Quote: The difference between prudence and insecurity


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Cartoon: Eneko on the powerful


Source: eneko [translation: the powerful]

Originally posted 2013-06-15 06:32:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Critical analysis of an international proficiency test – TOEFL

I.     Introduction

1.1.   Background information


A rapid expansion of technology and advancement in research has provided new opportunities in language acquisition. Nevertheless, complexity and imperfection has continuously provided challenges for experts in the area of language testing. Early language testing theories of Lado (1961) and Carroll (1961) have emphasized two objectives for test developers: (1) what language ability is being assessed; and (2) how it is being assessed. More recent literature has specifically stated that quality of language testing is maintained through addressing practicality, validity and reliability issues (Brown, 2000: 385-387; Hughes: 1989: 22, 29).

1.2.   Structure of discussion

This paper reviews related literature in the area of international proficiency language testing in order to identify relevant issues and critique the latest version of the speaking component of the internet-based proficiency Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT®) by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the speaking section.

II.  Critical analysis of an international proficiency test

 2.1.   Relevant literature review

 2.1.1.      Current and relevant discussion

International proficiency tests measure the language ability of non-native English speakers, regardless of any training (Hughes 1989: 9). Rapid-turnover permits cost-effective and practical determination of suitability of prospective applicants for tertiary education, employment and visa applications. However, inherent high-stake repercussions for examinees and existing imperfections within language testing provide strong evidence for the need of continuous and never-ending evaluation of validity and reliability issues (Shavelson et al., 2002: 5-6; Uysal, 2010).

2.1.2.      Relevant issues

Test design, standardised administration and security measures, topic authenticity and comparability, bias, markers reliability and objectivity, well-defined scoring methods, form-content issues are all relevant to test’s quality (Brown, 2000; ETS, 2011; Hall, 2010; Hughes, 1989; Uysal, 2010).

Davis et al. (2003) have indicated that social, economic, political, and unfair difference issues make all international tests biased since they do not represent the real scores of corpora of Englishes and are “agent of cultural, social, political, educational, and ideological agendas that shape the lives of individual participants, teachers and learners” (Shohamy, 1997: 3).

Furthermore, validity issues related to inner-circle norms overlook socio-linguistic reality of the candidates language use (Elder & Harding, 2008; Lowenberg, 2002). Brown (2000: 394) has argued that while large-scale tests are practical and reliable, they possess fundamental issues in finding effective ways to connect with communicative abilities of examinees. As nature of speech consists of complex matrix of underlying skills, valid identification of fundamental conversational characteristics in a restrictive and closed testing system, using single score marking is significantly challenging (Valdman, 1988: 125, cited in Brown, 2000: 396).

2.2.   Critical analysis 

2.2.1.      Brief account of an international proficiency test

TOEFL is a rigorously researched American test, developed and run by New Jersey based Educational Testing Service (ETS). First administered in 1964, it is now accepted in over 130 countries across more than 6000 institutions. The latest internet-based version of TOEFL (TOEFL iBT®) is a complement to the paper-based format which includes mandatory speaking and writing sections and other integrated tasks that require examinees to use more than one skill simultaneously. TOEFL iBT® directly assesses the 4-macro skills while indirectly assessing note-taking and grammar skills.

TOEFL iBT® speaking section is twenty minutes long and mainly measures the speaking ability. It includes two independent tasks about familiar topics and four integrated tasks where more than one skill is used. Examinees are expected to summarise, compare, convey information, explain ideas and defend opinions clearly, coherently and accurately from multiple sources in a spontaneous manner. Reading passages and listening passages of up to 100, 120 words, respectively, are given and after 30 seconds examinees are expected to respond verbally for up to 60 seconds. Each task is marked on a point scale of 0 to 4 and scored on four criteria: general description (intelligibility, task fulfillment and coherence); delivery (fluency, clarity, intonation, stress, pronunciation); language use (vocabulary and grammar); and topic development (relevance, relationship and progression of ideas). Responses are recorded and centrally marked (Davis, 2003: 580; ETS, 2004; ETS, 2011:1).

2.2.2.      Identify some key points you want to analyse

Test design, administration and marking system, topic authenticity, comparability and fairness, and markers’ objectivity are analysed for the speaking section that involves testing pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, fluency, intonation, clear, coherent, and cohesive expressions (Brown, 2000: 268-271; Hughes, 1989: 111-112).

