Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sara's Sanctuary - and recipe

Most of you know my friend Sara Holmes, of Botanical Healing Arts and Sara's Sanctuary, at Lake Sara in Effingham IL. She has contributed to this blog, and to our newsletters.  This week she was interviewed by a local TV show twice, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it.  I've been longing to be able to spend a weekend retreat at Sara's Sanctuary. After watching the video, I'm looking for ways to get to Illinois! 

This first video is shot at the sanctuary and describes its surroundings and what you might experience on a weekend retreat.

In the second video, shot in the studio,  Sara shares a recipe for relaxing bath salts. One of the reasons she is such a great teacher is that she explains why each ingredient is important; why she chooses Epsom Salts instead of plain sea salt, for example.  Pay special attention to the small blue essential oil bottles and the Bail Jar in the video...our clients will recognize them.  I love seeing our products used!

What really delights me, though, is seeing someone who has contributed so much to the art of Aromatherapy, who has worked tirelessly to educate and to heal receiving some publicity.

If you are in South/Central Illinois, I'd suggest that you contact Sara at her website, above, and plan a relaxing weekend retreat!

Bed Sores - prevention and care

Another article by our friend and client Lisa Browder. Lisa is a clinical aromatherapist in hospice. She is the Nevada Director for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and has been a speaker at conferences for the National Hospice & Palliative Care Association, California Hospice and Palliative Care Association and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control.

Decubitus ulcers, also known as “pressure sores” or “bed sores,” are a constant concern in both hospice and nursing homes.  They occur when there is pressure on the skin that covers any bony prominence, and that not only includes common areas like the sacrum, coccyx and spine, but also elbows, heels, knees, hips, shoulders – even backs of ears and the bridge of the nose where an oxygen mask might be sitting.

Preventing their development is clearly the goal but that can be devilishly difficult since it takes as little as two hours for a bed sore to develop. And when the body’s capacity to heal has begun to diminish - meaning the heart is no longer strong enough to pump an adequate amount of blood (and thus nourishing red blood cells) to the damaged skin to help with wound healing and tissue reparation - it may not be possible to prevent a progression to a Stage IV decubitus ulcer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help.

Stage I pressure sores are characterized by a redness that doesn’t blanch when touched and this is the point when frequent repositioning of the patient may be most helpful. It’s also a good time to use a combination of skin replenishing fixed oils like Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum), Argan (Argana spinosa), Avocado (Persea Americana Miller), Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis), Blackcurrant Seed (Ribes nigrum) and/or Macadamia Nut (Macadamia ternifolia). Add a combination of anti-inflammatory and cell regenerative essential oils like Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), German Chamomile (Matricaria reticulata), Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and/or Everlasting (Helichrysum italicum). Massage ever so gently into the skin and leave the area uncovered.
A Stage II bed sore may have an angry purple color, indicating a deep tissue injury. It may either start to show a slight cratering or appear like a surface scrape. Cratering is exactly what you’d think: it’s a sunken area that’s wider at the top of the wound and circles downward, eventually revealing fatty tissue and even bone. Continue to work with your anti-inflammatory and cell regenerative essential oils but consider adding something antibacterial – the most popular being Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It has a good track record in hospitals and hospice and has been shown to be effective in treating osteomyelitis and infected chronic wounds (Halcon, et al; American Journal of Infection Control, 2004). I would consider shifting your application to the periphery of the wound because what you don’t want to happen at this stage is for the top to cover over but have the wound continue to grow underneath. Nurses refer to this as an unstageable wound because they’re unable to gauge the depth and extent of the tissue damage and if there’s a thin layer on top but infection underneath, it can have severe consequences. Their protocol from this Stage onward will include keeping the pressure sore well and tightly covered.

With Stage III decubitus ulcers, the wound has a distinct cratering effect that reveals subcutaneous fatty tissues. A wound at this stage is well on its way to being irreparable and my focus shifts to infection and odor control.  The most virulent bug to avoid is Staphylococcus aureus and there are many effective essential oils to consider using. I would forego the fixed oils for the Stage III and IV decubitus ulcers and use pure essential oils either around the perimeter of the wound prior to dressing or include them on the dressing itself.  Since the dressing must be airtight, nurses don’t want anything oily near the edges of the bandaging. Although the phenols and ketones are anti-infectious, you must always be mindful of the elderly or terminal patient’s fragile skin in order to avoid irritation at the application site or cause burning in an open wound. I have found that many of our hospice patients experience a heightened effect to essential oils that I would not ordinarily think twice about using (and not just for wound care). I would, therefore, use monoterpinols like Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and/or Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) with something soothing like Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and maybe a touch of something for odor control like Peppermint (Mentha x piperita).

