Monday, November 23, 2015

Managing Indigestion

A guest blog by my friend Haly JensenHof, MA, RA.  You may read more of Haly's musings on her website,

Giving thanks for all that we have is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about; however, over the years it seems Thanksgiving is more about stuffing ourselves into heartburn, indigestion, and bloat. There are nearly 50 essential oils that help combat the symptoms of Thanksgiving induced indigestion.

First, I want to count my blessings and tell you what I am thankful for this year. I am truly blessed with a supportive, nurturing, wonderful husband. I have two great, faithful, supportive older brothers. I am blessed to be owned by three loving terriers. I have many positive, encouraging, and loyal friends that I call family. I, and my family, have good health. I have the perfect home with beautiful surroundings. I have just what I need in terms of property and material items and nothing more. I am thankful for my productive herbal, flower, and vegetable gardens. I also have wonderful clients who I enjoy and respect. In all, I have been blessed and I am truly thankful.

As family and friends gather for the Thanksgiving feast they all know they are going to over eat, but how can they not? The food at Thanksgiving is decadent. Most feasts include a big turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes or yams, vegetables, cranberries, and assorted pies. Each family has its own traditional dish too. In our family it is my mother’s recipe for pearl onions in a thick creamy cheese sauce. YUM! For a lot of families the addition of green bean casserole is the dish that makes the feast complete.

Regardless of what we serve on Thanksgiving Day, everyone tends to over eat. Over eating is one sure way of causing heartburn, indigestion, bloat, and flatulence. There are many means of managing these conditions: over-the counter antacids, drinking ginger ale, mixing up some sodium bicarbonate, drinking a lot of water, avoiding certain foods, and not lying down after eating. All of these methods are effective, and I recommend using them. However, using essential oils to help with indigestion is effective, pleasurable, and can be used with all members of the family, young or old.

Indigestion Massage Blend at a 3% dilution:

In a dark glass bottle mix the essential oils and add the carrier oil. Gently massage the blend over your abdomen in a clockwise fashion.
3 drops Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) essential oil
2 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
2 drops Dill seed (Anethum graveolens) essential oil
1 drop Ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil
15 ml. Coconut oil (Cocos nucifera) carrier oil
I recommend this blend at a 3% dilution for healthy teens and adults: however, for young children, the elderly, or those with sensitivities or weakened physical states a 1% dilution would be where I would begin.

Earlier I mentioned there are over 50 essential oils that help with digestive issues. These oils include:
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
Dill seed (Anethum graveolens)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Vetiver (Vetivera zizanoides)
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

These oils are listed because they are gentle, have few contraindications (can be used with children, during pregnancy, and with high or low blood pressure), and are effective. The citrus oils do increase the chance of photosensitivity.

If a massage blend is not your style, or if you will be traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, you may want to formulate a blend to use in a personal inhaler. Personal inhalers are easy to carry, as well as being easy and discrete to use. Choose two to three essential oils in the list above and use between 15 to 25 drops of the blend you have formulated. Place the required drops of your chosen essential oils on a sterile glass plate. Then, using sterile tweezers, place the cotton pad from the inhaler on the essential oils. Allow the cotton pad to absorb all of the essential oils. Using the tweezers insert the cotton pad into the inhaler, cap the bottom, screw on the cover, and you are ready to go!
My Thanksgiving wish for you is that you have a day filled with love, family,

friends, and good food. If you happen to eat to the point of digestive issues add essential oils to your arsenal of tools to combat them.
 Information provided is not intended to replace the medical directives of your healthcare provider.  This information is not meant for diagnosis of health issues.  If you are pregnant, have serious or multiple health concerns, consult with your healthcare provider before using essential oils.  If you experience any complications or adverse reactions contact your healthcare provider.   
Haly JensenHof, MA, RA

Thursday, November 12, 2015


It’s an exciting moment when a person has made selections and now looks admiringly at the new oils purchased.  Still sealed in shiny bottles and perfect labels – of course a person can’t resist popping them open to take a sniff.  The aromas are so amazing, so joyful, and then the realization dawns...”now what do I do with them?” 
One of the first accessories purchased for essential oils is a diffuser or vaporizer of some sort – something that distributes the aromatics.This only makes sense – after all, it is called AROMAtherapy, right?  But the selection of diffusers can be overwhelming – which is the right one, what’s the difference?  There is a variety to choose from, and it helps to know the attributes and characteristics of each.
Probably the easiest, safest method for small areas is the aroma
stone.   Barely 4" in diameter, they don't take up a lot of space. The base is low and sturdy and a few drops of oil in the well disperses aromatics in the immediate area.  They are perfect for the bedside, on the desk, or anywhere that the goal is for the aromatics to be for the individual. Since the stone does not use high temperatures, there is no danger of overheating.

