Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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As we enter into the cold and flu season, it is the perfect time to be thinking about your "immune system" and practical ways to help boost it. Alex & I practice these immune boosting tips every day of the year and we are always "extra" pleased when we are able to ward off a nasty flu or cold.

These tips are our tried and true suggestions for increasing immunity and maintaining good health all year long. Lets start with a brief explanation of what your Immune system is. The immune system is the body's defense against infectious organisms and other invaders. Through a series of steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease.

As you can see, it is important to help boost immunity so that your body can effectively do its job in fighting off sickness. 

Here are our top ten immune boosting tips to help you stay healthy and active this winter season.

1. BUILD UP YOUR GUT HEALTH: You can't have happy thoughts on a sour stomach. 80% of your bodies immune system is in the gut. Start by eating probiotic rich foods and drinks such as kraut, kimchi and kefir. Here is a link we posted on how to make your own Kefir

Increasing probiotics in the gut will help to build up the good bacteria in your body and help greatly boost immune system.

2. PROPER SUPPLEMENTATION: Alex and I love to supplement with several key products to help boost our immunity year round such as medicinal mushrooms. One of our personal favorites is called "My Community" by Host Defense. We also take vitamin C powder in the form of simple ascorbic acid. If we feel something coming on we start loading up 5-7 milligrams a day spread out evenly. This is one of the most inexpensive ways to help boost your bodies immune system. We also love the homeopathic remedies by Boiron especially if we feel like we are coming down with something.

3. BONE BROTH SOUP: This is really a hidden treasure. Bone broth soup is not only great for immunity but it is very healing to the gut. This is also very rich in collagen which is great for hair, skin, nails and joints.

4. PROPER HYDRATION: This is pretty self explanatory. Staying hydrated helps with detoxification and functioning optimally among numerous other benefits. Try drinking purified water and organic herbal teas. We like to add fresh squeezed organic lemons to our water for a refreshing change and extra added benefit of cleansing & alkalizing the body.

5. OPTIMIZE YOUR VITAMIN D3 LEVELS: This has immunoprotective and stimulating benefits. Many people are walking around Vitamin D3 deficients and this can cause your immune system to suffer. Here is a great article by Dr. Mercola that goes more in-depth.

6. MINIMIZE COFFEE CONSUMPTION: Caffeine is known to increase cortisol which can temporarily lower the immune system. If you are going to drink it, drink a cup in the morning and preferably organic. An even better option is to drink a good quality organic green tea in place of coffee.

7. SWEAT IT OUT: Try laying in the sauna or steam room for small periods at a time while drinking plenty of water & infusing Eucalyptus essential oils. This helps with detoxifying the body and increasing body heat which helps improve circulation.

8. EAT CLEAN NUTRITIOUS FOODS: Your body is what you eat. Limit grains and eliminate sugar if at all possible. Feed your body good quality lean proteins such as grass fed meats, organic chicken, fish or turkey. Increase your good healthy fats such as avocados, raws nuts and seeds and extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil (preferably local, not imported) and fermented raw grass fed dairy such as cheese, yogurt & kefir. (See link from #1)

9. DRINK RAW APPLE CIDER VINEGAR WITH THE MOTHER: We like to drink Braggs ACV. I put two tablespoons diluted with 8-10 oz. water first thing each morning upon waking. This has so many wonderful benefits including boosting immunity, hydration, detoxification and it is fantastic for gut health as well as alkalizing your body. Read up on this if you want to know more.

10. MANAGE STRESS: I saved the best for last! Stress is a silent killer and it definitely contributes to lowering immunity. Try managing your stress by taking time for things you enjoy, exercising daily (medium to heavy resistance training) and cardio as well as getting plenty of rest each night. Alex and I like to shut off our router and stop all technology about an hour before bed. This helps us to rest better and also prevents us from looking at "blue light" which can disturb melatonin production or cause insomnia.

We hope these 10 immune boosting tips help your family as much as they help ours. If you have any questions or would like to know more details on the above, feel free to comment. We love interaction and helping spread our knowledge. Here is to having a strong, healthy and functioning immune system.

In health, Alex and Ashley Poptodorov, A+A Wellness, Atlanta, Ga.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Making your own hand and body cream is not difficult. Just be sure you can work for 30 minutes or so with no interruptions — no dogs, no children, no phone. Most of the ingredients below are available from The Chemistry Store or Bulk Apothecary and even Amazon for small quantities. Quantities needed for a both a single 4-ounce jar and a large batch of nine 4-ounce jars are given below.