If, however, the patient is otherwise relatively healthy, you may be able to continue to address tissue reparation. As an example, the husband of one of our volunteers had a decubitus ulcer on his back that, due to his diabetes, wasn’t healing and had shown total resistance to traditional pharmaceuticals. His wife described it as being the size of a fifty-cent piece. For three years, he had endured a weekly debridement of the dead tissue and his wife had changed his dressing every night.

I had her apply Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) around the perimeter of the wound at each dressing change for a week, stop applying it for a week and then resume this routine. After she reported that the tissue appeared to be healing (and that means not becoming covered over but healing from the bottom of the wound upward), I added Everlasting (Helichrysum italicum) and had her repeat the week-on, week-off regimen. About two months later, she reported that the wound was dime-sized, the skin was significantly less inflamed and the depth of the wound was much shallower.  Last week, she reported that the doctor had removed the final dressing from the completely healed wound and her husband was able to go swimming for the first time in years. The thing to keep in mind with this anecdotal study is that the patient was not elderly or terminal and his body still had the capacity to aid in the healing process. Additionally, he was being seen regularly by a physician to be sure the wound was healing properly.

Stage IV decubitus ulcers often “tunnel” all the way to the bone and may have an odor that is unpleasant due to the continual sloughing of dead tissue. The odor is sometimes more debilitating to the patient than the wound itself. He/she is aware of the foul smell and notices when visitors begin to taper off or family begins to comment. It can quickly become a source of stress and severe depression. There are some interesting studies on the positive effects of essential oils in alleviating the odor and of the dramatic effect to a patient’s emotional state. One German study combined clindamycin and chlorophyll (their standard pharmaceuticals for Stage IV pressure sores) with a mixture of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Grapefruit essential oils (specific species not identified) and found that the smell associated with necrotic tissue completely dissipated in 2-3 days of treatment (Warnke, P.H., et al; Cancer, 2004). These results would be a tremendous benefit to our hospice patients and I hope to pursue my own study in 2012 on the effects of essential oils on the odor associated with decubitus ulcers and thus the patient’s frame of mind.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Olfaction linked to early dementia diagnosis?

A guest blog article from my dear friend Sara Holmes regarding some research she has been involved with:

Reflecting on the busy and interesting year of 2011, I am grateful for many
new aromatic endeavors as a professional certified and registered aromatherapist.
One of the most interesting and productive efforts this year was working in conjunction with the Continuing Education Institute of Illinois, and Dr. William Gingold.
      Dr. Gingold is a true visionary in advancing the health and wellness of the senior population.  He is currently the Director of Family Medicine Research and Aging at the University of Illinois. I have been fortunate to prepare and deliver aromatic inhalers that are being used in testing with The Henning’s Smell Prism involved in research being used to determine whether assessing the effectiveness of the olfactory sense of seniors may offer early warning signs that could possibly lead to earlier detection of dementia diseases such as Alzheimers. There are currently 5.4 million people living with Alzheimers disease and by 2050 there will be 60 million! ( ).
        With the support and help of Marge Clark, Sylla Sheppard Hanger, and Kelly Holland Azzaro we determined essential and natural oils appropriate for the odor domains required to work in conjunction with the Hennings Smell Prism. The odor
domains required: flowery, fruity, spicy, resinous, foul and burnt odors. Marge was a great help in providing me with birch tar samples for our burnt odor and it was a perfect choice!
         The other odor domains were much easier to select. Those of you who work with essential oils know that we have volumes of flowery, fruity, resinous, and spicy odors to choose from and so these choices were not as challenging. When I last saw Dr. Gingold in October he said, “ the aromatic inhalers were lasting longer than anticipated and that the research was going well”.   I look forward to participating in this research as it continues and anticipate that this new information could profoundly change the way many dementia related health issues are diagnosed. It makes perfect sense that the olfactory receptors which are high inside the nasal cavity with as many as 10,000,000 cells and are responsible for relaying important messages to the brain could be a significant piece of the dementia puzzle. Exciting opportunities like this offer tremendous satisfaction in the field of Aromatherapy, which most people incorrectly associate with just perfume and pleasant odors.
              Another blessing this year was the opportunity to meet and chat with Cynthia Loving of Loving Scents. I met with Cynthia at this years Alliance of International Aromatherapist Convention in Minneapolis, MN.  Cynthia has a long history of working with essential oils and Alzheimers.  This meeting gave us the opportunity to brainstorm on some ideas for what we thought might be opportunities for further research in this field. Although we have had busy schedules this year, we have had a few conversations that lead me to believe that the future for aromatherapy research in the field of Alzheimers and dementia has great potential for success and benefits for the many patients and families who are suffering.
               So my prayer for 2012 would be that through the use of clinical aromatherapy  that all aromatherapists may be involved in moving aromatherapy forward into more health, research and educational venues that will bless our planet, our people and all living things. “ Be the change you wish to see in the world” ghandi
Thanks and Blessings, Sara

