How To Create a Beautiful, Healing Garden


By Amber Freda

I love making beautiful gardens for people, and I’ve made a career out of designing gardens in NYC for some of the wealthiest and most successful people on the planet. Lately, though, I’ve felt like I want to create gardens that are not just lovely to look at but that also include a healing, soulful component. I also want to teach people how to make their own healing gardens, so the purpose of this article is two-fold: first, to explain why healing gardens are important and their benefits, and, second, to tell you how to create your own healing garden at home.

Many of the people I work with live in cities like New York, where one of their only connections to nature on a regular basis is this garden that I’m working with them to create.  I believe that people are missing a sense of connection to the earth.  Our brains evolved over millions of years of us living most of our days outdoors.  We have a complex interdependency with nature that we’re not even aware of that affects us in profound ways. Our eyes developed with an everyday exposure to these fractal images alongside us of, for example, the way bark grows on trees, the way plants and lichens grow, the rhythmic way waves crash on the shore, or even the flight patterns of birds.

When we no longer have the regular stream of visual, auditory, and olfactory cues from nature, what it does is create a deficit in our brains, a disconnect that can result in a myriad of problems.  Things like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and lethargy can be alleviated through a greater connection to the natural world.  Even the smell of the earth, of dirt, is being shown now in studies to impact our serotonin levels, which affects our everyday mood.

I have decided to help address the disconnect I see between people and the natural world by helping people to develop healing gardens.  A healing garden is one that engages the senses on multiple levels – through sight, touch, fragrance, and sound.  It’s a garden that encourages interaction, whether it be through relaxation and listening to the sound of leaves rustling or water running through a fountain, or the smell of flowers at dusk, or a garden that is visually very beautiful and soothing, or using plants that call to be touched, either because the leaves are incredibly soft and fur-like, or flowers that need to be pruned back regularly to keep the plants in bloom.

There are many specific herbs that can be useful to make teas or baths out of that can soothe and heal people’s bodies and minds.  I also like to include herbs that are specifically tailored to a family’s personality and needs so you have the option of going out and interacting with your garden by taking clippings of the plants to nourish your family in a very direct way.  Edible plants like berries and vegetables are also a great option for many families who like the idea of being able to grow their own food.

There are also many herbs with medicinal benefits that can help people with a wide assortment of maladies, including anxiety, stress, stomach problems, arthritis, headaches, detox, and so much more. 

Peppermint, for example, is one of the most readily available herbs and is extremely easy to grow.  I prefer to grow it in a container, which will keep its size somewhat limited.  In the ground, it tends to take over.  Peppermint is great for stomach problems, colic, respiratory problems, headaches, asthma, and stress.  The leaves can be dried or used fresh in teas and baths.  If preparing an herbal bath, I recommend mixing your herbs with some Epsom salts and sea salt.  You can also add a few drops of essential oils to make the bath even more fragrant and relaxing.

Calendula is a lovely herb with flowers that range from yellow to orange.  You can harvest the herbs and use them fresh or dried in teas and baths.  One of my favorite methods for drying herbs is to cut the stems of the plant to make a bouquet and then hang them upside down from the rafters in my house near a well-ventilated window until the leaves and flowers appear dry and crunchy.  Calendula can be used for sore throats, menstrual cramps, stomach distress, and to promote healthy, clear skin.  The flowers are the part of the plant used in herbal remedies.

Lemon Balm has a wonderful, mellow lemony taste and fragrance and is a base for a lot of teas.  It’s used for stress and anxiety, insomnia, and indigestion.  The leaves and stems of the plant can be dried and crushed up for use in teas and baths.

Chamomile is another standard herb used in herbal concoctions that is very easy to grow yourself.  The flowers are the part of the plant that should be harvested and either dried or used fresh.  Benefits of chamomile include relaxation and treatment of insomnia, colds, stomach ailments, and as an anti-inflammatory.

Rose petals make a wonderful, luxurious addition to herbal baths.  It’s also easy to make a rose petal toner using fresh rose petals from your garden mixed with Thayer’s alcohol-free witch hazel infused with roses, distilled water, a few drops of grapefruit seed extract, and a splash of rose essential oil.  It feels wonderful to spray this fragrant toner on your face in the morning, and it helps tone and hydrate your skin.  Teas made from rose petals or rosehips contain Vitamin C, will help clear toxins from the body, reduce menstrual cramps, promote healthy skin, reduce stress and anxiety, and can soothe indigestion.

