Benefit versus Risk … Your Choice

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doTERRA has come out with a new member of their softgel line, Copaiba. It will be on the market in a few days. I can already see a lot of interest in it. Oral preparations of oils is not unique to doTERRA – although not universally accepted. (A small list of companies follows).

Consumers make safety decisions regarding their health, drugs, and supplements all the time. To do so, they need information. Two consumers might make different decisions based on their circumstances or world view.  Even after knowing the precautions, side-effects, or potential dangers a consumer might choose something that another would think is reckless such as: to vaccinate or not, the use of antibiotics, antidepressants, birth control or chemotherapy.

I see the internal use of essential oils within this realm. One might think a peppermint drop might be dangerous but another consumer might be considering a far more powerful synthetic pharmaceutical with 4 pages of warnings for the same purpose and come to a different conclusion. I don’t seek to make decisions for anyone, but I do hope that some basic consumer education will give people some information to make an educated decision – privately.

It never ceases to amaze me in social media circles where someone stops a conversation about the use of certain oil because a formally trained aromatherapist should be consulted but then suggest a dietary shift without proper testing, consultation of a dietitian nor solid research to back up the statement. It also stuns me that internal use is banished in discussion unless it is CBD oil (yes I know not an essential oil) which is not universally even legal, comes with cautions similar to essential oils and without a history of vetted schools to formally train people on it’s usage. There is an irony here and an inconsistency on what can and cannot be talked about. I am going to talk about a taboo subject.

Like the discussion of topics of drinking and sex with adolescents – don’t do it seems to be an ineffective deterrent. Essential oils are relatively safe. But so are forks and people seem to figure a way to injure themselves with them. The top means for injuries are: not keeping out of the reach of children, undiluted use, and internal usage.

And like the topics of drinking and sex with teens, a conversation about the internal use of essential oils will be uncomfortable.  Educated and ethical people will make different choices. If a neighbor kid was observed in risky behavior – I might pick up the phone and let the parents know. What they do from there, unless with my kids or on my property, is most likely none of my business.

What is prepared here is one of those “phone calls”. The internal use of essential oils without therapeutic intentionality or consideration of risk just doesn’t seem wise, to me. But neither does taking certain herbs or vitamins – just because. I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would suggest to someone to take any oil straight in water. Without calibration of dosage or protection of your digestive tract the risk increases. Personally, if one has found therapeutic benefit in the use internally – I would then suggest to do so within a prepared protocol rather than a do-it-yourself dosing. Essential oil capsules and soft-gels is an emerging market in pharmaceuticals and supplements.

This is not a journal article nor academic publication. If you are a friend or family and consider using these products, here are some noted and theoretical dangers I have come across in my aromatherapy education. Internal use of oils is riskier than other modes of use. The greatest risks are with those who have diabetes or take blood coagulation medications as well as during pregnancy.  Consider talking to your pharmacist about drug interactions. I might put these in The Bards App, with the rest of the doTERRA line, but still thinking about it.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of risks, but it is perhaps a tool to mitigate some risk. And again –someone’s stand on vaccinations, use of antibiotics or birth control is ultimately not my business … I’ll leave this decision up to you to decide on benefit versus risk.

doTERRA Supplements with Ingredients

Proprietary Blend

 

 

Mg

~

Drops

 

Essential oils

 

Oils with Cautions

Copaiba 2 Copaiba
DDR Prime  

4

Wild Orange, Litsea, Thyme, Clove, Summer Savory, Niaouli, and Lemongrass Wild Orange, Litsea, Thyme, Clove, Summer Savory, and Lemongrass
Digest Tab Ginger, Peppermint, Caraway, Coriander, and Anise Peppermint, Coriander, and Anise
Digestzen 120  

2

Ginger, Peppermint, Caraway, Anise, Coriander, Tarragon, and Fennel Peppermint, Anise, Tarragon, Fennel
GX Assist 195 Oregano, Melaleuca, Lemon, Lemongrass, Peppermint, and Thyme Oregano, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Thyme
On Guard  

2

Orange, clove, black pepper, cinnamon, eucalyptus, oregano, peppermint, melissa Clove, cinnamon, oregano, peppermint, melissa
Peppermint Peppermint Peppermint
Serenity 2 Lavender, lemon balm, passion fruit Lemon Balm
Slim and Sassy Grapefruit, lemon, ginger, peppermint, cinnamon Peppermint, cinnamon
Tri-Ease 5 Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint Peppermint
Zendocrine 120 2 Tangerine, Rosemary, Geranium, Juniper Berry, and Cilantro Geranium

Oils with Cautions

Cautions

Anise Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers.Pregnancy
Black Pepper
Caraway
Cilantro
Cinnamon Bark Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Cinnamon Leaf Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Clove May interact with MAOIs or SSRIs. Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Copaiba
Coriander
Eucalyptus
Fennel Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Frankincense
Geranium CYP2B6
Ginger
Grapefruit
Juniper Berry
Lavender
Lemon
Lemon Balm/ Melissa Drugs metabolized by CYP2B6. Diabetes Medication. Pregnancy
Lemongrass Drugs metabolized by CYP2B6. Diabetes Medication. Pregnancy
Litsea Drugs metabolized by CYP2B6. Diabetes Medication. Pregnancy
Niaouli
Oregano Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Passion Fruit Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Peppermint Moderate inhibitor CYP3A4
Rosemary
Summer Savory Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Tangerine Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
Tarragon Not recommended for oral use
Tea Tree
Thyme Anticuagulant medication.
Wild Orange Diabetes medication. Diuretic medication. Anticuagulant medication. Ulcers. Pregnancy
CYP List Drug interactions: https://drug-interactions.medicine.iu.edu/Main-Table.aspx

Comparative Oral Preparations

Ingredient Used in Other Oral Preparations

Anise https://www.soin-et-nature.com/en/essential-oil-capsules/3962-oleocaps-3-digestion-transit-caps-30.html
Black Pepper
Caraway
Cilantro
Cinnamon Bark
Cinnamon Leaf
Clove
Copaiba https://immunizelabs.com/blogs/news/natural-pain-relief-from-immunizelabs
Coriander https://www.cocooncenter.co.uk/phytosun-aroms-aromadoses-urinary-comfort-30-gel-caps/9011.html
Eucalyptus
Fennel
Frankincense
Geranium
Ginger
Grapefruit
Juniper Berry
Lavender https://www.integrativepro.com/products/neuroendocrine/lavela-ws-1265

and

https://www.naturesway.com/Product-Catalog/CalmAid-30-Softgels

Lemon
Lemon Balm/ Melissa
Lemongrass
Litsea
Niaouli
Oregano https://all2shop.net/product/organic-oregano-oil-capsules-blister-30-softgels-hygiene-pack/
Passion Fruit
Peppermint https://www.helpforibs.com/shop/suplmts/pmintcaps.asp?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIz6eaxPnW3QIVFMRkCh0J_QlBEAQYByABEgIHafD_BwE
Rosemary https://www.naturalhealthyconcepts.com/curamed-brain-TN-60-13733962.html#product-info
Summer Savory
Tangerine
Tarragon https://www.soin-et-nature.com/en/essential-oil-capsules/3960-pranarom-oleocaps-comfort-gyneco-caps-30.html
Tea Tree https://www.soin-et-nature.com/en/our-essential-oils-in-capsules/330-festy-preparation-recurrent-herpes-essential-oils-in-capsules.html
Thyme Contains thyme: https://www.integrativepro.com/products/gastrointestinal/mentharil-peppermint-oil
Wild Orange http://www.jarrow.com/product/718/d-Limonene
Turmeric https://myoxcience.com/product/curcumin-essential-oil-complex-bcm-95-500-mg-curcumoind-curcumin-volatile-oil-complex/
Sage https://www.lindens.co.uk/sage-essential-oil-caps-50mg.html
Rose http://www.bulgarianroseotto.com/organic_rose_oil_capsules.html

www.doterra.com

and

Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Second Edition
Author: Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young
Publisher: Churchill Livingstone
Copyright: 2013

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Consumer Education Considerations in Aromatherapy Part Two: A Mobile Safety App

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Online databases of injuries or adverse reactions from essential oils include 251 reports since 2013. American Association of Poison Control Centers report 51,279 incidents of poisoning by essential oils, including one death between 2011 and 2015 (at the date of posting , 2016 data is not available online). There is much debate within the aromatherapy community regarding: pregnancy safety, which oils are safe for children, and specific percentages for dilution. After assessment of the risks, the three main dangers seen in the data are not those but: neat usage of oils (dosage), ingestion, and accidental poisoning of children. New buyers of aromatherapy products, including single bottles of essential oils, need to be taught how to use and store them, safely. The referral to and role of the aromatherapist is often as safety consultant as noted by Jean Valnet, “I must at this stage make it clear that this in no way claims to replace the difficult art of the therapist ‘All is poison, nothing is poison’ said Paracelsus, and in reality the dosage is all-important, for natural essences used carelessly are just as likely to be toxic” (Valnet, 11) Any consumer education program needs to include aromatherapists and be: communicated in language consumers understand, in a format with which they are comfortable and familiar, and including learning tools they need to accomplish that. Consideration of industry use of child-resistant tops, as well as, evaluating new labeling standards might primarily address consumer learning and ultimately reduce essential oil injuries. The goal of this series of posts is to explore risk mitigation for essential oils.

