Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Nature’s Healing Ways   

The physical and psychological benefits of spending time with nature seem indispensable. It makes us feel alive from the inside from heart health to mental and spiritual wellbeing, and we should not compromise it for recent developments like urbanisation, technology, or social media.    

Nature is good for us because in reality, we are part of nature and in fact there is no separation between humans and nature. There’s plenty of evidence that exposure to nature is good for people’s health, well-being and happiness. We think of nature as a luxury, not a necessity. We do not recognise how much it elevates us, personally.
Humans may have preferences to be in beautiful, natural spaces because they are resource-rich environments, ones that provide optimal food, shelter, and comfort, nature heals, and it is one of our world’s greatest remedies to calm your mind. The physical and psychological benefits of spending time with nature seem indispensable. It makes us feel alive from the inside from heart health to mental and spiritual wellbeing, and we should not compromise it for recent developments like urbanisation, technology, or social media.
More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas and that proportion is projected to increase to 70 % by 2050. Studies show that the mental health of urban dwellers is negatively affected by their city environment, with greater prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders and an increasing incidence of schizophrenia. Finding that bit of green space in cities or spending time in nature visiting rural areas may do more than provide a temporary escape from concrete, steel and glass.

Psychology of natural environment on human

Environmental psychology is the study of human wellbeing in connectivity to the environment he lives in. It is the science of the mind that focuses on the relationship between living beings (especially humans) with nature. It is therefore rooted in the belief that nature has a significant role in human development and conduct. It believes that nature has a vital contribution to the way we think, feel, and behave with others.
The psychology of nature and environment continuously digs into the ways we can change the physical environment that we live in, to feel more connected and coexisting with nature. This promotes healthy natural ecosystem and suggests how malfunctions in habitat have and will continue to affect human behaviour and society.
Human dependence on nature validates evolution. We are more adaptive to natural settings than human-made habitats. Contact with natural light is therapeutic and has immediate positive effects on stress, blood pressure, and immune system.
Strong connections to the environment enhance the person-space idea and increases environmental perception. Humans are always capable of improving the environment they live in and are active adapters to changes in society and the environment. They reshape their social identities and affiliations according to the physical space they live in.
Staying close to nature improves physical conditions like hypertension, cardiac illness, and chronic pain. A strong connection to the natural environment enhances emotional well-being and reduces the feelings of social isolation.
It also helps individuals suffering from mental health conditions like attention disorders, mood disorders, and different forms of anxiety. Overall, nature-friendly people are more environmentally conscious and responsible. They have a sense of using their physical space and are more proactive to enact on issues that might help in sustaining the environment they live in.

Connectivity with nature from birth

The love for outdoors must grow from the very beginning of life. Instead of encouraging our children to spend ‘on-screen’, parents must push them to spend more time ‘on the green.’ Research shows that nature improved mood, enhanced respiratory functioning, regulated hormonal malfunctions, and impacted on the thought structure of individuals.
Just by being outdoors and using all our senses to appreciate nature, we can be more mindful of the present, gain emotional resilience, and combat stress with more vitality. We therefore become naturally immune to anxiety, emotional ups and downs, and thought blocks, thereby feel livelier and more energetic than before.
People who live close to natural environment like the beach, mountains, or parklands, have better mental health and they fall sick less than those living in congested urban settings. Staying close to greeneries such as farms, parks and fields increase chances of related outdoor activities (walking, gardening, farming, playing, etc.). This improves mental health and physical fitness in adults and children who live there.
Nature-friendly urban settings can be useful in promoting social connections and interpersonal communication. Contact with nature in any form enhances spiritual health and fills the mind with a deeper insight into life.
Children who are encouraged to spend more time outdoors are owners of good physical and mental health. They are less prone to problems like obesity, asthma, childhood anxiety, and depression, and are more focused on their lives than others. Adolescents who had a close connection to nature are emotionally well-balanced and have better coping skills than other children of their age. Aged people, who have access to green parks feel more positive and hopeful. As adults age, they often experience diminished quality of life due to medical issues and mental health concerns but according to the researchers, nature exerts an influential effect on the lives of older adults. Natural environments promote women’s everyday emotional health and well-being.
Sedentary lifestyle in urban environments has been lined with poor mental health among women. There is increasing evidence that public access to natural environments helps women to reduce stress and anxiety and facilitate clarity, reassurance and emotional perspective.

