Monday, May 9, 2016

Deodorant

Warm weather is coming, and, we all want to smell nice. (Don't we?) Conventional deodorants may be effective, but there are plenty of questions regarding their safety. As usual, there are few answers, but, plenty of questions about ingredients.

First up is that darn aluminum. Unfortunately, labels don't always tell the whole story. There are so many aluminum derivatives. Labels may try to "fool" you by listing the ingredients as, say, "bauxite," which is aluminum. Or "alum salts" which is -  you guessed it - a form of aluminum. Aluminum is used to block perspiration. And it works. It is not usually found in deodorants, but, rather, antiperspirants which are designed to stop sweating. Maybe not a good idea.  Toxicology results show high levels of aluminum in the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer's. No conclusive evidence can link these higher aluminum levels to deodorant use.

According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the States,  exposure to high levels of aluminum can cause speech disorders, dementia, and other neurological disorders. Again, there is no conclusive evidence showing aluminum salts are absorbed in large enough amounts to cause these neurological problems. Personally, I will avoid aluminum until they can prove to me that it is safe, however. I like to err on the side of caution.

Aluminum salts are, however, definitely linked to contact dermatitis - redness and irritation of the skin, in some people.

Breast cancer is another disorder that is thought to be possibly connected to the use of parabens in deodorant. Parabens are preservatives commonly used in deodorants and antiperspirants. Studies are again not definitive. Parabens mimic hormones, which may increase breast cancer risk. Six different parabens were measured in the biopsy samples taken from women with breast cancer. High levels of parabens were found in the area near the armpit, which is where most breast cancers are found.  But - no conclusions could be reached. 

The National Cancer Institute did find a link between women who started shaving and using deodorant before age 16, however.  This group developed breast cancer at a younger age than women who started shaving and using deodorant at a later age.

What to do? Well...you can discontinue using deodorant all together. Or, try a toxin free deodorant like the one eScential Wellness offers. No aluminum. No parabens, or synthetic fragrance. Free from The Toxic Ten!http://escentialwellness.com/products/toxin-free-deodorant

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring Cleaning: Dust & Vacuums

I'm in the midst of giving my annual Green Cleaning workshops. eScential Wellness is all about Toxin Free, so, Green Cleaning is a natural extension of what I believe in and practice.

I've been reading and updating articles on cleaning, and, discovered some interesting facts about dust! No matter how fastidious we are, you can't escape it. We generate dust from dead skin, fungi, mold, carpet fiber, pet dander, decomposing insects, food particles and soil from our shoes. Cooking and room fresheners put particles into the air that land on our floors and counters. Dust enters through open windows, and from home furnishings, as well as cleaning products which release chemicals into our inside air. So, vacuum it up, right? Turns out the vacuum is part of the problem.


Home furnishings made before 2005 probably contain many chemicals; including fire retardants that have since been banned in the U.S. (because they had some links to breast cancer.) The Silent Spring Institute released a study that found 66 endocrine disrupting compounds in dust.

Exposure to these have been linked to problems with motor skills, learning, memory, hearing and behavioural changes; especially in developing children. Hormone disruptors have links to cancer, brain dysfunction, memory loss, fatigue and infertility. And that's not a complete list.

So let's vacuum! Unfortunately, one study (in Environmental Science and Technology) looked at 62 different vacuums (all types, sizes, models, some had special filtration systems to prevent particle escape) but, every single one released dust and bacteria back into the home. Vacuuming is not perfect.

How can we make vacuuming more efficient? Here are some tips:

(1) Make sure your vacuum is less than 10 years old. These are more efficient.
(2) Ideally, get one with a HEPA filter, as these are best at capturing, and retaining, dust.
(3) Wash your vacuum filter in a sink full of water, rather than just shaking the dust out of it. It is better cleaned, and, dust does not get back into the household air.
(4) Vacuum your couch and throw cushions. The fabric traps dust and animal dander, and the vacuum can remove these as well as some fire retardant dust (if the furniture was made before 2005.)
(5) Hand dust hard surfaces with a damp rag, as dust will adhere to the cloth and not be just recirculated by being pushed back into the air
(6) Minimize particles brought into the home by placing a doormat both inside and outside the door, and remove shoes on entering your home
(7) Toss the toxic cleaning products and use your own, homemade, bio-safe and eco-friendly products. Recipes are abundant on the internet!




Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Science of Healing Thoughts

This title was handily provided by an article in the magazine, Scientific American. Science journalist Jo Marchant brought her considerable research and writing abilities to look into the idea that our mind is, in fact, capable of effecting great changes in our physical body.She noted that, unfortunately, most efforts of practitioners seem designed only to have us hand over our money. But serious science is now providing evidence that not only can our mind help keep us healthy, it can actually promote healing. Yes. Really.

There has never been any doubt that thoughts can cause physical reactions. Think of the nervous public speaker....before getting in front of a crowd, your heart rate accelerates, your hands sweat. Just thinking about the task ahead changes the body. So it's not a big leap to think that the potential for healing does exist.

