About Me

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As a daughter, granddaughter (still...at my age!), wife, mom, grammy, lover of God and life, it has become my mission in life to encourage others. The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the sustainable life through organic recipes, gardening tips, cleaning and organizing methods, Spiritual help, and anything else which may encourage you in your journey to wholeness--body, soul, and spirit.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Few Words on Essential Oils

Essential oils from Shepherd's Harvest

"Oils," EO's, Essential Oils...different names for the same thing.  Essential oils, basically speaking, are highly concentrated distilled plant oil.  For those of us who who are "into" essential oils...a few warnings and pieces of information, with some helpful links (Warning: this is not a "feel good" blog!):

1. NEVER INGEST THEM! Not in your tea, not in spaghetti sauce, nowhere! Essential oils are chemicals--yes they are natural and often organic, but they are highly concentrated. You can get hurt.

2. Don't be taken in by pyramid companies that charge WAY too much for tiny amounts. You can buy more for less and mix them yourself. (I never wanted to go into the essential oil business, but I have a few on this page and they are a lot less expensive, organic, and traceable. If I don't have them, I can get them or send you to a reputable company, like this one...just ask. Or don't buy them from me, I can send you to plenty of other non-pyramid companies again...just ask or research.  More info later.)

3. Essential oils are great for cleaning, they smell nice, may help with skin issues and give a sense of well being, but if you are sick, GO TO A DOCTOR. They are not a substitute for medical care, and do not cure disease! Many claims have been made by some (sometimes well-meaning) companies and people that essential oils cure various maladies. They don't. There are (yes) herbal and medicinal cures for things, but they must be science based and targeted. Even my Naturopath uses the results from blood tests to determine what foods to eliminate from my diet and which supplements will work best for me, to help me be well (and when I am sick I see a medical doctor). The "shotgun" approach of trying different oils and herbs is not good science. 

4. Be careful of claims. Just because someone is "certified" by a company does not mean they know anything substantial that will help you. They are going to sell you something, quite often.

A few resources:

  • This is an extensive database, showing the chemical makeup of essential oils.  Whenever you purchase an essential oil, ask for the GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry) test sheet for the specific batch of oil.  Compare the results with the specific oil in the database--the same chemical components should be present, in similar percentages.  This will give you a measure of confidence that you have the correct oil.  Here is the database: http://essentialoils.org/eoudb/  (You can sign up for free, and they don't spam you  with a lot of newsletters and offers.)  Keep in mind that this is NOT a perfect process, but at least it gives you an idea that you have purchased a reasonable oil.  A shout-out to Whole New Mom and a terrific article about the shortcomings of GC/MS here
  • .A while back there was a major issue between two pyramid essential oil companies.  In the course of the lawsuit two things happened:  synthetic compounds were found in the "organic" essential oils of both companies, and both companies were accused of making claims that the oils cured diseases such as cancer (since then, evidence has surfaced of claims that one company has claimed that their oils cure Ebola!).  An article with some excellent primary source material can be found here.
The bottom line when it comes to essential oils?  Be careful out there!  Do the research, find a reputable company with reasonable prices, and use essential oils with care.

Peace and love,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Scoop on Soap: Is Pure Really Pure? Ivory vs. Dove vs. Dr. Bronner vs. Hand Made

One popular soap markets itself as being 99 and 44/100 percent pure.  I always wondered what that meant...so pure it floats?  How does floating make a soap "pure" and what does a soap's integrity have to do with its ability to not sink to the bottom of the bath tub?  ...so I did a little investigating.

First, I read the label.  The ingredients in Ivory Soap are:  sodium tallowate and/or sodium palmate, water, sodium cocoate and/or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, sodium chloride, fragrance, coconut acid, palm kernel acid, tallow acid, palm acid, and tetrasodium EDTA.  Mostly that means there is animal fat, some palm and coconut oil, salt, acids (probably to balance the pH), glycerine (soap byproducts to moisturize), artificial fragrance; and a preservative, Tetrasodium EDTA, which is made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide.  Tetrasodium EDTA is also a penetration enhancer which breaks down the skin's protective layer.  So, I am not so sure about that other 66/100.  It seems a little risky to me.  
Advertising note:  If you click on the "Ivory Soap" link, you will find that it looks very old-fashioned and wholesome.  The link for "Ivory.com" leads to a Tumblr page with lots of advertising, and it is nearly impossible to find the ingredients.  Clever.

What about the soap that claims to be 1/4 cleansing cream?  That sounds like it is GREAT for your skin, right?  Wrong.  The list of ingredients in Dove  reads kind of like a toxic waste dump:  
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate , Stearic Acid , Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate , Lauric Acid , Sodium Isethionate , Water , Sodium Stearate , Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Sodium C14-C16 Olefin Sulfonate , Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate , Fragrance , Sodium Chloride , Tetrasodium EDTA , Tetrasodium Etidronate , Titanium Dioxide.  The heaviest hitters here are Sodium Lauoyl Isethionate, Sodium Isethionate, Cocomideopropyl Betain, Sodium C14-C16 Olefin Sulfonate, Fragrance, and anything with "Tetrasodium" in front of it.  Do you want the details?  Me either.
Advertising note:  I found the "Dove" link in a google search on soap ingredients.  Ironically, it is impossible to find the actual ingredient list on the Dove site.  You have to go to the Amazon link to find the ingredients.  Hmmm.

Now for the good stuff...Dr. Bronner's and Shepherd's Harvest!I checked out a commercially made organic soap, and will also disclose our own soap ingredients (spoiler alert:  shameless self-promotion here!).

First, Dr. Bronner's Citrus Orange Castile Bar Soap:  Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Oil*, Sodium Hydroxide**, Water, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Orange Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lemon Oil, Organic Lime Oil, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.  Be still my heart!  This soap is made with all organic, fair trade, non-GMO ingredients.  The chemically sounding ingredients are Sodium Hydroxide, which is simply lye (you MUST have lye to make soap); citric acid, which is made from citrus fruit and used to balance the pH; and tocopherol, which is vitamin E oil.  VERY nice list!  You can buy it in some grocery stores and most health food stores, which makes it nice and convenient.

Shepherd's Harvest soap has undergone a bit of a change of formula lately.  We use what I call "plain language" labeling rather than the "INCI" labeling that most commercial soap companies use, because we believe it is a little easier to understand.  The label for Shepherd's Harvest Onyx Detox soap reads:  Olive oil*, Sunflower Oil*, Palm oil*,  Coconut oil*, Castor Oil*, Food grade lye (used to saponify oils), Essential Oils of Tea Tree*, Lavender*, and Lemon*, Activated Charcoal. *Ingredient is organic 

What can I say...another great list!  The ingredients are organic and sustainable.  Shepherd's Harvest soap is cured for several weeks so that the pH is naturally reduced over time, which is why we do not add citric acid.  The sunflower oil is high-oleic, which means it is naturally high in vitamin E, so there is no need to add additional vitamin E, which is a natural preservative. 

So there you have it!  You decide...commercial chemical, commercial organic, or hand crafted?