Showing posts with label Herbs & Oils
Recently my 16 yr old daughter came home from a friends house asking if I knew people could drink essential oils.  The first thing I said was "let me guess, one of your friends parents sell Young Living Essential Oils" and she asks "how did you know?"

The first time I heard about Young Living was during my aromatherapy certification course when a student brought up Raindrop Therapy.  She was immediately shut down by our instructor but when she refused to stop talking about YL she was told she'd have to leave the classroom.  The focus of the class quickly returned to the proper use of essential oils, not what MLM (Multilevel Marketing) companies often say to get you to use more of their product.

Following that experience I didn't come across the words Young Living again until I was at an herb festival and one of the instructors there was pushing YL essential oils, encouraging people to try Raindrop Therapy, passing essential oils around for guests to drink in a glass of water, and telling people that as long as an essential oil was labelled GRAS it could be consumed.  One of the guests taking part in the drink fest was a pregnant woman.  Following that experience I decided to do some research and discovered some not so savory things about Young Living reps and their founder that concerned me but I don't want this post to be about that, I want it to be about this…

SAFETY!

I didn't appreciate the misinformation about essential oils being shared with my daughter but luckily she's been exposed to the use of essential oils since birth and heard me preach about how to properly use them enough that she knows better than to jump on the Young Living band wagon before verifying things with her mother.  Other teens may not be so enlightened.  In fact, according to my daughter, Young Living has become quite popular at her high school and several teens are using them in ways that they shouldn't.  Next up we'll hear the FDA is going to start regulating essential oils and only people with a certain level of education will be able to dispense them.  Something I've been concerned about for a while now so I'm going to take some of the things reps for essential oil companies love to say about drinking essential oils (including what was said at the Herb Festival) and give the facts. 

They might tell you that when an essential oil is labelled GRAS it means generally recognized as safe for internal use.  They might also say if someone tells you it is unsafe to drink essential oils they are referring to other brands, not their brand, because their brand has the purest and only therapeutic oils on the planet.  One thing a proponent of internal use of essential oils will do to make you believe it is safe to drink essentials is point out foods or other products, like mouthwash, that contain them.

Fact: GRAS does mean generally recognized as safe but does NOT mean you can drink the essential oil.  Click HERE to see how GRAS is defined by the FDA.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm061846.htm#Q3
Essential oils are used in the food industry as a flavoring agent, so for example, if you choose to bake with an essential oil you'd need to know which ones are generally recognized as safe (CLICK HERE) and you'd need to know their dilution rate (I won't go into that here - refer to FDA guidelines or pick up a book that specifically covers this). I personally don't use essential oils to flavor my foods, I prefer the benefits I receive from flavoring my foods with herbs, spices or extracts.  Why spend the time researching how to use an essential oil according to the FDA safety guidelines when I can use a spice in its place? Besides, many essential oils are diluted with synthetics like BHT or petrochemicals (It was recently discovered that Cinnamon Bark by Young Living was diluted with synthetics), so why take the risk of ingesting something like that?

Essential oils are also used in items like mouthwash, toothpaste, etc...

Example - Listerine: menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate, and eucalyptus are all essential oils used in Listerine mouthwash.  Ethanol is used as a dissolving agent.  The percentage of ethanol used is between 21-27%, which is required to dissolve the essential oils and ethanol is also considered non-drinkable which is another reason Listerine is not to be swallowed.

You see a DISSOLVING AGENT is being used for the essential oils in the Listerine and there is a warming on the bottle that says DO NOT SWALLOW.

Essential oils are not water soluble so they will not dissolve in water, tea, coffee or juice. The oils will just float on the surface.  Example, using cinnamon bark essential oil as a flavoring agent in hot cocoa makes absolutely no sense because it doesn't mix.  Don't believe me? Take a clear bottle of water and drop in 2-3 drops of an essential oil.  Cover and then shake to see what happens. This is what you'll get.

essential oil floating on surface of water

If you drink a glass of water with lemon essential oil in it the oil could damage your mucus membranes; mouth, throat, stomach… Lemon essential oil is caustic and has been known to eat its way through rubber, do you really want that sitting in your stomach?

Just yesterday I read on a FB page a comment by someone who uses lemon essential oil in her water.  Her post, and I quote "I don't care what the FDA says, I've been drinking lemon essential oil in my water for years and I like it.  Nothing bad has ever happened."

Nothing bad has happened to her! READ THIS to get an idea of what bad has happened to some people who have taken essential oils internally.  Now is that a risk you are willing to take just to have your water smell and taste like a lemon?

