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10/13/2015

 

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.



10/9/2015

 

As a fairly active and very clumsy person, I am no stranger to bumps, bruises, and cuts. I often get scratches on my skin, whether they are from working in the garden, hiking on the trail, or cooking in the kitchen.

Fortunately for accident-prone people like me, there is a wide selection of natural products that can help heal wounds. If you want to know how to heal a cut fast, look to things like honey, zinc, chamomile, and more.

First-aid 101: What to Do When You Get a Cut

When an accident occurs, it can be hard to know what to do in the moment. And there are many misconceptions about proper wound care. As always, if your injury is severe, call 911 or visit the doctor for help getting appropriate and safe care.

But with minor, common injuries, you’ll likely be able to care for the wound yourself. These simple guidelines will help you to be better prepared next time you or someone around you gets a cut:

1. Stop the bleeding. The first, vital step in caring for a wound is stopping the bleeding. Hold pressure onto the wound, preferably with a clean material such as cloth or gauze. Keep the pressure for several minutes until the bleeding stops completely. Elevating the affected area may help.

2. Clean the wound. This step is often a source of confusion for many. Should you pour hydrogen peroxide on the wound? Use soap? What about tweezers? The safest, most effective way to clean a cut is to use water. Do not, under any circumstances, pour hydrogen peroxide onto the wound, as this can further damage the tissue. Soap can also irritate the injury. You may need to use pressurized water, such as from a faucet or showerhead (or a syringe), to help clear debris from the cut. If needed, use clean tweezers to remove rocks or other debris from the wound, but be sure not to dig into the damaged tissue.

3. Use a natural antiseptic. To prevent infection, try using a variety of natural options, such as those listed below.

4. Cover in a sterile bandage after applying an antiseptic. Change the bandage daily, as well as when it gets wet or dirty.

5. Monitor your wound to make sure it doesn’t become infected. Signs of infection include puss, yellow coloration, and spreading of redness after a few days. If these symptoms persist or worsen, visit a doctor.

Speed Healing with These Natural Remedies

A variety of herbs, supplements, and plants can speed up healing and prevent infection naturally.

1. Honey has proven antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities. Honey has been shown to help speed wound healing by numerous mechanisms. It is an ideal dressing for wounds as it fights infection, reduces inflammation, and provides a moist healing environment all in one natural substance.[1] Manuka honey may be the best option. To use, spread a thin layer of raw honey on your bandage before covering the cut.

2. Chamomile. Several studies on various types of wounds show that chamomile is extremely effective in speeding the rate of healing; it has even been shown to be as effective as hydrocortisone creams.[2,3] It helps to kick start the body’s natural healing processes and regenerate tissue.[4] Look for tinctures or natural products containing chamomile at your local health foods grocery, or make a compress out of chamomile tea (you can even put the teabags directly on minor cuts).

3. Aloe vera. This plant has many healing properties. It is a great treatment for burns, but it can also be good for cuts and scrapes as well; aloe promotes formation of collagen, prevents infection, and more.[4,5] You can buy creams or gels that contain aloe vera, but my favorite way to use it is straight from the plant. Cut off a tip of the plant and spread the gel-like insides over your cut, then cover with a bandage. Mixed results show that aloe vera should not be used on very deep cuts, so stick to shallow scrapes to be safe.

4. Zinc is essential to wound healing. People who are zinc deficient often show delayed healing rates. Topical application of zinc to a wound can help speed up the process. It is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, and it also helps to stimulate the growth and maturation of cells to rebuild the damaged tissue.[6,7] Look for a zinc ointment meant for wound care at a natural grocery store.

Other natural remedies for cuts include tea tree oil, echinacea, and calendula.[4,8,9]

Eat well to promote faster healing. If you want to know how to heal a cut fast, it is important to take into account your diet, as your body needs a variety of vitamins and nutrients to support the healing process.

Vitamin C, for example, helps make collagen, stimulates the renewal and growth of skin cells, modulates inflammatory processes, and helps turn on genes that promote wound healing.[10] And protein is in extra high demand when your body needs to rebuild tissue. Make sure to get plenty of vitamin C, E, and A; protein; omega-3 fatty acids; zinc; and antioxidants to support your body.

The next time you get a cut, follow the five steps above, and then choose some of the natural products listed above to help speed up healing. Remember to also eat a well-rounded diet to support your body’s healing process.