Effects of nature on humans well-being

The most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general wellbeing. A large body of research is documenting the positive impacts of nature on human flourishing our social, psychological, and emotional life. More than 100 studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions.
Viewing nature seems to be inherently rewarding, producing a cascade of position emotions and calming our nervous systems. These in turn help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience.
In other words, science suggests we may seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but because it is good for our social and personal well-being. Even brief nature videos are a powerful way to feel awe, wonder, gratitude, and reverence, all positive emotions known to lead to increased well-being and physical health.
Some perks being provided by nature are as follows:
Studies have indicated that a large chunk of the population today is deficient of the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ which explains the massive increase in fatal diseases today, and rather than relying on human-made supplements, a close connection to nature can help in replenishing the deficit.
A day out in the sunshine can suffice us with vitamin D, a nutrient we don’t get from food as much we need it. The right level of Vitamin D in the body immunes us against diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Besides, it also ensures the smooth functioning of the immune system.
Nature helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CSV) is a condition that arises from staring at the screen for prolonged hours. Naturally, such exposures take a toll on our eyesight and develop problems like dry eyes, myopia, or chronic headaches.
Spending time outdoors, especially in the greeneries is the best natural solution to this. Looking at the green grass, the trees, the flowers, and all the other aspects of the environment improve focus and eyesight.
Interestingly, studies have shown that children who spend more than four hours a day in the outdoors are four times less likely to develop eyesight problems than children who spent less than one hour outdoors every day.
The environment is a natural purifier. Spending some hours outdoors helps in releasing the toxins from our body and leave us all fresh and rejuvenated. The amount of bad air that we breathe in because of the pollution, industrial fumes, and indoor pollutants, is potent enough to dysregulated respiratory tracts, giving birth to breathing troubles, bronchitis, and asthma. And there is no other solution to this except for spending more time in the natural environment and getting some fresh air every day.
People who spends more time in the natural environment experience positive mood, and psychological wellbeing, meaningfulness, and vitality. Furthermore, time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases ability to pay attention. This also provides a respite for overactive minds and refreshes the mind for new tasks.
The time we spend outside involves physical activity in some form. It may be walking, jogging, cycling, diving, surfing, playing, or anything alike. Any exercise in the outdoors helps in burning fat and improves the metabolism rate in the body.
Research has revealed that people who exercise outdoors enjoy their workout sessions more and are more likely to practice it regularly, than people who exercise indoors. Besides, outdoor activities are related to longer life span and fewer health problems.
Nature is undoubtedly the best healer. Spending time in nature awakens our senses and provides clarity. Many studies have proved that people who have a close connection to the landscapes are happier from the inside, they indulge themselves in positive thinking and have better coping mechanisms than others.
According to a series of field studies, time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger world.  Nature helps people to know more people, having stronger feelings of unity with neighbours, being more concerned with helping and supporting each other.
This experience of connection may be explained by measuring brain activity.  When participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It appears that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment. A strong human-nature relationship means emotional balance, more focus, solution-oriented thinking, and an overall resilient approach to life.
Too much time in front of screens and lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression and isolation. According to a research, time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death. Spending time in the natural environment can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing.
It is a fact that we have not just evolved but are a part of nature. We might be the most intelligent creatures on Earth, but we are still human, we are still living creatures with much the same physical components and we need nature to be in. Psychologically, there are many benefits, which are delineated as follows.

Nature and mental health problems

Besides boosting happiness, positive emotion, and kindness, exposure to nature may also have physical and mental health benefits. Nature has tangible, positive effects on the brain, and it often works at subconscious or biological levels. For instance, the smell of spring has an intrinsic, almost mystical mood-lifting quality, but it also is comprised of very real tree aerosols, like pinosylvin, which directly impacts our brain chemistry through our nose and act as a mild sedative, while increasing respiration. Nature sort of wakes us up in this great way and provides so many fascinating things to look at and experience without much effort.
  • Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into eco therapy which is a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature, has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.
  • Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if a person experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people say that getting into nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.
  • Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but also affect the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.
Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.
  • Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.
  • Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality.
  • Sunlight helps brain chemistry to the point that it can make you calmer and happier. As an example, the light during a sunset increases the level of natural lithium in the brain, a chemical that helps you feel better. Working in a garden is exercise that helps you and digging in the dirt with your hands lowers blood pressure. There are a ton of positives, mental and physical, to spending time outside in nature.

