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.

The Best Essential Oils for Relieving Stress and Insomnia

Essential oils can play a valuable role in managing or relieving your stress and can help you induce a state of calm for a restful sleep. The trick is to find the right combination of oils that resonate with you, and then the best way or ways to use them for maximum benefit.

Let’s start by look at which essential oils have calming, soothing, and sedative properties that can be used alone or combined for even greater impact. Of course the first ones that immediately come to mind are Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Clary Sage, Cedarwood and Sandalwood.

Next up are citrus essential oils like Sweet Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Mandarin, and Lime. While these oils are generally stimulating and uplifting, when used in small quantities and properly combined with other essential oils, they can do wonders for your state of mind, and state of mind is really what it’s all about when it comes to relaxing and falling asleep!

Other essential oils that are also useful in this area are Marjoram (Sweet or Spanish), which is a muscle relaxant, Fir Balsam, Spruce, Peru Balsam, and Melissa, all of which calm and balance the nervous system and assist with opening your breathing passages – enabling deeper breathing. And last but not least, Frankincense & Myrrh, which are often used to assist with meditation.

That’s a lot of essential oils I just listed! The key is to find three to five oils that work together and create a blend. If you’re not that into experimenting or don’t have access to a wide selection of essential oils, then start with individual notes and see how each makes you feel. Keep a notebook handy and record which ones and how much they helped. Then after you’ve identified a handful of oils that seem to work on their own, you can try combining them. Of course you can always try our Sleep Ease Diffuser Blend, which combines Tangerine, Lavender, Pine, Marjoram, Fir Balsam and Petitgrain, as a starting point.

The Psychology of Scent: Remarkable Research Findings!

Here’s a brief summary of the most interesting findings from the dozens and dozens of studies conducted by these and other institutions on the effects of olfaction (smell) on a variety of human behaviors including learning, memorization and buying patterns:

  1. Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago discovered that people will judge a product a better value when bought from a shop where there is a pleasant aroma.
  2. In another study by Dr. Hirsch, he found that when a mixed floral aroma was suffused throughout a room of calculus students, they increased their speed of learning by 230%.
  3. One study conducted at the Las Vegas Hilton revealed that a certain aroma that was diffused around the slot machines in the casino resulted in an increase in the length of time gamblers spent at the machines as well as a 45% increase in the amount of cash they spent.
  4. Psychology professor Robert A. Baron at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY found that people in pleasantly scented rooms carry out their work with more confidence, more efficiency, and with greater willingness to resolve conflict. Clerical workers in one of his studies set higher performance goals for themselves while working in scented offices.
  5. At the Worcester Hospital in Hereford, England, a 6-month trial showed that vaporizing lavender through the air caused patients to sleep in a more natural pattern and made them less aggressive during the day. Over the 6 months, some patients were weaned off their tranquilizers simply by substituting lavender in the atmosphere, which has a calming effect on the brain.
  6. In Japan, the fragrance company Takasago (now a subsidiary of Avon) has shown that data entry errors fell by 20% when lavender was diffused in the atmosphere, by 33% with jasmine, and 54% with lemon. Furthermore, by changing the aromas around periodically, workers sensitivity to smell and their efficiency could be maintained.
  7. When students at Warwick University in England were told they performed poorly on a simple test they had taken while smelling a particular odor, they became depressed the next time they smelled that odor. Those who had been told they were successful had the opposite reaction: their self-confidence was boosted.
  8. A study at Wheeling Jesuit University, in Wheeling, West Virginia, found that subjects who inhaled the scent of peppermint while running for 15 minutes felt less fatigued, more energized, and more positive about their performance than those who didn’t inhale the scent. They were also more likely to run faster during those fifteen minutes.
  9. According to a report in the journal Chemical Senses, women out-performed men when asked to identify a given smell from a group of four scents 10, 30 or 60 seconds after sniffing the original scent.
  10. Sex and scent are so closely intertwined that as much as 25% of people who lose their sense of smell, also lose their ability to become sexually aroused.

The implications of these findings are astonishing. There have even been studies that suggest that adding certain scents to food can aid in weight loss, and sniffing lavender can significantly increase slow-wave sleep – the deepest, most restorative stage of sleep.

While scientists continue to try to understand all the elements at play in olfaction and how scents that exist in nature differ from those made from synthetic chemicals, knowing what we now know about what the nose knows, how will you re-evaluate and tend to your relationship with this vital organ?

The Secret Language of Scents: How You’re Influenced by The Smells All Around

Most people are totally unaware of the impact that smells can have on their mood, ability to learn, stamina, perception of themselves and others, and ultimately, their behavior and motivation. In fact, when given a choice between losing a big toe or their sense of smell, people are far more ambivalent than they are when given a choice between losing a big toe or their sense of sight!