Essential oil safety, a topic of much debate, floods social media, small blogs, and trade journals.  Yet, there are few hard metrics regarding the scope of the problem. Further complicating establishing the extent of the issue, there is limited information regarding how the risks one takes with essential oils compares with those allopathic remedies with similar goals for use (ie: Peppermint (mentha x piperita)/ Eucalyptus (eucalyptus Radiata) blend versus Children’s Mucinex in a 3 year old). Effective consumer education is needed. However, without a clearly articulated problem statement, succinct guidelines built on consensus, and a systematic means of communication with the end consumer there is limited probability of the development of broad safety standards.

The Bards App: A Discussion

With two masters in education, my background lends itself towards the tools involved in teaching and learning. Former employment includes director of education for a health non-profit which interfaced the health community with commerce. The first item needed in education is to identify a goal or outcome, a learning target and how to measure it. In the context of this conversation the learning target are specific safety behaviors. This would be measured in the reduction of essential oil injuries. The setting of the goal was clear but how to do that can be both clear and obscure.

Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety 2 is the most widely relied upon source for safety information in the US aromatherapy community. However, it is written for the professional not the end user. Although comprehensive, it’s language is sometimes confusing such as the phrase do not use on or near the face of a child. Can you use it at all? Can you diffuse around children? In particular, with eucalyptus and peppermint, this became accepted to many in the aromatherapy community as do not use via inhalation under 10. Even after repeated clarification by Mr. Tisserand, many chose to see the statement and infographic as a change rather than refinement and many have stuck to their own more conservative interpretation. (Tisserand Institute, 2015)

Upon embarking in formal aromatherapist training, I noticed a safety and liability exposure in any potential business I would set up, due to the lack of accessible informatieos2on to the end buyer. Essential Oils Safety 2 was too complex and expensive for most customers I might have. Facebook and Google shouldn’t be the first line of education. Labeling of products is lacking in directions or safety measures. Part of the career I foresaw was to create custom blends and products but more was empowering my friends, family and customers to make their own wellness decisions.  Providing them the tools to do so is a value I hold dearly.

If I were to break down my safety recommendations into a few short sentences these are the ideas I think an educated consumer should know (All of my orders are accompanied by a business card with this information).

1. The small bottles of oils are concentrates. They need to be diluted if placed on skcard risksin.

2. All oils are not safe for everyone. Some oils should not be used around children, while pregnant, while taking blood thinners etc..

3. The top risks for problems with oils:

  • Internal use
  • Overuse causing reactions, called sensitization
  • Not keeping out of the reach of children
  • Irritating skin due to improper use
  • Breathing issues

If lack of consumer education tools aimed at safety and usage was a problem that I was finding, it seemed to me that others might be facing it as well. This gap in the aromatherapy trade and essential oil industry, could potentially impede on my ability to participate in this profession. So, I created a safety and usage mobile program called The Bard’s App available on iphone and Android.  The information was condensed from Essential Oil Safety 2 which was synthesized with information from Essence of Thyme Aromatherapy Certification 101 (Thompson, 2014). The info was ultimately cross-referenced with often conflicting recommendations of professional organizations world-wide (All references listed in About section within the App). The goal was to prevent injuries in the group of people participating in case studies for my training. The method was to give affordable access to this summary of safe use of essential oils for the new user. Included in the App are the topics: children, pregnancy, dilution, interactions, and first aid.

I asked all those with whom I consulted or for whom I blended, to purchase The Bards App. To my knowledge, not one injury or adverse reaction has occurred in three years with anyone buying from me or utilizing my services. This concurs with the summary of the Atlantic Institute’s Injury Report, that not one injury occurred under the care of a trained aromatherapist. Evaluating it from that perspective, the App has been a tremendous success in empowering end consumers who do not confer with me for each purchase. However, it has not been a financially viable investment for the small community which I serve. Although it has had great support from British Columbia Aromatherapy President Colleen Thompson and British NAHA Director Elizabeth Ashley Stearns, it has had limited traction to assist others in the greater aromatherapy community. From my evaluation, there are a few factors which have impacted support.

  1. Safety Positions: There is a difference in the interpretation of safety recommendations within the community. I might tend toward what might be considered, a less conservative side. For instance, cinnamon bark and wintergreen. There is even disagreement amongst my instructors on these oils. Many companies, professionals and Facebook groups have cinnamon bark listed as unsafe for children. Essential Oil Safety 2 does not list cinnamon bark as cautioned for children. It does note the need for a dermal maximum of .05% which would be less for a child. (Tisserand, 248). So, in The Bard’s App cinnamon is not on the list as an unsafe oil but one that is cautioned. It is also listed within the section on dilution as needing a lower maximum dilution. Wintergreen is banned from all use by some in the community. (Wormwood, 0). I do list it as unsafe for pregnancy and children under 10, as well as notate its lower maximum dilution with the section on dilutions and within the section on interactions reference specific drugs, summarizing with the statement that wintergreen contains the came cautions as Aspirin (a great example of how consumer education and labeling has been successful in reducing Reyes syndrome and clotting issues). These are two very effective oils, when used with prudence. I’d rather add the prudence than eliminate this option for people looking for wellness solutions that would rival allopathic options. Knowledge is key, “Aromatherapy is complex in many ways …. The oils used, although simple in that each is the pure, natural product of a single plant, are complex potent substances that need to be used with care, knowledge and experience”. (Lawless, 14). Although well referenced, my educated conclusions conflict with industry voices with better amplification than mine.
  2. Error: There were two errors within the original release. One was a formatting error where I imported a data set globally rather than to the specific field needed. The intention was to update the information regarding Peppermint and Eucalyptus as NAHA and Robert Tisserand both clarified positions after the App was created. However, all of the age phrases became under the age 10. All of them. Most should have read under the age 2. Secondly, I had two resources in front of me regarding dilution. The one I entered, had an error embedded in it as well. Although the dilution rate difference with Essential Oil Safety 2 was small, it still was a difference. Both were corrected within a month of launch, but the damage was done to consumer trust in the aromatherapy community.
  3. Low-Budget. The program I used to create the App was the most affordable and affordable I could find. It is old appnot a sleek App and many look for flashy and free with Apps. It is neither. The font is small and there is no way to increase the size any more. Reviews of it were poor. Not of the content, but it’s looks. But it is functional and educational, in my humble view. I do not think most people are looking for functional and educational, they are looking for bells and whistles and no investment.
  4. I am not an aromatherapy maven. According Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information”. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. A maven is “almost pathologically helpful”, further adding, “he can’t help himself”. I am a maven, “a maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own” which is why I made The Bard’s App after-all. (Gladwell, 61-63) But I am not a maven in the aromatherapy community. I am a no name. A maven helps tinker and refine, they are known. The aromatherapy trade and essential oil industry have limited advertising opportunities. Unless one gets a champion – a maven- I have yet to see how new products successfully come to market.  I have no maven and any movement for consumer education, will also need one.

