Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Day in the Life

Beverly writes:

"Look who made themselves at home on my windshield wiper! This cute fat baby, not completely feathered, perched itself for almost 2 hours according to the guys at Archangel Tattoo, who are right next door to us. I came out to go home, started my car, and then saw it sitting there. I had to call the bird whisperer, Christi Pugh to see what to do. I couldn't drive home and take it away from its home and its siblings and parents. I got a broom handle and gave it to Christi. She did her magic and it flew away."

Christi said she tried to get it to hop onto the broom, to be moved, but it decided to fly to the nearby fence.  Momma and Poppa were at the nest with the other fledglings.  We hope the wee one will make it home safely.

Live is never dull!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

CO2's, part deux (yes, there's more)

During our Mondays with Marge on Facebook last Monday evening, questions about CO2s arose after an in-depth discussion on the various methods of extraction (production).  Marge thought it would be helpful to share more since Tina and several others were seeking further information. 

Marge: Some more about CO2s in general:  if it helps, let's do a general "overview" of the CO2 extracts. The ones I am familiar with come in two general categories (and a third category) we will call "other" (otherwise known as "neither of the above!")

1. The ones you are most familiar with are the CO2 selects that are similar to (but in many ways better!) than the distilled essential oils you are used to. Let's say Frankincense, Lavender, Chamomile, Clove, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Siberian Fir, Sweet Marjoram. In EVERY case that I have experienced, the CO2 extract is aromatically closer to the original botanical, more alive, more vibrant. Just something that your nose would draw you to. These are, in most cases, listed as "CO2 SELECT," i.e., not every component possible is brought over into the extract, only the aromatic components. (primarily the essential oil, is extracted.)

These can be used as you would use the equivalent essential oil, with the same safety rules that you will find for the essential oil. (i.e., Cinnamon Bark is STILL a strong sensitizer and a known irritant, for example.) The advantage to using the CO2 extracts is that in most cases you CAN use less in a blend and get the equivalent result. I'm not saying you HAVE to use less (unless there are specific safety warnings) but that you can, and that you often will want to. We find that, for example, in a blend calling for Sweet Marjoram essential oil (and other oils, it's a blend); we can use 1/3 as much of the Sweet Marjoram CO2 as we did of the distilled oil, and still have the right 'balance' of ingredients and the desired effect. (for the record, I'm talking about our SleepEase Synergy.) So as a rule of thumb, if you want to experiment with replacing an oil you already blend with, with its CO2 extracted "twin" you might try using 1/2 the amount you had been using and see what you think of the results. (This is where using scent strips helps—in creating a blend.) There is not a hard and fast rule, but there seldom is, in blending. Especially blending for a diffuser, rather than topical use. So you start with 1/2 the CO2 and the "regular amount" of other ingredients, and you see what you think of the results. Sometimes the CO2 will overpower the other ingredients. Oops, half as much CO2 was too much. Simply add a bit more of the other components of your blend until you get it where you want it. And make VERY sure to write down every drop you add! We won't discuss how many stunning blends will never be reproduced because someone doesn't remember how many drops of THAT they added. 

Please note, there are some CO2 extracts of blossoms that are not available as distilled oils, and/or absolutes. Linden Blossom comes to mind, and the rare White Rose, Rosa Alba.
Pomegranate CO2

2. CO2 extracted FIXED/Carrier oils. These are not going to be the oils that you normally would use for a full body massage, like Fractionated Coconut or Almond oil, or Jojoba, but rather CO2 extracted versions of luxury skin care oils. Examples would be Amaranth Seed, Chia Seed, Borage, Evening Primrose, Rose Hip Seed, Pomegranate, Sandalwood Seed, Sea Buckthorn Seed. Now, as far as usage on these goes, I have to say “it varies.” The Chia Seed, Amaranth, Borage, etc. CAN be used "straight up" but we prefer to blend them into a facial serum. I'll use the Evening Primrose and Borage seed as examples. Their cold pressed sisters have traditionally been recommended for use in very low percentages in skincare blends, to add richness, to bring whatever specific qualities they offer to a specific blend. They are, I like to say, "ACTIVE carrier oils." The CO2s are the same. I have a lot of clients who use our Pomegranate CO2 alone or full strength, or Chia Seed alone, but we prefer to use them as part of a skin care blend. SOME are highly colored and for that reason you want to use at a lower percentage, or they will stain your skin (or your pillowcase!) Rose Hip SEED oil is reddish. Rose Hip PULP is deep crimson. Sea Buckthorn Berry/Pulp is thick, vegetal, and orange. THIS you will want to use at about 1 to 3 %, not because it will do harm to use it stronger, but because it will take a while for the stain to fade.  