There are no nutrients in essential oils.  If you want the smell, taste and benefits of a lemon, squeeze a bit of lemon juice into an 8 oz. glass of water.  A fresh lemon is rich in vitamin C and contains many other vitamins and minerals.  If you want the taste of cinnamon in your coffee, break up a cinnamon stick and boil it in a pot of water with your coffee, it won't only taste great but it is actually beneficial to your body and you won't have to worry about it possibly damaging your throat or harming your stomach. 

Note: Young Living is not the only essential oil company that promotes drinking essential oils, others like DoTerra and Veriditas Botanicals do also.  Plus many more. 

Essential oil companies would love for you to drink their oils because then you'll use them up quicker and return to buy more.  Telling people to drink essential oils is nothing more than a sales tactic.  They'll tell you that people have been drinking essential oils for years and even the French prescribe internal use of essential oils to treat various health issues but what they aren't telling you is that the people in France and other parts of the world prescribing the internal use of essential oils are medical professionals and it's done only in the case of serious diseases and never for every day use.  Those individuals obtain a full medical history from their patients including current medication or supplement intake, assess the necessity and monitor for issues and desired outcome.  So if you still feel the need to take essential oils internally after you've read this I urge you to do so under the guidance of a clinical aromatherapist or other medical professional trained in the use of essential oils.

If you read my post and like the woman above you said to yourself I don't care, I like taking eos internally, and you refuse to consult with a professional then the safest way this can be done according to Robert Tisserand (world's leading expert on aromatherapy) is to use an empty gelatin capsule filled with a fatty oil and the essential oil of choice - Not ideal since it is preferred a person be under supervision while doing this but it is the safest option if going it alone.  *Note - Tisserand DID NOT SAY to take the essential oils internally without guidance this way, he said IF you are going to refuse the guidance then  the safest thing to do is to use the gelatin capsule with fatty oil.

People advising you to avoid the internal use of essential oils aren't trying to keep you from buying anyone's product, they are trying to keep you safe and healthy.  It's the same reason I taught my kids how to read the label on a bottle of Ibuprofrin.  I'm not against them using Ibuprofrin when it is needed but it must be used according to safety guidelines to prevent injury.

So the next time you reach for an essential oil bottle ask yourself, in whose best interest is it for you to take the eo internally. 




I was reading a Facebook post recently where essential oils were being discussed, particularly cassia vs. cinnamon bark oil.  There was a debate over whether two plants from the same genus were essentially equals.  Should we refer to both peppermint and spearmint as mints (mentha)?  Should we refer to both cassia and cinnamon bark as cinnamon? The answer provided by the chemist leading that particular page was NO, just because they are from the same genus does not make them equal and knowing this is important, not just in aromatherapy but in herbalism also and here are a few good reasons why.
After learning I have an autoimmune disease and finding that I really struggle to overcome even the most basic illness I've decided to be proactive about maintaining wellness this year.  I've always done a few things to prepare our family for flu season, like making an elderberry tincture and keeping a natural version of antibacterial hand spray on hand for each person in the house but I've been warned by my ND and GP after my two trips to urgent care this past year that I need to be extra cautious about getting sick. So, how does someone NOT get sick?
Kids are always getting bit by something; mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, gnats, sand fleas… you name it and when they get bit they scratch, scratch, scratch and whine, whine, whine so as a parent you search for something to stop the itch and unfortunately everything you find is usually some commercial concoction that never really works anyway.  So what should you do? Reach for plantain.

Plantain is a child's best friend in the summer.  It not only stops the itch from biting bugs but it also ends the pain caused by stinging insects too.  My kids usually just grab a handful of plantain leaves, chew it up and slap it on the spot that needs attention but sometimes it is more convenient to have a plantain salve, like when out on a lake in a canoe or during travel when bringing fresh leaves along or finding it in the wild just isn't feasible.  So I had Aiyana make her first container of salve.

Here is a picture of plantain and you can read more about it HERE


To help identify plantain in the wild, here are a few helpful pictures

These seeds grow up from the center of the plantain plant

Plantain leaf

When you tear a plantain leaf you should see little vein strings as shown above



First, Aiyana went out and gathered a bunch of plantain leaves.



Washed and dried them.


Chopped them up.