My next step has been to add a section on all doTERRA oils. The Atlantic Instititute’s Injury Report shows that the majority of injuries reported come from the company doTERRA. This is not controlled for market share. Adding this information to the App, is an effort to equip new representatives seeking more knowledge. The end goal again, to areduce or prevent injuries. I have an account with doTERRA and written permission to link to doTERRA and use their logo, so perhaps mine will be a voice that is an ally while speaking some safety into this ever growing community. This recently revamped version contains a full section dedicated to dōTERRA oils: blends and singles. It also has a new section on blending which denotes scent notes: top, middle, base. At this point I do not believe this will increase any sales. Those whose skin crawls with the mention of dōTERRA will neither purchase nor recommend the App. Those entrenched in dōTERRA who throw caution to the wind will neither purchase nor recommend the App. Does that make the endeavor unworthy of undertaking? Clearly, I do not think so. My goals have not been to make this App a main stream of income but a means to support my greater goals.

While safety recommendations lie on a moving pendulum, no App will be accepted in the greater community  that doesn’t have a leader delivering them and at this time it must be very conservative in interpretation of safety data.

Part one of this series concluded:

Data from trade resources and National Poison Control document well over 50,000 injuries in the past six years. 72% of injuries, that is 37,073 injuries are to children and overwhelmingly accidental. This is the problem. I would argue that the fact that an oil has a child-resistant lid on it inherently communicates that it is to be handled with care.

Child-resistant caps might address the problem and meet recommendations to effectively communicate with the essential oil consumer. In order to prevent and reduce injuries and adverse effects, perhaps the essential oil industry and aromatherapy trade might find a few items of consensus and focus directly on those few items, such as risk mitigating packaging. This might be a means to create critical mass and foster future discussions throughout the industry on other safety issues.

This second installment suggests:

Any consumer education program needs to be communicated in language consumers understand, in an environment they are familiar with, and with the tools they need to accomplish that. Safety should not be proprietary. Could a mobile app do that? Could it address a clearly articulated problem statement, be built on succinct guidelines built on consensus, and a systematic means of communication with the end consumer? This was my experiment and in a small arena, it appears to have had success. Perhaps, this is an effective way to communicate with the vast majority of consumers but it must be championed by a thought leader who also had the skills of a consensus builder.

400dpiLogo

Bio: Nancy, a formally trained aromatherapist, holds two masters in education and developed the national gluten-free curriculum GREAT as the director of education for the health non-profit Beyond Celiac. Nancy lives with celiac disease and lupus and incorporates a strict gluten-free diet and essential oils into her wellness choices. She can be contacted at:  Nancy@TheBardsApothecary.com and http://www.TheBardsApothecary.com. Nancy created The Bards App (available for both iphone and Android) as an accessible and affordable educational tool for the end consumer.

NOTE: Since this post was written, on 12/11/17 Robert Tisserand Essential Training Facebook Page posted the following: “One year ago, the Tisserand Institute launched its Safety Pages, together with a detailed Adverse Reaction Database. The database now has 60 cases, many accompanied by photos. Most of these are skin reactions, but we are now vetting some cases of inhalation.
The reports are verified with the person who filed them, and commented on by Robert Tisserand, who offers insights into why the reaction happened, and what lessons can be learned.
Please bear in mind this database is not meant to scare you off using aromatherapy, but rather to point to potential dangers. Perhaps the main take-away is that virtually any essential oil can cause an adverse skin reaction, and the concentration makes a difference – undiluted application carries a higher risk. Most users will never experience such reactions, but we are advocating for safe use – minimizing risk without taking away benefits.”

Resources for series of posts:

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2012 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2012_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2013 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2013_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2014 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2014_AAPCC_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2015 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2015_AAPCC_NPDS_Annual_Report_33rd_PDF.pdf

American Herbal Products Association: Trade Requirement and Guidance Policy for Labeling of Undiluted Essential Oils Used Topically and Offered for Retail Sale. Retrieved from: http://www.ahpa.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Policies/Guidance-Policies/AHPA_Labeling_Undiluted_Essential_Oils_Topical.pdf?ver=2016-04-26-145908-950

AP Press. (2016) Tennessee Poison Control Center warns of toxicity of essential oils.

Retrieved from: http://wate.com/2016/05/11/tennessee-poison-control-center-warns-of-toxicity-of-essential-oils/

Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report. Retrieved from: http://aromatherapyunited.org/injury-reports/injury-reports-2016/

Baker, N. (2015) The Bards App. Retrieved from: http://www.thebardsapothecary.com/the-bards-app.html

Center for Justice and Democracy. McDonalds’ Hot Coffee Case – Read the Facts NOT the Fiction. Retrieved from: McDonalds’ Hot Coffee Case – Read the Facts NOT the Fiction

Coscarelli, J. (2014) New York Magazine. Falling Air Condition Hits Woman in Head, Reigniting Every New Yorker’s Mostly Irrational Fear. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/nyc-fear-falling-air-conditioners.html

doTERRA (2014) Approved Claims List. Retrieved from: https://doterra.com/US/en/flyers-approved-claims-list

FOX13 News Salt Lake City. (2016). Retrieved from: http://fox13now.com/2016/12/26/poison-control-calls-related-to-essential-oils-doubled-since-2011/

Gladwell, M.(2005) Blink. New Your, NY. Little, Brown and Company. Audiobook.

Gladwell, M. (2002) The Tipping Point. New York, NY. Little, Brown and Company.

Lawless, J.  (1997) The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy. Barnes and Noble.

Mancini, M. (2014). The Surprising Origins of Child Proof Lids. http://mentalfloss.com/article/54410/surprising-origins-child-proof-lids

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Safety Information.
Retrieved from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/

Price, S. (1987) Practical aromatherapy: How to use essential oils to restore vitality. London, UK. Harper Collins Hammersmith.

Schnaubelt, K. (2011) The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils
Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press

Shutes, J. & C. Skipper. (2015). French Aromatherapy Certification Course. School for Aromatic Studies.

Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database (ARD) Retrieved from http://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/adverse-reaction-database/#introduction/

Tisserand Institute (2015)  Are Eucalyptus and Peppermint Safe for Young Children? Retrieved from: http://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/kids-inhalation-safety/

Tisserand, R. & Young, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety Second Edition, 147-163
New York, NY, Churchill Livingston Elsevier

Thompson, C. (2012) Aromatherapy Certification 101.  Essence of Thyme. British Columbia, Canada.

Thompson, C. (2012) Aromatherapy Certification 201. Essence of Thyme. British Columbia, Canada.

US Department of Homeland Security. Ready. Risk Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.ready.gov/risk-assessment

United State Consumer Product Commission. (2013) Poison Prevention Packaging Act Business Guidance. Retrieved from: https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/PPPA

Valnet, J MD (1990) The Practice of Aromatherapy Rochester, VT Healing Arts, Press.

Woodward, V.A. (1991) The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA. New World Library.

Consumer Education Considerations in Aromatherapy – Part One: Child Safety Lids

Standard

Online databases of injuries or adverse reactions from essential oils include 251 reports since 2013. American Association of Poison Control Centers report 51,279 incidents of poisoning by essential oils, including one death between 2011 and 2015 (at the date of posting , 2016 data is not available online). There is much debate within the aromatherapy community regarding: pregnancy safety, which oils are safe for children, and specific percentages for dilution. After assessment of the risks, the three main dangers seen in the data are not those but: neat usage of oils (dosage), ingestion, and accidental poisoning of children. New buyers of aromatherapy products, including single bottles of essential oils, need to be taught how to use and store them, safely. The referral to and role of the aromatherapist is often as safety consultant as noted by Jean Valnet, “I must at this stage make it clear that this in no way claims to replace the difficult art of the therapist ‘All is poison, nothing is poison’ said Paracelsus, and in reality the dosage is all-important, for natural essences used carelessly are just as likely to be toxic” (Valnet, 11) Any consumer education program needs to include aromatherapists and be: communicated in language consumers understand, in a format with which they are comfortable and familiar, and including learning tools they need to accomplish that. Consideration of industry use of child-resistant tops, as well as, evaluating new labeling standards might primarily address consumer learning and ultimately reduce essential oil injuries. The goal of this series of posts is to explore risk mitigation for essential oils.

Essential oil safety, a topic of much debate, floods social media, small blogs, and trade journals.  Yet, there are few hard metrics regarding the scope of the problem. Further complicating establishing the extent of the issue, there is limited information regarding how the risks one takes with essential oils compares with those allopathic remedies with similar goals for use (ie: Peppermint (mentha x piperita)/ Eucalyptus (eucalyptus Radiata) blend versus Children’s Mucinex in a 3 year old). Effective consumer education is needed. However, without a clearly articulated problem statement, succinct guidelines built on consensus, and a systematic means of communication with the end consumer there is limited probability of the development of broad safety standards . There are three types of resources on adverse reactions and injuries used in this paper: historical, trade, and institutional data.

