Salubrious Ingredient: Lavender Essential Oil


Lavender essential oil is one of the most commonly heard-of essential oils out there as it has many, many beneficial properties, a wide range of uses, and it's easy to come by. And let's not forget, it smells really nice too!

Salubrious Ingredient: Lavender Essential Oil
 
What is lavender essential oil?

Lavender essential oil is derived directly from lavender plants by steam distillation, and has been historically used as a natural antiseptic. It has also traditionally been used in perfumes and as natural air purifiers in potpourri for its fresh, floral scent. Lavender essential oil also makes a great natural bug deterrent for most insects.

The lavender plant most commonly comes from France, but is also found in other areas of the world.

What are the beneficial properties of lavender essential oil?

Lavender essential oil is a natural antiseptic, which means it can be used as a disinfectant, either on the body or around the house. It is also an analgesic, otherwise known as a pain killer, and has also been known to have anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. And due to its fresh, calming scent, it is commonly used as a deodorant and sedative.

How can lavender essential oil be used on the human body?

As lavender essential oil is filled with so many wonderful properties, and it's one of the few essential oils that can be applied neat on human skin (meaning it can be safely applied directly without  being diluted), it can be used or most everything and anything one can think of. It's only a matter of how creative you want to get.

Commonly, lavender essential oil is used in aromatherapy; diffused into the air to create a calming, soothing scent that calms the nerves, and/or used with a carrier oil for massages. The aroma of lavenders has been said to help those who have trouble sleeping, as the smell helps relax the body. There have also been reports that the unpleasant symptoms experienced by those with congestion and respiratory problems have been alleviated by applying lavender essential oil to the chest and throat. Meanwhile, some claim lavender essential oil can also help alleviate pain in the joints and migraines.

The anti-bacterial properties of lavender essential oil means that it can also help those who suffer from acne. The oil naturally kills off acne-causing bacteria on the skin, helping skin remain clear, while the anti-inflammatory properties help reduce swelling and infected blemishes. Use of lavender essential oil to help skin conditions also extends to small wounds, burns and insect bites basically anything where inflammation of the skin needs to be alleviated.

The fact that lavender essential oil is also a natural bug deterrent means it can be used as a natural bug repellent, and even help cure lice and lice eggs and nits on the scalp.

This particular essential oil can be diffused into the air, applied directly, or mixed into carrier oils and creams or lotions.

What are other uses of lavender essential oil?

You can easily find a few satchels or pieces of cloth and scent them with a few drops of lavender essential oil, then place them in drawers or corners of the house to keep your home smelling fresh. And added bonus is that as most insects generally dislike the smell of lavender essential oil, you can also keep your house bug-free this way.

I personally also keep a spray bottle of lavender essential oil diluted in some water or vodka at home and at my desk at work to spray and wipe down surfaces when I want to do some quick cleaning.

What are the dangers of lavender essential oil?

Salubrious Ingredient: Lavender Essential Oil
Although lavender essential oil can be safely used neat on the skin, that doesn't mean everyone can or should. If you experience any unpleasant reactions to lavender essential oil, I would suggest discontinuing its use immediately, as you may be allergic. In fact, it's a good idea to always test a little bit on the inside of your wrist or the crook of your elbow whenever you're trying a new essential oil, or even an essential oil you're familiar with but is from an unfamiliar brand, as many companies add other chemicals into their essential oils, even when they're marked 100% pure.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or you're have any other underlying illness or condition, such as diabetes, it isn't recommended that you use lavender essential oil. If you're not sure if you can safely use lavender essential oil, ask your physician. It is also not a good idea to use too much lavender essential oil. Everything in moderation is the key.

I'd like to take this opportunity to also debunk a myth. Awhile back, this report was circulating the web, saying that lavender essential oil mimics estrogen hormones and was actually causing little boys to develop breasts. But upon careful reading, you'll see that it was actually a very poorly conducted study based on a sample of only THREE young boys, and that the study itself did not mention the purity of the lavender essential oil in the products, nor did it take into account other chemicals that were used in the study that may have been the ones mimicking estrogen.

This isn't to say that lavender essential oil absolutely does not mimic estrogen, but so far there have been no further studies supporting these findings with any concrete data, according to the American College of Healthcare Services. And according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, there has never been any proof, period.

So believe what you will. It does bear consideration though, that lavender essential oil is one of the most commonly used oils found in household products the world over, and so far there has not been an epidemic of little boys growing boobies.

Can I ingest lavender essential oil?

