3 Summer Season and Camping Items That May Contribute to Your Allergy Misery

Three everyday items that many of us use when we go camping, or throughout the summer season, that we would never suspect might be causing or contributing to allergies are:

1. Suntan products: Lotions, Oils, or Sprays
2. Bug Sprays or Repellants
3. Antibacterial Soaps or Hand Sanitizers

Most suntan products are made with chemical sunscreens, many of which have been found to be unsafe or even carcinogenic, and there is continuing debate as to their actual effectiveness in providing adequate protection from the damaging effects of over exposure to the sun. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I’ve blogged extensively over the past few years on various aspects of this topic. While not much has changed over the years, there is some momentum building around the need to innovate and find safer sunscreen ingredients.

This may well be a hidden source of allergy trouble. Until we see some real change and innovation in this arena your best tactic for choosing sun care products that won’t cause more trouble than they are worth is to eliminate commonly used sunscreen chemicals like Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, and Octocrylene in favor of sunblock products made with naturally occurring minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide. These mineral sunblock products stay on the surface of the skin and reflect sunlight instead of being absorbed into the skin, so they are safer and more effective. And if you use suntan oils stay away from Mineral Oil – a petroleum derivative that has been found to be an endocrine disruptor– and instead, choose a healthy fat like virgin Coconut Oil, which is totally safe and also an excellent skin care oil.

When it comes to bug sprays, there are not a lot of options out there to choose from and unfortunately most commercial bug sprays only disclose the active ingredient so you have no idea what else is in the product that could be creating additional problems. As much as humanly possible you should avoid DEET, which is a highly toxic substance. And because most of the time it comes in a spray form you end up inhaling that substance as well! Don’t be fooled by scent. Just because it doesn’t smell bad doesn’t mean it isn’t bad for you!

Instead opt-in for products made with 100% pure essential oils like Citronella, Lemongrass and Geranium, which are just a few of the many essential oils that are effective bug repellants. These are natural substances that your body can easily metabolize and eliminate so again, there’s no fear of chemical residue being left behind.

Last but not least, when it comes to antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers avoid products made with Triclosan! This ingredient is a derivative of Agent Orange and is considered highly toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Product manufacturers would have you believe that because it’s used in diluted amounts it’s ok but it’s NOT! This ingredient is not only harmful to you it’s very harmful to the environment too.

Choose products made with Tea Tree and Lavender essential oils –both are very effective antibacterial agents without the toxic effects. For hand sanitizers look for products with these oils in a base of Aloe Vera, Vegetable Glycerin or Ethanol. For soaps stick to liquid castile soaps made with essential oils.

One last note on this . . . you may be allergic to certain plants and herbs, which would make it difficult or even impossible to use products with the specific essential oils I mentioned above. Don’t let that discourage you. There are a wide variety of essential oils with therapeutic benefits to choose from and being sensitive to one in no way means you will be sensitive to others.

Look and Feel Your Best Without Compromising Your Baby’s Health

Hope you’ve been enjoying all the insight and wisdom that’s being shared on these Tele-Summit calls. This evening is our 4th call in the series: “Look and Feel Your Best Without Compromising Your Baby’s Health.” I’ll be the resident expert for today’s session and I’ll be talking about something very important –-the hidden health threats to your baby from the personal care and beauty products you use! Some of the things I’ll cover on tonight’s session:

  • Startling new research about ingredients in mass-produced personal care products that may pre-dispose your baby to obesity (among other serious health problems!)

  • The top 10 ingredients you MUST avoid to keep you and your baby safe and how you can find out if the products you’re using right now may contain them

  • Using Mother Nature’s Rx: Essential Oils to safely address some of the most common pregnancy-related complaints

Much of what I’ll be sharing on tonight’s call applies to you whether you are pregnant or not, but becomes even more important when you are or planning to be. There’s no better time than now to take inventory of the products you currently use and toss the ones that are bad for you. Come join me and learn how to become a more conscious consumer so you can stop exposing your baby to hidden threats from toxic exposure while learning how to identify and choose safer, more effective natural alternatives.