2.2.3.      Advantages

The speaking section contains clear and unambiguous instructions that identify and capture the underlying skills and knowledge. Authentic and relevant academic content and significant reduction in focus on grammar minimises North American bias, and misuse for non-academic purposes. This is further supported by Sawaki et al. (2009, cited in Anderson, 2009: 623) that claims that TOEFL iBT® is “better aligned to the variety of language use tasks that examinees are expected to encounter in every day academic life”.

ETS (2011: 3) argues that validity and reliability is maintained via detailed test specification; standardised administration and security; score reliability and generalisation monitoring; task design appropriateness; marker’s retraining; and well-defined, centrally-marked, holistic and rubric-based scoring system that closely reflects theory of communicative competence, where more than one skill is assessed simultaneously in wide range of goals and contexts (Jamieson et al., 2008: 57).

Furthermore, rubrics are used for  score comparability across the format by comparing markers scores for the reading and listening sections on the speaking and writing sections, thus increasing marker’s reliability.

The use of number-based identity for examinee further increases objectivity and reliability (Hughes, 1989: 35, 42).  ETS (2008: 5) claims the speaking section maintains a relatively high reliability coefficient of 0.88 with standard error measurement of 1.62.

2.2.4.      Disadvantages

The speaking section contains speaking under monologic conditions, with only native English speakers used in dialogues (Anderson, 2009: 622). Competence in effective and interactive communication related to lectures, class presentations and debates with native speakers of English is not only necessary and valid, but also it reduces bias and thus merits testing.

The absence of face-to-face interview not only lacks authenticity but is not the best-way to test oral proficiency according to Brown (2000: 395). Despite holistic scoring being reliable, it is not the best in measuring specific skills nor identifying strengths and weaknesses (ETS, 2008: 12).

As proficiency tests take samples of candidate’s ability at one particular time, results do not guarantee the applicant’s true competency in any particular context threatening the external validity of the tests.

III.             Conclusion

 3.1. Key points covered

We have identified and critically analysed relevant literature on international, internet-based TOEFL proficiency test (TOEFL iBT®) by investigating the advantages and disadvantages of the speaking section, validity and reliability issues related to test design, administration and marking, content authenticity, topic comparability, and markers objectivity.

3.2. Implications of the analysis

As future debates continue in the area of language testing, this analysis has emphasised the need for continuous and never-ending programme of research. Any forthcoming demands on objectivity and validity require a thoughtful balance against authentic contextualised speech performance. This analysis has also indicated that the use of holistic and rubric-based scoring could possibly be used in next line of proficiency tests that have a stronger focus on whole performance to include pragmatic (socio-linguistic, functional), strategic, and interpersonal/affective components of language ability and conversation analysis.

Copyright © Robert Mijas 2011.

IV. References

Anderson, C. (2009). Test of English as a Foreign Language: Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT). Language Testing 2009, 28 (4), 621-631. Downloaded from www.sagepub.co.uk/Journals/Permissions.nav at University of Western Sydney on August 29, 2011.

Brown, H.D. (2000). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education

Carroll, J. B. (1961). Fundamental considerations in testing English language proficiency of foreign students. In H. B. Allen & R. N. Campbell (Eds.), Teaching English as a second language (2nd ed.,pp. 313–321). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Davis, A., Hamp-Lyons, L., Kemp. C. (2003). Whose norms? International proficiency tests in English. World Englishes. Vol.22, No. 4, pp 571-584.

Elder, C., & Harding, L. (2008). Language testing and English as an international language. Australian review of applied linguistics, Vol 21, No 3.

Hall, G. (2010). International English language testing: a critical response. ELT Journal Vol. 64. No.3.

Hughes, A. (1989). Testing for language teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ETS. (2004). iBT/Next Generation TOEFL Test Independent Speaking Rubrics (Scoring Standards). Retrieved September 10, 2011, from http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/TOEFL/pdf/Speaking_Rubrics.pdf

ETS. (2008). TOEFL iBT at a Glance. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from http://www.ets.org/s/toefl_ibt_research_s1v3.pdf

ETS. (2011). Reliability and comparability of TOEFL iBT scores. TOEFL iBT research, series 1 Vol 3. Retrieved September 05, 2011, from http://www.ets.org/s/toefl_ibt_research_s1v3.pdf

Jamieson, J. M., Eignor, D., Grabe, W., & Kunnan, A. J. (2008). Frameworks for a new TOEFL. In Chapelle et al. (Eds), Building a validity argument for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (pp. 55–95). New York: Routledge.

