Tips to stay sane this holiday season

Tips to stay sane this holiday season

 

The holidays are a time of family, friends, and good cheer. Being grateful, kind, and oftentimes giving more than receiving is what we moms and dads do. Spending time with family can bring about different emotions, anywhere from excitement to dread. It makes no difference which it is for you, they both come with their fair share of stress.

Moms tend to take on way too much and take it upon ourselves to make sure that everyone is happy. This begins well before Thanksgiving. We step away from our normal schedule and routine and prepare ourselves for a marathon of sorts. More often than not taking on more than one person ever should, dusting off our Superwoman capes. If you have children, especially small children, the holidays can be truly exhausting.

So, I got to thinking, how about I share some tips to help us stay sane? Keep everyone alive, you know that sort of thing. Wink. So without further adieu, here are my top 10 tips for staying sane during the holiday season without killing your kids! (Said in jest)

1. Acceptance of what is

I practice this daily. Sometimes I find myself fighting what is happening in my life, rather than simply accepting what is being put in front of me, in the moment. Think about that statement. Rather than inserting things like, “This is unfair”, “I wish things were different”, or “if only they___”, begin accepting things exactly as they are. Because let’s be honest, if you are saying those things to yourself, you causing yourself additional stress. Know that most everything is short-lived, a grain of sand on the beach. Know that everyone is doing his or her best. And most importantly, know that truly mastering this is one of the most empowering feelings that there is! It will help you to see clearly, and be able to love everything and everyone; for all that it is, for it is the reality. Life is not happening to you after all. Did part of your meal get messed up? Were family members late? Not grateful? Leave early? Kids fighting? Take a deep breath, all of these things make for the perfect day..accept what is.

Here are a couple possible affirmations to repeat to yourself through the day as needed:

*I accept that there are limitless possibilities for myself and others.
*I am learning to accept others as they are, we are all doing our best.

2.Hydration

Why would I put this as number two? Well, nearly all of us are somewhat dehydrated on a daily basis, many of us chronically so. Add to that the extra cocktails that happen around the holidays, and “typically” a lot of excess sugar consumption (excess sugar will further deplete hydration) and enter sluggishness, muscle aches and possible cramping, increased risk of illness, and an overall grumpy Gus. If you want to be at your best, make sure you stay hydrated, always. It will make a big difference. If you fear that you are already pretty dehydrated on a daily basis, plain water simply may not be enough for you to hydrate.

*Tip: Make this easy recipe at home for a tasty treat that will be sure to hydrate you in no time!

-Pour approximately 8 cups of water into a pitcher
-Warm up one cup of the 8 cups in the microwave or on the stovetop
-Add to the warm water 5 tbsp raw honey and ½ to ¾ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt. Mix well. Pour into the remaining 7 cups water and squeeze in the juice of one lemon, or ½ lemon and ½ lime.

Drink throughout the day.

3.Your kitchen is your sacred space, your oasis

During the holiday, make solid intentions surrounding your kitchen space. What do I mean by this? Do not allow yourself to be stressed in your sanctuary. This is your oasis. On my refrigerator I have a mantra written on a piece of paper that reads, “Smile and breathe…nourishing and caring for your body is a pleasure, never a chore”. Prepare nourishing food as much as you can around the holidays. Do not succumb to the expectations from others of a smorgasbord of sticky sugary treats. If you and only you choose to make a decadent treat, do that with intention. If it feels ok for you to do so, bless your food before you eat it. Always sit and savor your meal. Never eat while standing or on the run.

Remember the old saying, the kitchen is the heart of the home? Do not go it alone, that by itself is super stressful. I never enjoyed slaving away in the kitchen while I listened to everyone enjoying themselves in the other room, and I bet you don’t either. Let go of the reigns for your sanity. If someone enters your sacred space give him or her a job to do. Ask for help. Working together will give you more time to spend with your loved ones, or have more moments alone if that is what you need to thrive.

4.Tea time

Take time for an herbal tea when the night is quiet (or the early morning).

For me being a night owl, this ritual works best for me after my children are in bed, but if your sweet spot is early morning before anyone is awake..do that.

I sit with all the Christmas lights lit, if the cats are away I run a diffuser as well (remember cats and essential oils do not mix). I put in herbs that lessen stress and promote a good night sleep. Some great herbs to try are lavender, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm or valerian root.

**Since I am not aware of your medical history or medications, please do your due diligence and make sure that these herbs are safe for your consumption.

No TV, no phone, no to-do lists running through my head, just silence. I sit and sip, I think about what I am grateful for, I call in all the good, and release what did not work for me that day back to the Universe. Something about the complete silence, the lights, and focusing on the good that not only helps me sleep soundly, but also helps me to awaken refreshed and ready to take on the next day.

If you are more of a morning person, a white tea may be ideal. Many love the taste of Matcha and it is superior to health. Try what works for you, just make sure you pair it with at least 10 minutes of blissful silence with thoughts of gratitude.

5.Be open to change

Listen to your gut. Be flexible. If you find yourself thinking “why am I even doing this”…maybe it is time to let it go! Just because historically everyone was up and ready to open gifts at 6 am, does not mean a change is not in order if you were up late on Christmas Eve (Unless you have children jumping on your bed of course). You usually spend Christmas running from house to house to house, and no one enjoys himself or herself? Arrange for one event the day after Christmas. Yes, some sacrifices may need to be made all around, but be open to change to reach the common goal, togetherness and memory making.

6.Forgive yourself….as you will have less than finer moments

Mom..mom..mom..mom..mom..mom..mom..Yes, there will be less than finer moments where you snap on your kids…why? Because you’re human! Kids are excited this time of year too! Everything is bigger, brighter, louder and as a result, your kids may act less than stellar! Keep this in mind when you feel what I like to call “ready to pop”. Change the perspective, put yourself in their shoes and take a moment to get down to their level. Here are a few great reasons to forgive yourself if you falter:

-Hey, last I checked no-one is perfect. I share a quote on my page and it fits pretty well here…Your kids do not need you to be perfect, they just need you! Trust me, they will forgive you quicker than you forgive you for losing your patience. Give them a hug, reach out for a tickle, cuddle, read a book together, help them to slow down the pace. It will help you both.

-Christmas is much like your wedding day. You spend so much time beforehand freaking out that something will go wrong…and it is likely that something will, and does…and NO ONE NOTICED! Take a deep breath. Even if something does not go as you had planned, it is likely no one will notice or care!

-You, above everyone, even your children, deserve your love, care, and forgiveness. We are our worst critics for sure. Give yourself even half the love and forgiveness that you give your kids on any given day and your GOLDEN!

A great book entitled “A Course in Miracles” by Helen Schucman (1) stated:

“You are spirit, pure, whole, and innocent. All is forgiven and released.”

Now, THIS is an amazing affirmation if I ever heard one. Memorize it and speak it often!

7.Aromatherapy

I could not make a list such as this without addressing aromatherapy. If you are having a larger gathering, diffusing is not a good idea, but there are a few others that will work just as well!

