Monthly Archives: June 2014
Once in a while I stumble upon a free resource that’s so good I want to get it into the hands of all our readers. I didn’t actually “stumble upon” this one. I’m a subscriber to Melissa Norris’ excellent blog on pioneer living. (The “city kid” in me still shakes his head in amazement when I say things like this. What a long, strange trip it’s been.) Melissa has a number of valuable resources available for download through her site. Today she’s out-done herself with the Preserve Food at Home Ultimate Resource Guide.
I’m a snake-bitten skeptic. When I see superlatives like “ultimate” bandied about, my BS radar goes on full alert. But hey! It’s free, and you know what I always say — “If it’s for free, it’s for me!” So I punched the link for this so-called “ultimate resource guide” and loaded it. All nine pages of it. And that page count includes the front cover. Another over-blown pamphlet that calls itself an “ultimate guide”?
Not this time. This ultimate guide really delivers. After you get past the attractive front cover, you’ll find that it’s a true resource guide, chock full of links to other sources — web sites, articles, videos, product reviews, books, online courses, etc. Be advised that not all of the resources that the Guide links to are free, but if you’re looking to learn about these topics and will need to buy some of these things, the Guide is a real time-saver. It covers the most common means of food preservation (canning, freezing, and dehydration) and some lesser-known practices like salt curing and using alcohol or oils to preserve foods and make your own extracts.
It’s no secret that we here at The Approaching Day Prepper aren’t experts in the topics that we discuss. We are perpetual newbies. That’s why I love it when someone like Melissa not only does all the heavy lifting for me, but then she freely gives away the fruits of her labor. There are a lot of links in her Guide that I want to dive into. Things like:
- Which pressure canner is best? The budget-priced Presto or the spendy All American?
- How to can meat
- How to make your own vegetable powders
- How to dehydrate cantaloupe (say what??? )
- How to cure and store onions and garlic (you can NEVER have enough onions and garlic in your preps)
- How to dehydrate ground beef safely (I presume that the operative word here is “safely”)
I’m pretty jazzed about this resource guide. So much so that I stopped what I was doing as soon as I found it and posted this blog. Click here to link over to Melissa’s site and grab a copy of it for yourself.
In my previous article, I shared my journey into essential oils by presenting a series of questions and answers. As promised, in this blog I’ll share the contents of my starter kit, my experience thus far, some of my personal recipes, and you’ll be able to download some helpful EO cards or information sheet. Enjoy!
I’m afraid I have to add a medical disclaimer to this blog. The information provided in this blog is not offerred or intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor before using essential oils.I am simply sharing my experience and research. I am not a doctor. I’m a desktop publisher, preacher, blogger and prepper (not necessarily in that order).
My Starter Kit and Experience
The components of my starter kit were determined by two factors – the oils most often recommended as good, general-purpose oils (because I knew my starter kit would be limited and I wanted to get the most bang for my buck) and the conditions we were most likely to use the oils to combat. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes have difficulty sleeping. Phil and I both suffer from sinus congestion, especially in the winter. While I was doing my shopping, I had an upper respiratory variety of the crud that was going around last winter, so I’m sure that impacted my decisions. I occasionally suffer from asthma and headaches, and both Phil and I sometimes experience anxiety, stress, and a bit of the blues. Phil also has a touch of arthritis.
I’m sharing my experience using the oils in my starter kit, but keep in mind that it’s only been a few months. While my experience has been generally positive, it’s also been somewhat limited.
My starter kit included the following oils:
- Eucalyptus – With antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, this oil has tons of uses. I was most interested in its effectiveness against congestion and inflammation. We use the eucalyptus in a diffuser most evenings and Phil and I both notice that about half an hour after starting the diffuser we are breathing better and our sinuses are more open. They don’t just feel “minty” —our sinuses are actually open more than they were before. Phil hasn’t been able to breathe through his right nostril for years, but it is opening up since we started diffusing eucalyptus. We’ve also used it in a massage oil to ease chronic muscle inflammation. We didn’t notice any relief from this.
