Chia Seed Strawberry Jam – Fast & Fresh

SAM_5625SUPER easy and made with super-foods only! Not too sweet, no added sugars/syrups/fake flavorings or other junk, and has a 10-14 day shelf life in the fridge. Fantastic on toast, sandwiches, add to shakes, plain yogurt, or eat plain. ūüôā

Download Recipe:
Chia Seed Strawberry Jam

INGREDIENTS

  • 10-12oz strawberries, fresh or frozen (allow to thaw)
  • 1-2 TBS honey (local, RAW is best)
  • 1/2 fresh lemon (get the seeds out) — use the other half to make lemon water or to flavor up an avocado (with salt, of course!) for a healthy, super-food snack!
  • 2-3 TBS chia seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place fresh or thawed strawberries in a bowl. Add the honey and squeeze out as much juice and pulp from the lemon as you can. I used to measure out the honey, but now I just eyeball it. Mash up with a potato masher or some other appropriate instrument (I got the old-school grated-looking potato masher pictured from a Goodwill).
  2. Walk away for at least 10 minutes to allow ingredients to emulsify. Wash a couple dishes or something. ūüėČ
  3. ADD the chia seeds and stir in! Pour and store in an appropriate container (I use an 8 or 12 oz mason jar). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow chia seeds to absorb moisture, expand, and thicken the jam (they turn into a gel-like consistency and are easy to digest).

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Gut Health Overview: Part 1

Everything in this post summarizes what I found in studies, journal articles, and research.
You can read many of these for yourself in the bottom resource section of My Family’s Gut Health Story + Resources post¬†(which¬†is¬†not¬†exhaustive, and I will add additional resources as I create more posts). This post’s sections are:

  • Defining “Gut Health”
  • What Causes Poor Gut Health Conditions?
    • Common Medical Practices
    • Lifestyle Choices and Diet
    • Exposure to Toxins, Mold, and Harmful Chemicals
  • What Are Common Gut Health Problems?

DEFINING “GUT HEALTH”
“‘Gut health’ is a term increasingly used in the medical literature and by the food industry. It covers multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being. From a scientific point of view, however, it is still extremely unclear exactly what gut health is, how it can be defined and how it can be measured. The GI barrier adjacent to the GI microbiota appears to be the key to understanding the complex mechanisms that maintain gut health. Any impairment of the GI barrier can increase the risk of developing infectious, inflammatory and functional GI diseases, as well as extraintestinal diseases such as immune-mediated and metabolic disorders. Less clear, however, is whether GI discomfort in general can also be related to GI barrier functions. In any case, methods of assessing, improving and maintaining gut health-related GI functions are of major interest in preventive medicine.”
Source: BMC Medicine Journal, “‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine?” – Stephan C. Bischoff, March 2011.

WHAT CAUSES GUT HEALTH PROBLEMS?
Short Answer:¬† The modern typical American diet, prevalent use¬†of certain medical ¬†interventions (particularly antibiotics), and regular exposure to toxins and harmful chemicals that alter the body’s natural flora (on our skin and in our gut).¬†These risk factors relating to¬†gut-health problems have exploded in the last 75 years of American history.

Keep in mind that the earlier in life one is exposed, the more frequent the exposure, and the more categories one can identify, the worse the gut health of an individual will generally be.

COMMON MEDICAL PRACTICES
Please realize these medical interventions (and some can be lifestyle or preferential choices) are used for a reason, often to save lives! This is not a list to judge or shame anyone.¬†(I’ve had a c-section and have had to supplement with formula!) But I wish someone had told me how important it is to treat and maintain gut-health at home, which would have prevented a host of problems (especially for my children), misery in the home, and lots of doctor visits from ever occurring (you can read my story here).¬†History of one or more of any of the following, even for a short time, contributes to poor gut health:

  • antibiotics (oral, intravenous, in our food supply, or topical, including acne-controlling products like ProActiv)
  • steroids (oral, injection, topical)
  • birth control pills or other¬†hormonal treatments (particularly those containing estrogen)
  • birth¬†by c-section (affects flora of the baby)
  • antibiotics during pregnancy, labor, and/or delivery (affects flora of the baby and mother)
  • formula feeding (particularly soy)

LIFESTYLE CHOICES & DIET
Extreme, regular, or even occasional consumption of:

  • added sugar in all forms (corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, etc. Learn the 57 names of added sugar¬†the food industry uses to hide sugar in your food)
  • high sugar beverages: juice, sweet tea, soda/pop/Coke, “specialty” coffees
  • artificial sweeteners (aspartame, Splenda, Nutrasweet, Sweet N Low, Equal–Stevia is NOT artificial)
  • fast food or processed foods (rule of thumb: if it’s boxed, bottled, or wrapped and doesn’t require refrigeration or has a wicked long shelf-life even when refrigerated, it’s processed)
  • heavy carbs and breads
  • alcoholic beverages
  • GMO, non-fermented soy–which the body treats and processes like estrogen–and is found in pretty much all¬†processed foods, including infant formula
  • infant formula, particularly soy-based

EXPOSURE TO TOXINS, MOLD, AND HARMFUL CHEMICALS
Though God designed our bodies to eliminate these¬†harmful substances, the sheer number of them¬†add up–altering¬†the natural flora of our tissues and guts–and¬†can¬†cause overload. These substances wind up hanging out in our blood, tissues (including the brain), and the gut instead of being eliminated. Eventually, the accumulation in the body¬†causes problems down the road. Our organs and systems use¬†the GI system to flush out these toxins (through our sweat, urine and feces), and are constantly working to eliminate foreign substances we are exposed to! So if your gut health is in poor shape, there’s no way the rest of your body is functioning optimally either with all the backed-up build up of:

  • pesticides from¬†our food and in our homes
  • chlorine in our drinking water and in swimming pools
  • mold spores in the air of our homes
  • new carpet chemicals we inhale (formaldehyde)
  • adjuvant ingredients in vaccines and medications
  • artificial dyes, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners in our food supply
  • plastics (which is why I personally use glass or ceramic in the microwave)
  • harsh chemicals in cleaning, laundry, and personal care products

WHAT ARE COMMON GUT HEALTH PROBLEMS?
If you research any one of these gut-related conditions, you’ll quickly discover that they rarely exist alone–one leads to another and vice versa. Holisitc, naturopathic, osteopathic, and functional medicine doctors who understand these conditions often treat patients with EVERY¬†condition! Conventional medicine doctors (in the West) are beginning to get on board as more undeniable research comes out (from the East–Europe, Australia, and East Asia). You will find very little research based in the USA, since treatment of these conditions requires some level of¬†diet change (can be small or extreme) and supplements¬†(probiotics, enzymes, etc)–not pharmaceutical drugs.

As these root problems of GI health are addressed, outward symptoms and diseases *magically* diminish, often eventually disappear, and patients are able to wean off of prescription drugs and experience freedom from past symptoms/diseases along with the side-effects of the drugs. I’m not going to discuss what symptoms and diseases these conditions cause–that’s for the next post. Gut health problems and conditions are:

  • inflammation
  • gut flora imbalance (ratio of good bacteria and bad bacteria is off)
  • yeast overgrowth, particularly Candida
  • stomach and intestinal wall permeability, also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (and if you have this, Candida, toxins, and food particles can escape your GI system and into your blood stream and organs and wreak havoc on your health)

Sources and Resources
See the bottom section of the post¬†My Family’s Gut Health Story + Resources

Upcoming Posts
Gut Health Overview: Part 2
Consequences of Poor Gut Health
an overview of common symptoms, conditions, and diseases with a root cause of a gut health problem

Gut Health Overview: Part 3
Healing and Maintaining a Healthy Gut
proactive steps you can take to heal and maintain a healthy gut

My Family’s Gut Health Story + Resources

Two sections of this post

  • A Snapshot of the Centers’ Gut-Health Journey
  • Gut Health Education and Resources

A SNAPSHOT OF THE CENTERS’ GUT HEALTH JOURNEY

A year ago if you had asked me
What are probiotics and what are they good for?
Are they safe? Can I give them to my kids/babies?
What’s the role of gut-health in every day wellness?
What is candida? Leaky Gut? Micro biome? Gut flora imbalance?
What causes gut-health problems, and more importantly,
how do you fix them?

Well, you would have gotten a blank stare along with an honest “no clue, but I’ve heard probiotics are¬†good for you.”