Reduces feelings of stress, anger or anxiety

If you get stressed easily, you might find that spending more time in nature will recharge your mental batteries. We’re bombarded by a never-ending stream of stimulation within our schools, workplaces and cities. So much that our minds are unable to bear it all and come away unscathed.
Contemporary life is jam-packed full of tasks and occurrences that demand and sustain your voluntary attention; things like writing an essay, taking part in a business meeting, watching TV, scrolling on social media. Maintaining this voluntary attention over long periods of time is mentally draining. These strains accumulate, building up to produce tension and pressure within our minds.
This is what we perceive as stress. It is depleting. And what human-made environments take away from us, nature gives back.
Spending time in natural environments offers respite from such strains. Wild rainforests and waterfalls command your attention in a very different way to urban landscapes. The outdoors does not ask anything of you. Forests, streams, oceans and mountains demand very little from us. But they are still engaging and ever changing. Nature gently distracts you from the stressors of civilised life.
Humans have an innate love for nature. We are genetically programmed to find elements of the outdoors engaging. In this way, reconnecting with nature has a profound calming effect. It rejuvenates your mind and body. You get tired of school work, extensive reading, writing reports. Its draining. But that all melts away in the outdoors. You never become weary by watching the sunrise, walking along the beach or beholding mountain ranges.
Nature brings you back to the present moment. It helps you get out of your own head and enjoy the beauty around you. So, stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors.
Scientifically, being in a high-stress environment causes the brain to signal production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Elevated cortisol interferes with learning and memory, weakens immune function and bone density, and increases weight gain, blood pressure and heart disease. It also impacts mental health and resiliency by disrupting brain development in children, triggering emotional problems, depressive disorders, and negatively affecting attention and inhibitory control. Toxic stress has been called public health enemy number one, and time in nature can be an effective counterbalance. Stressed? Do yourself a favour and head for the trees! 

Improves confidence and self-esteem

People who experienced mental health issues, while engaging in exercise in nature activities showed significant improvements in self-esteem and mood levels. Researchers suggests that combining exercise, social components and nature helps promote mental healthcare.

Improves creativity and problem-solving

It is a proven fact that taking time out in a natural environment can result in a subsequent creativity surge and sudden realisation of a workable solution. According to a research, there is an advantage that accrues from spending time in a natural environment and complex working memory span improves and a decrease in anxiety and rumination results from exposure to natural green space.
The overstimulation of the modern world poses a threat to your creativity. The constant distractions and stimulation of contemporary life drain your resources and numb your mind. Escaping to natural environments can improve your creativity by up to 50%. A growing body of research suggests that getting away from it all’ promotes clarity, innovation and originality in your thought process. Nature gives your mind a break, allowing it to turn its full attention to imagination, deeper thinking and problem solving. So being in nature inspires creativity! A study has revealed that, spending more time outdoors and less time with our electronic devices can increase our problem-solving skills and improve creative abilities. 

Helps in emotional regulation and improves memory functions

Spending time in the outdoors improves cognitive performance. Nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a powerful restorative effect on your attention levels. The calming effects of nature help to clear your mind. When you are surrounded by natural environment you were not worried about social media, relationship problems or your ever-increasing workload. These distractions are meaningless.
The sense of awe that nature inspires allows you to ground yourself. These benefits last well beyond the time you spend in the outdoors, helping you to maintain a clear mind. And this inherently improves your focus and short-term memory.
A study on the cognitive benefits of nature found that person who take a nature walk did better on a memory test than the ones who walked down the urban streets or the un natural environment. Nature walks, other outdoor activities or being in a natural environment actually built attention and focus. There are pieces of evidence that indicate strong environmental connections to be related to better performance, heightened concentration, and reduced chances of developing Attention Deficit Disorder.

