By now you probably have heard people talking about essential oils and may be wondering what they are, as well as how to use them. When my family first started using essential oils my expectations were fairly minimal, I figured our house would smell great from diffusing something natural, instead of using synthetic fragrances and that we might find a use here or there for the oils. I had no idea that they would become my next major “natural” obsession (my first “natural” obsession was removing as much plastic as possible from our lives). By digging in and doing some research I discovered how versatile high quality essential oils are and have slowly been replacing items in our medicine, beauty and cleaning cabinets with essential oils.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are what protects and keeps a plant healthy and vital. By extracting the essence of the plant through distillation or cold pressing, one is left with a highly concentrated liquid that has been used for centuries as a way to promote emotional and physical well being. For example one drop of 100% pure peppermint oil is equivalent to approximately 24 cups of peppermint tea.
How to Use Essential Oils
The real beauty with using essential oils is that one oil can have a multitude of uses. For example, Lavender, can be applied to bug bites and minor burns to help relieve pain and itching and can also double as a natural relaxation tool to help children ease into a calming state for a good nights sleep.
There are three ways to administer essential oils: aromatically, topically or internally. While one type of oil may not be recommended for internal use, the same oil may be very effective when used as a topical or aromatic.
- Aromatic: you can add several drops to an essential oil diffuser or simply apply a few drops of oil to your palms and inhale.
- Topical: many oils can be applied “neat” (undiluted), by placing a few drops of oil directly to the skin. Similar to how reflexology uses the feet to access different parts of the body, the bottoms of feet are often a good place to apply essential oils. With all oils, take caution to avoid using on or around the eyes, ears and genital area. If the oil should not be applied “neat” it will need to be diluted with carrier oil, which helps dilute the strength of the oil. Carrier oils include coconut and jojoba oil.
- Internal: The third method is to ingest the oil, which can be accomplished by adding a drop or two to a glass of water. Some oils can also be placed into vegetable capsules and swallowed.
It is important to check the guidelines for the individual oil, and to only use a high quality, unadulterated brand of oil.
Choosing a Safe Essential Oil
Since essential oils are naturally derived from a plant they do not require FDA approval. When it comes to choosing safe and effective oils, realize that not all essential oils are created equal. A little research into what brand of essential oil to choose can make a big difference. Even if the essential oil only lists one plant ingredient (usually listed as the botanical name) and no fillers it may have been processed using GMO crops or have been dosed with pesticides. Furthermore, many of the essential oil brands you can find at health food stores are not 3rd party tested and can contain fillers and additives, exactly the type of chemicals most of us are trying to avoid.
We use and recommend Young Living essential oils. Young Living not only uses 3rd party testing, they maintain their own farms (or carefully regulated coop farms) and have their own in-house testing as well. Nothing is added to Young Living oils – they are 100% natural – and avoid the use of pesticides and GMOs. With each harvest, only the highest quality plants are hand-selected for oil production.Learn more about Young Living Essential Oils.
Here are some links for DYOR (do your own research) on oils:
- Oil Testimonials: Over 8000 testimonials with suggestions on how to use essential oils. http://www.oil-testimonials.com/
- Pub Med: A site which catalogs publications from scientific journals, including research on essential oils
- Skin Deep: The Environmental Working Group’s searchable database of toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products. Skin Deep currently does not test different brands of essential oils, but it is a valuable resource for determining the toxic levels in certain products that use essential oils.
With hundreds of different essential oils to learn about, a reference book can be a great resource. There are many excellent books to choose from with most listing how to use oils by oil type, or by the condition that they can help alleviate. There are also books that focus on specific topics such as using essential oils safely during pregnancy or with babies and kids and even pets. Here are some of our favorite resources books.
DIY Essential Oil Recipe
With cold and flu season approaching we decided to include an easy make your own hand sanitizer recipe.
Essential Oil Hand Sanitizer, simply mix and add the below ingredients into a small squeeze bottle.