Whether to use the traditional cold pressed fixed oil or the CO2 extraction is truly a matter of taste. To OUR taste, in most cases the CO2 extraction is more quickly absorbed and has a better "akin feel." Clients and staff members have commented on the CO2s leaving their skin feeling velvety, and not greasy.  Also, in many cases the CO2 extracts have had an anti-oxidant added to them by the original producer, giving them a much longer shelf life than their cold pressed equivalent.  Shall we discuss the time I was asked to bring samples of a wide range of carriers to my CCAP class, for the students to experience them all? All went well until the instructor opened the sample of cold pressed Borage Seed. Now, it was well within its (very short) suggested shelf life, and was not, by any means "rancid"...but it was past its prime, perhaps a bit stale smelling?  I was mortified! When I got back to Nashville we disposed of the remaining Borage Seed and never reordered.  Yes, thank you, as a supplier or as an end user, I would vastly prefer a two year shelf life to a six month one!

I'm not sure if these photos really show the thickness, the texture of these Total extracts.  The Calendula is semisolid and very sticky, the German Chamomile is thick, blackish green, and vegetative.  Diluting into your chosen carrier can be a challenge.
Calendula CO2 Total

German Chamomile CO2
3. OTHER...There are CO2 extracts that are closer to herbal extracts—they don't exist as essential oils (can't be distilled, not volatile), or are "total" extractions that contain other plant components in addition to the volatile oils.  Many are herbal extracts that have either an essential oil or a cold pressed oil either. Many of them can be used to produce the equivalent of an herbal infused oil. Calendula Total can give a result that you will NOT be able to distinguish from an excellent infused oil, Arnica, ditto, Helio-Carrot Root, ditto. Rose Hip PULP doesn't exist in another form, it has a tremendous amount of plant nutrients for skincare, and should be used at about 1 or 2% maximum. We try to give ‘recommended usage rates’ or dilutions for this type of extract.  German Chamomile CO2 Total is thick, green, vegetative. At least three times a month someone will email that we sent them an old, dried up bottle of German Chamomile, it isn't even BLUE any more. We will check, and, sure enough, they ordered the Chamomile CO2 without reading the description. 

So those are, as I understand it, the three ‘categories’ of CO2 extracts that have appropriate uses for aromatherapy healing. A lot of the information that we have on these wonderful extracts comes from the various producers, who love to share the properties of their products.  Much also comes from Mark Webb, of AromaMedix, and from  Madeleine Kerkhof-Knapp Hayes, author of  Complementary Nursing in End of Life Care, a wonderful book that offers far more information than the title would lead you to believe. I look forward to studying CO2 extracts in depth with Mark in October, in Boulder, and to meeting both Mark and Madeleine in Salt Lake City at the NAHA conference.   I hope it helps!

Tina: Yes, it helps thank you very much and I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my question 😊

Join us Monday night at 8:00 p.m. CDT for Mondays with Marge live on our Facebook page.  Post aromatherapy related questions underneath the MWM graphic before or during the hour.  Missed previous MWM and want to look back at some of the highlighted topics covered so far?  Simply search the blog for previous posts and conversations.

Marge Clark is the owner and President of Nature’s Gift Inc. (www.naturesgift.com) celebrating twenty-one years as a trusted on-line source for pure, authentic essential oils and aromatherapy accessories.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

That is, a Rose Essential Oil, a Rose CO2 Extraction, a Rose Absolute!

Maybe we’re biased, but our Nature’s Gift Facebook friends and followers ask the best questions week after week during our one hour live Mondays with Marge at 8:00 p.m. CDT.  Marge fielded a variety of questions this week including thoughts on antispasmodic essential oils, lovely Rose oils, Clary Sage varieties and more!  

Cindi: Hi Marge, Can you explain the difference between an Essential Oil, an Absolute and a CO2?
Marge: Thanks, Cindi. The main difference is the method of production. Different methods of production (extraction) will yield different products, and some plants are more appropriately extracted by one method or another. (Main types are: Steam or Hydro Distillation of Essential Oils, Co2 Extraction of Essential Oils, and Solvent Extraction of Absolutes.)  Another method for another day is an ancient/early method called “Enfleurage.” 
Savory oil and hydrosol in Separator
First, essential oils...with the exception of cold pressed citrus oils…which break every rule! Essential oils are volatile products of distillation, either steam distillation (where the still is packed with the biomass, and steam is piped into the bottom, breaking the cells that hold the essential oils and carrying the essential oil with it, as it exits the still) or by hydro-distillation, where the biomass is put IN the water, directly. The water is then heated, and the steam from the heated water carries the essential oil with it as it exits the still. In both cases above, the aromatic steam goes through a cooling coil to rapidly cool it, back to water, and drains into a separator. In almost every case, the aromatic water separates with the essential oil floating on top, and the water based distillate, the hydrosol, sitting on the bottom.

