Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holiday Shopping & Scent

A previous post detailed how what you smell can affect what, and how much, you eat. But, did you know that scent can also affect how much money you spend when shopping??

Needless to say, retailers are often happy to take advantage of this fact. I receive a trade journal for retailers, and one article is subtitled, "How retailers can utilize scent to increase sales.'

Of course, the most obvious link comes from the fact that our sense of smell is linked to our emotions and memories, as all 3 of these are processed in the same part of the brain. Shopping is often an emotional experience rather than a financial one, or one we approach without feelings. Memories that scent conjure up can be very powerful.

A device (new to me) called a "scent cannon" can actually shoot scent into a retail environment at pre-determined intervals. One enterprising gas station in California used a scent cannon to project the smell of coffee around the gas pumps as cars approached. This resulted in an increase in coffee sales of 300%!!! 

Scents are carefully chosen. It's easy to eliminate scents that may contain petroleum derivatives, or alcohol, that may cause respiratory irritation, headaches or allergic reactions. Many stores choose "signature" scents that are designed to become associated with their store. Generally accepted as pleasant scents, like lavender, can  help create a positive mood in a retail store, and, increase the likelihood of you parting with cash. A positive mood also makes you more patient in a lengthy checkout line, and, if you smell the scent elsewhere, you may actually think of the store long after your shopping experience. 

Cinnamon scent seems to have a calming effect, and, citrus scents are mood lifting. 

One retailer actually uses a heavy scent so as to keep "older" shoppers, which they define as over 25 years of age, out!!!

Next time you're shopping, pay attention to what you smell. And, be mindful of sticking to your budget! Happy holidays!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Can What you Smell Affect How Much you Eat?

It sure can! There's been a lot of work on various scents, and whether or not they can be a useful tool in weight loss. How is it possible that scent could cause us to eat less? First, remember that how food tastes depends a lot on smell. It's a bit complicated....but identifying food is actually determined by smell and sight, rather than "taste". Scientific American published a great article on how this works, if you want an explanation.  ( 

There are specific scents that dull our appetite. Grapefruit, for example, affects the nerves that are below our consciousness, (called "autonomic nerves") and smelling grapefruit reduces both appetite and body rats, anyway.  (Read the study synopsis here: Other studies, involving humans, show that the smell of grapefruit may somehow affect liver enzymes to suppress appetite.

Peppermint scent also works. In 2007, a university in West Virginia did a study whereby participants smelled peppermint every 2 hours. The study looked at  hunger levels when the participants smelled peppermint, as well as when they didn't, in addition to how much food they actually ate and what was in the food (e.g., fat intake, caloric intake, vitamin and mineral intake, etc.) over a period of two weeks.
Results showed that participants who were exposed to peppermint consumed nearly 3000 fewer total calories from saturated fat, total fat, and sugar each week. That's about 23% fewer calories based on 1800 calories/day diet for 7 days. Participants also rated their hunger level significantly lower during peppermint inhalation.

Even Dr. Oz has cited this well as supporting the smell of grapefruit as a tool in weight loss. (

As in all things, individual results will vary. But here's the good thing: inhaling pure peppermint scent and/or grapefruit, ideally from an essential oil, can't hurt any! There are no side effects to worry about. Something to ponder with our holiday season fast approaching, and, the temptation to overindulge on rich food, or have second helpings!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What's the Phuss over Phthalates?

eScential Products are Phthalate free. So many aren't...why should you care? Phthalates act as fragrance extenders. They make scent last a long time, something we, as consumers, like. In Canada, you do not need to list phthalates on the label. But, as they are used as part of the fragrance cocktail, if the label says "fragrans," "fragrance' or "parfum", you can bet it has phthalates. Have you ever walked outside, and smelled someone's laundry...that whiff of dryer sheets so potent it drifts out into the great outdoors and can be smelled literally half a block away? Well...that's the persistence and power of synthetic scent. It is not a good thing.

If that's not bad enough, I recently watched a commercial for a new product that you add to your washer, along with your laundry detergent, to make the scent in the detergent extra long lasting. And let's not forget those pesky plug in fragrance products to make your room smell good.