In a nutshell, her research led her to the supported idea that our thoughts influence our immune system. Thus, how we perceive the world can influence the status of our immune system, leaving us better prepared to deal with future threats.

In addition, there is no doubt that the well known "placebo effect" does exist. But why does it? And under what conditions? Expectations seem to play a big role, but are likely not the only contributing factor.

Another effective technique in which the mind changes physical perception is to engage the brain in an alternate activity. It seems the "distraction" re-focuses the brain on the task at hand, and, leaves people in pain, for example,  perceiving less pain.

The fascinating thing about these scientific studies is, to me, that they open our own minds to new ways of doing things: new ways of treatment, new possibilities for improvements and cures for a multitude of physical conditions where none currently exists.

The larger article in the Scientific American magazine can be found here; http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-of-healing-thoughts/

Or, if you are taken with the topic, you might want to locate Marchant's book, "Cure."
http://www.amazon.ca/Cure-Journey-into-Science-Mind/dp/0385348150/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1455395822&sr=8-1&keywords=Cure+Jo+Marchant

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Frankincense is a Natural Anti-Depressant

Frankincense resin has been used in religious and ceremonial practices for literally thousands of years. There are many references to the burning of frankincense resin, and, its ability to achieve a spiritual state of being. Frankincense is still used in religious ceremonies today, and is often thought of as an aid to meditation.

Keep in mind that we are talking the burning of the resin, here, not the essential oil of frankincense.

Research scientists decided to look into these anecdotal effects, and see if there was any science behind the claims. Universities involved included Johns Hopkins University, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

To see if there was some truth to these historical assumptions, the researchers were able to isolate the main component of the frankincense resin, a compound called incensole acetate. Again, keep in mind that this compound is found in the resin, but not in the essential oil. They administered this compound to mice. They then determined that this compound, in mice, affected the area of the brain that helps in regulating emotions. On a more scientific level, it activates the protein TRP3. This protein is found in animal brains, and is known to play a role in how the skin perceives warmth. The affect on the mind, however, is a strong anti-depressant, and also lowers anxiety. It can be so dramatic that a person may feel incredibly relaxed and at peace. As an aid to meditation, it may leave one so simply at rest that a person could just be mindful of the world around them. A more or less meditative state!

In spite of such a long history of frankincense affecting the mind, not until now has anyone studied it's ability to do so scientifically. Depression is the largest cause of disability in the United States, and, an enormous number of people suffer from anxiety. Now that we know a compound in frankincense resin has promise in improving these disorders, we can hope that a natural treatment will follow.

If that weren't enough, it seems that frankincense can also play a role in reducing nausea, lowering fever and high blood pressure, minimizing coughs, and even repelling some insects.

What a find!

To read the entire article, click here: http://www.the-open-mind.com/frankincense-proven-to-be-psychoactive-antidepressant-1/

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Making Sense of Grade and Quality Designations of Essential Oils

There is a lot of misinformation about the "quality" of essential oils. The internet seems to provide as many definitions and explanations as it has websites on the topic. Unfortunately, most of this is just clever marketing designed to make you believe that "their" essential oils are the best, or purest, or highest quality on the market. 

Let's deal with the easy part first. An essential oil designated as "certified organic" means the plant from which the essential oil came was grown under certain conditions and standards, and, that these conditions were monitored and checked out by an independent third party. The United States and Canada have different respected bodies, but, they pretty much all meet the same criteria. Some examples of reputable designations are Ecocert and Oregon Tilth, as well as USDA Organic. There are others. These agencies monitor the activity of the growers and ensure that their standards are met. Getting these designation involves monitoring, and, consequently a hefty fee for the service provided.

Other terms that are used to describe the conditions under which the plants are grown include "wildcrafted", "unsprayed", and "cultivated without chemicals". In all fairness, some of these products are indeed of an organic nature, but, without the designation, you have no way to be sure that the organic standards are met. Getting the organic designation is expensive, and small growers, who are often the best kind, may not be able to pay the large fees required for official designation and stay competitive. Although these products are very attractive, you have to accept that the growers definition of organic and yours may be different. The oils from these plants are not regulated, and therefore, not able to be certified.

Now for the more complicated designations. You will hear various companies talk about their oils being "therapeutic grade", "pure" grade, "aromatherapeutic" grade, "perfume" grade, or designate their oils with numbers. Some of these terms are trademarked, and offered only by a certain supplier. But, there are NO unified definitions for any of these terms. They are a marketing tool only. To quote Steve Borden, a Compliance Officer for Essential Wholesale and Labs (an excellent supplier of many aromatherapy items in the United States):

 "I am not aware of any regulatory agency that defines, monitors, or enforces any such standards. Provided that there is no false advertising involved, a seller is just as free to market their products with these descriptions as consumers are to be attracted to them. So if you are buying a Lavender I, II or III you need to understand that this is strictly a marketing ploy by the supplier to sell a similar product at a potentially higher price.  There may be little to no difference in the chemical makeup or aroma of that oil.  Don’t be fooled by these terms, either an essential oil is pure unadulterated or it is adulterated.  It is either certified organic or it is not."