Utilize aromatherapy inhalers. Aromatherapy pendants or bracelets are another great option. You can apply a few drops of your favorite oil or oil blend and it will go a long way to keep you calm, focused, grounded, provide a pick-me-up, or whatever will work best for you in any situation. Be prepared!

Here are a few oil blends that I recommend (these are all kid safe):

Zero In (focus blend)

Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides 2 drops
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia 8 drops
Lime Citrus aurantifolia 5 drops

Amount of drops is appropriate for an aromastick inhaler

Green Light Go (pick me up blend)
Spearmint Mentha spicata 5 drops
Lemon Citrus limon 5 drops
Lime Citrus aurantifolia 5 drops

Amount of drops is appropriate for an aromastick inhaler

Woesbegone (calming master blend)

Mandarin red Citrus reticulata 15 drops
Orange sweet Citrus sinensis 8 drops
Sandalwood Santalum spicatum (I prefer Western Australian Sandalwood for aroma and sustainability)
6 drops
Frankincense Boswellia carteri 4 drops
Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides 2 drops

Mix and store in an amber or cobalt glass bottle in the fridge. Use in an inhaler, diffuser, or necklace/bracelet.

For more kid-friendly recipes like this >>>Aromatherapy for Kids, safe and sound

8.Drop the preconceived notions

We can attach preconceived notions to just about anything. I used to be very “specific” we shall say…cough cough…about how I wanted my Christmas tree decorated. This year, as a newly single mom..I handed over the job to my boys. They looked at me and said…”Mom, are you sure?”…I said “I am”, and I have not rearranged any of it. It is perfect just as it is. One simple and basic step to letting go of things being “just so” gave me a surprising sense of relief.

This can apply to endless things surrounding the holidays, the meals being just right, who helps clean up, how long you stay at guests homes, getting the perfect gift or having it in the perfect wrapping (one of my family members cringes when you rip wrapping paper, you need to carefully peel the tape, so it can be reused) =0 ….or yes, even how your children behave at Aunt Cathy’s house. Or how Aunt Cathy is viewing your children’s behavior from across the room.

Through the many times of stress and moments when you may want to scream like a crazy lady, try deep breathing instead. This 4-7-8 breathing technique was created by Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. See his video here (2)

The basis of this 4-7-8 breath is truly to create a deep awareness of our breathing. It works wonders, and the great thing is no one will even know that you are doing it! If you embrace it, the 4-7-8 breath will become a habit in no time! For those of you saying, I breathe every second of every day…so not the same. Practice it and you will be sure to notice the difference immediately.

9.Take a mini vacation

Oh, the wonder of guided imagery. I have used it to get through some really tough times in my life. Guided imagery has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol! (3) If you are not familiar with what guided imagery is, you lay in a comfortable position where you know you will not need to move for a good 20 minutes. Pillows, blankets, eye pillow, diffuser running, the whole kitchen sink. Ideally using good headphones, listen to a guided imagery audio file. You can find some decent ones on YouTube or any other music program such as Spotify or Pandora, etc. They will take you away to a beach, a forest floor or a garden grove for example. You will use all of your senses to be there fully, and your guide will help to paint the picture. Not all of us will enjoy the same person’s voice, but I do have my favorite which I will share with you.

Go to Meditainment.com. There are 7 minutes samples of a few different scenarios or locations if you will. You can pay a bundle price of around $30 for all of the audio clips. There are almost 2 dozen, and are all 20 minutes long. (I am NOT an affiliate) The ladies voice/accent is super soothing, and it is done very well. I have always been fully relaxed after completing a 20-minute session, and get up feeling refreshed and ready to start over. Go check it out!

10.The gift of time

Let time stand still. I have four examples on how you can do this, try one or all of them and see what works best for you.

-Holiday party (at night) is loud and you are feeling anxious, kids fully loaded on sugar running around, maybe some adults with too much to drink…..quietly step outside unnoticed. Move to a dark spot where no one can see you and just look up at the stars. Lift your arms to the universe if that feels comfortable for you. Bask in the glory of the world and that you are a part of it. Contemplate the vast sky. If you can see the moon, close your eyes momentarily and feel the connection, which is your womb (Yes, even if you do not have your uterus anymore, the energetics are still there). Bless the moon shining down upon you. Listen for the sounds around you. Be grateful to be alive and in your body, your container. Bonus if it is snowing down on you!

-Find your inner child. When the world is quiet (or if you have to search for that piece of silence) lean back and close your eyes. Picture yourself as a child, and he or she is standing in front of you, needing you. Let him or her sit on your lap. Caress their hair, cuddle with them, look into their eyes and tell them that they are good enough, tell them that everything is going to be ok. Whatever feels right here, do that and for whatever length of time you need. See your child self smile and feel secure and safe. Open your eyes. Now go and treat yourself this EXACT SAME WAY.

-You just got out of the shower and thankfully no kids are there to ask for something, and no cats or dogs are at the door using their paw to try and join you. Blissful silence. Place a towel over the toilet and sit with your favorite lotion or oil. Rather than rushing through this practice of moisturizing, be super mindful. Feel your hand on your skin, feel the hair on your arms, the temperature of your skin, knead and massage as you go. Love your body, and treat it right. Say nice things to yourself. Love yourself. <3

-Practice truly using all of your senses. We often rush through so many activities in a day, we may use them all, but we surely do not pay attention. Can you step into the grass barefoot? Close your eyes and really feel it, listen to every sound around you. Breathe in deep and really smell. Feel sand or dirt run through your fingers. One of my favorites is painting or drawing. Bonus if you use your fingers with either paint of charcoal! The holidays are full of scents, pay attention to them. This is a beautiful way to practice mindfulness, and you will be surprised how quickly your mind quiets.

This piece was a bit longer than planned, but I really wanted to hit on as many areas as I could for all of you. I hope you find that some of them really helpful. From the very bottom of my heart, to the bottom of yours, I wish you peace, love, and wonderful memories this holiday season. And stay sane!

Lifeholistically.com

References:

(1) A course in Miracles

(2) 4-7-8 Breath, Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9237092

Like so many practices in life, I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

Moms, Let’s Talk About Holistic Treatment For Fevers

Moms, Let’s Talk About Holistic Treatment For Fevers

Let’s talk fevers. As a mom of two young boys, I can attest to the unease that can come with having little ones run warm, their heart looking like it will beat out of their chest, checking on them a dozen or so times during the night, and trying every trick up our sleeve to make them more comfortable. As a pretty “crunchy mom” or “green mom”, I was never an advocate of Tylenol at all, and would only use Motrin as a last resort if someone was so completely miserable despite my best efforts to make them more comfortable. (This was usually due to accompanying pain).

Drawing down a fever is not something that is recommended, as a fever is a sign that our immune system is working as it should be to help us get well. Rather than make my case for why you would or would not want to lower a fever, I want to cover the various ways in which we can work to make our kids a bit more comfortable, while supporting their immune system to fight whatever germs are trying to take hold.

*It is important to note that if your child becomes extremely lethargic or they are having respiratory difficulty, you need to seek medical attention. Speak to your doctor about a safe upper limit for a fever. 

There are various things that we can do, holistically speaking to “cool” and “comfort” a child who presents with a fever.

