Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Pepper Oil and Circulation

First, a personal anecdote.  Years ago, when Nature's Gift was just me, I had an order for two small bottles of Black Pepper Essential Oil.  I was working in the back room/work room, pipetting the oils into the 5 or 15 ml bottles, sealing, labeling, etc.   When the task was finished, I came back into the family room and was told "You're running a fever!"  "No I'm not, don't be silly!"  "Well, go look in the're all flushed."

And I was.

That was my first experience with the circulatory effects of Black Pepper Essential Oil. I later learned that Black Pepper is a capillary expander, thus increasing circulation in the extremities, and, indirectly, lowering blood pressure. (More blood in the extremities = slightly less in the heart, I'm told.)   I know that inhaling Black Pepper eo on a tissue or in an inhaler can warm up frigid fingers and toes.   I had been told that inhaling the essential oil would make it easier for a technician to draw blood.  I keep meaning to test this one out, since I have very difficult veins... they are hard to see, and they roll. No fun for the nurse or technician, and definitely no fun for me!

During Dr. Jane Buckle's presentation at the recent AIA conference, she discussed a case study done in a phlebotomy lab, with patients with a history of problems accessing their veins.

A 20% Piper Nigrum dilution was used, applied to the skin 10 minutes prior the the attempt to draw blood.   

There were three different "grades of difficulty" used to evaluate the patients:
  • No vein visible or palpable
  • Vein visible but not palpable
  • Vein visible and palpable.
It was a small study, only 10 participants, but of the 10,  2 went from no vein visible to vein fully visible and palpable, while 8 went from "vein visible but not palpable."  

Now this is a much stronger dilution of Black Pepper than we normally suggest using, but it would be applied only to the area where the blood will be drawn.  I would love to see a follow up study using either an inhaler, or a lower dilution.  I'm also thinking that if I am ever again hospitalized, I hope I have a roller bottle of diluted Black Pepper with me!

At any rate, if you, like me, have "bad veins" this might save you a lot of pain and frustration. 

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Mimi's Scented Garden

    If you are looking for a way to introduce your children or grandchildren to the joys of aromatics, my friend Sara Holmes has written just the book.

    A delightful way to introduce children to the scented aromatics, herbs and flowers, and the oils they give us.

    Four children visit their Mimi's aromatic garden, learning the names, aromas and tastes of their chosen herbs.  Sara introduces several simple crafts which elementary school aged children should be able to create with some adult involvement.

    (Remember, if the project involves using the essential oils, it is essential that an adult supervise!)

    This is a delightful little book that can start a child on a lifelong journey, learning about the world of healing plants.

    Available from Sara Holmes at Botanical Healing Arts.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    An Every Day Retreat

    I don't often copy other people's articles, but I think so many of us can benefit from this:

    Used with permission from Sharon Roemmel. Align and Thrive, the monthly ezine of her Practically Enlightened Business, connects business owners with practical solutions that engage their wholeness.For more info go to

    Finding retreat

    If you're like most of the people I talk with your life is full. To the top. You might even call it overwhelming.
    A retreat sounds wonderful. Time to relax, pamper yourself, sit with your feet up...
    But even the idea of creating a retreat may sound stressful. Even if money's not an issue, you still have to make time to find a place. Then you need to block out time in your schedule to be away from work.

    Every day retreat

    What if you just can't see getting away for a week or even a weekend? Are you doomed to a life of drudgery? Don't despair. You can retreat everyday.
    Several years ago I worked with a busy doctor. In addition to her practice she was a single mom to two bright and busy teenage girls. That's a full plate.  She knew she needed to reduce her stress. She needed more breathing room.
    It wasn't that she never found time for retreat. She found weekend time to head to the coast and went to Italy for a couple of weeks. But her day-to-day life was intense enough that she knew she needed something more integrated with the rest of her life. What she was doing felt like getting a big glass of water and then expecting that to quench her thirst for a month.
    So we looked at her life to discover ways she could add a bit of retreat into each day. She turned her request for rest into a win-win. When she invited female clients to take a deep breath and bring their arms overhead in preparation for their breast exam, she mirrored the request. She paused from doing and inhaled deeply. This way she got a mini-retreat multiple times a day.
    Another woman I worked with incorporated a breathing practice into her daily commute. She had ten minutes between the time she dropped her daughter off at school and the time she started her workday. Those ten minutes helped renew her every morning.

    Adding Your Pause

    How can you add in a pause?
    Feel like you'd benefit from an integrated refresh pause?
    1.     First look for something you do everyday. Maybe it's answering the phone, driving your car, or checking your schedule.
    2.     Next pair a pause with that activity. It could be focused attention on your breath, a moment of mindfulness, a prayer, a chant, a gratitude.
    3.     Repeat. The renewal comes from the regular pairing of these activities. Commit to this new habit for the rest of the year and notice if you feel less like a desperate animal waiting to be let out of a cage

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    More on MRSA

    At the recent AIA conference, Dr. Jane Buckle, one of the two keynote speakers, presented several case studies demonstrating common issues in healthcare and ways that our precious essential oils could be helpful.