In November 2014 my son got on antibiotics for one of those coughs that just wouldn’t go away. I had heard it was good to give probiotics at the same time, so I went to the local CVS, picked out some kid-safe stuff, made sure he ate yogurt every day, and thought we were good to go. Little did I know that the ONE round of antibiotics put my little guy (7 months old) on a gut-health downward spiral along with horrible consequences. By his 1 year well visit, (after several previous doctor visits for rashes) my son had digressed so much¬†that he:

  • stopped wanting to play
  • was demanding to be held or worn in my Ergo ALL DAY LONG
  • wasn’t napping more than 45 minutes a day
  • had trouble falling asleep at naps/bedtime
  • stopped passing normal bowel movements. A sticky, nasty, massive, horrible explosion woke him (and me) up every morning…and that was it for him every day. I quit using cloth diapers at night.
  • went back and forth between yeast and bacterial rashes
  • started waking up at random early¬†morning hours instead of his consistent 7am… and he stopped waking up happy. His quality of sleep was obviously¬†poor.

I was told he was teething (though no teeth came), it was a phase, growing pains, his personality. During these horrible months I started to hate motherhood, so I¬†researched his symptoms like crazy and started analyzing his timeline starting with the antibiotics…

and I realized that everyone in my family had gut-health issues to address (along with up to 80% of Americans)…we all needed some level of healing (including both of my children). We¬†now daily take the probiotic/enzyme supplement that changed everything for us for every-day maintenance. I actually believe taking a high-quality probiotic is more important for every day wellness than taking multivitamins for this 1 simple reason: an unhealthy gut cannot properly digest and absorb nutrients from food and other supplements.¬†

Now, I have some amazing stories relating to gut¬†health for me, my husband, and my children. Through small dietary changes and gut-health supplements (full disclosure here: we now only use Plexus products, and after what it’s done for us I decided to become a distributor), our family has overcome, in just a few short months, a host of every day “nuisances” and some serious wellness issues (including healing my son!)–some that had been plaguing us for years. Here’s just a synopsis…

Mark:
*Seasonal allergies and asthma are practically gone. THIS IS HUGE. He rarely takes Claritin, rarely uses his inhaler, and doesn’t use essential oils for symptom relief anymore.¬†No more 10-minute nose-blowing sessions first thing in the morning. No more super dry, itchy eyes.
*He sleeps way better, and just pointed out to me the other night that he’s not needing melatonin anymore.

Me (Sarah): So much has improved, but here are the 3 biggest blessings
*Insomnia. I’m asleep within 20-30 minutes instead of taking 1-2 hrs for my brain to shut down (which I’ve done since childhood). And my sleep is DEEP.
*Pregnancy ickies don’t exist this time. (as of this writing, 6.28.2015, I’m just over 26 wks along). ZERO heartburn, constipation, bloating, brain fog, intense sugar cravings, dull headaches, fatigue, no skin breakouts (my face has never been clearer), and my mood is steady throughout the day. And gluten doesn’t give me migraines anymore. I can eat a piece of pizza without suffering for 4-8 hours afterward.
*Hair and skin. My hair stopped falling out, and is starting to thicken again. My random eczema patches are gone and not coming back. The “chicken skin” on my arms is slowly, but surely, going away.

My Children:
*Raymond. Everything I mentioned he was going through¬†was completely gone within 3 days of¬†switching exclusively to the Plexus ProBio5. I had him and Kinah on a good probiotic (Garden of Life RAW Organic Probiotics for Kids) for 2 months before switching, and saw great¬†improvement (mainly in the rashes and bowel movements changed from 1 massive explosion to several mini explosions), but the moodiness, sleeping issues, and complete healing of his rashes were not resolved until we switched. His BM’s also normalized within 2 days—so much so we’re back to plunking them in¬†the toilet after a diaper change (remember we use cloth) instead of relying on the diaper sprayer. Within 2 days he went from napping 45 minutes to 2.5-3.5 hours. And he’s back to PLAYING! He sleeps until 6:30-7am again. His mood and behavior are back to normal. I got my son back. ūüôā

*Kinah. She was a c-section baby and was put on steroids at 9 months during a bout of croup. These two factors set her up for a GI disaster if something put her over the edge (though I didn’t know it at the time). That something happened when she was 18 months old (her 1st vaccine, and a GI reaction that culminated in a trip to the ER). She didn’t have¬†a completely, totally, 100% normal bowel movement until just a few weeks ago (she’s 3!) when we switched to ProBio5. When it happened, I literally screamed and danced through the house! She’s been normal and regular ever since.