Historical Data

Essential Oil Safety Second Edition by Tisserand and Young contains historical data on injuries. For each oil with the textbook, literature on adverse reactions that could be found in public records are listed. Injuries and deaths contain nearly a century of data.

Trade Data

There are two data points within the Aromatherapy Trade for reporting harm. Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database and Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report.

Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database is run by aromatherapist and safety expert, Robert Tisserand. It is less than a year old. Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report is run by aromatherapist and educator, Sylla Shephard-Hangar and is three years old. Both are online forms. Both are self-reported.  Neither was controlled for duplicate data in the other.

Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database (ARD), “… is a collection of self-reported adverse reactions to essential oils. Each report has been verified by personal contact and further questioning and is accompanied by images where possible. The ARD was created to underline the potential dangers that do exist when essential oils are used inappropriately. It should be emphasized that most people never have an adverse reaction to essential oils. However, inappropriate use does increase risk.” (Tisserand, 2016)

The database currently contains 38 incidents including: two anaphylaxis, 21 undiluted use, two minimal dilution, three at 50% dilution. 70% of injuries were dermal with no or limited dilution. (See note at end of paper regarding current data)

Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report contains 213 incidents since its inception. In 2016 there were 83 reports. Of those: 46 reported undiluted use, 33 involved ingestion, there were 11 migraines, and one incident which included a subsequent heart attack

Institutional Data

“The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) supports the nation’s 55 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Data is uploaded to their National Poison Data System every 8 minutes. The AAPCC works with America’s 55 poison centers to track poisonings and their sources, including household products, food and beverages, chemicals in the workplace and home, environmental toxins, drugs and medicine, and animal and insect bites and stings.” The 2016 report was not available at the time of writing. Incidents are not coded in the document according to topical, internal, or inhalation except when death occurs. However, cross-referencing the information with news sources, shows that incidents have doubled since 2011 and that accidental ingestion by children is the most common form of poisoning, although improper topical application was common as well. (AP Press, 2016), (FOX13 Salt Lake City, 2016) Although some of the calls to local Poison Control resulted in emergency room visits, ER data is kept by state and no national database was found to retrieve data. Going through each state’s database was too large of a task for the scope of this project.

Summary

  2012 2013 2014 2015
Notation Essential oils made the list of the top 25 substances with the most increased injury reporting. Essential oils made the list of the top 25 substances with the most increase of serious exposures. Essential oils made the list of the top 25 substances with the most increase of serious exposures One death
Incidents 10,729 11,032 13,069 16449
Children ~ 7913    (74%) 7875   (72%) 9258   (71%) 12,027   (73%)
Major Outcomes 8 11 4 10
Page references 25, 211 26, 194 29, 128 141

One death is listed due to essential oils. Upon further investigation, it is unclear if this actually was cinnamon essential oil that was ingested or the herb. The report states the child was eating cinnamon rather than drinking. The description sounds more like the culinary spice. The incident reports states. “Acute cinnamon ingestion and aspiration: probably responsible. Scenario/Substances: A 4 y/o male was eating cinnamon, coughed, choked, and presented to the ED in cardiac arrest. Clinical Course: The patient was unable to be resuscitated and died in the ED. Autopsy Findings: Cause of death: cinnamon aspiration. Manner of death: accidental. “ The author will report this as a death by essential oils in alignment with the AAPCC report.

Risk Assessment

According to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy: “Safety involves a state of being free from risk or occurrence of injury, harm, or danger.” (NAHA) Even situations one might assume is risk free like drinking a cup of coffee (Center for Justice and Democracy) most or walking on the street (Coscarelli, 2014) would be hard pressed to say that something is of no risk or occurrence of injury, harm or danger. Safety standards might be better described as mitigating risk rather than free from risk.

Risk assessment is varied. According to the US Government, “A risk assessment is the process of identifying potential hazards … and analyzing methods of response if exposure occurs.” (US Department of Homeland Security, 2016). Pros and cons are weighed often with corporations, organizations and individuals accepting certain calculated risks. Ultimately, they look at how the benefits might outweigh the potential risks or that contain the least amount of risk. A hazard is weighed, the specific vulnerability assessed and finally the impact analyzed.

But the definition of safety from some aromatherapy resources sets up a mindset that zero risk is not only possible but the goal of aromatherapists. It is this author’s humble opinion that is not realistic and sets up an unattainable standard. Clearly some people are willing to take risks while others will not. Customers are willing to take risks. After all, in spite of many warnings, including the eyebrow raising warning to “Seek immediate medical help if you experience an erection lasting more than 4 hours.”, had roughly $2 billion in sales in 2016. Often, aromatherapists suggest natural supplements in lieu of essential oils to mitigate risk. However, poisoning due to vitamins and mineral supplements far surpass the number of poisonings due to essential oils.

Comparison

  2014 2015
Vitamin Supplements 65,733 (159) 66,384 (164)
Mineral Supplements 29,377 (95) 29,067 (160)
Essential Oil 13,069 16,449

Ultimately, that is the topic this series of posts hopes to address: What educational vehicles might be effective for an aromatherapist to use to reasonably assist in risk assessment for end consumers? Safety should not be proprietary but a goal. Many consumer education models might embrace a calculated risk and educated choice rather than seek to remove all risk.

Aromatherapist as Consumer Educator

Aromatherapy training for many people comes with the expectation that there will be a financial return on investment for their education. For some that might be a new career in aromatherapy and for others, like massage therapists or doulas, just adding another component to their current practice. This training should set an aromatherapist’s skills aside from those of the general practitioner. According to Shirley Price “Aromatherapy is a treatment designed to help by the correct use and application of essential oils obtained from plants”. Emphasis added on the word correct. (Price, 7) Unlike a new user of essential oils, an aromatherapist should have the ability to increase effective use of oils and mitigate their risk. What that looks like and how that can be communicated to the end consumer can be a topic of debate.  There are few items on a store shelf from a chain saw to Tylenol that would require the buyer to buy books, seek training, or need a trade professional to safely use.  Yet, that is the situation for many buying essential oils at a local market.

At this time, it appears that the main vehicles for safety education in this trade are Google and Facebook. Unfortunately, what is safe is not necessarily agreed upon and contentious. There is no consensus and as an outsider, it appears that it would be difficult gain accord amongst thought leaders in the community. “Aromatherapy is complex in many ways …. The oils used, although simple in that each is the pure, natural product of a single plant, are complex potent substances that need to be used with care, knowledge and experience”. (Lawless, 14).

For many, referral rather than educational empowerment is the answer to tough usage situations. “The art of the disclaimer reached new levels of perfection. A particularly pointless example, repeated in book after book, was the admonition that essential oils should only be ingested under the supervision of a licensed physician – when all the authors were keenly aware that there were only a handful of conventional physicians who knew anything about essential oils:.  (Schnaubelt, 73) This author would add that the same conundrum is apparent when the words “licensed physician” are replaced with “aromatherapist trained in aromatic medicine”, the numbers are few and “Yellow Pages” absent. The role of the aromatherapist, though, need not just be as in person consultant but perhaps as writer of health education policy, tools, and resources. The communication of safety factors for the use of items that affect one’s wellness fall under the realm of health education.  Educators need to meet the consumer where they are at. They are online, on their mobile devices and with their aromatherapy products.

Child-resistant Lids Addressing Child Accidental Poisonings

The majority of essential oil injuries reported to Poison Control are accidental exposure to children, that is 37,073 injuries to children 12 and under. The most simple method available to address this is already familiar to consumers – child-resistant lids.  When child-resistant lids were introduced in 1967, they reduced child poisoning by 91%. (Mancini, 2014). Currently the only essential oil required by the Poison Packaging Prevention Act of 1970 to use a child-resistant cap, is wintergreen (gaultheria procumbens) if containing more than 5% methyl salicate. The only company, that I know, which offers child-resistant lids on all of their oils is Florihana. However, Robert Tisserand has a list of 46 more toxic oils that he suggest use child-resistant caps, including wintergreen. (Tisserand, 651-65) It is perhaps obvious to most consumers that anything with a child-resistant cap needs extra care. Without language, just in packaging, a safety message is communicated. The ultimate questions here are, if assessing the risk that 72.5% of all poisonings were children and the majority of those due to accidental ingestion: 1. Could this help prevent it? 2. Would the industry be willing to consider it? 3. Would companies with dissenting safety opinions find this to be a workable safety standard to adopt?

CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION:

Industry Packaging Recommendations to Prevent and Reduce Injuries

The original vision for this paper was to look at mobile Apps as a viable means of consumer education. Self-serving I admit. However, upon delving into the data regarding injuries, adverse reactions and poisonings; the difference between a 1% and 2% dilution in lavender in a nine- year old, whether blue chamomile theoretically could interact with Welbutrin, and if it was unethical to recommend ginger to a woman with severe morning sickness seemed to lessen in their importance in addressing safety. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink (Gladwell, audiobook disc 5) explains that simplicity and frugality in decision making are often essential to finding what is most important and upon which to focus. What, when looking at the information from American Association of Poison Control Centers, is apparent in the blink of an eye? 72% of injuries, that is 37,073 injuries are to children and overwhelmingly accidental. That is what is apparent in the blink of an eye. In the big picture from that point of view, child poisonings, is the most important item. Upon a second blink utilizing the trade data, dermal reactions are the next most important.

Kurt Schnaubelt wrote, “Developing a sense for the real side effects of essential oils is something every lay individual with a modicum of common sense will easily accomplish” (Schnaubelt, 76) Buyers of essential oils need to be given the opportunity and information to use common sense and Facebook and Google should not be the easiest resources to which to turn. Consumer education programs need a clearly articulated problem statement, succinct guidelines built on consensus, and a systematic means of communication with the end consumer.

Data from trade resources and National Poison Control document well over 50,000 injuries in the past six years. 72% of injuries, that is 37,073 injuries are to children and overwhelmingly accidental. This is the problem. I would argue that the fact that an oil has a child-resistant lid on it inherently communicates that it is to be handled with care.

Child-resistant caps might address the problem and meet recommendations to effectively communicate with the essential oil consumer. In order to prevent and reduce injuries and adverse effects, perhaps the essential oil industry and aromatherapy trade might find a few items of consensus and focus directly on those few items, such as risk mitigating packaging. This might be a means to create critical mass and foster future discussions throughout the industry on other safety issues.

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Bio: Nancy, a formally trained aromatherapist, holds two masters in education and developed the national gluten-free curriculum GREAT as the director of education for the health non-profit Beyond Celiac. Nancy lives with celiac disease and lupus and incorporates a strict gluten-free diet and essential oils into her wellness choices. She can be contacted at:  Nancy@TheBardsApothecary.com and http://www.TheBardsApothecary.com. Nancy created The Bards App (available for both iphone and Android) as an accessible and affodable educational tool for the end consumer.

NOTE: Since this post was written, on 12/11/17 Robert Tisserand Essential Training Facebook Page posted the following: “One year ago, the Tisserand Institute launched its Safety Pages, together with a detailed Adverse Reaction Database. The database now has 60 cases, many accompanied by photos. Most of these are skin reactions, but we are now vetting some cases of inhalation.
The reports are verified with the person who filed them, and commented on by Robert Tisserand, who offers insights into why the reaction happened, and what lessons can be learned.
Please bear in mind this database is not meant to scare you off using aromatherapy, but rather to point to potential dangers. Perhaps the main take-away is that virtually any essential oil can cause an adverse skin reaction, and the concentration makes a difference – undiluted application carries a higher risk. Most users will never experience such reactions, but we are advocating for safe use – minimizing risk without taking away benefits.”

Resources for series of posts

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2012 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2012_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2013 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2013_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2014 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2014_AAPCC_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf

American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System Annual Report 2015 Retrieved from: https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2015_AAPCC_NPDS_Annual_Report_33rd_PDF.pdf

American Herbal Products Association: Trade Requirement and Guidance Policy for Labeling of Undiluted Essential Oils Used Topically and Offered for Retail Sale. Retrieved from: http://www.ahpa.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Policies/Guidance-Policies/AHPA_Labeling_Undiluted_Essential_Oils_Topical.pdf?ver=2016-04-26-145908-950

AP Press. (2016) Tennessee Poison Control Center warns of toxicity of essential oils.

Retrieved from: http://wate.com/2016/05/11/tennessee-poison-control-center-warns-of-toxicity-of-essential-oils/

Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Report. Retrieved from: http://aromatherapyunited.org/injury-reports/injury-reports-2016/

Baker, N. (2015) The Bards App. Retrieved from: http://www.thebardsapothecary.com/the-bards-app.html

Center for Justice and Democracy. McDonalds’ Hot Coffee Case – Read the Facts NOT the Fiction. Retrieved from: McDonalds’ Hot Coffee Case – Read the Facts NOT the Fiction

Coscarelli, J. (2014) New York Magazine. Falling Air Condition Hits Woman in Head, Reigniting Every New Yorker’s Mostly Irrational Fear. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/nyc-fear-falling-air-conditioners.html

doTERRA (2014) Approved Claims List. Retrieved from: https://doterra.com/US/en/flyers-approved-claims-list

FOX13 News Salt Lake City. (2016). Retrieved from: http://fox13now.com/2016/12/26/poison-control-calls-related-to-essential-oils-doubled-since-2011/

Gladwell, M.(2005) Blink. New Your, NY. Little, Brown and Company. Audiobook.

Gladwell, M. (2002) The Tipping Point. New York, NY. Little, Brown and Company.

Lawless, J.  (1997) The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy. Barnes and Noble.

Mancini, M. (2014). The Surprising Origins of Child Proof Lids. http://mentalfloss.com/article/54410/surprising-origins-child-proof-lids

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Safety Information.
Retrieved from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/

Price, S. (1987) Practical aromatherapy: How to use essential oils to restore vitality. London, UK. Harper Collins Hammersmith.

Schnaubelt, K. (2011) The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils
Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press

Shutes, J. & C. Skipper. (2015). French Aromatherapy Certification Course. School for Aromatic Studies.

Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database (ARD) Retrieved from http://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/adverse-reaction-database/#introduction/

Tisserand Institute (2015)  Are Eucalyptus and Peppermint Safe for Young Children? Retrieved from: http://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/kids-inhalation-safety/

Tisserand, R. & Young, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety Second Edition, 147-163
New York, NY, Churchill Livingston Elsevier

Thompson, C. (2012) Aromatherapy Certification 101.  Essence of Thyme. British Columbia, Canada.

Thompson, C. (2012) Aromatherapy Certification 201. Essence of Thyme. British Columbia, Canada.

US Department of Homeland Security. Ready. Risk Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.ready.gov/risk-assessment

United State Consumer Product Commission. (2013) Poison Prevention Packaging Act Business Guidance. Retrieved from: https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/PPPA

Valnet, J MD (1990) The Practice of Aromatherapy Rochester, VT Healing Arts, Press.

Woodward, V.A. (1991) The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA. New World Library.

 

 

A new focus ….

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For those who have followed this page and my work, I wanted to give you the courtesy of knowing that the focus of this page is going to slightly shift. Not completely, just slightly – but it will be noticeable.

While I have had my website, Facebook page, and App for a few years – I have tried different ways to use my new skills in aromatherapy to find a groove. Some fit well, others not so much. What I know:

  1. I care about consumer education. I don’t want to make decisions for consumers but give them a few tools to do so themselves. Wellness decisions are dependent on personal values, experience, previous education and current circumstances not solely on my biases.
  2. I like dōTERRA products. I have had an account for years. I am not always wild about some of how they are used. But I kind of live in imperfection: my church has some issues, our schools have some work to do, my marriage has a few flaws, and I am not so wonderful all the time either. So I take the good and try to figure where I can use my skills or talents to contribute.
  3. I’d like to use my educational experience and App to help those using or wanting to use dōTERRA products. I hope to give easy access to information regarding commonly held safety premises in aromatherapy (there is no consensus – so going for low lying fruit using broad strokes) so that dōTERRA representatives and customers can be educated consumers and make their own choices. Whether that wellness decision is the same as the aromatherapy trade or dōTERRA corporate – it is not mine to make just facilitate.

