Adventures in Living a Natural Lifestyle

Sharing my adventures in living a more natural lifestyle, information about essential oils and natural home, health, and beauty recipes!


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Norwex & Young Living: a “Natural” Fit! (A Product Review)

Norwex

I finally did it, I jumped on the Norwex bandwagon.  I’ve known about Norwex for awhile, having first encountered their products at a local vendor expo that had a lot of chemical-free, natural living companies represented.  I was more than impressed but I honestly couldn’t justify the pricetag that came with their products.  I have been invited to several Norwex Facebook “parties” over the years and resisted for a long time because I used to be pretty anti-MLM.  But after joining Young Living and really jumping in headfirst into this crazy business I started to really reconsider my stance on MLM companies and began attending my friend’s various parties in order to help support their growing businesses.  It was only a matter of time before I finally attended a Norwex party.

In mid-January a friend invited me to attend her Norwex Facebook party and I figured I’d check it out.  I was impressed so I commented on a few of the posts and asked a few questions.  I was fortunate enough to be selected as a random winner for a free EnviroCloth.  This was fortuitous, because I still probably wouldn’t have spent the money on it myself.  So, early February rolls around and my new, free, baby pink (a color I never would’ve purchased myself) Envirocloth arrives in the mail.  I send my obligatory “Thank You” message to my friend who sent it to me and go on about my day.  The cloth probably sat on my dining room table untouched for several days before I finally admitted to myself that I should probably get some cleaning done and reached for it to try it out.  Y’all… Norwex is a GAME CHANGER!!!

Seriously, it was Facebook status worthy.  Here’s my post from February 7th, 2016:

“Okay y’all, as much as I’ve resisted I am officially on the Norwex bandwagon. I had attended a friend’s party a couple weeks ago and was lucky enough to win a free EnviroCloth. It arrived in the mail this past week and I had some cleaning to do today so thought “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot!” Let me just tell you, I cleaned my ENTIRE kitchen with this one cloth!

I have historically not enjoyed cleaning with microfiber because it leaves little balls of fluff everywhere and isn’t very absorbent (like the water just sort of sits on top of it you know?). Well, this Envirocloth is in a whole other league! It was absorbent enough to clean my kitchen counters, my glass stove top (and even got all the crusty bits off), and was still going so I actually cleaned the front of my oven/stove (I’m embarrassed to say when the last time it was cleaned was).

So yeah, Norwex’s Envirocloth and Young Living’s Thieves Household Cleaner will never not be a part of my cleaning routine!!! (There will be a very positive product review on my blog in the near future) Now to invest in the travel size envirocloths, the dusting mitt, and that kitchen scrubby cloth thing! Maybe I’ll find some extra cash lying around when I clean the sofa cushions….”

The very next week, another friend decided to host a Norwex Facebook party.  I was so impressed with how my new EnviroCloth had tackled my kitchen cleaning that jumped on her party and shared the testimonial that I had posted to my own timeline.  I decided to stick around and learned even more about Norwex’s products.

So, what makes Norwex microfiber so special, you ask? Really it seems to come down to quality.  I’ve used lots of microfiber cloths and I have to admit, I’m not a fan.  They just don’t seem to really absorb anything and I wind up with all kinds of fluffy balled up bits that come off them in the wash.  Honestly, paper towels just seemed to work better for cleaning my counters and dusting.  But my inner hippy dies a little every time I use a dozen (or two) paper towels when I get around the cleaning.  But Norwex Microfiber is made up of teeny tiny (1/200th the size of a human hair is what they say) polyester and polyamide fibers which are tightly woven together to create a really strong piece of fabric.  You can literally feel the difference when you pick up an EnviroCloth. The microfiber helps create an electrostatic charge which picks up dirt and debris rather than just moving it around.  In addition, many of their products, including the ever popular EnviroCloth, contain what they call BacLock which is a natural antibacterial silver-based agent that is activated when wet and helps prevent bacterial odor, mold or mildew growth within the cloth itself.  So you can toss that old sponge you keep microwaving… blech!

I can’t do justice to their products like their sales reps can when it comes to explaining all the amazing products that Norwex has to offer so you should totally attend a party (local or online) if you get a chance.  But in the meantime, it was this video that really impressed me:

x

 

So I was pretty much sold and created a wish list of products I was really interested in trying.  I loved my EnviroCloth and was using it to dust in addition to cleaning my kitchen counters so I knew I wanted to try Norwex’s Dusting Mitt!  Plus, I’ve got 5 dogs and a tiny human that love to put finger prints on my French doors and figured the Window Cloth would get some use.  Plus there were some other products I was interested in like their Makeup Removal Cloths, Baby Body Cloths, the All Purpose Kitchen Cloth, and maybe even one day their famous Mop System.  So my wish list quickly became bigger than my pocket book would allow.

Turns out, Norwex does these incentives to encourage people to join their sales team where you can get a sampling of their products (or even a whole starter kit some months) for FREE (just pay s&h).  My friend who hosted the party had jumped on board and decided to be a Norwex consultant already. The February 2016 Jump On Starter Kit consisted of an EnviroCloth, a Window Cloth, a Dusting Mitt, and a 2-pack of SpiriSponges.  While technically this is to encourage people to join their team, there is no sales requirement but you do have an opportunity to work the business and earn more free product if you choose.  I know I don’t have time to dedicate to learning a new business with my Young Living commitment but I couldn’t pass up a good bargain.  So I “jumped on” and paid my $9.99 s&h to get my free stuff ($42 worth of products)!  (You can get this deal too if you order before March 16, 2016 by following this link: http://www.norwex.biz/pws/idakostur/tabs/join-us-jump-on.aspx)

I’ve honestly never been as excited to clean as I was when my package arrived (which was surprisingly fast, so kudos to the packaging and shipping department at Norwex)!  Now, they recommend using just water with their microfiber products but y’all know I’m super in love my with Thieves Household Cleaner  and my DIY cleaning products (like my Natural Dust Repellent) so I opted to use both.  While it may not be necessary with the BacLock antibacterial silver I feel extra confident when I combine that with the cleaning power of Thieves and Lemon essential oils!  As before, my new EnviroCloth (that thankfully isn’t pink) didn’t let me down.  I was not only able to clean my entire countertop, my glass top coffee table (which I finished off with the Window Cloth and I honestly don’t think it’s ever been so clean) and my glass stove top but I also decided to clean the inside and outside of my microwave! I did use my natural microwave cleaning method for the inside but it was even easier to clean out with the EnviroCloth than a sponge like I have used in the past.  Plus, no nasty sponge germs! Winning!  And the outside of my microwave, which is the only stainless steel appliance in my kitchen so far, sparkles without having to use my stainless cleaning trick!

The Dusting Mitt also surpassed my expectations.  Norwex says you can use the Dusting Mitt dry or wet.  So I started with it dry and cleaned my television screen and the other electronic gadgets like the modem, router, and PlayStation 4. The amount of dust that my house produces is a little bit insane so by the time I had tackled these things my dusting Mitt was getting a bit dusty.  But I was able to shake most of it off in the trashcan and then used my DIY Natural Dust Repellent with it to help provide a protective coating on my wooden entertainment center, end tables, and the bottom of my coffee table.  Well, by then the Dusting Mitt was completely covered in dust.  I was really impressed with how well it picked up the big chunks on the bottom of my coffee table instead of just spreading them onto the freshly vacuumed floor (because I never have the sense to dust first and vacuum second…).  But I was curious how much further I could take this thing.  So I shook off the big chunks and rinsed the Dusting Mitt in my sink and set to taking on my bookcases.  Seriously, this thing just kept on picking up dirt and dust! I probably could’ve dusted my whole house, but I was way too lazy to give that a try last weekend!  That’s a challenge for another day.

And last but not least is the SpiriSponge. I honestly didn’t really care if I got this or not but it came with the Jump On special and was fortuitously timed.  My husband, who is an amazing cook, had just roasted a turkey in the oven the night before and the roasting pan still had some stuck on grime.  I had been scrubbing with our Ocello dish wand before I remembered about the SpiriSponge and thought I’d give it a try on the second half of the roasting pan.  Let me tell you, this was SO much easier.  Still required a bit of elbow grease but nothing like I was having to scrub with my dish wand.  Now I’m really intrigued by Norwex’s Spirinett and Pot Scrubbers! I may just get one to see if they help the hubby clean the cast iron (because I refuse to learn how to do it the right way so it’s the one cleaning job that remains his and his alone).