Helps individuals with depression

A research has suggested that individuals with major depressive disorder when engaged in 50-minute walks in a natural setting showed significant memory span and found to be happy and active, this it improves your mood. Nature walks benefit people suffering from depression. Studies have shown that people suffering from mild to major depressive disorders showed significant mood upliftment when exposed to nature and they also feel more motivated and energised to recover and get back to normalcy.

Makes you happier and restores mental energy

Natural environments are calm, peaceful, organic. The help you centre your mind. And in doing so, they rejuvenate your soul. Modern society is obsessed with filling our time. We spend every spare minute in our lives scrolling on Facebook, checking Instagram, watching TV without using our phones at the same time.
This means we are always doing ‘something.’ Most of the time, it does not even make us happy. You know that feeling where your brain seems to come to a halt? That’s called mental fatigue. All of this time spent mindlessly watching TV or browsing social media is draining your mental energy. When you go outside, you’re freed from the constraints of time. The everyday stressors are hushed, and your brain finds a necessary moment of solace in the absence of chaos. You feel a greater sense of connectedness and an improved sense of self. 

Improves your physical health and helps your heart

Among the many health benefits ascribed to being in nature, one is the protective mechanism that nature exerts on cardiovascular function. Research has found that walks in nature reduce blood pressure, adrenaline and noradrenaline and that such protective effects remain after the nature walk concludes and it helps you be more active.

Spiritual enhancement

Environmental psychologists have found out the human-nature relationship and according to them, by staying close to nature, we feel more grateful and appreciative of what it has to offer to us. Seeing the wonders of the world outside automatically fosters within us the urge to protect it.
Breathing in nature gives us wholesome sensory awareness. When we spend time outdoors, we are more mindful of what we see, what we hear, what we smell, and what we feel and helps you make new connections and provide peer support.

Boosts social functioning

Spending time in nature is truly humbling. You come to see yourself as part of an ecosystem of intimately connected beings. You expand your consciousness and feel a greater sense of unity with other lifeforms. Spending time in nature enables you to feel a greater sense of connectedness. It promotes a greater sense of empathy and compassion. And in this way, the outdoors facilitates social wellness, it increases self-esteem, improves emotional intelligence and provides a stronger sense of belonging.
In this way, nature enables people to form strong social relationships and boost social functioning. The time you spend in nature has profound benefits upon your mental and physical wellbeing. And the time you don’t spend in natural environments has severe consequences. 