Along the same concept is the car diffuser, which plugs directly into the cigarette outlet of vehicles, and also has a replaceable wick within to apply oils.  These are especially helpful for long or early morning commutes. 
  Clay diffusers can also be used in the vehicle, or a closet, or other areas where a slow, natural release of the aromatics takes place as the oils are absorbed and diffused through the porous clay material.
  Ultrasonic diffusers operate by diffusing the aromatics with water into the air.  It is similar in concept to using an ultrasonic humidifier, but much smaller and without parts that will be corroded by the oils.  The benefits of these diffusers is that there is no heat being used, they have various time and rate settings, they diffuse into a larger area, and they turn off automatically.  If living in a humid climate, one may not want that added humidity in the atmosphere.  They are perfect in the winter when indoor heated air is dry.  Simple cleaning is required to prevent bacterial growth. 
  Nebulizing diffusers use compressed air to flow through liquid, changing it to a very fine mist.  The aromatic molecules are broken down until they are small enough to pass through in this mist.  This
can be the most preferred way to diffuse essential oils.  These diffusers come in varying sizes to accommodate different areas of space.  It is also recommended that the glass nebulizer be cleansed with alcohol after use to maintain proper operation, and the glass nebulizer is very fragile.
  The most personal of diffusing options would be sniffy sticks, aromatic patches, or aromatic jewelry, such as a necklace or bracelet.  The aromatics are applied to the jewelry in a designated, porous area, and worn by the intended individual.
  The aromatic patches are NOT dermal patches.  An oil is applied to the target area of the patch.  The patch is then applied to a clean, dry area of skin where the aromas can be inhaled throughout the day.
  “Sniffy Stick” inhalers are an option for direct personal inhalation.  There are two options for this – one time use, where you apply the oil, snap it together, and use it until it is no longer aromatic.  Or the reusable model, that has a small vial inside that can be washed and refilled.
  Now, those of you who are parents know that the reason you are able to tell your children, “I know what you are thinking before you think it,” is because at some point, YOU already thought it, or DID it. So in full disclosure, I will admit that I do not have a third eye, nor can I read minds.  But I am stubborn and have to learn things the hard way, most of the time.
  So – “why can’t I just use my ultrasonic humidifier then?”  I did that, once.  I had to buy a new humidifier after that.  The one I purchased next was much more expensive, called an evaporating humidifier – and I did it again (told you I was stubborn).  The oils did NOT destroy the evaporating humidifier.  But I did have to spend some time with vinegar scrubbing out what I THINK were calcium or salt deposits that grew overnight.  It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I wouldn’t want to have to clean that daily.
  An easier solution that doesn’t require intensive labor afterwards and works just as well is to apply the oil to a paper towel or filtering medium such as those they sell to put inside of heat registers, and place that on TOP of the humidifier where the intake of air is at.  The aromatics are drawn and dispersed, but you don’t grow a crystal garden in the meantime.
  While we were in Atlanta, someone taught Marge to remove the air filter from the hotel room’s air conditioner and wash it out.  Before replacing the filter, set a tissue on top of it that has had a few drops of essential oil applied to it.   Not only did this work well in the hotel room, when I stood on my balcony next door, I could smell the aromatics out there!
“Why can’t I just put essential oils in my CPAP machine?”  Since most manufacturers’ directions now explicitly say “do not put essential oils in your machine,” doing this pretty much guarantees that your warranty will be null and void.    In addition, there is such a thing as too MUCH of a good thing, and with the cpap set up, there would be no way to get away from the oil except to tear off the mask, which defeats the purpose. 
  I looked into this, and one thing I found being sold for an outrageous price was a piece of cardboard that folds to stand on the table or surface behind the intake filter of the cpap machine.  The oils are applied to this cardboard and then drawn, supposedly, into the cpap machine.   I think a more functional option would be to use an aroma stone, and I don’t think it wise to put it directly behind the air intake.
“What if I don’t have all of these gadgets yet?” – My very first “diffuser” was a pan of water warmed on the stove with a few drops of essential oil in it, allowing the steam to disperse the aromatics.  Obviously, this is not something you would do and leave unattended, and one needs to know which oils are appropriate for any form of diffusion.  But for a quick atmospheric diffusion in a pinch, it works.  For those with wood stoves in their homes, having a pan of water on top of it is always a good idea.
  Applying a bit of aromatics to a tissue for personal inhalation also works.  I’ve applied the oils to an inconspicuous area of a shirt collar or cuff in order for the aromatics to be inhaled while the shirt is being worn.  By applying the proper aromatic to the correct amount of carrier oil to dilute it, it can be applied to the skin and inhaled in that fashion. 