- Small squeeze bottle
- 6 tbsp. Organic Aloe Vera Gel
- 5 tbsp. Distilled or Regular Water
- 10 drops of Young Living Thieves EO OR 3 drops of each of the following Clove EO, Lemon EO and Eucalyptus EO
Guest post written by Kristie Turck of TheGlassBabyBottle.com, a buying guide to safe baby and kids products.
I’ve gotten hundreds of emails asking me my opinion on WaterWipes! I have since added my two cents in the Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet but the kind folks at the copy sent me some to test out. Granted, I do not have any babes around here anymore but I know a good baby wipe when I see one. Meaning, I know it will get the “job” done.
We’re all looking for something perfect and ideally, we’d all make our own baby wipes and never lose a wink of sleep. But the reality is that consumers want a disposable baby wipe for the added convenince without all the chemicals, parabens and hormone mimicking ingredients lurking on baby wipes. Some might argue that it’s a silly thing to worry about but we wipes these on our babies butts daily and some for hands, faces and other areas that might need temporary cleaning. Mainstream wipes are a cocktail of unnatural chemicals. WaterWipes are pretty simple. 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. That’s it.
There are some concerns out there about grapefruit seed extract being a harborer or hidden parabens or contaminants but the company seems to have eased our concern over the product they use:
“As a precaution we had our product tested for a number of contaminates such as benzalkonium chloride, triclosan and parabens, among others. The tests showed there is no need for concern as they were all clear as expected. We also tested for a large number of pesticides and multi residue components. However none were detected in our Grapefruit seed extract. We believe our supply of Grapefruit seed extract is a clean supply from a reputable supplier and there is no reason for concern.”
What I love: They have no smell, they’re soft and are just damp enough for cleanups. What I would love for them to change: Make the cloth fiber something biodegradable or sustainable to reduce the waste factor. Overall I think these are great for babies with sensitive skin or allergies. A sound alternative to conventional baby wipes.
EWG Skin Deep Rating: 0 (August 2013)
Costs: 60 count package RSP $3.99 | Amazon
WaterWipes is giving a SafeMama reader 12 PACKS of wipes to a lucky reader – comment and Like us on Facebook to enter. Giveaway ends Sept 18th midnight EST and open to US residents only. Good luck! If you don’t win, WaterWipes runs a monthly giveaway on their website so you still get a chance to win.
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It’s been a long year and there is a lot to cover around here but I started by updating the Baby Wipes cheat sheet for you mainly for the #1 email I received on my hiatus. I have a review in the works of the new product on the list but if you don’t see a brand listed that you think should be please email and let me know! I think it goes without saying that I will review/include baby wipes that people think may be more natural but aren’t sure so mainstream products are typically not even considered due to the contents.
Hello loyal SafeMama readers! I know I have been VERY quiet and despite that, your emails and comments and visits still flood the SafeMama gates. I am so grateful for that. I needed, without realizing it, a break from this project. I love this website and what it provides. But my life became busier and I just did not have the time to dedicate to updating it as it should be. But, I have done some soul searching and SafeMama is just too important to me to let it disappear. Cheat Sheets will start becoming updated and I’ve decided to bring on some very knowledgeable people to help me re-vamp those to get them back up to speed.
There are a plethora of informative blogs out there, many of them written and authored by dear friends. I hope to bring SafeMama back to life and continue on helping parents make informed decisions.
I had the opportunity to sample a swanky line of skin care this year. I wasn’t sure at first, if I wanted to review it. It looked too pretty to be free of toxic ingredients. I looked a bit closer and was actually impressed by the list and decided to give it a try. I was skeptical but, why not try it out. Of all the skin care products I’ve tested, I rarely fall so in love with a line that I use it all. Not the case with La Mav Organic Skin Science. I just used the very last drop of it and came online to see about ordering more.
These products, while at a pretty high price point, are really amazing. They make my skin feel smooth and lovely without any irritations. For the first time, I actually use a night cream. Mostly because it isn’t thick and heavy like others can be. My skin actually glows when I use this line of skin care. The cleansing creme’s are gentle and leave you feeling clean and fresh. The Wrinkle Defense Day Fluid is light and absorbs easily. I am in love with the Omega-3 Advanced Nightly Repair Creme – I wake up refreshed and soft without any irritation.