    One group of case studies revolved around MRSA.  Several studies showed mixed results. (It's important to remember that even when we don't get the results we had hoped for and/or predicted, the studies are still important. We need to know what doesn't work, as well as what does.)

    First case study used Tea Tree, Eucalyptus Globulous and Lavender, both individually and blended.  The results? The tea tree and the mixture showed no growth  after 24 hours; the Eucalyptus showed slowed growth, and the Lavender slightly slower growth. However, after 48 hours, the tea tree and the blend still showed no growth, while the Lavender and the Eucalyptus showed noticeable growth.   My notes indicate that the combination of the three oils was more effective than the Tea Tree oil alone.

    Another study showed the use of tea tree oil in treating abcessed wounds.  Undiluted tea tree oil was applied to the wound dressings (*not directly to the open wound*).  Within 24 hours there was a significant difference in healing in the wounds with the tea tree in the dressing.

    Another case study (this one I loved!) showed the use of "a tea tree/lavender body wash" in addition to conventional antibiotics.  Every patient recovered completely with no further outbreaks.  

    The last MRSA case study concerned patients with either End Stage Renal Disease or Diabetes with MRSA infected wounds.  In this case, a 15% dilution of TeaTree oil in Aloe Vera Gel was applied directly to the wounds.   The results were so effective so quickly that all the wounds (the "control" subjects) were also switched to the Tea Tree/Aloe treatment.

    I love case studies!  Dr. Buckle's dream is to have an online database where case studies may be collected and compiled.   The healers working with essential oils in their practices will probably never have the funding to do the huge research projects that big Pharma puts together. However bit by bit, we can add to the body of knowledge.  And perhaps we can use some of the experiences shared in case studies in our own self care.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Aromatherapy vs MRSA

    Because of my own "near death experience" from having MRSA in my bloodstream, I've been eager to find ways that the general public can protect themselves against these potentially deadly strains of Staph.

    In 2006, Debi Rodriguez, one of Jane Buckle's instructors, and a nurse/researcher at St. Clare's Hospital in Wisconsin contacted us about doing some research to see if topical blends of Lavender and Tea Tree oils could indeed kill MRSA. The answer was a resounding yes, in the laboratory.  We tested a wide range of dilutions, in soap and in aloe vera, and when Debi was satisfied, our MERCY line of products was launched.

    Almost two years ago St. Clare's published this article describing the sorts of success Debi has had with the MERCY product line.

    We've not had the opportunity to do clinical testing to establish the effectiveness of these products; if we *did* do the testing then the government would probably insist that we were selling drugs, not cleansers and skincare products, so it is probably just as well. In the five years since we've made the MERCY products available we've had amazing feedback, some of which has been shared in this blog and in our newsletter.  We know MERCY can make a difference in people's lives.

    Fast forward.  In the Spring of 2009, Maggie Tisserand contacted us with information about some of the testing that had been done on her new essential oil blend, named "Benchmark Thyme" - a blend of several different cultivars, designed to give the gentleness of Thyme Linalol, with the antibacterial effectiveness of Tea Tree oil.  At that time, Maggie told us of research indicating that Benchmark Thyme was more effective than Tea Tree oil at killing the bacteria causing MRSA.  But we could not see the research; she was keeping it for her book.

    I was frustrated, and a bit skeptical, but we brought in our first couple of kilos of Benchmark Thyme.  Some clinicians started working with it, and reported successful results, but with the known efficacy of our MERCY products, we saw no need to change any formulas.  For quite a long time, Nature's Gift was the only North American source for the oil.

    We waited, impatiently, for the book to arrive.  This summer, we received our review copy of the book, and a handful of others to share with those who might be best able to use the information.  Is it any surprise that my first copy went to Debi Rodriguez?

    The book does, indeed, show that Benchmark Thyme has a faster "kill rate" than does Tea Tree Oil.    More than that it gives both the health care professional and the layman good solid *valuable* information on how to protect themselves against this "superbug."

    I remember after my hospitalization with MRSA my doctor prescribing an antibacterial ointment to be put in my nostrils, to lower the bacterial count.  Maggie suggests using any one of several antibacterial essential oils, Benchmark Thyme, of course, being one of them, but others - Manuka, Fragonia, Tea Tree, Clary Sage - also being effective. A 1% dilution,  in Jojoba, applied with a cotton swab nightly can "decolonize" the nostrils, a common place that MRSA hides. As time allows, I will repost more of Maggie's suggestions.  If you can't (or shouldn't) wait, please order the book from her at the link below. 

    With the increasing incidents of "community based" MRSA (as opposed to MRSA caught in a hospital) it become more and more important that we take responsibility for our own wellbeing, and be proactive against this major threat.    Maggie gives suggestions for defending our selves, with formulas for "aromatic waters" to gargle and wash wounds,  blends and dilutions for both washing and treating broken skin to prevent infection, methods to keep our environment safe, concerns about pets, infants, the elderly.  This appears to be a valuable handbook.