*I am very educated in many areas including aromatic medicine, and pretty open minded, but one recommendation you will never get from me is to use essential oils internally on a child. So oregano essential oil internally for example? NOT happening.

The first thing I want to bring to your attention is the use of herbs. They are by far more gentle and much more efficient at managing fevers. Surprised? Let’s look at some of the ways they can be used.

Diaphoretic herbs

Diaphoretic herbs actually induce perspiration, helping the body to sweat. Why is this helpful? Think of your body like the thermostat in your home. They are very similar mechanism’s. Inducing perspiration helps to cool down the bodies core temperature. And shivering when cold is the bodies way of getting warm. Diaphoretic herbs work like this: they enter the circulation and are then thrown off by the sweat glands. “They stimulate the local nerve-fibers to increase glandular action. These herbs influence the peripheral sensory nerves, whose main job is to relax and dilate the superficial capillaries and vessels. They primarily influence surface circulation, and perspiration is the result of this increased blood flow”(1). So what does all of this mean? Diaphoretic herbs can be used safety to sweat it out, help lower the fever while not interrupting the immune process like acetaminophen or NSAIDS will. Let’s explore this a little but further. 

Diaphoretic herbs-relaxing and stimulating

Relaxing Diaphoretics

Relaxing diaphoretics are used when a fever is present with no actual visible sweating. Relaxing diaphoretic herbs may increase peripheral circulation and help to open the pores (inducing/enabling sweating) (2). Some relaxing diaphoretic herbs also help relieve the aches and pains associated with fevers. Here are a few relaxing diaphoretics that are safe for kids:

  • Catnip Nepata cataria
  • Chamomile Matricaria recutita
  • Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
  • Yarrow Achillea millefolium

At home, I blend equal parts of Catnip Nepata cataria, Chamomile Matricaria recutita, and Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis and store tightly in a mason jar. When my boys (or I) come down with a fever, I begin making a tea (a weak tea for the boys) of 1tsp of these herbs and have them sip throughout the day.

When these herbs are sipped hot, they will help to raise the body’s temperature and produce perspiration by opening the pores of the skin. Add honey to taste (Honey is not for a child under the age of 1).

Stimulating Diaphoretics

Stimulating diaphoretics enter the blood and as they are eliminated through the sudoriferous glands; any of the glands in the skin that secrete perspiration (3). Stimulating diaphoretics are used when a person has a fever but are likely having “chills”. I think we have all been there at one point. Hot but cold. These warming herbs support the increase in our internal temperature. This may sound backwards, but remember when I spoke to the thermostat of our body. These herbs are working to increase sweating to lower the fever without interrupting our body’s ability to fight for homeostasis like allopathic medications do. Here are a few stimulating diaphoretic herbs that are safe for kids:

  • Echinacea Echinacea purpuria
  • Elder flower Sambucus nigra
  • Ginger Zingiber officinale
  • Spearmint Mentha viridis

Spearmint Mentha viridis is a member of the lamiaceae family. Spearmint is a mild but effective diaphoretic making it suitable for children in a tea. You can utilize an decoction here as well, which is a strong tea and soak a washcloth to apply to back of neck, abdomen, forehead, etc. Both Echinacea and Elderflower will do double duty here. They are stimulating diaphoretics and immune supporters/boosters. A tea of these three is also a great remedy, although Echinacea and Elder flower will not be “as” effective in your cool cloth.

Essential Oils and Hydrosols

As an aromatherapist, I still prefer utilizing hydrosols for babies and small toddlers. If using a hydrosol will work, why use the much more costly and strong essential oil?

*Please, always keep the impact on the environment in mind when using your oils.

Spearmint is my first choice for children. You can spray the hydrosol or use the essential oil diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed on the back of the neck, follow Plant Therapy’s dilution recommendations found here. Inhalation is another option via a diffuser but will not be as effective to comfort in this instance (I recommend calming essential oils in the diffuser such as Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, Roman chamomile Chamaemelum nobile, or Sweet orange Citrus sinensis) to make your child more comfortable. Alternatively, you could fill a bowl with luke warm water (never ice cold) and add a drop or two of spearmint essential oil along with 1 tbsp of carrier oil such as jojoba or almond and soak their feet in the water OR wring out a small towel and place on the back of their neck or abdomen. (Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes.)

I would like to briefly address Peppermint Mentha piperita essential oil. The constituent menthol in peppermint triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors in the skin and is responsible for the well-known cooling sensation (4). Peppermint Mentha piperita essential oil as well as Peppermint Mentha piperita hydrosol is in fact very cooling. In fact, the cooling effect of the essential oil is pretty profound; it is not one I recommend for use in the bath for this reason. Is this oil or any essential oil effective at truly reducing a fever? Not likely, but it will definitely provide cooling comfort. Unlike Spearmint, Peppermint essential oil and hydrosol should be avoided for babies and small children. Go with the spearmint!

Remember, a fever is the body’s way of saying that the immune system is doing its job in getting you better. As you begin to sweat, you kick the immune system into high gear and help it do its job.  From one parent to another….even though it is hard to see your child uncomfortable, try not to  “fear a fever.”

Like these ideas? Stay tuned for others. Please, let me know if you have any questions, I am happy to help.

***As I am not aware of your child’s medical history, please research to make sure that they do not have any medical condition or are taking any medication that may interfere with any of these herbs. 

 

“Mom’s Essential Oil Evolution”, strengthening families, empowering mom’s.

Reference

(1) https://www.elitefts.com/education/motivation/the-elite-herbalist-diaphoretic-herbs/

(2) (3) https://www.bulkherbstore.com/blog/herbs-for-fever/

(4) McKemy, D. TRPM8: The cold and menthol receptor. Chapter 13. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK5238/

Lifeholistically.com

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions. 

 

Aging Gracefully

Aging Gracefully

The inevitability of aging can be met with fear and uncertainty, but it does not have to be this way. Maturing both in cognitive thought and in our physical appearance in a healthy, graceful way is key, as we want to not only feel good but also look good. Aging is a part of life, it is not something to fear, but to appreciate every moment and stage of our life, with grace.

It is known that after the age of 40, on average, that we need to support ourselves with specific nutrients in order to have robust health, with a side of spunk. This does not mean it is time to invest in copious bottles of nutritional supplementation, as nature provides us with all that we need to keep flourishing.

First I will discuss the nutrients that we need and how they support our well-being. I will discuss why obtaining these nutrients in pill form is not always ideal, and look at herbal preparations that make the nutrients quite easy to obtain. Lastly, I will cover how aromatherapy can support our skin and one of women’s most important body parts through our middle age and beyond. After all, complementary modalities look at the person as a whole, and both herbs and essential oils can assist us in varying ways to help us age gracefully.

Fundamental Nutrients for Over 40

B12

B12 is one of the vital nutrients needed for both men and women. It is imperative for brain function as well as digestion and absorption of the nutrients that you consume on a day-to-day basis. This nutrient, as others is best consumed through living foods.

Edible algae is a great source of vitamin B12 (1). It is important to note that B12 is different from other types of B vitamins, it requires special circumstances to obtain maximum absorption therefore many are deficient in this vitamin, (be sure to do your research). Nori, kelp and spirulina are good choices of this vital water-soluble vitamin (2).