Be very sure that the essential oils you choose are actually pure essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, etc. Don’t ever use a fragrance oil, such as “peach” or “pomegranate,” as these are toxic. Also never use a citrus oil, such as lemon, orange, or bergamot, as these can cause spotting of the skin when exposed to sunlight.

Remember that all equipment must be impeccably clean, washed in very hot water or microwaved when possible.

As you use your cream, do not stick your finger down in it and do not stir it. Just wipe a clean finger across the surface to scoop some up. You don’t want to introduce bacteria into the jar.

A note on carrier oils: Almond oil is available in many grocery stores near the olive oil. Some other “gourmet” oils may also be available there. DO NOT use an oil that could be a GMO, such as corn, soy or cotton seed. Sunflower and safflower oil are fine. Olive oil works, but has it’s own fragrance.

Making a 4-Ounce Jar of Hand Cream

You will need:

• Small heat-proof bowl that will sit over a small pot like a double boiler. A 2-cup Pyrex bowl is good.
• Small pot full of tap water
• A small silicone spatula to stir with  (consider the size of the bowl when choosing)
• A container for your cream, just over 4 ounces, impeccably clean
• An accurate scale that measures fractions of ounces
• A little hand-held mixer if you’re making large batches

Ingredients for a 4-ounce Jar:

• 1/4 ounce beeswax
• 1/4 ounce emulsifying wax (vegetable)
• 2 ounces sweet almond oil
• 1/2 ounce Emu Oil or shea butter (optional)
• 1-1/2 ounces distilled water
• A few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Good choices are lavender, ylang-ylang, patchouli, lemongrass and tea tree.

Small-Batch Directions:

1. Measure all the ingredients very carefully with a scale. Liquid measure and weight are not the same, so use a scale. The easiest way is to put the bowl on the scale, make note of the weight (or press the ON if you have a TARE feature).

2. Add the beeswax, emulsifying wax and the almond oil.

3. Bring tap water to a boil in the pot, not so deep as to overflow when you set the bowl over it. Put the bowl over the hot water and allow the water to simmer until the wax is melted. Don’t stir; the wax will stick to the spatula and harden. It’s best to just watch as the wax slowly melts. Don’t walk away while the wax is melting; you don’t want it to overheat.

4. When it is melted, remove the bowl from the pot, and let it begin to cool a bit.

5. Add the optional emu oil or shea butter and begin to stir, keeping the spatula in the wax mixture.

6. Very slowly, stirring constantly, pour in the water. Don‘t dump it, just pour in a small, steady stream. Keep stirring, scraping the sides of the bowl; do not stop for anything, until the mixture thickens and turns nearly white.

7. Now you can stir in drops of your favorite essential oil. When the cream is about the consistency of mayonnaise, turn it into a container and cover.

Making Large Batches of Hand Cream

A jar of homemade pure hand cream is a very nice gift! This makes 36 ounces of hand cream, or nine 4-ounce jars.

Large-Batch Ingredients for Nine 4-Ounce Jars:

• 16 ounces almond oil
• 2 ounces beeswax
• 2-1/2 ounces emulsifying wax
• 12 ounces distilled water
• 1 ounce, possibly more, essential oil of choice.

Large-Batch Directions:

1. To make a large batch, the only change in procedure I make is to melt the waxes in just half the almond oil; when melted, add the rest of the almond and it’s cool enough to begin stirring.

2. Because I make a large batch frequently, I do use a dedicated cheap hand mixer and I do melt the wax in oil in a pot directly on the burner. I’m careful. My hand cream-making equipment is all dedicated; the pot, bowl, mixer, spatulas, jars and ingredients are kept in a separate storage tub.

3. Some pretty, double-wall cosmetic jars are available at several websites, including The Chemistry Store. Pinetree Seeds offers a small quantity of jars. Uline has inexpensive utility jars.

Bonus Recipe: Beeswax Ointment Hand Saver

Working in the garden is hard on hands and some of us just can’t work with gloves on all the time. To prevent damage and heal those sore splits and scratches, I make up small tubs of this beeswax ointment.

This beeswax-based hand saver makes the hands pretty much waterproof, so apply it before starting work and again after washing up, apply lightly. Be sure to get some under the nails and around cuticles. Just a dab will do.