Our sense of smell is the strongest of all human senses and the closest sense linked to memory and emotion. Every day we encounter aromas (pleasant and unpleasant) that have a powerful influence on our emotions, moods, and behavior. Until the 1990s, very little was known about the sense of smell or even the human brain, but now science recognizes that the sense of smell is a major key to understanding who we are as individuals and as human beings.

While we know that humans can distinguish between as many as 10,000 different aromas, there’s still much to learn about how the brain actually translates aroma molecules into smells and why we react differently to the same smells. What we do know is that through our sense of smell, aroma molecules set off a cascade of reactions involving proteins, enzymes, cell depolarization, and secondary messengers – all leading to an electrical impulse being sent to the brain.

The part of the brain most directly involved in olfaction (our ability to smell) is the limbic system, evolutionarily the oldest part of the brain (sometimes referred to as the “reptilian” brain). The limbic system controls emotions, memory and learning, imagination, intuition, and sexuality, as well as primitive drives and survival instincts. With olfaction these can all be evoked – even subconsciously.

Most of the research currently being done on smell is by people who want to bombard you with it for commercial reasons. In labs, subjects are exposed to fragrance and wired up to equipment that measure electrical skin response, skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. Pictures of the brain can be seen changing under the influence of aroma.
Research into the psychological effects of aroma now attracts major funding. There are 4 major research institutions: The Olfactory Research Fund (NYC), the Monell Chemical Senses Center (Philadelphia, PA), the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation Ltd (Chicago, IL) and the Olfaction Research Department of Warwick University (UK). There are also a number of private companies engaged in ongoing research for commercial purposes, most notable is International Flavor & Fragrances (IFF) which serves the perfume and food industries.

How conscious are you of the scents in the your environment and how they might be affecting your mood? Have you really considered how the scents you wear may be impacting others around you?

Tip #7 for Beating the Holiday Blues: Surround yourself with uplifting and nurturing sounds and smells

Two of the fastest ways to raise your vibrational frequency (which is low when you’re sick or stressed out) are listening to music and using essential oils. Listen to music that you love or that soothes you as often as possible. As for essential oils, citrus oils are the most effective for alleviating depression and improving your mood, especially grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and lime (oils typically extracted from the rind of the fruit). More expensive but also effective are oils extracted from the orange blossoms, stems, and leaves of the citrus trees such as bergamot, petitgrain, and neroli.

Many of the smells associated with the holidays can be uplifting as well – the scent of a live Christmas tree or fresh cut wreath, the mulling spices from cider or the comforting smell of baked goods. All of these can be created with essential oils of pine, fir, juniper, cedarwood, clove, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. If you need relief from stress or seek to create a sense of peace and calm try lavender, which blends well with cedarwood or any of the “tree” oils.

Put a few drops of any oil or blend of oils in a diffuser or potpourri burner or in a cup of Epsom salts and add to a nice hot bath. Make a lovely spritzer by adding 15 drops of any essential oil or combination of oils to one ounce of purified water, or try one our Aromatic Mister sprays.

Always keep a small bottle of aromatherapy product handy and pull it out and sniff it whenever you need a little booster. Rub a small amount into your palms, bring to your face and inhale deeply. Our Trial Size Lotions and Body Oils are perfect for this! Follow recommended safety guidelines if you’re working with straight essential oils. You can find some on our blog.

FDA-Approved Sunscreen Ingredients: Whose Interests Are Really Being Served?

I was doing some research online the other day to see if there were any new or interesting developments in natural sunscreen or sun care products when I came across Alexandra Zissu’s Ask an Organic Mom blog on the Daily Green web site. That’s where I learned that some of the leading natural personal care companies like Dr. Hauschka and Weleda recently decided to opt out of the sun care product market altogether.

Apparently the European Union has just created new stricter regulations around UV protection in sun care products that would force them to re-formulate their products using synthetic sunscreen filters. These companies, like mine, are committed to making safe, healthy, non-toxic, plant-based products so they are Just Saying ‘No Thanks’ to government regulations based on fear-mongering, inconclusive studies, and incomplete science.

Reading Alexandra’s post Why It’s Harder Than Ever To Find Safe, Natural Sunscreens made me realize what a bind conscientious consumers are in. On the one hand you want to make choices that protect you and your loved ones from danger and harm, on the other hand your choices are limited by government regulations that are often strongly influenced, if not dictated, by large corporate interests, short-sightedness, complicity from the medical (and in this case, dermatology) community, or lack of funds for more research.