We’re going LIVE at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern. Don’t miss this very important call!

If you’re pregnant now, are planning to become pregnant, work with pregnant women and want to better support them through this journey, or know anyone who fits any of these criteria, please share this with them and encourage them to register at: http://www.dropwise.info. It’s FREE!

Aromatherapy in the Kitchen: Cooking with Essential Oils for Culinary Pleasure

Essential oils with their therapeutic properties, have been used historically in rituals, for beautification, and as medicine for hundreds of years. While many people now consciously turn to aromatherapy as an alternative healing modality to help them manage their stress or just as a gentler, safer alternative to over-the-counter medicines, most people have unconsciously experienced essential oils and their beneficial properties in one form or another without even being aware of it. That’s because essential oils, the purest and most potent form of plant extracts available, have been widely used by the food and fragrance industries almost since their inception.

From spearmint, peppermint, or cinnamon flavored gums and candy, to teas and flavored waters and soda pop, there’s a pretty good chance that an essential oil was incorporated into the product. A quick glance at the spice rack in your kitchen reveals herbs and spices commonly used in cooking that are also available as essential oils.

If you like aromatherapy and you like to cook, there’s almost no limit to the endless culinary creations you can up with when combining the two together. Whether its sweet or savory you fancy, essential oils can add deep and vibrant flavors to your food and beverages in a way that working with dried and powdered herbs and spices can’t. Needless to say, because essential oils are so concentrated and potent, you only ever need add a tiny amount to your soups, marinades, salad dressings, dessert toppings or baked goods to make them and your taste buds sing!

So how can you begin to master the art of working with essential oils in a culinary mode and transform your kitchen into an aromatic oasis of sensual delights? Well, let’s start by categorizing essential oils to simplify your understanding of what foods you can match them up with. Once you get comfortable with the basics then you can start to stretch out a little and mix things up just for the fun of it.

Essential oils can be loosely organized into four main categories: herbs, spices, citrus fruits, and flowers. Examples of essential oils that correlate to herbs include basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram and sage, while spices would include black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, cumin or clove bud. Citrus fruits consist of orange, mandarin, tangerine, lemon, lime, grapefruit, bergamot (which is used to scent Earl Grey tea), and lemon verbena. Flowers would naturally include lavender, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, geranium and neroli (orange blossoms) but not flowers like gardenias, lilacs, or plumeria for which no essential oils exist.

Knowing which essential oils fall into which categories can help you decide the ones to use for savory dishes versus desserts and sweets especially if you’re just getting started or are not quite ready to be super adventurous. Keep in mind, too much of a strong essential oil like ginger, oregano, cinnamon or peppermint can quickly overpower a dish and even ruin it, so it’s best to start out with very small amounts until you get a good feeling for how much is just right for the intensity of flavor you’re seeking. Some oils, like citrus fruits tend to be light and somewhat volatile so you would likely use a little more of these –especially if you’re using them in dishes requiring heat to prepare.

Essential oils that fall into the herbs category are great for meats, poultry, some fish, savory soups, sauces, casseroles and baked goods. Citrus oils are lighter so they are great in marinades for fish and poultry, dressings for salads and steamed vegetables, and in beverages and desserts. Flower oils are usually best in baked goods, desserts and sweets though some can add surprisingly good flavor to vegetables and cheeses (this is where a sense of adventure can come in handy). Essential oils that fall into the spices category are a mixed bag as most can be used for either sweet or savory dishes depending on your personal preference.

Check back over the coming weeks for blending guidelines, recipes, and additional tips. If you’re already an old hand at this then post some of your favorite recipes or culinary tips in the comments section below.

Essential Oils: Meet the “New” Antibiotics

The self-perpetuating cycle of resistance caused by over-use of antibiotics can leave us feeling sort of hopeless -after all what other options are we being offered by the medical community? But its not all bad news … science (and even the medical community) is beginning to recognize that we’ve gone too far with antibiotics and is looking at the use of gentler, safer plant-based alternatives.