Lado, R. (1961). Language testing. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Lowenberg, P. (2002). Assessing English proficiency in the Expanding Circle. World Englishes, 21 (3), 431-435.

Sawaki, Y., Stricker, L. J., & Oranje, A. H. (2009). Factor structure of the TOEFL Internet-based test. Language Testing, 26(1), 5–30.

Shahomy, E. (1997). Critical language testing and beyond. Paper delivered at the American Association of Applied Linguistics, Orlando, Fl, March.

Shavelson, R.J., Eisner, E.W. & Olkin, L. (2002). ‘In memory of Lee J. Cronbach (1916-2001).’ Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 21, 2, 171-177.

Uysal, H. (2010) A critical review of the IELTS writing test. ELT Journal Vol. 64 No.3.

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Vilém Flusser – 1988 interview about technical revolution (intellectual level is lowering)

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Changing Education Paradigms

Source: RSAnimate

This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. For more information on Sir Ken’s work visit: http://www.sirkenrobinson.com

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Why the British said no to Europe

John Pilger | johnpilger.com

The majority vote by Britons to leave the European Union was an act of raw democracy. Millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied, intimidated and dismissed with open contempt by their presumed betters in the major parties, the leaders of the business and banking oligarchy and the media.

This was, in great part, a vote by those angered and demoralised by the sheer arrogance of the apologists for the “remain” campaign and the dismemberment of a socially just civil life in Britain. The last bastion of the historic reforms of 1945, the National Health Service, has been so subverted by Tory and Labour-supported privateers it is fighting for its life.

Read More: Why the British said no to Europe

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We Become Silent: The Last Days of Health Freedom

International award-winning filmmaker Kevin P. Miller of Well TV announced the release of a new documentary about the threat to medical freedom of choice. ‘We Become Silent: The Last Days of Health Freedom’ details the ongoing attempts by multinational pharmaceutical interests and giant food companies – in concert with the WTO, the WHO and others – to limit the public’s access to herbs, vitamins and other therapies. ‘We Become Silent’ is narrated by Dame Judi Dench, the noted UK actress who has won multiple Golden Globe awards, an Oscar, and a Tony for her on-stage work, in addition to dozens of other honors throughout her prestigious career. Pharmaceutical giants and other globalized bureaucratic interests are threatening our very health freedoms. Our access to natural foods, vitamins, and herbs will be severely crippled, and eventually non existent.

Originally posted 2012-02-11 11:52:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Women’s Health – Body Image Issues

“We live in an age where we are surrounded by an image of an ideal body shape, communicated by a constantly evolving media […] Much of what we see is a fusion of reality and fantasy, with many of the images presented to us having been altered or enhanced in some way” (Sanger, 2007).

Our media is full of body images that create in many cases very unattainable and distorted body ideals that are directed at gregarious women. Anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior, social isolation, irritability, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia or excessive dieting), lack of assertiveness, guilt, self-dislike, excessive plastic operation are all symptoms of the pressures that body perfect images place on people. Statistics show that between 70–76% of Australian high school girls consistently choose an ideal figure. They wish to have a body that is thinner than their own and only 16% of young women are happy with their body weight with eating disorders affecting about 5% of the female population in Australia (Sanger, 2007). It is clear that the biggest problem with societal expectations of attractiveness is the impact it makes on women’s perception of themselves and their self esteem.


NSW Health Summit (1996) has shown that there is a lack of larger model sizes, the media’s feminine image does not truly represent the image of over 65% of women, there are conflicting up-front and subliminal messages in magazines linked to hidden interests with extraordinary profits idealizing thin bodies that portray youth, positive social and family lifestyles.

The  constant bombardment of body perfect promotes ideals as healthy, sexy, successful, popular, cool, and edgy. In reality, many of these body ideals are unrealistic to the average woman. Unrealistic standards for behavior and appearance produce physical and emotional damage by causing eating disorders, excessive use of plastic surgery, malnutrition, and emotional problems that negatively affects moods and take away energy from pursuing more confidence building activities. In a society where women are excessively obsessed with their image, their priority, focus, body language, values and internal and external languages are affected. Perfectionism, denial, and dualistic thinking are all part of an addictive system (Northrup, 1998) that disempowers women  and further prolongs the ‘Beauty Myth’, that is the belief in an objective quality called beauty that keeps male dominance intact by perpetuating women’s insecurity about their appearance (Wolf, 1991).


