Thursday, February 26, 2009

Subscription to The Essential Herbal CLOSED


Welcome to our Herb Blog Group Contest!

For the week between Friday, February 27 and Thursday, March 5 you can enter simply by entering a comment in response to this blog entry and take a chance at winning a full year's subscription to The Essential Herbal Magazine!

The Essential Herbal is written by, for, and about herbie people and the things they love. It is a grassroots publication that talks about the things you want to know when it comes to herbs. I'm not a gardener any more, but I *love* reading about what others are growing. Sometimes I even get to write about aromatherapy. We did an article on Hydrosols years ago. (Or did we only talk about doing one?) At any rate, Tina, the editor is a delight. Her blog is on my featured "my favorite blog" list.

The Magazine is great to curl up with when it's too blustery outside to be doing anything...helps you plan, even if the herbs you are going to be using come from the Farmer's Market.

The following blogs are also participating, so stop over to enter with them for additional chances to win AND the chance to explore some cool blogs. If you are already a subscriber, they'll just add the free year on the end. Be sure to leave an email addy in your response so that we can reach you if you win! (Or read the blog on Friday mornings and we'll announce the winner at our blog. Then you can email me, if you don't like posting your email address.

The following blogs are also participating, so stop over to enter with them for additional chances to win AND the chance to explore some cool blogs. If you are already a subscriber, we'll just add the free year on the end. Be sure to leave an email addy in your response so that we can reach you if you win!

Possum Creek Herb Farm
Blessings of an Herbwyfe
Garden Chick ***
SunRose Aromatics ***
Herbs from the Labyrinth ***
PattiĆ¢€™s Potions ***
PrairieLand Herbs ***
Aquarian Bath ***
The Rosemary House ***
Natures Gift ***
Torchsong Studio ***
The Essential Herbal ***

*** These blogs will be having contests for the next 10 weeks. Be sure to come back!

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Came across a specimen of an oil I've never much liked earlier today. It's an oil that all the writers write about, they say it's useful, they say it's pleasant. I don't think so. Over the years I've probably bought this oil from half a dozen sources, and never liked one of them. And just figured that's the way it is.

Yesterday I got a sample, from a producer I've worked with often, but never for THIS oil. And I fell in love!

THIS is what this oil is supposed to smell like! Clear, light, fresh, delightful!

So, of course, I emailed for pricing... assuming it would be somewhere in the range of what I've been paying.

My final cost, with funds conversion, international shipping, etc, will be three times what I've spent in the past.

I'm trying to justify the cost, even now. We want to offer the best quality of every oil we can find. I learned a decade ago not to make the decision based on price. But...but...but...

My clients say they want the best. But when I sourced an organic grapeseed oil (and paid a fortune for it) sits there. People email about wanting organic carrier oils; but aren't willing to pay the premium cost.

So, logic and the economy say I shouldn't. I can't justify it. We aren't even low on our stock of the mediocre one.

ah, but I *want* it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Head Lice - Essential Oil solutions!

My instinctive thought when the words "head lice" come up are "yuck!" I suspect I'm not terminally unique in that. For reasons unknown I was lucky enough, when my young'uns were growing up, to avoid them. But we get asked frequently if there is a natural solution. In the past I've read research using some very irritating and sensitizing essential oils, that proved effective in killing lice; but I rather thought "the cure is worse than the disease" and hesitated to pass the information along.

Came across some research done in Argentina that indicates that two different combinations of essential oils might prove effective.

The first combination uses a blend of alcohol and water (one part ethanol, one part isopropyl alcohol, and two parts water) with a blend of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lavender, diluted to 5% (no, they don't say which lavender or which eucalyptus was used, unfortunately.) Another combination, shown as effective as any commercial preparation that was tested, was equal parts of Peppermint and Eucalyptus oil in a 10% dilution, dissolved in 192 proof ethanol.

(Maybe they are just getting the wee beasties drunk?)

At any rate, thought the above might be worth trying if your children brought home "unwanted visitors" from school or a friend's house.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What the Market Will Bear?

We received a very upfront question about our pricing in email the other day. Thought the writer might not be the only one wondering. Here's her question, and my reply: (Yes, she graciously gave permission to quote her!)


I love the descriptions on your site! I really enjoy reading about the various oils and how you describe them. I’m an Aesthetician and Aromatherapist. I’ve never ordered anything from you before because your prices are higher than what I usually pay but I have often thought about it! I buy over 50 different oils from a variety of companies for use in my skin and body care line and for personal use. Is the price point of your line due to the increased cost you pay or do you charge what you feel the market will bear? I know my line is a mixture of both. Regardless, I want to tell you that I do enjoy what you’ve put together and I wish you well. Best wishes for continued success!