I plan to write more stories, but for now, here’s a starting-point list of resources that I read through when I wanted¬†to understand the role¬†of gut health in everyday wellness. This is just the tip of the iceberg. So, for¬†those of you wanting to learn more about gut health, here’s a great place to start!


GUT HEALTH EDUCATION AND RESOURCES
LEAKY GUT, INFLAMMATION, AND AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

Selections from David Perlmutter’s (M. D., Neurology) blog regarding gut microbiome. Short and easy to read. The last link is a learning page filled with topics (I took special interest in reading up on the categories: Leaky Gut, Prebiotics, Microbiome, and Neurologic Disorders).

CANDIDA ARTICLES & RESOURCES

OTHER GUT HEALTH ARTICLES, BLOG POSTS (well resourced)

Brownie Protein Bars

POST OVERVIEW

  • WHY?
  • Comparing Aldi “Fit & Active” Bars to My Brownie Protein Bars
  • A few hints¬†before you try this
  • Ingredients & Directions

*will add pictures to this post one day. camera is broken. boo.*

Sarah’s Brownie Protein Bars (printable PDF of ingredients and directions)

 

WHY?
Ok, so one of my¬†(2014) resolutions was¬†to make more stuff homemade to save our family $ and to eat¬†healthier. I pack a protein bar in¬†Mark’s lunch every day (he works a physically demanding job) to eat either on break, partway through the day, or on his way home (depending on the job and hours). We used to buy¬†cheap Aldi brand “protein” bars–$5/box of 6, or¬†$.83/bar and we went through 3-4 boxes in a month ($15-$20).

I scoured Pinterest for recipes, combined elements of several ideas, and came up with¬†this recipe. Made my first¬†batch on 1.4.2014 and they were an instant hit–with Mark and¬†my (then 2-yr old) daughter. I’ve¬†been keeping our freezer stocked with them ever since. They¬†taste good, are nutritionally superior, provide long-lasting energy (Mark stopped coming home famished every day), and cost about¬†$.50/bar to make. The recipe has been extremely adaptable when I run out of certain ingredients (sugars, flours). My favorite part? They keep well in the freezer!

 

COMPARING Aldi “Fit & Active”¬†bars to my Brownie Protein Bars
One Aldi “Fit & Active” protein bar:

  • 180 calories (snack bar)
  • 10 g protein
  • 25 g total carbs (13 g is added fake sugar–which makes you feel hungry because it makes you crave more fake sugar)
  • 5 g fiber
  • 6 g fat
  • 10+ “no-no” ingredients for people wanting to eat a whole-food, “clean” diet (soy, corn syrup, artificial flavors, additives & preservatives, etc). They are definitely YUMMY, but totally BAD!
  • COST: $5 for box of 6, or $.83/bar.¬†


1 Brownie Protein Bar:

  • 300 calories (can be a meal replacement)
  • 16 g protein
  • 18 g carbs
  • 3.5 g fiber
  • 20 g fat (the GOOD fat, don’t freak out–this is where a lot of the sustaining, slow-burning energy comes from as opposed to “quick-burning” sugar energy that causes insulin spikes and crashes–8g from coconut oil, 5 g from peanut butter, the rest from everything else¬†)
  • NO added funky ingredients
  • COST: 16 bars costs about¬†$8 to make, or $.50/bar. Better nutrition for less $? I can live with that!

 

A FEW HINTS before you try this
My first batch I only made 8 bars–just in case this ended up being a FAIL. Since they keep so well in the freezer, I haven’t made single batches since–I always double (16 bars)…but with the number of ingredients and steps for this, the first couple months making these I still found the process lengthy (and annoying).

Lightbulb moment.¬†My fourth batch in, I got out 2 tupperware containers and measured out all the dry ingredients (other than the oats and toppings) ¬† for my next 2 batches at the same time as the current batch. Stored them in the pantry. BAM. Loads of time saved since! To help you do the same, I’ve made two ingredient lists: those that you can pre-measure to save you time, and those you will need the day of.

This recipe is¬†also for a “double” batch (16 bars). If you want to try it out first, cut everything in half and bake¬†in a 8×8 glass pan instead of a full-sized glass baking dish.

To cut costs long-term, buy ingredients in bulk online or in store when on sale. At the beginning of this year (2015) I set aside about $100 to buy ingredients in bulk online. Still have plenty left, (it’s June) and I use stuff for more than just protein bars. (I’m listing other super foods not included in this recipe, but are way cheaper online than in store.)

Costco has the cheapest high-quality organic coconut oil. If you aren’t a member (I’m not), have a friend who is get it for you and pay them back. I stock up on the big jars of peanut butter when they are BOGO-free at the grocery store (usually Publix–they run this sale 4x a year). I pay¬†$3.50/40 oz. jar. Nestle chocolate chips go 2/$3 or BOGO-free at Bi-Lo or Publix several times a year–especially during end of the year holidays (Christmas). If I run out before a sale I use¬†the Aldi mini chips.

 

INGREDIENTS (for pre-measurement)

  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 scoops whey protein powder of choice (chocolate, vanilla, or unflavored‚ÄĒfor a long time I used the¬†Body Fortress brand in either chocolate or vanilla. I’ve recently switched to Vitacost’s unflavored whey protein and Mark hasn’t noticed a difference in taste)
  • ¬Ĺ¬†cup brown sugar
  • ¬Ĺ cup regular¬†sugar (I’ve also used sucanat, coconut sugar, or 2 tbs stevia instead)
  • ¬Ĺ cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup almond flour (can use all-purpose or whole wheat flour, but you will add 32 g carbs, decrease the fiber count, and you will end up with a dense¬†cake-like texture instead of brownie-like)
  • 1 tsp salt (sea salt, table salt, Himalayan…whatever…I buy Himalayan in bulk & use it for everything)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder, unsweetened

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats OR steel-cut oats
  • 2 cups almond milk (unsweetened, original or vanilla)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2/3¬†cup peanut butter (I normally use Peter Pan or Jif crunchy,¬†but any brand/kind will work)
  • 2/3¬†cup coconut oil
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: ¬Ĺ cup nuts and/or chocolate chips of choice (not included in my calorie counts. I always top with dark chocolate chips.)

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Using stovetop or the microwave, cook the oats in the almond milk.
  3. Mash the banana in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm oats/milk, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Mix well.
    • NOTES: I used a wooden spoon for everything for a year. I got a¬†Kitchen Aide standing mixer as a gift, and have been throwing everything in that instead and it’s been awesome–the bars are also turning out with a richer, gooier texture. So, if you are blessed with a standing mixer, USE IT, otherwise¬†I now recommend a hand mixer over just a spoon.
    • After a few times making this, I stopped measuring the peanut butter and coconut oil (which was a pain) and started eye-balling it instead.
    • Don’t wait for the oats/milk to cool to mix–the heat helps the coconut oil and peanut butter melt and blend in.
  4. Add the rest of the dry ingredients–(everything that can be pre-measured) and continue to mix until you see no¬†banana lumps. Oat lumps are fine.
  5. Spray an full-sized¬†glass baking dish¬†with cooking oil spray (don’t forget this part…I forgot once and will never forget again). Pour in the batter. Sprinkle chocolate chips or nuts on top, if desired, or melt the chocolate chips and drizzle on top.
  6. Bake uncovered for 22-25 minutes; begin testing with a toothpick or fork @ 22 minutes. If it‚Äôs slightly gooey in the middle, that‚Äôs ok‚ÄĒthis stuff is better slightly under-baked than it is over-baked. I ended up taking mine out after 24 min.
  7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Sometimes I cover and allow them to chill overnight in the fridge. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap or plastic baggies and store in freezer or refrigerator. Unwrap and microwave 20-30 seconds to warm, if desired.

 

Oils Around My House

LemonEssentialOil-850x567I’ve used oils for

  • Laundry
  • Pest control
  • Air purification
  • Mold control
  • Freshening HVAC ductwork
  • Cleaning produce and
  • Removing sticker residue

Here’s how!


LAUNDRY

Lemongrass for wool dryer balls
Instead of using fabric softeners or dryer sheets (which I am actually allergic to, plus they are filled with chemicals I’d rather not have coating my family’s clothes and seeping through our pores), I add 1-2 drops of Plant Therapy’s (dirt cheap-30ml for $9 cheap) lemongrass on at least two of my wool dryer balls toward the end of the drying cycle or before fluffing up line-dried laundry. If the clothes are completely dry, I add the oil and set the dryer to the “low heat” or “fluff air” setting for 5-8 minutes. I do NOT add oils when drying cloth diapers.

Purifying oils for (oops!) musty, wet clothes
Those times I forget about a load in the wash for a couple days? I do a quick wash with a tbs of my homemade detergent and 2-3 drops of¬†lemon (any brand) or a purifying blend (any brand, such as YL’s Purification or HEO’s Purify). Works every time.

 

PEST CONTROL
Bugs do not like cinnamon bark and peppermint. We only get our house sprayed once in a blue moon (3x in the first 3.5 years years we’ve lived here), and our signal that it’s time for a treatment is after consistent live roach sightings (proceeded by killings) for several days in a row.

For general control of bugs of all kinds (esp. during rainy months), I add a drop of cinnamon bark¬†(any brand) and a drop of peppermint¬†(any brand) to cotton balls and place them¬†in places my kids can’t reach but bugs like to frequent. These are hot oils (esp. cinnamon bark!), so don’t touch them with your fingers!

  • behind beds
  • under dressers (against the wall)
  • under sinks, toward the back
  • behind the fridge
  • back of the pantry
  • on the wall behind the microwave (but not close to the outlet)
  • inside air vents
  • high window sills, or between the window screen and glass

Those tiny sugar ants that invade the kitchen will not cross a line of¬†either peppermint or cinnamon bark oil. I have a borax/sugar water mix I use to totally eliminate ants¬†(will do a separate post sometime), but during the waiting process I use peppermint to control their paths on my counters. Sometimes they will even abandon their “mission” and the “ants go marching one by one”¬†OUT and away!

 

AIR PURIFICATION
Thieves and Purification during illness, lemon for everyday use
When anybody in the home gets the sniffles (or any remote sign of illness), I diffuse YL’s¬†Thieves (or HEO’s Plague Defense)¬†and Purification¬†(or HEO’s Purify)–separately, not together–a couple times a day in each room. Both blends are highly antimicrobial, and Thieves has been shown to kill 90% or more of certain airborne bacteria and mold spores. Both blends¬†have also worked wonders for us in funky-smelling hotel rooms.

For every day air freshening, I love to diffuse lemon (any brand). It’s inexpensive and I love the smell.

 

MOLD CONTROL
My recipe: 10 drops each of PT’s Germ Fighter and cinnamon bark per 1 oz of water mixed in an amber spray bottle. Shake well before use.
As I learned about the power behind certain oils when it comes to eliminating mold (even black mold), I used this¬†recipe¬†to spray down some troublesome spots on our bathroom baseboards and under the¬†kitchen sink. Hot oil alert!, so I only sprayed right before bed so the kids couldn’t accidentally come in contact. The mold smell went away after 3 nights and stopped spreading…but oils will not miraculously remove any stains left behind from the damage. I had made more than I needed, so I emptied the remaining mix into a glass jar and left it open under the kitchen sink toward the back. No more mold growth, and I’ve also noticed no bugs under there either!

 

FRESHENING HVAC DUCTWORK
This was one of those “why not?” ideas I read about! Put a couple drops of cinnamon bark, thieves, lemon or pine onto some cotton balls and place them in the¬†air return vent while the¬†system runs.

 

CLEANING PRODUCE
Recipe: 1 drop lemon¬†(high quality–YL, HEO, or NAN–since small possibility of ingesting), 1/4 cup white vinegar¬†in a large bowl.
Fill the bowl with water, add produce, and allow to soak up to 15 minutes. I take thin-skinned or delicate produce out after 3-5 minutes (berries, lettuce). Drain, then rinse. Lemon is highly antiseptic and is awesome at loosening residue (including pesticide residues), making your “rinses” more effective.

I’ve found this is not very¬†effective at removing wax coatings off of certain produce, like apples. I love my Norwex Fruit and Veggie Scrub Cloth for that! (Full disclosure: yes, I’m a Norwex consultant! Want to know more? Use the form at the bottom of this post to contact me!)

 

REMOVING STICKER RESIDUE
I used straight lemon EO to loosen and remove sticker residue off of glass bottles and such. Totally random, but thought I’d throw this out there.

CONTACT ME!

 

 

 

Oil Blend Faves

I narrowed this faves list to 5, with explanations¬†for why I chose them. These are the blends¬†I reach for the most and always want available in my home. I’ll be brand specific for a reason!

Brand Acronyms
YL: Young Living
dT: doTERRA
HEO: Heritage Essential Oils
PT: Plant Therapy
NAN: Native American Nutritionals

  • Peaceful (HEO)
    Contains the same oils as YL’s Peace and Calming, with the addition of¬†mandarin red¬†(citrus deliciosa) and¬†frankincense¬†(boswelia frereana). I tried¬†YL’s Peace and Calming first from¬†my starter kit and thought the smell¬†was fine. It performed as advertised. Then I bought a sampler of the¬†HEO Peaceful¬†blend¬†to compare and¬†oh. my. word.¬†The fragrance¬†is¬†divine, so relaxing,¬†and I get the best sleep when I use it. It really helps me shut my brain off! I apply (diluted) on my wrists and sometimes behind my ears or under my nose. After a stressful day I love to add 1-2 drops to 2 cups of epsom salt and soak in the tub. HEO also makes a¬†Peaceful Spray. As of this writing (6.1.15), YL is¬†out of stock¬†of Peace and Calming¬†and¬†HEO¬†is rationing the blue tansy¬†(one of the key oils for Peaceful) they have left. I purchased my sampler before the rationing began. Reading this notice from the HEO website gave me more confidence in my choice to trust HEO’s quality:
    HEO Blue Tansy Notice
  • Thieves (YL), Plague Defense (HEO), Germ Fighter (PT)
    YL trademarked¬†the original blend name “Thieves” (inspired¬†by the legend of the oils), but every oil company makes¬†this popular blend (for good reason!). Just take a look at Annie Pryor’s (PhD, biochemistry) unbiased¬†experiment to test¬†how this blend (from several companies) KILLS GERMS. When diffused, it even kills airborne bacteria and toxic mold spores.

    A hot oil blend¬†that smells like Christmas, Thieves contains¬†Clove Bud, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary. The ratios of oils determines the fragrance–and most EO companies keep blend ratios at least partially proprietary.¬†I listed all the brands because I use them for different situations: PT (dirt cheap) for regular diffusing in my daughter’s room, YL and HEO for diffusing and topical application when we are actually battling illness or when it’s CHRISTMAS!
    One time my throat was hurting so bad and I was so desperate for relief I was willing to try anything. I put 1 drop of YL Thieves on the roof of my mouth. It burned like crazy for a couple minutes, then within 30 minutes I could swallow and talk without pain! I’m not huge on internal use, though, so most of the time I apply (diluted) on my throat or on the bottoms of feet (feet only, and very diluted, for children). YL & HEO blends smell so similar I can hardly tell the difference–PT is distinctly different (not as Christmasy, in my opinion).
    (BTW, this oil smells like Christmas.)
    As usual, HEO has wonderful information for using this blend correctly and carefully, as well as dozens of testimonials. Read up on safe use for children and pregnant/nursing moms.¬†I do plan to try NAN’s blend one day…but I still have plenty of YL & HEO to use¬†until then.
    NAN equivalent: Immune Strength
    dT equivalent: On Guard
  • The Allergy Trio
    A popular homemade blend of lavender (angustifolia), lemon, and peppermint used for allergy relief. I put 10 drops of each¬†(3 drops each for the kids) in a 10ml roll-on applicator and fill the rest with carrier oil.¬†Mark used this several times daily behind his ears and on his forehead (sometimes under his nose) to help control allergies and congestion early this past spring¬†(2015) and it worked amazingly well. No more sneeze attacks and 10-minute nose-blowing sessions first thing in the morning (he gets up at 5am to get ready for work), he didn’t need his inhaler as often, and rarely needed Claritin. Now that Mark and I have¬†addressed some underlying gut-health problems, he doesn’t even need the oils as much anymore! (remember, I’m big on addressing root causes of illness and ailments!) Since there’s peppermint in it, I only use on the kids’ feet (when needed, which isn’t often). Some moms aren’t comfortable using peppermint, even extremely diluted, on infants or very young children and leave it out of the blend…I guess that would be an “Allergy Duo?”
    The fragrance is refreshing and purifying. I love diffusing 1 drop of each oil together.
  • Purification (YL), Purify (HEO)
    A highly antiseptic blend that does what the name says: purifies. Contains¬†Citronella, Lemongrass, Lavandin, Rosemary, Tea Tree, and Myrtle.¬†When illness hits the house, I alternate using Thieves and Purification topically and diffusing. The best words¬†to describe the fragrance: crisp and clean.¬†We recently diffused this blend¬†in a hotel room to get rid of a¬†musty (mixed with a hint of¬†urine) smell, and it¬†worked like a charm¬†during the 15 minutes it took us to haul¬†in all our junk from the family minivan. Won’t be traveling again without our diffuser and Purification oil!
  • Sensual (PT)
    Smells great. I use¬†on my wrists, on the inner side of at least one of my thighs, and sometimes on¬†my neck. Helps me. A lot. ‘Nuff said.¬†

Do Essential Oils Like Thieves Really Kill Germs? Annie Pryor, Ph. D. biochemistry

Single Oil Faves

Spa scene with natural cosmeticsI narrowed this fave list to 5, with reasons for why I chose them. These are the oils I reach for the most and always want available in my home.¬†I won’t get brand specific here. These oils will come up the most in future Using Essential Oil posts.

  1. Peppermint (mentha piperita): Let’s see…what is peppermint good for? Headaches, pain, congestion, allergies, constipation, nausea, inflammation, sore or tight muscles, circulation…I could go on. Plus I love the smell. Mark takes a roll-on applicator (1/4 oil, 3/4 carrier) every day to¬†work and applies on¬†his shoulders, neck, temples, and anywhere else that’s sore during his break. He works a physically demanding job and loves how it makes him feel. Peppermint is a hot oil, and should be used with caution, especially around young children and pregnant or breastfeeding moms (so, research before using, and only do what you’re comfortable with). Another plus, high quality peppermint is inexpensive since the plant is indigenous to the States.
  2. Lavender (lavendula angustifolia): One of the safest and most useful oils on the planet. I’ve used it neat (no carrier) to soothe burns and insect bites, promote fast healing, and diminish scars. It’s highly antiseptic, anti fungal, and anti microbial. Great for congestion and allergies. Relaxing and soothing in a bath–it helps my daughter get ready for bed. Calming, soothing on the skin. I’m comfortable diffusing it in¬†near my infants, and mixing in drops with (regular) coconut oil for diaper rashes and baby massage.
  3. Frankincense Frereana (boswelia frereana): Also known as Sacred Frankincense, this pricey, but fantastic “King of Oils” has so many benefits I couldn’t list them here. I’ll start with that it’s fantastic for anything and everything skin related: wrinkles, spots, moles, warts, scars, skin tone. High in sesquiterpenes, “Frank” is¬†stimulating and elevating to the mind and helps in overcoming stress and despair, as well as supporting the immune system. It’s being studied as a “therapeutic agent for treating inflammatory symptoms associated with arthritis” (PubMed)¬†since it has been “demonstrated that B. frereana prevents collagen degradation, and inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory mediators and MMPs.” For more information about this oil, see¬†Heritage Essential Oils’ page¬†on frankincense frereana.
  4. Lemon (citrus limonum): Great for allergies, congestion, general illness. Antiseptic, cleansing. Refreshing, purifying, and energizing when diffused. One of the only oils I ever (but rarely) use internally (brand picky, more info another time). A hundred random uses you can look up on Pinterest and Google.
  5. Lemongrass¬†(cymbopogon flexuosus): I had a hard time picking the #5 slot, but settled on lemongrass since I use it a lot, particularly on my wool dryer balls toward the end of laundry drying cycles. Because of the abundant supply of the plant, it’s one of the cheapest oils on the market, regardless of brand. Great for circulation and skin care, and has been “successfully used for¬†bladder infections, respiratory¬†and¬†sinus infections, digestive issues, parasites, torn or damaged¬†ligaments¬†and¬†muscles, fluid retention, varicose veins¬†and¬†salmonella” (though not by me). Once again, Heritage has great information about lemongrass.

Honorable mentions: Tea tree, eucalyptus radiata, basil, and oregano.