So what I have done:

  1. I have revamped my entire website.  It is now a dōTERRA Certified Site. Anyone seeking to buy this brand from me will have a certified aromatherapist along this journey who uses common trade standards. Those who buy from others can utilize the materials I create.  For professionals (massage therapists, chiropractors, educators) hoping to integrate essential oils into an existing practice, I have created files of: B2B training materials, best practices for use in public, notice of use statements, releases, and consent forms. Perhaps together we will create a critical mass with other ways to look at some safety issues and make a difference.
  2. I have redone and re-edited The Bards App. It contains a full section dedicated to dōTERRA oils: blends and singles. It also has a new section on blending which denotes scent notes: top, middle, base. If you previously purchased it, I can send you a link for the new format (the font is still small) just let me know what phone you have. The Bards App too is now a dōTERRA Certified Site.
  3. With this dōTERRA stamp – I can now use dōTERRA trademarks and trade-dress to target new users using dōTERRA of essential oils  towards a tool that might help in assuring their and their family’s safety. These targeted messages can be used for all those currently using dōTERRA products.
  4. I really enjoy formulating. It is one of the few things that has come naturally to me. I have streamlined my blending work. In this I have obtained from dōTERRA written permission to utilize their oils in my re-sale products. I carry little inventory and this will help me continue to do that while utilizing the discounts and points I have accrued to maintain little overhead. I still fill in the gaps in my creations with and recommend to others many other good companies.

What you can do:

  1. If you are not a dōTERRA customer, representative, or fan but have enjoyed some of my posts – please keep following. It will not be totally dedicated to one brand – this is just a courtesy note telling you more will be coming.
  2. If you know of a representative or customer struggling, send them my way.
  3. Buy The Bards App. It is available for iphone and Android. Encourage new users of any oils to buy it. Only one section is brand specific the rest is brand neutral. It is $2.99. Less than any oil that is not adulterated.
  4. Continue to look for wellness alternatives and build bridges with me ..
  5. …. and if in the mean time you would like to buy some oils or my services, feel free to contact me. Check out the new website. http://www.TheBardsApp.com

All the best, Nancy

Here are a few screenshots with the new layout and section.

open circle     on guard    middle note

 

 

Help – Oils and Water Don’t Mix. Right?

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I am so confused.

It began as an attempt to make the perfect bath bomb as a home school science experiment. Two of my kids and I were trying to figure out what ingredients we could use that would:

  1. Make the perfect balance of acid and base and hence a great FIZZZZ.
  2. Be a good balance of powder and liquid
  3. Include therapeutic properties
  4. Ultimately disperse essential oils in water,  safely
cups

Acid versus base tests

We decided to start by testing acid versus base. We chose things like witch hazel, buttermilk powder, citric acid,  milk powder, alcohol, castile soap, epsom salt, baking soda, green tea, and ground ginger ….. Using a home made (boiled purple cabbage hijacked experiment from YouTube) indicator we poured a bit into the variables and saw immediate results. Red liquid was an acid, purple neutral and blues and greens a base. Citric acid > red-acid, baking soda > blue-base, all essential oils (one from each chemical functional family)> purple – neutral, teas interestingly green-base, cream of tartar – hot pink-acid, and heaven knows why – hydrogen peroxide more clear – but maybe yellowish.

We then went on to investigate what we could use to best disperse the oils in water. After-all essential oils are defined as an oil not because they are greasy but because they DON’T mix with water. Who wants an oils slick on top of the water when one’s bod is in the bath?

We put three drops of german chamomile (from a company who posts GC/MS reports and passed third party testing {BTA} of other oils) with 1/8 cup water and 1/8 t of our variables. We had one control with just water. German chamomile was chosen because it’s blue color is easy to observe. They were stirred with clean chopsticks and shaken for 20 seconds. Containers are PET (problems with plastic use are long-term use and undiluted oils, from my understanding).

My original course work suggested using a little bit of vegetable oil with the essential oil as a dispersant. I had also seen some fun experiments showing that castile soap did a good job of dispersing. I know the additives polysorbate and Solubol can help – but have been looking to use more common ingredients. I have always added a bit of grapeseed oil to my aromatherapy bathsalts and experimented with the castile soap (which I NOW know cande-saponify {new Scrabble word} when used with epsom salt – floating gummies in one’s bath is icky > taking THAT mistake as a learning opportunity.)

Of course alcohol (80 proof or rubbing) is a great one for mixing oils into cleaners but I don’t want alcohol, really, in my bath to dry my skin unless it comes in the form of a nice glass of Cabernet.

Here is where it got confusing, counter-intuitive, and opposite of anything I have seen. The order from BEST to Worst (using our EXACT homemade measurement system: size of ring of oils resting on top doing their defined job of not mixing with water):

water

Water, glycerin, rubbing alcohol

water-alcohol

  • BEST – plain old tap water
  • Glycerin
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vodka
  • Epsom Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Non-fat powdered milk
  • Powdered buttermilk
  • Worst – Castile soap

I am perplexed as I would have thought the results would have been somewhat flipped. We guessed  that buttermilk would have been best, followed by castile soap, then the booze … water worst.

Tap water

Tap water

Castile Soap

Castile Soap

The first thing that came to mind was operator error. But it was pretty basic …. we used a small measured dropper for the chamomile and measuring spoons and cups. Not everything was Mayo Clinic strict (including picture taking – not sure where vodka went). For a home-kitchen table project, the kids did great.

Then we considered water. Water is H20 but it can be so different depending on where you live, how it is processed, hard or soft, flouridated, or if you are on a well – filtered or not. A gazillion variables.

And of course, a good scientist when faced with surprising results – considers them as potentially revealing something new and try to do it all again (replicate). After-all, our goal was not to confirm our current beliefs but to find out what in fact works best.Even if we are a sorry group of scientists, that is a super lesson about surprise and expectations and  REALLY fun.

Before we do try to do this again … wondering if you could help us….

What do you think went on here or what do you think was revealed? What could we learn or ask in another way? Could essential oils disperse just fine in tap water from Snoqualmie, Washington?

We are off to finding the best bath bombs EVER! However, our 2nd attempt ended with awesome functional bombs but not so aesthetic. They look like falafel or donut holes. We have the usual suspects of baking soda and citric acid but also buttermilk, glycerin, PINK Himalayan sea salt, RED Hawaiian salt, Chamomile tea, Vitamin C oil and dried Melissa leaves (lemon balm) from my garden (with essential oils of copaiba, lavender, and grapefruit). Not for sale just for play. They are hard and fizz, but um … ugly. Considering it victory, nonetheless.

falafel

Disclaimer: Not suggesting pouring oils directly in a bath. In the Words of Ms. Frizzle we are “Asking questions, taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy”

kids

Scientists

(Please don’t judge: the clutter, dog hairs, nor amateur photography. Feel free to admire the kids.)

Snezhena (Снежана) and the Seven Lavs

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By Nancy Baker

Snezhena was born to a French communist and Spanish Fascist who fought on opposing sides in Yugoslavia during WWII. When they met in the lavender fields of Croatia, her foreign-fighting parents found they had both come from lavender growing regions of their home countries.They dropped their guns and fell madly in love in the familiar scent of their childhoods.  She grew up with the aroma of the small purple herbaceous flowers in her home in the ethnically Hungarian region of Yugoslavia called Vojvodina where they had a lavender co-op. During the civil war she fled to Bulgaria where she became a lavender farmer. Her son, Herb, eventually married into a family of Hungarian refugees – each with the personality of a lavender which had scented her story and life.

The Patriarch of the Lavandula family was Doc Angustoifolia.  Most would recognize him as THE True Lavender. Although Doc stayed and was an herbal doctor in Hungary during World War 2 , Communism, and the fall of the wall; many of his family members left in exile. He is a gentle but flexible man – known to beat the worst of life’s burns yet able to gently put a baby to sleep.

The first to leave Hungary were his cousins Stoechas and Latifolio known as Sneezy and Father Grumpy to friends.  They left at the outbreak of World War Two. Grumpy, Stoechas was a priest who went to northern Spain. He was a rough around the edges – camphoraceous they said – and perhaps because he was a celibate known to be a a mess around pregnant women and babies.  Latifolio was a weak child who was hid away with the Basques between France and Spain during the war. Always sniffly as a child he was called Sneezy. The Basque countryside helped his issues. Later in life he was called Spike reflecting his strength. He was bold with a whisky and smoke voice that hit the lungs and flexed some muscle. The cousins kept in touch over the years and came back to their family’s lavender fields to live their last days.