Above all, the goal of healing gardens is to help strengthen the powerful connection to the earth that is your birthright.  It’s the first step to healing, not only ourselves, but the entire planet.  When we lived in tribal societies, every tribe had its medicine man or woman who helped people heal through herbs.  I think the reason why there is so much interest now in things like shamanism and herbal remedies is that we are coming full-circle back to our roots to discover why it is we are here, our connection to the earth, and this is something we’ve been needing and wanting for a very long time now. 

Happy gardening and Namaste,

Amber Freda

About the Author

Amber has taught dozens of classes in garden design at both the New York and Brooklyn botanical gardens.  Her client list includes many of the world’s most notables, including George Soros, Anna Quindlen, Brett Icahn, Joseph Edelman, David Faucon, Reshma Shetty, Aetna founder and CEO Mark Bertolini, and make-up guru Bobbi Brown.  You can view photos of her gardens or get in touch at  Amber also offers a complete line of herbal teas, baths, and beauty products at

Sweden is recycling so much trash, it’s running out

Source: Organic & Healthy

Sweden has become so successful at recycling it’s own waste that it is running out.

They have managed to transform their waste program to accommodate the burning of waste. They have transformed the way they get rid of their waste to such an extent that only 1 per cent of it ends up in landfill sites, and they have even found a way to transform the remaining polluting gas into biofuel.

Sweden recycles 1.5 billion bottles and cans a year, which is a staggering amount in relation to the population of about 9.6 million (in 2013).

There are 32 of these new recycling plants in Sweden which transform rubbish into energy, and they are burning through it so fast that they have run out of trash to keep the plants going. They have started to import trash from the UK, Italy, Norway, and Ireland.

Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell has said burning it is better for the environment than letting it sit there, “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment.”

“We feel that we have responsibility to act responsibly in this area and try to reduce our ecological footprint,” states Per Bolund, Swedish Finance and Consumption Minister.  “The consumers are really showing that the want to make a difference and what we’re trying to do from the government’s side is to help them act, making it easier to behave in a sustainable way.”

New Solar-Powered Technology in California Desalinates 1.5 Billion Gallons of Drinking Water Annually

A new solar-powered technology has been designed to ease California’s water situation, desalinating up to 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water per year

As we all know already, the substance known as water is becoming scarce around the world. The United Nations has already sounded the alarm on an imminent water shortage.

More than 2.9 billion people in 48 countries will face water shortages in the next 10 years. Water experts say it could destabilize and jeopardize the existence of some nations.

california desalinates

Particularly with clean drinking water, the statistics are appalling.  Over 1 billion people worldwide get their drinking water from unimproved sources including lakes, rivers, dams, springs and unprotected dug wells. The consequences of drinking from these sources is most likely death. Water-related disease kills around 840,000 people annually. Women and children collectively, are said to spend more than 140 million hours a day collecting usable water, which is more often than not, from contaminated sources.

The sea, available all the time, is undrinkable due to its salty nature. If only we could achieve an efficient technology that would make the sea water drinkable, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about the impending water shortage. Countries that have access to the sea will be able to produce more drinking water, and possibly even transport it to land-locked countries.

california desalinates

In the past, innovators have invented small technologies that are capable of desalinating sea water (removing the salt content in order to make it drinkable). But the problems with these technologies are their inefficiency. They can only desalinate small amounts of water. Also, the power needed to make them work, is also a problem.

However, it seems these problems associated with desalinating technologies might now be solved. The good news is, a new technology known as The Pipe, which was recently unveiled in Santa Monica, California, can produce more drinking water from the sea. Santa Monica is an 8.3 square mile city situated at a gateway to the Pacific Ocean, bordering the west side of Los Angeles County.

california desalinates

The most remarkable thing about The Pipe is that clean and renewable energy powers it. The technology uses solar energy to turn the salty sea water into drinkable fresh water. The architects behind the technology, Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), revealed the machine can generate up to 10,000 MWh of clean power each year. This clean power is enough to turn around 4.5 billion liters (1.5 billion gallons) of salt water into drinkable water for the population.

How the Technology Works.