Tea Tree essential oil, with its strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, has shown promise in a number of different studies as a safe and effective way of killing “bad” bacteria without destroying the “good.” It is widely used in Australia (where it grows in abundance) to successfully treat conditions like yeast infections and Athlete’s Foot.

In his book “Life Helping Life: Unleash Your Mind/Body Potential with Essential Oils,” Dr. Daniel Penoel, a renowned expert in medical aromatherapy, points out that Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has great potential as an antibacterial agent, but its different from conventional antibiotics in that it attacks only destructive bacteria. It was “created from life to help life,” so it knows what to do.

And there are some other essential oils that show promise in the treatment of bacterial infections. As Penoel points out in his book, essential oils like Thyme, Oregano, Clove Bud and even Cinnamon Bark that are rich in phenols, are powerful anti-infectants, but must be used with care because their prolonged use can place a heavy burden on your liver. He believes that alcohols (essential oils rich in monoterpenols) are the most important oils for our long term health and vitality because they work in a way that’s balanced, gentle and harmonious not just on individual organs but on the immune system as a whole.

A number of essential oils with anti-viral properties have also been identified as strong immune system defenders and can be combined synergistically for use as a preventative against various infections.

To put things in perspective, studying the use of essential oils in the treatment of illness and disease is a required part of the curriculum at medical schools in France, indicating their validity as a legitimate alternative.

Aromatherapy Tips for Using Essential Oils to Cure Insomnia

Now that you know which essential oils are best for helping you get to sleep and stay asleep, the next question is what’s the best way to use these oils? Well there are a couple of ways you can do this. As with any type of aromatherapy, the two primary ways to use essential oils are via direct inhalation and topical application (usually massage).

When it comes to using aromatherapy for stress and sleeplessness, the most effective way to use the essential oils is via inhalation using some kind of diffuser. Place 5-15 drops of your preferred essential oil or “sleep” blend in a diffuser and run it in your bedroom for 15 minutes before retiring. If you have a nebulizing diffuser with a built-in timer you can set it to run for 5 minutes every hour through the night but the drawback of this type of diffuser is it can be noisy which is not conducive to helping you get to sleep!

Another type of diffuser is the fan-based type like our SpaScenter Diffuser, which is a low-noise unit with variable settings that can be hooked up to a timer. Or for a totally silent diffuser, you can use a low-heat plug-in like our ScentBall Plug-in Diffuser that can be safely left on all night.

You can also add a few drops of an essential oil or your “sleep” blend to a cup of Epsom salts or baking soda and add to a hot bath before bed. In the absence of an aromatherapy massage, a hot bath with Epsom Salts is recommended because it relieves muscle tension that can otherwise lead to a lot of tossing and turning during the night. With the essential oils added to the mix you can get the same inhalation benefit you’d get from a diffuser without the hassle and potential noise of running one through out the night.

Of course, if you’re prone to waking up in the middle of the night then having a diffuser running intermittently throughout the night is probably your best bet. If you don’t have a diffuser then a really easy alternative is to place a drop or two on a handkerchief or cotton pad that you place under your pillow, or dilute approximately 15 drops of essential oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil (either jojoba, olive, safflower, coconut, or even canola will work) and rub a small amount onto your chest where you’ll be able to inhale and smell the blend. Before applying essential oils to your skin, be sure to conduct a patch test first to make sure you’re not allergic to any of them.

Always remember not to overdo it with essential oils – a little goes a long way. Too much can have the opposite effect of the intended result. Refer to our Guidelines for Using Essential Oils for more on this.

Gifts of Love for Couples to Celebrate Valentine’s Day: Staying In vs. Going Out?

Going out to a nice restaurant for Valentine’s is a great gift if you don’t have the opportunity to do this very often, or you’re feeling so cooped up that you need to get out of the house to enjoy yourself. On the other hand there are many ways you can celebrate this occasion by staying in.

Below are some ideas for ways couples can celebrate the day in a way that focuses on nurturing each other rather than succumbing to the old standby clichéd way of giving each other store bought gifts and (ho hum!) “dates.”