I haven’t had a chance to really use the Window Cloth a lot, besides on my glass top coffee table and my microwave and oven doors.  It did an exceptional job but the real challenge will be my front storm door and French Doors leading to the back porch.  Lots of puppy noses and tiny human hand prints to clean.  But that’s on the agenda for this coming weekend and I couldn’t wait that long to share my excitement about these amazing products with you.

In summary, the Pros and Cons of these Norwex products are:

Pros:

  • Safe for your whole family – No toxic cleaning chemicals necessary!
  • Prevents the spread of germs – Antibacterial silver agent prevents odor, mold, and mildew
  • Environmentally friendly – No paper towels mean you save a small forest over time!
  • Gets the job done and keeps on cleaning – You can use one EnviroCloth or Dusting Mitt to clean many things

Cons:

  • Cost – but if you factor in the fact that you’ll save a ton of money on paper towels when you use Norwex microfiber instead, then you come out ahead

So there you have it.  My wish list keeps on growing and I hope to be able to share reviews of more amazing Norwex product with you in the future.  I’m super excited to be planning a non-toxic home class with my friend and Norwex rep, Jane Kostur, in the next couple months where we will spotlight both Norwex and Young Living products that can help you rid your home of toxic chemicals and learn how to keep your home clean naturally.  I’ll share the dates of that class in the Events section of my website if you’re interested in attending.  Don’t want to wait that long? Contact Jane Kostur to learn how you can host a Norwex party or to find out when her next party is being held!  Many of the parties these days are online so you don’t have to be local or take too much time out of your busy schedule! Just hop on the Facebook event page and read at your leisure!

Note: I have not been compensated, either monetarily or with free product, for this review by Norwex or any independent sales consultant.  I merely like to share my love of natural products with my readers and when I can help our a friend in the process I love to pay it forward! 

 

Norwex & Young Living: a “Natural” Fit! (A Product Review) was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

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French Aromatherapy: The Ternary Concept

THE TERNARY CONCEPT

The Ternary Concept

When you start to dive into the world of Aromatherapy it is very likely that you will often see the same reference books recommended time and time again by aromatherapists.  One of these books, often cited by French and English aromatherapists alike, is L’aromatherapie exactement by Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël.  Oddly enough, this book has never been translated to English so if you’re lucky enough to read French you can reference this book yourself.  I, however, can barely speak American bastardized English, let alone read French or any other language.  I am lucky enough though to be taking a French Aromatherapy certification course at East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies taught by Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes who have shared with their students some of what this book has to offer.

One of the teachings of Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël that Cathy Skipper often references is “The Ternary Concept.”  Ternary basically just means divided into three parts.  Thus, the Ternary Concept divides essential oils into three aspects: Energetic, Molecular, and Electrical.

Energetic Aspect

The Energetic, or Informational, Aspect of the Ternary Concept pertains to the information about an essential oil that we can perceive through our five senses, with a particular emphasis on our sense of smell. For example, when you open up a bottle of Lavender essential oil and inhale it’s aroma, what do you sense? Most people experience a sense of calm, or peaceful relaxation. This would be an example of the energetic aspect of Lavender.  But the other senses are also important.  What you taste when you eat the plant or ingest its essential oil and the visual characteristics or structure of the plant also gives us information about the possible application and its therapeutic uses.  Cathy Skipper emphasizes the energetic over the informational aspect because essential oils are so powerful that just a sniff can activate our senses, influence our psycho-emotional state and/or spiritual states, even align our chakras all while still having a profound impact on our overall health and well being.

Molecular Aspect

The Molecular, or Substance Aspect refers to the chemical constituents that make up an essential oil.  Remember from my Chemistry post where we discussed hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds?  Every batch of essential oils will vary slightly but the overall molecular makeup of the oil should be similar from batch to batch.  You can find out the exact molecular makeup of your batch by reviewing the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) report.  Many essential oil suppliers offer this information on their webpage.  Others, like Young Living, view this information as proprietary.  However, if you are fortunate enough to visit one of Young Living’s farms you can view their GC/MS reports in person.  But reading and interpreting a GC/MS report is actually a pretty specialized skill, one which I don’t have.  If you’re like me and it just gets overwhelming looking at all those chemical constituents and teeny tiny percentages you are in luck, because most essential oil reference books (like the Essential Oils Desk and Pocket References by Life Science Publishing and Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy by Dr. Scott Johnson) provide you with a handy breakdown of the most common compounds found in each of the single essential oils with a range of acceptable percentages.  It is these chemical constituents that give the essential oil its therapeutic properties (e.g., sesquiterpenes tend to have anti-inflammatory and sedative qualities).   By studying the therapeutic properties of each of the constituents commonly found in essential oils and examining the chemical makeup of specific oils, we can then make educated assumptions about the ways in which each oil can help support the different body’s systems and our overall health and well being.

Electrical Aspect

The third aspect of Franchomme and Pénoël’s Ternary Concept is the Electrical Aspect.  The Electrical Aspect of an essential oil is determined by taking the oil and placing it in a refined aerosol generator. During this process, the essential oil’s components are broken down into very fine particles that tend to have either a positive or negative charge.  What they found is that the chemical compounds that have a positive charge tend to be warming, stimulating, and more humid than drying.  They tend to be good general tonics (providing a feeling of vigor or well being) and help provide overall support to the immune system. In contrast, negatively charged compounds tend to be more cooling, calming or sedative, and more dry than humid.  They tend to be good for “conditions of excess” (e.g., excess heat in the body) and help calm the nervous system.

 

My Interpretation of the Referential Chart

The Referential Chart

The Referential Chart is Franchomme and Pénoël’s graphical representation of The Ternary Concept and helps merge each of the three aspects addressed above into an easily understandable picture.  The chart can be divided several ways:

Top & Bottom: Those molecules that fall above the middle line in the top half of the graph are more negatively charged and tend to be calming to the body’s systems, somewhat sedative in nature, and grounding or relaxing.  Those molecules that fall below the middle line are more positively charged and tend to be stimulating to the body’s systems and good general tonics.

Left & Right: Those molecules that fall on the left half of the graph are more polar and tend to be humidifying and more soluble in water those on the right.  Those molecules that fall on the right half of the graph are nonpolar, tend to be more drying and are not as water-soluble, preferring instead to be drawn to the body’s lipids or fats.

Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes added Hippocrates Four Temperaments and Yin & Yang of traditional Chinese Medicine to the graph (I overlaid the Yin & Yang for an easier visual representation of where the molecules would fall with regards to Yin and Yang energy).  So if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a crash course in what those mean:

Hippocrates Four Temperaments:

The Greek physician Hippocrates postulated that there were four main temperaments based on the medical model of humorism (that the four main bodily fluids – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – impact personality and behaviors).  He thought that certain emotions or moods were based on an excess, or lack of, bodily fluids and believed that there was a physiological basis for certain human behaviors.  Hippocrates classified these as either hot/cold or wet/dry based on the four elements. Ideally, there is a state of balance between each of these four temperaments.

Sanguine – Sanguine temperaments are associated with the element of Air and tend to be more social, lively, talkative, carefree, etc.  They tend to be imaginative, artistic and creative, make friends easily, and have lots of ideas.  Usually they tend to be somewhat flighty and may struggle with task completion and tend to run late or be forgetful.

Choleric – Choleric temperaments are associated with the element of Fire and tend to be extroverted and egocentric.  They may be impulsive, easily excitable, restless and energetic, passionate or even somewhat aggressive.  Usually they tend to be very task-oriented, like to plan, tend to be solution focused, and often take on leadership roles in order to get the job done.

Melancholic – Melancholic temperaments are associated with the element of Earth and tend to be more introverted, serious, cautious or even suspicious at times. They may be filled with angst and tend to dwell on tragedy and cruelty in the world.  These individuals are often moody and may be prone to depressive and anxious tendencies.  Usually they are more solitary and prefer to keep to themselves.