Added them to the olive oil then heated.  The plantain sat in the warm oil for 2 hours.  This is the rush method.  I usually prefer keeping medicinal plants in a jar with oil for up to 6 weeks before straining but my daughter and I are on a mission, or I should say I am on a mission to teach as much as possible before the snow flies. LOL! So… we went with the rush method.  This oil sat for a week in the jar after  they were heated for 2 hrs.



She strained the oil out of the jar.


There are various ways you can extract the medicinal properties from a plant; we chose the solvent oil. You can tell the oil did its job by the color difference you see below.  Olive oil on left, plantains beneficial properties extracted into the olive oil on the right. 



 We poured the plantain oil into a double boiler, heated it up, added some beeswax to make the salve.



We think plantain oil stinks so we added lavender essential oil to to cut the smell.  Some people will add essential oils because of their beneficial properties but it is important to remember that eos are damaged by high heat, so to maintain their effectiveness you do not want to heat them above 80 degrees.  We used lavender eo in this recipe purely for the natural scent.


Here's the finished product after poured into tiny tins.


Couple notes on Plantain salve vs. Plantain leaves, we've found that the plant works much faster to relieve itching than the salve so if you have a choice, use the actual leaves from the plant.  The salve works but it takes a little more time.  We've also learned that it works really well on our dogs.  We have one dog that happens to be allergic to bug bites and certain types of material and when he develops hives the plantain salve brings about relief.

Herbal Roots does have an e-zine on plantain that is really good also.  The salve above is not listed but other crafts and ways of using the herbs are.

Recipe:

4 oz fresh plantain leaves
16 oz olive oil
.5 oz beeswax
24 drops lavender essential oil








I decided it was time to teach my youngest about herbs.  After quizzing her I found that she knows quite a bit but it was time to incorporate some fun stuff.  We are going to work our way through as many herbs as we can until winter arrives and our herb garden and wild medicinal plants have died back.  For each herb she is journaling, coloring, and creating.

My daughter and I made some vanilla extract again this year.  We'll be giving these bottles away at Christmas time. 

Last time I made vanilla extract I purchased beans from Beanilla, I really wanted the Mexican vanilla beans at the time but they were all sold out so I bought the Madagascar beans instead.  I found that I really loved the way the vanilla turned out so I ordered the same this year.



I learned I could make my own vanilla from someone on Twitter.  Prior to that I would always buy the McCormick brand from the grocery store.  What I don't like about the cheap commercial vanilla extract is the ingredients tend to be vanilla bean extractives, alcohol, water, and corn syrup.  Why eat corn syrup when you don't have to?

So...I figured if I didn't know I could make my own then maybe others didn't know either, so here is a little tutorial.

What you need: vodka (40%), 4 oz. bottles (mine are from Specialty Bottle), and vanilla beans (mine are from Beanilla).  Beanilla also has instructions on making vanilla extract 





Once you've opened your vanilla beans cut them in half.



Then slice each one down the middle (do not cut all the way through, just slice the first layer)



Open the bean (the inside is where the good stuff is).



Put 5 of the cut beans into each jar.  I had a package of 10 vanilla beans so I ended up with 20 pieces after I cut them in half so I made 4 jars of vanilla extract)



Fill each jar with vodka, make sure you cover the beans.


When you are done filling the jars, cap and label them.  Put them in a dark cool place to sit for 6 weeks.



Here are the labels I made for my vanilla extract.  If you want to use them just CLICK HERE, print on sticker paper and cut out.
For a simple elderberry tincture recipe click HERE. Unfortunately here in Minnesota the elderberry season is over.  I was lucky to find a bush that hadn't been picked over by the birds but not lucky enough to have my tincture ready before my youngest caught a respiratory infection :( 

Elderberries, when taken orally,  are best for treating both influenza A and B.  A lot of "anti-natural" medicine people point to the lack of research when it comes to using herbs to treat certain ailments but elderberry has been well researched and its potency proven.  The research conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu used elderberry syrup and results showed it cut the duration of the flu by half and invitro tests also showed it was 99% effective at fighting the Avian and H1N1 flu viruses. Our family uses elderberry tincture as a preventative.

If you want to make an elderberry tincture but can't find the berries you can always order them from HERE and HERE.

NOTE: for anyone questioning whether all elderberries are created equal. There is more than one variety of elderberry and the research that was done was on the Sambucus Nigra.  Back in 2009 I was told not to use anything but Sambucus Nigra in my tinctures when trying to prevent the flu but herbalist have now changed their opinion on that.  What I've been told by several herbalists in 2014 is that you can use the berries from any variety of elderberry for a tincture to prevent the flu. 