Whereas it was once believed that UVB rays (the ones that cause sunburn) were linked to skin cancer, it is now believed that UVA rays are the real culprit and this is the latest driving factor behind sunscreen product development. Unfortunately, there are only a few chemical sunscreens that can protect you from UVA, but as it turns out, they can lead to other cancers because of the free radicals they generate when they absorb and react with the very rays they are designed to protect you from! Sounds like a true case of trading in one poison for another.

I’m putting together a list of the current FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients –the only ones that can be legally claimed as sunscreen in OTC (Over-the-Counter) drugs in the U.S., and will post it here in a few days.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE?You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: 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.

Overexposed: Tips for Staying Sun Safe in the Dog Days of Summer

As a formulator and manufacturer of all natural plant-based personal care products, I often get asked if any Dropwise products contain sunscreens. The answer is no. Sunscreens are considered over-the-counter drugs regulated by the FDA, and except for two ingredients, all the sunscreen ingredients currently approved by the FDA are synthetic chemicals –some of which are known to be irritants and toxic.

I’ve researched sun care and sunscreens for some time now in the hopes of finding a breakthrough in natural ingredients that could replace the chemical sunscreens that are prevalent in today’s sun care products. While there are promising developments on the horizon and valid science to support them, we are not there yet.

In the past, having a golden tan was a sign of beauty and health, and sun protection was all about maximizing opportunities to tan while avoiding the pain and discomfort of getting burned. Now, valid or not, the consensus among dermatologists and doctors seems to be that any exposure to the sun is harmful and can lead to cancer.

Yet in spite of the proliferation of products with SPF 30 and greater, and the over blown dire warnings not to ever leave your house without sunscreen, the incidence of skin cancer in the U.S. continues to grow at an alarming rate. So how can you find out what your true risk is?

There are many factors that determine your risk level including what your skin type is; hereditary factors that could make you more risk-prone; where you live (i.e. altitude and latitude); the amount and type of fats in your diet; whether you are taking certain meds; the time of day and length of exposure; and the biggest predictor of all: how much over-exposure you had as a child and young adult.

If you regularly and religiously apply some form of sunscreen, how much you apply, when, where, and how often all affect the product’s ability to successfully filter out the different ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage skin and can cause skin cancer.

Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know:

UVA vs. UVB Radiation. There’s still a debate over which type of exposure is more harmful. UVB rays are what cause sunburns and are also what your body uses to convert sunlight into Vitamin D. Most sunscreens primarily protect against UVB, which was originally thought to be the main cause of skin cancer. Now there is reason to believe that UVA rays cause more skin damage in the long run and play a larger role in skin cancer. There is currently no standard for formulating “broad spectrum” sunscreens that protect against both. Ironically, the Vitamin D that your body gets from UVB exposure plays a vital role in keeping bones and teeth strong, and helps protect against breast, prostate and colon cancers –making a strong case for a minimal amount of daily unprotected exposure.

Diminishing Returns of Higher SPFs. There’s a lot of confusion over how effective higher value SPFs really are at providing more protection. Most consumers think that stepping up from an SPF 15 to an SPF 30 doubles your protection and the amount of time you can stay in the sun. But in fact, because of the way SPF is calculated, this step up actually offers less than a 4% increase in protection! No SPF will absorb 100% of UV rays, so don’t even bother with any product boasting an SPF higher than 30. There’s also growing concern that the lab testing methods used to establish SPFs are not consistent enough to reflect the vagaries of usage and actual conditions created by real sunlight.

Knowing that SPF values may not be entirely accurate, you shouldn’t rely on sunscreen as the sole method of protecting yourself.

Sunscreen vs. Sunblock. Sunscreens fall into two categories: chemical types and physical types. Chemical sunscreens generally absorb UVB radiation (the so-called “burning rays”) and then disperse that energy through chemical reactions –some of which can actually generate those dreaded “free radicals” that lead to cancer. Physical sunscreens -commonly known as sun blocks-come in the old-fashioned form of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, white creams that reflect radiation rather than absorb it. Sun blocks are the preferred form of sun protection but because of their texture many consumers don’t like them.

Nanoparticles and Micronization. In an attempt to make traditional sun block ingredients more palatable to the consumer, manufacturers have started to micronize the ingredients so they are readily absorbed into the skin and are no longer visible after application — avoiding the whole pasty white war paint effect that make them so unappealing.

Unfortunately, this use of nanotechnology is currently unregulated and has some potentially serious health consequences. A 2006 Friends of the Earth report on the dangers of nanoparticles in skin and sun care products cited scientific research that showed many nanoparticles to be toxic to human tissue and cell structure. Their presence in the body can lead to oxidative stress, DNA mutation, and free radical generation  –all risk factors for cancer. It’s best to avoid this form of sunscreen and stick to the traditional forms of zinc and titanium dioxide.