Certified Organic and cruelty free, and not to mention the packaging is beautiful. I do wish the packaging was recyclable, which would be my main critique. But I can’t argue the performance of the products I tried. You can find the anti-aging line and all their other products on their website LaMav.com. They have lines for every kind of skin care issues. I may have to save up to replace the products I fell in love with!
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Just wanted to share with you the goodies that came along with this edition of EcoCentric Mom‘s “Mom” Box. Lots of pretty little natural treats.
House of Metalworks – Jewelry handmade in the USA with reclaimed/recycled materials, this months box came equipped with a darling heart charm bracelet that is so sweet and delicate. Lovely little gift for someone you love. beautiful!
The Seaweed Bath Co – A full sized bar of Detox Cellulite Soap that uses Organic Coffee as the exfoliating ingredient! Natural ingredients combat itchy skin, psoriasis, eczema and other irritating skin conditions. Seaweed extracts, coffee and cinnamon gently cleanse and nourish skin. Free of parabens, sulfates, gluten and dyes.
pur-Absorb Iron – These little packets of iron-rich natural spring water as a natural supplement for women with low iron levels. A gentle effective dose reducing the effects of side effects due to it’s proven absorption rate. This month’s box came with a full sized box of 28 supplements! Thank you pur-Aborb!
RESCUE Gum Natural Stress Relief - Not sure who knew I needed this but thank you EcoCentric Mom. This natural gum by Bach called Rescue Gum is a tasty piece of stress relief. Orange and Elderflower extracts soothe your stress levels and help you cope. I’m not sure what about it works but chewing one of these did actually keep me collected and focused while writing this post!
Sjaak’s Organic Fair Trade Chocolate Hearts – Who doesn’t love chocolate? Okay not everyone dies but these pretty little chocolate hearts use organic and non-GMO ingredients while supporting a fair trade environment and practices. They come in assorted flavors like lavender chocolate and cherry but my heart belongs to the basic milk chocolate. Such a conscious little treat!
LIPS by Healthy Houseful – If you don’t know me by now, the way to my heart is with lip balm. I am constantly applying it and I have one or several with me at all times. LIPS by Healthy Houseful is a warm butter balm with lemon essential oil and natural vanilla, making this a luscious little lip balm that was super moisturizing thanks to coconut oil and shea butter. Mmmm
Pure + Remedy Vitamin C Facial Serum & Precious Drops Super Hydrating Serum – I never was a big “serum” person. Until I got wrinkles and stuff. These high quality serums are a great solution thanks to safe natural ingredients that effectively address skin concerns like age spots, dryness, and texture of your skin. I loved the Vitamin C serum to combat those pesky sun freckles on my chest. They look sort of cute now but won’t forever. I’d love to treat skin issues with safe ingredients. These serums moisturize without leaving any sticky residue. Just softness!
Subscribe! I truly love these boxes and think they make a wonderful treat for any mom or woman in your life who wants to try out new natural products. The subscription service offers a generous box of samples and coupons along with expert tips for $24 with deliveries every 2 months. Choose from Mom Discovery, Mom-to-be Discovery or Mom & Baby Discovery themed boxes and get a load of fun stuff to experience.
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Anyone remember Clean George? One of my favorite companies has come up with some really great new products I wanted to share with you. Clean George, as a company, believes in only using safe natural organic ingredients to create their lovely products and they deliver! They have a new line of skin balms that come in those awesomely chubby tubes. Skin troubles are always an issue for us at one time or another and you never know when it will strike. These are the perfect thing to have handy for a variety of troubles.
Got booboo’s and bumps that need soothing? Dry lips or hands? Need a quick skin soother? They have you covered. I don’t have a favorite of the four different kinds they offer but I love each one for different reasons. The SKIN stick is great to keep in your bag for any ol’ reason and it smells like lemon. I just used it for my dry cuticles. CHILL OUT is another great one with Lavender essential oil infused into nourishing butter oils along with antioxidant rich ingredients and vitamin C. Great for cranky kids, and cranky moms. Makes a great lip balm too.
