause them to investigate the new smell from the air fresher.
  • Never eat inside your tent!

Dealing with Hypothermia

DEALING WITH HYPOTHERMIA IN THE OUTDOORS

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that hikers need to know about because it can hit you when you least expect it. Hypothermia happens when your body starts to lose heat faster than it can produce it, causing you body’s core temperature to drop to the point where normal function is impaired. We all know that a normal body temperature is somewhere around 98.6 F. Hypothermia occurs when your body’s core temperature drops below 95 F. When this happens, your heart, nervous system and other organs stop functioning normally and eventually completely shut down.

While most people think of hypothermia as something that only happens in the winter, it’s actually very common to see hikers suffer from it year round – even in the summer. A sudden change in weather is all it takes for someone to fall victim to hypothermia. Contrary to popular belief, temperatures don’t have to fall below freezing for hypothermia to occur. All it takes is weather cold enough to lower a person’s core body temperature below 95° F. When hiking, it’s not uncommon for the weather to drop 20-40 degrees at night. Throw in an unexpected thunderstorm and you have a recipe for trouble. Once those nighttime temperatures drop, a hiker wet from rain and sweat can be affected by hypothermia in a matter of hours.

Stages of Hypothermia

Mild    

  • Shivering
  • Unable to perform tasks with hands
  • Hands become numb

Moderate    

  • Uncontrollable Shivering
  • Mental changes – confusion
  • Muscles impaired
  • Breathing becomes labored

Severe    

  • Shivering stops
  • Skin Blue
  • Unable to walk
  • Muscles rigid incoherent
  • Irrational behavior
  • Semiconscious
  • Pulse and breathing decreases

Preventing & Treating Hypothermia While Hiking

  • Stay Hydrated: While it’s more important to stay hydrated during extreme heat, staying well hydrated during cold temperatures will help your body maintain its normal functions. This is especially important when your core body temperature starts to drop, and your organs are already struggling to keep you alive.
  • Keeping yourself hydrated and well feed can actually help maintain your core body temperature.
  • Stay Dry. It’s extremely important to start drying off once you get closer to the evening hours. If you have been swimming, or are soaked with sweat from a hard day of hiking, take the last couple of hours before sunset to dry off or change into a dry pair of clothes. Going to bed wet can be deadly.
  • Reduce Heat Loss: If you in the wilderness, one of the first things you need to do is reduce the amount of heat that your body is losing. Try to insulate your body from the elements by shoving materiel into your clothing. Everything from pine branches and leaves, to dry grass and fibrous plant materials can be used to help insulate yourself from the outside air.
  • Add Heat: If you have the ability to start a fire, do so immediately. Not only will the fire provide you with an immediate heat source, but you can also heat up water bottles or warm rocks that can use to heat your sleeping bag throughout the night.
  • Activity: Once your tucked away in your sleeping bag, periodically wiggle your toes, move your hands and arms, and try to move around as much as possible. If things take a turn for the worse, increasing your physical activity by doing things like pushups and jumping jacks can really help increase your core temperature.
  • Share body heat. If you are with someone who is starting to go into the danger zone, you can warm their body with your own body heat. Remove your clothing and lie next to them, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both of your bodies with blankets and insulating materials.

Fire Starting in Wet Weather | Survival

STARTING A FIRE IN WET WEATHER | SURVIVAL

You’ll never need a fire like you’ll need it when conditions are wet and cold. The intense energy released by burning wood seems to be the only thing that can cut through the bone-chilling cold of raw, rainy weather. And even if you already light campfires like a pro, study these 10 tricks for wet-weather fire making. You might just surprise yourself how much better at it you can be.

Stick with the sticky stuff
: Pines, firs, spruce, and most other needle bearing trees are my first stop in wet weather because their wood has sticky sap. This is pitch, which is usually very flammable. Select dead twigs underneath the protective canopy of these trees.

Peel it all off: 
Bark is typically a protective structure to save wood from a fire. Most barks aren’t that flammable on their own. Tear, carve or peel the wet bark off your sticks and kindling. There’s often dry wood just below the surface—especially if you got your wood from standing dead vegetation.

Split wood burns better that whole sticks
: Just like peeling the bark off, cutting or splitting your hardwood kindling in half lengthwise will expose the drier inner wood. The lower mass of these “half” sticks will cause them to light faster than when whole.  

Shape it up
: Lots of fire making attempts are doomed from the beginning because the fire lay shape is too flat. Build a foot-tall cone of small twigs, and stay away from low-lying kindling configurations. A tall tipi allows heat to rise efficiently through the sticks, drying them out and starting them aflame.

Use a fire helper in cold or wet weather
: Fire starter cubes, fire packets, fire paste, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, or even some drier lint from home could be a lifesaver when the weather turns wet or cold (or both).

Light the fire from the windward side
: This lets the flames travel through your sticks, engulfing them faster and better.

Light the fire low
: Fire climbs as heat rises, so make sure you have your match or lighter touching the material at the base of the fire lay. Don’t waste your time trying to light it at the top as if it were a candle.

Use a ton of tinder
: Tinder is the dry, dead, fluffy plant stuff that lights on fire easiest. The center of your fire lay should be loaded with tinder.

Keep a backup handy
: A backup wad of tinder can save a failing fire, or be saved for future use.

Skip the pit
: Fire pits tend to fill with water in very wet conditions, so build a slight mound instead. This keeps your fire base out of the wetness and keeps your fire burning bright.

Food Age | Baking Ingredients | Survival

HOW OLD IS TO OLD FOR BAKING INGREDIENTS | SURVIVAL

Baking ingredients such as flour, eggs, and butter may get ‘old’ after awhile if they’re not used readily. The question is, how old is too old?

Old Flour

First of all, when flour is mixed with water, gluten is formed (from proteins). The more it’s mixed (flour and water) the more gluten is formed. This is what gives dough and batter their texture and structure. During baking, moisture in the dough begins to change the starch from the flour, causing it to swell and soften. This is important for the texture and structure of the finished product.

What happens as flour ages?
Starch changes very little as flour sits. However, when the proteins that form gluten are exposed to air, they can change significantly. These changes limit the amount of gluten that can be formed.

Can it still be used?
Yes – but it is best to use flour more than 1 year old in products that don’t need a lot of gluten, like cakes and crumbly cookies. Use new flour for bread and chewy cookies…

How should it be stored?
Keep flour in a tightly sealed container, away from heat and moisture. Whole wheat flour can be stored in the freezer in air-tight bags to prevent it from becoming rancid.