• 2 ounces pure, natural beeswax
• 4 ounces almond oil (or olive oil)
• 1/2 ounce shea butter or emu oil if you have it
• Few drops of tea tree essential oil (antibiotic)
• Few drops of lavender essential oil (healing)


1. The same as the basic hand cream above: Put the oil and the wax into a bowl over simmering water and heat until the wax is melted.

2. Remove from the heat and stir the mixture until it begins to thicken a bit. (There’s no water in an ointment).

3. Add your essential oils and then continue to stir until the ointment is thick. Pack into an impeccably clean jar.

4. You could store this mix in a plastic tub of some kind. If using a repurposed container, wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water, then pour in just a little alcohol, close, and shake, then drain until thoroughly dry.

Prevent Hand Damage in the Garden

Years ago, planting strawberries in February, my hands were so cold!  The plants were laid in flats of water to hydrate the roots, so my hands were in water and then soil. Here’s what I did:

I put on a pair of tight cotton work gloves to keep my hands warm and then pulled on nitrile surgical gloves over the cotton to keep them dry. Even with the cotton underneath, the surgical gloves allowed enough dexterity to get the job done right.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Is arthritis pain getting you down? If you are one of the millions of people who experience arthritis pain daily, then its time to find relief. Fortunately. There is a whole host of natural options for managing your pain. One such option is yoga.

Yoga is a gentle exercise that can do wonders for both mind and body. It can help with health conditions ranging from pregnancy anxiety to chronic fatigue syndrome. And if you want to learn about activities that have been shown to ease symptoms of arthritis, yoga is an excellent option.

Yoga Reduces Arthritis Pain

The Journal of Rheumatology published a study in July 2015 that looked at the effects of yoga in a group of 75 adults with rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis.[1] Half of the group did eight weeks of yoga (two 60 min classes and one home practice session per week) and half continued regular treatment, serving as controls.

After eight weeks, people in the yoga group showed a 20 percent improvement over the control group on a test that assessed health related quality of life. The test reflected things like physical function, pain, and energy levels, showing that yoga improved these factors. Walking speed was also higher in the yoga group.

It wasn’t just their physical symptoms that got better with yoga. Improvements in mood and mental health were also seen; people who did yoga had significantly higher scores for positive affect and had lower depressive symptoms compared to controls.

Yoga was a safe treatment tool, leading to no unpleasant side effects or adverse events.

Yoga leads to Long-Lasting Improvements

The researchers did follow-up testing nine months later, and participants who were in the yoga group still showed significant improvements in most of the measures of health related quality of life.

Five years later, some of the participants were contacted for a focus group. According to the researchers, people said, “yoga had played a pivotal role in changing how they viewed their function, and capabilities and attitude toward living with [rheumatoid arthritis]; they credited yoga with helping them maintain a more active lifestyle.”[1]

Gentle Exercise Is Helpful for Arthritis

While doing yoga or other exercises may seem daunting at first in the face of arthritis pain, you may benefit tremendously if you try. You may experience improved daily functioning, better mood, increased strength, and more energy if you exercise regularly. Read all about how exercise can help rheumatoid arthritis here.

Find a local yoga class near you to get started. Start with a beginner’s class, which will be gentle and will help you to build up your strength, flexibility, and balance. Classes can be found at local community centers, gyms, and private yoga studios. Inquire about the different class styles and levels for helping choosing which class, in particular, might be good for someone with arthritis pain. The website www.Arthritis.Yoga is a good place to start, and the company, in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation, made an arthritis-friendly DVD complete with an hour-long yoga practice and a FAQ section.

Other Natural Options for Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis shouldn’t leave you in pain and feeling miserable. If you don’t yet have your symptoms under control, start today with safe, effective, all-natural remedies.

Read this series on the best supplements for joint pain for a list of herbs, vitamins, and other supplements to help you find relief.

By starting an exercise program, such as a yoga practice, and combining this with supplements like SAM-e or boswellia extract, you may be able to gain control over your symptoms and start feeling better.

As always, check with your doctor before taking any supplements or vitamins to inquire about possible medication interactions.

Photo by by Alfred Ellison Gregg IV.


[1] J Rheumatol. 2015 Jul;42(7):1194-202.

Natural Heath Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of Chelsea's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



You hear it more and more recently, “kids don’t play outside anymore.” But with a shift towards being indoors instead of out, engaging with technology instead of nature, and sitting instead of moving, what exactly are kids missing out on? Research shows that children’s physical and mental health are both taking a toll. Encouraging outside games for kids is important in promoting their health and well being.