There are many kinds of phthalates, but 2 commonly used ones (dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate) are rated a "10" by Skin Deep. They are considered an endocrine disruptor by the Environmental Working Group, as well as by Environmental Defence. They are toxic to the reproductive system, and normal development. They persist in the environment, and, show up in both blood and breast milk. They are linked with an increase in allergies and asthma in children. As children are so small, they are especially sensitive to the effects of phthalates.

Phthalates are found in anything scented. BUT...did you know, that they can even be lurking in products that are NOT scented? In Canada, if you add scent to a product not to make it smell pretty, but, strictly to mask the scent of the raw materials in the product, they do not have to list scent on the label. Even worse - if this is the case, they can label the product "Unscented"!!! No wonder it's hard to get a "clean" product!!

Phthalates are listed as one of Environmental Defence's Toxic Ten. Always read labels! Even the word "unscented" on a product is not a guarantee of being phthalate free. Search out cosmetic lines that actively promote "toxin free" products.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How "Clean" are your Cleaning Supplies?

Adria Vasil, the Goddess of Green, has reviewed some commonly used household cleaners that are advertised as being non toxic. But, "greenwashing" is a Big Problem. Greenwashing is when a product is promoted as being non-toxic, but, isn't. Sometimes ingredients aren't listed. Companies can use the escape hatch of saying their formulas are proprietary information, and may not be required to list all ingredients. Sometimes, even reading labels is not enough! 
I am always amazed by how smart packaging and expensive marketing campaigns promote products-cleaning, cosmetic, whatever - in such a fashion that consumers have no doubt that the product is both harmless to them, and to the environment. Sadly, this is most often not the case. With cosmetics, at least you have the opportunity to read the ingredient label and decide for yourself. Checking the ingredients against the "Toxic Ten" list is a quick and easy way to see if your cosmetics are following the old adage, "First, do no harm." But cleaners are a different story.
Of course, there are lots of other cleaners out there, in addition to the ones that Adria has reviewed. Be wary! Adria's pick (also my own) is to clean with baking soda and vinegar. You can pretty much do your entire house with castile soap, baking soda, and vinegar. A few drops of essential oil (your choice of fragrance, though lemon and orange are always popular) can provide a great fresh smell! I'm very fond of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint scented organic and fair trade liquid castile soap. Wonderful for hardwood floors! You only need a tiny bit....just a teaspoon in a small pail of water. Too much can leave a floor streaky.
Another hot tip is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to your automatic fabric softener dispenser in your washer, instead of any fabric softener. Fabric softeners are dreadful! They coat fabric with chemicals, they contain a ton of synthetic scent...that's why clothing comes out of the dryer and stays scented for weeks! In fact, I have been outside for a walk, and, can occasionally smell the air coming from someone's dryer vent because they are using dryer sheets. Ugh! You just know that cannot be a good thing. Vinegar prevents static cling, disinfects the clothes and washer. I have a front loader, and, I no longer have that "skunky smell" so common to front loaders. Towels dry fluffy. Save money...use your own cleaners.
Have a look at Adria's chart to see if what you are currently using meets her "clean and green" standard.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Toxins in Shampoos

I am forever suggesting to people that they read labels. No one, not the federal or provincial government, not Health keeping you safe from toxins in your personal care products. 

In this latest case, The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) revealed independent testing on Tuesday finding a cancer-causing chemical in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major national retailers. The chemical in question is cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), a chemically-modified form of coconut oil used as a thickener or foaming agent in many products. California listed this as a known carcinogen last year. These are well known brands...everything from Prell, Organix, Paul Mitchell, and more. 

As you know, eScential Wellness is a supporter of environmental defence ( and lists their "Toxic Ten" ingredients on the eScential Wellness website ( As it happens, cocamide DEA is not on their toxic ten list....but it does make David Suzuki's Dirty Dozen.  (link here: Of course, eScential Wellness is free of the Dirty Dozen, too. But what do you do when the chemical is not required to be on the label? Not much you can do about that...except, be labels whenever you can.

Read the full article. It's very informative!  This link will take you to a list of the exact shampoo offenders. You can see if the shampoo you use is among the entire article.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What is worse - Bug Bites, or Insect Repellent?