Why not try a variation on the old breakfast in bed? Rather than one of you making breakfast for the other, why not prepare a nice breakfast or brunch together then retreat to the bedroom to eat it in bed. Plan it all the night before and don’t make any other plans for the day. Just enjoy a lazy day at home sharing favorite moments from your relationship or what you adore about each other.

If you want to spice things up and do something to commemorate the occasion, swing for a set of satin or high thread-count organic cotton sheets and add some of the traditional accouterments –scented candles, dark chocolates to nibble on, a bottle of champagne (for mimosas) and roses or other flower petals strewn around the room. Try an aromatherapy massage followed by a hot bath with mineral salts. Or curl up together with lots of soft cushy pillows, some hot cocoa, and your favorite movie or a new one you’d both like to see.

If lazing around all day doesn’t suit your style then why not work on a project together that celebrates your love for one another? Consider creating a scrapbook or collage that chronicles the highlights of your relationship. Collect everything you think should be included: photos, ticket stubs, matchbooks, souvenirs and other meaningful memorabilia. Start from the beginning, group and arrange related items you want to include and as you add them into your book, write the narrative together. If you have different memories of an event or occasion then each one can write down their version – like an entry in a guestbook. The experience of putting this together helps you appreciate each other and your relationship and you can re-visit the scrapbook whenever you like (maybe make it an annual Valentine’s Day ritual) and update it with new insights or adventures you’ve shared and would like to record. Or you can create mini-scrapbooks that are specific to events (vacations or celebrations), or different periods in your relationship.

Another variation on this theme is creating a vision board for your future together. This can involve using photos you have or photos you collect from a variety of sources with images that symbolically represent things you want to do, places you want to go, goals you want to achieve, possessions you want to acquire (a new car, vacation home, RV, kitchen, swimming pool or Jacuzzi, etc.). Include graphical text headings from magazines or newspapers that communicate the substance of what you want to accomplish and how you want to feel when you get there. This can be a powerful bonding experience and an affirmation of your plans moving forward as a couple –one that energizes you rather than draining you. The other benefit is that you can do these activities regardless of the weather, which can be somewhat unpredictable at this time of the year.

For some simple sensuous essential oil blends you can to create the right ambiance for love try these combinations:

Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage
Lavender, Sandalwood, Vanilla
Lime, Geranium, Cypress
Orange, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine
Grapefruit, Bergamot, Rosewood
Lime, Vetiver, Coriander

Combine 2-3 drops of each and add to an aromatherapy candle-based diffuser (in some water to prevent burning the olls) or to a tablespoon of jojoba or coconut oil for massage; or a cup of epsom salts or baking soda for a bath. Our Certified Organic Body Oils work great for massages too and they’re $5 off this month. You can buy them here.

For more ideas and recipes for using essential oils to create a mood for love, pick up a copy of Nitya Lacroix’s book The Art of Sensual Aromatherapy: A Lover’s Guide to Using Aromatic Oils & Essences.

Aromatherapy for Travel: 4 Key Essential Oils to Tackle Travel Stress & Upsets

Summer’s here and for most people that means it’s vacation travel season. Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, going on a long trip or a weekend getaway, no matter what time of the year it is, it helps to be prepared for some of the unexpected upsets and minor ailments that can sometimes mar a perfectly good vacation.

The biggest of these is probably the stress that simply comes with travel — delayed, canceled, or missed flights, lost luggage or misplaced documents, a flat tire or other major car trouble, motion sickness, jet lag, and various camping-related mishaps.

Then there are the more common culprits like colds and allergies, upset stomach or digestive stress, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, minor cuts and bruises, blistered feet, rashes or hives, chafing, and sun burn.

There are a number of surprisingly simple ways you can use essential oils, alone or combined with other plant-based ingredients, to address these problems head on and avoid the kind of misery that can make you wish you’d stayed home.

1. Colds, Allergies and Sinus Congestion
With plants, flowers, and grasses in full bloom, pollen is everywhere making summertime synonymous with allergies. Then there’s the congestion that accompanies minor colds you can pick up from air-borne bacteria on planes, trains, and buses, not to mention airports and climate-controlled hotels. To minimize the likelihood of picking up someone else’s cold, wash hands frequently with soap and keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer (preferably one made with essential oils) with you for when you can’t.