Physical Benefits of Active Play

Exercise is as important for kids as it is for adults. Physical activity is important for kids to have healthy bones, good physical fitness, and low levels of inflammation in the body. One study in children 7 to 11 years old, for example, found that breaking up continuous sitting with only 3 minutes of moderate walking every 30 minutes improved insulin functioning.[1]  Plus, being active helps kids socially and academically as well. Read more about some of the benefits of physical activity for kids in Active Body, Active Mind: Why Kids Need Recess.

So how can you make sure your child is getting enough activity? One of the best ways is to make sure they have plenty of outdoor time. Playing outside, with access to nature and green space, is particularly important for kids’ health.

Why Kids Need to Play Outdoors

Getting outdoors more is of the upmost importance for kids. A review on outdoor play published in June 2015 found that more outdoor time for children is related to higher levels of physical activity and reduced sedentary time, and it may also have benefits on measures of cardio-respiratory fitness.[2] Another study presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes on September 15, 2015 looked at data from 19,000 children. They found significant associations between obesity and low levels of access to green space, as well as not having a garden.[3] Specifically, they found that no garden access from ages three to five years old increased the risk for being overweight or obese at age seven by 35 percent. Low levels of green space raised the risk by 14 percent.[3]

Kids with ADHD can also benefit from tremendously from outdoor play in nature. One study found that “overall, green play settings were consistently linked with milder ADHD symptoms than non-green play settings.”[4]

Risk Taking is Good, Too

Is it good to let your kids climb way up high, go where you can’t see them, use tools, or play where they are exposed to elements like water or fire? These elements may be dangerous, and they may leave the risk for injury. And while this is certainly a personal parenting decision, it turns out that kids can benefit tremendously from these types of activities.

A review from June 2015 found that access to risky outdoor play was good for kids’ health, and it also encouraged things like creativity, social skills, and resilience. They found higher levels of physical activity, lower sedentary behavior, and improved social health, for example. Although certainly there were some risks to this type of play, the authors of the review conclude, “the findings overall suggest positive effects of risky outdoor play on health.”[5]

Adolescents Can Also Benefit from Childlike Play

Your teen might also do good to play more like a kid. A study in Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental found that when adolescents were active in much the same way kids play – in short bouts of high intensity activity, they saw improved blood sugar, fat metabolism, and blood pressure readings.[6]

Learn how higher levels of physical activity in teens may promote longevity here. Encourage your teen to get up and move every half an hour or so, even if just for a minute or two. Running to catch a Frisbee, racing around the yard, or playing a quick game of basketball could all do the trick.

Encourage Your Kid to Get Outdoors and Move More

There are many ways to get your kids outside more, whether you have a yard or not. Find nearby parks to visit as a family, where you can walk, practice sports, or play outside games for kids like hide and seek, tag, or capture the flag together. Find places with good playgrounds, where your kids can run, jump, climb, and balance.

Even if you don’t have time to go to the park, short bouts of outdoor play can work wonders too. Encourage regular breaks from homework, TV, chores, and other tasks with quick, five-minute trips outside for a few minutes of active time. You’ll notice the improvements in the mental and physical health of your children if you do.

Visit Natural Health Advisory Institute for more tips on raising healthy kids. Get started here:

1. How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables: Use Repetition, Rewards, and Role Modeling

2. Watch for Signs of Dehydration in Children: Most Kids Don’t Drink Enough Water

3. Are Pesticides Bad for Kids? 2 Problems Caused by Pyrethroids


[1] J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug 27:jc20152803. [Epub ahead of print]
[2] Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun 8;12(6):6455-74.
[3] EASD Abstract. 2015 Sept 15.
[4] Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 2011 Nov;3(3):281-303.
[5] Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun 8;12(6):6423-54.
6. Metabolism. 2015 Sep;64(9):1068-76. .

Natural Health Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of Chelsea's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



All my close friends and family members have aloe vera plants of their own (especially after I gave the plants as gifts for Christmas a few years ago). Why? Because of the seemingly endless aloe vera plant uses for natural healthcare in the home.

We all love having fresh aloe on hand. Aloe may be best known for it’s use as a natural treatment for sunburns, but the benefits of aloe extend far beyond helping your skin heal. Learn how aloe can help keep your heart, teeth, digestive tract, and more healthy.