Phlegmatic – Phlegmatic temperaments are associated with the element of Water and tend to be calm, thoughtful, and caring in nature.  They often seek peace and contentment within themselves and tend to be reliable and consistent in their routine.

What to know what your temperament is? Check out this Personality Quiz to find out!

Yin & Yang in Chinese Medicine:

Yin – Yin is associated with female energy, is more passive, and a negative principle in nature.  It is affiliated with the moon, the direction North, and is the shaded portion of the Yin & Yang symbol.

Yang – Yang is associated with male energy, is more active, and a positive principle in nature.  It is affiliated with the sun, the direction South, and is the white portion of the Yin & Yang symbol

Four Aspects of the Yin and Yang Relationship:

1.  Yin & Yang are opposites but neither is fully positive or negative.  Their relationship is relative and must be understood on a continuum of energy.  So, for example, “water is Yin relative to steam but Yang relative to ice” and like water this state is fluid and an ever changing balance.

2. Yin & Yang are dependent upon one another and neither can exist without the other.  Nothing is totally Yin or totally Yang.  Just as there is no night without day.

3. Yin & Yang are in a constant state of flux, seeking balance.  When Yin and Yang are out of balance they affect one another.

4. Yin & Yang can change into the other but only when the time is right.  Just as spring can only come when winter is finished.

So, taking all this into account, the Referential Graph can also be viewed in terms of its quadrants:

Upper Right Quadrant: Molecules in this quadrant tend to be associated with the Melancholic temperament.  This quadrant represents the Earth element.  Earth is grounding, relaxing and calming.  Esters dominate the upper right quadrant and as such tend to be calming to the nervous system.  This quadrant is represented by the Fall/Autumn season and tends to be mostly Yin in energy.

Lower Right Quadrant: Molecules in the lower right quadrant tend to be associated with the Choleric temperament. This quadrant represents the element of Fire and is molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a dry, fiery heat.  Monoterpenes dominate the lower right quadrant which tend to be heating and stimulating.  This quadrant is represented by the Summer season and tends to be more Yang in energy.

Lower Left Quadrant: Molecules in the lower left quadrant tend to be associated with the Sanguine temperament.  This quadrant represents the element of Air and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a more explosive heat, fire fueled by air.   Monoterpenols dominate this quadrant but share it with phenylpropanoids and phenols, all of which tend to be stimulating to the immune system.  This quadrant is represented by the Spring season and tends to be mostly Yang in energy.

Upper Left Quadrant: Molecules in the upper left quadrant tend to be associated with the Phlegmatic temperament.  This quadrant represents the element of Water and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by humidity or dampness.  Aldehydes and ketones share this quadrant and tend to be mucolytic, influencing and promoting movement within the body’s mucous.  This quadrant is represented by the season of Winter and tends to be more Yin than Yang.

The lines represent balance between the quadrants and molecules that fall along the lines tend to be balancing, harmonizing compounds.  For example, sesquiterpenes are dry and lipophilic molecules but can either be cooling and/or heating, stimulating and/or relaxing and as much Yin as Yang in energy. Sesquiterpenols and sesquiterpene lactones have similar properties but are more hydrophilic and water soluble than sesquiterpenes. In contrast, Oxides are balanced between wet and dry but tend to be more warming and stimulating.

Ultimately you want to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance, more of a neutral energy than either hot/cold or wet/dry.  Both Yin and Yang.  The Referential Chart is used to help determine what molecules would help bring balance to an individual when choosing essential oil remedies in French aromatic medicine. For example, if a person tended to be very hot, or dry, one might incorporate an oil(s) rich in aldehydes and/or ketones into the mixture to help bring a humid, cooling quality to the remedy.  I tend to be more of a Sanguine personality and equally balanced in Choleric and Phlegmatic characteristics so oils rich in Esters and Sesquiterpenes and/or those that are more cooling, relaxing/grounding, or dry would tend to be more balancing for my personality or temperament.   I find this interesting because I’ve always been drawn to the Earth element and oils rich in esters (like Black Spruce, Frankincense, Lavender, and Neroli) and sesquiterpenes (like Cedar, Myrrh, and Patchouli) have always really resonated with me.  In contrast, someone who tended to be more lymphatic, maybe pale or even clammy would fall within the upper left quadrant.  These individuals would tend to have slower constitutions and would be balanced by oils rich in monoterpenes, or those with a drier, warming effect.

Cathy Skipper points out that the Referential Chart is really just a basic outline and one that is flexible and can easily be looked at from different perspectives to help formulate essential oil remedies.  I’ve really enjoyed taking the time to really sit with this chart but have really only started to grasp these concepts.  I’m hoping that as I move forward with the different essential oils in the class I’ll gain a better understanding of how I can use this chart in my own practice.  So hopefully this helps you better understand what to do with all the information from my last post on essential oil chemistry and how it all relates to picking the best essential oils to help support your specific areas of need.  As I move forward with sharing profiles of the essential oils I’ll be studying I’ll relate these oils to the referential graph so you can see how they all start to fit in.

So, where does your temperament fall in the graph?  Which oils tend to resonate with you? Are they the ones that the graph suggests would be balancing for your temperament?  I’d love to hear how it relates to you!

 

Sources:

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: The Ternary Concept was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures


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French Aromatherapy: Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major)

 

Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major)

I am by no means a Chemistry major.  Chemical formulas and math make my head spin but as I’ve found myself falling more and more in love with the amazing benefits of essential oils I’ve started to wonder how, and why, a few tiny little drops can have such a profound impact on one’s health and well being.  If you’ve paid any attention when ordering your essential oils you’ve probably noticed a couple things: 1) they all have funny Latin names that you can barely pronounce (if they don’t you need to seriously reconsider your supplier) and 2) the descriptions of the oils often reference “constituents” or “compounds” like d-limonene, α-pinene, methol, camphor, etc.  But what does all this actually mean?

What’s in a name?

Can you guess what essential oil Lavandula angustifolia is? If you guessed Lavender, you’re correct! A reputable essential oil company will always list the Latin, or botanical, name of their essential oil because using common names can result in much confusion.  Do you know how many varieties there are of Lavender? There are at least 5 different kinds of Lavender that are common to find in essential oils: Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), Lavandula officianalis (French Lavender), Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender), Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender), Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin, a hybrid of Lavender and Spike Lavender).  And while they all sound the same they each have unique chemical makeups and are valuable for different therapeutic properties.  For example, you may have heard that Lavender essential oil is good to use to help soothe burns and promote healing.  And you’d be correct… if you used 100% pure Lavandula angustifolia.  However, pure essential oils take time and cost money to steam distill and many unscrupulous essential oil companies will use a hybrid called Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) which is a much cheaper alternative.  But Lavandin has a different chemical makeup than English Lavender and while beneficial for many things, like respiratory support and muscle aches and pains, Lavandin is not as good for your skin and due to different properties (a high camphor content) can actually make some burns worse.

If its been awhile since you’ve taken biology, then all these big long names probably read like Greek (well, Latin actually).  So here’s a breakdown of what these names actually mean:

The Latin binomial (e.g., Lavandula angustifolia) distinguishes a plant from all other plants by listing the genus and species.  The genus (e.g., Lavandula) refers to a group of plants that are all similar in botanical structure.  That’s why all five of the Lavender varieties listed above have the same first name.  The Genus is always italicized and capitalized. The species name (e.g., angustifolia) identifies the exact plant within the genus.  This distinguishes this plant from others based on the specific characteristics of the plant, which may include the leaf or flower structure, reproduction, or other identifiable characteristics.  Species names are always italicized and in lower case.

Some plants are actually hybrids, or cultivars.  Hybrids are plants that have been cross fertilized between two different varieties within a species (e.g., Lavandula x intermedia) whereas cultivars are plants that have been cultivated to have certain desirable characteristics, such as appearance, aroma, or even taste.  Both hybrids and cultivars are designated by the use of a multiplication sign (x) in the Latin name.

And to take this one step further, some plants actually produce different chemotypes.  A chemotype occurs when a specific genus and species of plant produces a chemical in a higher concentration than usual.  This may occur due to changes in geographical location, altitude, weather, pests, plant competition, or other environmental interactions.  A chemotype is not a different genus or species but rather an anomaly in the chemical composition of the plant.