For more natural healing tips, read:

1. Best Home Remedies for Burns

2. Natural Tips for Recovering from C-Section Surgery

References

[1] ScientificWorldJournal. 2011 Apr 5;11:766-87.
[2] Phytother Res. 2009 Feb;23(2):274-8.
[3] Ostomy Wound Manage. 2011 May;57(5):28-36.
[4] Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):303-10.
[5] Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:714216.
[6] Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Jun;153(1-3):76-83.
[7] Wound Repair Regen. 2007 Jan-Feb;15(1):2-16.
[8] J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Dec;19(12):942-5.
[9] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:375671.
[10] Int Wound J. 2015 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print] 

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 posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best 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.



10/5/2015

 

Every summer, a portion of my mom’s garden becomes filled with big, beautiful red beets. We can hardly use them all up, there are so many; fortunately my family loves beets, so they always end up going to good use in salads and other dishes.

These root vegetables make for colorful additions to a meal, and they are also quite good for you. The many health benefits of beets include lowering blood pressure and boosting your physical performance when you exercise.

Why are Beets so Good for You?

These root vegetables are packed full of beneficial nutrients. They are high in fiber, for one, which is needed for healthy digestion, cholesterol control, blood sugar stabilization, and more.

Beets are also rich in a variety of antioxidants like flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids, which help fight oxidative damage and prevent various diseases. They contain betalains, which are responsible for red-violet pigmentation, and which have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.[1]

Finally, beets may be most well known for their high content of natural nitrates. While excessive nitrate consumption from processed foods can be harmful to your health, many fruits and vegetables naturally contain nitrates, which are actually quite beneficial, especially in terms of blood pressure reduction and enhancing blood flow in the body. Learn more about nitrates here.[1]

3 Health Benefits of Beets

Lower blood pressure. One of the most significant and well-known benefits of eating beets is blood pressure reduction. Beets contain nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide helps to dilate blood vessels, helping to lower blood pressure. Several studies have found beet supplementation to benefit blood pressure.[1-3] In one study, hypertensive patients took 250 mL of beetroot juice daily for two weeks. This led to an average reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 7.7 mmHg and 2.4 mmHg for diastolic (the bottom number).[2] These sorts of reductions can do wonders for heart health, lowering the risk for heart disease substantially. To learn more about other foods that lower blood pressure, read The Best DIY High Blood Pressure Diet: The Top 8 Foods to Lower Blood Pressure.

Control blood sugar. Beets taste quite sweet, meaning that they do have a moderately high glycemic index. This might lead you to question whether they would be good for diabetics. However, beets don’t contain a large amount of carbohydrates per serving, meaning they have a lower glycemic load; this means that eating a reasonable amount of beets in one sitting won’t actual raise your blood sugar levels significantly. In fact, beets can actually help you to moderate your blood sugar. They are high in fiber, which helps blood sugar control, and they are high in antioxidants, specifically neobetanin, which helps insulin functioning. In one study, consumption of 225 ml beetroot juice significantly reduced insulin and glucose responses after a meal.[4] Read more about using beets for blood sugar control here.

Enhance physical performance. Beets also seem to help improve endurance and exercise tolerance.[3,5-7] Some of the same reasons that make beets good for blood pressure reduction make them good for exercise as well. Beets stimulate blood flow by helping dilate blood vessels via nitric oxide production. When the body had more access to oxygenated blood, you can work out longer without getting as tired.[3] This leads to improvements in endurance, exercise performance, and perceived levels of exertion. In one study, people could run 5% faster during a 5 km run when they had 200 g baked beetroot 75 minutes before the run, and they also felt less exerted.[5]

Ideas for Getting More Beets into Your Diet

If you don’t already eat beets regularly, you may want to start. These healthy root vegetables will keep your blood pressure in check, stabilize blood sugar, and even help you to improve your workout. My personal favorite use of beets it to put fresh grated beets onto my nightly salad with dinner for a colorful and tasty topping. You can also steam beets until they are tender, sprinkle them with some salt and pepper, and enjoy warm.

Beets are also great roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and spices. Look up recipes for beet salads that use ingredients that pair well with the unique flavor of beets, like goat cheese, toasted nuts, balsamic, quinoa, arugula, and more. Finally, try using 100% beetroot juice for a healthy smoothie add-in.