USA Today has published an article asking this question. They point out that there is no 100% failsafe protection against bug bites. They cite 4 compounds that are effective: 3 chemicals, including DEET, and oil of lemon eucalyptus, an essential oil. PubMed has studies showing catnip essential oil is as effective as DEET. (If you want links to the full articles, just email me!) Oil of lemon eucalyptus was recognized by the  Centre for Disease Control as being both effective, and safe to use. That is not true here in Canada, though. In Canada, Health Canada does not allow the use of citronella, or, anything containing citronellol to be used as an insect repellent. Oil of lemon eucalyptus does have citronnellol as a component.

However, you have to weigh the risks of insect repellents against the risks of being bitten by a mosquito or tick. The Centre for Disease Control says Lyme disease infections have doubled over the past 15 years, and West Nile Virus infected 5600 people last year (in the United States.) Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting such diseases as dengue fever, yellow fever, encephalitis, and malaria. These are very serious diseases and I think deciding to use any repellent in this case would be well worth the risk. In Canada, some of these diseases are not common and we do not typically worry about catching them.

Bug repellent - natural or otherwise - should never be used on children under 6 months of age, and, you should also avoid repellents that contain active ingredients of greater than 30%.

New repellents are appearing on the market all the time. There are now "clip on " repellents...which you do not have to slather on the skin. There is controversy as to how well they work, and if they are, in fact, any safer than applying to your skin.

Natural deterrents include:  (1) Wearing long sleeves and pants, which provide a physical barrier to biting insects. (2) sitting in front of a fan. Insects have trouble navigating in wind (3) Making sure you discourage the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which means eliminating any standing or stagnant water from your property.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dr. Oz - What the Cosmetic Industry Doesn't Want you to Know

Dr. Oz consulted his experts who provided him (and you!) with some facts about the cosmetics you purchase. One of the experts started off by saying that the "expensive" lotions and creams, although typically good moisturizers, are no better than the inexpensive, drug store offerings. Both experts agreed on:

Point #1 - There is NO such thing as a facelift in a bottle. Nothing you apply to the face will actively reverse aging. For that, you have to use lasers, or have plastic surgery, or get prescription medication. The problem with the topically applied lotions is that any active ingredients they may contain are unable to penetrate the skin to get to where they would need to be to effect a change. All of the moisturizers you purchase are pretty much hype. eScential Wellness humbly suggests you "First, do no harm" by reading ingredient labels and only apply those products to your skin that are free from the Toxic Ten. These moisturizers will hold in the moisture already in your skin, and, provide a modest barrier to prevent evaporation. Oil blends are excellent moisturizers! Read my previous blog on why applying oils to your face is a good idea.

Point #2 - "Dermatologist Approved" does NOT mean that all dermatologists approve the product. Typically, the company who made the product will hire (and pay) a dermatologist to look at the product and approve it. So, yes, ONE dermatologist has approved it, but, that's it! We make the assumption that all dermatologists agree, but this is not the case.

#3 - A product labelled "hypoallergenic" does NOT mean you will not break out, or, be safe from an allergic reaction. Interestingly, Dr. Oz' expert here said the government (in this case, the American government, as Dr. Oz is American) says any product can claim it is hypoallergenic. The term the government, and the industry use is that it is a "puffery" claim. This means that the claim itself is meaningless, though, the people hearing it may think it means something. It does not. Oz' expert suggests the most common cause of allergic reactions from products is from fragrance. Cosmetic companies use synthetic fragrances in virtually everything. In Canada, Environmental Defence lists synthetic fragrance as one of the Toxic Ten. All Natural doesn't mean much, either. As Oz' expert points out, poison ivy is natural, but, you wouldn't want to put it on your face!!

#4 - Eye creams are just glorified face creams. The experts point out that the ingredient lists of eye cremes, when compared to face creams, are more or less identical. There is nothing fancy or different. What they do, however, is charge you twice as much for half the volume. You do not need an extra creme for around the eyes!!