So, there you have it. Like so much else in life, purchasing essential oils is definitely a "buyers beware" kind of deal.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Can Aromatherapy Improve Health?

There is a lot of misinformation about what aromatherapy is....and, what it can do. Right off: aromatherapy is NOT nice smelling dish soap. It is the use of natural plant extracts, called essential oils, that are used in a therapeutic manner so as to achieve balance in body, mind, and spirit.

Brown University  (Providence, Rhode Island) noted in a recent review of 18 aromatherapy studies that "odours can affect mood, physiology and behaviour." It can do this, because nerves that carry odour signals to your brain communicate directly with areas involved with emotion and learning. It may explain why aromatherapy can do the following:

(1) The scent of grapefruit dampens food cravings. This study was done at Osaka University, in Japan. Grapefruit is one of the oils used in eScential Wellness' Food Craving Tamer Inhaler (http://escentialwellness.com/products/food-craving-tamer)

(2) Lavender, sandalwood and sweet orange can relax a person, and may reduce anxiety. One study found the scent of these oils reduced anxiety in breast cancer survivors; and another found that the scent of lavender reduced the pain of needle injections for children who had had tonsillectomies. Yet another study provided evidence that sniffing lavender, roman chamomile and neroli calmed anxiety, improved sleep and stabilized blood pressure in heart patients who received stents to open blocked arteries in the heart. eScential Wellness Anti-Anxiety inhaler contains lavender, and other, proven anti-anxiety scents not mentioned in these studies. (http://escentialwellness.com/products/anti-anxiety-inhaler)

(3) The scent of rose essential oil leads to deeper, longer sleep. (Japan's Mie University Graduate School of Medicine.)

(4)Rosemary improved memory (U.K's University of Northumbria)

(5) Peppermint oil, inhaled post surgery, reduced nausea. (See eScential Wellness' Nausea Relief Inhaler   http://escentialwellness.com/products/Nausea-Relief-Inhaler)

Next post, I will provide some ways to incorporate these oils into your life, and, provide some safety information. 


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Safely Using Essential Oils

I give workshops throughout the year, and, I am always alarmed at the amount of misinformation that exists about the proper use of essential oils.

Because essential oils are derived from plants, so are "natural," and they have been used for literally millennia, people often assume they are safe. Not necessarily so.

They should never be ingested. They should always be diluted...a lot! before being applied to the skin. Occasionally, someone will have a sensitivity to an oil and develop a skin reaction, even if the oils were indeed diluted before use. There is nothing in existence that is incapable of provoking an allergic reaction in a sensitive individual. Sure, some substances are more likely than others to cause a problem, but even very "safe" products can cause reactions in some people. Very few essential oils have been tested in the same way, and with the same intensity, as pharmaceuticals. Yet people willingly swallow, apply and diffuse essential oils...even around children and pets.

Children, with their undeveloped immune systems, immature livers, thinner skin and smaller body size and mass, can be particularly sensitive to essential oils.

There is the small possibility that an applied essential oil could react with another medication a person is taking.

Even quality, pure essential oils vary in their components, so, what is in one bottle may not be in the next one.

Always err on the side of caution.

Less is more!

Some guidelines:

(1) Never ingest essential oils
(2) Dilute essential oils if you are applying them to skin. 18 drops in 1 ounce (30 mls) of carrier oil is a 3% dilution and should be safe for adults
(3) Evidence is accumulating that essential oils should not be used around children under 6. Even diffusion. Ever, For any reason.
(4) ABSOLUTELY avoid eucalyptus and peppermint oils around children. They have an ingredient (1,8 cineole) that has been implicated in respiratory collapse in young children.
(5) If any discomfort, irritation, rash or redness appears on the skin after applying an essential oil, wash it off gently with lots of water and mild soap. Do not continue use. See a doctor if the irritation persists, or, if there is any change in your breathing.
(6) Keep all oils safely locked away from young children
(7) Ingestion can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach and liver. NEVER SWALLOW AN ESSENTIAL OIL. Some oils can cause seizures if taken internally (like sage or camphor). Some are just plain poisonous (like pennyroyal.)
(8) Dogs have very sensitive noses. There is speculation that using essential oils on dogs is unkind. If they are annoyed by the scent, they cannot escape it or wash it off. And, even if YOU can't smell the oil, it is very likely the dog can. I would avoid using essential oils EVER on pets.
(9) Consult a certified aromatherapist if you have questions on the safety of essential oils. Sales people are NOT usually certified aromatherapists. Verify this before accepting advice
(10) Even the best trained aromatherapist is NOT a physician. Always consult your own doctor for diagnosis and advice.