What are essential oils?
Essential oils are defined as a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant. Basically, it’s an oil that is derived from a plant, that still carries the essence of the plant with it, including the fragrance and it’s natural uses for a healthier body. Some essential oils can be used directly on the skin, while others cannot and certain essential oils should be avoided while pregnant. (See our previous blog post on essential oils to avoid while pregnant and breastfeeding.)
Clove essential Oil
Clove essential oil is usually extracted from the buds of the Eugenia caryophyllata (clove) plant. It has a beautiful woody aroma with a bit of a fruity undertone. Clove has traditionally been used in India and China for its medicinal properties, and even as a spice in some of their traditional dishes. In researching for this blog article, I was able to read many anecdotal accounts of how clove oil has helped people with their medical and physical needs. One of the most interesting, was an account of how clove oil helped with one girls hypothyroidism. She used clove oil topically over her thyroid and it helped to stimulate her thyroid, aiding in treating her thyroid issue. While her results may not be true for everyone, I found it to be an interesting insight into just how powerful natural remedies can be!
Health Benefits of Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil is known for its many medicinal uses. This oil is antiseptic, which is useful for using on small wounds but it also can be used on fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and scabies. It has also been known to treat those annoying infections of the eye known as a sty. Clove oil is also widely known for its uses as an aid to a healthy immune system. It has antiviral properties that help to strengthen the immune system, which is a welcome trait with flu season just around the corner. It also works remarkably well as a dental aid. It can help to freshen breath, kills bacteria in the mouth, provide a defense against cavities, and provide relief to your tooth aches. Clove essential oil is also used in aromatherapy and is known as an effective way to reduce headaches.
Other Benefits of Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil can be used to discourage your pets from chewing on your furniture, a safe and natural alternative to the sprays you find in your local supermarkets!
Not all essential oils are safe for everyone; Who should beware of using Clove? Clove oil is a very strong oil and should always be used in a diluted form. If you are a person, like me, who has sensitive skin, you may want to avoid applying clove oil directly to your skin as it can irritate sensitive skin. However, you may still be able to use it in different ways, such an inhaling, to provide relief to certain repertory conditions. Additionally, it is not recommended that you ingest clove oil, in most cases (it is generally safe to use in the mouth as dental care). Instead stick to topical and aromatic methods.
Oh boy. The more we go through these chapters, the more it scares me how much we trust big business to supply us with “choices.” Are we really given choices? Or is it more of the same stuff just in different wrappers and different price points? It’s only the educated consumer that really knows how to choose properly and demands change.
Why the heck is there artificial dye in food, medicine, cosmetics and clothing?Well, sadly, it goes back to marketing. It’s the idea of “How can we attract buyers quickly and get them to consume more and faster?” Further, psychological tests have been performed for years on how the general consumer (you and me) makes decisions based on color, smell, taste, feel, and other emotional connections. Simply put, the economics of life is all about supply and demand. And we surely know how much that big business wants us to demand! Just to put it in perspective of big business; L’Oreal made a gross profit of $11,500,737,664.61 US Dollars in the FIRST HALF of 2013! I can’t even say that number!
Wikipedia goes on to say that artificial dyes are used to:
offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions
correct natural variations in color
enhance colors that occur naturally
provide color to colorless and “fun” foods
Why do you think certain colors such as oranges, yellows and reds are used for fast food chains? Those colors induce hunger, and there are studies to prove it.
It’s used in cosmetics to attract us to beauty and sex.
The Truth About Artificial Dye in Food
I’m sure you’ve heard some news hype about kids being hyperactive from eating food coloring. Is it true? Indeed, it is! These stories are only backed by recent studies that demonstrate children who eat additives are more likely to have behavioral problems than those who do not. Check out more info below for each artificial color.
The 9 FDA-Approved Colors for Food, Drugs & Cosmetics
Whenever you see FD&C, this stands for Food, Drug and Cosmetics. You’ll often see this acronym associated with artificial dyes that the FDA has approved as safe for those applications.
The numbers of these certified colors should give you an idea just how many colors have been invented; and aren’t approved for use. FYI – these are considered GRAS by the FDA; generally recognized as safe artificial dyes. It’s important to note that the safety of artificial dyes is viewed differently in other parts of the world. Below is strictly related to the FDA FD&C colors.
Blues 1 & 2
Blue 1 aka Brilliant Blue is produced using hydrocarbons and petroleum. Combined with tartrazine (coal tar); yes coal tar; it can create shades of green. This dye isn’t absorbed by intestines very well so it will come out when we move our bowls; that’s about 95% of blue dye that our body doesn’t know what to do with!