Above the machine, solar panels provide power to pump seawater through an electromagnetic filtration process below the pool deck. What results are two products: pure drinkable water that is directed into the city’s primary water piping grid, and clear water with 12% salinity. The drinking water is piped to shore, while the salt water then supplies the thermal baths before being redirected back into the ocean through a smart release system. This mitigates most of the usual problems associated with returning brine water to the sea.


The clean drinking water is then used by the city. In fact, The Pipe technology represents a change in the future of water. If due attention is paid to the machine, it will turn the impending water doom to glory.

The co-founders of LAGI, Rob Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian, wrote that California is fortunate to have received The Pipe. This, according to them, will allow the state to boost its clean and renewable energy policy, thus, meeting the global agenda on climate change.

california desalinates

They wrote: “The sustainable infrastructure that is required to meet California’s development goals and growing population will have a profound influence on the landscape. The Paris Climate Accord from COP 21 has united the world around a goal of 1.5–2° C, which will require a massive investment in clean energy infrastructure.”

The co-founders also revealed their main objective is to promote ideas that have the ability to harness clean energy from nature, converting it into electricity and/or drinking water. LAGI is also looking for ideas that would be able to utilize wave and tidal energies as well as wind, solar, and other clean power technologies, further making life easy and more sustainable.

This article (New Solar-powered Technology in California Desalinates 1.5 billion Gallons of Drinking Water a Year) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

Palm oil company kicked out of sustainability body for bulldozing orangutan habitat


We are pleased to announce the culmination of a four-year-long battle to hold a palm oil company to account for tearing down orangutan habitat.

More than four years after we made an official complaint against one of its members, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has today confirmed the expulsion of PT Ibris Palm, whose subsidiary company PT Sisirau is responsible for the destruction of orangutan habitat in Sumatra, Indonesia.

While this is a welcome move, the length of time it took to resolve the complaint against this company – which is connected to the highest levels of the industry – raises serious questions about the efficacy of the complaints process.

 A young orangutan was evacuated from forests being torn down by bulldozers in May 2012 on the plantation managed by PT Sisirau.

The RSPO is a body which regulates certified sustainable palm oil according to a set of principles developed by palm oil growers, traders, buyers, retailers, banks and social and environmental organisations, designed to limit the negative environmental and social impacts of the industry.

In 2012, seven orangutans were evacuated from an oil palm plantation managed by PT Sisirau in Aceh province, Sumatra. SOS filed a complaint with the RSPO, submitting evidence that the company had continued to bulldoze patches of forest even after being alerted to the presence of orangutans within the plantation, in direct contravention of RSPO guidelines. Whilst RSPO members continue to destroy forests and put critically endangered orangutans at risk, the reputation and credibility of the entire organization and process is called into question.

Helen Buckland, Director of SOS, said “We welcome the RSPO’s decision to terminate PT Ibris Palm’s membership. Companies which claim to be committed to responsible palm oil production whilst continuing destructive practices must be held to account. PT Sisirau had been a member of the RSPO since 2008, and its parent company, Ibris Palm, since 2011, but neither had been certified as producing sustainable palm oil – and the RSPO’s ruling on our complaint ensures that they never will be. This ensures that they will be excluded from the global market, which is moving steadily towards a rejection of palm oil that has been produced at the expense of forests, biodiversity and local communities.”

A baby orangutan screams in terror as his mother, shot with a tranquiliser dart, is checked by a vet just out of shot. The pair were rescued from a patch of forest being destroyed by bulldozers in PT Sisirau’s oil palm plantation in Aceh, and were released together into the Leuser Ecosystem the same day to begin their second chance at life in the wild. Photo by Hannah Adcock

One of the Directors of PT Sisirau is Joefly Bahroeny. He is also the Chairman of GAPKI, the Indonesian Palm Oil Association. GAPKI is an umbrella body for the Indonesian palm oil industry, representing 674 member companies.

Mr. Bahroeny was personally informed of the presence of orangutans, a protected and critically endangered species, within the plantation under his management, yet the bulldozers continued their work, tearing down the remaining forest, ready to be planted with oil palms. The expulsion of one of Mr. Bahroeny’s companies from the RSPO links him to one of the most serious criticisms of the palm oil industry at large, namely the destruction of natural forests which provide vital habitat for critically endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutan.