- Lavender – As a “balancer” this oil would help my sleeplessness and could be used to perk me up on those afternoons when a nap after lunch is appealing. I have in fact found it to be very effective in encouraging restful sleep as well as helping one remain alert during the day. Yeah, I know – how can that be possible? Read about it in my previous blog. Shortly after buying my lavender oil, I started to get a cold sore. Lavender is also supposed to be good for skin rashes and it was one of the few oils I had at the time, so I put lavender on the cold sore. Surprisingly (to me) it really helped – the cold sore developed, but it was significantly smaller than when it started and it was short-lived.
- Frankincense – This oil helps strengthen the immune system, and who doesn’t need that? It can also be used to combat depression and stress, as well as upper respiratory infections. We use it in our night-time blend and sometimes in the office.
- Lemon – Lemon has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It stimulates the digestive system and can be safely used to add flavor in small quantities. Its clean citrus aroma makes it a nice addition in blends. And in our household it doesn’t hurt that lemon is one of Phil’s favorite scents. Happy, happy, happy.
- Peppermint – Said to be effective against headaches and nausea – two conditions I suffer from. I dabbed some on my temples when I had a headache recently, and the headache was gone in fifteen or twenty minutes. I’ve suffered from nausea regularly throughout my life. I don’t actually get sick, I just feel “yucky” frequently. I haven’t had a chance to test the peppermint oil for this condition yet, which is unusual. Could it be because of my regular use of eucalyptus and lemon each evening? Or maybe the peppermint that is in a common blend I diffuse in the office? I don’t know, but my frequent “yuckiness” hasn’t been so frequent.
- Tea Tree (also known as Melaleuca) – Great for small cuts and scratches. In all honesty, I haven’t noticed that mine consistently heal faster with tea tree oil, but everyone recommends it. I probably don’t have the discipline to use it frequently enough.
- Four Thieves (sold by Edens Garden)/Thieves® (sold by Young Living) – This blend is sold under various similar names. It’s based on a legend that during the bubonic plague four men would rob those who had died from the plague. To everyone’s surprise they didn’t catch the disease. They were reported to use a blend of spices that protected them. The most common ingredients in today’s version of the blend are clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. This blend has very strong antibiotic and antiseptic properties. It was one of the last oils I bought and I haven’t used it, except as an occasional alternative in my night-time blend.
- Patchouli – This isn’t in your typical starter kit, but my husband loves the smell of it. It’s very musky. Some people love it, some people hate it. It has antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. It also combats depression and congestion. It promotes the regrowth of skin cells. I use this primarily in my night-time blend (see below), but I want to try it in place of tea tree oil on scratches and cuts.
- Jojoba – Carrier oils (also called base oils or vegetable oils) such as jojoba are used to dilute highly concentrated essential oils so they can be safely applied to the skin. I didn’t do as much research into carrier oils as essential oils, but chose jojoba because it has a long shelf life and is easily absorbed into the skin. It’s been nicknamed by some as the “king of oils.” Kinda like the Budweiser of the carrier oil world. Seemed like a good place to start and I’ve been happy with the blends I’ve created using it.
Since then I’ve added the following oils. I chose these largely because others say they’re essential to a starter kit. I haven’t used any of them yet.
- Rosemary – Antimicrobial and antiseptic, balancing and calming, this oil is also used to ease respiratory issues and skin conditions. I haven’t used it yet but bought it for those times when my asthma is bothering me. It also seems like it would be a great starting oil for a relaxation blend. I’ll have to work on that! Be careful with this one, though – it should not be used if you have high blood pressure.
- Clary Sage – Its unique feature is that it’s good for PMS and menopause relief. Hmmm. I think it would be good to combine with that Rosemary blend. It is a sedative with slight narcotic properties and shouldn’t be used before driving or doing other things that you need your full attention for. I’m thinking that a rosemary and clary sage blend is the perfect thing to diffuse in the bathroom while taking a warm bath before bed. But it’s new to my arsenal and I haven’t tried it.