Ways to be in the natural environment

There are different ways we can indulge ourselves in the natural environment. People avail different opportunities to get in touch with nature. A few ways to apply the positive effects of nature in our life maybe;
  • Walk more
Walking is good for the heart, muscles, and the overall metabolism rate. And now scientists have proved that walking in the natural environment improves our emotional health too.
A study revealed that participants who walked in the green parklands showed increased attention and focus, more so than participants who walked in closed urban settings or on a treadmill. Not only that, but the former group also showed less engagement in negative thinking and felt more confident about themselves than the other group.
Most people go for outdoor exercise to get connected to nature. People who exercise outdoors are less fatigued and have fewer chances of suffering from obesity and related conditions.
While walking is well established as a health promoting behaviour, studies are now examining if walking in natural environments is more beneficial than indoors or in urban environments. Results have shown positive effects for mental health, improved attention, mood, blood pressure and heart rate. In children, playgrounds with green-space increased vigorous physical activity and decreased sedentary time and even has led to fewer fights.
  • Keep a nature journal
A nature journal is a creative and unique way of imbibing the positive vibes of nature into our everyday lives. Many people who encourage this habit express feelings of inner peace and joy. In a nature journal, you can collect and note everything about your encounters with the outer world.
For example, after a walk by the beach on a cloudy evening, you can sketch some clouds in the journal or draw the sea and write how you felt when you were walking through the breezy shore. Many people collect small things like a pebble, flowers, feathers, or leaves, and glue them in the nature journal with their thoughts poured into it. A great way to spend some quality ‘me-time,’ nature journaling inevitably brings a part of nature in our usual lives.
  • Spend some working hours outside
Being outside is very good for you on its own. Most working professionals today have the flexibility to access daily tasks outside. You can choose to spend a part of your working day out to avoid the monotony of the same old office space.
It may be one conference in the garden or lunch at the local park, anything that can logically amalgamates with nature. Spending some time outside alone or with co-workers gives an instant boost of freshness to the mind, thereby reducing the stress and frustration that comes from working tonelessly for hours at a stretch.
Daily walks or trips into the wilderness or the natural environment helps patients fighting terminal diseases.
While exercise is universally recommended as a means of improving overall health and well-being, the benefits of green exercise have recently been studied relative to how such activity reduces levels of anxiety and stress.  Researchers found that green exercise produced moderate short-term reductions in anxiety, and help you take time out and feel more relaxed. Thus, green space may help mitigate stress for children and the elderly. Recent investigations revealed that being outdoors reduces stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Besides that, it also makes us immune to allied problems like hypertension and tachycardia.
  • Plant at home
Growing plants at home add aesthetic beauty to your space and it also contributes to purifying the air you breathe in.
Having plants at home balances and soothes the home ambiance and aids in respiration and breathing. Studies have proved that indoor plants or a garden are beneficial for the mental health of the people who live there. They help in improving sensory awareness, cognitive functions, and enhances focus. Indoor plants reconnect us to nature, please our senses, and brings a serene feeling when we stay close to them.
  • Balance the diet with more natural elements
Diet is undoubtedly a great way of establishing a strong connection to Nature. By consuming more plant-based proteins, vitamins, and minerals, we can help our body maintain its optimal state of functioning and homeostasis level.
Recent healthcare research proved that the consumption of plant-based protein is correlated to lower mortality rates as opposed to animal-based proteins. It is not a bad idea, after all, to replace meat with vegetables and grains if that brings good health and long life to us!
  • Forest bathing
In Japan, this is  a famous way of spending time in nature. Research has shown that people who practice forest bathing have optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.