The two most common chemotypes in essential oils are Rosemarinus offficinalis (Rosemary) and Thymus vulgaris (Thyme).  A chemotype is identified by the letters ct. Let’s discuss Rosemary in more detail to help you better understand.  Rosemary has three main chemotypes: camphor, cineole, and verbenone.  Rosemarinus officinalis ct camphor is higher in ketones and helps support the circulatory system and may aid in relief from muscle aches and pains, making it an ideal addition to massage oils and blends.  Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole is higher in oxides and helps support the respiratory system by breaking up mucous and helping to minimize swelling in the lungs and nasal passages.   Whereas Rosemarinus officinalis ct verbenone is high in both ketones and monoterpenes which helps support cell regeneration.  It is less stimulating that the other two varieties making it the best choice for skin and hair benefits.

However, not all essential oils have different chemotypes and not all chemotypes are always available from your essential oil supplier. Unfortunately Young Living does not list chemotypes on their oils.  Some chemotypes are well known, like Rosemary, which is  Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole, which is identified in the Essential Oils Pocket Reference (EOPR) guide published by Life Science Publishing (authored by Young Living’s founder Gary Young).  Others, like Thyme, are not identified.  When I reached out to Young Living to inquire about this it was explained to me that the Seed to Seal guarantee ensures the ideal growing conditions to produce the desired characteristics in the plants which the oils are distilled from.  However, the EOPR identifies the variety of Thyme used to distill Young Living’s Thyme essential oil as “Red Thyme.” Thus, the chemotype of Young Living’s Thyme is actually Thymus vulgaris ct thymol.  So with a little legwork, the chemotypes can still be identified.  I do wish, for the sake of aromatherapy students and those essential oil enthusiasts who are especially interested, that Young Living would consider including this information on their labels however.

Chemical Constituents

So, how do essential oils actually work?  To fully understand where they get their therapeutic and healing properties from you must first have a basic understanding of the underlying chemistry of essential oils.

100% pure essential oils are volatile compounds that are derived through either distillation or cold-pressed expression from plant material.  In this case, volatile means that the chemical compounds will evaporate quickly when exposed to air.  Some unscrupulous companies will use high heat and/or add chemical solvents to speed up this process and thus increase their profit margin which can impact the quantity, and quality, of the therapeutic constituents that come through the distillation or expression process.  That is why it is so important that you choose an essential oil company you can trust!

During the distillation process steam, or water, rises up through the plant material which breaks it down into its chemical constituents.  These volatile compounds rise upwards, as a vapor, through the distillation machine into a condenser which then cools the compounds back into a liquid form.  Here, the essential oils separate from the water and can be collected from the surface of the liquid mixture. During expression, the plant material is pressed between two plates and the juices and compounds are collected with a sponge or other device that is then used to separate the essential oils from the water. Expression, or cold-pressing, is used almost exclusively for citrus oils, but some carrier oils (like olive or coconut oil) are also collected via cold-pressing or expression.

So, what exactly are these volatile compounds in essential oils made of?

In general, the key components of pure essential oils can be broken down into 2 categories of volatile constituents: hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. Hydrocarbons are simply organic compounds made entirely of hydrogen and carbon.  These hydrocarbons are made up almost exclusively of terpenes: monoterpenes, sequiterpenes, and diterpenes.  Oxygenated compounds, also called terpenoids, occur when oxygen molecules are added to these hydrocarbon units.  The oxygenated compounds found in essential oils are usually alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins.  I will discuss each of these in more detail below.

Disclaimer:

Before we begin discussing each of these compounds you must first understand that I will be discussing the benefits of these compounds at the cellular level that have been taught to me during my aromatherapy certification classes.  I will also be listing examples of essential oils that are rich in these compounds.  I am NOT implying that the essential oils listed will have the therapeutic uses of the compounds listed, I am merely giving examples.  At a later date I will be discussing many of the essential oils I’m learning about during my aromatherapy certification in their own profile blog posts where we will discuss their uses and how they can support various bodily systems and promote general health and wellness. 

Terpenes/Hydrocarbons

Terpenes are hydrocarbon molecules found in plants that play a role in protecting the plant from pests, pathogens, and competing plants.  There are over 40,000 known terpene compounds.  Terpenes are classified according to the number of isoprene units that their molecules contain.  An isoprene unit is merely a grouping of 5 carbon atoms.  Monoterpenes contain two isoprene units, sequiterpenes contain three isoprene units, and diterpenes contain four isoprene units.

Monoterpenes – “The Mamas”

Monoterpenes are the most abundant of the volatile compounds and are found in nearly all essential oils.   A friend and fellow aromatherapy student, Rosy Crescitelli, calls monoterpenes “the Mamas” because they tend to coordinate, organize, and unify the bodily systems.   Monoterpenes are highly volatile compounds, meaning they evaporate quickly and their aromas are considered “top notes” because they are the first to hit your nose when you smell a plant or essential oil.  Monoterpenes tend to be warming but not “hot,” stimulating but not overwhelming, and general tonics.  At the cellular level, monoterpenes can be antimicrobial (destroys or resists pathogens), antioxidants (help prevent cell damage from free radicals), analgesics (help relieves or reduce pain), expectorants (aids in the removal of phlegm), decongestants (reduces or relieves nasal congestion), dermal/skin penetration enhancers (getting in deep for sore muscles, tendons and ligaments) and are energizing/uplifting.  Monoterpenes help inhibit the accumulation of toxins, especially in the liver and kidneys. Overall, they help provide support to the lymphatic and respiratory systems.  Monoterpenes can have a drying or dehydrating effect on the skin and mucous membranes.

Monoterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.”  Examples of common monoterpenes found in essential oils include: d-limonene, mycrene, α-pinene, β-pinene, delta-3-carene, α-terpinene, etc.

Essential oils rich in monoterpenes include: citrus oils, conifers (e.g., black spruce, cedar, cypress, pine, etc.), angelica, black pepper, elemi, fennel, frankincense, juniper berry, myrtle, nutmeg, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, and valerian.

Safety concerns: α-pinene, β-pinene, and delta-3-carene may cause upper respiratory irritation.  Essential oils containing these constituents in high concentrations should only be used with caution with individuals who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions with airway resistance.  In addition, monoterpenes in general can be dehydrating to the skin.  It is recommended to avoid use on the face and heavily dilute when using monoterpene rich essential oils in any skincare products.

Sesquiterpenes – “The Grandparents”

Sesquiterpenes are heavier, thicker, and less volatile than monoterpenes and tend to appear towards the end of the distillation process.  Sesquiterpenes commonly occur in roots, resins, and woods and are more aromatic than monoterpenes. They are nicknamed “the Grandparents” because they tend to be wise, responsible chaperones that see a job through to the end.  Sesquiterpenes tend to be more balanced than monoterpenes and can be warming and/or cooling and stimulating and/or relaxing.  At the cellular level, sesquiterpenes can be anti-allergenic (reduces the symptoms of an allergy), anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation), antiseptic (destroys or prevents the growth of microbes), analgesic, and sedative in nature.  In general, sesquiterpenes stimulate the immune system, support the venous and lymphatic systems, lowers blood pressure, and may stimulate the liver and the pancreas.  They also are commonly referred to as amplifiers, magnifiers, or enhancers because they increase the half-life (how long the therapeutic properties of the essential oil affects the body) of other essential oils.

Like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.”  Examples of common sesquiterpenes found in essential oils include: chamazulene, bisabolene, guaiazulene, α-caryophyllene, β-caryophyllene, etc.

Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenes include: black pepper, cedar, German chamomile, clary sage, clove, copaiba, ginger, helichrysum, myrrh, spikenard, patchouli, and vetiver.

Safety concerns: Sesquiterpenes tend to be very gentle with no known safety concerns or contraindications.

Diterpenes – “The Few”

Diterpenes are much thicker and heavier than monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes making it more difficult for them to make it through the distillation process, thus they have earned the nickname “the Few.”  Because of their molecular weight they tend to have similar properties to sesquiterpines.  They are also considered expectorants and laxatives with some anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.  In general diterpenes help support the endocrine system (e.g., hormonal, thyroid, and adrenal support) as well as the liver and kidneys.