Old Eggs

The protein in eggs (especially the whites) gives structure to many baked goods. Eggs also contribute moisture, and they are the only source of water in many cookie recipes.

What happens as they age?
Egg shells appear solid, but they are actually very porous. As eggs sit in the refrigerator moisture is lost through the pores. This is why old eggs (about 6 weeks) will float in water.

Can they still be used?
Yes – as long as the egg has been refrigerated, it is safe to use. According to Foodsafety.gov, raw eggs in the shell can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks. With that said, eggs are unlikely to ‘go bad’ in a refrigerator, but will dry up over time.

How should they be stored? 
Keep eggs refrigerated until you are ready to use them.

Old Butter, Shortening, Oils

Butter gives flavor to many baked goods, but shortening often gives a better texture. Fats and oils “tenderize” baked products by limiting the amount of gluten that can form.

What happens as it ages?
 Fats and oils turn rancid when they are exposed to air. Oxygen reacts with fatty acids, creating off flavors and aromas. Oils, which contain more mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, become rancid more quickly than fats that are solid at room temperature.

Can it still be used?
 Yes, but if it smells bad, chances are your baked product will taste bad.

How should it be stored? 
Butter, shortening, and oils do not need to be refrigerated or frozen, but they will last much longer if they are. The chemical reaction that leads to rancidity happens more slowly at lower temperatures. The cream that’s used to make your standard market variety butter is almost always pasteurized, and it takes quite some time for pasteurized dairy products to go bad.

We have been using this Butter Crock (the ‘sea spray’ color  ) for our room temperature butter. It’s the perfect way to keep soft butter at the ready!

How to Harvest and Dry Herbs

HOW TO HARVEST AND DRY HERBS

For discerning cooks, packaged herbs from the grocery store don’t always cut it. Judging from their flavor and aroma, it seems they were picked by greasy, diesel-powered machine harvesters in some third-world country about 10 years ago. (This might be a slight exaggeration. Just slight.)

But this is exactly why you grow fresh herbs outside your kitchen door. The quality is incomparable. Preserving that quality for the upcoming dormant season is easy—find just a half-hour one morning before the first frost to stock your herb rack for the winter.

Herbs

When to Pick Herbs

The flavor and aroma of herbs comes from the essential oils contained in the leaves, which varies depending on the time of day and the stage of the plant’s life cycle. The best-quality dried herbs are picked when the essential oil content is at its peak, which is when the plant is producing only leaves, not flowers or seeds.

You’ve probably harvested your herbs repeatedly throughout the summer, in which case you’ve noticed that they send out new shoots each time they’re cut. If left uncut long enough, they start to flower and set seed, so try to time the harvest for when there is plenty of lush green growth but when flowers haven’t yet formed. It’s best to do this in early fall; as the days get shorter, most herbs enter the flowering stage more quickly in an effort to set seed before the end of growing season.

The heat of the sun causes essential oils to vaporize and fill with air with their aroma. For this reason, it’s best to harvest herbs in the morning while the leaves are still saturated with flavor. Not too early, however, because they won’t dry as easily when they’re covered with dew. Aim for the brief window when the sun has just hit them and the dew has dissipated.

How to Pick Herbs

Use scissors to clip off the stems, cutting only the fresh new top growth, not the older leaves lower down. To avoid depleting the plant, harvest no more than one-third of the growth at any given time. Most culinary herbs are perennials, but with annual herbs (like basil, cilantro, and dill), it’s fine to harvest all of the fresh healthy leaf material in the fall since the plants will die with the first frost.

How to Dry Herbs

The classic way to dry herbs is to hang them from the ceiling of your kitchen. This fills the house with wonderful fragrances, creating a warm and soothing harvest ambiance for the harvest season. Simply bundle five to 10 herb stalks with a piece of twine, and hang them up upside down. You may want to run twine from the one side of the ceiling to the other and tie each bundle to it. You can put the herb bundles in any room that’s warm and dry. Sunlight degrades herb quality, so bundle the herbs inside paper bags if they will receive direct sun exposure while drying. Poke holes in the paper bags to aid with air circulation.

Best quality herbs are those that dry slowly. However, there is a fine line between drying slowly and becoming moldy. Herbs with high water content (such as basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, and mint) may dry too slowly if they are bundled and hung, rotting before they are fully dry. As an alternative, spread them out flat on a window screen that is suspended off the ground so that air can circulate beneath it. Put this in a dry, shady place with good air circulation. Leaving a fan on low in the room will speed the process and help prevent mold.

If your herbs are getting moldy because the humidity level in your home is too high—or if you’re in hurry— you can dry herbs quickly in a food dehydrator, or even in the oven. If using an oven, spread the herbs out on cookie sheets and set it to the lowest possible temperature. The flavor is degraded if the temperature goes above 100 degrees, so you may have to keep the door of the oven open to create the right environment.

How to Store Dry Herbs

Herbs are ready to store as soon as they become crisp and crumbly to the touch. It’s best not to over dry them, so check regularly to see when they are ready for storage. Bundled herbs take several weeks to dry, while herbs laid out on drying screens may be ready in a week or less. The oven method produces dry herbs in as little as two or three hours.

Always store dried herbs in glass containers in a cool, dark place. If pantry space is an issue, remove the leaves from the stalks and crumble them before storing. However, the ideal method—preferred by the most discriminating cooks—is to leave them on the stalk and crumble them the moment they’re added to a meal.

How to Make a Medicinal Tincture

HOW TO MAKE A MEDICINAL TINCTURE

Harvesting herbs for tea is the simplest way to make use of medicinal plants, but for more potent medicine, botanical extracts (commonly referred to as tinctures) are a better choice. Besides the herbs, you need little more than a Mason jar, dropper bottles, and some high-proof liquor (we recommend 100-proof vodka).

Infusing plants in boiling water can extract some of the medicinal compounds, but to get all the good stuff, you need a more powerful solvent: namely, alcohol. Alcohol also preserves the medicinal compounds for 5 years or more. Before you start thinking that you’re going to feel better after taking tinctures just because of the alcohol content, rather than the medicinal action of the herbs, realize that the typical tincture dosage is equivalent to roughly one-hundredth of a shot of booze. Nobody gets drunk from using tinctures, but they are a time-tested way to keep the cold and flu bugs away, and are effective in treating a variety of other ailments. A one-ounce tincture costs anywhere from $10 to $20 or more in a store, but you can make a lifetime supply of your own with a few dollar’s worth of alcohol.