As always, eScential Wellness encourages you to educate yourself. Read labels!! Make comparisons. Find products free of the Toxic Ten. Paying more does not mean you are getting a better product!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why Putting Oil on your Face is a Good Idea

This title was conveniently provided to me by an article in this weeks Hamilton Spectator! (Monday, June 10, 2013.) Contrary to popular belief, an appropriate blend of oils is actually the best, and most natural, facial moisturizer ever!! For one thing...have you considered that a lotion, any lotion, is just a blend of oils and water, with an emulsifier? (a component that keeps oils and water from separating) When you apply this mixture to your face, the water evaporates in minutes, leaving you with the oils, anyway. The problem with using lotion moisturizers, or, any moisturizers with water in them, is twofold. One, where there is water, there is bacteria. Bacteria need water to live and grow, and grow they do, easily, in lotions. To combat this bacterial growth, lotions need preservatives. Most are chemicals that you would not want anywhere near your face. A few are somewhat less toxic, but, why use a chemical or synthetic preservative if you don't have to? Oils, which are water free, do not grow bacteria and stay sanitary. Eventually, what will do an oil in is oxidation, not bacterial growth. Oxidation is a reaction that takes place between the oil and air. Most oils will oxidize eventually. Meadowfoam and jojoba will last darn near forever; as will wheatgerm, which is high in Vitamin E, a naturally occuring anti-oxidant.A proper oil blend should last at least a year at room temperature. Secondly, as the water evaporates from your face, it actually dries your face out. Oils are looking better now, aren't they??

The real reasons to use oil on your face are as follows: (1) You only need a few drops. Cost effective. (2) Your skin already makes oil. By using a few drops as moisturizer, even oily skin is "tricked" into thinking it has enough oil, and, oil production by your pore slows. Consequently, even oily skin can benefit from the right combination of topical oils. (3) The oil forms a thin barrier against future water evaporation from your skin, sealing in whatever moisture you have already. (4) Oil fills in spaces between decaying cells and gets into cracks below the skin surface to help "plump up" your skin.(5) Aging skin makes less of its own oil, which means aging skin is often dull and lifeless looking. An oil moisturizer illuminates skin and makes it appear younger, but not shiny.  (6) Many oils are anti-inflammatory, so they calm redness and irration. In short, oils can balance conbination skin, make our skin appear younger, and preserve the moisture we have. The right conbination of oils can also provide building blocks for skin reconstruction, and anti-oxidants to slow down the aging process when outdoor, polluted air comes in contact with our skin. That's why so many cosmetic companies add synthetic vitamins A, C or E to skin creams.

To read the entire spectator article, click here:

Then, go to:  to read about what is in NaturOil. Decide if it's worth a try!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quick Ways to Green up Spring Cleaning

We're all still waiting for spring. Personally, I would have thought it would be nice enough out so that I would have forgotten about staying indoors and cleaning anything. But it is still cold you want to spruce up your house a bit before you get to abandon it completely for a few months as we move outdoors. :-)

For those of  you who were unable to attend my Green Cleaning seminars at 2 different Goodness Me! locations, here are some quick ways to keep your house sparkling without doing damage to your indoor air, the environment, your skin or your lungs. 

First, make sure anything you throw out is going to the appropriate place. Paints and paint thinners, car oil, old computers, old phones and printers.....look online to see where these items need to go. It is NOT in the garbage.

When doing laundry, get rid of your fabric softener, whether you use dryer sheets or a liquid in your washing machine. Instead, use a small amount of inexpensive white vinegar in your automatic rinse dispenser. You will not believe how effective it is! And no, your laundry will not smell like vinegar. A top loader needs about a quarter cup; a front, high efficiency washer needs only a tablespoon. Add a few drops of essential oil (I use lavender, but lemon and orange are attractive, too) to the automatic dispenser if you like, you don't have to. Your towels without the greasy buildup you get from liquid softener or dryer sheets will be 25% fluffier. No static! Good for you, your clothes, and the environment.

If summer ever gets here, hang at least some laundry outdoors to dry. I don't have an official clothes line, but, you can buy fold out metal drying racks, and, I even use lawn chairs when needed. It's amazing how fresh your clothes and sheets smell when hung outside! Your clothes dryer is one of the high energy appliances in your home. A bonus will be a lower electrical bill.

Avoid ALL synthetic air fresheners!! They contain man made chemicals that pollute your indoor air. Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients, as these are considered "proprietary formulas." Under the heading of "parfum" or "fragrance" you will find, not listed, phthalates (a known hormone disruptor) or formaldehyde (a known carcinogen.) Instead, open the window! Or, if you simply can't let the fresh air in,  take one cup of water in an empty spray bottle from your local dollar store, add 15 drops of essential oil of your choice. Shake vigorously before spraying your room for a natural, non-polluting spray. 