Diterpenes also tend to have names that end in “-ene.” Examples are α-camphorene, hishorene and cembrene.

There are only six essential oils in which diterpenes can be found. They are: clary sage (7%), white camphor (1-2%), pine, cistus, jasmine, and cypress (all <1%).

Terpenoids/Oxygenated Compounds – “The Stars”

As mentioned above, terpenoids are oxygenated compounds that occur when oxygen molecules combine with hydrocarbons or terpenes.  Terpenoids that occur in essential oils can be classified as alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins.  They are considered “the Stars” because they give the oil it’s characteristics and personality.

Alcohols

Alcohols in essential oils are  compounds that contain a hydroxyl (-OH) attached to one of the terpene groups (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, or diterpenes).  Considered to be the most therapeutically beneficial compounds in essential oils.  Alcohol rich essential oils are generally considered to be nontoxic, safe for use with children and the elderly, and often used in skin care products.

Alcohols tend to have names that end in “-ol.”

Monoterpene Alcohols/Monoterpenols – tend to be warming, stimulating, and general tonics.  Monoterpenols are considered to be sedatives, calming to the nervous system, and support the immune system.  At the cellular level monoterpenols can be antifungal, antiviral, and anti-bacterial in nature.  They tend to bring balance and serenity to the individual, reduce stress, and help strengthen the individual’s terrain, making them good for longer treatments and chronic illnesses.

Examples of monoterpenols found in essential oils include: borneol, lavandulol, nerol, citronellol, linalol, terpinen-4-ol, geraniol, menthol, α-terpineol, etc.

Essential oils rich in monoterpenols include: bergamot, basil, citronella, clary sage, coriander, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, peppermint, petitgrain, rose, tea tree, thyme, and ylang ylang.

Safety concerns: Menthol rich essential oils (like Peppermint) should not be used internally or on or near the face of infants or small children as it can cause respiratory distress.  In addition, individuals with gastroesophageal reflux or hiatal hernias should be cautioned when using menthol rich essential oils internally as they may decrease esophageal sphincter pressure.  Sensitive individuals may experience heartburn when taking peppermint internally.

Sesquiterpene Alcohols/Sesquiterpenols – tend to be slightly warming, calming yet stimulating, and promote balance.  At the cellular level sesquiterpenols can be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal.  In addition, they tend to have an estrogenic quality and can act as hormone system regulators as well as provide support for the respiratory, circulatory, and lymphatic systems.

Examples of sesquiterpenols found in essential oils include: α-bisabolol, daucol, α-santalol, β-santalol, carotol, farnesol, cedrol, patchoulol, zingiberol, etc.

Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenols include: carrot seed, cedar, clary sage, German chamomile, patchouli, sandalwood, and valerian.

Diterpene Alcohols/Diterpenols – rarely come through the distillation process.  They have a similar structure to human steroid hormones and tend to have a balancing, harmonizing effect on the endocrine system. The most common diterpenol is sclareol found in clary sage.   At the cellular level, sclareol can be anti-inflammatory and has shown some possibility at being anticarcinogenic in nature (may inhibit the development of cancer).

Esters

Esters are the product of chemical reactions between organic acids and alcohols.  Esters are characterized by intensely fruity aromas and are widely used by the perfume industry to create soft, floral fragrances.  They tend to be cooling and relaxing to the nervous system.  Esters regulate, balance and harmonize the individual organism.  At the cellular level, esters are great antispasmodics (relieves smooth/skeletal muscle spasms) and can also be anti-inflammatory, calming, analgesic, anxiolytic (relieves anxiety), and can help regulate cardiac rhythm and can have a hypotensive action (lowers blood pressure). Esters have been found to be helpful in treating depression, anxiety and can help dissolve fears when applied to the solar plexus.

Esters tend to have names that end in “-ate” or “-ester.”  Examples are methyl salicylate, bornyl acetate, geranyl acetate, linalyl acetate, isobutyl angelate, methyl benzoate, lavandulyl acetate, eugenyl acetate, etc.

Essential oils rich in esters include: bergamot, black spruce, Roman chamomile, cardamom, clary sage, coriander, frankincense, laurel, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, valerian, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.

Safety concerns: Methyl salicylate is an aspirin-like compound found in high concentrations in wintergreen essential oil.  Upon ingestion, methyl salicylate converts to salicylic acid. In small doses, salicylic acid is analgesic, fever reducing, and anti-inflammatory however used over time and in high concentrations can cause poisoning.   One tsp (which is the equivalent of drinking a 5 ml bottle) of wintergreen essential oil is approximately 7000 mg of salicylate or the equivalent of 21.7 adult aspirin. Ingestion of as little as 4 ml in a child can be fatal (this is why Young Living has childproof caps on Wintergreen and PanAway essential oils).  Because of its liquid, concentrated form and lipid soluability, methyl salicylate poses the threat of severe, rapid-onset salicylate poisoning and internal usage should be avoided.  Individuals taking blood thinners (e.g., warfarin) or salicylate-based medication should avoid using essential oils containing high concentrations of methyl salicylate.

Aldehydes

Aldehydes are closely related to ketones but differ slightly in their chemical structure.  Aldehydes have very powerful aromas, usually slightly fruity, and are widely used in the perfume industry (usually to create synthetic fragrances). Both aldehydes and ketones are used in industrial production as food, fragrance, medical, and agricultural chemicals.  They are perhaps most well known in the food industry to create artificial and/or natural additives to food (e.g., vanillin from vanilla).  Aldehydes tend to be cooling, calming and relaxing to the nervous system, have a sedative effect and can be helpful in reducing temperature.  At the cellular level, aldehydes can be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic when diffused into the air, antifungal, and antiviral.  Aldehydes are known to help support the lymphatic and nervous systems.  They can help calm fears and relieve emotional distress by activating the solar plexus. They are also known aphrodisiacs and may help with sleep related issues.

Aldehydes tend to have names that end in “-al.”  Examples are citronellal, citral, geranial, neral, etc.

Essential oils rich in aldehydes include: cassia, cinnamon bark, citronella, eucalyptus radiata, geranium, ginger, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, melissa, orange and verbena.

Safety notes: Aldehydes oxidize easily and when combined with oxygen can form acids called carboxylic acids which are known skin irritants and sensitizers.   Many aldehydes can be skin and mucous membrane irritants and should be diluted for topical use or as airborne antiseptics.

Ketones

Ketones are similar to aldehydes in structure but less reactive and not prone to oxidation.  Ketones tend to be cooling, relaxing to the nervous system and are have powerful wound healing properties.  At the cellular level, ketones can be mucolytic (dissolves or breaks down mucous), lipolytic (breaks down fat), antiviral (especially on herpes and neurotropic viruses), and antiparasitic.  In general, ketones can help modulate the immune system in small doses.

Ketones tend to have names that end in “-one,” except for camphor.  Examples are camphor, cryptone, methone, thujone, verbenone, etc.

Essential oils rich in ketones include: dill, fennel, hyssop, peppermint, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme.

Safety notes: Essential oils with high concentrations of camphor should be avoided with infants and small children.  Some ketones may be neurotoxic at high enough doses.  Essential oils with ketone toxicity that present safety concerns are rue, mugwort, wormwood, thuja, pennyroyal, and sage (which should never be ingested).  All of these oils are contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Young Living does not carry any of these oils, except sage.

 Phenols – “The Teenagers”

Phenols, like alcohols, have a hydroxyl (-OH) component.  Unlike alcohols it is attached to the carbon molecule of a benzene, or aromatic, ring.  Phenols are really strong constituents and can stimulate both the nervous and immune system.  In French aromatherapy, these compounds are understood to help support healthy intestinal flora.  However, they’ve earned the nickname “the Teenagers” because they can be irritating, especially to the skin and mucous membranes.  Phenols tend to be warming (“hot” oils), stimulating and act as general tonics.  At the cellular level phenols can be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and airborne microbials. In general, phenols can help support the respiratory and digestive systems in addition to being immunostimulants.

Like alcohols, phenols tend to have names that end in “-ol.”  There are only 3 main phenols commonly found within essential oils: carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol.

