Essential Oils – Boon or Bane

In the past year, retail sales of essential oils soared 38%, with consumers spending more than $1 billion on oils and accessories, according to market research firm SPINS. 

“There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils,” says Cynthia Bailey, MD, a dermatologist in Sebastopol, CA. “But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

As far back as 1,000 A.D., healers used mechanical presses or steam to extract essential oils from aromatic plants. Today, practitioners can rub oil-infused lotions on the skin, where the compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream. Or they can diffuse them into the air where, once inhaled, they bind to smell receptors and stimulate the central nervous system,

  Ill-informed at-home users tend to misuse them. One group of concerned aromatherapists began collecting injury reports online. Since the fall of  2013, it  has received 229, ranging from mild rashes and anaphylactic shock to internal chemical burns from using oils to treat vaginal yeast infections.

  Essential oils are very safe and effective if used properly for addressing routine health challenges. But there is so much misinformation out there right now,

  Contrary to what several essential oil companies recommend, the oils generally should not be swallowed. The body absorbs more this way, boosting the chance that they will interact with medications or cause an allergic or toxic reaction. Even continued exposure to small amounts (a few drops a day in a water bottle) can lead to fatigue and headaches. Taking in larger amounts of certain oils — like tea tree oil, wintergreen, and camphor — can lead to throat swelling, a racing heart, vomiting, and even seizures, says the Tennessee Poison Center, which saw the number of toxic essential oil exposures double from 2011 to 2015.

The oils, which are derived from plants and used in aromatic and homeopathic products, can cause harm when consumed. And children face a heightened risk from exposure, the experts said.

“The rule of thumb in toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful,” said Dr. Justin Loden, a certified specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Tennessee Poison Center.

Some essential oils, like eucalyptus, contain compounds called phenol that can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled, particularly for babies. And some have hormone-like properties that studies suggest could harm children and pregnant women.

  Allergic reactions are also common. Bailey has seen rashes on eyelids from essential oil droplets emitted by diffusers and around mouths from peppermint oil-infused mouthwash or lip balm.

Highly toxic essential oils include camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, and wintergreen oils, the researchers noted. Many essential oils can cause symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations and seizures. Symptoms may also include chemical burns, breathing problems, liver failure and brain swelling, among others.

To keep kids and pets safe, store essential oils properly — locked and out of reach. Follow instructions regarding their use, and seek help by calling Poison Control (1-800-222-1222 in the United States) in an emergency.

The above was excerpted from these articles. 

Essential Oils: Natural Doesn’t Mean Risk-Free

More Kids Accidentally Poisoned by Essential Oils 

Caveat Emptor

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

Should You Worry About Wheat?

Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948, tempera on panel
Museum of Modern Art

Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948, tempera on panel
Museum of Modern Art

Unless you have celiac disease or another type of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, there’s no reason to avoid wheat. No doubt many Americans eat too much refined wheat, usually in the form of cakes, cookies, pizza and other foods loaded with added sugar and/or fat (which can double or triple the calorie count), as well as lots of sodium.
Cutting down on such wheat products can help people lose weight and improve their overall diet, provided they substitute lower-calorie foods. But 100 percent whole-wheat and other whole-grain products can fit well into a healthy diet, as can many refined-wheat dishes that include nutritious ingredients, such as pasta with vegetables. As with so many dietary matters, moderation is the key.

Should You Worry About Wheat?


The painting, “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth is one of the most famous american paintings from the 20th century. Painted in 1948, it depicts wyeth’s friend and neighbor Christina Olson who suffered from polio (an epidemic during the 1940’s) The painting depicts her crawling towards her house which was indeed “her world” the olson house is located in Cushing Maine and is a national historic landmark

Pink Eye – Conjunctivitis: A Conundrum

imageSo You Think You Have Pinkeye
One expert gives his opinion on how to treat it


Spring blooms mixed with lingering winter germs create the perfect scene for pinkeye. Itchy, swollen, runny eyes are technically known as conjunctivitis, which can actually take three forms: viral, bacterial and allergic. The allergic variety, which isn’t contagious, often surfaces when flowers start to re-emerge. The other forms are highly contagious. Richard Abbott, clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco, and past president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says this season so far hasn’t been markedly worse than others, but it isn’t over yet. Here is one expert’s opinion.

How can you tell which kind of conjunctivitis you have?

Allergic pinkeye tends to be watery, itchy and could affect both eyes. Viral conjunctivitis is likely to have a watery discharge and the eyes might be sensitive to light. The discharge associated with bacterial conjunctivitis tends to be thicker, with more mucus.

It matters in part because the treatment is different. Antibiotic drops are likely to be only offered in cases of bacterial infection, says Dr. Abbott. With the other two types of the disease, watchful treatment at home is recommended.

How can you prevent pinkeye?

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. If someone in your house has the viral variety of the disease and touches a surface such as a doorknob, the virus can live on that surface for several weeks, Dr. Abbott says.