Castile soap cleans EVERYTHING. It's fantastic on hardwood and ceramic floors....the counters...pretty much anything! Just don't use too much. Two teaspoons or less in a small pail full of water is plenty.

What castile soap won't clean, vinegar and baking soda will!! Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Diluted half and half with water, it can clean shower stalls, countertops, glass and mirrors. Warning: don't use vinegar on marble or other porous surfaces. Baking soda is slightly abrasive, but doesn't scratch. Perfect for stainless steel, sinks, toilets and countertops.

Surf the net for how to clean any and everything....safely! Just type in what you are trying to clean, and the words, "Green" or "natural" and "clean" and you'll have your pick of recipes and solutions.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Power of Scent

Lately there has been a lot of research into how smell affects our cognitive (thinking) abilities. Rather than spend an entire post on each article, I will give brief summaries here. 

First up is the scent of rosemary. Researchers have shown that inhaling rosemary (the essential oil that comes from the common cooking herb) improves your ability to give correct answers on mathematical tests involving subtraction. This is an enormous simplification of this research, but does show that what you smell can affect the speed and accuracy with which you think. This particular article goes on to talk about the possible role rosemary might play in eventually being used as a diagnostic tool for having suffered a concussion, and, how it might help diagnose the early stages of Alzheimer's. If interested, you can read the entire article here:

The May 2013 issue of Chatelaine magazine had a small sidebar article detailing that the smell of peppermint helps athletes achieve a "burst of energy" and second wind when engaged in on-going strenuous exercise (like long distance running.)

Topical application of peppermint alleviates tension headaches. Menthol, the primary ingredient of peppermint, is, in fact, the active ingredient in eScential Wellness' Headache Help. You can read the synopsis of the study, published on PubMed, here:

Smelling peppermint or cinnamon can increase alertness, reduce fatigue, enhance performance and increase alertness. What a great, easy cure for those long distance drives!! Every car should have a car diffuser. Read the full article here:

There's plenty of scientific studies to support the ability of citrus oils (lemon, orange, grapefruit) to uplift your mood.

Evidence is just growing that the sense of smell is underestimated in its usefulness for helping us to cope with external challenges!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Essential Oils 101 - Last Post

I encourage you to read the first two blog posts in this series, to better understand essential oils.

As mentioned last time, doing testing on an essential oil allows you to know what is in it. Gas chromatography is one common method, another is spectrometry. Both of these highly sophisticated techniques are able to tell you what, and how much, of a component is in an essential oil. For the most reliable results, it is always best if the oil has been sent to an independent, third party testing facility. One of the problems I have with many essential oil companies is that they do their own testing.  In theory this should work, but, it is like an agency policing itself. Not much incentiveto be honest if it affects the bottom line (that is, profit.) I don't like "taking their word for it." If the testing agency is independent, you should get true results.

Other companies insist that they do testing - lots of it - but will not share or disclose the results. This is just nonsense. Why should I believe them? Maybe the testing was, indeed, done. Maybe what the testing shows is that it is a true, pure oil, but, for some reason, is of poor quality. In every oil, there are "main" components, the ones that are responsible for the effects of the essential oil. For example, the sedative quality of lavender comes largely from its linalyl acetate component. Maybe this particular oil, though tested, has, for some reason (read blog post 1) very low linalyl acetate. It may not give you the results you are hoping for. If  a company has paid the money to have the testing done, whyever would they hide the results? They should be proud of the fact that they test their oils. After spending that money, it's just silly not to share the information.  

Another problem is that some companies will test just the occasional batch of oils. As you now know from my previous posts on this subject, an oil can vary widely in its makeup. Ideally, each batch of each oil should be tested, and the results should be available. Even if not a chemist, you can determine if one batch has "more" or "less" of a component.

In a nutshell, the best oils are batch tested for quality, by an independent facility, and the results are available. This alone, in my mind, makes a company more reliable than others.