Essential oils rich in phenols include: oregeno, mountain savory, marjoram, thyme, and clove

Safety notes: In general, phenols tend to be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes therefor any essential oils rich in phenols should only be used diluted with a carrier, for both internal and topical use. Internal use of carvacrol rich essential oils should be avoided in those on medication to manage blood glucose for diabetes.  Eugenol may contribute to liver toxicity and long-term use should be avoided.  In general individuals on anticoagulant drugs or with bleeding disorders should only use essential oils rich in phenols with caution.

Phenylpropanoids & Ethers

Phenylpropanoid compounds are rare in essential oils but noteworthy because they have strong antimicrobial action  and pleasing aromas and flavors.   Phenylpropanoids tend to be warming, stimulating and tonic in action.  At the cellular level, phenylpropanoids can be analgesic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antihistamine in nature.  In general, they help support the immune system.

Phenylpropanoids tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-ol,” with the exception of cinnamic aldehyde.  They can be separated into two main groups, the phenylpropanoids, which include cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol, and the ethers, which include anethole, methyl chavicol (estragole), and methyl eugenol.

Essential oils rich in phenylpropanoids include: fennel, basil, cinnamon bark, Laurus nobilis (also known as bay laurel), myrtle, clary sage, and melissa.

Safety notes: Internal consumption of cinnamic aldehyde should only be used with caution in individuals taking medications to control blood glucose for diabetes.  Eugenol can be irritating to those with sensitive skin and oral use is cautioned in those taking MAOIs, SSRI.s, pethidine, and indirect symnpathomimetics.  Use of both cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol is cautioned in individuals on anticoagulant medication or with bleeding disorders.  Methyl eugenol can contribute to liver toxicity through prolonged use.  Newborns are at a higher risk to the effects of methyl eugenol than adults, therefore use of essential oils high in methyl eugenol should be avoided with newborns and small children.

Oxides

Oxides are some of the strongest aromatic compounds found in essential oils. The main oxide compound found in essential oils is 1,8-cineole (also known as eucalyptol) which of often referred to as “the respiratory tract’s best friend” because of it’s ability to act as an expectorant and decongestant at the cellular level. Other potential benefits of oxides include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.

Oxides tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-oxide.”  Examples of oxides include bisabolol oxide A, bisabolol oxide B, rose oxide and sclareol oxide.

Essential oils rich in oxides include: eucalyptus, tea tree, Laurus nobilis, rosmary, German chamomile, rose, and clary sage.

Safety notes: There has been great debate over the safety of eucalyptus essential oil with children and there are a lot of blogs and online sources that say you should never use it with children under 6, or 10, years old.  The debate stems from concerns that 1,8-cineole can interfere with respiration in infants and small children when used throughinstillation (which means direct introduction of the essential oil into the nose through the use of an atomizer, inhaler or drops).  Using essential oils rich in 1,8-cineole on or near the face of infants and small children is not recommended.  However, this does not mean that you should never use eucalpytus, or other 1,8-cineole rich oils, with your children.  Used cautiously and diluted on the VitaFlex points on the feet or diffused these oils can be used safely.

Lactones & Coumarins

Last but not least are the lactones and coumarins.  Lactones are a special kind of ester and tend to be found in expressed (e.g., citrus) or absolute (e.g., jasmine) oils but can also be found in small quantities in many other essential oils.  Lactones will never be the principle constituent in any oil but their strong properties will enhance the therapeutic effects of the oils they can be found in. They tend to have similar therapeutic properties to ketones and can act as decongestant and expectorant at the cellular level and help support the liver and immune system.  Examples of lactones include aesculetine (peppermint), bergaptene (fennel), bergamottin (lemon), butanolide (lavender), citropten (petitgrain), furanogermacrene (myrrh), herniarin (German chamomile), limettine (lime), psoralen (bergamot), and scopoletin (Roman chamomile).  There’s a specific kind of sesquiterpene lactone, called helenalin, that is found primarily in arnica oil and accounts for it’s renowned anti-inflammatory effects.

Coumarins, are a special kind of lactone which tend to have a grassy, “green” smell (like freshly cut grass or alfalfa hay) and are also reponsible for the flavor and aroma of coconut.  Coumarins have strong therapeutic properties and tend to be calming to the nervous system and help support the immune system. At the cellular level they can be great antispasmodics and anticonvulsants which can be helpful in those with nervous tics and disorders.

Safety notes: Furanocoumarins are a coumarin derivative that tend to be photosensitizers, meaning they can result in sunburn or serious blistering when exposed to UV light.  Furanocoumarin examples include angelicin, found in angelica essential oil, and bergapten, found in expressed citrus oils like bergamot, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine.

So, there you have it.  A crash course in the chemistry of essential oils in laymen’s terms.  Hopefully I did a good job explaining these concepts in terms that anyone can understand.  This should help lay the foundation as I move forward with my French Aromatherapy blog series and start introducing specific oil profiles. Keep in mind as I mentioned in my disclaimer above that just because I’ve listed examples of essential oils rich in these chemical constituents does NOT meant that these oils will affect an individual in these ways at the cellular level.  I will be discussing how specific essential oils help support various bodily systems  and can be used to promote general health and wellness in future blog pots. 

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear them!

Sources:

  • Reference material provided by East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies as part of their French Aromatherapy certification class
  • Rosy Garcia Crescitelli, a fellow aromatherapy student.  You can follow her on Periscope @Rosy_Cresy or on Vimeo. She is attending the Institute of Spiritual Healing for her certificate in clinical aromatherapy (as well as getting her French Aromatherapy certification from the same program I am) and some of the “nicknames” I listed are coined by her ISH instructors Barbara Salange and Linda Smith.  If you are looking for a trusted aromatherapy education that approaches the healing power of essential oils from a Christian perspective you may want to look into this program.  As I understand it, however, this program does not subscribe to the French model of aromatherapy (ingestion).
  • Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by David Stewart – excerpts available online through Google Books 
  • More information on distillation and expression methods and processes from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major) was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures


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Acne Prone Skin? Check out my new Zit Zapper and Facial Serum recipes!

I’ve struggled with acne since going off hormonal birth control a couple years ago and it’s wreaked havoc on my self-esteem.  Since then I’ve been on the quest for the perfect skin care regimen to help keep my acne under control.  In fact, searching for the perfect facial cleanser was what led me down the crunchy rabbit hole and I’ve been all in ever since! Over the years I have tried many different natural approaches to skin care including Oil Cleansing (OCM), cleaning my face with honey, African black soap, castile soap, and water only.  Most cleansing methods strip my face of its natural oil and while this may sound like a good thing it’s really not.  See, if you strip the skin of its natural, protective oils then it over produces sebum to compensate which can clog pores even more.  So these days I tend to use water only to clean my face, a Lemon Sugar Scrub to exfoliate every week or so, my Melrose and Witch Hazel astringent (find that recipe here in my blog post When You Vacation with an OIL Addict!) and a spot treatment for those particularly obnoxious pimples.  Historically I’ve just used Tea Tree oil as my spot treatment and while it works well on day to day pimples it doesn’t tackle the tough ones as much as I’d like.  I had used Burt’s Bees Herbal Blemish Stick in the past and was pretty happy with it overall.  I’d always wanted to make my own DIY version and had finally built up my oil collection enough I thought I’d give it a go.  So let’s check out the ingredients in the Burt’s Bees roll-on and why they are good for acne.

Doctor Burt’s Herbal Blemish Stick ingredients:

SD Alcohol 40-B – This is basically denatured alcohol.  It bothers me that this is the first ingredient on the list because that means that it is the ingredient of highest concentration in the product. There’s nothing really wrong with this ingredient but honestly it doesn’t really add much to the recipe either.  I tend to avoid alcohol because it has a drying effect on the skin and can strip the skin of it’s natural oils.

Calendula extract – Calendula is more commonly known as Marigold.  It is often used in skin care products because of it’s ability to calm the skin.  Calendula may help reduce redness and helps cleanse the skin of pore clogging gunk and reduce acne breakouts.

Borage extract – Borage, or Starflower, is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean region.  It’s remarkably effective at soothing irritated or damaged skin and can help calm skin by reducing swelling and redness.  Borage is high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is a fatty acid that is beneficial in maintaining healthy skin.  Borage oil or extract are excellent ingredients to add to DIY skin care recipes help reduce the appearance of acne scarring or redness and irritation from skin conditions like rosacea or eczema.