Reputable Essential Oils Companies
Wow, what a hot topic! People seem to have strong opinions about the best companies from which to buy essential oils. I found reading people’s opinions helpful, but try to stay out of the fray. After spending quite a few hours reading reviews (and rants and raves) on a variety of blogs and shopping sites, then spending more time reading about various companies and how they handle their essential oils (from harvesting to storing), I created a spreadsheet listing the oils I wanted to buy and the various companies that sold them. I added prices to that spreadsheet and made my purchasing decisions. I ended up buying my oils from a couple of different companies.
With that background, I am comfortable recommending the following companies. If you recommend others, please share them with us. If you’ve had negative experiences with any of these companies, share that, too. But I truly don’t want this to become a forum for ranting against companies simply because you sell essential oils for a competing company.
- Mountain Rose Herbs – www.MountainRoseHerbs.com Besides having some good essential oils, Phil has been very pleased with the affordable loose leaf teas that he’s bought from them. High praise from a tea snob.
- Edens Garden – Available at Amazon.com
- Aura Cacia – Available at Amazon.com and Abe’s Market
- doTerra – www.doterra.com (If you’re looking for a consultant, we recommend purchasing from www.mydoterra.com/kathycasto)
- Young Living – Available at Amazon.com
Before long you’ll also need supplies – dark bottles with lids and droppers (don’t store your droppers in your oils). I’ve bought from a couple of sources, but be careful to read what you’re getting. My first purchase was half a dozen teeny-tiny bottles. They work great except they really are small. So I’ve found that they’re good for giving a sample of an EO to a friend, but not very good for my intended purpose – mixing my own blends. A second purchase of larger bottles was required.
Using Your Oils
There are a number of ways to use your essential oils. Typically you’ll blend them with a carrier oil, but they can also be used “neat” (that is, undiluted). We use them three different ways:
- Direct inhalation – When I’m traveling I put a couple of drops on a cloth (I use a wash cloth) and wave it in front of my face periodically. I’ve done this with peppermint to stay alert on long car trips and with eucalyptus or peppermint to relieve allergies or congestion.
- Apply topically – I’ve applied a variety of undiluted oils on scratches or cold sores. I also apply a small amount of lavender to my feet many evenings for a more restful night’s sleep. I’ve also applied peppermint to my temples and back of the neck to relieve headaches. Phil and I use a blend we’ve created for massaging away sore muscles and stress.
- Diffuse – Diffusers disperse oils into the air, much like a humidifier puts out steam. The best diffusers use ultrasonic technology. You should not use heat to diffuse most oils. We purchased this medium priced diffuser for our bedroom and were happy enough with it that we purchased a second one for our office. I’d like something more decorative for the main floor of the house but haven’t been willing to shell out the extra bucks for it yet.
Some oils can be taken internally, but be careful that they are safe for that purpose. You can also place some in a bath to relax or detox.
The Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook by Rashelle Johnson – This book is comprehensive and an excellent resource. It lists more essential oils that I could use in several lifetimes. For each one it provides an average price, identifies the plant source of the oil, recommends other oils that it blends well with, defines the therapeutic properties and gives a paragraph or two about its general uses. If there are warnings associated with the oil, you’ll find that front and center. What a treasure trove of info! I got the Kindle edition last week when it was free for a short time, but am seriously considering the print version because it’s so helpful. [Note: We occasionally post notices about free Kindle books on our Facebook page. We use Facebook for these kinds of things because it’s more timely than a blog posting. Find us on Facebook by clicking here.]
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-toxic & Fragrant Recipes to Create Health • Beauty • A Safe Home Environment by Valerie Ann Worwood – This book is recommended by many sites. Available at Amazon, this book is excellent because of its breadth. Not only does it offer over 600 EO recipes, it also organizes oils by how they can help you. It includes chapters covering EOs for the office, for sports enthusiasts, for beauty (to replace skin and hair care products), for babies, for women and men, for “help in the maturing years”, for cooking, gardening, and cleaning. It also addresses using EOs on pets. What I don’t like about this book is that it doesn’t list the oils and define their properties. You’ll have to get the first resource for that.