So who does this? Well, not many. Of course, you can always ask an aromatherapist where they get their oils from, and purchase from them. And although I will apologize in advance for any companies that do this, and I don't know about them, I will  highly recommend the following 2 companies: and

Both of these companies visit the distilleries where they purchase their oils. They know the distillers and can personally guarantee their purity. The oils may not be certified organic, as this certification is costly, but, they are all either wildcrafted and/or unsprayed. Every batch of every oil is tested, and the results are readily available online.

If you know of any other companies who do this, email me and let me know!!

Always happy to answer questions, too. On the website, go to the contact page, and email me with any questions you may have.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dr. Oz - Smell & Appetite

Everyone knows that smell and taste are inextricably linked.  The aroma of freshly popped popcorn at the movie theatre entices us to buy some.....and the smell of a backyard barbecue can get the ol' salivary glands working.

Of course, losing your sense of smell can also affect how we taste things. When you have a cold, it is common that you can't taste your food because your nose is blocked.

But did you know that smell can also suppress appetite? Happily, yes! Merely smelling grapefruit or peppermint essential oils can make your food cravings more manageable!! YES!! It's true!! And backed up by no other than Dr. Oz himself!! Here is what he has to say about the smell of grapefruit: "Preliminary studies in animals show that the scent of grapefruit oil—yes, just the scent—has an effect of reducing the appetite and body weight (rats exposed to the scents for 15 minutes three times a week enjoyed the effect). The cause? It's unclear, but it may work through grapefruit oil's effects on liver enzymes."

And peppermint? Dr. Oz, again: "You may be able to get some extra willpower against the munchies by following your nose. In a study, inhaling the scent of peppermint every couple of hours helped people eat less overall—and eat better. By the end of the 2-week study, the people who had sniffed peppermint every couple of hours during the day had also consumed fewer calories and eaten less fat, less saturated fat, and less sugar than the nonsniffers did. Bonus: Peppermint also reduces feelings of hunger."

Other studies back up Dr. Oz. Why not try eScential Wellness "Food Craving Tamer?" It's an inhaler that you can keep in your purse or pocket, and discreetly sniff when you need a little motivation to avoid overeating. Check it out here:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Essential Oils 101 continued :-)

You should probably re-read my previous post about the challenges of harvesting essential oils. The many variables explain why one oil, even when harvested from the same place, by the same person, can have a very different chemical composition.

This explains a few things. One, why some oils are so much more expensive than others. Not all plants yield the same amount of oil. Rose oil, for example: you need 60 roses to get one drop of rose essential oil!! (For a fascinating look at rose oil, you can read Wikipedia, here:    Because of the large volume of plant matter needed, and, the care and difficulty expended to get it, pure rose oil is very, very expensive.  Paying $60 for 5 ml (one teaspoon!) would be quite acceptable.

Other oils are more forgiving.  Five pounds of peppermint leaves will yield one ounce (30 mls, or 2 tablespoons) of essential oil. A more reasonable price here would be approximately $15 for 15 mls....three times as much oil as rose, for 1/4 of the price!! So we can tell you one thing for certain:

Rule #1 - Essential oils should all be priced separately. There is no way you can price an entire line of essential oils the same price, as, the expense of obtaining the oil varies so widely. If you find essential oils to be uniformly priced, beware!!!

Unfortunately, what some oil sellers do, is take a tiny bit of the expensive oil, and "adulterate" or add a less expensive oil to it. For example, rose geranium smells a bit like rose, but, it is much less expensive. Unless your nose can smell the addition (and most of us can't) you may not be getting what you think you are getting. It is even possible that the expensive oil is adulterated by adding something completely foreign, like vegetable oil, or solvents. This means there always exists the chance that you are not getting a "pure" essential oil

The only way to know exactly what is in an oil is to have it put through some tests. One commonly used test is the gas chromatograph. This is a complex, sophisticated machine that can take a drop of essential oil (or many other compounds, for that matter) and break it down to tell you exactly what is in the oil, and how much of it. For example, in a typical sample of lavender oil, there can be up to 100 different chemicals, but, probably only about 20-30 "main" components. And of these 25 or so, the 2 present in the greatest quantity should be linalol, an alcohol, and linalyl acetate, an ester. These 2 compounds are often the ingredients that give lavender its great disinfectant (the alcohol) and sedative (the ester) qualities.