(Marge's note:  in our Aromatic Medicine class, Mark Webb shared a formula for a respiratory chest rub,  fixed oils, thickened with beeswax, with a skinsafe dilution of essential oils. Since the balm does not penetrate the skin, but rather sits on the surface [remember your mom rubbing your chest with that commercial product when you were a sick little one?] the use of an aromatic balm turns the human body into the most basic and oldest diffuser of all.)

  For more information on diffusers, please read about diffuser choices here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Smell - the most subjective sense:

Another article from Sandy Barrett... I hope you are enjoying these as much as I am!

One of the most frequent conversation starters in the aromatherapy community is “what does it smell like?”  One of the most frequent answers is, “Oh, …I can’t really describe it!”.
Previously, it was thought that the human nose could only detect 10,000 scents.  But in 2014, neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University in New York City, led research that found that the human nose is able to smell a trillion scents, with varied individual responses. The researchers calculated that the least successful smeller in the study would be able to smell only 80 million unique scents. And the best performer had a far more sensitive sense of smell, likely able to distinguish more than a thousand trillion odors. (1)
Ironically, even though we can smell them, we aren’t always able to identify or describe them.  Part of the equation, of course, is prior experience.  If we haven’t come into contact with a certain aroma before, there is obviously no way we can identify it.  But there is another element involved that the human nose simply has difficulty doing – deconstructing scent.  For example, Robert Tisserand cited that “Essential oils typically contain dozens of constituents with related, but distinct, chemical structures.”  (2)  How many could pick out each and every constituent from one oil?  What if it were a blend of multiple oils, with similar, but not quite the same, constituents?
As in the example of peanut butter, given in PBS article “Why We’re Good at Identifying Smells, But Horrible at Describing Them”, roasted peanuts give off roughly 200 air molecules, peanut oil, 100.  (3)
In an experiment at Northwestern University, participants were fed a large amount of peanut butter, they were then asked to describe peanut butter.    Scans indicated a change in neural activity in the region of the brain designed to identify odors and associating them with similar smells – the posterior piriform cortex. This is the first stop that olfactory information makes in the brain after the olfactory bulb, suggesting that a decrease in a smell’s value may start at the level of perception.  Participants reported finding the smell of peanut butter less pleasing after having eaten such a large amount of it.  (3)      I recently asked Mark Webb how people can claim to love the smell of coffee report disliking the taste.  Mark explained to me that coffee contains bitters that we are not able to smell.
Likewise, there is the connection between smell and memory/emotion.  If a scent evokes a pleasant memory, perhaps a grandmother’s lavender scent or baking cookies, this will be a pleasant memory/emotional response.  I’ve often mentioned the natural gas sub station near my home that every time I pass it and breath in, I am reminded of being at my great-grandmother’s house – 45 years ago.  So while that pungent odor is repelling to many, it tickles my subconscious to remember a special person, long gone.   A strong floral aroma may remind some of working in their garden or a gift from an admirer, while for others, it may trigger emotions left over from a loved one’s funeral.
Some have asked why they “taste” essential oils while pouring, without ever having put the oil in their mouth.  This is because the two senses are actually interactive.  Both are considered “chemsensations”, occurring when molecules are released, stimulating nerve endings in the nose, mouth or throat.  These cells transmit data to the brain, where tastes and smell are identified. Olfactory cells, found in a tiny patch of tissue high up in the nose, are stimulated by odor.  Gustatory cells, clustered in the taste buds of the mouth and throat, react to taste mixed with saliva.  Some of the tiny bumps that can be seen on the tongue contain taste buds.   All send messages to the brain of what they are experiencing. (4)   As these areas are so close together and interactive, molecules that we breath in, Mark Webb explains, can pass over the taste receptors as well.
When, for example, nasal congestion sets in, there is an interruption of air flow passing over the olfactory receptors, preventing odorous compounds from reaching them, interrupting our sense of smell.  Although the stimulation of taste receptors is not affected, the loss of smell alters the flavors we perceive.  (5)
I recently mentioned someone else’s description of an essential oil as “sweet, woody.”  Imagine my reaction when her only response was “PICKLES!!”   So the next time you ask, “What does that smell like?” remember that smell is not always unbiased.  It is strongly affected by experience, memories and emotion.
My comments: We see this in some clients reactions to products. I have seen long conversations on Facebook when someone has referred to a product as smelling like "cat pee" and other will jump in stating how lovely it is.  Which indicates to me that the same aroma will be experienced differently by different people, above and beyond the emotional triggers Sandy mentions above.  
Another issue when it comes to describing the aroma of  a specific oil or botanical is that our society ignores olfactory stimulus, and we haven't developed the language to accurately describe the fine differences between, for example,  Cedrus atlantica and Cedrus deodara.  I know that in writing about our products I am forced to use the language of music, of color, of flavor, to describe, in our language, doesn't exist.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sandy explores the CO2s.