Natural vs. Synthetic. In addition to the toxicity posed by some chemical sunscreens, you should be concerned about all the other potentially harmful ingredients contained in many sunscreen products. The question to ask yourself is am I simply trading one poison for another?

Here are some additional tips to help you stay sun safe in the dog days of summer:

  • Whether you use sunscreen or not, avoid prolonged exposure during the peak hours of 10 AM to 2 PM. Limit your initial exposure to shorter stretches (15 to 30 minutes at a time depending on skin type) until you build up a bit of a base tan, then you can gradually increase the amount of exposure.
  • If you’re fair-skinned, wear protective clothing (long sleeves, pants) and a wide-brimmed hat whenever possible, and use a sunblock when in the sun
  • Use a plant-based body oil made with coconut, jojoba, grape seed, rose hip seed, carrot and/or hemp seed oils as a pre-sun and after sun moisturizer. Research shows that moisturizers made with Vitamin E and C can help fight the free radicals produced by sun damage.
  • Increase your intake of antioxidants through food and supplementation. Again, consuming foods that are high in Vitamins A (Beta Carotene), C and E can also help fight free radicals. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the sun!
  • Avoid putting citrus essential oils on your skin when going out in the sun as some of them are photo-toxic and can increase your chances of getting burned.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and remember shade is your friend!

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE?You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: 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.

Skin Care Basics for Men: Natural Toners You Can Make Yourself

Most men tend to look at skin care or body care as the exclusive domain of women. Maybe they just don’t have the patience to sort through the dizzying array of skin care and facial products and decipher which would work best for their special skin care needs.

A man’s skin care revolves around a daily shaving routine, which poses its own set of unique challenges. His skin is also a lot thicker and oilier than a woman’s. Daily cleansing with a gentle, moisturizing liquid castile-based or super-fatted bar soap (i.e. one that is rich in moisturizers like Shea or Cocoa butter) followed by a gentle exfoliating scrub will go a long way towards keeping pores clean and facilitating the shave –one of the primary sources of irritation and skin problems for men.

Most men who shave regularly use some type of after shave to tone skin and tighten pores, but most of these products are alcohol-based which further irritates and ultimately dries out the skin rather than soothing it and re-balancing its pH.

Here’s a simple recipe for a natural astringent toner that makes for a soothing after shave splash or spritz:

Natural Aftershave & Toner for Men

Ingredients: (for a 4 ounce bottle)

  • 60 ML (2 ounces or 4 tablespoons) of Witch Hazel Extract
  • 28 ML (just under 1 ounce or 1 ¾ tablespoons) each  & Lavender Peppermint Hydrosol
  • 3 ML (approximately 60-90 drops or ¾ of a teaspoon) Lavender Essential Oil

Supplies:

  • 4 oz amber or blue glass bottle with spray top
  • Glass dropper
  • Shot glass or measuring spoon
  • Small funnel

Directions:

  1. Measure liquids and pour into bottle with a funnel
  2. Measure and pour essential oil or use dropper to add to mixture. A typical glass dropper holds about 20 drops of liquid depending on the size of the dropper and viscosity of the liquid. Fill the dropper 3-4 times and release into the mixture.
  3. Put the spray top on and gently shake the bottle to mix the ingredients then spray, or use a cap and splash the mixture onto your face.

Avoid commercial Witch Hazel extract, which tends to be more alcohol than Witch Hazel. You can find one with a low alcohol content from a variety of online natural ingredient suppliers. We like Mountain Rose Herbs’ Witch Hazel extract –double-distilled and contains only 14% grain alcohol. You can also find a variety of hydrosols at their site.

This recipe calls for Lavender hydrosol because of its wonderful skin soothing properties and Peppermint hydrosol to add a cooling and refreshing hint of mint. You can experiment with different hydrosols (Chamomile and Calendula are also excellent skin toners).

If you are adventurous and like making concoctions, you can make an herbal infusion of Calendula or Lavender by filling a clean jar with one or the other dried herbs (which can also be purchased at Mountain Rose) then pouring Witch Hazel into the jar until the herbs are completely soaked and immersed. Place the jar on a windowsill where there is some direct sunlight and let it soak for a week or two. Then strain the liquid using a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer and use it in the recipe above.

Women, you can use this as a toner too though you might prefer a Rose or Rose Geranium hydrosol in place of the Peppermint and use 60 drops of Lavender EO and 30 drops of Geranium EO.

Remember to keep your finished toner (as well as the ingredients) in a cool dark place to maximize their shelf-life and effectiveness!