Note: Some herbs can cause adverse reactions, especially in larger doses. Never use herbs that you are unfamiliar with without first consulting a qualified herbalist or medical professional. Children, pregnant and nursing women, and individuals taking prescription medication should consult with a health professional before taking any herbal product.

tincture erbs

What to Tincture (And What Not To)

Next time you’re in a natural foods store or other establishment with a large selection of tinctures, take a look at the names on the shelf—you may be shocked at how many come from plants that you can find in your neighborhood. Dandelion, yellow dock, cleavers, nettles, chickweed, and plantain are but a few of the common weeds that are used in tinctures. In your garden, you may have mint, thyme, artichokes, cayenne peppers, comfrey, garlic, raspberry leaf, and rosemary, all of which are commonly, too. Common flowering plants to tincture include echinacea (also known as coneflower), yarrow, bee balm, passion flower, and red clover. Many common shrubs and trees yield medicinal compounds as well, such as gingko, white willow, vitex, hawthorn, and black walnut. If you venture into nearby natural areas, you may have access to ginseng, black cohosh, goldenseal, sarsaparilla, saw palmetto, and scores of other medicinal plants.

While it’s exciting to realize how many medicinal plants there are in any backyard or park, there are a few very important things to keep in mind before you start harvesting:

Only harvest plants that you can identify with 100-percent confidence. Numerous plants commonly found in backyards, parks, and natural areas are lethal, or will cause great discomfort, if ingested in tincture form. Take a class on medicinal plant identification in your area if you are a beginner.

  • Only certain parts of each plant are suitable for medicinal use. Occasionally the entire plant may be used, but in most cases it’s either the root, the leaves, the flowers, or the bark that is recommended for use. In some cases, using the wrong part can have grave consequences. (For example, yew berries are edible, but the rest of the plant is lethally toxic, including the small seed inside the berry).
  • Never harvest plants if you have any reason to believe they could have been exposed to pesticides or herbicides (which are commonly used on public land in urban areas).
  • Never harvest plants from private property without asking permission. Harvesting from protected natural areas is often prohibited, so check with the appropriate authorities first.
  • The safest places to harvest medicinal plants are from your own backyard or natural areas.

It’s also important to note that the ornamental varieties of medicinal plants found in most nurseries may not have the same concentration of medicinal compounds as their wild relatives. Yarrow, for example, has been bred into many colorful varieties, but it’s best to avoid those and stick with the plain white yarrow for medicinal purposes. If you are unable to find the plants that you want to tincture, you can always purchase dried herbs in bulk from a natural foods store, herb shop, or online supplier.
How to Tincture

Identifying a suitable source of plant material is sometimes a little tricky, but tincturing is easy. The ratio of alcohol to herbs varies depending on whether you are using fresh herbs or dried herbs. Use 100-proof vodka for best results.

  1. Chop the plant material into chunks that are a half-inch in size or smaller. For roots and barks, it’s best to chop up the material as fine as possible. Other than roots that are caked with soil, there is no need to clean the herbs; you will only wash off the aromatic oils.
  2. Weigh the herbs. Multiply the weight of the herbs (in ounces) by two if you’re using fresh herbs, or by five if you’re using dried herbs. Add this quantity of alcohol (in fluid ounces) to a Mason jar and then add the herbs. The plant material should be completely covered by the alcohol.
  3. Screw the lids onto the jars, shake them vigorously for a few seconds, and leave them in a cool dark place for at least two weeks. Try to shake the jars once a day.
  4. Open the jars and pour the tincture through cheesecloth into another container to strain out the herbs.
  5. Fill glass dropper bottles (use the ones with dark, amber-colored glass so UV rays don’t degrade the product over time, which are often sold in herb shops) using a tiny funnel.
  6. Label the jars with the name of the herb and date.

Fifteen to 30 drops taken 3 times a day is a typical dosage rate, but it’s always best to consult with an herbal remedy reference book for advice on using specific herbs.

How to Make Cheese | Survival

HOW TO MAKE CHEESE | Survival

how to make cheese

Like fine wine, good cheese has a reputation as something that requires expert skills and special equipment to make. While it’s true that most cheeses, especially fancy ones like camembert and gouda, have rightfully earned that reputation, professional cheesemakers don’t typically concern themselves with the one type of cheese that has been made since Neolithic times—which, not coincidentally, happens to be the easiest cheese in the world to make: farmer’s cheese.

What we call farmer’s cheese here in North America has had different names in different regions of the globe over time. Ever eat saag paneer in an Indian restaurant? You may have mistaken it for tofu, but those firm white cubes on top of the spinach were actually the pressed curds of goat milk cheese, known in India as paneer. In the African country of Benin, the same substance is called waagashi. In Latin countries, farmers call it queso fresco or queso blanco, but it’s the same stuff—enchiladas are among its many uses in Mexican cuisine. Ricotta cheese in Italy, quark in Germany, and cottage cheese in America are all variations on the same cheese. The only differences among them are moisture content and the foods they are associated with.

How to Make Farmer’s Cheese

First, you don’t have to be a farmer to make this cheese. Fresh, raw milk straight from the barn is an ideal ingredient, but almost any type of milk from the grocery store will do. Goat, sheep, cow—any variety will work, and each lends its own characteristic flavor to the final product. The only thing to avoid is ultra-pasteurized milk, as it does not curdle properly.

Most cheeses are curdled with rennet, which is typically derived from the intestines of baby cows, but farmer’s cheese relies on something that’s a little less brutal to obtain: lemons. Actually, any number of acidic substances may be used, but lemon juice and white vinegar are the most common. The cheese will absorb a hint of flavor from either, so some cheesemakers opt for citric acid, which has a more subdued flavor, as a curdling agent. Citric acid can be found in many grocery stores in the canning section or purchased online.

Here are the simple steps to making farmer’s cheese. One gallon of milk will yield approximately one pound of cheese.