Some say it is perfectly safe to ingest small doses of lavender essential oil in order to enhance the flavor of food or to more fully absorb its benefits. However, as a general rule, I never ingest essential oils. I previously mentioned that many companies advertise their essential oils as being 100% pure even when their oils do contain other dangerous toxins or chemicals. If I absolutely had to ingest lavender essential oil, I would make sure to only use one that has a food label you would find on the packaging of other common food items.

If you really want to try putting some lavender essential oil into your tea or food, then remember to do thorough research on where you're getting your oil from before using it. Also, keep in mind that even if lavender essential oil is completely pure, it can still cause problems internally on its own and make you incredibly sick if your body can't handle it. Use your best judgment.

Can I use lavender essential oil on my pets?

NO. I am very adamant about never using essential oils on animals. They have very different systems than humans do and can have very severe reactions to such oils. Stay on the safe side, and don't put essential oils on Fluffy or Fido.

Sitting ... You're Doing It Wrong


Something as basic as the way you sit at your desk every day could be contributing to general discomfort such as a sore neck, stiff shoulders, tension in the back muscles and swollen legs. This is especially detrimental for those of us who have to keep our butts parked in front of a computer every day for work. Sitting correctly will not only help alleviate neck and back pain, but it'll prevent bigger problems down the road, such as chronic lower back pain and permanently hunched, bad posture.

How to Sit Properly
My attempt at sketching.
The ideal way to sit at your desk should be more or less like the drawing to the left. Your desk or table should be at a height where your wrists remain neutral and don't strain, and you can comfortably use a computer mouse or keyboard without your elbows dropping below the table. Your back should be straight and able to rest comfortably against the back of the chair (ideally with your butt tucked nicely into the area where the back and seat meet), while your feet rest on the ground without hanging. Lastly, you should adjust your computer monitor so that when you face forward, your eye line is right about where the top of the screen is, then tilt the monitor so you can comfortably see the entire screen without glare or reflections.

Of course, this all takes a little adjusting on your part, as not everyone's body is built the same. If your forearms are slanting up to meet the table, then lower the table or raise your chair. If this causes your legs to hang, get a small step stool or box to allow your feet rest comfortably against flat surface. Meanwhile, also invest in a good chair with a supportive back that will encourage you to sit straight without slouching.


By the way, there's no hard rule or scientific evidence as to how far away your computer screen should be from your face, but I personally think the idea distance is the length of your arm. So stick your arms out, and the tips of your fingers should just brush up against your computer monitor. From there, adjust brightness, contrast and font size to make viewing the text on the screen less taxing on your eyes.

Hope this was helpful!

Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards: Which is Better?

Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards: Which is Better?

I've always loved wooden cutting boards; the rustic old-timey way they look, their sturdy weight, and the crisp "thud" sound the blade of a knife makes against the surface, signaling something delicious is being prepared.

But we never used wooden cutting boards in our house.

That's because I grew up with the mentality that wooden cutting boards absorb all sorts of germs and bacteria into its porous material, even more so after frequent use, and that plastic cutting boards are far superior as are more easily properly cleaned to ensure food prepared on top of them stays hygienic. Plus, they're usually cheaper.

But are plastic cutting boards really better? I decided to do some research on this topic, and here's what I found out.


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As it turns out, plastic cutting boards are no easier to keep clear of bacteria and harmful germs than wooden cutting boards are. In fact, plastic cutting boards may be more hazardous to our health than wooden ones are. This is true according to research conducted by Dean O Oliver, PhD, who is professor emeritus of food safety at the University of California, Davis.

Studies done on cutting boards' ability to hold on to harmful bacteria such as Salmonella have shown that the germs lingered on the surface of plastic cutting boards much longer than on wooden ones. Bacteria was particularly prevalent on cutting boards that have been used, as the tears created by knives mean bacteria would get caught in the grooves and become difficult to remove, even when scrubbed with soap. No amount of soap completely eliminated germs from the surface of used plastic cutting boards. Running plastic cutting boards through the dishwasher also did not solve the problem, as this only helped redeposit the bacteria onto other surfaces. Soaking plastic cutting boards in a bucket of bleach overnight seemed to be the only way to completely eliminate bacteria from the surface, but honestly, that's wasteful and who has that kind of time?

Wooden cutting boards, on the other hand, had the ability to suck bacteria and germs down beneath the surface, but once there, the bacteria did not multiply and eventually died off. Even deep cuts made into the wood with a sharp blade did not bring the bacteria back up to the surface. What's more, wooden cutting boards can be microwaved to ensure all bacteria and germs are effectively killed — after the board has already been washed clean of any food, of course. This is something you can't do with plastic cutting boards as they're not usually designed to be microwave safe. However, if you do choose to microwave a wooden cutting board to disinfect it, make sure there aren't any metal parts in it, otherwise it will create sparks inside the microwave, creating a hazard.