Aloe vera: an impressive medicinal plant with versatile qualities

The aloe vera plant contains an abundance of nutrients that make it incredibly healthy. These include vitamins like A, C, E, and B vitamins. It is also rich in antioxidants, antiseptic agents, immune-boosting compounds, enzymes, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and more.[1] Each of these qualities has beneficial effects in the body, which range from speeding the healing of skin to keeping your heart healthy.

7 Top Aloe Vera Plant Uses

1. Healing wounds. Aloe is an excellent product to apply to wounds to help them heal better. It is a natural antiseptic agent, which helps to keep your wound clean and free of infection; it is anti-inflammatory, which helps aid in the healing process; it stimulates the growth and proliferation of new cells to help rebuild injured tissue; and it can even help reduce pain. Aloe has been an effective treatment for skin wounds ranging from burns (including sunburns) to C-section surgical wounds and more.[2-5] To watch a video on how to use aloe vera for burn treatment, click here.

2. Lower cholesterol and triglycerides. When taken orally, aloe can do wonders for bringing cholesterol and triglyceride levels down. In one study, people took either 100 mg or 200 mg of aloe vera gel powder daily for three months. Significant reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, along with an increase in healthy HDL-cholesterol, were seen in both groups.[6] In another, 500 mg of aloe vera gel powder significantly improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels after eight weeks.[7]

3. Reduce blood pressure. Aloe may also benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure. When people took 100 mg of aloe vera gel powder for three months, they saw significant drops in blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure decreased from an average of 140.1 mmHg to an average of 129.8 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure decreased from 88.6 mmHg to 83.6 mmHg.[6]

4. Improve dental health. One of the surprising applications of aloe is in dental health. Aloe has been shown to help conditions like gingivitis, periodontitis, and more. It also may be effective in helping prevent cavities, as it has antibacterial qualities. Studies show that is as effective as popular commercial toothpastes in controlling common bacteria responsible for cavities. Researchers note that as a toothpaste, it is also less harsh and can be good for people with sensitive teeth.[1]

5. Treat ulcerative colitis. Because of its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, aloe is also helpful for those with the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis. It is known to help decrease compounds implicated in the disease called prostaglandins and interleukins.[8] One study found that when patients with ulcerative colitis took 100 mL of aloe vera gel two times a day for four weeks, their symptoms improved significantly. After four weeks, 30% of the patients taking aloe experienced clinical remission of the disease, compared to only 7% of those on placebo.[9] To read more about aloe and other natural treatments for ulcerative colitis, go here.

6. Manage diabetes. Aloe may help lower blood sugar, too.[10] One hundred mg of aloe vera gel powder reduced fasting blood sugar significantly in diabetics after three months of treatment.[6]

7. Relieve symptoms of psoriasis. Aloe is at least effective as a prescription cream (triamcinolone acetonid) in improving psoriasis symptoms.[11] It works well applied directly to psoriasis patches to help find relief from rashes, dryness, itchiness, and more.

How to Keep an Aloe Vera Plant and How to Use It

Growing an aloe vera plant in your home is easy. Find an aloe vera plant at a local nursery and plant it in a small to medium-sized pot. Aloe doesn’t need a lot of water, as it is a desert plant. Water your plant by pouring water slowly through the center of the plant. Water about once a week, letting the soil become dry in between. Keep it in a well-lit place where it will get plenty of sunlight.

When you are ready to use your aloe vera, all you need to do is cut a leaf (or part of a leaf) off of the plant. For topical applications on the skin, cut off the tip of a leaf. Slice it open to reveal the insides. Apply the clear, gel-like insides directly to the affected area on the skin.

For oral intake, you can try making your own aloe vera gel and juice. Cut an entire large leaf  (or a few leaves at once) off of the plant. Peel off the green outer layer from one side with a knife, then use a spoon to scoop out the insides. Blend the gel in a blender until smooth. Store in the refrigerator. When ready to drink, place about 2 tablespoons into a glass of water and stir.

If you don’t want to make your own or you don’t want to grow a plant, you can purchase pre-prepared products, such as whole-leaf aloe vera juice, aloe-vera skin creams, aloe toothpastes, or pure aloe vera gel. Be sure to find natural products free of harmful additives.


[1] J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2015 Apr;7(Suppl 1):S255-9.

[2] Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:714216.

[3] J Pak Med Assoc. 2013 Feb;63(2):225-30.

