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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Can Essential Oils Be the New Antibiotics?

The Jan. 26 edition of "The Atlantic" printed a lengthy article about the search for antibiotic replacements. As so many bacteria have become resistant to existing antibiotics, farmers are turning to plant extracts to keep animals healthy.

The reality is that essential oils have many antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Research supports their use to alleviate health conditions such as migraines, nausea, and some of them can even kill cancer cells (in test tubes.) Although work done to date has only taken place in the lab, findings are encouraging that they may have a role to play in keeping animals healthy. At this time, about 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals to keep them healthy in the crowded and less-than-ideal conditions in which the animals are kept. A lot of the antibiotics used to help animals grow are also used in people, to fight illness.

Unfortunately, this overuse has allowed bacteria to grow resistant to the antibiotics. This means they are no longer effective in humans. The article goes on to explain that recent studies are promising. Chickens fed a mixture of oregano, cinnamon and chili peppers were able to stay disease free, but not have any side effects, nor cause bacteria to become resistant. A multi-year study at the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating the role that essential oils might play in reducing the widespread use of antibiotics in animals for prevention of disease (rather than treatment of existing illness.)

Lots of studies are underway. There are pitfalls: people are reluctant to change from existing methodology, and, there is no ability of pharmaceutical companies to make money from essential oils, so, money is not being channeled into research.

The article is lengthy, but fascinating. If you want to read more, click here:

Monday, December 22, 2014

7 Quick Ideas to Scent your Home for the Holidays

It's a busy time of year! Too much to do to spend time reading a lengthy blog post. :-) Here's a shortie:

Want your house to smell like Christmas? (1) Heat some water on the stove, and throw in a few cinnamon sticks, a few cloves and heat gently. Do not leave unattended; and do not let the water evaporate until the pot is dry. (2) Use your diffuser. If you love that "real tree" smell, but have an artificial tree, try a few drops of Balsam Fir essential oil. (3) Bake cookies! (4) Diffuse some Bandit's's a lovely mixture of cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary. Bonus: it may kill airborne virus (5) Arrange some natural evergreen boughs in a wreath, on a mantel...anywhere they can scent the air (6) Stud an orange with cloves. Do a few, and put in a bowl where the fragrance can be appreciated. (7) Dry some pinecones. Dilute some cinnamon essential oil (25 drops in 1 cup of distilled water) in a spray bottle. Shake bottle vigorously; then spray pine cones. Mmmm! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

6 Tips To Keep Christmas Green

Environmental Defence has provided a few suggestions to keep the "green" in Christmas!

(1) Make sure your artificial tree is free of lead and PVC (polyvinyl chloride.) Older trees are often culprits. In California, trees carry warning labels for this. If you use a real tree, ask if the tree is grown without pesticides.  
(2) Lights can also contain lead and PVC's (polyvinylchlorides). Purchase lights that are RoHS compliant (Restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances.) This designation originated in Europe, and bans 6 toxic chemicals often found in electronics: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, & polybrominated diphyl ether. 
(3) You can buy LED lights with the RoHS designation. They will use less energy and thus are better for the environment. 
(4) Scent your home naturally, using evergreen branches, cinnamon sticks and essential oils. Scented candles usually contain phthalates, a toxic ten ingredient linked to asthma and endocrine disruption. Holiday baking also fills the house with lovely fragrances!
(5) Printed, colored and foil paper can also contain nasty chemicals which are released into the air if burned. Do not burn used wrapping paper! Recyle or reuse. Better yet, make your own wrap by getting creative and doing some recycling of your own. Or, use cloth bags that can be re-used year after year. 
(6) The best gifts aren't things at all. Consider purchasing experiences, going for free activities, like a walk in the woods, snowshoeing, skating or building a snowman. Consider the joy in just spending time with loved ones. Or, make charitable donations.

Merry Christmas from eScential Wellness

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Holy Molars!

A mere 6 weeks ago I did a blog post on safe toothpaste. I just read an article (originally published in August 2014) in Bloomberg News talking about this very thing.

The article highlights one of the best known, most used toothpastes: Colgate Total. In  my previous blog, I commented on the fact that triclosan is one of the toxic ten and ought NOT be in toothpaste. Well, the Bloomberg article  highlights that triclosan has indeed been linked to cancer cell growth and disrupted development in animals. It seems that the FDA (Food & Drug Association...the American government agency responsible for making sure consumer products are safe before granting permission for product use) may have not done its work properly 17 years ago, when it gave the go-ahead to Colgate.

The article is lengthy. Doubt is cast on how well the supporting documents made their case for safety. New factors have come to light that cast doubt on the safety of triclosan. In addition, the 35 pages summarizing toxicology studies submitted by Colgate were held from view on the FDA. The pages were only released as a response to a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information Act request.