These are perfect for travel (no liquid!) because they are smooth and nourishing without the use of water and preservatives. The wide tubes make application easy, even though they slip on like butter. A daily essential if you ask me.
Check out Clean George and their wonderful story!
Polar what? All I know is it’s cold and we’ve all been battling coughs for weeks. I am over it. But to help soothe the coughs and sniffles this time of year when we are bound to catch a bug or two, there are natural remedies to help us.
Nagging coughs are the worst, especially for kids when they are trying to sleep. Here are some of my best ideas to at least help you try to get through it until it subsides.
Honey – I know we have all heard this one but I do think it helps. As long as your child is old enough and doesn’t have a known allergy to it, this is a safe and natural way to help settle a yucky cough. A teaspoon or two before bed and as needed. My kids think it’s kind of neat. I can’t get them to drink tea so this is the next best thing to soothe a cough.
Humidifier – Keeping the air moist can help keep things moving along. Dry heat from our homes can inhibit healing and make scratchy throats feel worse. Placing a clean humidifier in any bedroom will reap great breathing benefits.
Lemon Water – Drinking water in the morning with a few slices of squeezed lemon is known to help clear out mucus and is an added boost of fluids and vitamin C!
Chest Rubs – I know you can buy these anywhere but they are all typically petroleum based and very harsh. Natural versions work just as well and you have a little peace of mind that you aren’t slathering a thick petroleum based chemical on your baby. One of my all time favorites is by House Blend Organics called Cousin Sam’s Cool Eucalyptus Chest Rub. A little here and there and airways clear up. I have heard that putting this on kids feet and covering with socks can stop a cough. I’ve never actually tested it though. House Blend’s products are all completely natural, and certified organic. But the best part is they are made so well – I love the entire line. If you have chapped hands like me (from all that hand washing) I love love loooove her Organic Lavender Balm (and the Coconut, and and and… can you tell I love this line?)
Find it here: Good Things Green Things (10% off with code “safemama”)
Happy 2014! Helping me get back in the swing of things are the lovely people at Babo Botanicals who offered my dear readers a chance to win a $100 Gift basket of Babo Botanicals products. If you don’t know about this brand I recommend checking them out. I habitually use their Lice Prevention shampoos and spray as well as my favorite Meadowsweet Bubble Bath – such a heavenly scent. Packed with natural and certified organic ingredients, Founder Kate Solomon takes pride in providing beautiful but safe and effective products. And she’s a sweetheart!
One reader will receive a gift basket full of Babo Botanicals products worth $100! Here’s how to enter:
I took a much needed, mental health break from writing. I hope you’ll all forgive me for that. I sometimes feel pressure to do articles to fit the seasons and holidays despite having churned out the same baloney year after year. My new philosophy here is to write what’s useful for you. I’m sure you all were waiting on baited breath for my safe Halloween posts (not)… instead I want to focus on what will make your life easier rather than more expensive. SafeMama has many plates spinning over here but rest assured, I am refreshed and hopeful that the rest of this year, which I cringe to say is now officially “Holiday Season”, will be a great end to the year. In the meantime, I wanted to kick off my refreshed sense of energy with my grandmother’s very easy can free (and bpa free) method of cranberry sauce. I shared this a few years ago with a few other great recipes for Thanksgiving. This is my spin on my grandmother’s recipe with a little spice kick.
SafeMama’s Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup organic unbleached sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup orange juice (and zest)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- 1 package of cranberries (looked over and washed – organic preferred!)
Directions: In a large saucepan, mix water, orange juice & sugar. Stir until dissolved over medium heat. Dump in cranberries and zest an orange into the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and then boil gently, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. During this time you can add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove from heat and pour into a glass bowl. Let cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate. Best made the day before (says Grandma… and its actually true, plus its one less thing to do on Turkey Day). Of course, there are a zillion cranberry sauce recipes on Pinterest but this one is tried and true. I make it every year! My friends at Wild Mint are hosting a great challenge for the month of November, cleverly called “No-Can-Ber“. They are posting some great recipes and will have an exciting giveaway coming up. Go check it out!
What are your favorite can-free holiday recipes?