[4] Burns. 2007 Sep;33(6):713-8.

[5] Glob J Health Sci. 2014 Aug 31;7(1):203-9.

[6] J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Jan;51(1):90-6.

[7] J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015 Apr 9;14:22.

[8] Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Mar 1;19(5):521-7.

[9] Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Apr 1;19(7):739-47.

[10] J Tradit Complement Med. 2014 Dec 23;5(1):21-6.

[11] J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2010 Feb;24(2):168-72.

Natural Health Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



It is a given that the vast majority of aromatherapy practitioners, and perhaps even lay practitioners (home users), are seeking genuine and authentic, plant-derived, preferably organic or wild crafted, unadulterated essential oils. This is how I personally would define “therapeutic grade,” although like Harris, I dislike the term (see Part 1 and Part 2 of this series for more information on terminology and certification).

Finding them and knowing what to look for is a challenge, particularly given the power of marketing. What do we mean by the terms genuine, authentic, plant-derived and unadulterated anyways?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the terms genuine and authentic as follows: Genuine (adj.) 1 truly what it is said to be; authentic. 2 sincere; honest; Authentic (adj.) of undisputed origin; genuine.

To my knowledge, Kurt Schnaubelt was the first to use the terms “genuine” and “authentic” in relation to essential oils. According to Schnaubelt (2004), a genuine essential oil means it is completely unaltered and an authentic essential oil means it is from a specified plant only.

Which brings us to plant-derived: Essential oils used in aromatherapy should all be extracted from a specified plant species, e.g. Lavandula angustifolia versus Lavandula x intermedia. And this naturally leads into unadulterated: no additives, no extenders, no price reducing ingredients, no nothing except what was there after distillation or expression.

The main concerns with adulterated essential oils include: 1. potential interference of adulterants with components of the natural oil; this may affect synergy and the expected physiological and psychophysiological activities of the oil; and 2. Toxicity implications of the adulterants. (Bensouilah and Buck, 2006) Hence, adulterated essential oils can reduce the therapeutic benefits of treatment, increase the likelihood of adverse reactions and potentially introduce toxic compounds into the body.

Qualities to Look For in a Supplier

Now that we know what we are looking for, how in the world do we find it? My goal in this section is to offer up some qualities to look for both in a supplier and in the essential oils you purchase. I personally would want a supplier:

• who is dedicated to supplying essential oils to the aromatherapy practitioner market and educated public.
• owned by an aromatherapy practitioner or essential oil specialist
• who has relations with his/her distillers, if possible
• who verify the authenticity of their essential oils prior to selling them.
• who has a strong ethical reputation in the field
• who has preferably been in the field for a number of years and is well known to other aromatherapy practitioners and/or educators

If you have found a supplier that fulfills the above criteria or at least the vast majority, then one can begin with the idea that the essential oil you have purchased is of a higher quality than those sold at grocery stores or in the mass market or by a large corporation.

If you have been provided with the GC/MS spec sheet that is batch-specific, you are aware of its chemical profile and potential therapeutic applications and safety precautions.

Qualities to Look For in an Essential Oil

Important items to obtain on each essential oil you purchase include: Common name, Latin name (exact genus and species), Country of origin, Part of plant processed, Type of Extraction (distillation or expression), how it was grown (organic, wild-crafted, traditional) and chemotype (when relevant).

Of equal importance to all the above criteria (including supplier qualities) is your own organoleptic assessment. “Organoleptic” means perceived by a sense organ. In relation to essential oils, I believe we need to utilize all six senses (taste, touch, smell, vision, auditory, and intuition) — even though the use of some of them is different than one would expect.

Naturally when it comes to essential oils, one would think first of your sense of smell and indeed this is the case. Utilizing your sense of smell may seem rather simple at first glance; however, the ability to smell (or sense) the “quality” or “wholeness: of an essential oil is actually more complex and involved.

I shall attempt to outline how to powerfully utilize your sense of smell for determining the quality of essential oil. Each of the steps takes time, patience, consciousness, and willingness.

1. Strengthen Your Sense of Smell

The sense of smell, in my opinion and experience, is like a muscle: The more you use it and become aware of it, the stronger it becomes. I would encourage you to first become more familiar and conscious of the aromas (odors, scents) that are present in your everyday life:

The smell of your home, your dogs, dinner cooking, your cleaning products, the way your clothes smell, your lover/husband/wife/partner, your children, the individuals you work with, your work environment, the smell of a woman or man with too much perfume or cologne on, the smell of the city, the country, the smell after a day’s rain, the smell of humidity, the smell of your favorite restaurant or grocery store, the aroma of freshly mowed grass, the smell of gas, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace or wood stove.