This is the elderberry we grabbed this year. Notice they are still a little light.

These are elderberries we've picked in the past, this is the color you really want your elderberries
to be when you pick them.

So for the simple details on tinctures let's start with the best book I have found on making herbal medicines.  The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook has all the little details someone interested in herbal healing likes.  In this book you get the who, what, and why of herbal medicine and not just a bunch of recipes.  Tinctures are not the only thing James Green covers in his book, he also covers lotions & creams, oil infusion, syrups, etc...



Don't know what a tincture is? A tincture is an herbal extract that is taken orally; under the tongue or swallowed (< children often do this instead of holding under the tongue). 

Why under the tongue? Because it is the fastest way into your bloodstream. 

Example for those that may not understand why we put tinctures under the tongue: my sister has a seizure disorder and anytime she has a seizure that lasts longer than a minute we can give her a drug called Ativan.  It is liquid form and the drops go under the tongue, Morphine is often given this way also and the reason is because it's fast acting, faster than if you swallowed it. Swallowing medication requires it go through the gut but a tincture immediately goes into the bloodstream.  The best explanation I could find to share with my blog readers (for when you have time to read) is HERE.  The gist of it is just this:
"When you swallow a pill, it must go through your entire gastrointestinal tract. This means the stomach (with acid and bile), the intestines (where most absorption takes place) and then off to the liver, for some more filtering. And THEN it's delivered to where it's needed. 
Truthfully, it's the long way, when you think about it. Going under the tongue bypasses this entire route, and delivers the medication right to the bloodstream. No waiting, no roadblocks -- just right into the blood and off to do its job."
So tinctures are drops you place under the tongue so their beneficial properties can be delivered into your bloodstream quickly to do their job.  You usually take a specified amount of a tincture (ex. 2-5 drops) and then hold it there for about 10-20 seconds.  There isn't usually any swallowing because the tincture will absorb quickly. 

How do you know how much to take?  Dosing of any med, whether natural or created in a lab, depends on several factors and those usually are your weight, age and ailment.  To better understand dosing and contraindications of herbal medicine I suggest this book HERE.  Herbalist Matthew Alfs explains proper dosing, what herbs conflict with others, when it is and isn't safe for someone to ingest a particular herb, etc... Since natural meds can be just as dangerous as some modern medications it is best to get a book like 300 Herbs to make sure you are being as safe as possible when ingesting herbs. (warning: don't follow info you find on the web, most of the sites online will tell you take 2-3 drops of pretty much any tincture and that isn't accurate information).  



If in doubt about the efficacy of herbal meds do a little research, what you'll learn is that most of the time when someone says they've tried an herbal remedy and it didn't work was because they just crushed up a bunch of leaves and made a tea or they grabbed something off the shelf at the local co-op without understanding the ingredients, how much to take and whether it was truly best for them.  Remember, once upon a time the use of herbal remedies was much more formal. 
way back when the eople paid a lot more attention to dosage and contraindications of plants until modern medicine took over, made everyone believe that plant medicine was quackery and now when people dabble in natural health modalities they do it without a lot of understanding of how it works and then they walk away with a negative opinion of it.  Herbs work, some are overhyped and some under appreciated but the more you learn about them the easier for you to pick and choose what is best for you.


Maya and I attended the yearly Herb Festival in Cannon Falls this weekend.  It was great to see Lise Wolff again (I have taken classes from her in the past) and it was fun to learn new things. I only had one negative experience, a single instructor that clearly didn't belong there (had her group drinking essential oils, putting several undiluted eos on the skin, referred to Robert Tisserand as Robert Tisserude and revealed she was a practitioner of raindrop therapy - among other things), aside from that though the rest of the festival was awesome.  Can never get bored learning and talking about medicinal plants :-)  (note: anyone that knows anything about the use of essential oils will know why I count that one instructor as a negative).

The day was beautiful, sun shining and temp was perfect.  Here is some pix from the day:


Farm in Cannon Falls

Maya: Farm in Cannon Falls

Plantain

Chickweed

Catnip
Stinging Nettle (or burn weed)

Lise Wolff educating the group

Wild Cucumber

Creeping Charlie
Mothers Wort


Wild Violet







Last year I read the book "Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive" and although I was eager to make a propolis tincture after reading the book my bees weren't cooperating. They weren't making much propolis. This year I bought another package of bees and they are propolis crazy. I was able to go into the hive a couple days ago and scrape a generous portion off the side of a hive body. 
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