References

[1] Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22.

[2] Hypertension. 2015 Feb;65(2):320-7.

[3] Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2015 Jun 17:ajpregu.00099.2015.

[4] J Nutr Sci. 2014 Apr 30;3:e9.

[5] J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Apr;112(4):548-52.  

[6] Nutrients. 2014 Jan 29;6(2):605-15.

[7] Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Dec 15;305(12):R1441-50.

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 Blogging Best 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. 


9/22/2015

 

The choice to breastfeed or formula feed is a highly personal one, and new mothers will need to take many factors into consideration when making the decision. Experts suggest that new mothers breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months, if possible.

Besides providing you and your baby with time to bond, studies show that breastfeeding can protect your child from a variety of illnesses and conditions.

5 Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Child

Breast milk is the most ideal nutrition for a newborn. It provides a vast array of nutrients that help to protect your baby from illness and help them with proper growth and development. It gives the baby several immune-boosting compounds that help provide the child with immunity, and it is also likely important for helping the child develop a healthy gut microbiome, which is now known to play a large role in keeping us healthy.[1] Breastfed babies show a reduced risk for the following conditions:

1. Infections. Kids who breast feed have a lower chance of getting a variety of infections during childhood like gastrointestinal infections, respiratory tract infections, ear infections, and more. In one study, formula fed infants had higher rates of hospitalizations due to each infection studied.[2]

2. Diarrhea. Babies who breast feed are at a much lower risk of having diarrhea. Results show that the most protection is given when babies are breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months and then some from six to 23 months of age.[3]

3. Dental problems. The dental health of children who breast feed is often better as well. Children who breastfed for six months showed a 44 percent reduction in open bite, and a 72 percent reduction in moderate/severe malocclusion compared to those who never breast fed. Researchers believe that breastfeeding may be important for the proper development and growth of the muscles and bones of the jaw.[4]

4. Leukemia Breastfeeding for at least six months was associated with a 19 percent reduction in risk for childhood leukemia compared to shorter durations or no breast feeding at all. Having ever breastfed, compared to never having breastfed, was associated with an 11 percent reduction in leukemia risk. This may be because breast milk may provide the child with a more favorable gut microbiome and more natural-killer immune cells.[5]

5. Hospitalizations. In general, breastfeeding is associated with reduced hospitalizations during childhood compared to formula feeding, particularly due to infections, allergies, asthma, diarrhea, and more.[2]

These are just a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding for newborns. Breastfeeding may also impact the cognitive development of children, for example. Children who were breastfed tend to have higher IQs and lower risk for ADHD.[6]

How Long to Breastfeed Your Baby

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months. After that, and up to two years of age or beyond, you can continue to breastfeed while introducing appropriate foods to your child.

For more resources on caring for yourself and your newborn, read these blogs:

Natural Tips for Recovering from C-Section Surgery
5 Natural Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
When Can Babies Eat Peanut Butter? New Study Says the Earlier the Better
Startling SSRI Antidepressant Side Effects in Women and Newborns

 References

[1] J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2015 Jun 8:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] J Pediatr. 2015 Mar;166(3):620-5.e4.

[3] BMC Public Health. 2011 Apr 13;11 Suppl 3:S15.

[4] Pediatrics. 2015 Jun 15. pii: peds.2014-3276. [Epub ahead of print]

[5] JAMA Pediatr. 2015 Jun 1;169(6):e151025.

[6] Nutr J. 2014 Nov 29;13(1):111.

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 Blogging Best 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.



9/21/2015

 

Click here to read Part 1 for more background on how to determine the quality of essential oils. And Part 3 will help you hone your senses.

While searching for essential oils on the internet you may come across some companies claiming to be approved by the ISO or to meet and/or exceed guidelines established by AFNOR or to be GRAS-approved and even one company claiming to have Certified Pure therapeutic grade/FDA approved. What exactly do the terms and certifications mean?

'Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade'

This is a relatively new trademark by a company within the industry. They own the right to this mark, although they do not have the exclusive right to the actual words “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.” This is a commercial trademark that the company has registered and paid a fee for to use.

ISO: International Organization for Standardization

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from over 100 countries, one from each country. ISO is a non-governmental organization established in 1947. The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity.

ISO’s work results in international agreements, which are published as International Standards.  In addition to quality and environmental management systems, ISO also publishes standards that set criteria for film speed, data stored on ATM and credit cards, wine glasses for use in competitions, crayons, and more.