SOS established the only orangutan rescue team in Sumatra with our partner organization, the Orangutan Information Centre, in 2010. To date, they have rescued 110 orangutans from isolated forests and the illegal pet trade. Orangutan rescues and translocations carry extreme risks for the animals and people involved, and are only carried out as a last resort if orangutans are considered to be in danger of starvation, injury or death.

All seven orangutans that were evacuated from PT Sisirau’s plantation in 2012 were safely released into the Leuser Ecosystem, a protected area and the last stronghold for the species.

Of course rescues alone are not the solution. Our projects and campaigns tackle the most urgent threats facing Sumatran orangutans and their habitat. Our partners in Sumatra work on the frontline of orangutan protection, helping animals in peril to have a second chance at a life in the wild. With so few Sumatran orangutans left, every life is precious. Working with local communities, businesses and government to tackle the root causes of deforestation is crucial if we are to save orangutans and the many other species sharing their rainforest home.

This win is the culmination of four years of persistent lobbying by SOS for the RSPO to take decisive action against PT Sisirau. This company’s actions are by no means unique in an industry which is notorious for driving forest destruction. SOS strives to break the link between development and deforestation in Sumatra, and the success of our efforts to hold this company to account is a crucial step towards this goal.

Please support our work to protect orangutans, their forests and their future.

6 Ways You Can Tell the Global Shift to Renewable Energy Has Arrived

6 Ways You Can Tell the Global Shift to Renewable Energy Has Arrived

We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the global shift to clean energy is on today. Not 10 years from now. Not 50 years from now. Today.

We’re already seeing the benefits too in a whole host of sectors. And those below are just for starters. Which highlights why—with the Paris agreement about to go into effect and momentum building for action across the planet—it’s critical for those of us committed to creating a sustainable future to support world leaders working to drop dirty fossil fuels and expand clean solutions today. Read on to learn more.

1. Renewables are Reducing Global Poverty and Expanding Energy Access

Currently, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population lacks access to electricity, most in rural areas of the developing world unable to connect to power grids. But with solar, batteries, LED lights and efficient appliances getting more affordable all the time and entrepreneurs developing new approaches both to technology and support for rural communities, it shouldn’t be for long. Fortune magazine, for example, last year hailed off-grid solar in Africa as “tomorrow’s hot market.” Meanwhile, projects in Bangladesh, Peru and rural villages of India are bringing electricity where there was once none—all through the power of the sun.

2. Clean Energy Saves Lives and Makes the World More Secure

With a warming climate come the challenges of ensuring food and water security for millions, sometimes spurring human migrations and further destabilizing vulnerable countries. But when we embrace clean energy, as militaries around the world are doing, the benefits can be big. Not only is it cutting costs, this choice is actually making our world more secure. Now that’s something worth fighting for.

3. Clean Energy Helps Improve Public Health

It’s simple: Burning fossil fuels pollutes our air, water and land, exposure to this pollution can result in deadly illnesses. Harnessing the power of the sun, wind and water … well … it doesn’t pollute our precious resources. With clean energy, we can all breathe (and drink and farm) easier.

4. We Protect Forests and Reduce Deforestation

Clearing the planet’s forests accounts for approximately 15 percent of global emissions—that’s about the same, if not slightly more, than transportation. But countries like Brazil and India are creating policies to drastically reduce deforestation as key parts of their strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and meeting their commitments in the Paris agreement. When we protect forests, which store hundreds of billions of metric tons of carbon worldwide, we’re keeping that carbon where it belongs. We speak for the trees and we say thanks!

5. Climate-Smart Agriculture is Growing

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, forestry and other land use accounts for roughly 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but the good news is this: We’re getting smarter about how we farm. Some studies and trial programs have suggested that adopting more sustainable agricultural management techniques could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions more than40 percent. Plows at the ready…

6. Clean Energy is Creating Jobs

Jobs: They’re a hot topic in the U.S. election and the same is true in political discussions around the world. We’ve got good news—just last year, 8.1 million people worldwide were employed in the renewable energy industry. And by 2030, if we double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, the sector could employ 24 million people. In the U.S. alone, solar energy already employs 77 percent more workers than the coal mining industry. That’s huge.

Help Make Climate Solutions a Reality

It’s been said before: now is the time to stop talking about the climate crisis and start solving it. We’re already seeing the massive benefits of climate solutions: the time is now to implement them worldwide. Add your name below to support leaders making climate solutions a reality today.