Angustifolia’s heart broke when his triplet (Officianalis, Maillette, and Vera) daughters were smuggled out of Hungary during the Revolution of 1956. They were identical when then left. But when he saw them again, they were very different women. Each was shaped by where they lived, the influences that grew around them, and what refined them in the end. Angustifolia’s daughters were genetic clones of each other. However, although each Angustifolia’s – their personalities were distinct – Bashful, Sleepy, and Dopey. Perhaps their calmness was a reaction to their hectic and chaotic early years. Bashful, Officianalis was adopted to an English Family in Cotswold. She worked in skin-care for long lost Hungarian shirt tail cousin Estee Lauder. Maillette was a taken in by a French family in a sleepy village in Provence. She was well-known for her sweetness in her work in the high stakes Perfume Houses of Grasse. Vera was adopted by a French speaking Austrian mountain climber. Although not well-read, hence her nick name Dopey, she was quite refined by the high- altitude and known to be complex. She was a mountain guide who brought visitors to alpine mineral baths. In their silver years, the triplets came back to their father to create a Spa in their father’s honor.

Angustafolia’s son, Attila, was his greatest sadness. He became a Communist and eventually his farming knowledge was used by the Soviets to grow poppies in Afghanistan. With the fall of Communism Attila escaped to Pakistan where he fell in love with a Kashmiri woman – Indira. Indira’s family had come to the region after partition from the city of Kannuaj. Together they had the first Lavandula grandchild, Happy. After 9/11, Happy left the chaos of Kashmir to find her paternal family now congregating in Bulgaria. Happy was beautiful and exotic as well as a soothing influence to the group. When she arrived the Lavandulas were stunned. She was a darker carbon copy of her triplet aunts. She fell in love with Snezhena’s son, Herb.  They got married and lived happily ever after.

There actually was another family member in the picture who needed some boundaries. Few talked about the 8th member of the squad – Sleazy. Sleazy Lavandin was from an American off-shoot and had been backpacking around Europe. The Lavandin family was a mix of Hippies and Grunge living in Sequim, Washington on the same peninsula as the home of Kurt Cobain. Not many talked about this side of the family, except as a good story of misadventure, but never about their greatness.  Don’t want to gossip, but it is said that the Lavandin family kind of got around, getting together with this one or that. Loads of stories of Sleazy being emmeshed in alcohol, cheap and then acting Super Gross were abound. The Lavandula’s found a place for Sleazy Lavandin – but only at an arms length and a side note in the whole operation.

Many tried to join the “family”. Especially many factory workers from China who had fake this and that to try to fit in. But they weren’t allowed in – instead of being found in the fields or spas they went to candles and dryer sheets.

Snezhena grew the most amazing lavender the world had ever seen. Like people – it reflected the experiences, influences, and environment in which it was grown. Together their story was volatile and healing. With her partner Lavandula Angustafolia, who was the True thing, it was all a story to behold.

The Moral of the Story: Lavender is not just one plant with a single origin. There are many species and each type has differences depending on its story. Like people, the plant breeds and is influenced by its environment, what it takes in through the air and its roots, and how well it is cared for. The following chart explains the story a bit more and takes quite a bit of literary license ….

Although the herb and essential oil of lavender share some qualities – this is a fable about the oil. For more Botanical Fiction from www.TheBardsApothecary.com check out Peppermint: Aromatherapy’s Incredible Hulk and Lemon Essential Oil: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe …… or follow me on Facebook

 

 

Common Name and Latin Binomial Disney Counterpart Geography and Story The Plant and Therapeutic Oil
Snezhena Snow White Croatia grows incredible lavender.

Voijvodina is a region of Serbia that has a large Hungarian minority. Bulgaria now grows an incredible amount of lavender. Having roots in Spain and France is nod to their great lavenders.

Lavender is considered both a flower and herb
Lavendula Angustafolia

Aka: True Lavender

Doc Lavender came from Europe but has spread all over the world.. Hungary grows an incredible amount of lavender. Multiple medicinal and therapeutic uses (including burns and safe for little ones). When one says lavender, this is the one people are talking about.
Lavandula officianalis

Same as Lavendula Angustafolia

Aka: English Lavender

Bashful In 1956 the Soviets crushed an uprising. Many fled in the middle of the night. Families were separated.

One main areas of English lavender is Cotswold. A famous Hungarian in the US skin care world was Estee Lauder

Esters are sometimes said to give relaxation which can be confused with being bashful. This oil is often high linalyl acetate.  The linalool content makes for great skin care.
Lavendula Maillette

Same as: Lavendula Angustafolia

Aka: Maillette

 

Sleepy

 

Maillette again is the same as Officianalis. The incredible growing region of Provence give produces high quality lavender. It has a softer, less sharp scent. The aroma is often described as sweet. Grasse, France is one of the perfume capitals of the world. The sweetness comes from a high level of linalyl acetate. Lavender Maillette is just one step above a lavender grown in other regions and is exceptional for relaxation. It’s powdery scent is a favorite in perfumes.

 

Kashmir

Same as Lavendula Angustafolia

Happy Kashmiri Lavender is a darling of the lavender set right now. Kashmir is a shared region of India and Pakistan. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Many soldiers defected.  Kannuaj, India is a center for perfumes. There is a more rough scent  to this Same as Lavendula Angustafolia but it is low in camphor (unlike spike or Spanish lavender). It is again high in linalool which contributes to soothing and relaxing qualities. It is exotic and said to be beautiful.
Lavendula Latifolia or Lavendula Spica

Aka: Spike  or Portugese Lavender

Sneezy The Basque region connects both Spain and France. Although these are the areas where it is most often grown, it’s proximity to Portugal has it grown there too. This is the lavender for colds and allergies. The unique chemical constituents are first, 1, 8 cineole which is found in eucalyptus and second camphor, used in physical therapy gels. Still comforting to the soul it smells like the flower, but a hits the lungs and relaxes the muscles.
Lavendula Stoechas

Aka: Spanish Lavender

Grumpy As the common name says, this is an plant grown in Spain. Many priests fled Catholic Hungary in World War 2 as they protected the Jews and then the Communists persecuted them as well. This oil has an edge to it. Unique in composition like Spike, it is first heavy in camphor and then in 1,8 cineole. This oil is to be avoided in pregnancy and lactation due to its camphor levels.
Lavendula Population or Lavendula Vera

Same as Lavendula Angustafolia

Aka: Fine Lavender

Dopey This lavender is often grown at a higher elevation, particularly in France. When it is over 1400 meters it becomes more unique in its chemistry. A consequence of the high altitude in this version of the same oil is that it produces more esters. Some consider it more volatile than its other triplet partners, Officianalis and Maillete, and suggest it for spas, baths and steam.
Lavandula x intermedia,

Lavandula Hybrida, Lavandula Hortensis,

Lavandin Abrialis

Aka: Super and Grosso

 

Not so well know dwarf perhaps cut out of the Disney script….. Sleazy Like the population of the US, “lavender” can be a mixed mutt  – a hybrid. It can be cheaper than some of the more complicated varieties. Sequim, Washington is in a Banana Belt outside of the rain shadow of the Olympic Rainforest.  They grow and distill lovely lavender and loads of lavandin. Lavandin’s assets depend on whom mated with whom, which specie were mixed to create the new plant. For instance Lavandula x intermedia is a cross between True and Spike Lavender. All lavenders are high in alcohols – but this was just a good place to mention this functional family. These plants are sterile.
Lavender scent Lavender scent The areas of former communist countries are riddled with trafficking from China (in particular) and a highway for bootlegged and pirated goods from Asia to the west. Lavender is perhaps the most adulterated oil out there.  Synthetic scent is what most people know. In most cases it has no therapeutic value except perhaps bringing back a good memory. Even the essential oil market is battling adulterated cheap knock offs that smell the same, might have the same function but are not derived from plants.