The ISO also provides definitions such as the one below for “essential oil.” The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2) defines an essential oil as follows: “An essential oil is a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”

According to Burfield and Kirkham (2006-07), The ISO is the main certifying body recognized for its universally accepted standards for individual essential oils. Harris (2006) points out that ISO and AFNOR (discussed below) do not set standards for differentiating the quality of essential oils; rather, they provide specifications for “industries to use as a guide to essential oil compositions so that new batches could be utilized with minimum alteration in flavor or fragrance to the finished products.”

Cedarwood Oils: An Example of Applied ISO Standards

Harris states further that “whilst it is sometimes advantageous to know whether an essential oil falls within a ‘normal’ range, it has no inference to therapeutic properties. An essential oil can be very therapeutic and yet not fall within any accepted standard.”  An example of ISO standards is provided for Texas and Virginia Cedarwood oils.

International (ISO) standards exist for both the Texas and Virginia cedarwood oils. For the former, the alcohol content, expressed as cedrol and in the range of 35-48 percent, is specified with a minimum cedrol content of 20 percent. For the Virginia cedarwood oil, a maximum cedrol content of 14 percent is stipulated. In the United States, recent FMA standards have replaced older EOA standards and are available for Chinese, Texas and Virginia cedarwood oils. These standards specify that for the Texas and Virginia oils, the alcohols content (cedrol and related isomers) must range between 25-42 percent for the Texas oil and between 18-38 percent for the Virginia oil. The Chinese oil must have a minimum alcohol content of 8 percent (Coppen, 1995).

Note:  FMA stands for the Fragrance Materials Association. The members of the Fragrance Materials Association of the United States (FMA) include companies that invent and then manufacture mixtures of fragrance ingredients for use in a wide variety of products, including fine fragrances, shampoos, soaps and detergents. The members of FMA also include the suppliers of those ingredients. Click here to learn more about the FMA.

Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR)

Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) is the French national organization for standardization and is that country’s ISO member body. There are a few companies out there who claim that their essential oils are AFNOR-approved as therapeutic-grade or even that their essential oils meet or exceed AFNOR standards.

Boy, that sounds so good. But, as stated above, AFNOR does not set standards for differentiating the quality of essential oils; rather, they provide specifications for “industries to use as a guide to essential oil compositions so that new batches could be utilized with minimum alteration in flavor or fragrance to the finished products.”

'Generally Recognized As Safe' (GRAS)

“GRAS” is an acronym for the phrase Generally Recognized As Safe. Under sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive that is subject to pre-market review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive.

For example, substances whose use meets the definition of a pesticide, a dietary ingredient of a dietary supplement, a color additive, a new animal drug, or a substance approved for such use prior to September 6, 1958, are excluded from the definition of food additive.

Sections 201(s) and 409 were enacted in 1958 as part of the Food Additives Amendment to the Act. While it is impracticable to list all ingredients whose use is generally recognized as safe, FDA published a partial list of food ingredients whose use is generally recognized as safe to aid the industry’s understanding of what did not require approval.

But Does GRAS Approval Mean a Product is Safe?

According to Harris (2006), “a small number of essential oil suppliers are now labeling their products as having GRAS status and implying not-too-subtly that this means that they are of therapeutic quality and also safe for internal use. 

“Whilst there are many essential oils that do possess GRAS status, such as mint and neroli, this designation can in no way be indicative of therapeutic efficacy or risk-free intake via the oral route.

“Essential oils are used as flavor ingredients in a wide range of products and their inclusion in the GRAS category is dependent, in part, upon their defined safe maximum concentration limits in edible goods. These concentrations are generally low, as they allow for the repeated ingestion of foodstuffs on a daily basis, and thus guard against cumulative dosing and potential toxicity.”

Harris ends this particular section with “individual chemicals can be recognized as GRAS, as can adulterated/synthetic essential oils.” Essential oils which have GRAS status, therefore, do not need to be pure, do not need to be organically grown, nor do they even have to come from a plant.

Alonjavascript:void(0);g with the above items, some companies also appeal to our desire for high-quality essential oils by offering a GC/MS spec sheet on all their essential oils. Let us have a look at what a GC/MS spec is and what it may or may not tell us about the quality of an essential oil.

What is a GC/MS Spec Report?