According to Wikipedia: You’ll find Blue 1 in ice cream, canned peas, packet soups, bottled food colorings, icings, ice pops, blue raspberry flavored products, dairy products, candy and drinks, especially the liqueur blue curacao. It is also used in soaps, shampoos, mouthwash and other hygiene and cosmetics applications. In soil science, Brilliant Blue is applied in tracing studies to visualize infiltration and water distribution in the soil.
Blue 2 aka Indigo is used for a variety of reasons in addition to FD&C applications. It’s used in medical procedures to show the urinary tract path of fluid so health practitioners can identify any obstructions or leaks. There is some danger associated with increasing blood pressure. In its concentrated state, Indigo blue may be harmful to the respiratory tract if inhaled. It is also an irritant to the skin and eyes.
Green 3 Also known as FAST Green; this beautiful shade of turquoise is banned in EU and other countries in food. While it is one of the safer dyes; our intestines, however, do not absorb it very well. It has caused growth inhibition in rats in a lab studies. Wikipedia states that it can be used for tinting canned green peas and other vegetables, jellies, sauces, fish, desserts and dry bakery mixes. (I’m thinking why dye a fish green??)
So while the FDA considers this dye safe; it has been found to create tumors in experimental animals, as well as mutagenic effects in both experimental animals and humans. It furthermore risks irritation of eyes, skin, digestive tract, and respiratory tract in its undiluted form.
Acute symptoms/signs of exposure to Green 3: Eyes: Redness, tearing, itching, burning, conjunctivitis (eye infections). Skin: Redness, itching.Ingestion: Irritation and burning sensations of mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Inhalation: Irritation of mucous membranes, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath.
If you’re not convinced, check out the MSDS below in the source list for emergency response when you consume or expose yourself to Fast Green.
Reds 3 & 40
Red 3 – Also known as erythrosine; this cherry pink artificial dye commonly used in food coloring, candies, popsicles, cake-decorating, printing inks and for medical use. In the 90s the FDA instituted a partial ban on erythrosine, citing research that high doses have been found to cause cancer in rats (Washington Post).
In June 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA for a complete ban on erythrosine in the United States (CBS news). Although several toxicology tests and review of other reported studies concluded that erythrosine does not cause mutations (George, et al 1986).
Red 40 – Aka Allura Red, is also produced by coal tar or petroleum and is the most commonly used dye in the United States. A 2007 report from Southampton University questioned the safety of azo food dyes (the type of dye that makes Red 40) in three year old and 8-9 year old children (McCann, et al 2007). Studies have shown that children who eat red dye are more likely to be active and out of control than those who avoid it. Reactions have been reported about reactions to Red-40, such as children recovering from ADHD, OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (whatever that is), and sleep disturbances after the dye was eliminated from their diet. Allura red is banned in several European countries in food. Red 40 is used in some tattoo inks, makeup, lipstick, and several consumable products such as candy, soft drinks and children’s medications.
I’m personally highly allergic to Red 40 as its used to dye farm-raised salmon. I actually experience anaphylaxis where my throat closes up and I suffocate. Interestingly, the Benadryl needed to combat this histamine reaction is also dyed with Red 40!
Yellows 5 & 6 Like red and blue artificial dyes, artificial yellow is also made of Tartrazine; coal tar. If people are allergic to artificial dyes, it’s more commonly associated with artificial yellow dyes.
Yellow 5 – Norway has banned its use, while Austria and Germany restrict its use. People who are asthmatic and those who are allergic to aspirin are most likely to be intolerant of it.
While there’s no evidence to prove it, some say Yellow 5 provokes asthma attacks, itching and hives occur, anxiety, headache, depression, blurred vision, rash, weakness, heat waves, runny nose, and sleep disturbances.
Yellow 6 – Can cause allergic reactions, especially to those intolerant to aspirin. Can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, rash and liver toxicity.
Orange B FDA restricts its use to the casing on hot dogs and sausages.
Citrus Red 2
The FDA restricts its use to spray the skin of oranges. Why? To make them appeal more “orange” so you can buy it!! Why does the FDA restrict it to the outside of oranges only? Because it is a carcinogen. Because the skins are so thick, it is not absorbed into the pulp. But if you peel the orange with your fingers, then you touch the fruit, it’s called cross contamination! You should wash and peel your oranges before eating them, and wash your hands after handling the skin before you begin eating. Just buy organic!
Just Avoid These Dyes all Together
I haven’t found any data linking exposure of artificial dyes and cosmetics; however, it’s still being applied to the body! Just reduce your overall exposure to chemicals.