Yarrow extract – Yarrow is actually a common weed that grows native in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is an ancient herbal medicine, often referred to as Soldier’s herb and Nosebleed grass, known to staunch bleeding and reduce pain.  It’s also renowned for it’s ability to bring down a fever and help clear the sinuses! As far as skin care is concerned, yarrow is great for oily skin to help balance the oil, draw out blackheads, and tighten your pores! Do yourself a favor and google the medicinal uses of Yarrow.  Its an amazing herb to add to your herbal first aid kit!

Parsley extract – Parsley extract is excellent for helping cleanse and purify the skin which helps reduce acne breakouts.  In addition, parsley also contains high amounts of Vitamin C, chlorophyll and Vitamin K which are good for reducing dark circles and puffiness under your eyes.

Willowbark extract – Willow bark is usually harvested from white willow trees and is highly valued as a skin care ingredient because it is a natural source of salicylic acid (yup, the same stuff that is in over the counter acne products like Neutragena’s acne line, Clearasil, and Clean & Clear!).  In addition to helping reduce breakouts, willow bark extract also helps promote youthful, radiant skin by minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  It also contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals and promote skin rejuvenation!

Lemon oil – Lemon essential oil helps balance overactive oil glands in the skin and encourages exfoliation of dead skin cells, both of which can clog pores and lead to breakouts.

Fennel oil – Fennel essential oil encourages skin cell repair and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  It helps balance oil production without over drying the skin.

Water – used to dilute the mixture.  However, water can also promote the growth of bacteria in DIY products so I tend to not use it, or use distilled water if I do add to my products.

Tea Tree oil – Tea tree oil has been my go to for acne spot treatment for years.  It is renowned for it’s ability to not only dry out pimples but reduce acne breakouts when used regularly.

Juniper oil – Juniper essential oil helps cleanse and promotes healing by stimulate blood circulation.  It helps remove toxins and purifies the skin.  Overuse can increase redness, however.

Eucalyptus oil – Eucalyptus essential oil helps cleanse the skin and unclog pores.  In addition, it helps reduce inflammation that may result from acne breakouts.

Zit Zapper

Zit Zapper: A spot treatment for Acne-Prone Skin

Combine the following ingredients in a 3 ml roll-on:

  • 5 drops Tea Tree
  • 5 drops Lemon
  • 5 drops Lavender (I added Lavender because of it’s ability to help calm and soothe irritated skin, especially since I didn’t have an calendula extract in my recipe.  In addition, Lavender essential oil also helps regulate oil production and promotes healing.  I tend to pick at my acne so it’s always nice to add healing oils to my skincare regimen.)
  • 4 drops Ginger (I chose to add Ginger because it removes toxins and stimulates circulation.  In addition, it promotes a youthful, radiant complexion by helping rejuvenate the skin and improving skin’s elasticity.)
  • 3 drops Fennel
  • 3 drops Juniper 
  • 3 drops Eucalyptus Globulus (because this is the Eucalyptus I had on hand, but Eucalyptus Radiata might actually be a better choice because it tends to be lighter and more gentle than Globulus, making it the preferred chemotype for skincare)
  • top off with White Willow Bark extract (I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)

Next time I might actually make my own Calendula and Borage extract to add as well.  If I do that I’ll probably use a larger, 4 or 5 ml, roll on.  Both Calendula and Borage (as well as White Willow Bark) can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs if you are interested in making it your own.  Extracts aren’t difficult to make at all.  Check out Humblebee and Me’s post below for a recipe that includes Calendula extract and Borage oil.

*Note: This is a strong mixture and is only intended to be used as a spot treatment, not all over your face.  If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test first.  You may want to reduce the amount of essential oils or dilute with something like Calendula extract or Borage oil. 

Inspired by Burt’s Bee’s Herbal Blemish Stick and Humblebee and Me’s Indigo Acne Blaster

New & Improved Facial Serum

Perhaps you’ve been following me for awhile and remember my DIY Facial Serum from back in August of last year.  I still stand by that facial serum as a good starting point for anyone wanting to make their own skin care products.  It’s wonderfully moisturizing and I used it for months.  However, as my daughter started eating more solids and decreased the amount of breastmilk she was demanding day to day my hormones started returning back to “normal” (which is anything but) and my face started breaking out like a teenager’s again (sad face). My DIY Facial Serum uses fractionated coconut oil as a base which feels lovely on the skin but does have a high comedogenic rating (meaning it can cause acne breakouts).  Coconut oil rates a 4, meaning it has a “fairly high” chance of clogging pores.  So naturally I wanted to reduce anything that would contribute to my breakouts.  For awhile I switched to jojoba oil, which has a comedogenic rating of 2, or “moderately low” chance.  I was pretty pleased with this combo for awhile.

Recently, however, I was hearing a lot of buzz about Rosehip Seed Oil for skincare.  Rosehip seed oil is chalk full of vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants that help hydrate the skin, relieves dry, itchy skin, reduces dark circles and minimizes the appearance of scaring.  Plus, it’s lightweight and non greasy, making it an ideal carrier oil for facial serums. And it has an even lower comedogenic rating that jojoba (1 = “low”) so I figured I’d give it a shot.

See how other carrier oils measure up with regards to comedogenic ratings here from Beneficial Botanicals.

I’d also been really curious about a new-to-me essential oil blend, White Angelica.  White Angelica is Young Living’s proprietary blend of Bergamot, Myrrh, Geranium, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Spruce, Hyssop, Melissa, and Rose in a Sweet Almond oil carrier.  While there are tons of amazing uses for White Angelica, including emotional healing, meditation, and Raindrop massage, all of these oils have amazing skin care properties and many are quite expensive (and as a result not members of my growing collection yet).  Let’s look at each of these oils individually.

Bergamot – Bergamot is a tropical citrus fruit with a lovely fragrance.  It is well known for it’s cleansing and immune enhancing properties.  In addition, it helps reduce the appearance of scars or age spots on the skin resulting in a more even skin tone.

Myrrh – Myrrh comes from a dried resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree, which is in the same family as the Frankincense tree.  It has a long history of medicinal use, highly valued for its wound healing properties, as well as an ingredient in incense and holy oil for ritual and religious ceremonies.  As far as skin care benefits, Myrrh promotes healing and helps soothe minor skin irritations like chapped or cracked skin and acne.  It helps sustain healthy looking skin and promotes a more youthful, radiant appearance by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Geranium – Geranium essential oil has a long history as a beneficial ingredient in skin care.  Even the ancient Egyptians used Geranium oil to help promote beautiful, radiant skin.  It helps defy the effects of aging by improving muscle tone and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  In addition, Geranium essential oil helps reduce inflammation and has been used to help soothe acne and other skin irritations by promoting cell growth and healing.

Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood – Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood is renowned for it’s healing properties.  It helps cleanse and protect the skin from infection resulting from acne, sores, or other wounds and is often added to skin care and beauty products for it’s ability to help tighten skin tone and minimize the appearance of scars and age spots.

Rosewood – Rosewood oil is extracted from the Aniba rosaeodora, an evergreen tree indigenous to Peru and Brazil.  It is a member of the Laurel family of plants like bay, camphor, cassia, and cinnamon.  Rosewood oil has a warm, woodsy yet spicy, floral fragrance that has been used in the perfume industry since the 1900’s.  In addition to it’s alluring fragrance, Rosewood oil helps fight the signs of aging by regenerating skin cell growth and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps balance sebum production thereby helping to reduce acne breakouts.

Ylang Ylang – Ylang Ylang is steam distilled from the signature yellow flowers of the ylang ylang tree native to the South Pacific Islands.  As you may imagine, it has a delicate yet romantic floral fragrance.  In addition, Ylang Ylang essential oil has amazing skin benefits.  It helps promote the appearance of healthy skin and hair by balancing sebum production, soothing skin irritations, cleansing the skin and promotes healing, and reducing redness and inflammation.

Spruce – Spruce essential oil is distilled from the needles of the Spruce tree and helps cleanse and purify the skin thereby helping to maintain the appearance of healthy looking skin.