Another guest blog as Sandy experiences the CO2 extracts I love.
One of the big topics during our week in Atlanta centered on CO2s, and as a result, Nature’s Gift has sourced even more varieties of these intriguing oils.

Madeleine Kerkhof-Knapp Hayes discusses CO2s in her book, Complementary Nursing in End of Life Care (a misnomer, by the way, as this book is filled with information beyond end of life care!).
Kerkhof explains that CO2s are from a method of essence extraction that is only recently catching attention.  In this method, carbon dioxide is pumped through the plant material until it reaches the super critical phase, at which time it begins to act as an organic solvent.  Using high pressure and low temperature, the constituents are extracted.  Upon completion of extraction, the pressure is reduced so that the CO2 is released and the lipophilic plant constituents (those that tend to dissolve in fats) are obtained in their original state. (1)
This form of extraction usually results in two extraction types:
Select – Using low pressure, the extract contains only volatile CO2 soluble components and has a richer composition (akin to the distilled essential oils we are more familiar with.). (1)
Total – Using higher pressure, the extract contains all C02 soluble components, including lipophilic, bioactive compounds, fatty oils, pigments, and waxes.  Total extractions are soluble in fatty and essential oils, though some require heating prior to use.  Kerkhof notes that total C02 extracts are similar to the lipophilic fraction of the herb.  (1)
Why opt for CO2s over the traditional extractions we are familiar with?  Kerkhof states that most CO2 extracts are richer and more intense due to having more aromatic components present.  She states that the production is extremely environmentally friendly, the fragrance is unique, and the quality is often extremely good.  She notes that even in small percentages, these extracts are great additions to products, taking into consideration the indications, contraindications, and other features that are specific to the extract.  (1)
  Upon recently coming across Cinnamon CO2 extract, Marge, who has
never been fond of cinnamon oils, exclaimed, “Oh, this is yummy!!!”  Yes, it’s true, Marge Clark used the word “yummy”. (My  note...what I actually said was I want to roll in it, it's THAT yummy!)
I am eager to experiment more with the CO2s due to what we learned in class about it.  Mark reiterated the notion of the CO2 extracts being more true to the herb; for that reason, CO2s provide color to product, thereby avoiding artificial coloring.  He shared Clove BudCO2 with us, noting how the CO2 extraction softened the esters, allowing the aroma to be softer, sweeter.  Being truer to the herb and more intense, less CO2 need be used in a formula.(My's softer and sweeter than distilled clove bud oil and....yes, yummy!)
   The culinary implications with CO2s are intriguing as well.  Anyone corresponding with those of us that attended the course have no doubt heard about the wonderful Chai Mark shared with us from Australia that is formulated using CO2s.  I know this is something he makes use of in his own culinary explorations.   Needless to say, I have been building up my CO2 collection, and am anxious to try new ones as they come in.

(My may explore the growing range of Nature's Gift CO2 extracts here.)