Most of these dyes can be easily avoided. Just be an educated consumer and read the labels. Avoid processed foods, because they are LOADED with just crap. Sorry folks, almost all candy has food coloring in it, even your favorite M&Ms with Blue Lake, Red 40, Yellow 6, etc. Even your favorite chips; e.g. Cheetos, Doritos, etc. have dye!!
There are natural dyes out there like beets for red; spinach for green; turmeric or saffron for yellow, annatto for red/orange/yellow variations, berries for blue.
Feel free to share your experience with natural dyes or artificial dyes.
Stay tuned for more excerpts from my presentation “READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural and Organic Skin Care.”
Customers are always asking me, “Dahlia, why is my skin so dry? What can I do?”
Every single person deals with dry, itchy, tight or scaling skin at one time or another. Why does this happen? What are ways to reduce the effects of dry skin? Here are some answers. There are many reasons why you may be experiencing dry skin. Here are the more common reasons:
HOT SHOWERS: If you read the post READ THE LABEL [CHAPTER 1] The Purpose of Your Skin, then you’ll have an understanding of the sebum or natural oil our body produces that not only hydrates but protects the epidermis from environmental exposure. This sebum helps keep our skin stay hydrated and healthy. Hot baths and showers actually remove the sebum; stripping your skin of moisture, and thus, causes dryness, itchy and flaky skin.
SOAP & SHOWER GEL: This is mostly true for soaps and shower gels containing a synthetic lathering ingredient known as sodium laurel/ethyl/laureth sulfate (SLS) and ammonium laurel sulfate (ALS). These types of products encourage sebum removal and are one of the primary contributors to the dry skin, eczema, itchy skin epidemic. Antibacterial soaps and leave-on products can also cause the pH of the skin to become imbalanced, causing more dryness.
Try changing your store-bought products and transitioning to an oil-based bar soap that’s super hydrating. Stop using anti-bacterial products. There’s actually insufficient evidence that these products are useful anyway. (An article to come later.)
Something else to consider. If you’re experiencing weird breakouts or rashes, this is often attributed to synthetic soaps.
TOO MANY SHOWERS: You know, back in the day, taking a shower every day was unheard of, mostly for water conservation/availability/difficulty heating. But today, many of us are taking 1-2 showers a day! If you’re suffering from dry skin, consider limiting how many showers you take to every other day. If you are an athlete and get super stinky, consider using soap only after the workout, and room temp/warm water and no soap for your second shower. Further, consider only applying soap to the areas where body parts touch, under arms, etc. Give the skin a chance for sebum to build up again.
A SCRUB DOWN: Are you using a loofah or some other abrasive cloth during your shower? These can actually be very good to help exfoliate dead skin. But remember, we’re losing 30-40 thousand dead skin cells every minute by doing nothing at all. Excessive exfoliation can cause the skin to become sensitive and doesn’t allow the skin to cycle properly. Use a softer wash cloth, and save the more abrasive scrubbing accessories to use 2-3x a week.
WEATHER CONDITIONS: In winter, keep your skin covered, and ALWAYS hydrate every part of your body. The best way to hydrate for winter is applying a natural oil to your damp skin right after a shower. Good ones are coconut, grapeseed, almond, sesame or olive oil. Avoid using synthetic moisturizers as many contain ingredients that can actually contribute to dry skin. In summer, avoid sun exposure and take cool showers.
DIET: The way your skin looks and feels is often highly attributed to what you feed your body. If you’re suffering from dry skin, drink plenty of water or coconut water, and if you can stomach it, occasionally drink aloe vera juice which is also great for the stomach. (Avoid aloe vera juice if pregnant.) Don’t forget, your skin is the largest organ in your body, and your organs need water to function properly.
Also, mineral and fatty acid deficiencies contribute to skin problems including eczema, psoriasis, dry, itchy and flaking skin. For example, zinc deficiency is often linked to eczema. Consider taking omega 3-6-9 supplements which also encourage collagen and conditioning of the skin. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Please share some techniques you’ve used to combat dry skin.
Aluminum is the third most naturally abundant element in the environment, found in food, water, pharmaceutical as well as a wide range of consumer products. Aluminum is commonly found in products such as:
Donuts and waffles
Utensils/pots and pans
So why should we care? Simply put, aluminum attacks our central nervous system. The Department of Neurology and Psychiatry at Saint Louis University states that aluminum may cause liver toxicity and lead to degenerative symptoms, including Alzheimer’s Disease (Brenner, 2013). While additional research shows this that it may be be linked to onset of Alzheimer’s Disease; the FDA argues it does not. Meanwhile, the University of California studies shows it is linked to brain inflammation and brain disease (Bondy, 2010). Studies show that toxic metals contribute to brain diseases by producing oxidative stress and aluminum is one of the worst offenders (Kumar, 2009).