An increasing number of older women in media strive to attain younger looking bodies through excessive use of plastic operations. The law of nature clearly shows that change is the essence of our existence, as old needs to be replaced with new. Nature contains mechanisms of growth and decay where life is about growing, changing, moving, creating each and every day. Instead of getting upset about our youthful and energetic bodies turning into a collection of degenerating cells we should realize that this is how it is supposed to be. Inability to acknowledge and accept this, produces imbalances in and out of our physical and mental realms.

We must all realize that we have been dehumanized to a point where we have stopped valuing our bodies. Our bodies have become just scientific objects that can be manipulated, cut, replaced, and stripped of all their uniqueness, sacredness and mystery. As long as ‘focus-on-image’ dominates decision-making in women’s lives, women will continue to enslaves and imprison themselves in a compulsive pursuit of beauty as a tyrannical and seductive trap, with serious implications in areas of self esteem, self hate and narcissism. Furthermore, when body image supersedes talent quality declines, since image distorts reality while pretending to portray it (Hedges, 2010: 296). Moreover, Hedges indicates that  totalitarian type societies are image based, where intolerance of differences gains strength.

According to Northrup (1998), women should become aware that the overall wellness is more important than just beauty. This starts by asking serious questions about one’s health, dealing with the past, releasing negative emotions, respecting and acknowledging a higher wisdom.

Maintaining a positive outlook on life is important but we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of becoming positively blind, so becoming sentient to all aspects of life is vital, especially to other interests at play. Ignorance is not bliss so seek help when needed, by being honest with yourself. Work with your body, gather information, work on forgiveness and actively participate in your life.

Copyright © Robert Mijas 2011.


Hedges, C. (2010). Death of the Liberal Class. Nation Books.

Northrup, C. (1998). Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

NSW Health Summit (1996) Caring for Health, Ministerial Summit on Body Image and Eating Disorders. State Health Publication. NSW Government Publication.  #PHD970018, ISBN 07310 92759

Sanger, L. (2007). Conduct on Body Image Working Group – Final Report July 2007. Melbourne, VIC: Ministerial Media Code.

The Butterfly Foundation. (n.d.). Supporting Australian with Eating Disorders. Retrived December, 10, 2010 from http://www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Wolf, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Originally posted 2014-06-19 17:50:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Attack of the Drones – USA

Journeyman Pictures

Originally posted 2012-04-24 10:51:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Quote: Work for a cause …


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Quote – Casey Stengel


Originally posted 2011-12-17 23:10:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Quotes – Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell first published The Impact of Science on Society in 1952. The following quotes have been selected, and we leave it to our readers to find notable examples in the modern day.

Quotes on Education:

“The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.” – p41.

“In like manner, the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities, probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play…. All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called ‘co-operative,’ i.e., to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them.”

“It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.” – p61

Quotes on Control Over Opinion:

“The completeness of the resulting control over opinion depends in various ways upon scientific technique. Where all children go to school, and all schools are controlled by the government, the authorities can close the minds of the young to everything contrary to official orthodoxy. Printing is impossible without paper, and all paper belongs to the State. Broadcasting and the cinema are equally public monopolies.” – p57.

“All this is not imaginary, it is daily and hourly reality. Nor, given oligarchy, is there the slightest reason to expect anything else.”

Quotes on Diet and Vaccinations:

“Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” – p62.


Russell, B. (1998). The Impact of Science on Society. London: Routledge.

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Quote: Albert Einstein on knowledge


Originally posted 2012-09-03 14:21:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Ebook: Miscellany of Topics

Miscellany of Topics - Ebook cover (225x300)We have received several requests from readers who wanted PDF versions of some of the articles that appear at the Knowledge Wealth Centre. The following e-book has been composed and it contains the most popular articles in a single pdf document. This e-book is now available for download only.

Click here for a copy of [Miscellany of Topics].

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Herbs – Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa)

Alfalfa (Medicago Saliva), is a perennial herb part of the leguminosae family. Alfalfa has a long list of dietary and medicinal uses and research has proven that Alfalfa might lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose. Many take Alfalfa supplements orally and is has been proven safe except in a small percentage of people where it produces lupus like symptoms. In the seeds and sprouts of Alfalfa, amino acid L-canavanine is present and that is what is thought to cause this reaction. However, this is not present in the leaves of the Alfalfa. The whole leaf and the herb are what are rendered from the Alfalfa plant.

