Oh Lavender, My Lavender
Of course, we all know what beeswax is, but why is it used as an ingredient in skin care products? Bees create the wax to build their honeycombs, which is how their honey is stored. The wax starts out white, but ends up more yellow or brown as pollen oils and propolis is incorporated. Because of its inherent impurities, it needs to be purified before human use.
Beeswax acts as an emollient (softens skin) and an emulsifier (keeps solutions blended, to eliminate separation). It's a natural additive for skin care products, rather than synthetic chemicals, and imparts a subtle aroma. Propolis, meanwhile, is derived from the tree resins that bees collect. It moisturizes and acts as a natural anti-bacterial.
These natural powerhouses are combined in one of my favorite Heliotrope products, our Shea & Beeswax Hand & Cuticle Therapy. It feels great on hands, soaks in quickly, heals hands, nails & cuticles, and is naturally fragrance-free (or custom scent it with our large selection of essential oils). While you're at it, try our wonderful Sunflower & Shea Butter Foot Treatment, which also incorporates beeswax. This nourishing cream is especially rich - best slathered on feet & then covered up in socks to soak in and heal overnight (or anytime). I love it so much, I use it on my hands on especially dry days. It doesn't soak in as quickly as the Hand & Cuticle Therapy, but it feels great.
It dawned on me that there are a lot of good things listed in our ingredients that, in fact, *sound* like bad things. (We've even discussed this in a previous blog entry). Did you ever look at the back of a label and wonder "What the heck is Pyridoxine?" Actually, you need pyridoxine to survive - it's the chemical name of the compound we call Vitamin B6. Vitamins are organic compounds that humans need to survive, yet cannot be synthesized by our bodies in sufficient amounts - therefore, they must be ingested.
Milk cartons tell us "Vitamins A + D added" - (much better sounding than "Retinyl Palmitate + Cholecalciferol added"). Vitamin D, in particular, is difficult to get in a regular American diet, and doctors believe that D is the one vitamin supplement that's really worthwhile. With all the sunscreen we're wearing, it's that much more difficult for our bodies to produce enough D.
New studies tell us that ingesting daily multi-vitamins may not be best for us after all - the smartest method is to eat a balanced diet. It's also smart to feed your skin with balanced nutrients - pure vegetable oils, botanical extracts, essential oils, and vitamins.
Here are two articles concerning the use of aromatherapy in unusual places: Got Peppermint? shows that even schools are experimenting with the benefits of aromatherapy.
CPMC Gives Aromatherapy a Whiff: Having a positive attitude toward aromatherapy helps it work better: "You have to have the belief that aromatherapy is going to work. There's a lot of mental stuff going on." Of course, it's not just the "aroma" part of aromatherapy that's important - the essential value of each plant oil comes wrapped up in the same molecule that happens to contain the plant's scent - hence the root of the word "aromatherapy." So the word is not so much telling us that it's the smell that's affecting our mood - but rather the properties of what's affecting our mood happens to smell.
Walking through the lumber yard last week, getting ready for our new store construction - CEDAR all around us. Of course, people have been using cedar to line their closers & drawers for ages to keep moths away - an example of an everyday use of aromatherapy! Dog owners also know that cedar shavings in a dog's bed keeps fleas away - a natural bug repellent! As scientists come up with new ways to keep us comfortable and bug-free, they often arrive at nature's own answers.
Those pyrethrins that you see on the ingredient labels of garden products & bug sprays? Those are derived from chrysanthemums! Over the years, anecdotal evidence showed that bugs avoided these plants, and eventually, products were developed using the exact chemicals that were already present in plants.
We use this blend of essential oils in our Aromatherapy Dog Shampoo: chamomile, bergamot, lemongrass, cedar, lavender, rosemary & tea tree. Smells great & works like a charm! Add any or all of these oils to a water-based solution (like our Organic Spray Mist for Body & Home, use it in a spray bottle on Fido, and voilà!
You know how you keep hearing about growing herb gardens so you can have spices handy to cook with? Those same herbs can be steeped in hot water to make teas and/or aromatherapy facial mists/room sprays. What flavors your cooking are the essential oils in the herbs; the same essential oils are released by the hot water when making tea or other infusions.
We know that rosehips are great in the tea that we drink - it soothes, gives us essential vitamins (especially C), and are rich in antioxidants. So why not brew a "tea" as a facial steam bath? Aromatherapy in the home.
Other herbs (or full strength essential oils) work wonders, too - such as thyme (extremely anti-septic, great for acne care).
I was just at a party recently and was reminded of the lovely atmosphere of a spa. Our host had added cucumber slices to one of the water pitchers, and lemon slices to the other. One relaxing, the other stimulating. More aromatherapy in the home. Cucumber is cooling and astringent, and lemon offers us not just Vitamin C, but also lifts the spirit.
Where else can you find aromatherapy in your life? Any suggestions for others?
It's not as bad as it sounds. Those chemical ingredients? Like "methyl salicylate"? That's really Oil of Wintergreen. For some odd reason, manufacturers often choose the scary chemical names of everyday, aromatherapy ingredients. Some labels even list "Aqua" rather than water, so the most basic ingredient of all is called something that might worry the average consumer.
The most common mineral we all ingest every day is Sodium Chloride, AKA table salt. If you saw "Sodium Chloride" on your ingredient label, you'd worry, right? But "Salt"? (Well, you might still worry, but at least you know what it is). The dreaded Neroli? That's what botanists call Essential Oil of Orange Blossom (which has a much prettier ring to it, no?)
So while I'm not telling you *not* to worry about ingredients, I *am* suggesting that you educate yourself on ingredients, and understand what is truly worth worrying about! Watch this blog for more info on ingredients, essential oils, skin care, etc.
Essential Oils are:
- any of a class of volatile oils obtained from plants, possessing the odor and other characteristic properties of the plant
- used chiefly in the manufacture of perfumes, flavors, and pharmaceuticals
- obtained from various parts of the plants (as flowers, leaves, or bark) by steam distillation, expression, or extraction
- usually mixtures of compounds, and are used often in the form of essences in perfumes, flavorings, and pharmaceutical preparations
- a contented state of being happy and healthy (and prosperous)
- physical and mental soundness
- analogous to the term Quality of Life, used by politicians and economists to measure broader social effects of policies
- one of the components of overall health, which is achieved through a combination of physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.
- the therapeutic use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in baths or massage
- the art & science of helping living things toward wholeness & balance using the essential oils which can be extracted from plants
- using the aromatic components of plants to facilitate healing
- a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and similar aromatic compounds from plants, for the purpose of improving a person's mood, cognitive function or health