    Personally, I've been excited to read the alternative treatments suggested. Because of my wellknown allergy/sensitivity to Lavender essential oil, I can't use our MERCY line of products; so finding other suggestions has been a gift.  More important though, the MERCY products have a stronger dilution of the essential oil blend than I am comfortable having people use on a daily basis.  If, by working with the Benchmark Thyme, or with some of the other suggested essential oils, we can come up with an equally effective blend in lower dilutions;  or even just blends that are as effective using different oils, so that people can 'trade off' occassionally - this would be a good thing.

    I've sent the book to Debi. I've sent some Benchmark Thyme to Debi. Now we wait for her to go into the lab and see what happens.

    Maggie Tisserand's book,  Aromatherapy vs MRSA, is available directly from Maggie at this link.  We contemplated bringing the book in but given the cost of shipping, the disastrous exchange rates, it will be just as effective for our clients and friends to order direct from the UK.

    Friday, November 4, 2011


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    Populus balsamifera  Organically distilled from the sticky springtime buds of the Balsam Poplar Tree, by a gifted Canadian Distiller.

    There is a story behind our acquiring this rare and precious oil.  We were attending a "preconference" workshop at the recent AIA conference.  Rhiannon Harris spent a day on clinical skincare - "Maintaining Skin Integrity"...this was not a "pretty" workshop, she was presenting important clinical work.   At one point she was discussing the thinning of the skin brought on by advanced age, or the over use of some Rx medications, and the skin tears and bruising that can result.  She discussed a list of better known oils frequently recommended for treating fragile,friable skin, and passed around a sample of something new to most of us in the room.  

    Before the vial even reached me, the clinicians in the room were asking en masse "Marge, do you have this?, Marge, can you get this?"  

    I had never HEARD of Poplar Balsam Essential Oil.  I knew that some rare herbalists produce an infused oil, that is hard to find and to be treasured. I had never experienced it.    The essential oil was stunning. Breathtaking.  Deeply balsamic, winey, sweetly resinous, with a deep sweetness at the heart - it stirs the soul.  It does not NEED to be healing, it just needs to be breathed.  

    At the first break I ran for my room and laptop, checked with the best Canadian Distiller I know, and found this treasurer. I went back to the workshop announcing that I had sourced it, and would be importing it.  I had *not* checked the price.
    It arrived this week. A small amount, rare and to be treasured.   Aromatically, it is breathtaking. It is is one of the rare oils that can speak to my soul.  To me it feels masculine in essence, I love it beside our sweeter Copaiba Balsam. The soft sweetness of the Copaiba enwraps and dances with the integrity of the Poplar. Amazing. 
    But it is FAR too rare and precious to be used for scent alone.  

    There is little published information about this rare oil. My old (in need of updating!) copy of the Aromatherapy Database ignores it.  "Aromadermatology" doesn't refer to it.  Burfield's Aromatics...nothing. Guenther...nothing.    So..what I have learned is anecdotal. There is far too little published about this glorious oil.

    As I said,  Rhiannon highly recommended it for skin healing and wound healing.  She also discussed its use as an anti-histamine and as an alternative to German Chamomile when preferred, since both are high in alpha bisabol.   She also recommends it for wound healing, as mentioned earlier for bruises and skin tears.  Blending with helichrysum and yarrow oils can give amazing results for healing scars. 
    It is both antispasmodic and analgesic, a recommended pain reliever for injuries, sore muscles, rheumatism and arthritis.  
    The buds themselves, infused in oil, have been used by North American healers for millennium to ease pain, and heal damaged skin. It is not always safe to assume the same uses for the distilled oil as for the infused herb, but the producer swears this oils is amazingly effective.  
    Dr. Joie Power recommends Balsam Poplar essential oil for bruises, sprains/strains, sore muscles and injuries to the skin. Balsam Poplar essential oil is also antispasmodic and has an analgesic effect,and reduces tension. One of Balsam Poplar essential oil's most noted effects is for reducing scaring and for wound healing. For use in treating injuries and for treating rheumatism and arthritis, blend Balsam Poplar essential oil with German Chamomile and Helichrysum essential oils. "

    Emotionally I would venture that the oil would be comforting and strengthening... a help in time of trouble.

    I've seen recommendations that it blends well with all of the 'blue' oils, with Helichrysum for healing purposes, of course.  I think it would give a lovely depth and structure to any floral. 
     Recommended shelf life of this base note oil is said to be up to 10 years with proper storage.  I suspect that, like Myrrh and some other balsamic oils, if left unsealed the volatiles will evaporate and leave you a bottle of rock hard resin.

    When I come up for air, it will be available both undiluted, in all three retail sizes, and in a 10% dilution in Fractionated coconut oil. I bought a small vial of the 10% dilution home to play with.  It is...exquisite.  Watch for our November Specials page. If I ever get it written, this lovely healing Balsam will be included.