Triclosan is already banned in the European Union. Colgate has already voluntarily removed triclosan from its SoftSoap liquid handsoaps, as well as Palmolive dish detergent - but not from Colgate toothpaste. Colgate's main competitor, Crest toothpaste, made by Proctor and Gamble, is 100% triclosan free.

This lengthy article provides a LOT of information for thought.  Personally, I would like to err on the side of caution, and avoid triclosan; especially in toothepaste. You can read the entire article here:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. And now there's a term to cover companies that profess to be supportive of Breast Cancer research, but....are they really? There are often mixed messages,  here.

The most glaring is this article:

Here, we find that although Proctor and Gamble, maker of so many personal care products used by women (such as Cover Girl, Tide, Pantene and Herbal Essence) is trying to appear supportive of the breast cancer research ideal, muscle behind it. True, they have apparently pledged to donate $100,000 to fighting breast cancer this year. But they have taken NO action on taking carcinogens out of their own products.

BHA, amongst others in their products, is one of the "toxic ten". Instead of focusing on making their products safer for women to use, they are throwing money at the problem and hoping we, the public, think they are "the good guys." Do read the entire article.

And they're not the only ones jumping on the "let's support women with breast cancer" bandwagon.

The CBC has done an article on how big markets take advantage of this opportunity to sell more products to women. Often by offensive means. Read the entire article here:

For example, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) was chosen to be a sponsor of Breast Cancer awareness. Yet, their product (the chicken) likely contributes to obesity in North America, and, obesity is a factor in breast cancer itself.

The article profiles a few other companies that have partnered with "the cause" yet more or less objectify women, and their breasts.

Beware pinkwashing. Think before you buy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Safe Toothpaste. Who knew it was so complex??

I've been on a mission to find a safe toothpaste. This is not an easy task. For one thing, everyones definition of what constitutes "safe" is different. 

Right up front, let's get the flouride debate out of the way. Some people consider flouride toxic. And it certainly can be, if you ingest it in sufficient quantities. On the other hand, I grew up in a small town without flouride, and, I can assure you, my teeth are now more filling than enamel. I have paid a large price for the lack of flouride in my drinking water when my teeth were being formed. My own children, who did have flouride in their water, have about 3 miniscule fillings between the 3 of them. They are now full grown adults. Many dentists side with the cause of flouride in toothpaste; many do not. I think I will leave this particular, controversial ingredient for you to sort out on your own, according to your own conscience. For me, I think having a flouride free toothpaste for small children who swallow toothpaste is a good idea. But that's just my opinion.

Let's move on to other ingredients. An easy one is triclosan. It's an antibacterial, and, one of the toxic ten. There is definitely no need to put triclosan in toothpaste. The mouth is a a natural home for many, many bacteria, and the odd brush with triclosan is not going to alter the state of affairs there significantly. Nor should it. But, using triclosan poses a threat to the environment, and may be responsible for the upswing of superbugs. Let's leave triclosan out of toothpaste!!

Artificial dyes. Do you really need striped toothpaste? Or blue? or green? This is an easy one. Check your ingredient list for any mention of dyes...and do not buy any that use them.

The next one - this one just amazes me - is our fondness for foamy toothpaste. Foamy toothpaste sells. I guess we just equate a nice foam with cleanliness, and efficiency. Too bad, because there isn't a connection at all. And, the nice foam in toothpaste comes from SLS - sodium lauryl sulphate. Another toxic ten ingredient. Sadly, it does not clean your teeth or add to the health of your mouth in any way. It just feels nice...we've gotten used to manufacturers include it because we want it. Silly us. Let's change our mind on the value of foam and get SLS out of toothpaste.

I was horrified to learn that a few toothpastes contain parabens! Parabens act as preservatives...but, are also in the toxic ten. Parabens are endocrine disruptors...and the results of that are too lengthy for this article. Avoid toothpastes with parabens! (Or any other personal care product, for that matter.)

Next up is the abrasion factor. Some abrasion is not a bad idea. It removes surface stains. Unfortunately, the toothpaste industry can go overboard with a good thing. Most, if not all, toothpastes contain something that removes surface dirt, stains and hopefully tartar. But how much is too much? Fortunately I include here a fabulous, 4 minute clip of research done at the University of Colorado on toothpaste abrasion. I found the clip fascinating. But if you don't want to spare the 4 minutes, there is a clever little chart beneath the clip that features about 65 toothpastes, and rates them as to abrasiveness. Pick the one that suits your level of personal comfort. Too much abrasion can cause tooth sensitivity.  Here's the link:

Like all other personal care products, let's read labels! Decide what is important to you, and vote with your wallet. If people do not purchase toxic products, manufacturers will stop making them.