Calcium

Obtaining appropriate levels of calcium is important for heart health for both postmenopausal and menopausal woman, and is key for strong bones (Vitamin D improves calcium absorption) (3).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system, and maintaining adequate levels is paramount for everyone. As mentioned above, Vitamin D is critical for the absorption of calcium.

Obtaining a little bit of good old’ fashioned sunlight is recommended. Not much is needed, about 10-15 minutes of sunshine without sunscreen is more than sufficient, and is the best way to obtain this fat-soluble vitamin (produced in the skin)(4). Just be sure to be responsible and protect your skin during peak times of the suns rays, 10am to 2pm.

Magnesium

Magnesium is responsible for the regulation of blood pressure and helps the body to absorb calcium; therefore, magnesium plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function/health (5).

Potassium

Potassium helps to keep blood pressure in check and lowers risk of stroke (6). Potassium, magnesium, and calcium play an integral role when obtained together for numerous facets of our health, but it is important to keep a delicate balance of these and all minerals.

*As with anything in life, everyone is unique and will not require the same amounts of nutrients based on health conditions, medications, and more. It is important to always work with your medical doctor before beginning a new health protocol.

Pills are Not Always the Answer

As I mentioned above, buying expensive bottles of supplements is not the answer here, and the reasons are multi-faceted.

*Cost of supplements are quite high, especially the whole food variety. This is due to the fact that it is a higher quality vitamin, as well as the serving size of 3 or 4 pills a day compared to 1 from an average vitamin.

*Value and purity. We must always use caution when purchasing vitamins in pill form. Be sure that you are in the know when it comes to reading labels. There can be ingredients in the bottle that you would never want to ingest, nor pay for. I am talking about ingredients such as lead, mercury, artificial colors and more (7).

*You can obtain much more in a pill than is needed on a daily basis, sometimes the label can state as much as 200% of your daily requirement or more of a specific nutrient. This does not, however, mean that your body is absorbing this much, nor is it healthy to do so. You can read more about this phenomenon and more here (8).

*Absorption of these nutrients can be questionable for some. Why is this? Oftentimes, the nutrients found in the bottle are what are considered synthetic, or made in a lab rather than grown in the ground (whole food based). This can mean that it is a foreign substance to your body. On the flip side, if you had a vitamin that was truly all natural whole food-derived ingredients, you would need to take 4 pills or more daily in order to obtain a serving size (9). This contributes to much higher costs.

So, for these reasons and more, enter bountiful nutrition, grown and cared for with love and care, in the earth.

Herbs, fruits, and vegetables grown in fertile, and preferably organically enriched soil is the clear answer. As a gardener and lover of the earth, it is important to note that when we take loving care of not only the plant parts that we see above the ground, but recognize that the dirt needs to be cultivated and enriched, the benefit is a much more nutrient dense plant. Let’s focus on herbs next.

Herbal Preparations

The beauty of herbs is the nutrition and wisdom in which they contain. Unlike essential oils which contain no nutrients of any kind, herbs contain a plethora of goodness, yet in many circles are very underutilized. When we look at holistic health as a whole, obtaining true nutrition as a means to be healthy, strong, and preserve vitality is something that needs more focus. There are many herbs that we can highlight here, let’s look at a few of them and how we can incorporate them into our lives.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa you say? It is not one of the more common herbs on the supermarket shelves, but is one that is so full of nutrition you may never need a conventional multi-vitamin ever again! (Yes, that powerful) Your thoughts may have gone to feeding cows, which used to be the food of choice for livestock before GMO corn became the norm; but it is very beneficial for us too!

You can purchase alfalfa seeds and sprout them yourself and add to salads, which would send the nutritional volume through the roof, or buy it in dried form from any reputable herbal shop. Alfalfa is a tad bitter and earthy in its dried form, and is considered cooling to our chi.

I am going to focus on the nutrition from the sprouted seed here. Sprouting seeds is super easy and cheap, and a lot of fun for kids too as they watch them grow!

Not only is alfalfa sprouts rich in various vitamins such as A, B, C, and K, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc…let’s talk protein and amino acids! Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Sprouts are going to be awesome for you! Yes, you can obtain plenty of plant based protein via sprouts, and lessen the impact on the planet by reducing meat consumption. Win win!

Once you get into sprouting, you may find it addicting and the plastic (or metal) growers taking over your kitchen countertops (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Take a peek a this site that supplies you with everything you need to get started. What are my favorites? Alfalfa, broccoli, and the micro green kits. Have fun!

Sprout People

Parsley

Parsley became a big part of my day-to-day during my struggles with my adrenal glands. I would simply buy large handfuls of the fresh herb and steep in water on my stovetop. I would then drink the parsley water throughout the day. Considered an adrenal tonic, parsley is my go to whenever I need a pick me up….or I want to avoid a sit me down, as in “I am just too tired” (10).

Smoothie drinker? Add a handful of raw parsley as your greens to your daily smoothie (the benefits are endless). You can even blend it straight with water as my friend and colleague Jennifer Jeffries does and she talks about here in a live video here (11).

Here is another great resource on parsley.

Stinging Nettles

This plant is not one that you would want to touch with bare hands in its fresh form, but it is a great herb to incorporate into your day-to-day. What is so special about nettle? Rich in vitamin A, B6, K, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, stinging nettles is an herb that should be in your cup or on your plate (11).

If you enjoy making your own herbal tea blends, a great blend here would be equal parts of:

Stinging Nettle
Echinacea
Peppermint or Spearmint

If you are fortunate enough to have the plant growing in your garden, cooking the leaves lightly will provide superior nutrition and taste similar to spinach. Stinging nettle leaves can then be added to a warming winter soup. Yum!

As you can now see, unlike essential oils, which provide no nutritional benefits at all, their herbal counterparts are champions! Moving on to essential oils and carrier oils, as they can provide benefits to our skin as we age. Below is two of my favorite blends.

Aromatherapy

Breast Health

To give credit where it is due, I began using Robert Tisserand’s breast oil, as his recommendations were based on science (the best kind of recommendations). Breast health should be of great importance to every aging woman, and prevention, rather than treatment is where we should be placing our focus. Here is a link to the background and research behind his recommendations (12). This recipe has evolved over the years for me, this is what I now use:

Breast Health Formulation

Carrier Oil/CO2’s

1.5 oz Pomegranate carrier oil
1 oz Rosehip Seed carrier oil
*Currently, Rosehip Seed carrier oil may be difficult to source, you can replace with another carrier of your choice
3 mls Pomegranate seed CO2
3 mls Sea Buckthorn Berry CO2
3 mls Rosehip CO2 (optional)

(you can purchase the CO2’s here)

Essential Oils (approx.. a 1% dilution)

10 drops Lemon Citrus limon
5 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia
6 drops Copaiba Copaifera officinalis
3 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var motia
3 drops Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica

Truth be told, I have been using oil on my breasts for health long before Robert shared his first blend recommendation. Another shout out goes to my friend that I met years ago at a women’s retreat at an ashram in Texas. Her name is Sunny Andrew Markham, and her company is “Earthsong”. She is a huge advocate for breast health and daily breast self-care. When I first learned of her oil, she stated that we all take care of our teeth and our hair etc., where is the love for our breasts! Therefore, she advocates for daily breast massage for their health, and yours (13).