CO2 extracts are a relatively new technology; I think commercially available perhaps only during the last 30 or so years. CO2, Carbon Dioxide, the gas that we exhale with every breath, is chilled under sufficient pressure to cause it to turn liquid. This liquid CO2 is used as a solvent, extracting both the volatiles (the essential oil) and plant components, plant waxes, and other components that do not come across during the process of distillation because their molecules are too heavy to exit the still with the steam. CO2 extraction can give us extracts of plants that may not otherwise be distilled, which don't produce an essential oil: Calendula and Sea Buckthorn are examples. The results are closer to absolutes than to essential oils because the botanicals do not go through the heating process of distillation—perhaps this is why the aroma is closer to the plant. The CO2, acting as solvent, just evaporates off into the surrounding air, with nothing left behind.
Now on to Absolutes! Absolutes are produced in two steps, by the use of solvents. In the initial step, the fresh blossoms are washed with a solvent, most commonly hexane. This removes both the aromatics and the floral waxes, and gives a product called a CONCRETE. This concrete is normally solid, ranging from fairly soft to almost rock hard. The concrete may be stored as such and is sometimes available on the commercial market. The second step is washing the concrete with Ethanol (Alcohol) to separate the aromatic oils (the Absolute) from the Floral Wax. After this separation is accomplished, the ethanol SHOULD be all evaporated off, leaving a pure absolute, although I have seen so-called absolutes available commercially that both based on the price, the color, and, most important, the aroma, obviously had a fair amount of Ethanol left in them. In a well-produced absolute, the level of residual solvent should be on the level of a very few parts per million, thus not a concern.  Absolutes are most often used by perfumers, rather than in Aromatherapy.
There are advantages to each method. For therapeutic use, purists still request the distilled oils The CO2s offer more components from the botanical that can't exist in the distilled oil (see our discussion about Incensol Acetate in Frankincense CO2, for example.) The process of Absolute production will allow the essence of blossoms that cannot be distilled such as Lotus, Osmanthus, etc. Both CO2 and Absolute will give a larger volume of product from the same amount of botanical.
From an aromatic standpoint, I have always considered the traditional distilled oil to be the least aromatic, the CO2 extract to be much closer to the fresh plant, and the absolute the aromatic pinnacle of our ability to match a blossom. 
Rose is one of the finest examples, for instance.  Today we had a wonderful chance to sample all three extractions from one blossom. We received samples from our Bulgarian supplier, and not only the Rosa Alba CO2 came in, but a small sample of Rosa Damascena CO2 extract, as well as a wee sample of this year’s Rose Otto— the distilled Rosa damascena. We also have last year’s Rosa Damascena absolute, from Bulgaria, so were able to experiment and experience all three. As I said in an email to the producer, "I'm floating on a rose-scented cloud and NOT going to get any work done today!" (I left those scent strips at the office, if I had brought that fan of aromas home I would NOT be answering questions this evening!) This is the array of scent strips, with the wee folk art holder that contains a ml of 2016 organic Rose Otto.
Scent strips, L to R, Rose Abs,Bulgarian, Rose Otto, Rosa Damascena CO2 and Rosa Alba CO2

Have a nagging aromatherapy question?  Join us Monday night for Mondays with Marge, 8:00 p.m. CDT on our Facebook page. 
Questions must be posted under the Mondays with Marge graphic.  When it (the graphic) appears late Sunday or early Monday, questions may be posted for the Monday night session.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Scent Memories

I've written elsewhere about our new Siberian Fir CO2 extract, about how long lasting its aroma is,
compared to a distilled oil

This morning I picked up the scent strip that we dipped a week ago, and found the aroma not only softly present, but amazingly evocative. (The strip with the distilled oil, on the other hand, is just paper.)

My Aunt Annie lived in a bigger house than ours about a half hour's drive away. Sometimes I stayed and visited for a few days during the summer. (I don't remember why, I'm betting my parents just wanted some peace and quiet!)

My great aunt, Aunt Minnie lived there, and I adored both of my aunts, so visiting was a treat. There were two cousins, but they were TEENAGERS and lived in a different universe. And there was Uncle Chet, but we didn't talk to each other. I was afraid of him. I don't think he liked little girls.

There were times that my Aunt would tell me to go out on the porch. (Could I have been getting underfoot? of course!)  So I'd pick a book from the upstairs book case, and go out onto the side porch.

On the porch there was an old metal glider. I was scared to death of it, because I KNEW all those metal chains and hinges and slidey things were just waiting to cut off a little girl's finger.  But it was a wonderful shady place to curl up with a book on a hot summer's afternoon.  And on that glider was a small, tightly stuffed cushion, filled with pine or fir or spruce needles, a souvenir from somewhere.

Somehow the drop of week old Siberian Fir CO2 brought the sight and the overstuffed tightness of that firm pillow, the fragrance of the needles that filled it,  and the squeak of the glider all back to me  The cushion fabric was coarse, like burlap, and I think the glider had plastic cushions. 

And the feeling of a hug from Aunt Minnie or Aunt Annie... the feel of a cotton apron against my cheek. 

This is the power of a scent memory.  The strongest and most basic memory of all.  I am reminded once again how a remembered fragrance from 60 to 70 years ago can bring back so much detail. 

Both my aunts left us years ago.  I hope they know how important they were to my growing up. And I am grateful to the aroma of the fir needles that brought this oh so vivid memory back to me.