A gas chromatograph is a chemical analysis instrument used to separate and identify individual constituents found within a given essential oil. Each chemical constituent of an essential oil will pass through the gas chromatograph instrument and different times and speeds. As each chemical is registered, it will produce some type of peak, from very short to very tall. (See sample below)

A gas chromatography report reveals the peaks of different chemical constituents within an essential oil, it does not, however, name the specific chemical constituent (e.g. linalol) — for this a mass spectrometry must be used.

Using a Mass Spectrometer to Detect Compounds in Essential Oils

Mass spectrometry is a technique that allows for the detection of compounds (chemical constituents) by separating ions by their unique mass. Mass spectrometry is utilized to identify specific compounds registered on the gas chromatography report.

A typical mass spectrometer has three basic parts: an ion source, a mass analyzer, and a detector. Different molecules have different masses, and this fact is used to determine what molecules are present in a sample. An individual trained in reading GC/MS data will then clearly identify the exact constituents and their quantity (e.g. 5% linalol, 25% camphor, and so on) present within a given essential oil sample. Interpretation of the information gained depends on the skill, experience and knowledge of the individual who does the analysis.

A GC-MS report may fail to reveal the age and quality of an essential oil, particularly in relation to the quality an aromatherapist is looking for. So, in general, although a GC-MS report on a given essential oil is incredibly helpful, it should not be used as the sole definitive guide to purchasing a high-quality, pure, unadulterated essential oil.

Instead, it should be used along with an olfactory appraisal, confidence in the supplier and their intentions as a supplier (e.g. are they selling inexpensive essential oils to a general market or are they selling high-quality, typically high priced essential oils specifically to practitioners of genuine aromatherapy), and other analytical techniques such as Thin Layer Chromatography, infra-red analysis, specific gravity, Refractive index and optical rotation.

How to Judge the Quality of Essential Oils

Although a GC/MS spec sheet cannot reveal the specific quality of an essential oil, it does offer valuable information on the essential oil, specifically its chemical profile and authenticity. 

According to Harris (2006), in terms of therapeutic efficacy as related to pharmacological activity, the knowledge of the composition (full chemical analysis) is of paramount importance.  A GC/MS spec report that is batch-specific for the essential oil you are purchasing will support your understanding of the therapeutic applications of the essential oil and potential safety concerns.

Most aromatherapy practitioners have been trained to understand that chemical variations occur as a result of harvest time, country of origin, soil and climate conditions, part of plant used, distillation, transport and storage parameters.

Bensouilah and Buck (2006) point out that as long as the essential oil chemistry remains within defined boundaries and occur due to environmental or genetic influences and not from adulteration, this is an accepted part of aromatherapy.

References

Bensouilah, J. and Buck, P. (2006). Aromadermatology. Abingdon, U.K.: Radcliffe Publishing Company.

Burfield, T. and Kirkham, K. (2006-2007). “The ‘Therapeutic Grade’ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign.” Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from http://www.cropwatch.org/Therapeutic%20Grade%20Essential%20Oils%20corrected.pdf

Burfield, T. (2005). A Note on Gas Chromotography-Mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Retrieved on Octboer 2, 2005 from http://www.naha.org/articles/adulteration_1.htm.

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.

Click here for Part 3: Honing Your Senses.

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 Blogging Best 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.



9/15/2015

Copper Cup Sage 

The quality of essential oils is often a contentious subject, bringing up feelings of protectiveness and challenging beliefs. I have written this post, not so much as a definitive answer to discerning quality, but rather to raise some valuable points of reference.

The Rise of Essential Oils for Aromatherapy

When I first began my aromatherapy education in England (1988) there were only a handful of companies selling essential oils specifically to the aromatherapy market. What is interesting to note about the British essential oil market is that the first few aromatherapy companies were designed to meet the needs of aromatherapy practitioners. This is in stark contrast to the later developing American market which was primarily retail-driven.

Because the British market was practitioner-driven, the essential oil quality was initially quite high.  It was only years later as interest in aromatherapy spread to the retail market that a plethora of essential oil companies arose both in Britain and even more so in the United States. 

Naturally (no pun intended), with this rise in the number of essential oil suppliers, extremes in quality variation also arose. With such an increase in companies offering essential oils, differentiating between companies selling high-quality and low-quality essential oils became incredibly challenging particularly for the newcomer.

As an aromatherapy practitioner I feel blessed to have grown up, so to speak, with the aromatherapy essential oil trade. I feel even more blessed to have first experienced the high quality of European essential oils and then to have come into the United States to experience essential oils from different companies here.

I must say, however, that even after 18 years in the industry as a practitioner, an educator, a student and a researcher in the field of aromatherapy, it continues to be a challenge in answering the question “How do I know where to buy high quality essential oils?” or “where do I find high quality therapeutic grade essential oils?”

This difficulty arises mostly from the clever marketing that happens in the essential oils market and the fact that not a company out there claims to sell low quality or adulterated essential oils, after all, how could they do so and still have sales?

This post is being written not in the hopes of bringing the question of quality to an end but rather to offer up information to better enable you to understand some of the fundamental issues you may encounter when searching for a high quality, unadulterated, genuine, and authentic essential oil in the market place.

Let’s Start with the Marketing Term: ‘Therapeutic Grade’

For those of you who believe you already know what this term means, I would ask that you keep an open and willing mind. I understand completely how contentious the issue of quality is. First, to my knowledge the term “therapeutic grade” arose during the 90s and did not exist prior to that time. It is only a marketing tool and should be understood as such.

After the concept of therapeutic grade entered the market, other companies quickly joined in, saying that they, too, offered “therapeutic grade.”  Today, just about every company selling essential oils states that their essential oils are of therapeutic grade.

With the concept of ‘therapeutic grade,’ also known as Grade A, came other grades such as grade B and so on. The point here is that some clever marketers were absolutely successful in their aspirations to get the word “therapeutic grade” into the vernacular of the aromatherapy industry.

Aromatherapy buyers have perhaps become overawed with the idea that there must be a therapeutic grade and that is what they are looking for. (Sometimes it must feel like they are looking for the Holy Grail.) They call aromatherapy companies and ask “do you sell therapeutic grade essential oils?”

What I would like to know is if there is actually a company out there that states it sells non-therapeutic grade or Grade C, or D essential oils. Actually, I just did a search and NOPE — not a company out there is claiming to sell Grade B, C or D essential oils and not a one selling non-therapeutic grade. Very suspicious!

A True Quality Control System for Essential Oils

The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘therapeutic grade’ (or grade b, c, or d) in the sense that some organization or higher power has bestowed on an essential oil line. A grading system, quite simply, does not exist for essential oils.

It is a product of marketing and marketing alone. And if one actually spends time thinking about this it makes perfect sense. From a marketing perspective, there had to be another way to market a line of essential oils other than saying “we sell the best essential oils on the market,” which is rather boring in comparison to “therapeutic grade.”

So, where does that leave us?

In my next post, we will explore what therapeutic grade means to individuals who utilize essential oils therapeutically. For now, you can explore other marketing terms which may arise in your search.

Click here to read Part 2: What Do the Certifications Mean? And here for Part 3: Honing Your Senses.

Jade Shutes is the Director of Education for The East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies. She 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 Blogging Best 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. 



9/3/2015

The long, smoldering hot days in the Northern hemisphere referred to as the Dog Days of Summer can be attributed to the tilt of the Earth which allows for the sun’s light to hit the Earth at a more direct angle for a longer period of time throughout the day. This time of year has actually nothing to do with dogs except for the fact that the brightest star in the Canis Major (Large Dog) constellation named Sirius - “Dog Star” by the ancient Romans was believed to contribute to the heat of the sun during the hottest days of the summer. The ancient Romans were sweating in their togas from about July 24th to August 24th. Today, because of the shifting and drifting of the constellations we experience the canine assigned effect from about July 3rd to August 11th.

Dogs may have had nothing to do with the naming of the season, but they, like us, will most likely desire some respite from the heat. While we are whipping up smoothies (try these herb smoothies) and cool concoctions for the peeps in our family, we can also whip up some herbal wonders for our faithful companions.

 

Click here to download the full-sized Herbs for Animals Chart. 

Herbs For Your Pets

Herbs can be used for their nutrient values as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Herbs can also be used to help prevent or treat disease. Herbs may be added their food and used in topical applications to repel pesky mosquitos, ticks and fleas. Herbal shampoos, soaks and sprays can offer relief from itchy, irritated skin.

The following recipes will include medicinal and aromatic herbs, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. If you are concerned about your dog developing diarrhea from eating a diet containing these new foods, please note that fruits and vegetables that are high in soluble fiber help prevent diarrhea. Soluble fibers attract water and in so doing form a gelatinous mass which slows down digestion and help control hunger.  

When introducing these foods to your dog for the first time, start with very small amounts and introduce one new food or herb at a time. You will want to watch for any allergic reaction. You may increase the serving size as your dog shows that he/she tolerates the new food well. It is also important to finely chop or gently steam the fruits and vegetables when adding them to your dog’s regular dog food for easier digestion.

Suggested serving size:

• Small dogs: 1 tbsp
• Medium size dogs: 1/8 Cup
• Large dogs: 1/3 -1/2 Cup

Just as herbs, fruits and vegetables are good for us, they are also good for our dogs. By feeding our dogs a good quality dog food and including herbal teas and smoothies we optimize the nutrients in their diet and help boost their immune system, while insuring that they stay hydrated. Some fruits and vegetables to consider: apples (seeded and chopped), apricots, bananas, berries, coconut, oranges, melon, pineapple and watermelon, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cilantro cucumber, dandelion, Kale, lettuce, parsley, parsnips, pumpkin, spinach, squash, zucchini.

A few herbs that are good for dogs include aloe vera, basil, burdock, calendula, caraway seeds, chamomile, cilantro, cinnamon, curcumin, Echinacea, fennel seeds, ginger, green tea, hawthorn, lemon balm, licorice, mullein, neem, nettles, parsley, rosemary, slippery elm, St. John’s wort, turmeric (more on turmeric for dogs here). 

Herbal Recipes For Your Furry Friends

Blue Bow Wow Berry Boost

• 1 cup plain yogurt or cottage cheese
• 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
• 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
• 1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley

Directions: Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Serve in a dish or freeze in an ice cube tray for quick refreshers.

Antioxidant Green Tea Smoothie

• 1 tsp. decaffeinated green tea
• 1 cup hot water
• 1 cup plain yogurt
• 1 apple, chopped with all seeds removed
• ½ cup frozen banana sliced
• ½ tsp. cinnamon

Directions: Place 1 tsp. green tea in teapot. Boil water and pour over tea, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temp. Place all other ingredients in a blender or food processor along with cooled tea and blend until smooth. Serve in dish or freeze in ice cube tray.

Strawberry Watermelon Frozen Treats with lemon Balm and Basil

• 1/2 pound cleaned and hulled strawberries
• 2 cups chopped watermelon
• 4 sprigs fresh basil
• 2 tsp. fresh or dried lemon balm 

Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

Topical Treatments

Refreshing Sore Paw Soak for Overheated Hounds

Combine:

• 1 gallon of water
• 1 cup of organic apple cider vinegar
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 10 drops of peppermint essential oil

Bundle together:

• 2 tbsp calendula flowers
• 2 tbsp of chamomile flowers
• 2 tbsp of golden seal

Allow the soak to sit for 30 minutes before using.

Soak doggie’s paws for 30-45 seconds, pat dry

Lemon, Garlic Rescue – Mosquito/Tick Repellent

Combine:

• 1 cup water
• 2 cups organic apple cider vinegar
• 3 tbsp. almond oil
• 3 tbsp. garlic infused olive oil
• 3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon

Directions: Pour all ingredients in a spray bottle, shake well.  This can be sprayed on dog’s fur before heading outside.

Lavender Leave Me Alone Spray

Pour the following ingredients in a spray bottle:

• 1 cup water
• 5 drops lavender oil
• 4 drops tea tree oil

Shake well.

For more recipes and remedies for your furry friends, read this article, Basic Herbal Remedies for Pets, and download the FREE Herbs for Animals chart for a list of 20 herbs to use regularly with your pets.

Herbs can be used safely and effectively, helping to eliminate the use of harsh chemicals. Expanding your pet’s diet to include foods from the plant kingdom will insure their good health. Learn more about herbs and plants that we can consume and use as food and medicine for our families and our pets on our Herbal Blog or in our Online Herbalism Programs. Learning about, and using one plant at a time (7 methods here), or becoming familiar with the plants growing in your own backyard are very good first steps. These are only a few ideas that can help your dog stay cool during the dog days of summer!

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy of New England, the home of the Online Introductory Herbal Course and the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and meeting place for Boston area herbalists. Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best 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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