* Follow the link below to her site (Earthsong) to learn about her recommendations.

*It is important to note if you begin to perform the daily breast massage per Earthsong’s recommendations (covering all lymph tissue) you need to be cautious exposing that skin to the sun due to the photosensitizing effects of both Bergamot and Lemon essential oil.

Facial Serum

In addition to our breasts, taking care of our face, neck, and chest is important for the natural aging process. I began making my own facial serum right around the age of 30 as I have MANY freckles and want to avoid the impending age spots that may be inevitable for my future. I also want to keep my skin supple throughout the winter months when skin tends to become dry. Here is my recommendation for a skin serum that I guarantee you will love!

Formulation (2oz glass bottle-1% dilution)

½ oz Rosehip Seed carrier oil (Needed for the vitamin C)
½ oz Sunflower carrier oil OR
½ oz Calendula infused sunflower carrier oil
*It is really worth the extra effort to infuse dried calendula in a sunflower or apricot carrier oil. If you have the warm summer sun great! If not, you can use your crockpot on warm. Read more about infusing herbs/flowers here.

½ oz Evening Primrose carrier oil
5 drops pure vitamin E
3 drops German Chamomile CO2 Total (Read more about the reasoning behind this recommendation and for purchase here)
*Can replace the CO2 with the essential oil if necessary
3 drops Frankincense Boswellia frereana

Experiment to see when the best time of day is for application for you. I tend to lean toward dry skin so using in the morning makes my skin happy all day. If you tend to have oily skin, a nighttime application may suit you better.

Closing

One thing is for sure, there are many things that we can do to support our body through the natural aging process, but the best weapon we have are our thoughts and our internal dialogue. The more you realize that aging is a natural part of life, and the more you work to support it, not fight it…the happier you will be. Enjoy every stage. To your health!

References

(1) Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians. 2014 May; 6(5): 1861–1873. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4042564/

(2) B12 in seaweed. Retrieved from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/b12-seaweed-11661.html

(3) Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

(4) Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

(5) Magnesium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

(6) Potassium. Retrieved from http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium

(7) Yigzaw, E. (2016) 5 DANGEROUS INGREDIENTS IN YOUR VITAMINS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS. Retrieved from http://info.achs.edu/blog/5-dangerous-ingredients-in-your-vitamins-and-dietary-supplements

(8) (9) Multivitamin/mineral Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/MVMS-HealthProfessional/

(10) Mateljan, G. (2007). The worlds healthiest foods: essential guide for the healthiest way of eating. Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation.

(11) Stinging Nettles. Retrieved from https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Stinging_Nettles,_blanched_(Northern_Plains_Indians)_nutritional_value.html

(12) Tisserand, R. (2015) Citrus Oils and Breast Health. Retrieved from http://tisserandinstitute.org/citrus-oils-and-breast-health/

(13) Earthsong, pomegranate breast oil. Retrieved from https://pomegranatebreastoil.com/

Like so many practices in life, I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

All about Lifeholistically

 

 

 

 

My Holistic “First Aid” Kit-Essential Oils Herbs & Homeopathy

My Holistic “First Aid” Kit-Essential Oils Herbs & Homeopathy

The variety of choices for a holistic first aid kit is quite exciting for the DIY’er in you and goes well beyond essential oils. Just about anything can be handled well with holistic remedies, and there are a plethora of options. I will be going over at a few of those options today. If we have the choice of handling things at home and to not have to travel to a doctor’s office where there is oftentimes a myriad of germs, let’s give it a go, right? I think it is important to understand when getting medical care is needed, but it is not always needed.

 

Homeopathic Medicine

What is homeopathic medicine? The word homeopathy, which comes from the Greek language, through Latin, and into English, means “like disease”. The guiding principle of homeopathy is stated as “let likes cure likes” (1). The foundation of homeopathy states that if a substance can cause disease in healthy people it will cure those same similar symptoms in sick people. It can be compared to a vaccine, without all the additives that are very much a health concern. Homeopathic medicine comes in varying strengths, but they are all considered the “minimum dose”.

“Homeopathic medicines are prepared through a series of dilutions, at each step of which there is a vigorous agitation of the solution called succus on until there is no detectable chemical substance left. As paradoxical as it may seem, the higher the dilution, when prepared in this dynamized way, the more potent the homeopathic remedy. Thereby is achieved the minimum dose which, none the less, has the maximum therapeutic effect with the fewest side effects” (2).

It is important to note that there are literally hundreds of varieties of single doses and mixed doses of homeopathy. If one type is not working for you, it does not necessarily mean that homeopathy does not work, but that you do not have the proper remedy. And much like essential oil, homeopathy is not a simple fix for any ailment; it is meant to be complementary care.

I have a homeopathic kit with me at all times of varying sizes. I have one kit in my home, one in my car and a few vials in my purse. The top remedy used in those kits is Arnica Arnica Montana. I use 30c, as it is perfect for my kids. Arnica is most often used for bruises, sprains, and inflammation. My boys are rough and tumble and both avid soccer players, so I combat large bruises by using this remedy at the time the bump happens, and a good 24 hours after.

The second vial I always carry with me is Nux vomica, also at 30c. “Strychnos nux-vomica is tree native to India and is a medium-sized tree with a short thick trunk. It is a major source of the highly poisonous, intensely bitter alkaloids strychnine and brucine, derived from the seeds inside the tree’s round, green to orange fruit” (3). When this is diluted down 10 to the 60th power, as in the case with a 30c dose, it is perfectly safe for use. But what is it used for? Nux vomica is used for overindulgence of food and drink. Have you eaten too much and are suffering from indigestion? Nux vomica is a great remedy to try.

Want to learn more about homeopathic remedies? Check out the information listed in the resources below.

*Want to know what dilution to go with? Follow this link for more information.

Herbs

I utilize my large storage space of herbs in a variety of ways in the home. I make many infused oils that sit in mason jars soaking up the summer sun like Arnica Arnica Montana, Rose Hips Rosa canina, and Calendula Calendula officinalis. During the months that the sun is a bit farther out of reach, I utilize my crock-pot on the keep warm setting. I like soaking dried calendula flowers in an apricot carrier oil, sealing in a mason jar and placing in the sun a few hours daily (With calendula and any other herbal material, make sure it is fully dry to avoid spoilage). The jar should stay in the sun for an average of 4 weeks, shake often and continually make sure that there is no moisture present. Strain well, using cheesecloth and pour into sterilized bottles. Calendula infused oil is great for inflammation and pain, as well as scrapes, scratches, burns and bites. I use this oil as a base for many of my other products as well. Calendula can be incorporated into baths, creams, compresses, washes, salves, ointments, massage oils, baths, facial steams, tinctures, and teas. It is also gentle enough to use for babies, children, or animals (4).