Sonsa Rae

The "charge what the market will bear" made me laugh... here's my reply:

"laughing! that is the most upfront question I've ever seen!

now... mostly... my prices are dependant upon my costs. I could spend a LOT less than I do for many of the oils I offer... I import most of them myself, and between the value of the dollar nosediving this last year, and the costs of shipping escalating.... I've had products that I imported in '07 and '08... the producer did NOT raise his price...but by the time we did the currency exchange and the freight, my actual cost was 40 -50% higher.

I keep my markup as low as I can on some of the 'rare and special' oils...there are some that... last year I HAD to charge...let's say $50 for 15 ml. This year got a BAHGAIN... and *could* offer it for $30.. I will probably cut the price to $35-$40 ... giving my clients a break, but making more than I normally would. but that's rare.

and I have a HUGE investment in inventory. I don't know of ANY small supplier who imports as much Corsican Helichrysum as I do... but it's one oil that I refuse to run out of..we use it in a lot of our blends, etc.

Primarily, our prices are based on our costs... and I really do try to buy the *best*... not saying I always succeed. But in buying the oils, and in upgrading computers (just those two areas!) every time I have made a decision based on cost...I have lived to regret it. So now, I bite the bullet and spend the money. Unlike a few people in this industry, I am not getting rich. But I have to make enough that we can keep on doing what we do...otherwise we'd all have to go get real jobs! ;)

Thanks for asking."

And as follow up to that message, because of changing conditions... yesterday and today we were able to lower both our bulk and our retail prices for SeaBuckthorn Berry CO2 extract by 16 or 17%, and our new shipment of Vanilla CO2 extracted is priced at less than HALF the cost of our prior stock. (15 mls went from $125 to $60!)
And our newly reformulated Spring Equinox Blend will retail for 2/3's the cost of its predecessor.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Anti-Aging is Top Facial Skin Care Seller"

Donna Maria, of The IndieBusiness network tweeted this news tidbit a bit ago:

Anti-Aging is Top Facial Skin Care Seller, Reports Mintel

Americans are pouring more money into the fountain of youth known as anti-aging skin care. According to a new report from market research firm Mintel, sales of anti-aging skin care products rose to over $1.6 billion in 2008. For the first time, anti-aging sales surpassed sales of facial cleansers, which garnered nearly $570 million in 2008.

The market for anti-aging skin care has grown rapidly over the past couple years, per Mintel. U.S. sales rose 13% from 2006 to 2008, outpacing general facial skin care sales, which grew less than 11%. Mintel expects the market to remain robust over the next five years, growing some 20% through 2013.

According to Mintel's Global New Products Database, nearly a third (32%) of U.S. facial skin care product launches tracked in 2008 boasted anti-aging claims. Globally, one in four (26%) included such claims.

My thoughts? Maybe that's why folks love our Cleopatra's Secret product group so much. I may not be the only one growing older?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A MRSA story - it's about gratitude

Some of you know that we make available a blend that has tested effective in the lab... in the correct proportions and dilutions, it kills MRSA bacteria. I can't say that it does that, then the FDA would accuse me of selling an 'unregistered drug' or some such. But, in a laboratory dish, these things kill MRSA. You can read more about the specific products on our website. But this week I found myself sharing a story that brings tears to my eyes every time I tell it...and thought I ought to share it here.

The story was shared by the Nurse Aromatherapist who first urged me to develop the products. She had a patient, a young woman, six months pregnant, who developed MRSA on her inner thighs and labia. They couldn't use the normal 'anti-MRSA' Rx drugs because of possible damage to the baby. Her first... she was told she would have to have a Csection, the risk of infecting the baby was too great for a normal delivery.

The Nurse started her on our body wash and topical gel

Three months later I got an early AM phone call... the young woman had just had her little girl, by natural childbirth... the infection was GONE ... skin scrapings showed no sign of it... and she didn't have to have the Csection.

There are some times that I am SO greatful that we get to do what we do!!!

It's been a year!

I can't believe I've been blogging for a year. And now my friend Donna Maria is telling me I have to learn to Twitter. (Doesn't she realize that I've been accused of twittering all my life? maybe even Twittering my life away?)

I'm too OLD for "social networking" or for tweeting or... all that other stuff. And there isn't a spare moment in my overpacked days!

If someone who enjoys all that would like to make some suggestions...I'd love it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Research Study - Essential Oils for Depression.