Effect of natural / physical environment on health

The physical environment is a recognised determinant of health. At the most fundamental level human health and wellbeing is dependent on the goods and services the environment provides: air, food, shelter and water.
However, exposure to and use of natural environments has a direct impact on health and natural environments are important components of ‘healthy places’ with a role in promoting, maintaining and returning to a state of good health.
The evidence suggests that physical activity in natural environments is more beneficial to health than that undertaken in other environments and that people enjoy it more.  Evidence of the direct linkages between natural environments and health are;
Mental health and wellbeing:
There is strong and consistent evidence for mental health and wellbeing benefits arising from exposure to natural environments, including reductions in psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. These benefits may be most significant for marginalised groups. Socioeconomic inequality in mental well-being has been shown to be narrower among those who report good access to green or recreational areas, compared with those with poorer access. Although most studies have assessed short term outcomes, the use of longitudinal data and stronger study designs have resulted in more robust evidence and indications of a causal relationship.
Well-being is both health and safety. Health comes from nature, more specifically from your genetic makeup, diet, exercise, hygiene, etc. Well-being is an investment in a lifestyle that involves health and nutrition, fitness and mental acuity.
Self-rated health:
Several studies have found self-rated health tends to be higher in those with a greater amount of natural environment around the home, and especially so if the environment is good quality.
An extensive and robust body of evidence has shown that living in greener environments (e.g. greater percentage of natural features around the residence) is associated with reduced mortality. Reduced rates of mortality have been found for specific population groups including men, infants and lower socio-economic groups. There is evidence to suggest that socio-economic health inequalities (in all-cause mortality) may be lower in greener living environments.
Maternal, foetal and child cognitive development:
Exposure to green space during pregnancy is associated with foetal growth and good birth weight outcomes and several cognitive development indicators in childhood.
Internal biome:
A newly emerging and relatively consistent body of evidence has demonstrated the importance of direct contact with nature to the development of a healthy internal biome. A relationship has been identified between exposure to natural environments and the maintenance of a healthy immune system and reduction of inflammatory-based diseases such as asthma. 
Although mixed, there is evidence to suggest that rates of obesity tend to be lower in populations living in greener environments.
Other physiological outcomes:
Smaller bodies of evidence have shown that exposure to natural environments is linked with more favourable: heart rate; blood pressure; vitamin D levels; recuperation rates; and cortisol levels and is also associated with lower prevalence of diabetes type 2. There is consistent evidence from birth cohort studies which shows exposure to the natural environment during pregnancy is associated with foetal growth and higher birth weight.
In summary, there is a need to normalise everyday nature as part of a healthy lifestyle. If we can help people to connect with nature, that’s not just good for them, it’s great news for nature, because the more people that care intrinsically for their local environment and value the positive impact it has on their own lives, the more they’ll want to protect it from destruction.
Ultimately, we want to see everyone taking action to restore nature for nature’s sake and for ours. It is difficult to gauge the benefits we can derive from being close to nature. Be that on the mind, body, or the soul, it leaves a lasting positive impression on every single aspect of our existence.
Nature often induces awe, wonder, and reverence, all emotions known to have various benefits, promoting everything from well-being and altruism to humility to health. It is time to realise that nature is more than just a material resource. It’s also a pathway to human health and happiness. Nature impacts on people’s mental functioning, social relationships and even physical well-being. We must cherish the natural world because we are a part of it and we depend on it.
Writer: Sundeela Fayyaz