  1. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot, using a low setting on the stove to avoid scalding the milk. Stir the milk occasionally as it heats.
  2. Turn off the stove when the temperature reaches approximately 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a cheesemaking thermometer to track the temperature (a canning thermometer is basically the same thing), or you can watch carefully for the first signs of boiling (which occurs just above 200 degrees) and then turn off the heat.
  3. Slowly add the curdling agent (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) and watch for the milk to curdle. Stir very gently as you add the curdling agent and white clumps (the curds) will soon form, leaving a cloudy, yellowish fluid in the pot, known as whey. Many cheese recipes call for a specific amount of curdling agent—the juice of one large lemon, a quarter cup of vinegar, or one teaspoon of citric acid per gallon of milk is typical for farmer’s cheese—but the exact amount needed varies considerably based on the unique properties of each batch of milk (especially with non-homogenized, farm-fresh milk). It’s advantageous to use the least amount of acid possible to avoid an excessively tangy flavor. As soon as the curds form, stop adding the curdling agent. Let the pot sit for about 20 minutes for a complete separation between the curds and whey.
  4. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and whey through it over a sink. Whey has dozens of uses, from baking bread to giving your pets a milky treat, so place a bowl beneath the colander if you want to save it.
  5. At this point, the curds will be soft and spreadable—perfect for mixing with salt and herbs and spreading on crackers. (The herbs you harvested at the end of this summer and dried would be perfect.) Or, place the curds in a bowl with a bit of whey (do not stir or fold in) and you have cottage cheese. For a drier, firmer cheese, tie the cheesecloth with the curds inside it to a wooden spoon suspended on the edges of a large pot or pitcher to continue draining the whey.

After a couple hours, the curds will have the crumbly texture of queso fresco. If you want a really firm farmer’s cheese, like paneer, leave the cheesecloth full of curds in the colander and place them in the refrigerator overnight with a weight on top (like a large can of tomato sauce) and a bowl beneath to catch the whey as it seeps out. Because farmer’s cheese is not aged, it is best consumed when fresh. It may be stored in a refrigerator for a week to 10 days.

How To Store Root Crops

HOW TO STORE ROOT CROPS

root crops

One of the greatest challenges of gardening has nothing to do with growing crops—it’s making use of all the food you grow before it goes bad. After laboring all summer to produce a bountiful harvest, now is time to figure out how to preserve your harvest for the lean months ahead.

Canning, drying and freezing works for many vegetables, but root crops are best preserved ‘as-is’ in a cool, humid place. Now that root cellars are largely a thing of the past, a bit of improvisation may be in order.
The Ideal Climate for Roots

Root vegetables keep for months if the conditions are right. Between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit with 95-percent humidity keeps them crisp and fresh—exactly why the refrigerator was invented. Root vegetables aren’t very tasty once frozen and they start to sprout (and rot) when temperatures rise above 40 degrees or so. Low humidity causes them to dry out and shrivel up.

But since you can’t cram a winter’s worth of produce in your fridge, there are other ways to provide ideal storage conditions. The goal is to insulate the storage space as much as possible to guard against fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Exactly how you do that depends on the climate where you live and the resources you have available.
Basements and Boxes

In northern climates, most houses have a basement. If the basement is unfinished (i.e. no heating system), it’s likely to remain cool, but above freezing through the fall and winter—which means it is already a close approximation of a root cellar.

One approach to enhancing a basement’s capacity for storing root crops is to build an insulated closet in a corner where there is foundation window. The ideal temperature can be maintained by opening and closing the window—if it’s too warm, let some cold air in from outside. Humidity is controlled by leaving a pan of water on the floor to slowly evaporate. The roots can be spread out on wooden shelves, making it easy to go in and grab them when needed. You’ll need a reliable thermometer and hygrometer (a tool that measures humidity) to keep the climate fine-tuned.

If building an insulated closet just isn’t on your to-do list this year, wooden crates, plastic totes, coolers, and cardboard boxes are all viable substitutions for storing root crops in a basement. The sides, top, and bottom of the container should be lined with an insulating material (the thicker, the better) with the roots placed in the middle. Peat moss is ideal because it self-regulates the humidity level in the container—it will absorb moisture given off by the produce when it gets too dank and gives the moisture back if the roots become too dry. For best results, moisten the peat moss slightly and spread a layer of it between each layer of roots. If coolers, plastic totes, or other air tight containers are used, leave the lid open and cover the top with peat moss so the roots can breathe—otherwise, they are more likely to rot.

Take roots from the container as you need them throughout the fall and winter (and even into the following spring, if they last). Whenever you remove some for cooking, check to see if any are rotting and remove those, too.
Non-Basement Options

If you lack a basement, put root crop storage boxes in your crawlspace, garage, mudroom, under the back porch, or anywhere else that stays cool, but doesn’t experience deep freezes. The insulation in the box will keep the veggies from freezing in sub-freezing weather, but only to a point. Ultimately, this is a function of climate, so finding the right place to store your roots may be a matter of experimentation—buy a few thermometers and leave them in potential storage areas to see which has the least temperature fluctuation.

Another option is to dig a pit in a shady area—essentially a mini-root cellar. Because of the thermal properties of soil, the deeper you go below the surface, the more temperatures resemble that of a refrigerator, year-round. In climates where the ground freezes in winter, the pit needs to be deep enough for the roots to be below the freeze line, which can be two feet or more below the surface in the coldest climates (ask your neighbors if you don’t know the typical depth of frozen soil in your area). Use rigid plastic bins or other rodent proof containers to store the roots inside the pit. Cover the top with a wire mesh to exclude rodents from above, fill the remainder of the pit with peat moss, and cover the hole with a piece of plywood.

In climates where the ground doesn’t freeze, it may work to leave the roots in the ground where they were grown and harvest them as needed. (Though rodents may show up to eat the roots before you do.) To prevent damage from the occasional frost, cover the roots with a six-inch layer of straw. They will rot if they’re surrounded by heavy wet soil, but this technique works in well-drained raised beds in California and the Deep South. You can cover the beds with plastic to shield them from winter rains.
Preparing Roots for Storage

When your root crops are ready for harvest, there are a few simple steps to ensure they last as long as possible in storage.

  • Harvest in the morning after several days of dry weather and let the roots dry on the surface for the day. This toughens up the skin and kills the root hairs, causing the roots to shift into dormancy mode.
  • Cut the foliage from the tops of the roots, just above the root crown. There is no need to wash or clean the roots—they will keep longer if left dirty. Handle them as little as possible to prevent bruising and nicking.
  • Sort through the roots and remove any that are damaged, diseased or broken. These may be set aside for immediate use. Blemish-free roots will last the longest in storage and you don’t want rot from one spreading to the others.