A recently published study indicates that a blend of citrus oils can, indeed, have anti-depressant effects. The goal of the study was an attempt to restore the mental health of humans by stimulation of the olfactory system. A citrus blend was created using a blend of Lemon, Orange and Bergamot Essential Oils with cis-4-Hexenol (a synthetic fragrance and flavoring chemical with a powerful green top note.) [Why the researchers had to use a synthetic in that mix I have no idea, it makes the results a lot more questionable, although if all they wanted to do was 'stimulate the olfactory nerve' I guess it doesn't matter!]

A group subjects, all inpatients receiving medications for depression, were selected and the group divided in half. The first group received their anti-depressant meds alone, the second were exposed to the fragrance continuously while having their meds reduced weekly until their depression remitted (within four to eleven weeks.) At the end of eleven weeks, all of the first group's depression had improved, but they all needed to continue on their full dose of medication. Among the fragrance group, nine out of the twelve had reduced their medication usage to zero, while the remaining three were able to reduce their dosage by 50-75%. Citrus fragrance caused the "cell surface markers" (one of the tests used to measure depression) to return to the normal range much more quickly than treatment with anti-depressants alone. Other physiological markers indicating depression, while starting out significantly high in both groups prior to treatment, were much lower in the fragrance group after the study period, compared to the group treated with medication only. It also appeared that the use of the citrus oils helped with immune system disfunction.

I've always called the citrus oils "the smilebringers"... it would appear that I was right. I have a friend who suffers from severe depression, which he treats with St. Johns Wort capsules, no Rx medication. This afternoon I fixed him an inhaler containing a mix of Orange, Lemon and Bergamot. (And I think I'll give him a small bottle of the blend for his car, as well.) Can't wait to see if it helps!

(citation from the Essential Oil Research Database.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Miracles happen!

I have always believed in the healing power of these oils, but sometimes we get feedback that just brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. Here's an example, in this morning's email:

Hi Marge,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you with my order. I had a family emergency. Below is a testimonial you can use if you would like:

My name is Natasha and I am the daughter of a wonderful lady who is an Alzheimer's patient. Last month I got a horrible phone call from my father stating that the MD's were going to amputate my mother's legs ASAP. She is in a wheelchair (post stroke paralysis) and when I got down there to see her (I live far away) I was appalled to see her legs swollen and thick like tree trunks. The edema was massive and her feet were dark blue and black in areas. Additionally there was an open would that simply will not heal.

I immediately called the MD and as a last resort she agreed to allow my mother to be treated with some very potent supplements but the nursing home refused to crush enteric coated tablets.

I had no choice but to use essential oils. Honestly I was not hopeful at that stage as I thought that the oils would need months to do their job.

Additionally, I didn't have a full range of items at my disposal so I made a blend with the few oils I had brought with me.

I used helichrysm, cypress, frankincense and a touch of lemongrass. I also had an anti-viral blend that I used very sparingly. I used this in grapeseed oil as a carrier and left my father to the task of
applying to legs, feet and carotid arteries.

I returned 3 weeks later to see 2 beautiful tiny legs staring back at me. Her legs returned to normal size in 3 weeks!!!!!

Mom had sheets of old scaly skin everywhere and I feared I would
pull them off and see the beginnings of gangrene. Much to my
astonishment I carefully tugged away the crusty scale only to reveal
delicate new ,fresh, pink , healthy skin. The open wound is now half
its original size.

Please feel free to pass this along to whomever may have a loved one
in a similar situation. I am simply grateful to God for the healing power of essential oils. Truly they are nature's gift.

And bless Natasha's heart for letting me share this story

Monday, February 9, 2009


We're jumping for joy at Nature's Gift this week. Just found out that one of our synergies, Happy Morning, designed to ease morning sickness (and other types of nausea) has been passed by the
Pharmacy and Therapuetics committee at one of the hospitals we serve to be stocked by and used within the hospital.

We love it!!!! If that is not indication that this is both safe and effective, what is?

Of course to read more about Happy Morning, follow the link above. For information on the rest of the synergies offered by Nature's Gift you could start at our synergies page, and go from there.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Greening our business

Came across an article last week (from Living Green Magazine) about making your office environment more "green"... read it through and was really delighted to see all the things that we are already doing at Nature's Gift.

Some of them are fairly major, and some are probably fairly minor, but they all add up. Maybe some of the ideas will jog you into action.

1. Recycling. We have had big "recycling" barrels for years. All plastics, all aluminum, and most paper get recycled. Especially broken down cardboard cartons, and it's amazing how many of those come in in a week.