I’ve developed a few blends that I use regularly. I make them in large batches (usually at least double the recipes below), and store them in dark, one-ounce bottles.
First, here are some helpful measurements. All are approximate because drops.
1 ounce equals approximately 30 milliliters
1 ounce equals approximately 600 drops
1 ounce equals approximately 6 teaspoons
Allergy Blend #1 – Equal parts Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint
- Lavender for balance and aroma – I find that the lavender makes the scent of the eucalyptus a bit less prominent. Sometimes I get tired of the eucalyptus smell.
- Eucalyptus for decongestant, sinus issues, and aroma – Having just said that I get tired of the smell, let me also say that when my allergies are bad, I find that strong scents help a great deal. And eucalyptus does a great job of clearing your sinuses.
- Peppermint for alertness, headaches, and aroma – When my allergies are bad, my sinuses are full and my head feels like a balloon. Anything that makes me more alert and inhibits headaches is wonderful.
Office Blend #1 – 20 drops Frankincense, 6 drops Eucalyptus, 6 drops Peppermint
- Frankincense for fighting infections, general good health – Don’t you want to breath in something that makes you healthier instead of the just smelling the equipment you’re using all day long?
- Eucalyptus for decongestant
- Peppermint for alertness, headaches
Night Time Blend #1 – 50 drops Eucalyptus, 30 drops Lavender, 5 drops Patchouli (optional) – Phil and I notice a significant difference when we diffuse this blend at night.
- Eucalyptus for decongestant, anti-mucus
- Lavender for good night’s sleep
- Patchouli for woodsy smell, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac – if you don’t like the smell of patchouli, you might substitute frankincense (see recipe below).
Night Time Blend #2 – 50 drops Eucalyptus, 30 drops Lavender, 15 drops Frankincense
- Eucalyptus for decongestant, anti-mucus
- Lavender for good night’s sleep
- Frankincense for fighting infections, general good health
Massage Blend #1 – I use a 2-5% dilution (i.e., 2-5 drops of EO to 5 ml of carrier oil) – so my recipe varies but here’s a good starting place: 200 drops Jojoba oil (2 teaspoons), 2-3 drops Frankincense, 2-3 drops Lavender, 1-2 drops Patchouli
- Jojoba oil (or other carrier oil – sweet almond makes a nice choice)
- Frankincense for cell regeneration and arthritis relief
- Lavender for stress relief and good night’s sleep
- Patchouli for aroma, anti-depressant, and aphrodisiac affects
Travel package: When I travel, I take small bottles of at least eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint. Sometimes I throw in frankincense and patchouli.
EO Info Cards
I’ve created two sets of EO info cards. The first set helps me remember what the various oils I have can be used for. The second set helps me find the oil I need to meet a specific ailment.
You can download the cards and/or the information sheets below.
After you enter your email address, you will be taken back to the top of this blog.Scroll down to this point and a button to download the files will appear in both boxes below. Click on the button(s) to open either (or both) PDF(s). When the file is opened, save it to your system and then print the file(s). After printing the cards, simply cut them along the dashed lines.
Enter your email address to download Essential Oils 101 Info Cards
Enter your email address to download Essential Oils 101 Information Sheets
I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of months now – sometimes life gets hectic and I wanted this to include some free helps. We’ll get to that. I’m releasing this as a partial blog today because…BIG NEWS – the excellent book The Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook by Rashelle Johnson is currently available for FREE (as of this writing) as a Kindle book from Amazon.com. Get your copy here. What – you say you don’t have a Kindle? No problem! There are free Kindle apps for computers, tablets, and smartphones. Read our blog about that here: http://theapproachingdayprepper.com/free-prepper-book-downloads/
Now, on to my essential oils blog. Because I’m rushing this to post, you’ll only get Part 1 today. I’ll publish Part 2 with some free downloadable helps in a few days.