Spend two to four weeks simply observing, becoming aware of the different aromas which waft under your nose each day.

2. Strengthen Your Relationship with Aromatic Plants

Aromatherapists are in some ways at a disadvantage when it comes to relating to the aromatic plants from which essential oils are derived. Unlike herbalists who often spend much of their time touching, smelling, visually observing, and interacting with plants and plant material, aromatherapists simply purchase a bottle of essential oil without ever having come into direct contact with the plant.

I believe firmly that this relationship is critical to the full appreciation of each essential oil. Even though the vast majority of us will never go to Madagascar or Costa Rica to smell ylang ylang as it lingers on the tree, there are still many aromatic plants which one can have access to in a variety of settings.

The spring and summer months (particularly late spring and summer when the essential oil content is higher) are the best times to explore aromatic plants, either in your own garden or at an arboretum, a garden center, an herb farm, or even in nature. This relationship-building with aromatic plants is the key in being able to appropriately utilize your sense of smell when it comes to the quality and wholeness of essential oils.

If it is autumn or winter (as we are now moving into), then you may need to put this off until the spring, but nonetheless, it is a vital step towards strengthening and empowering your sense of smell.

Grow what you can. Wherever I have lived, I have grown as many aromatic plants as possible, sometimes to use for herbal teas but mostly just to be able to walk out into the garden and pick a leaf or flower and breath in its aroma. Even when I lived in a small apartment in Boston I was blessed with a fire escape and on it I grew as many aromatic and herbal plants as I could.

If you travel, visit gardens when possible. I will always remember visiting the Dupont gardens (Longwood gardens) just outside of Philadelphia. It was there in the conservatory that I had the great fortune of meeting black pepper, a plant I would otherwise never have seen. And although I could not spend time smelling the black pepper (which is dried from the green pepper once it has matured), I at least was able to observe its growth, its leaf structure and the berries.

Strengthening our relationship with aromatic plants strengthens our relationship with the essential oils they give forth. It provides us with a much wider olfactory palate and empowers our sense of smell in better perceiving a quality essential oil from one of inferior quality.

3. Compare and Contrast Essential Oils

Now let’s talk about using your sense of smell with actual essential oils. I remember years ago while studying esthetics, my instructor said something to the affect of: In order for you to truly understand the various degrees of oily or dry or dehydrated skin, you must come into contact with as many individuals as possible.

Once you have seen slightly oily skin and then very oily skin and also very dry skin and degrees thereof, then and only then will you have an appreciation and understanding of each of the skin types. And the same goes with massage — only after massaging numerous clients will you begin to be able to truly feel differences in muscle tone, range of motion, muscle tension, etc. This concept holds true for essential oils.

To be able to understand and interpret the differences between qualities of essential oils one must spend time with and be exposed to different qualities. Remember, too, that even within the category of high-quality, authentic and genuine essential oils, there will be subtle differences and nuances in the essential oils.

If you have never smelled an essential oil of superior quality (in every sense) or an inferior essential oil, how are you truly able to distinguish qualities? To know a superior quality, one must have access to companies which exemplify this quality.

I would highly recommend purchasing essential oils from companies in Europe (such as Florihana or Fragrant Earth or the U.S. company, Original Swiss Aromatics) and also from reputable suppliers here in the United States and Canada.  Purchase at least 2-4 essential oils from a few different companies, perhaps even the same essential oils to compare.


Harris, B. (2001). Editorial. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 11 (4), p.181-182.
Harris, B. (2006). Editorial. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 16 (2), p.55.
Schnaubelt, K. (2004). Aromatherapy Lifestyle. San Rafael, CA: Terra Linda Scent and Image. 

Jade Shutes is the Director of Education for The East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic StudiesShe began her study of aromatherapy and herbs while living and working in England over 26 years ago and has been instrumental in setting educational standards and serving as President of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. You can also find Jade online at Aromatic Studies.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's recent Call to Action made it clear that walking is the best way for most people to stay healthy and fit. Here’s how to do it more often and make it more enjoyable. (Murthy will be among the many speakers and participants from all walks of life at the 2nd National Walking Summit to be held in Washington, DC, October 28-30.)