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Sourcing Seeds

The biggest obstacle to propagating plants from seed is, in many people’s minds, easy and low cost access to a reliable seed source without having to revert to expensive, hit and miss imports over the Internet. This scenario, however, is only applicable to those having a desire to grow completely new species that may or may not actually be suitable for our climatic and soil conditions.  

In addition, there is always the danger of someone unknowingly importing seed for a species with an inherent nuisance capacity that may eventually enjoy Pakistan to such a degree that it escapes from controlled cultivation into the wild, running rampant and posing a threat to indigenous species of already stressed wild plants.
There are, quite obviously, a number of established seed suppliers already here. Although they tend to offer an extremely limited range of vegetable and seasonal flower seed much of which, sadly, is of extremely poor quality, thus having a low rate of germination. If these seeds germinate at all or are of F1 or F2 hybrids, produce plants from which, if seed is collected for future use then only weak, poor quality plants will grow.
Obtaining top quality, reliable seeds of plant species, which thrive in Pakistan, is however, no problem at all and, what’s more, such seeds are relatively low cost if not absolutely free.
Take sunflower seeds for example: These are easily found, in their raw, therefore viable state, in places such as Empress Market in Karachi and a handful of these will certainly not break the bank. Plus, after you have cultivated and enjoyed your first crop of gorgeous flowers then simply let the finished blooms ripen their own seed. You may need to protect this from the birds by wrapping fine muslin cloth around them, and once they are completely dry there should be more than enough to plant in your own garden and possibly in the gardens of all your neighbors too.
Then there is Linum usitatissimum, Flax in English and ‘Alsi’ in Urdu, so simple to grow, bears attractive sky blue flowers and has numerous medicinal uses. Flax seed is widely found in dry goods stores, Hakim type shops and in many bazaars for as little as Rs20 per quarter kilo and this, as the seed is minute, makes for an awful lot of plants. Black-eyed beans, red kidney beans, Mung beans, haricot beans, whole chennas etc can all be planted and grown in the appropriate season, as can whole coriander (dhania), zeera, fenugreek and the like and none of these work out at all expensive.
Growing tomatoes, something that can be done in pots or containers of all kinds if you do not have garden space, has never been easier. All you need to do is purchase a single, prime tomato, keep it on a sunny windowsill until it is over ripe and splitting, extract the seeds, let them dry off for a week or two and then plant them in pots of good quality organic compost and you are on your way to a home grown treat.
Seed can also be harvested from all manner of plants, large or small, trees, climbers, shrubs, border flowers et al in your own or neighbors, having taken permission first of course, gardens and having ensured, particularly if the stock plants were nursery bought, that these are not the aforementioned hybrid varieties. Before you know it, you will end up with far more seeds than you have room to grow.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with collecting seed from roadside trees, trees growing in parks or in the wild as long as you are careful not to cause any kind of damage in the process. However, please, if doing this, do not be too greedy, as some seed must always be left to naturalize by itself plus to provide food for any animals and birds, which may be around. You must ensure that the seed you intend to harvest is totally ripe or else it will not germinate. Generally speaking, ripe seed is found in or on, depending on the species, dried pods, berries or flower heads. Most ripe seedpods will split to the touch, a dry bean or pea pod for instance, when ready and those on the external part of a dry flower head should fall into your hand at the slightest touch.
The seed producing ‘mechanisms’ of plants often, but not always, differ from species to species. Some produce their seeds safely tucked away inside an actual fruit or vegetable with citrus pips, tomato seed, squash, cucumber, okra (bindi), aubergines (bangan), mangoes, plums, apricots, custard apples (sharifa) and mud apples (chikoo)  being prime examples and all such seed can be carefully extracted from these when fully ripe and then propagated at home. Others, the nut family for one, are grown from the whole nut with coconuts, walnuts and hazel nuts (Urni) being quite easy if your particular climate is suitable.
Roses protect their seed inside scarlet hips, falsas, jasmine and asparagus inside their berries, bulbous plants such as amaryllis guard their seed inside pods, as do some members of the iris family, with countless varieties of seasonal bedding plants doing the same. Although others, such as members of the daisy like Compositae family of plants for instance, ripen clusters of thousands of seeds in/on the central ‘cone’ of the actual flower as do the ever-popular zinnias and cosmos.
Harvesting seeds can become an addictive passion once you have developed a taste for it and, as not all seeds can be sown immediately they are harvested due to weather/seasonal conditions then correct labeling and storage of your treasures is extremely important.
All seeds should be stored in dark colored, tightly sealed containers in, preferably, cool conditions if at all possible. Moisture must be completely kept out of the containers or else the seed will rot. Adding a sachet of silica powder, as found in medicinal tablet bottles, will help in keeping the seeds dry.
When planting time comes around you will thus be able to grow numerous species of plants at very little cost and, if you happen to grow far more plants, particularly trees, than you have room for then spread them around amongst anyone you can think of and help to improve the environment for all.
Writer: Zahrah Nasir


Key Health and Safety Rules to follow this Eid ul-Adha

Unlike the developed Muslim countries, Eid ul-Adha celebrations in Pakistan often turn into a nightmare due to poor management and law enforcement, and lack of public awareness. Here are some ideas on improving the present situation.      

The Islamic festival of Eid ul-Adha is celebrated every year from 10th to 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of Hijri calendar. This year, it is expected to begin on Sunday 11 August. The ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ is observed to commemorate the great Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice in the name of God Almighty. This religious festival undoubtedly helps the economy in several different ways providing multiple job opportunities. Nonetheless, neglecting basic health and safety rules during animals’ sacrifice could cause a nuisance to the public. Unlike the developed Muslim countries, Eid ul-Adha celebrations in Pakistan often turn into a nightmare due to poor management and law enforcement, and lack of public awareness.
Here is the complete guide of how to manage key risks involved in Eid ul-Adha to make this religious festival clean, green and safe for everyone:
1. Preventing Parasitic Bug Bites
Visiting the cattle market to buy an animal for Eid ul-Adha may sound like a simple task but it could turn risky if you do not follow safety guidelines. Congo fever is a deadly viral infection which is transmitted to humans from animals via tick bites. The fever has been known to kill several people in Pakistan. Following precautionary measures could significantly reduce the risk:
  • Avoid unnecessary visits to cattle markets. Do not take your babies and toddlers with you to those markets; you are not visiting a picnic spot.
  • Go to only those markets with good hygienic conditions.
  • Always wear full sleeves shirt with long pants while going to a cattle market. It is also advisable to apply insect repellent lotion to your exposed body parts to prevent tick bites.
  • Wear a face mask and disposable gloves before inspecting an animal for parasitic ticks.
  • Only buy healthy and ticks free animals for sacrificial purposes.
  • It is advisable to apply insecticide sprays on animals before bringing them home.
2. Safe Transportation and Handling of Animals
The internet is flooded with numerous videos of runaway sacrificial animals attacking people and causing traffic accidents. On August 28th, 2017, a man died after being hit by his own sacrificial cow in Lahore. A similar incident had happened in Sukkar (Sindh) 3 years ago (in 2016) when a bull violently attacked his new owner. The victim was later succumbed to injuries and lost his life. An angry ox also attacked a group of people preparing to sacrifice him last year in Peshawar. 5 men were injured trying to restrain the animal and they finally shoot him to bring the crazy chase to an end. Make sure to follow these instructions to stay safe:
  • Always use a suitable vehicle e.g. a pickup truck to transport sacrificial animals. Do not cram the cattle into a small car or an auto rickshaw to save a few bucks.
  • Be careful with large animals including ox and camel etc. Ask professional workers trained to handle these animals to load and unload them from the truck.
  • Do not scare animals by bursting firecrackers or honking car horns near them. They are raised in quiet villages and may get irritated by the noisy urban environment.
  • Always use strong ropes to tether animals and ask for help to handle the bigger and more aggressive animals.
  • Do not leave your small children alone with sacrificial cattle or let them take the animals for a walk on their own.
3. Keeping Streets Clean
Residential areas, particularly those narrow streets in the old city regions are not suitable for keeping cattle, even for shorter periods. Do not bring animals to your home several days before Eid. Those animals should directly be transported to and sacrificed in designated slaughterhouses. If this option is not viable, then the local community should set up a temporary slaughterhouse with basic facilities. These animal sacrificial points should be built away from residential streets where any resident can sacrifice his animal(s) without turning the whole town into a filthy mess. The cattle can produce a large amount of waste which should be properly disposed of. Always cooperate with your waste management workers, use proper garbage bags and dump the waste in designated trash containers. It is your moral duty to keep your city clean!
4. Slaughtering Animals and Bio-hazards
It is really unfortunate to observe that even the well-educated Pakistanis do not consider it immoral and unsafe to slaughter their sacrificial animals outside slaughterhouses. We slaughter the cattle in the streets, outside mosques, near the playgrounds and even in our own backyards with no regard for public health and safety. Animal blood is a biohazard which can pose a serious threat to human health. One can also catch Congo fever from the blood of an infected animal. Try to follow these tips to minimize hazards of slaughtering your sacrificial animal on Eid ul-Adha:
  • The animals should be sacrificed in designated slaughterhouses or at least away from residential streets.
  • Always wear safety glasses, shoes, mask and a pair of disposable gloves while slaughtering an animal and chopping meat.
  • Sacrificial animals should be slaughtered by professionals only. Do not give your animal to amateur butchers.
  • Children below 13 should not witness the sacrifice ritual because watching blood and gory scenes may not be suitable for their innocent minds.
  • Wash the animal blood with plenty of water and disinfectants liquid such as phenyl.
  • Properly dispose of slaughter waste as per local sanitation service providers’ instructions.
5. Food Safety
Last year, more than 3000 patients were treated for food poisoning during Eid only in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Islamabad. A complete food safety guide has been published in the previous edition to keep food poisoning at bay. Let us have a summarized review of the food safety issues once again with a focus on safe meat consumption on Eid.
Store less meat in the freezer and donate more to underprivileged people.
  • Patients with chronic liver disease should not eat beef or mutton because it can lead to liver failure.
  • Heart patients, elderly and those suffering from any medical condition should consult a physician if it is safe for them to consume red meat in small quantity.
  • Healthy adults should also be careful and use meat in moderation. Do not forget to add fresh vegetable salads and yogurt to your meaty meals.
  • Nutrition experts allow an average person to consume up to 100 grams red meat per day. Anything above 200 g even for a day or two is like asking for trouble!
  • Avoid soda and fizzy beverages. Drink more water and fresh lemonade during Eid ul-Adha.
  • Remember these safe food storage rules while freezing and refrigerating meat;
  1. Never store raw meat in the fridge compartment unless you need to cook it within 12 hours. Keep it in the lowest shelf of the refrigerator as dripping fluid could contaminate the cooked food in the lower shelves.
  2. It is better to divide raw meat into small portions before freezing so you will only have to defrost the little quantity of meat you need to cook.
  3. Frequent power outages can significantly reduce the shelf life of frozen meat.
  4. Do not refrigerate or freeze cooked meals after reheating.
Writer: Sultan Kiani
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