 

Koobies, colds and flu vs essential oils

Standard

I swear I spend half my time trying to make it as an aromatherapist convincing people not to buy essential oils. Don’t drink it, don’t buy the kit, not while you are pregnant, just get a few, not on your little one, just try a sample, FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY that little brown bottle is a concentrate – please dilute it, you’ll use less….. I am the worst salesperson EVER!

I get requests from people to “cure” certain ailments with oils all the time. From my trained vantage, there really are very few things that one could claim that oils cured {hiccups aside}. They help. They comfort. They are another tool in the box.

Another question I get especially during the fall koobie exchange in the classroom [which normally ends in:  puking, sniffles and coughs] is how to boost one’s immune system. SHORT ANSWER: Unfortunately, oils don’t boost the immune system. LONG ANSWER: I hate to break it to you – from my highly qualified experience in domestic medicine {mom} and past in health education ~ not much does. Vitamins, herbs, kombucha, bone broth etc. do not actually “boost” the immune system. They can be used to address deficiencies but not hedge wellness bets.  It might be semantics or lack of adequate vocabulary to explain what goes on, but boosting is not it. My sources for this assertion come from sitting in too many doctor’s offices, knowing the immune system better than this history lover should and having a black-belt in cutting through the crap research.

Logic teachers every year give the example of Linus Pauling and Vitamin C as one of the greatest public logical fallacies of all time. The fallacy of the Appeal to Authority is when a person with a certain level of power, experience, or education is used as an authority in an area separate from their expertise or field. Linus Pauling PhD claimed that megadoses of Vitamin C prevented and cured various ailments from cancer to the common cold – a virus. To this day, there is no cure for a virus (think HIV/AIDS)– only behavioral changes that can prevent it or that can be used to create a body that that is ready (not boosted) to fight it.  Linus Pauling received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for identifying the double helix, DNA. Clearly he knew his science and the human body. He, however, was not a specialist on vitamins, disease, nor the healing arts. His vitamin c claims have been refuted over and over. Having said that, I confess that I have vitamin c lozenges for comfort of a tickly throat in my pantry.

The immune system is supposed to learn. Every time one has an illness, it should learn how to fight it better(unless you have an immunodeficiency, like me – I am IgG deficient). Vaccines are theoretically like Cliff Notes for the body they teach the body without reading the book. {I just made this analogy up – so just go with me on this one} Immunglobin blood tests are like transcripts, they tell what has been tested and what perhaps has been learned. IgA is where autoimmunity lies, IgG and IgM show active and previous fights and IgE allergies. Oils and supplements don’t teach the immune system – their marks are not in our immunoglobin.

The immune system is just that, a system. It is like a machine that needs to be well oiled to work well. It does not need super fuel to work well (did you see the recent consumer education reports on not using Super or Premium grade fuel in your car unless it says to do so – waste of money?), it needs to be maintained according to Manufacturer directions. If one is deficient in certain vitamins, supplementation can help. But you can’t fill a 14 gallon gas tank with 15 gallons of gas. It will leak over and cause environmental issues. {Just made this comparison up too – again roll with me}. Like oils and everything we take in, supplements are filtered through our organs – and too much in a body already replete with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals will burden the liver and kidneys and perhaps be a large investment flushed down the toilet (yellow pee – mea culpa).

I can tell you, you really don’t want a “Super” immune system, anyways. At a lecture by the top lupus researchers at the University of Washington, they described autoimmunity not as a weak immune system but a super one, out of control – like a super hero who doesn’t know how to control their powers yet (Pixar’s Mr. Incredible trying to fit in). Rather than boost the system, they need it tamed or suppressed. Most autoimmune disease focus on one system or organ, but lupus attacks them all. With that as a reference to boost the system might not even be the right way to proceed for fighting the ever-present germ and virus exchange.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-remedies. I am far from it – just trying to give language to their place in wellness. I make bone broth, use ferments, and I do take supplements for the areas where blood tests or analysis has said I need them. I am deficient in iron, D and B (often related to that crazy lupus I battle) and am on a gluten-free diet because I have celiac disease and it is the prescribed course of treatment.  When asked how to use these tools, I am trying to use my background in education to put together other’s knowledge and educate my consumer base asking this important question, trying to wrap their minds around how these fangled hyped up darlings of the health set work.

The state of the immune system determines what will happen when faced with an immunity situation – attack, illness, intrusion. Genes – I am not even going to try to talk about – are a central factor as to how one deals with issues. Additionally, the lessons learned will tell the body what to do when facing illness (immunoglobbin). The overall maintenance will also determine how it will run, in a competition. How does one maintain the body: proper hygiene, enough sleep, an appropriate diet for your specific body, stress mediation, and using it (exercise). This is how vitamins or oils are perceived to boost the system. They actually help with maintenance when needed. Certain oils can help with koobie control, sleep, easier digestion, handling stress (what to help and what not to do – like smoke or use crack cocaine), comfort ailments, and making exercise less painful. They are bio-individual – due to our immunity stories, genes, and current state – each oil as medicine needs to be tried to see if it works (why else to we have so many choices for painkillers to antidepressants).

So back to the original problem but rephrased? How can essential oils help the immune system? From my slightly educated perspective, they can help by making sure one is in a position to fight a problem and give comfort when attacked. So let’s get specific.

Hygiene: There are so many oils that are antimicrobial. I use them like Lysol and antibacterial soap and gel. Many of the koobies shared in my kids classrooms are airborne, then I will send these in the air too – I diffuse and we breathe it all in! I try to wipe surfaces where exchange might happen. Some oils to help with antimicrobial support: cinnamon, cassia, tea tree, lemon myrtle.

Sleep: I think 7 hours is what is now touted as the average need for adult sleep? 8 was at one point what we shot for. I needed 12 last night. We have those who can’t fall asleep or those who can’t stay asleep. So many oils to help: Vetiver, valerian, spikenard, lavender,  lemon, chamomile, cedarwood, bergamot.

Digestion: A pet peeve of mine is when reading an essential oil thread online where one asks about a complex health issue and is told that only a trained aromatherapist can help them but then the person goes on to suggest a diet to follow without deferring to a dietitian or nutrition nor relying on proper testing. There is no one size fits all diet for sure.Get tested! Refer to a dietitian or nutritionist! But there are some oils that help with different issues: Ginger, peppermint, fennel, dill, cardamom, cumin. (Think ginger ale, Gripe Water (made from dill) or chewing cardamom)

Comfort: Just depends on what is ailing you but for a cough or sore throat think of the synthetic smells of the remedies you might already use like Mentholatum or Vicks. The labs recreate the scents from the chemicals found in rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor.

Stress: Two sides to stress are often fight or flight. If you are fighting and needing to calm down: Chamomile, lavender, spikenard, cedarwood, If you are in flight and hiding and need help getting back up: Any citrus: bergamot lemon, orange, lime as well as rosemary. Sometimes to mitigate stress you just need to go to a happy place > a memory perhaps – if it smells good to you or has a good memory associated with the scent – use it.

Exercise: Injury think Ben Gay – birch, wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, marjoram, helichrysym, lemongrass. I think helichrysum is magical.

In my view, essential oils are notoriously poorly labeled. So to use any of these – get some solid directions like you would for anything you are using with your family. Who should or shouldn’t take it? How much? How often? What are the risks and interactions? {And please don’t drink the stuff!}.

To be transparent, I am not a scientist, dietitian nor medical professional. I did do one of my theses on health education (HIV/AIDS) and worked in the field of health education for years (autoimmunity, celiac disease, and the gluten-free diet). I have taken my exams and completed my case studies to the tune of about 300 hours and have finished my studies but not taken my tests nor done the work on about 600 more in aromatheapy.  It certainly has felt the more I learn the less I know. So as one who likes to educate – Do your homework. I think Facebook and Blogs are great for helping me formulate questions not for answering the, Look these things up on reputable sites > like Linus Pauling Logical Fallacy on Google, or Vitamin C or supplements and liver toxicity on PubMed, and Supplements on Consumer Reports. If you want more info on using oils appropriately talk to formally trained aromatherapist (Pick me, pick me! – Nancy@TheBardsApothecary.com).

http://www.consumerreports.org/conditions-treatments/best-ways-to-boost-your-immune-system/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

http://mostlyscience.com/2013/02/logical-fallacies-and-you-what-you-need-to-know-when-doing-your-own-research/

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/the-vitamin-myth-why-we-think-we-need-supplements/277947/