Infused oils are not the only way I use my herbs. Tinctures are useful winter remedies that can be used in a variety of ways. We use an Echinacea Echinacea purpurea tincture frequently throughout the winter months. I make this at home in the beginning of August by placing my raw herbal material into a small jar and covering with vodka. I shake the container every day for 3-4 weeks, strain it well and pour into a new sterilized jar. Echinacea is my first go to for the entire family at the first sign of sniffles or coughs, and is my number one weapon when my boys begin school in September. One dropper full in their fresh squeezed orange juice is a great immune booster. I typically use it for 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off throughout the winter/early spring. If someone is sick, however, I use it every day until symptoms subside. Other herbs that can be used in this way for school-aged children is Astralagus Astragalus propinquus and Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis.

*It is important to note that Echinacea is not recommended for those with auto-immune disorders or are on medication to suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for example. The purpose of Echinacea is to boost white blood cells. Click here for a mention on the subject of echinacea and Lupus from the Johns Hopkins Center.

Herbs are also used as teas and decoctions (strong teas) in the home. I have a nice trio that I call my fever blend for both my kids and myself. I only reach for a true fever reducer such as Ibuprofen when my boys are completely miserable. The following trio is all diaphoretic herbs, either stimulating or relaxing, and the goal of them is to relax you as fevers make you uncomfortable and to help you sweat, but not urinate excessively causing possible risk of dehydration.

Mix equal parts:

Catnip Nepeta cataria
Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla
Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis

Use as needed (1tsp per cup of tea). Make a weak tea for children.

Follow this link to learn more about diaphoretic herbs and why they are useful for managing a fever (Bulk Herb Store).

 

This next remedy would definitely not be a first aid kit item for on the go, but if dehydration is a worry through a fever or flu where you or a loved one is vomiting or has diarrhea, this is a wonderful homemade concoction that everyone will love. (I do not recommend Pedialyte types of drinks). I make some the following concoction if the flu rears its ugly head in our house. It is approved by both my 9 and 11-year-old boys.

1 quart filtered water
Juice of 2-3 lemons (can add limes too if you so choose)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt (not table salt)
1/3 cup raw honey

Not for children under 1 year of age

I typically take a small portion of that quart of water and heat it up. Add the honey and salt to that so it mixes the honey and dissolves the salt easily. Then add it to the remaining water. This tastes good and has exactly the balance you need to restore electrolytes and prevent dehydration.

* You can use pure coconut water. It works great, although it can be an acquired taste for some.

Elderberry Syrup for the Home

I am not a proponent of flu shots, so I do what I can to shorten the length of it if it happens to make its way into the home. Elderberry syrup can be purchased at your local Walgreens or CVS, but I prefer to make my own. It is easy to do, give it a try! Here is what you will need:

2 cups Elderberries Sambucus nigra dried (I prefer organic)
5 organic cloves
2 organic cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp organic raw ginger
1-2 tbsp organic dried echinacea (optional)
4 cups Purified or distilled water
Raw honey (add as much volume of honey as your liquid volume of elderberry syrup after simmering)

*Not for children under 1 year of age.
*Vegans can utilize agave syrup as a replacement for honey.

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except the honey and bring to just under a boil (do not boil). Reduce to a low simmer for about 30 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes or so. Remove from heat. Strain through a cheesecloth (I typically strain twice to make sure I get out all my herbal material). Be sure to squeeze out the juice from the berries. Measure your liquid and add an equal amount of honey. Place your pot back on a low simmer to fully soften honey and mix well. Let cool a bit then add to your glass bottles (sterilize bottles). Store in the fridge and use up within a month’s time as this has no true preservation system.

Want proof that elderberry syrup is effective? Here are a few research papers for your review:

*Kong F. Pilot clinical study on a proprietary elderberry extract: efficacy in addressing influenza symptoms. Online Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics. 2009;5:32-43.

*Roschek B, Fink RC, McMichael MD, et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009;70:1255-61.

*Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower(Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014;11(1):80-120.

*Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32:132-40.

I utilize this syrup in any instance where the immune system needs a boost, not just for flu. It is a very effective cough remedy, too!

There are many other ways to utilize herbs in the home as a means to comfort, boost the immune system, and help encourage a speedy recovery from a variety of ailments. Check the resources below for some great reading material.

 

Essential Oils

I am a stickler for essential oil safety, so I will not be recommending applying essential oils to scrapes/cuts, or to use them undiluted. If your child has a scrape, a great option would be raw honey (manuka) or calendula crème from Weleda. You can purchase this European based crème at Target. Calendula will create a covering over the wound and is very effective in preventing infection and encouraging healing (5).

I keep a bottle of Lavender Lavandula angustifolia with me at all times, typically diluted to 3%. Lavender supports mental wellness, so it can be used in a variety of ways from just a simple case of grumpy gus, an overly stressful moment, or something unexpected like an accident, to bumps and bruises, burns, bug bites, and more. I usually do not use a roller bottle in this instance, as it is likely not going to be used by only one person, therefore contamination is a concern. Apply where needed. If you are utilizing it for mental wellness, inhalation is best.

At home, if there is a minor injury that has a bigger potential for bruising, I have a mixture of Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum and Kunzea Kunzea ambigua that I apply immediately to the area (Both are safe for kids). These two oils can work together to minimize bruising, reduce pain and discomfort and encourage speedy healing.

If I am at home and there is a bellyache present, I tend to use a weak tea of chamomile and peppermint to soothe and comfort. If I am away from home, I have an inhaler ready to go with essential oils such as Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum, Ginger Zingiber officinalis, and Spearmint Mentha spicata. You can rub into the belly appropriately diluted, but I find inhalation to be more effective here.

 

Closing

I hope that these basic ideas are helpful for you to begin to make your own first aid kit, one for home and one for when your away. There are many other things that can be utilized, what would you include in yours?

 

References

(1) (2) What is homeopathic medicine? Retrieved from http://homeopathyusa.org/homeopathic-medicine.html

(3) Strychnos nux-vomica. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strychnos_nux-vomica

(4) Healing with Calendula, (2010) Retrieved from
http://mountainroseblog.com/healing-calendula/

(5) Calendula, a wound healing herb Retrieved from

Calendula: A Wound Healing Herb

Herbal Resources

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by D. Winston 


Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd ed. By AHPA (American Herbal Products Association) 


Healing Wise (Wise Woman Herbal) by. S. Weed 


Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria by S. Buhne
r


Herbal Antivirals by M. Jones 


Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals by C. Newall, L. Anderson, and D. Phillipson 


Herbs for Common Ailments: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Home Health Care by R. Gladstar 


Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health & Vitality by K. Brown 


Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine by D. Hoffmann 


Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine, 2e by K. Bone and S. Mills 


Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality 


Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health 


Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

 

Homeopathic Resources

Classical Homeopathy by M. Carlston 


Complete Homeopathy Handbook by M. Castro 


Encyclopedia of Homeopathy by A. Lockie 


Homeopathy Pocket Guide by A. Brandl 


Principles and Practice of Homeopathy by D. Owen 

 

Like so many practices in life, I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

Differences Between Plants and Their Essential Oil

Differences Between Plants and Their Essential Oil

 

It goes without saying that essential oils come from plants, but this does not necessarily mean that the therapeutic benefits or uses from the plant to essential oil is the same. In many cases, this does not hold true. The differences can be quite significant.