To ease congestion, Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil is your best option. It is the gentlest and safest of the various types of Eucalyptus available and can be applied frequently without irritation. For a more powerful decongestant, try our Breathe Ease Diffuser Blend (see our Guide to Diffuser Blends for ingredients and suggested uses). In extreme cases, a trace amount of Peppermint essential oil applied to the back of the roof of your mouth can bring fast and effective relief.

2. Upset Stomach or Digestive Stress
There are several essential oils that can assist with stomach upset and indigestion including Sweet Fennel, Ginger, Lemon, Peppermint, and Tea Tree. For relief from minor nausea and indigestion, place 1 drop of peppermint and 2 drops of sweet fennel in 24 oz of purified water. This also makes a cool, refreshing drink that you can use in place of plain drinking water. For stronger, faster relief of indigestion or nausea, add a drop of peppermint or ginger to a teaspoon of honey and place in a cup of hot water or herbal tea (Chamomile, Ginger, or Licorice Root tea will increase the effectiveness). For fast relief from diarrhea, add one drop of tea tree oil to a cup of chamomile or peppermint tea (or hot water if no tea is available but be prepared for the unpleasant taste). Repeat until discomfort subsides.

3. Headaches and/or Insomnia
Lavender essential oil is a remarkably effective antidote to minor headaches and accompanying muscle tension, and can provide a sense of calm when you have difficulty sleeping in a strange or uncomfortable place. For relief from migraine headaches try our Head Ache Blend, which combines lavender with peppermint (a cooling analgesic), marjoram (a sedative and muscle relaxant), basil, and chamomile, and comes already diluted in Jojoba oil for direct application to the affected areas (temples, forehead, brows and neck muscles). For insomnia, try our Sleep Ease Diffuser Blend, which combines lavender, tangerine, marjoram, spruce, and petitgrain.

With the exceptions of lavender and tea tree, undiluted essential oils should be used with a portable diffuser. If you’re camping or somewhere where you can’t use a diffuser, put a drop or two on a handkerchief or bandanna and wrap around your head or tuck under your pillow and breathe in the vapors. Don’t over-use.

4. Fatigue
Jet lag, stress, long drives, and extended sight seeing excursions (especially on foot) can lead to exhaustion and fatigue. The best way to deal with this is to pace yourself, try not to cram your schedule with more activities than you can realistically handle, eat a good amount of protein (preferably at breakfast), and always stay hydrated. Essential oils that can help are Eucalyptus (mental clarity) and Peppermint (stimulant) or try our Stay Alert Diffuser Blend, which includes both along with Rosemary, Cinnamon Leaf, Orange, and Cedar wood. Use this with a Car Scenter diffuser to help you stay awake during long drives. To relieve tired and achy feet, put a drop in a tepid foot bath, or several drops in a tablespoon of carrier oil for a stimulating foot massage.

5. Minor Cuts, Scrapes and Other Skin Eruptions
Minor wounds (i.e. splinters, hang nails, insect bites, blisters, cuts, scrapes and burns) need to be disinfected and treated immediately or they can lead to painful inflammation and a variety of uncomfortable skin eruptions. This is when Tea Tree oil can become a reliable and trusty friend! It kills bacteria, cleanses wounds, and promotes speedy healing. Like Lavender, it can be applied “neat” (directly) to the skin. Think of it as an invisible liquid band aid. Our Boo Boo Blend, which combines tea tree with lavender, geranium, and chamomile (anti-inflammatory) is an excellent choice as well. For sunburn relief combine 1 teaspoon of Lavender or Boo Boo blend with 4 oz of aloe vera juice and store in a spritzer bottle. Substitute 1 oz of peppermint hydrosol for the aloe juice to enhance the cooling effect. Shake well and spray liberally –as often as needed to reduce pain and speed healing.