Essential Oils 101, Part 1
I’ve always thought of aromatherapy as nothing more than making your house smell good. In my ignorance I considered it a waste of time and money. Then on a whim I bought a nice-smelling orange spice oil…which proceeded to make my eyes swell from an allergic reaction. Nope, essential oils weren’t for me…or so I thought.
About eight months ago I was having trouble sleeping and a friend gave me some lavender oil. She told me to rub a small amount on the bottom of my feet before I go to bed, then inhale the residual that was on my hands. Rub oil on your feet to help you sleep better? What kind of voodoo is this? With a bit of trepidation I tried it. To my surprise, I found that my sleep was consistently more restful when I used it. I convinced Phil to try it…same result for him.
Hmmm…maybe there’s something to this after all.
So about six months ago I started doing some research on essential oils. I spent a lot of time reading about them and within a few weeks I assembled a “starter kit” of oils. After looking at a number of pre-packaged starter sets, I decided that I could get a better price by buying select individual oils from a number of different vendors. Since then I’ve added a few and I’ve been putting all of them to good use. More about my starter kit in my next blog.
Now that I’ve studied the topic and applied what I’ve learned, it’s for a first blog on essential oils. It’s so hard to know where to start because there’s so much info to share. Let’s start with some Q&As.
Q. What makes essential oils a prepper topic?
A. It’s a prepper topic because essential oils are a great alternative to western medicine, and we seem to be drawing closer and closer to a time when access to doctors and medicines will not be as easy as it is now. For example, if you can’t get antibiotics for an infection, there are essential oils that may work just as well or even better. (Not to mention that the more I read about essential oils, the more I think they could be better solutions to many of our health issues than western medicine, but that’s another blog.)
Q. If I’m using the oils in a massage before bedtime, won’t they stain my sheets?
A. Good question. I was concerned about that. But guess what! Essential “oils” are not really oils at all! They are actually liquids from various parts of plants. They aren’t greasy. You will mix them with a carrier oil that really is an oil (certain types of vegetable or nut oil), but the purpose of the carrier oil is to dilute the highly concentrated essential oils and to help your body absorb them. The carrier oils you’ll mix them with will quickly absorb into your skin. No stains!
Q. Preppers store things for future use. Can essential oils be stored for long periods of time?
A. The shelf life of essential oils varies quite a bit, but most will maintain their properties for at least two years if stored properly. Some have a shorter shelf life, and since the carrier oils that you frequently mix them with are true oils, some are good for only nine to fifteen months.
Q. I’ve seen some wild claims about what essential oils can do. Can an essential oil really do so many different things?
A. As I began to study about essential oils, I was a bit put off by the many claimed benefits of various oils. For example, eucalyptus oil is a favorite of many and considered a “must have” in your first kit. I’ve read many sites and seen it recommended for the following:
- Improve the circulatory system
- Help with respiratory issues including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia
- Help with alertness
- Help eliminate congestion and coughing
- Cools your body temperature and is therefore good in treating fevers
- Its antiviral and antibacterial properties make it great for infections and for adding to cleaning products
- Helps with digestive problems and diarrhea
- Combats sore muscles whether they be from over-exercise or the flu
- A natural insecticide
- Help with sinus issues including rhinitis and sinusitis
OK, seems like we are solidly in snake oil territory. How can one oil accomplish so many different things? As it turns out, essential oils contain an average of 100 different “constituents” – components or elements that make it up. Many of these constituents have some serious therapeutic value. With that being the case, I can understand how it can do so many things.
Because each oil has so many constituents, man-made reproductions are totally inadequate substitutes. They may approximate the smell and perhaps even have a few of the qualities of the oil it approximates, but they can’t come close to the real thing.
Q. How can the same essential oil do things that seem to be exact opposites – for example, help me relax and perk me up when I get the afternoon blahs?
A. This one really bothered me. Lavender oil is a favorite of many because it can be used to help you relax (hence it’s great at bedtime) or help energize you (so it’s the great afternoon pick-me-up). OK, now we’re really talking snake oil, right? Well, no. It turns out that there are oils that are called “balancers.” Lavender is one of those oils. What they do is bring your system into balance – so it makes sense that it can either help you sleep or keep you awake in the afternoon.