Of course, if you don't have access to these results, or, even if you do but do not know chemistry, and most casual purchasers of essential oils don' do you know whether or not  you have a good oil?

We'll leave that discussion for next time!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dr. Oz & Environmental Toxins

I'm going to interject this post between my "How can you assess the quality of a good essential oil?" blogs. I couldn't resist...seeing as I receive posts from Dr. Oz in my inbox. This particular one refers to a topic so dear to my heart: toxins in personal care products.

This particular Oz post is from his Real Age website; and is titled, "Breast Cancer Risk May Be Linked To Toxic Environmental Factors." There's a heading to catch your eye. Even though heart disease is the #1 killer of women in North America, women are understandably, and intelligently, concerned with the risk of breast cancer.

The 300 page report from the Institute of Medicine suggests we should avoid environmental toxins from all sources. There ARE things you can do. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins, and, of course, get screened for breast cancer at the appropriate age/time and as recommended by your physician. Here are 4 things you can do:

(1) Don't breathe in toxic fumes (tobacco smoke, car exhaust, gasoline fumes)
(2)Keep toxic vapours outdoors (for example, paint thinner.) Air out newly dry cleaned clothes outside before wearing and consider using filters on your tap water if solvents are in your water supply
(3)Avoid hormone disruptors - the most common being BPA. Although now out of plastics, it still is in the majority of  canned goods, in the lining on the inside of the can, and, on many thermal receipts.

I am going to quote #4 in it's entirety: "Be choosy about personal care and household products. There's plenty of carcinogen controversy about certain chemicals in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and more. The Environmental Working Group has a cosmetics database of worry free products, and Green Seal is one good guide to choosing nontoxic cleaners (try baking soda and vinegar, too)."

Other things in your control include staying active, keeping yourself at a healthy weight, with your waist measurement under 33 inches.

If you want to read the entire article, the link is here:

I do not like to make people anxious.....but, personally, I always feel empowered when I learn of small things I can do to improve my health and minimize risk.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Essential Oils 101

I have had soooooooooo many questions about what constitutes a quality essential oil, I have decided to do a few blog posts on that topic.

Essential oils are made by plants. Plants do not make unnecessary things. The oils serve a purpose in a plant, and, quite often, they serve a similar purpose in people. The differences between a plant cell and a human cell are quite small. Plant cells have different cell walls and vary in a number of interior cell structures. However, the interior of the cells, and their working parts, are very similar. This explains why essential oils may have similar effects in human and plant cells.

Frankincense oozes out of a wound in the frankincense tree. This particular essential oil is actually a resin...not oil-like in consistency at all. The resin acts as a "band aid" for the tree wound. It disinfects it, and speeds healing. Not surprisingly, frankincense has great disinfectant skin rejuvenating properties in people, too. Frankincense was one of the ingredients used back in ancient Egypt to mummify the pharoahs. It has a myriad of other properties...but to keep this simple, we'll just leave the comparison at that.

There are so many factors that can influence the chemical makeup of an essential oil. They are very complex, and, on average, contain approximately 100 components. The components often work in synergy; meaning that they can be more potent and effective together than when isolated. Unlike pharmaceuticals, where one ingredient is purified and its effects are strong, essential oils are most effective when used as nature made them: as a complex blend.

Each plant is unique. Harvesting an essential oil has relied on millenia of research to determine when it is best to harvest the oil. For example, neroli oil is best harvested early in the morning, on a warm, sunny day. An overcast sky can affect what is in the oil. They must be picked at the right stage of maturity: too immature, and you get a lower oil yield, as well as a change in the chemical building blocks of the oil. Too ripe, and much of the oil will evaporate as it is transported to the distillery.

Other factors that affect the composition of the oil include: the weather endured by the plant the year of harvest (wet or dry? Hot or cold? ); how the plant material is transported; how the plant material is stored (proper temperature? too hot or too cold? too long?); the composition of the earth in which the plant grows; the temperature and length of time that the plant material is exposed to during distillation; whether the oil itself is properly packaged (clear bottles or dark?). The list is extensive. This provides you with some idea of how complicated harvesting an oil can be, and, why each harvest of the very same oil can be very, very different - even when you are harvesting the same plants in the same region.

Whew! Well, it's a start!! Next month, we'll talk more about essential oils and why some are "better quality" than others.