To summarize, the four key essential oils you need in your travel kit are: Peppermint (headaches, fatigue, indigestion, and congestion), Eucalyptus (congestion and fatigue), Tea Tree (diarrhea, cuts and wounds, disinfectant), and Lavender (headaches, skin eruptions and burns, stress, muscle tension, insomnia).

Aromatherapy Travel Essentials Checklist: What Essential Oils & Accessories Do You Need to Keep Travel Stress & Upsets at Bay?

June marks the beginning of the summer vacation travel season. Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, going on a long trip or a weekend getaway, no matter what time of the year it is, it helps to be prepared for some of the unexpected upsets and minor ailments that can ruin a perfectly good vacation.

Here’s a checklist of essential oils, herbal remedies, and accessories to put in your travel kit to help you tackle the stress inherent in travel as well as some of the common ailments that can come up while travelling:

___ 6 Essential Oils You Should Never Leave Home Without: Eucalyptus, Geranium, Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, and Tea Tree.

___ 8 oz of Carrier Oil of choice, to dilute essential oils for topical application (i.e. Jojoba, Olive, Safflower, Sunflower or Coconut). I recommend organic Jojoba oil because it can double up as a sun tanning oil or moisturizer, absorbs quickly, and is not as messy as the others.

___ 8 oz of Witch Hazel Extract.  In addition to being an excellent natural skin toner, this herbal extract can reduce inflammation and pain from bruises, sore muscles, and insect bites. It can also be used as a carrier. Mix in Peppermint and Lemon (2% dilution) for cooling relief from insect bites, or Lavender and Rosemary for sore aching muscles.

___ 8 oz of Aloe Vera Gel or Juice. Can be used alone or with essential oils for fast cooling relief from sunburn or insect bites. Make sure you get an aloe product that is at least 97% aloe for maximum effectiveness.

___ Small Aromatherapy Soy Candle. Get one in a travel tin. Use it to help cleanse the air or create an ambience of tranquility in a hotel room or other location where you are staying. I recommend our 4 oz. Revitalize candle with it’s blend of Lemon, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Pine, and Juniper to help clear your mind as well as the air, wherever you are. Skip this if you’re travelling in exceptionally hot weather conditions unless you keep it sealed in a Ziploc bag.

___ Scent Ball or Car Scenter portable diffuser. If you’re staying somewhere with access to electricity then a Scent Ball diffuser is another easy, quiet, and non-messy way to cleanse the air in a room. If you’re going on a road trip then the Car Scenter diffuser will keep the car smelling fresh and can be used with a variety of essential oils or blends to help keep you focused on driving. For this I recommend our Stay Alert Diffuser Blend with its stimulating blend of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Orange, and Cinnamon Leaf. Make sure to bring enough refill pads for the trip!

___ 8 oz jar of Shea Butter. A wonderful emollient that’s great for those dry cracked elbows and ankles, or chafed thighs. It can also be used as a carrier and a moisturizer, and is great for massage –providing nice lubrication without leaving a greasy or oily residue. It melts in high temperatures, but will stiffen and should return to it’s normal texture as the temperature cools off. I recommend making an infusion of chickweed and calendula flowers and then you’ll have an excellent balm for itchy skin.

___ Aromatherapy Misters. I personally never travel without at least one in my carry-on and a couple in my suitcase.  You can make your own by combining 2ML (or ½ tsp) of essential oil (or blend) with 3 oz of purified water. Always shake well before spraying to ensure oils and water are properly mixed. If you prefer a ready-made mister, I recommend our Soothe blend for carry-on. It’s blend of Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage and Chamomile essential oils can really help to calm and ground you when you’re dealing with travel stress. Inspiration (a citrus blend) or Refresh (a mint blend) can revive you after a long flight or drive and Revitalize is excellent for cleansing the air and clearing your head.

___ Assortment of Herbal Tea Bags. I recommend a combination of Peppermint, Chamomile, Ginger, and Licorice to assist with digestive upset or stress (1 drop of Tea Tree oil in a cup of hot tea can bring fast relief from Diarrhea). Herbal teas with Elderberry, Echinacea, Hibiscus, Rose Hips, and Goldenseal can provide support and relief for colds and bronchial distress.