Q. How can smelling something really improve my health?
A. Yeah, at first thought that didn’t make much sense to me either…but then I thought again. You may remember the anthrax attacks from a few years ago. Simply coming in contact with the anthrax spores – breathing them in or having them come in contact with your skin – can kill you. Well, if there is stuff that can kill us simply from breathing it in, I can believe there is stuff that can make me better simply by breathing it in.
As it turns out, essential oils work much more efficiently than taking a pill. Medicine that is taken orally must first go through the digestive system which (1) takes time and (2) breaks down some of the medicine’s properties. Essential oils, on the other hand, are often applied topically to the source of the ailment or are inhaled, which gets them into our membranes and blood much more quickly.
And if I still doubted that inhaling thing…I only need to remember what I do when I have the occasional asthma flare-ups — I inhale medicine through a nebulizer and almost instantly breathe more easily.
Q. Why is there such a difference in price for the same kind of essential oil?
A. That’s a challenging one. The short answer is that it’s a combination of quality, marketing, and greed. It turns out that some companies that sell essential oil at a premium advertise their products as “certified” or “therapeutic grade.” The truth is that there is no regulatory agency that certifies essential oils and there is no official category called “therapeutic grade.” These are just made up terms that have no official meaning. Some companies that capitalize on such terms are doing so to both justify higher prices and gain market position. For example, one well-known brand of essential oils is doTerra, I have no doubt that they sell high quality products, but in their marketing they use a registered trademark phrase, “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG)”. It’s just a marketing gimmick. It means whatever they want it to mean. There is no organization that has certified them but themselves. It’s a promise to the consumer that their oils adhere to their own standards, not some authoritative third party. Like I said, I have no doubt that their standards are high and their essential oils are good – I just take a bit of exception to their misleading marketing. [End of rant.]
Other companies may use the term “therapeutic grade” simply because their competition use it and they want to communicate that they provide high quality oils. Again, there is no organization or governing body that certifies oil or classifies them by grade. So if no one is doing any certifying, how do you know what you’re getting? It’s not easy.
Key words to look for are “perfumed oil” and “fragrance oil” – stay away from them. “100% pure” is a good thing, but it still doesn’t speak to where the plants are sourced from or how they are inventoried. Quality essential oils are sourced from quality plants, are processed properly, and are stored properly.
“Quality plants” – We’ll leave that for another time because each oil comes from a different plant and many times the plants are grown in many regions. If you are a tea enthusiast, as Phil is, you know that tea can have different shades of flavor depending on where it’s grown and how it’s harvested or processed and stored. Essential oils are a lot like that. If you’re just getting started, stick with reputable retailers. You’ll find a few listed in my next blog.
“Properly processed” – Generally you want to purchase essential oils that have been steam distilled with no added chemicals and undiluted with carrier oils. You can select your own carrier oils for your particular preference or application.
“Properly stored” – That’s pretty easy, at least at the basic level. Essential oils should be stored in dark colored glass bottles. Yes, glass bottles. If the place you’re buying from provides them in plastic, you’re probably not buying high quality oils – unless you’re buying in bulk. When buying in large quantities, the shipping cost for glass bottles is prohibitive so most vendors ship in plastic or aluminum. You should transfer them to dark-colored glass bottles as soon as you receive them. Store your oils in a cool place that is not subject to temperature changes and out of direct sunlight. Do not store with a plastic/rubber topped eye dropper as a lid. Essential oils do not turn rancid like vegetable oils, they simply lose their effectiveness.
Those were my top questions. If you’ve got others, post your question on our The Approaching Day Prepper Facebook page (“like” us while you’re there) or as a comment on this blog and I’ll do my best to respond.
In my next blog, I’ll share the contents of my starter kit and my own experience. I’ll also identify resources – both companies and books. And, I’ll share some of my own essential oil recipes and a set of cards I created to help me remember how to use each oil. You’ll be able to download the cards for your own use.
For now, check out the FREE (as of this posting) Kindle book.