There can be crossovers such as with lavender for example. A cup of herbal lavender tea will help to relax you as will a good sniff of Lavender Lavandula angustifolia essential oil. Oftentimes, you can find proposed uses for essential oils on the Internet and social media that are solely based on how the plant (herb, spice, fruit) originated from that essential oil has been historically used.

Many assumptions are made, so my goal today is to talk about the differences between the two.

Nutritional Content-Herbs Vs Essential Oils

Herbs and spices have been used for centuries for their nutritional benefits. As a matter of fact, many were celebrated for their medicinal property, long before their culinary use. The oldest written evidence of medicinal plants’ usage for preparation of drugs has been found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur, approximately 5000 years old (1).

We all know that herbs contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, protein and much much more. They are powerhouses for our health, can be used for many things that ail us, and are powerful tools to restore homeostasis. Herbal medicines are just one type of dietary supplement. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants. Essential oils, however, contain no nutrition at all, and therefore cannot be considered supplements.

How can that be you ask? Let’s briefly look at the facts. Steam distillation, which is the most common form of extracting essential oils is done so by placing plant material in a still; steam from boiled water is passed through the plant material and is then cooled to collect the essential oil. This essentially separates the volatiles from the non-volatiles. This is done right around 100° C/212° F (on average). All essential oils are very volatile (this is very important to remember). More on steam distillation here.

There are two important key points here; the first is the heat of steam distillation. The second is volatiles vs non-volatiles. When we look at vitamins and minerals, they degrade at specific temperatures. B vitamins degrade right around room temperature, 20 to 25° C or 68 to 77° F. This is much lower than the temperature of steam distillation; therefore no B vitamins will be present in essential oils (2).

Vitamin C is the most popular claim when it comes to citrus essential oils. Many are told to place citrus essential oil in their water daily or multiple times a day to obtain the daily dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C degrades at 70° C or 158° F, showing it is not possible to have any vitamin C in citrus steam distilled oil (3). Even when looking at the cold-pressed essential oil, the amount of vitamin C is extremely minute.

Read more about this here.

In addition, B and C vitamins are water-soluble. Any water-soluble vitamin will be left in the water, and will not make it through steam distillation to the fat-soluble essential oil. (Minerals are also water-soluble).

Lipids, or fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K are non-volatiles. Remember above where I said that the end product of steam distillation contained only volatiles? This shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that essential oils contain no vitamins or minerals.

As mentioned above, the essential oil that is steam distilled contains only volatile material. This is very different from the herb or the whole plant, which contains volatiles and non-volatiles.

After looking at the chemistry of an essential oil and the distillation process, it becomes easy to see that essential oils could not possibly contain nutrients, or on their own be considered a supplement.

Want to understand more about fat soluble vs water soluble vitamins? Read more here.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the branches of wild trees that belong to the genus “Cinnamomum”.

Cinnamon and other spices and herbs rich in plant polyphenols can help control blood sugar and insulin spikes after meals (4). One placebo-controlled trial found that a supplement containing cassia cinnamon, chromium and carnosine successfully lowered fasting blood sugar in people with pre-diabetes (5). When polyphenols are studied, we know that there are many health benefits associated with them.

Since essential oils do not contain nutrients, we can see that cinnamon essential oil can not beyond a shadow of a doubt have the capacity to lower blood sugar…even though you can go and do a quick Google search and find that exact claim very easily. It is important to do your research and understand the science.

The cautions from the spice to the essential oil also vary. You would need to take very large amounts of the spice to have any real risk; the essential oil(s) however have quite a few such as potential drug interactions, possible issues for those with blood clotting concerns and an increased risk of skin irritation/sensitization to name a few. For more on the cautions and contraindications of cinnamon essential oil, refer to Robert Tisserand’s, Essential Oil Safety 2e.

Learn more about the cautions of the spice here.

Fennel

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare essential oil is often claimed on the Internet to be able to increase a mother’s breast milk. Is fennel essential oil safe during pregnancy as well as lactation? Fennel essential oil and specifically the chemical constituent (E)-anethole in fennel is a known hormonal modulator (6). This is essentially a substance that regulates the hormones of the body. Why is this an issue during this passage of life? The entire function of the body relies on an extremely precise conversation between the central nervous system (CNS) and hormones.

Hormones regulate essentially all body functions, a few of them are: storage and usage of nutrients, growth and development, electrolyte balance, but most importantly for the purposes of this article=reproductive functions (7).

Hormonal changes associated with our moon cycle may bring about the following temporary conditions: tender nipples, varying levels of irritability, headaches (often associated with the hormonal shift during PMS), a slight dip in milk supply (usually not a big problem), and the hormone prolactin that is responsible for mother’s letdown and overall production of milk, enabling her to feed her nursling (8).

You can compare this hormonal modulation to the birth control pill. Doctors will not place you on a birth control pill containing estrogen as a newly lactating mother, simply because of the altering of hormones. An OB/GYN doctor will typically prescribe a progesterone only pill, or recommend waiting all-together, as there are so many unknowns involved during this time.

Whether or not fennel essential oil even has the capability to increase milk production is a moot point, as safety or in this case lack of safety for mom and baby, outweigh any possible, potential benefit.

Fennel, the herb, can increase mother’s milk, but also carries with it a certain amount of risk as well. According to WebMD, “during breastfeeding, fennel is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It’s been reported that two breastfeeding infants experienced damage to their nervous systems after their mothers drank an herbal tea that contained fennel” (9). Is this a stretch? Possibly..maybe….

They go on to further say avoid fennel in these instances:

Bleeding disorders: Fennel might slow blood clotting. Taking fennel might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders. Reiterating from the hormone conversation above, hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: “Fennel might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use fennel” (10).

Despite these facts, many are still recommending massaging above the nipple with fennel essential oil to increase breast milk supply. If you know someone who does this, please share with them the facts and concerns of this practice for themselves and their nursling.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit Citrus paradisi essential oil, coming from the rind of the fruit is very different from the other two examples, however, the generalizations made between what the fruit provides us versus the essential oil is perhaps the most significant of the three.

It is assumed that taking grapefruit essential oil internally in water will 1-detoxify you/cleanse the body, 2-help you to lose weight, 3-uplift mood.

The truth is, 1-essential oils do not cleanse the body or detoxify you. Taking grapefruit essential oil in water will likely put added stress on the body (liver), as your body will quickly work to remove the “foreign material”. 2-inhaling grapefruit essential oil can help to manage cravings due to its sweet scent (this can be construed as helping to not “gain weight” or to help initiate weight loss)(11) and 3-inhaling grapefruit essential oil can uplift mood. As you can see, an understanding method of use for the intended outcome is really important.

The true grapefruit is full of nutrients such as vitamin A, C, potassium, lycopene, etc. It is easy to see that grapefruit has a stellar nutrient profile. Perhaps the most impressive is that even though it contains plenty of natural sugar, it is extremely low in the glycemic index (GI) so it does not affect blood sugar levels. Many studies suggest that it decreases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and has been proven to help you to lose weight (12).

Closing

After reading through all of this information, you may be wondering if I believe essential oils work! I assure you that I adore them and have seen their benefits first hand. My goal is to help you to see their limitations, to understand the many myths that are out there in cyberspace. Essential oils are a fantastic complementary modality, and when respected, curated, and cared for, can have many benefits to our overall health and wellness.

 

References

(1) Kelly K. History of medicine. New York: Facts on file; 2009. pp. 29–50
Petrovska, B. (2012) Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage. Pharmacognosy Review. Jan-Jun; 6(11): 1–5.

(2) Fortification basics, stability. Retrieved from https://www.dsm.com/content/dam/dsm/nip/en_US/documents/stability.pdf

(3) Rahmawati, S., Bundjali, B. Kinetics of the oxidation of vitamin c. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228484005_KINETICS_OF_THE_OXIDATION_OF_VITAMIN_C

(4) Bozzetto, L. et.al. Polyphenol-rich diets improve glucose metabolism in people at high cardiometabolic risk: a controlled randomised intervention trial. Diabetologia 2015 Jul;58(7):1551-60

(5) liu, Y. et.al (2015) A Dietary Supplement Containing Cinnamon, Chromium and Carnosine Decreases Fasting Plasma Glucose and Increases Lean Mass in Overweight or Obese Pre-Diabetic Subjects: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. PLOS One. Sep 25;10(9):e0138646

(6) Tisserand, R., Young, R., Essential Oil Safety2e (2014) (p277-278)

(7) Hormones. Retrieved from
http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/types-of-hormones

(8) About Hormone Imbalance. Retrieved from

About Hormone Imbalance

(9) (10) WebMD Fennel. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-311-fennel.aspx?activeingredientid=311&activeingredientname=fennel

(11) Shen, J. et.al (2005) Olfactory stimulation with scent of grapefruit oil affects autonomic
nerves, lipolysis and appetite in rats. Science Direct. 289–294

(12) Hawrelak, J., Myers P. Grapefruit Causes Weight Loss. Journal of Complementary Medicine. Vol. 6, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2007: 76-77

 

 

 

Like so many practices in life I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet. You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

Fennel Essential Oil Safety…Does It Increase Mother’s Milk?

Fennel Essential Oil Safety…Does It Increase Mother’s Milk?

When you receive health advice on the Internet, on social media, or even in your social circles, do you question it? Do you check its validity as well as its safety for you? For your children? For your loved ones and even your furry friends?

There are a few things that you need to consider:

1-Is the information accurate? Has it been properly vetted to be sure?

2-Is is safe? Have you checked multiple sources?

3-The information may have worked for that person, do you have medical conditions that they don’t? How about medications, are you taking any medication that may conflict?

In the aromatherapy industry, as well as the herbal industry, advice can be given based on a testimonial. This word, “testimonial”, has become quite a trigger word. Please do not take advice based on “it worked great for me”, or my favorite, “I have been doing it for years and nothing bad has happened to me”. How do they know that exactly? What qualifies them to give that advice? Is a testimonial based on scientific factors or even education? Of course not.

Today I would like to talk about something that happens quite often in the aromatherapy industry, and that is comparing the therapeutic qualities and more importantly safety of an herb compared to its essential oil counterpart.

An administrator of a Facebook group contacted me today to field a comment/bad advice that was given on a thread in her group as she has done dozens of times before. The comment was given on this very question verbatim:

“Any suggestions to up Mama’s milk supply? Thanks in advance”.

This type of question for starters can be tricky all in itself. What is the health of the mother? Any medical issues? Taking any medications? Was the baby full term? Does baby have any issues? …….The comment that threw off the administrator, and rightly so was:

“Fennel essential oil rubbed above the breast”.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Essential Oil During Breastfeeding

First and foremost, fennel essential oil is contraindicated during pregnancy as well as lactation. To be clear, according to the Merrium Webster dictionary, a contraindication is: “something (such as a symptom or condition) that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable” (1).Fennel essential oil, specifically the constituent (E)-anethole, is a known hormonal modulator (2). This is essentially a substance that regulates the hormones of the body. Why is this an issue? Much of our body relies on an extremely precise conversation between the central nervous system (CNS) and hormones.

Hormones regulate essentially all body functions, for the purposes of this article I will focus on reproductive functions.

Hormonal changes associated with our moon cycle may bring about the following temporary conditions: tender nipples, irritability, unsettled feeling, or increased moodiness in mother, headaches (often associated with PMS), a slight dip in milk supply (usually not a big problem), slight change in taste of mother’s milk, (depends on the nursling whether or not this will cause an aversion to nursing), and the hormone prolactin that is responsible for mother’s letdown and overall production of milk, enabling her to feed her nursling (3).

You can compare this hormonal modulation to the birth control pill. Doctors will not place you on a birth control pill containing estrogen as a newly lactating mother, simply because of the altering of hormones. An OB/GYN doctor will typically prescribe a progesterone only pill, or recommend waiting all-together, as there are so many unknowns involved during this time. I speak from experience in these areas. Any mother that is sensitive to a shift in hormones due to specific cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids can be placed under higher risk here (4).

Robert Tisserand stated in his recent book, Essential Oil Safety 2e (2014), that fennel essential oil may also be carcinogenic based on its estragole content (fennel contains up to 5% estragole) See noted pages below for your review (5).

Whether or not fennel essential oil even has the capability to increase milk production is a moot point, as safety or in this case lack of safety for mom and baby, outweigh any possible, potential benefit.

What About Fennel The Herb?

Fennel, the herbal counterpart, appears to carry with it a certain amount of risk as well. According to WebMD:

“during breast-feeding, fennel is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It’s been reported that two breast-feeding infants experienced damage to their nervous systems after their mothers drank an herbal tea that contained fennel”.

Is this a stretch? Possibly..maybe…(6)

WebMD also states that fennel IS likely safe when consumed in amounts found in food (7). So keep in mind, when consuming fennel herb to increase milk supply, it can be in amounts found larger than what one would consume in food.

They go on to further say avoid fennel in these instances:

“Bleeding disorders: Fennel might slow blood clotting. Taking fennel might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders. Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Fennel might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use fennel” (8).

In Closing

I felt that it was important to address this topic in more detail as it is shared so easily without much understanding of the safety issues involved. It is recommended to avoid fennel essential oil during pregnancy and lactation, and utilize caution with the herb in levels more than what would typically be consumed in food. Congratulations to all mom’s out there embarking on a beautiful time with your new little bundle of joy. Stay tuned for future articles on what IS considered a safe way to increase mother’s milk. Until then, stay safe!

References

(1) (5) Tisserand, R., Young, R., Essential Oil Safety2e (2014) (p277-278)

(2) Definition of a contraindication: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contraindication

(3) About Hormone Imbalance. Retrieved from

About Hormone Imbalance

(4) Fennel: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/multum/fennel/d04493a1.html

(6) (7) (8) WebMD Fennel. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-311-fennel.aspx?activeingredientid=311&activeingredientname=fennel

 

 

 

Like so many practices in life I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet.  You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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