How to Use White Pine | Survival

How To Use White Pine For Food, Medicine and Glue | SURVIVAL

white pine

The white pine (Pinus strobus) is great tree to know, particularly in the winter when snow covers many of the other wild edible and useful plants. The native range of this tree is roughly from Minnesota to New England, and down the Appalachians to the Carolinas. White pine has dark gray bark, and its needles grow in bundles of five. Each needle has a very pale stripe, which is likely the reason this darker tree is called a “white” pine. Beyond being a great source of tinder, kindling, and firewood (or a handsome Christmas tree), it can also provide food, medicine, and even glue.

Food


The white pine is my favorite pine species for making needle tea and pine bark flour, two winter survival staples. The tea is easy to produce. Grab a tuft of green needles, rip them or chop them into small pieces, and drop them into some very hot water. Just steep the needles for 10 minutes and enjoy. One cup of tea made from one ounce of needles should provide roughly four times your daily allowance of Vitamin C. Important: Don’t boil the needles! Doing so makes the tea bitter and the heat destroys your Vitamin C.

To make pine bark flour, start by shaving off the inner layer of bark right next to the wood. This layer is rubbery and cream colored. Dry the strips until they’re brittle and grind them into flour. One pound of this flour offers about 600 calories and it’s good for extending your food supply by blending in with other flours. 

Medicine


White pine (along with a few other ingredients) can make a great cough syrup, which is a handy remedy this time of year. This decoction/reduction of white pine bark and other herbs is most effective when quieting a persistent dry cough. Blend together:

  • 3 parts white pine bark
  • 1 part licorice root
  • 1 part thyme leaf
  • ½ part slippery elm bark


Blend roots and bark in a heavy pan. Add 16 ounces of cold water. Bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve, return liquid to heat. Continue heating to reduce volume by half (8 ounces).
While still hot, add 2 or 3 well-rounded tablespoons of honey or molasses.

Glue


Any species of pine will produce a sticky resin that oozes from wounds and broken spots on the trunk and branches, but you can get a lot of good quality pitch from white pine. The pitchy sap can be used to make a good glue, strong enough to haft arrowheads and secure tools to their handles. Collect as much sap as you can find, and place it into a metal can (or, in a primitive setting, a sea shell). Set this container of sap in the coals of a dying fire and allow the turpentine and other volatiles to bubble away. Remove small containers of sap from the heat after a few minutes, or remove big containers after 20 to 30 minutes. The sap should be shiny and wet looking, but hard as a rock once it cools. If it’s still sticky when cool, cook it a little more.

This glue can be blended with aggregate material while it’s still hot. Powdered charcoal and eggshells are common additives. Plant fiber, stone dust, and sand can also be used. This additional material yields a bigger batch of pitch glue, and will help to prevent cracking. To use this unique glue, heat the surfaces that you plan to glue together over a fire, and reheat the glue to a molten state. Work very quickly to apply the hot glue and bring the heated surfaces together. Once cool, the bond will be slightly brittle, but secure and waterproof.

Myths of Bad Weather | Survival

MYTHS OF BAD WEATHER | SURVIVAL

Even with all the survival skills I’ve practiced and supplies I've gathered, I still feel out of my depth when it comes to dangerous weather. Something as ordinary as a strong local thunderstorm can pelt my vehicles and house with destructive hail, set my home aflame with lightning, and send my lawn gnomes crashing into my bird bath with strong winds. Extreme weather is the great equalizer in the realm of survival. It lays low kings and paupers alike, the prepared and unprepared as well. Will you know what to do when the weather turns against you? Take our dangerous weather quiz and find out.

Lightning can’t strike you in a car
False. We’ve all heard that a vehicle’s rubber tires will protect the occupants from lightning, as long as they’re not touching metal parts inside the vehicle, but people have died from lightning strikes to vehicles, even if they weren't touching conductive surfaces. Electrocution can occur inside any vehicle that has been struck. Lightning causes 55 to 60 deaths and 400 injuries each year in the United States. And lighting accompanies every single thunderstorm. Sure, you are safer in a vehicle than being caught out in the open, but you’ll be much safer indoors—if that’s an option.

Hailstones have actually killed people
True. Sad but true, hail has been the cause of many storm-related deaths through the years. The strangest recorded case occurred in 1360, on a day that became known as "Black Monday." A hail storm killed approximately 1,000 English soldiers and hundreds of horses that were stationed near Paris, France, during the Hundred Years' War.

These days, it’s safe to use a corded telephone or run water during a thunderstorm
False. All thunderstorms have lightning, whether you see it or not. The electrical wiring and any metal piping do offer a grounding effect to homes and businesses in the event of a lightning strike, protecting the structure—but not someone touching those items. Stay away from conductive things like wiring, corded telephones, plumbing pipes, and fixtures during a storm. Continue to avoid these items for 30 minutes after the storm, in case of lingering lightning.

Flooding is the main cause of death in thunderstorms, not lightning
True. Flooding is the chief cause of death associated with thunderstorms, accounting for more than 90 fatalities each year in the U.S. More than half of those losses occur when vehicles are driven into dangerous flood waters, especially at night when visibility is hampered. Just two feet of fast moving water can sweep away most vehicles, even SUVs and trucks.

Mudslides are typically localized, and rarely affect a large area
False. Mudslides, also known as mudflows, typically occur when unusually heavy rains or a sudden thaw loosens the soil and mud, releasing a flow of material that can bury homes, roads, vehicles and people. These events can be very small, or massive, like the 1999 Vargas, Venezuela mudflow, which changed the shape of more than 37 miles of coastline and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

Selecting A Sleeping Bag For The Outdoors

SELECTING A SLEEPING BAG

Many people spend all sorts of money on the latest and greatest outdoors gadgets; but for some reason when it comes to sleeping bags, these same people seem to pick the cheapest bags on the market, totally ignoring the importance of choosing the right bag. Sleeping bags shouldn’t be looked at as a last minute thing you grab on your way out of the local sporting goods store. Picking the right sleeping bag can mean the difference between having a good adventurous expedition, or suffering through a cold miserable camping trip that you just want to forget.

Things to Consider when Buying a Sleeping Bag

Consider the Weather: One thing you need to keep in mind is the weather, and how cold it might get when you’re camping. Keep in mind, it’s harder to stay warm in an insufficiently insulated bag than it is to cool off by venting a bag made for colder temperatures.

Consider Your Comfort: Your sleeping habits need to be considered when picking the right bag. A bag that’s too snug can make your body feel constricted, and can actually compress the filling making the bag less effective.

Moisture Proof Bags: If the area you plan on camping is a moist environment, you need to take that into account. When picking your bag, look for one that can help wick moisture away from your body. More often than not, these bags are made with synthetic materials.

Weight:  If you’re hiking, then the weight of your bag should also be a major consideration. The last thing you need is to carry any extra weight, especially if there was a lighter option available.

Sleeping Bag Fillers

Down Sleeping Bags

The Good – Down Bags are often used on high mountain expeditions, because it’s often warmer than synthetic options. Down is one of the lightest and most compressible insulation available. It’s also an excellent option to keep your pack weight down.

The Bad – If you’re going to be in an area where moisture’s a problem, you should know that Down is very poor insulator when it gets wet.

Synthetic Materials

The Good – Synthetic materials are probably a better option, especially if you’re going to be in wet environments. Synthetic-filled bags also cost less, and are a good alternative for those who are allergic to down.

The Bad – Synthetic materials usually weigh more, and will take up more room in your pack. They’re also not as warm as Down filled bags.

Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings

A temperature rating is given to each bag to let you know how cold you can actually go. Just be aware that this rating can differ from manufacture to manufacture, and can also depend on the person using the bag. The Temperature Rating of a bag should only be used as a rough guideline.

Other Features and Considerations

Bag Hoods: A sleeping bag hood can trap heat and hold it inside the bag. If your claustrophobic they kind of suck, but they will keep you warm.

Draught Tubes: Draught Tubes are filled with Insulation, and usually run along the side of the sleeping bag zipper to keep warmth from escaping. This is a must for cold weather camping environments.

Vents: Some bags have vents that can be opened when temperatures start to rise. If you’re camping in an area that has wild fluctuations in temperature, then a vent is something that you probably want to consider.

Draft collar:Make sure you Bag fits securely around your shoulders. This will help prevent your body heat from escaping. A draft collar is designed to prevent heat loss from your neck and shoulders. They are usually found in colder weather bags, and not available in most summer bags.

Smoking Meat and Fish | Survival

SMOKING MEAT AND FISH | SURVIVAL

Smoking meat and fish can produce some remarkably flavorful results, and it can be done without much in the way of modern conveniences. Smoking can also be used in conjunction with drying to save and preserve your meats and fish, all without the need for electricity or special equipment.

There are two traditional ways to smoke fish and other foods: hot smoking and cold smoking. Either can be performed with the same meats and the same apparatus, the only difference being the amount of heat used.

Hot Smoking
This technique involves a closed box to hold in the smoke and the heat from your smoke-producing materials. The foods are cooked by this heat, and permeated with a smoky flavor. Fish prepared in this manner can last up to a week at room temperature. Red meats, white meats, or any poultry should be eaten the same day, or the next day at the latest.

Cold Smoking
Cold smoking is done at cooler temperatures, for a longer period time. The goal in this method is long-term storage, which requires more of a drying process than a cooking process. It should not get hot enough in the smoker to actually cook the meat or fish. Temperatures under 100 degrees Fahrenheit are a must; under 80 is ideal. As with hot smoking, cold smoking can be done in a box or shed. It can also be done in open air by placing the meat or fish downwind of a smoky pile of coals. Maintain the smoking and air drying for a full day. If the meat becomes almost brittle, it is done. If conditions are humid and/or still, bring it in at night and smoke it a second day.

Smoking with Wood Chips
The heat source is important in smoking, but the woods chips are the most vital part of the operation. Modern smoking setups typically involve a pan of dampened chips sitting on a hot plate (portable electric burner). More traditional methods (i.e. without electricity) were achieved with a pan of hardwood coals from a fire and wet wood chips sprinkled over the top of them.

There are a number trees whose wood imparts a nice flavor to meat. Find out which of these are locally abundant in your area and chop up some chips with an axe or machete.

Apple wood from a local orchard makes a great, sweet smoke perfect for poultry and pork.
- Hickory gives a rich, sharp flavor and makes for hot, long-burning coals.
- Maple wood chips are excellent for smoking cheeses.
- Mesquite, native to the southern US, is a coveted smoke producer with an earthy flavor.
- Ash makes a lightly flavored smoke that is great for fish and poultry.


Oak wood smoke has a heavy flavor. Red oak is good on ribs and pork, while white oak turns into more long-lasting coals.

Just make sure to avoid any toxic trees. My local bad guys in the eastern U.S. are black locust, yew, buckeye, horsechestnut, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. You’ll also want to skip bitter smoking and resinous woods like cedar, cypress, redwood, fir, pine, spruce, and other needle-bearing trees.

Survival Skills for the Outdoor's and Active Travel

SURVIVAL SKILLS FOR ACTIVE TRAVEL IN ITALYSurvival Skills

WHY LEARN SURVIVAL SKILLS

BECAUSE IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT YOU

Someone depends on you and will seek your help in a time of crisis.  Someone needs you.  It may be your wife, your children, your parents, your friend or your siblings.  You may be the only one in your circle of influence who takes the initiative to learn some basic life saving survival skills.  If the time ever comes when you are tested, don’t fail them.  Learning survival skills isn’t just about you.  It’s about using those skills to help other people when the time comes.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Act now.  You have an obligation to protect and provide for those who need you.

To connect with nature

Everything we see, own, use and buy is somehow derived from nature – EVERYTHING!  Mother Nature is AMAZING.  Learning primitive survival skills will connect you to nature unlike anything else I know of.  Working with nature to meet our basic human survival needs is an awesome experience and one that comes with a sense of peace, accomplishment and confidence.

Our unstable world economy

Let’s face it – we live in an increasingly unstable world economy.  Countries are going bankrupt, terrorism is at an all-time high and you can cut the political tension with a knife.  There also seems to be very thin lines of order between many other categories of people – race, religion and class warfare make national headlines almost every night on the news.  It is undeniable that something unhealthy is brewing.  Our world is in a pressure cooker and at some point a seal on the lid is going to blow.  It certainly isn’t a bad idea to have some basic survival skills under your belt just in case the steam reaches your doorstep.

Become more independent

Learning survival skills is an expression and act of independence – taking your destiny into your own hands.  There may come a time in your life when the only person to depend on is yourself.  Others may also depend on you.  Institutions will fail you.  Governments will fail you.  No matter how well intended, first responders are overwhelmed in times of large scale disaster and can’t help everyone at the same time.  Rescue teams may take 2-3 days to reach you.  Or, you may have to self-rescue.  At the end of the day, you are the only one responsible for you.

Personal challenge

Learning survival skills is a CHALLENGE.  No one ever said this is easy.  Survival skills take practice and determination.  Mastering skills such as FIRE can be frustrating and take hours of practice.  However, the reward of learning survival skills is knowing that one day they could save your life.  This personal challenge not only results in an overwhelming sense of accomplishment but also a deep sense of peace and confidence.

Mother Nature Can Be Harsh

Mother Nature doesn’t care!  She’s a ruthless killer and will show no mercy on you or your possessions when she decides to unleash her fury.  She is in control – ALWAYS.  The best we can do is prepare to deal with the aftermath – which is oftentimes horrific.  Surviving one of her tantrums is just the first step – mitigating the ensuing chaos afterwards is when your survival skills will truly be tested.  Shelter, water, fire and food will all be difficult to secure.

Everything man-made can and will fail you

Planes crash, dams burst, nuclear power plants melt down, gas pipe-lines blow, power grids fail… the list goes on and on.  Survival skills prepare us for the inevitable times when the man-made luxuries and utilities we depend on fail us.  It happens every day.  Knowledge is always with you no matter where you are or where you go.  Knowledge doesn’t require a power source or telephone service.  It isn’t dependent on fuel or batteries.  It’s there when you need it – regardless of the circumstances.

Because it’s not IF, but WHEN

FEMA starting declaring large scale disasters in 1953.  That 1st year they declared 13.  In 2011 they declared 99.  It is a statistical truth that large disasters are increasing in frequency and violence with each passing year.  Bad things happen to good people.  Every day unsuspecting people are thrust into sudden and chaotic survival scenarios where they must rely on their knowledge and resources to survive.  Planes crash, cars run out of gas, fires ravage, hurricanes strike, bridges collapse and innocent people are forced to navigate the aftermath.  We live in a crazy world.  You must prepare for and expect the craziness.  Thinking “it will never happen to me” is nothing short of insane.

Things Not To Do In An Earthquake | Survival

THINGS NOT TO DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE | SURVIVAL

earthquake italy

Earthquake Map of Italy

Even a small earthquake, say a 5 on the Richter scale, is strong enough to damage homes and buildings and harm or kill those inside. We’ve all heard to do things like shelter in a doorway or hide under a desk, but will these practices really save your life? Many search-and-rescue professionals say no. Here are five things not to do if the ground starts moving underneath your feet.

Don’t hide under the bed
: The small space beneath a bed will be made even smaller if the ceiling collapses on it. If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. The bed will hold up some of the debris, creating a safe void around the perimeter. Never get under it, and teach your children never to crawl under the bed in an earthquake.

Steer clear of the stairs: 
The average stairway is a deathtrap in an earthquake if the building collapses on top of you. Don’t be on the stairs, or under them, in a quake.

Skip the doorway: We’ve all been told at some point to get under a doorway in an earthquake. But what really happens in that spot? The idea behind this “shelter” spot is to take advantage of the extra studs in the wall around the doorway, but the reality is quite different. If you are standing under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward, you will still get crushed by the ceiling. And if the doorjamb falls horizontally, people have actually been cut in half by a failed and collapsed doorway. Don’t hang out under doorways!

Flee from windows
: Windows might seem like a way to escape danger, especially since you can see through it, but just imagine the damage big broken pieces of glass will inflict on the human body. Glass moves and breaks in strange patterns during earthquakes, and these broken pieces can be deadly if they fall on you—or you fall onto them.

Don’t get under a desk: 
Furniture can become a lethal deadfall trap when the weight of debris is added on top of it. Under the desk may seem like a logical hiding place from a quake, but it’s safer to crouch beside the desk. Even if it is crushed, the ceiling will still be supported by the desk somewhat. This creates a small triangular space next to the desk that could provide enough room to survive.

Top Healing Herbs To Have On Hand

TOP HEALING HERBS TO HAVE ON HAND

Your arsenal of home remedies is about to get a lot spicier with these best healing herbs. Though herbs have been used for hundreds of years to heal, scientists are finally starting to substantiate these plants' abilities to alleviate arthritis pain, reduce high blood sugar and cholesterol, and help with many other conditions. They're even discovering amazing new powers in the best healing herbs, such as the ability to kill cancer cells and help problem drinkers curb their alcohol intake.

Herbs and other natural remedies can be as effective as traditional treatments, often without the same negative side effects. Natural substances often work like drugs in the body so you must follow these 3 Rules For The Safest Self-Healing

  • Rule: Don't assume it's safe. Herbs are not regulated by the FDA for safety or efficacy. So search the label for a seal of approval from the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or CL (Consumer-Lab.com), which indicates it has been approved by certified academic laboratories. For a fee, you can research particular products at ConsumerLab.com.
  • Rule: Talk with your doctor. It's best to tell him if you're considering supplements. Some herbs can interact with certain meds, including those for high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression, as well as blood thinners and even OTC drugs.
  • Rule: Don't overdo it. More isn't necessarily better—and could be dangerous. Always follow dosing instructions.

Here are 10 superhealers you'll want to add to the all-natural section of your medicine cabinet—and even to your favorite recipes. Folding one or two of them into your cooking every day can yield big benefits.

Turmeric: Ease arthritis

A heaping helping of curry could relieve your pain. That's because turmeric, a spice used in curry, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that works similarly to Cox-2 inhibitors, drugs that reduce the Cox-2 enzyme that causes the pain and swelling of arthritis, says Lee.

It might also: Prevent colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease. According to a small  clinical trial conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, curcumin can help shrink precancerous lesions known as colon polyps, when taken with a small amount of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions, apples, and cabbage. The average number of polyps dropped more than 60% and those that remained shrank by more than 50%. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers at UCLA also found that curcumin helps clear the brain of the plaques that are characteristic of the disease.

Maximize the benefits: For general health, it is recommended to add the spice to your cooking whenever possible. For a therapeutic dose, Doctors suggest 400 mg of curcumin extract three times daily, which is in line with what subjects in the colon polyp study took (480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of quercetin, three times a day).

Cinnamon: Lower blood sugar

In a recent German study of type 2 diabetics, taking cinnamon extract daily successfully reduced blood sugar by about 10%.

It might also: Lower cholesterol. Cinnamon packs a one-two punch for people with type 2 diabetes by reducing related heart risks. In another study of diabetics, it slashed cholesterol by 13% and triglycerides by 23%.

Maximize the benefits: To tame blood sugar, study subjects took 1 g capsules of standardized cinnamon extract daily, while those in the cholesterol study took 1 to 6 g. But keep in mind that a large amount of the actual spice can be dangerous, so stick with a water-soluble extract.

Rosemary: Avoid carcinogens

Frying, broiling, or grilling meats at high temperatures creates HCAs (heterocyclic amines), potent carcinogens implicated in several cancers. But HCA levels are significantly reduced when rosemary extract (a common powder) is mixed into beef before cooking, say Kansas State University researchers. "Rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, two powerful antioxidants that destroy the HCAs," explains lead researcher J. Scott Smith, PhD.

It might also: Stop tumors. Rosemary extract helps prevent carcinogens that enter the body from binding with DNA, the first step in tumor formation, according to several animal studies. When researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fed rosemary extract to rats exposed to dimethylbenzanthracene, a carcinogen that causes breast cancer, both DNA damage and tumors decreased.

Maximize the benefits: To reduce HCAs, marinate foods in any supermarket spice mix that contains rosemary as well as one or more of the spices thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, or parsley.

Ginger: Avert nausea

Ginger can prevent stomach upset from many sources, including pregnancy, motion sickness, and chemotherapy. "This is one of Mom's remedies that really works," says Suzanna M. Zick, ND, MPH, a research investigator at the University of Michigan. A powerful antioxidant, ginger works by blocking the effects of serotonin, a chemical produced by both the brain and stomach when you're nauseated, and by stopping the production of free radicals, another cause of upset in your stomach. In one study of cruise ship passengers traveling on rough seas, 500 mg of ginger every 4 hours was as effective as Dramamine, the commonly used OTC motion-sickness medication. In another study, where subjects took 940 mg, it was even more effective than the drug.

It might also: Decrease your blood pressure, arthritis pain, and cancer risk. Ginger helps regulate blood flow, which may lower blood pressure, says Zick, and its anti-inflammatory properties might help ease arthritis. Ginger extract had a significant effect on reducing pain in all 124 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, in a study conducted at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Miami. Those same anti-inflammatory powers help powdered ginger kill ovarian cancer cells as well as—or better than—traditional chemotherapy, at least in the test tube, found a study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Although further testing is needed, Zick and the study's authors are excited about its prospects: "Our preliminary results indicate that ginger may have significant therapeutic benefit for ovarian cancer patients."

Maximize the benefits: For nausea, ginger is best taken before symptoms start, at least 30 minutes before departure, say the Graedons. They recommend capsules containing 500 to 1,000 mg of dried ginger every four hours, up to a maximum of 4g daily.

Holy Basil: Combat stress

Several animal studies back holy basil, a special variety of the plant you use in your pesto sauce, as effective at reducing stress by increasing adrenaline and noradrenaline and decreasing serotonin.

It might also: Inhibit breast cancer. First in test tubes and then in mice, a tea made of holy basil shrunk tumors, reduced their blood supply, and stopped their spread, found Nangia-Makker, who plans to study the effects in humans.

Maximize the benefits: For stress relief, try holy basil extract from New Chapter or Om Organics, widely available in health food stores. To aid in breast cancer treatment, Nangia-Makker advises drinking this tea daily: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 10 to 15 fresh holy basil leaves (other varieties of basil won't work) and steep 5 minutes. Remove the leaves before consuming. If you are being treated for breast cancer, be sure to check with your doctor. You're unlikely to find the plants at your local nursery, but you can order them and organic holy basil seeds from Horizon Herbs.

St. John's Wort: Soothe your worries

You probably know that research has confirmed this herb's power to relieve mild to moderate depression and anxiety as effectively as many drugs—without a lot of the side effects.

It might also: Help you snooze more soundly. St. John's wort not only contains melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles, but it also increases the body's own melatonin, improving sleep, says a report from the Surgeon General. (These 20 ways to sleep better every night can also help.)

Maximize the benefits: For both mood and sleep problems, a supplement containing at least 0.3% hypericin (the active phytochemical) per capsule or 300 mg of the extract to be taken three times daily, is recommended. Warning: St. John's wort has been shown to interact with several prescription medications, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking it.

Garlic: Lower cancer risk

High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, says a research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A Japanese clinical trial also found that after a year of taking aged garlic extract supplements, people with a history of colon polyps saw a reduction in the size and number of the precancerous growths detected by their doctors.

It might also: Provide cardiovascular benefits. Garlic contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which many studies have shown decreases high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. Garlic may help prevent strokes as well by slowing arterial blockages, according to a yearlong clinical study at UCLA. In addition, patients' levels of homocysteine, a chemical that leads to plaque buildup, dropped by 12%.

Maximize the benefits: Crushed fresh garlic offers the best cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits, says Duke. But you'll need to down up to five cloves each day. Try Kyolic aged garlic extract capsules (1,000 mg), the product used in many of the studies.

 
Andrographis: Shorten Summer Colds Andrographis does a great job of relieving upper-respiratory infections, such as colds or sinusitis, says new research. A study in the journal Phytomedicine reported that the herb eased symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, sore throat, and runny nose up to 90%.


Sea Buckthorn: Reverse vaginal dryness Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is very effective for hydrating mucous membranes and alleviating vaginal dryness. It contains palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid found in human skin that helps moisturize and heal it.

Maximize the benefits: Lee suggests up to four capsules a day of Supercritical Omega 7, a sea buckthorn supplement by New Chapter. It's available at health food stores.

Kudzu: Curb problem drinking A group of moderately heavy drinkers in their 20s voluntarily cut their beer consumption in half after taking capsules containing the Chinese herb (also called Pueraria lobata) for a week, according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers say the kudzu more quickly allows alcohol to get to the part of the brain that tells you that you've had enough.

Maximize the benefits: Participants took capsules with 500 mg of kudzu extract three times daily.