Since the sixth century the Chinese have used Alfalfa to relieve fluid retention and swelling. The Arabs were the first to find Alfalfa and they named it “the father” of all foods. The leaves of the Alfalfa plant are very rich in minerals and nutrients, including potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin C, D, E, K and betocarotene. The Arabs first fed it to their horses because they believed the Alfalfa made them swift and mighty. Alfalfa has been an animal crop for over a thousand years but is also used as an herbal medicine.

Alfalfa is a good diuretic and also a good laxative. It also works well for urinary tract infections, and kidney, bladder and prostrate disorders. The latest and greatest discovery of Alfalfa is the benefits that it might provide for lowering cholesterol because there are certain agents in Alfalfa that stick to cholesterol which keeps it from remaining in the blood stream. Further, it may also have a very strong relationship with lowering blood sugar levels. Alfalfa has been used in various arthritic, rheumatic, and lower backache problems. It also increases mother’s milk. At the time of writing this, there were no well-known drug interactions with alfalfa.

When it comes to Alfalfa it is something that many people enjoy in their cuisine. It is good in salads and some people eat it as a vegetable all alone. Many people claim that eating Alfalfa is a big part of eating healthy. Besides wheat grass and algae, Alfalfa has the most nutritional value. It is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and has all of the required digestive enzymes.

It is warned by avid Alfalfa lovers that you likely will not like the way that it tastes in your mouth, it may feel like it is burning the tip of your tongue and you actually might just completely dislike it however, they urge you to not give up because it is an acquired taste and you will begin to like it. The best news is that soon after eating it regularly you will find that your appetite for heavier foods will diminish.

Alfalfa is also great for reducing fevers and is very good for the blood. It contains natural fluoride and prevents tooth decay. Alfalfa makes a great tea because when the Alfalfa leaves steep in the hot water it is a source of nitrogen. The tea is not only made for human consumption because people who grow Irises and Delphiniums just love Alfalfa tea because of the great effect that it has on the plants when used as a foliar spray. Many with a green thumb also use Alfalfa as mulch for their flower beds.

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Gabor Mate Lecture – “Hold On To Your Kids”

“This presentation is hosted in partnership with: The Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Lakehead Public Schools, Special Education Advisory Committee and North of Superior Counselling Programs. The Presentation Title is “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” and is presented by best selling author Dr. Gabor Mate.”

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Herbs: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Break free Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a common plant from the compositae family of flowering plants. It is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies on the market. Its benefits are strongly related to the ability to clear obstructions and aid the liver in detoxification, acid indigestion and blood purification. The roots have been used in the treatment of the spleen, kidneys, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and  intestines (Tierra, 1998).

The leaves nicely blend with salads and do well either sautéed or steamed. Many claim the taste and properties are similar to that of endive (Cichorium intybuds). Dandelions leaves are actually extremely nutritious, higher in bets carotene than carrots, and more iron and calcium than spinach. Dandelion leaves are also full of vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, D, E, P, biotin, inositol, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Traditionally, dandelion has been made into a tonic that is known for strengthening the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder because it promotes the flow of bile. Dandelion root contains taraxacin so it reduces the inflammation to the bile ducts and reduces gallstones. It is commonly used for hepatitis, liver swelling, and jaundice.

Also known in France as dent de lion or “lion’s tooth”, its leaves or the root has a tendency to act as a diuretic on the kidneys. Unlike many common diuretics, dandelion does not remove potassium from the body.

Dandelion root tea has helped some actually avoid surgery for urinary stones, and good for the overall health and well being. Many herbalists claim that incorporating dandelion into meals assists in digestion.

The milky white substance inside the dandelion, is great for skin disorders, rash, eczema, bee sting’s itch, psoriasis, acne, warts, pimples, moles, calluses, and blisters (Mowrey, 1994, p.247).

Dandelion has been popular in the past for making dandelion jam, dandelion wine and as a coffee substitute. Today, people around the world use dandelion plant to make herbal medicines for fluid retention, cystitis, nephritis, weight loss, and to produce positive benefits for the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, and the stomach.


Mowrey, D. (1994). The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc.

Tierra, M. (1998). The way of the herbs. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

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Quote: Selfishness and Self-fullness



Originally posted 2012-02-21 09:29:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Quote: Tzu on truth


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Quote: Juncker on european commission

juncker quote

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