Hyssop – Hyssop is a sacred oil referenced in many ancient texts, including the Bible, for it’s restorative health benefits.  Hyssop not only helps support healthy respiratory and digestive systems but also to help relieve pain and promote a sense of calm.  As for skin care benefits, Hyssop essential oil helps soothe skin irritations and reduce the appearance of scars and age spots.

Melissa – Melissa, or more commonly known as Lemon Balm, is a plant in the mint family.  The essential oil is distilled from the tiny buds and seeds of the plant.  It takes somewhere between 3 and 7 tons of plant material to yield 1 pound of essential oil which makes it one of the more pricey oils.  It is a gentle oil known for it’s ability to help soothe irritation and rejuvenate the skin.

and last but not least, Rose – Rose, ah how I covet thee…  Rose essential oil is probably the most expensive essential oil that Young Living sells because of the sheer volume of rose petals required to make a small 5 ml bottle.  But it is highly prized for many reasons, the least of which is its ability to moisturize, calm and soothe red or irritated skin.   Research suggests that it may also help reduce acne breakouts and regenerate skin cell growth!  It’s a must-have for anti-aging DIY beauty products!

So, even though I can’t afford to add oils like Myrrh, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, Melissa, or Rose to my collection just yet, I’m thrilled to have them in a nice affordable (only $28 Wholesale) little blend like White Angelica! So naturally, I wanted to find a way to incorporate this into my New & Improved DIY Facial Serum! Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

New & Improved DIY Facial Serum

Combine the following in a 2 oz container:

 

So there you have it! My new favorite skin care recipes! Have you tried these recipes or have other recipes you would like to share? I’d love to hear about them! Comment below.

 

Want more information on natural ways to help rid your skin of acne? Check out this post by Thank Your Skin on How To Get Rid of Acne: The Ultimate Guide: 21 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Get Rid of Acne Fast and Naturally! I have to admit, I learned a few things I will be incorporating into my diet and skincare regimen! They also do some pretty awesome product reviews over there to help you find the best skincare products and makeup for acne-prone skin! So head on over and show them some oily love! 😉

 

I only use Young Living’s 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils because of their commitment to quality and Seed to Seal guarantee.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and techniques mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

Acne Prone Skin? Check out my new Zit Zapper and Facial Serum recipes! was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures


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French Aromatherapy: The Concept of Terrain and “Oil Mapping”

the human Terrain: a holistic approach to aromatherapy

Introduction to French Aromatherapy

So one of the most interesting things that I’ve learned so far as I’ve started my coursework for the French Aromatherapy certification is the concept of Terrain.   In French medicine, Terrain refers to the physical, mental, social, and environmental (and some might argue spiritual) aspects of a person’s lifestyle that can contribute to the development of disease.  This seemingly contradicts the Germ Theory of disease but in fact was born around the same time.  You’ve probably heard of Louis Pasteur, right? He’s the guy who invented pasteurization and pretty much revolutionized the food industry.  He’s also credited as the father of the Germ Theory (although some sources point out that much of his work was plagiarized from Antoine Béchamp) and his experiments that “proved” germs cause disease helped cement this theory as the foundation of modern medicine.  However, a contemporary of Louis Pasteur’s, French physiologist Claude Bernard’s research on biological terrain is often overlooked today.  Bernard is considered the father of Experimental medicine and helped standardize medical experiments through the use of the scientific method.  However, he argued that Pasteur’s assertions that germs “cause” disease was erroneous and that there were too many other variables that could have explained his results.  Bernard was so sure of this that he was quoted as saying “the terrain is everything, the germ is nothing” before downing a glass of water filled with cholera in front of a group of his fellow physicians and scientists.  He argued instead that germs cause disease in unhealthy terrains.

A modern day French physician, Gérard Guéniot, is a practitioner of naturopathic medicine who trusts in the “healing power of nature” when helping his patients.  He recognizes that each individual is unique and there will not be one solution that will “cure” disease symptoms in every patient.  According to Guéniot:

“…terrain is a personal history. It is not simply our parents that gave us our terrain, but it is our story, everything that happened to us in this life and perhaps in other lives. It is what we bring as personal baggage, our memory.”

The current climate seems to be recognizing the failure of modern medicine.  A quick google search reveals dozens of alternative medicine models, including Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Chiropractic, Feng Shui, Herbalism, Kineseology, Massage, Reiki, and Yoga to name a few.  So perhaps it is time that we rethink the paradigm of “one-disease-one-drug” that has dominated modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, and start thinking in terms of terrain.

ROOTS & FRUITS

Why an essential oil might work for one person and not another

We’ve all got that friend who posts on Facebook swearing that Lavender oil helped her baby sleep through the night at 8 weeks old.  Maybe you’ve tried everything under the sun to help your baby sleep longer than 2 hours for months so in your “Mombie” state you excitedly pick up a bottle of Lavender oil from the supermarket hoping that finally this will be the thing that allows you to get a full night’s sleep.  Only to discover that it wasn’t the magic wand you hoped it would be and your baby still woke up 4 times last night… Tired, frustrated, and discouraged you declare that essential oils are some hyped up fad that will be over and done with next week.

But here’s the thing.  Just like pharmaceuticals, beauty products, or diets, essential oils may not work the same way for every person.  In addition to our unique terrain which accounts for our personal differences, plants also contain their own unique physical attributes.  Essential oils are volatile compounds, often referred to as the “life force” of the plants they are distilled from.  Each oil contains multiple chemical constituents that give the plant it’s signature fragrance, help attract pollinators, help protect the plant from pests and diseases, or even help keep competing plants from growing within it’s area.  Not only do these key constituents vary from plant to plant, they can also be affected by the individual species of plant, the location in which the plant was grown, the season of the year or time of day the plant was harvested, and environmental stressors like drought or a rainy season.  In addition, the method of distillation can impact the potency of these chemical compounds that you get in your little neatly packaged bottle.  That’s why choosing an essential oil company that is transparent in their plant sources and methods of distillation is so important and a big part of why I chose Young Living (read more about their Seed to Seal guarantee)!

Since there are so many chemical constituents in each plant that means that herbals and natural products (like essential oils) also contain a multitude of chemical compounds.  There is no standardized herbal medicine because multiple constituents can affect multiple systems of the body.  Our individual response is impacted by our own terrain (e.g., our evolutionary and ancestral heritage, personal diet and lifestyle, other pharmaceuticals we may be taking, our environment, etc.).  Thus, what works wonders for our best friend or neighbor may not work as well for us.  That’s why working with an experienced aromatherapist and trying multiple solutions is your best bet for finding the best natural products to support your areas of concern is so important!

personalized oil map

Oil Mapping

I have recently been introduced to a technique from a leader in my group that motivates and inspires me, Jen O’Sullivan (she also wrote the book The Essential Oil Truth, which you should totally check out), called Oil Mapping. Oil Mapping is essentially a detailed suggestion of essential oils, and sometimes other natural products or solutions, to help an individual support their body’s systems and address their specific areas of concern. These suggestions may be aromatic, ingestible, topical, or all three.

Part of my certification process involves case studies so here’s where you, my lovely readers, come in.  If you have a particular area(s) of concern for your or a family member that you would like help finding natural solutions to support then send an email to me at ShadowHawk1231@gmail.com (be sure to put “Oil Map” in the subject so I know what it is about) and I’ll send you a customized Oil Map with various solutions to help support your area(s) of concern.  You can include 1, or as many as 3, areas of concern.  Please be as detailed as possible in your description of the specific areas of concern and any other lifestyle variables of note (I may email you back for more information if necessary).  I’ll be working closely with 12 people who are willing to try out some of the recommendations I make to use as my case studies (don’t worry, your identity and any identifying information will be disguised to protect your privacy).

I’m so excited about this new adventure and glad to find new ways to help educate others on ways they can live a more natural lifestyle! Thank you for joining me on my adventure! Questions or comments? Please share them below!

Sources:

East-West School of Aromatic StudiesFrench Aromatherapy certification course materials

The Lost History of Medicine

Biological Terrain Analysis: Mapping Your Inner Health

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and techniques mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: The Concept of Terrain and “Oil Mapping” was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures