Best Practices: Using and Cleaning Glassware

Glass is a valuable tool for anyone making, creating and concocting lotions and potions. It beats the pants out of plastic as it is non-reactive, safereusable and doesn’t degrade. The downside of glass? You need to clean it, and when you are using lipids and lipid-loving substances such as essential and fixed oils it can be a real drag as the fatty/lipid substances smear and smoosh and don’t really seem to come off. And you throw up your hands in despair thinking the only way to clean your lovely glassware is to use nasty solvents such as alcohol or harsh detergents. Fear not and read on! Continue reading “Best Practices: Using and Cleaning Glassware”

Getting to Know: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow, surviving in my garden despite the clay soil.
Yarrow, surviving in my garden despite the clay soil.

Yarrow, an herb in the Asteraceae family, has been used for wound healing/vulnerary purposes since ancient times. According to folklore, Achilles (the Grecian battle hero), carried the herb while on battle campaigns to treat battle wounds.

This tough (it’s so tough that it grows in the incredibly damp, clay soil of my gardens!) herb can be found throughout the temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere. It is often seen in the “wild,” though it is commonly found cultivated in many gardens. Like many herbs, Yarrow is happiest when its roots are in well draining soil and otherwise “neglected” (e.g., left alone, not fertilized, in lean soil). Yarrow essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant.

How may yarrow be used in aromatherapy? (Remember: ALWAYS dilute EOs prior to using on the skin and NEVER take them internally.)

  • Physical level: anti-inflammatory, astringent, cicatrisant, haemostatic, vulnerary, skin regenerative (just to name a few!)
    • Combine with Helichrysum in a compress for treatment of wounds or skin issues such as bruises or eczema.
    • It helps support the circulatory system (astringent and anti-inflammatory)–combine with Cypress in a salve or compress for varicose veins.
    • It aids with digestion–add ONE drop to a tablespoon of carrier oil (e.g., almond, jojoba) and massage onto a gassy stomach to sooth discomfort (add a drop of Ginger to enhance the carminative effect).
  • Emotional level: it is a balancing oil, useful for transitional times such as menopause, change in relationships, moving to a new location.
    • Put a few drops on a cotton ball and inhale the balancing goodness throughout the day (place the cotton ball in a compact or similar container to keep the oils from evaporating).
    • Add a few drops of Clary Sage to enhance the balancing benefit!

Due to its carminative & stomachic properties, using the herb (not the essential oil) in an infusion (i.e., tea) may help with stomach cramps, expel gas or to aid digestion in general.

  • Take a tablespoon of the dried herb (or 2 Tbsp of the fresh) (e.g., leaves & flowering tops-chopped) and steep in hot water for 5-7 minutes (up to 10 minutes for a very strong brew). Sip and enjoy!
    • Try combining Yarrow with Peppermint (and Ginger!) to enhance its soothing & digestive qualities.

A fun fact: Yarrow essential oil is a blue oil! As the herb goes through the steam distillation process it becomes blue! This is due to the presences of azulenes in the plant.

Toothpaste: Baking Soda, Coconut Oil, Xylitol and Essential Oils

I had a routine dental check-up in late July of 2015 and received bad news–bleeding gums on my lower-right gum-line. As you can imagine this was depressing news. Granted I don’t floss as much as I should. Though I do gargle and brush, twice daily, with national brands of mouthwash and toothpaste. Obviously something had to change, like the products I was using.

Over the years the benefits of nut & seed oils (e.g.,  for oil pulling), baking soda and xylitol have been known but I didn’t pay attention–it was definitely more convenient to go to a store and give a large corporation my money in exchange for oral care I trusted.  So I started reading about these ingredients online, in books and in magazines/journals. With all of the knowledge I was gaining I had to question–why not make my own toothpaste? And why not enhance that toothpaste with essential oils that are known for oral care?

After two weeks of using my homemade toothpaste (and mouth rinse) my gums do not bleed when I floss. Following is the formula for the toothpaste:

  • 2 parts baking soda (e.g., 2 tablespoons): Neutralizing, mild abrasive that will not ruin tooth enamel
  • 2 parts coconut oil (e.g., 2 tablespoons):
    • According to a post (about oil pulling with coconut oil) on Web MD: “Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell…Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other.” In other words: like attracts like.
    • “Coconut oil has…lauric acid, which is well-known for its anti-microbial agents….a recent study found that coconut oil may help prevent tooth decay.”
  • 1 part xylitol (e.g., 1 tablespoon):
    • Xylitol’s molecular structure slows the growth of S. mutans on the tooth surfaces, stops the production of tooth decay-causing acid and neutralizes the pH level in saliva and plaque.” [Source: odha.scholarlab.com]
  • Essential oils known for their wound healing, oral care, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties: (Formulated for 3 ounces @ a 2% dilution rate)
    • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) (20 drops): gum/periodontal disease, gum inflammation, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial
    • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) (12 drops): antimicrobial and overall dental tonic
    • Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) (8 drops): toothaches, oral bacteria, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial
    • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) (8 drops): analgesic, refreshing/cooling, anti-inflammatory

The supplies used to create a simple yet effective toothpaste to address gum inflammation/bleeding.
The supplies used to create a simple yet effective toothpaste to address gum inflammation/bleeding.

Notes:

  • Always use caution when working with essential oils as they must always* be diluted prior to use–especially oils like clove and peppermint. [*Some oils do not need to be diluted but it is a best practice to always dilute.]
    • Always combine essential oils in a glass or metal bowl as some oils are pungent enough to eat through plastic. If using plastic, as I did here, first add all of the dry ingredients and coconut oil to the container, then add the essential oils and mix thoroughly.
  • The end product is shelf-stable; avoid contaminating the contents of the jar by using a stick (e.g., popsicle, craft, waxing).
  • I chose a 3 ounce jar because it was on-hand–go ahead and purchase empty tubes, smaller jars, larger ones. Just be sure you can put a cap on the delivery device to reduce oxidation, evaporation and contamination of the mixture.
  • Keep xylitol away from pets, especially dogs.

Sources:

Dental Benefits of Xylitol

http://odha.scholarlab.com/drupal/system/files/pdf/ODHA%20Facts%20-%20xylitol.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oil-pulling