___ Rescue Remedy. This Bach’s flower essence is a must have for any natural first aid or travel kit. Use it for instant relief in cases of acute anxiety or trauma. It really works!

Additional Supplies:

__ Cotton swabs and cotton cosmetic squares.
__ Handkerchiefs or bandannas
__ Measuring spoons (1 tsp and 1 tbsp)
__ A small marked measuring beaker or shot glass
__ Empty jars and bottles with spray tops and disc caps or flip tops, for mixing up concoctions as needed.
__ A small bottle of isopropyl alcohol for disinfecting or sterilizing your supplies.
__ Extra Ziploc bags

Keeping the Air Clean: Are Your Candles Doing More Harm Than Good?

Before the advent of electricity, candles were used primarily for illumination. Light served as a symbol of the good and the beautiful  –especially in times of emotional and spiritual darkness– and the way in which human beings relate to light is emotional, almost sensual.

Today, candles are used mainly for their aesthetic value and scent, to set a soft, warm, or romantic ambiance, and for emergency lighting during electrical power failures.  Scented candles are often used as a vehicle for aromatherapy.

No matter how you slice it, candles are BIG business. Here are some interesting and “illuminating” statistics:

  • Candles are used in 7 out of 10 U.S. households.
  • A majority of consumers burn candles 1-3 times per week with half of these consumers burning 1-2 candles at a time
  • In 2006, the U.S. market for candles was estimated at $2.3 billion
  • 96% of all candles purchased are bought by women

The prevalence of candles in our homes is evident. The real question is how much do you know about the type of candles you’re buying and their potential impact on the quality of indoor air in your home?

Lead Wicks Can Lead to Trouble

According to a study conducted about 8 years ago by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40% of candles on the market still contained lead wires inside their wicks. This is a startling statistic in light of the fact that the U.S. candle manufacturing industry voluntarily agreed to cease production of lead-containing candles in 1974, once it was shown that burning lead-wick candles resulted in increased lead concentration in indoor air.

A candle with a lead-core wick has been shown to release five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air.

Lead, along with other metals like Zinc, is used to stiffen the wicks of candles so they remain straight when the surrounding wax begins to melt. The metal prevents the wick from falling over and extinguishing itself as soon as the wax no longer supports it.  Although Zinc is considered to be far less toxic than lead, very little is known about the long-term effects of breathing zinc in the form of dust or fumes released from burning it.

The Soot That’s All Around

Another problem inherent in burning candles with lead wicks (especially those made with paraffin wax -a petroleum by-product) is a phenomenon called Black Soot Deposition. It’s now believed that frequent candle-burning is one of the sources of black soot in the home. The amount of soot produced can vary greatly from candle to candle. One type of candle can produce as much as 100 times more soot than another type. The type of soot may also vary. Though primarily composed of elemental carbon, candle soot may include phthalates, lead, and other toxic ingredients such as benzene and tuolene.

When soot is airborne, it can be inhaled. The particles can potentially penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs and the lower respiratory tract causing respiratory problems and aggravating existing asthma, lung, or heart conditions.

If left unchecked, soot from regular burning of paraffin candles can also cause significant damage to the inside of your house, your computers, electrical appliances, and ductwork.

Synthetically scented candles are believed to be a major source of soot because the chemicals used in “fragrance” oils tend to soften the wax, increasing the need to add metals to the wicks to stiffen them. They are also likely the main source of phthalates in soot.

The Good News …

The good news is there are ways to enjoy burning candles without routinely exposing yourself to harmful toxins. Here’s how you can avoid the problem:

1. Ensure any new candles you buy don’t have lead in the wicks. Look for “lead-free” or “coreless clean-burning” labels on them.  If you’re not sure, you can perform a simple test by rubbing the tip of the wick on a piece of paper. If it leaves a gray mark like a pencil, the wick contains lead

2. Buy candles made with 100% Beeswax or 100% Vegetable Wax. Because these waxes are more expensive, a lot of manufacturers tend to blend them with paraffin. Avoid blended wax candles. Look for labels indicating they are 100% pure

3. To reduce soot no matter what kind of candles you burn, keep wicks trimmed and don’t burn candles near a draft

4. For aromatherapy candles, buy candles scented with only pure essential oils. Soy candles are best for this purpose as they are clean, slow-burning, and long-lasting with superior scent throw (dispersion). Soy candles in containers can also be melted if placed on an electric warming plate. This eliminates the soot generating combustion that comes from directly burning wicks and enables sufficient release of the aromas.