1. Find your natural rhythm. Figure out the best times to walk for your schedule. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning. Or with your kids on the way to school. After lunch. Taking the dog out. After dinner. Before bedtime. With friends or family on the weekends.

2. Seize the opportunity whenever you can. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Park a few blocks from your destinations. Ride transit (which usually involves a short walk on both ends of the trip). Swap the drive to the gym for a hike around the neighborhood. Run errands on foot. It all adds up.

Pay attention to how you can naturally incorporate walking into your life, rather than making it one more thing added to your busy schedule. Studies show we stick with exercise more when it is a regular part of our day more than when it’s seen as a leisure time activity.

3. Start small but think big. Be realistic in your goals. The CDCs recommended minimum — 30 minutes a day — makes a good beginning. Do it in two or three separate trips if you need to. Then you can work your way up to whatever distance feels best. Many people are now doing walk marathons or half-marathons. (Three out of eight finishers of the Portland marathon now walk, and there are increasing numbers of walk-only marathons.)

4. Keep track of your progress. A pedometer, phone app or other device keeping tabs on how much you walk each day can be a handy tool. Fitness experts recommend 10,000 steps a day, but that can vary depending on personal factors. Americans on average walk about 5,110 steps a day.

5. Identify as a walker. Walkers are athletes, too. It’s a good exercise and an enjoyable pastime the same as biking or basketball. Claim it as your sport, and you’ll do it more often.  Solidify your commitment by taking the walking pledge.

6. Make sure your walk is enjoyable. Find a route that is interesting, perhaps with a favorite destination like a coffee shop, park or a great view. Wear walking gear that is comfortable and that you feel good in. Don’t set overly tough goals at first. "If you're slogging through something you don't enjoy, you won't stick with it," says David W. Brock, PhD, assistant professor of exercise and movement science at the University of Vermont.

7. Invigorate your social life. Suggest a walking “date” with your partner, friends or family.  Invite dinner guests to stroll around the block after a hearty meal. Instead of meeting someone for lunch, a drink or a movie, begin the occasion with a walk before you sit down together. In New York City, for instance, it’s a longstanding tradition for folks to walk together through Central Park or along the Brooklyn Promenade. In San Antonio, it’s the Riverwalk. What would be the equivalent activity in your town?

Most people’s vacations are built around walks — hiking in the woods or mountains, ambling on the beach, strolling through historic neighborhoods, wandering all over theme parks or the State Fair. Why not maintain that vacation spirit all year by regularly walking with family and friends?

8. Try a walking meeting. Instead of gathering around a table, walk around the block. You’ll likely see a spike in people’s creativity and attention. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey both favor walking meetings, as did Steve Jobs, Sigmund Freud, and Aristotle. Prominent corporate consultant Nilofer Merchant explains how it works in this TED Talk. Because 80 percent of Americans get virtually no physical activity in their jobs, this could be a giant boost for the nation’s health. Also, walk around while talking on the phone.

9. Organize a walking group. “If you want to go fast, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together,” says an African proverb. Round up co-workers for a lunchtime hike. Grab the neighbors for an evening stroll. You’ll walk more often and more merrily when you share the journey.  Think of it as a book club with no homework.

Thirty walking groups were launched in Albert Lea, Minnesota in 2009 as part of a community-wide campaign to improve health. Six years later, more than half are still going, with four to ten people meeting to walk three to seven times a week. Girl Trek, a growing organization dedicated to help African-American women stay in shape, has launched walking groups from Oakland to Philadelphia involving more than 10,000 women.

10. Get more information. To learn more about walking, see the free 30-minutes on-line movie The Walking Revolution, and enjoy the recent reunion of The West Wing cast in a 2-minute sketch extolling the benefits of walking. These were created by the Every Body Walk Collaborative!, a wide-ranging coalition of citizens groups and businesses powered by Kaiser Permanente, one of America's largest health care providers.

11. Join the walking movement. Americans’ growing interest in walking has sparked a national movement to encourage people to walk more and to make our communities more walkable. This year’s Walking Summit follows up on one in 2013 that attracted more than 230 organizations from 41 states, including the PTA, YMCA, AARP, NAACP and CDC. America Walks, a coalition of more than 530 walking advocacy organizations that covers all 50 states, can connect you with a walking group in your area.

Jay Walljasper, author of The Great Neighborhood Book, writes, speaks and consults on how to create better communities. Contact him via email.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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