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Topics in Aromatherapy-Patchouli

6 Mar


Welcome to the next post in my blog series, Topic in Aromatherapy.  Each week I am focusing on an aspect of aromatherapy such as an essential oil or carrier oil and discuss their healing properties.  I also will discuss how to make some of your own natural products using essential oils.  So far, we have talked about jojoba oiltea tree oilsweet almond oillavenderylang ylang and shea butter.

This week, we are going to talk about Patchouli.

Patchouli is a herb of the mint family that has small, pale pink-white flowers. The plant grows natively in Asia and is cultivated in China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Taiwan, the Philippines,Thailand, and Vietnam and West Africa.

This herb is used in perfume and in products such as paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners (source).

What studies have been done on Patchouli?

Patchouli has shown to be able to:

  • Protection against influenza infection in mice (source)
  • Be antiinflammatory (source)
  • Act as a mosquito repellent (source)

Patchouli is is currently used in aromatherapy to help fever, headache, nausea, vomit, diarrhea, skin infections and bad breath as well as act as an aphrodisiac (source) but I couldn’t find any reputable sources proving these functions.


Have you ever heard of patchouli?  If so, in what products have you used it?


What does Europe know that we don’t?

25 Feb

You may be surprised to know that several food items that are banned in the European Union (EU) are still allowed in the United States.

What are these items?

  • Genetically Modified Foods (GM)
  • Irradiated Foods
  • Antibiotics given to cattle
  • Food dyes
  • Pesticides
  • Chlorinated Chickens
  • Food Contact Chemicals

What is the EU’s stance on these items?

Genetically Modified Foods (GM)

  • Six E.U. member states — Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany and Luxembourg — ban the cultivation of GM maize on their territories (source)
  • Europeans have had a food labeling law in place since the 1990s (source)

Irradiated Foods

  • Nearly no irradiated foods can be found in Europe due to strict regulations(source)

Antibiotics given to cattle

  • The EU banned the feeding of antibiotics and related drugs to livestock for growth promotion purposes in 2006 (source)

Food dyes

  • Several EU nations have  banned artificial dyes and require foods with any approved dyes to be clearly labeled  (source)


  • The EU has strict guidelines for pesticides and has passed a law that could result in bans on up to 10 percent of insecticides, 10 percent of herbicides, and 32 percent of fungicides (source)

You can read more about some of the dangers of pesticides here

Chlorinated Chickens (source)

  • The EU and Russia have outlawed the chlorination of chickens as an anti-microbial measure (source)

Food Contact Chemicals

  • Bottles containing BPA were outlawed as of June 2011 (mainly for political vs. scientific reasons) (source) 


What do you think about the differences between what’s outlawed here and in the EU?  Would you like to see any of these things outlawed in the US?

What is hemp?

18 Feb

What is hemp?

Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa is the variety grown for industrial use, while C. sativa subsp. indica  is primarily used for production of recreational and medicinal drugs.

The real difference between the two substrains is the amount of THC secreted by the plant.  The plant substrains grown for seeds and fiber only has THC below 0.3%, while cultivars of Cannabis grown for marijuana can contain anywhere from 2% to over 20% THC (source)

What is hemp used for?

Hemp is used for a variety of functions including:

  • to make cord and clothing
  • to make food (oil and seeds)
  • in mulch
  • in animal bedding and litter
  • as jewelry
  • to clean contaminants from water
  • to kill weeds by minimizing weed seeds in the soil-reduces necessary pesticides
  • as a fuel from its oils


How can you eat it?

Hemp seeds can be:

  • eaten raw
  • ground into a meal
  • sprouted
  • made into milk
  • made as tea
  • used in baking
  • made into protein powder

Health Benefits of Hemp

  • 44% of the seed by weight are healthy oils such as alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3 and omega-6
  • 33% of the seed by weight is protein
  • Hemp seeds are a source of complete protein (contain all essential amino acids)



Have you eaten anything with hemp in it?  If so, what?

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

16 Feb

Fish Oils

Today we’re going to take a little break from the blog series, Toxins in Water and we’re going to talk about fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids!

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is derived from the tissues of oily fish.  The oils typically contain omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (source)

What are the health benefits of fish oil?

Fish oil (mainly the omega-3s in it) have shown to help various aspects of mental and physical health.  EPA is linked to heart health and DHA may help brain function.  Omega-3s have been linked to improving numerous health conditions such as:  diseases related to inflammation such as heart attacks, strokes, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, PMS,memory loss, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and insulin resistance, or rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil (source).

What are the best sources of fish oil?

You may be surprised to know that fish don’t produce omega-3 but accumulate them from the algae and fish they eat.  It makes sense then that fatty fish high up on the food chain have high levels of omega-3 fats but can contain high levels of mercury as well (source).  If you buy fish oil capsules, look for ones with 2 g of one that contains EPA and DHA.  Also, make sure the supplement has been tested to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other toxins.  However, your best bet is to consume oily, cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines (see below), herring and black cod  a few times per week (source)

Caution according to Dr. Weil:  Because they can affect blood clotting, avoid fish oil supplements if you’re taking any anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin), have had a hemorrhagic stroke, or are scheduled for surgery. People with allergies to fish should avoid fish-derived omega-3 capsules. Fish meat may contain mercury, so pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should take care to eat species of fish that are low on the food chain and relatively free of contaminants (source).
If you are a vegetarian:  flaxseeds can be a great source of healthy omega-3s!
Next week we are going to talk about the specific health benefits of omega-3s, EPA and DHA.



Do you eat cold-water fish?  Do you take a fish oil supplement?

Topics in Aromatherapy

14 Feb

Topics in Aromatherapy-Lavender

Welcome to the 4th post in my blog series, Topic in Aromatherapy.  Each week I am focusing on an aspect of aromatherapy such as an essential oil or carrier oil and discuss their healing properties.  I also will discuss how to make some of your own natural products using essential oils.  So far, we have talked about jojoba oiltea tree oil and sweet almond oil.

This week, we are going to talk about lavender.

What is lavender?

Lavenders (Lavandula) are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. (source)

What claims have been made about lavender?

A number of studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including:

  • insomnia
  • alopecia (hair loss)
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • post-operative pain
  • being antibacterial and antiviral
  • The German Standard license and European guidelines for medicinal tea preparation lists lavender for use in sleep disorders, lack of appetite, mild tranquilizer, and treatment of irritable stomach (source)

What studies have been done about lavender?

Most of the studies concerning lavender were not well carried out, too small or used a non-standard dosing of lavender

Some reputable studies have found:

  • The combination of lavender and imipramine was significantly more effective than imipramine alone in treating depression (source)
  • Animal models have found that Lavandula angustifolia can treat painful and inflammatory conditions (source)
  • Lavender extract can reverse learning deficits in rats with Alzheimer’s Disease (source)
  • Lavender oil is effective in reducing challenging behaviours in individuals with dementia (source)
  • Lavender has shown to decreased perception of stress in nurses (source)
  • Lavender was shown to reduce needed pain medication, improve sleep patterns and enhance perception of well-being in patients with rheumatoid arthritis  (source)
  • Lavender was found to be anti-fungal  (source) and anti-bacterial(source)

How it is used in aromatherapy?

Commercial preparations are made from dried flowers and essential oils of the lavender plant to be used in:

  • Aromatherapy oil
  • Bath gels
  • Extracts
  • Infusions
  • Lotions
  • Soaps
  • Teas
  • Tinctures
  • Whole, dried flowers


I recently made some lotion and a face scrub with dried lavender and they smell so lovely and are very relaxing.

Cooking with lavender

Lavender is also used in cooking:

  • Its flowers yield a nectar which is transformed by bees into honey.
  • Its flowers can be candied for cake decorations
  • It can be made into sugar
  • It may be blended with tea
  • It can be added to baked goods (source)


Some people may develop an allergic reaction to lavender (source)


Have you used lavender before?  What is your favorite way to use it?  Have you grown lavender?

What is BPA?

21 Jan

Toxins in Plastics


What is BPA and what is it in?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical  that is used mainly to produce polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins (source).  Over 6 billion pounds of it are produced annually and over 100 tons are released into the atmosphere by this production (source).

BPA can leach from polycarbonate baby bottles (source) and reusable water bottles (source).

Reusable food containers have also shown to have BPA residue (source).

BPA has also been found to leach from residues of cans into foods such as pet foods, vegetables, fish and  infant formula (source).

What studies have been done on BPA?

Early studies aimed to determine if BPA is even in humans’ bodies:

  • Since 1999, more than a dozen studies have measured free, unconjugated BPA concentrations in human serum at levels ranging from 0.2–20 ng/ml (source).
  • BPA in the serum of pregnant women, umbilical cord blood and fetal plasma (source) indicates that BPA crosses the maternal-fetal placental barrier.
  • BPA has also been measured in human urine from several populations around the world.
  • A recent CDC study of over 2500 Americans found BPA in 92.6% of the participants (source)!!!

Studies have also been done BPA to determine if BPA is toxic to humans.  The majority of these studies have been done in animal models.

  • BPA was shown to act like estrogen in mice and produce estrogen-senstive responses  (source)
  • There is some evidence that BPA can prevents the thyroid hormone from binding to its receptor (thus inhibiting the thyroid hormone) (source)
  • However, other studies have found that BPA does not have estrogen-like activity and does not inhibit thyroid binding  (source) (source)
  • The antiandrogenic (sex hormone)  properties of BPA are still in dispute (source)
  •  in utero (in the womb) exposure of animals to low dose BPA can induce alterations in estrogen-target organs of the fetuses that are observed later in life (source)( source).

What is the government doing about it?

The  Chapel Hill Consensus was formed in August 2007 to determine the risk of BPA to human health.  38 authors penned a statement:

“The published scientific literature … reveals that human exposure to BPA is within the range that is predicted to be biologically active in over 95% of people sampled. The wide range of adverse effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals exposed both during development and in adulthood is a great cause for concern with regard to the potential for similar adverse effects in humans … There is extensive evidence that outcomes may not become apparent until long after BPA exposure during development has occurred … These developmental effects are irreversible and can occur due to low-dose exposure during brief sensitive periods in development, even though no BPA may be detected when the damage or disease is expressed” (source).

In 2008, the National Toxicology Program Center For The Evaluation of Risks To Human Reproduction (CERHR) released its stance on BPA:

  • The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.
  • The NTP has minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.
  • The NTP has negligible concern that exposure of pregnant women to bisphenol A will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects, or reduced birth weight and growth in their offspring.
  • The NTP has negligible concern that exposure to bisphenol A will cause reproductive effects in non-occupationally exposed adults and minimal concern for workers exposed to higher levels in occupational settings (source)

The FDA up until 2008 did not consider BPA to be harmful to humans.  However, it was then leaked that a retired medical supply manufacturer (and thus a link to BPA usage), Charles Gelman, gave $5 million to the research center of Martin Philbert (the chair of the FDA panel about to rule on BPA’s safety) (source).

If you now go to the FDA’s website, you will find that they are:

At this interim stage, FDA shares the perspective of the National Toxicology Program that recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.  FDA also recognizes substantial uncertainties with respect to the overall interpretation of these studies and their potential implications for human health effects of BPA exposure.  These uncertainties relate to issues such as the routes of exposure employed, the lack of consistency among some of the measured endpoints or results between studies, the relevance of some animal models to human health, differences in the metabolism (and detoxification) of and responses to BPA both at different ages and in different species, and limited or absent dose response information for some studies.

FDA is pursuing additional studies to address the uncertainties in the findings, seeking public input and input from other expert agencies, and supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA to be able to respond quickly, if necessary, to protect the public.

In addition, FDA is supporting reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA, including actions by industry and recommendations to consumers on food preparation.  At this time, FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk of BPA exposure.


How can I avoid it?

The first step to avoid BPA is to educate yourself about possible sources of BPA in your and your family’s life:  canned foods, old plastic bottles, etc.  Reduce the use of these materials, if possible.

According to the EWG, here are some sources of high BPA exposure (you can also read much more in-depth about BPA on EWG’s website)


How do you avoid BPA?  How do you feel about the fact that individuals with links to BPA can influence the ruling on whether BPA is safe or not?

Toxic Thursdays-Toxins in Water II

19 Jan

Toxins in the Water II


Welcome to the second week of toxins in water!  If you missed the first week, we talked about the types of contaminants that can be in water.

This week we are going to start to discuss the toxins that may be in our water.

The possible contaminants that were mentioned last week include:

  • Insecticides and herbicides
  • Petroleum hydrocarbons, including fuels
  • Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs)
  • Chemical compounds found in personal hygiene and cosmetic products (medicine)
  • Ammonia from food processing waste
  • Fertilizers containing nitrates and phosphates

This week we are going to start to talk about insecticides and pesticides.

Are these toxins really in my water?

To find out if these toxins are in your water, visit EWG’s site.

Why are these toxins in my water?


There are a few major routes through which insecticides and pesticides reach the water:

  • they may drift outside of the intended area when it is sprayed
  • they may percolate, or leach, through the soil
  • they may be carried to the water as runoff
  • they may be spilled (source)
  • they may be carried to water by eroding soil (source)

In streams sampled by NAWQA, at least one pesticide or degradate was detected more than 90 percent of the time in water, in more than 80 percent of fish samples, and in more than 50 percent of bed-sediment samples collected during 1992– 2001 (source)

What types of insecticides and pesticides are we talking about?


Rank Pesticide or Pesticide Class


< 6 years

Adults6-19 yrs. Total*
1 Organophosphates


3274 4002
2 Pyrethrins and pyrethroids** 1100 2850 3950
3 Pine oil disinfectants 1336 903 2246
4 Hypochlorite disinfectants


1291 2109
5 Insect repellents 1081 997 2086
6 Phenol disinfectants


405 1040
7 Carbamate insecticides


817 1030
8 Organochlorine insecticides


454 685
9 Phenoxy herbicides


387 453
10 Anticoagulant rodenticides


33 209
All Other Pesticides


3604 4623
Total all pesticides/disinfectants 7279 15,015 22,433

* Totals include a small number of cases with unknown age.

** Rough estimate: includes some veterinary products not classified by chemical type.

Source: American Association of Poison Control Centers, Toxic Exposure Surveillance


What’s next?

In the next few weeks, we will talk about the top inseticides and pesticides found in water and the toxic effects they can have.


Do you worry about things like inseticides and pesticides in your water?