Bacterial conjunctivitis, while contagious, doesn’t spread as easily, he says. Stay home for as long as the eyes are red and watering, he says.

Make sure to discard any tissues used immediately. Make sure whoever is affected isn’t sharing towels or pillows—or anything that comes into contact with the eyes or hands. And once your home is rid of disease, disinfect major surfaces and wash sheets and towels. Computers are an unexpected place where viruses can linger, so make sure to wipe down your keyboard.

Is pinkeye always conjunctivitis?

Don’t panic just because you or your child has a swollen puffy eye. The most common causes of pinkeye are the three forms of conjunctivitis, but Dr. Abbott advises ruling out more serious problems with a trip to the pediatrician or ophthalmologist.

You should worry if vision is blurred or you are in real pain, not just discomfort, Dr. Abbott says, or if symptoms aren’t resolving themselves at home.

How can you treat the problem at home?

Dr. Abbott suggests soaking a washcloth in an ice bath and applying it to the eyelids every hour. Avoid reinfecting yourself by using a fresh washcloth each time, he cautions. For bacterial infections, warm compresses can be better.

Dr. Abbott likes to use small vials of nonpreserved artificial tears. He suggests refrigerating them, since the cold feels good on the eye, and discarding the vial once opened. Anything with preservative can be irritating, he cautions. He advises against drops that work by constricting blood vessels for the same reason.

Getting drops into eyes, especially children’s, requires a steady hand and extra dose of patience. Instruct the patient to look away from the nose and place the drop onto the inner part of the eye nearest the nose.

Allergies -Tips on the best time of day to go outside, what to plant and what not to plant.


An excerpt of an article which appeared in the WSJ 9/24/2013
By Anne Marie Chaker

People hoping that the approach of autumn will mean fewer allergy symptoms, may want to prepare for some sneezing with their leaf-raking.

For many people, allergic reactions go into overdrive late summer and into fall because pollen counts soar. Mold counts rise, too, thanks largely to wet leaves sitting on the ground, a terrific breeding situation for mold spores.

While many popular garden plants are insect-pollinated—often with showy flowers that attract pollinators, and bearing heavier, stickier pollen grains—it is the wind-pollinated plants that cause the most problems for allergy sufferers, says Susan Littlefield, horticulturist for the National Gardening Association.

Plants such as ragweed, grasses and certain trees have small, inconspicuous flowers that produce clouds of tiny, light pollen grains that can blow away for hundreds of miles. Weeds and grasses are big fall offenders, while tree pollen tends to emerge in the Spring.

Ragweed of various types can be found most anywhere in the U.S., says allergist Richard Weber, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, based in Arlington Heights, Ill. It is most ubiquitous along the East Coast (Common Ragweed or Ambrosia artemisiifolia) and in the Midwest (Giant Ragweed or Ambrosia trifida). Sage brush is a big fall-season pollen producer in more-arid Western states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, he says.

Ragweed is one of the main culprits of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, which affects as many as 15% of adults and children, says the allergy group.

There are a few considerations to help keep the sniffling and sneezing at bay.

Timing: Avoid gardening in the afternoon, when pollen counts are at their highest, says the association. Opt for early morning and evening hours.

Weather: A light rain can temporarily clear pollen from the air, making the aftermath of a rain shower a good time to garden—not to mention making it easier for pulling weeds. Thunderstorms, however, can increase airborne allergens. The force of the wind and rain breaks apart pollen grains to release more allergenic particles. The standing water left behind is also the perfect breeding ground for mold spores.

Dressing: Gardening gloves keep hands clean, sunglasses or goggles help keep pollen and mold from aggravating your eyes and a hat can reduce pollen sticking to your hair. If you opt for a mask, find one rated N95 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, advises Dr. Weber, rather than a simple dust mask which can have openings on the side that let air sneak in. While the heftier masks do a better job, they can also overheat the face. “You’re miserable from having this hot thing on your face, but you’re relieved of your runnies and itchies,” he says.

If all this makes you want to avoid yard work, know that mold and pollen can collect on fallen leaves, so experts recommend regular fall yard maintenance .

A big offender: The fruitless mulberry tree, which in recent years has been showing up in municipal plantings across the country and in school landscapes. “They grow fast, they’re a nice shade tree,” Dr. Weber says. “But they produce billions of grains of the most allergenic pollen.”

Ms. Littlefield of the gardening association notes that “Shrubs and flowers with large or colorful flowers are good choices for allergy sufferers, as are most herbs, vegetables, and fruits,” she says. Roses, daffodils and sunflowers are other safe bets.

“Many deciduous trees, as well as most evergreens and grasses, including ornamental grasses, are wind pollinated and potentially allergenic.”

Tree species that are insect pollinated, rather than wind pollinated, and perhaps better choices for allergy sufferers include dogwoods, magnolias, and fruit trees such as apple, cherry and plum.


Allergy Control Products

Asthma and Allergy Foundation


Food Allergies

Allergy Control Medication

How to use your nebulizer

How to use your Inhaler with a mask

How to use your MDI with a Spacer

How to Use Your Epipen