(Being able to microwave a wooden cutting board in order to disinfect it was fascinating information to find out, but it also begged the question: how on earth do you fit a wooden cutting board into a microwave?)

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Some may still be drawn to plastic cutting boards as they are, in most cases, much cheaper than good wooden cutting boards. They are also lighter, easier to store and can come in a variety of fun patterns and designs. However, the truth is, plastic cutting boards simply don't last as long as wooden ones, as even non-porous plastic can quickly be ripped to shreds by frequent use, which creates unsightly tears on the surface, which then becomes easily stained.

Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards: Which is Better?Wooden cutting boards may cost a little more, but they may end up being a better investment as they will last a lot longer. You will rarely be able to see any cuts in the surface unless there are particularly deep ones, and those can be easily smoothed out with a little patience and sandpaper.

I personally keep several cutting boards at home. One is for raw food that will be cooked, such as meat, another is for fresh veggies, while yet another is for clean fruit.

I use one cutting board exclusively for raw food that will be cooked because I don't worry too much over bacteria transfers on that board, as the food will be cooked anyway. Fresh vegetables, such as ingredients that will go into a salad, get their own cutting board, as I don't want to risk transferring any bacteria from the "raw-food-to-be-cooked" board onto my vegetables. Fruit get their own board as well, since I have a sensitive palate and I've noticed that when I use the same cutting board for veggies and fruit, even when I've washed the board in between, certain vegetable smells will be transferred into my fruit plate. Maybe it's all in my head, but I swear I've tasted tomato in my pears when I've used the same board to prepare both.

And let's not forget the importance of having a board for cheese. Not only because cheese has such distinct and wonderful smells, but sometimes there's just nothing better than seeing a spread of beautiful cheeses across a wooden serving board, paired with a glass of wine.

Cure a Cold/Flu the Natural Way with Apple Cider Vinegar


Cure a Cold/Flu the Natural Way with Apple Cider VinegarI try to avoid popping pills unless I absolutely have to when I'm only slightly sick. The idea of filling my body with toxic chemicals just to get over a touch of cold or flu really bothers me, since I think many people overmedicate their bodies. Modern society's tendency to always first turn to antibiotics to cure minor ailments is helping create stronger germs and bacteria, while also diminishing the ability of our immune systems to fight diseases on their own.

There are really much more natural options people can try first to help relieve symptoms of a cold or flu, like drinking apple cider vinegar!

Apple cider vinegar has a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial to the human body, and the ways it helps relieve a cold or flu include ...


Making the pH of your body more alkaline

When you're sick with the cold or flu, your body is a bit more acidic than it should be. In general, an acidic body has more difficulty absorbing the nutrients, vitamins and oxygen it needs to stay healthy. This is what causes your fatigue and general malaise when you're sick. Drinking apple cider vinegar will help balance out the pH levels of your body by making it more alkaline and relieve some of those symptoms of discomfort, while also helping your body regain the vitamins and strength to become healthy again.

Detoxifying your body

Apple cider vinegar helps thin the blood and break down any mucous in the body. When it does this, your circulation and metabolism runs a little better, therefore allowing all of your organs to also function better.

ACV helps blood circulation by oxidizing blood cells, which prevents the blood from becoming too "thick", so to speak. This means your vessels and heart won't have to work quite so hard to keep blood flowing through your body, so your blood pressure goes down.

When the potassium in apple cider vinegar breaks down mucous in your body, this includes the unpleasantness in your sinuses and eyes, which means you'll be able to breathe and see better. You'll be able to bring up the phlegm in your throat a lot faster as well, as your body will be able to expel more efficiently.

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As apple cider vinegar is rather strong, so most people dilute it before drinking it. You can mix some with water, juice or tea to make it more tolerable. Try starting with an eighth of a cup with another beverage of your choice, and work your way up to stronger ratios to see where your comfort level is. Some people drink it once a day, some people three times a day, it's up to you.

Don't go overboard though, as you don't want to risk making your body too alkaline, which can cause problems as well. I mean, you'd have to work extremely hard and consume a lot of alkaline things all day in order to put your body in a state that it would become a problem (and who would do that?), but it's a warning I feel like I should give anyway.

And of course, you don't have to wait until you're sick in order to drink apple cider vinegar. Try working it regularly into your diet to get its healthful benefits on a daily basis.