How to Select the Right Type of Essential Oil Diffuser for Your Needs

Diffusers are the most effective way to experience the benefits of essential oils and essential oil blends via inhalation. A diffuser fragrances the air and is excellent for scenting a room to enhance mood, aid in respiration, or eliminate odors or airborne bacteria and viruses.

1.  Light Bulb Rings

This method involves placing a few drops of essential oil on either a ceramic or metal ring that is then placed over an incandescent light bulb and uses the heat from the light bulb to activate the essential oils and release their aromas into the air. This type of diffuser is inexpensive, ranging in price from $5 – $15, but it uses direct heat which when applied to certain oils (like citrus essential oils), will burn off their more volatile components and make them evaporate quickly, requiring frequent re-application to maintain the desired scent. It also tends to diminish their therapeutic value — not to mention increase the risk of getting burned or possibly starting a fire.

2.  Candle-Based Diffusers or Aroma Lamps

A candle-based diffuser like a potpourri burner or aroma lamp is another heat-based method of diffusion. They typically range in price from $10 – $25. If used in the same manner as the light bulb ring (i.e. oils are placed in the burner and exposed to direct heat) then the results are similar. You can mitigate some of these effects by adding water to the bowl or dish first, then a few drops of essential oil to the water before lighting the tea light. When the water is sufficiently heated the scent will be released through the steam rising off the top. This is a gentler way to heat essential oils without destroying some of their beneficial properties. The down side with this method is that the scent will not travel far so you need to be close to the diffuser to enjoy the scent and will need to re-apply oils frequently if using over a longer stretch of time.

3.  Electric Heat-Based Diffusers

The most common versions of this type of diffuser are the Scent Ball and Car Scenter. Both use a small square cotton pad that is saturated with the essential oils then placed in the diffuser where it comes in direct contact with a ceramic or metal plate. The diffuser is plugged into a wall outlet or a car lighter well and uses AC to lightly heat the pad, slowly releasing the scent. These diffusers can effectively scent a small space with continuous diffusion (up to 3 hours per application). You can control the intensity by how much essential oil you apply to the pad and refresh as needed or desired. They cost between $10 and $15, but replacement pads can sometimes be difficult to find.

4.  Fan-Based Electric Diffusers

Fan-based electric diffusers like the Spa Scenter are an excellent way to quickly or continuously fragrance a larger space. Like the Scent Ball and Car Scenter, they also use cotton pads though round and larger. Essential oils are applied to the cotton pad in varying amounts depending on desired strength of the scent, but instead of using heat to release the scent, the pad is placed over a variable speed fan that blows cool air through the pad and out of the unit. These units run somewhere in the $30 to $50 range and are relatively quiet making them the perfect choice for creating a home spa environment. They can be connected to a timer for more efficient unsupervised use.

5.  Nebulizing Diffusers

By far the most effective and expensive diffusers you can use. They consist of a hand-blown glass nebulizer that’s attached to a motorized base which when plugged in forces the essential oils’ aromatic molecules into the air in a fine, barely discernible jet stream. Since no heat is involved in the process the aromatic components of the oils remain unaltered providing maximum therapeutic value. This type of diffuser tends to cover large areas quickly and can be a little noisy. Still they’re the best to use for eliminating airborne bacteria and viruses. They’re also highly effective for odor elimination, managing allergy symptoms like congestion, or easing insomnia and anxiety. Prices range from $50 to $150 depending on features desired.

For a list of quality diffusers please visit http://www.dropwise.com/catalog/aromatherapy-diffusers.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

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Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.