Oh Christmas Tree...

I miss having a fresh Christmas tree.  But I am past the point in my life when I can deal with putting up and taking down (let alone purchasing and bringing home) one of the fresh cut Christmas trees that gave me so many years of pleasure.  So for several years I've had a "fake tree."  For so many years, that my tree was one that needed every branch painstakingly inserted in the center pole, at great cost to scratched skin and pinched fingers.

This year I decided to splurge on a NEW tree.  And it is a beauty.  a 7 1/2 foot Virgin Pine. (What on EARTH is a Virgin Pine?  I don't know either. But it's lovely. And has its own lights. Even nicer. LESS work for me.)

It's been a joy decorating it, with carols playing in the background, deciding which ornaments go where, remembering the sources of so many of the ornaments, or the story behind them. This is the wee gingham-covered cotton ball wreath that Jezebel would NOT leave on the tree. She spent the whole week before Christmas tugging until she removed it, and then hiding it from me.

Some of those ornaments are over 40 years old, and I treasure them.   But something is missing. No matter how lovely, *no* artificial tree is going to fill my home with the aroma of a fresh cut Fir, or Pine, or Spruce!

Thank heavens for the essential oils  - especially the conifer (needle) oils.  I've always filled my house with them at this time of year.  But this year I found an even simpler way to make the tree smell "right."   If you will look very closely near the white ball with the green bow painted on it.. slightly to the right and below it....picture 5 o'clock... you'll see one of our wee clay pot diffusers. Normally I keep one in my car, with Fresh Aire in it.  This one has Balsam Fir.  I used one with the glazed bottom in case it might drip on the "foliage"...and removed the cork so that the oils could fill the room.   It's hidden deep in the branches, near the trunk, and not far from a light, which warms and diffuses the oil.

*THE* answer to an artificial tree.  At least, for me it is.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Report - for the Cat Owner

Whole Health for Happy Cats - A guide to keeping your cat naturally healthy, happy and well fed.

A client mentioned this book, said that she found us through a mention, and because I always buy a copy of any book that mentions Nature's Gift as a source, I ordered it from Amazon, even though there are no longer any cats in my household.

Now, you must remember, I have always been a dog person, always had dogs in my family, and was never a cat lover. Until, during a time of great change in my life, a wee black kitten, too young to be away from her Momma, showed up on our patio. My daughter took her in and shortly thereafter, delivered her to my apartment. Jezebel shared my life from 1989 until 2005.  I wish, when we brought her home, we had a copy of this wonderful book.

Remember, I'm used to raising dogs... a bowl of dry food, lots of fresh water, toys to chase, and they were happy.

I thought "add a litter box to that" and that was all she needed.

Years after she left us I found this wonderful little book, and learned all the other things that would have made her life better.  My *first* reason for reading the book was to make very sure that the author didn't recommend using essential oils with your feline family, since cats can not metabolize them.  Safety check over. She gives good advice.

What she does suggest are nutritional guidelines, ranging from a totally raw diet (best for your cat, but not everyone has time) all the way to commercial cat foods, along with natural herbal supplements which can increase your cat's well being.

Two chapters cover both home care for minor ailments and the times that you must get your baby to the vet as quickly as possible. That chapter also gives some hints on finding a veterinarian who will be at least amenable to holistic animal care, and guidelines about vaccinations, spaying/neutering, what tests are necessary.  The final chapter includes a guide to help you understand cat behaviour.    (Among the suggestions for helping cope with mood swings and behaviour triggered by emotional problems are a list of hydrosols for different emotional states! YES!)
The book closes with a long list of resources. We are honored to be included.