2. Additional recycling: Christi is a bird owner - she takes used printouts home to line her bird cages. (has been doing that as long as she's been with us. Said she saw special paper for that in a shop recently...$9.00 a small package!)

3. Temperature control. We keep our workroom and office past cool - it'd downright cold there this winter. And on Friday afternoon we turn all thermostats down lower, to conserve electricity.

4. Lighting. The workroom is kept fairly dim. Rather than brightly lighting the whole area, every work station has a small "task light"...only in use when someone is working there. In the office we never use the overhead lights. A lot of light comes in through the picture window and windowed doors; on dark, gloomy days I'll turn on a spotlight lamp on my desk. Oh, and both at the office and at home we use the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

5. Packing materials - the packing peanuts we use are cellulose based, totally biodegradable. Whenever possible we reuse packing materials. (Which is why your order may have plastic peanuts. Someone shipped them to us, and we'd rather recycle them than have them go in a land fill!)

The colored tissue with which we "top off" your order is made from recycled materials. In fact, whenever the option is available (printer paper, for example) we purchase "stuff" made from recycled material.

6. We include a reminder to please recycle our packaging with every order.

7. We post suggestions for recycling our packaging, etc. either on the blog or in our newsletter.

8. We do NOT mail out paper catalogues or other promotional materials. No trees die to produce our newsletter.

9. When we remodeled and moved into our new building a year and a half ago we put in new breakroom and work kitchens. All sinks have aerators, as suggested, and we have a "low flush" toilet. (We do draw the line at "flushing whenever necessary." After every use IS necessary!)

We shut all the computers off when we leave for the day; in total honesty I hadn't thought about shutting off all of their surge protectors. That's one we will start doing this coming week.

On the whole, I am proud of us. The only thing we don't do is carpool, but everyone lives in different directions and works different hours, so that is not practicable. (I love to telecommute, would work from home almost all the time, but I'm told my physical presence in necessary. so much for that!)

Monday, February 2, 2009


Those of you who visited our little shop (when we had the shop) remember Max, our unofficial greeter. He was my son's wedding gift to Wendy in 1992 - a tiny ball of fuzz who looked like a Steiff stuffed toy.
After JT was born, Max didn't like having to share his Mommy. And when Wendy became pregnant with Kaitlinn, she announced she couldn't deal with a toddler, a newborne and a Max! So Albert and I were gifted with this 5 1/2 lb alpha male. For years he rode in the truck with Albert (whose job involved spending most of his day in a company van.) When Albert crossed over, at the Hospice residence, Max was on the bed with him as he took his last breath. After that, Max went to work with me and became the official greeter at Nature's Gift. He was a dreadful watchdog. He never barked when someone came in. He would bark and carry on if you left. If you spent five minutes here, you belonged here and shouldn't leave. Severe abandonment issues, he had!
For years he slept on my bed. When he got too old and stiff to jump up on the bed I bought a wicker footstool so he could make the climb in stages.
The last few months he slept on a blanket folded beside my bed. He didn't want to be up too high. Recently he's chosen to sleep where-ever he lay. He couldn't go to work with me any more because any semblance of house-breaking had become a thing of the past.
Over the course of the past few weeks, he changed. He no longer came to greet me when I came home from work. He might or might not get up to welcome me when I came into the room where he was dozing. For the past few days he hasn't been himself. When he got up, he had trouble deciding which foot should go where. He didn't want to go outside, he didn't want to be held, he didn't even want to harrass Blue (the remaining cat.)
The Vet said it was Canine Dementia (similar to Alzheimers) and that in human years, he was 95. I just know that he wasn't my Max any more. My daughter, who manages a very busy Veterinarian practice in Northern Virginia said one rule of thumb that might apply is "think of the three things they enjoyed the most. Do they still enjoy any of them?" And the answer had to be "no." He didn't seem to be in any pain (for which I am so very grateful!) but he just wasn't Max any more. There was no more joy in this happy boy's life.
My friend Paul is coming over in a few minutes to dig a grave in the backyard, between Jez, my tiny black cat, and Starr, the big old Sheltie.
I keep thinking of "the Rainbow Bridge"
He was a SILLY little dog, who thought he could drive away any big dog in the neighborhood, and would wander in traffic if he got out of my fenced in yard. He didn't run, like most dogs, he DANCED. His paws were smaller than the ball of my thumb, and he placed them oh so daintily. He loved riding in the car. He knew he was pretty and expected to be admired. And he LOVED people. He wanted a lap, any lap would do.

Rose Bliss Bath is for comfort when you're grieving. I need to go make myself some.