Did you know? (Oct 2013) New research from the UK found that a range of well known brands of baby formula sold contains 100 x more aluminum than breast milk (published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, examined 30 types of formula sold in the UK, including infant first milks and toddler milks.)
What about aluminum in antiperspirants? Is it linked to breast cancer?
Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants; which basically clog the pores so that you do not sweat. Deodorants, on the other hand, have the main duty of preventing odor; they do not stop perspiration.
At the time of my research, there was insufficient scientific evidence to support a claim that use of cosmetics such as antiperspirants increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.
2001 Study – Linking Aluminum to Breast Cancer Cells
This study suggested that aluminum has estrogen-interfering effects and could increase the risk of breast cancer. This study also showed that the amount of aluminum absorbed through the skin from antiperspirants is 40 times less than average daily exposure from food and water.
Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer (Darbre, 2005).
This preliminary study showed that the use of aluminum chlorohydrate, the active ingredient in many antiperspirants, does not lead to a significant (vs. ingestion via diet) increase in aluminum levels in the body with one-time use (Flarend, 2001).
2002 Study – Time of Applying Antiperspirant/Deodorant After Shaving
This study also did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant. The results also showed no increased breast cancer risk for women who reported using a blade (nonelectric) razor and an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant, or for women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant within 1 hour of shaving with a blade razor. These conclusions were based on interviews with 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer (Mirick, 2002, cancer.gov).
2003 Study – Shaving Frequency & Antiperspirant/Deodorant Use Findings from a different study examining the frequency of underarm shaving and antiperspirant/deodorant use among 437 breast cancer survivors were released in 2003 (McGrath, 2003). This study found that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was significantly earlier in women who used these products and shaved their underarms more frequently. Furthermore, women who began both of these underarm hygiene habits before 16 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than those who began these habits later. While these results suggest that underarm shaving with the use of antiperspirants/deodorants may be related to breast cancer, it does not demonstrate a conclusive link between these underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer (cancer.gov).
2006 Study – Antiperspirant Use on Women With & Without Breast Cancer Researchers examined antiperspirant use and other factors among 54 women with breast cancer and 50 women without breast cancer. The study found no association between antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer; however, family history and the use of oral contraceptives were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (Fakri, et. al., & 2006; cancer.gov)
What does the FDA say about its use in body and skin care products?
The FDA views aluminum as GRAS; generally recognized as safe. While the FDA acknowledges that small amounts of aluminum can be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and through the skin; the overwhelming mass of toxicity data available does not indicate any risk of harmful effects from using any cosmetic products that contain aluminum.
The FDA now requires all antiperspirant products to include a warning statement that advises people with kidney disease to consult a physician before using the product.
Aluminum powder is FDA approved as safe for use for coloring cosmetics.When used in a cosmetic product, per FDA regulations, the safety of the ingredient must be substantiated by the manufacturer of the product. When the ingredient is used as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug active ingredient, such as in antiperspirants, a manufacturer can only use the aluminum active ingredients that have been approved as safe and effective by the FDA in the OTC antiperspirant monograph and these products can only be used according to the guidelines established in this monograph.
So what is the alternative to aluminum-based antiperspirants?
Surprisingly, there are quite a few products on the market today that do not contain parabens or aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants. Look for items in the “natural” section of your grocery store or online and read the ingredients. Look for products that are aluminum-free. Some natural deodorants and antiperspirants ingredients include any combination of mineral salts, potassium alum, baking soda, arrow root powder, witch hazel, essential oils.
Evidence will always be conflicting; but as I always say, it’s best to have a life goal of reducing your overall exposure to chemicals. — Dahlia
Stay tuned for more excerpts from my presentation “READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural and Organic Skin Care.”
Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2005; 99(9):1912–1919. [PubMed Abstract]
Fakri S, Al-Azzawi A, Al-Tawil N. (2006) Antiperspirant use as a risk factor for breast cancer in Iraq. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 2006; 12(3–4):478–482. [PubMed Abstract]
Flarend R, Bin T, Elmore D, Hem SL. (February 2001). “A preliminary study of the dermal absorption of aluminum from antiperspirants using aluminum-26”. Food Chem Toxicol39 (2): 163–8. doi:10.1016/S0278-6915(00)00118-6. PMID11267710.
ikas PD, Mansfield L, Mokbel K (September–October 2004). “Do underarm cosmetics cause breast cancer?”. Int J Fertil Womens Med49 (5): 212–4. PMID15633477.
Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB (2002). Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(20):1578–1580. [PubMed Abstract]
McGrath KG (2003). An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer 2003; 12(6):479–485. [PubMed Abstract]