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Why I Stopped Using Aromatherapy Inhalers ( + What I Use Instead)

A couple of years ago, our little family started to transition away from single-use plastic products. I had been advised to stop drinking water from plastic bottles to help facilitate healing in a certain area of my body and had recently seen a documentary that was all about plastics and their effect on the environment. I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I did a lot of reading about plastics and their impact on health and the planet. Ultimately, we decided that the right move for us would be to start to replace the plastics in our lives with non-plastic alternatives that would be more friendly for our bodies & more sustainable for the earth. It wasn’t easy (plastics are in a lot of things!), but moving away from single-use plastic products was a good start.

One of the last things to go in this single-use plastic category for me was aromatherapy inhalers. Aromatherapy inhalers are little plastic tubes that house a cotton wick that holds essential oils. They are sometimes referred to as aromasticks. They’re discreet, personal use items that make using essential oils convenient when you're on the go or in public. The trouble is that you can only use them once. They might last for a month, but once their effect starts to dissipate, they’re usually just tossed in the bin. If you’re lucky (or determined) enough to be able to pry the outer shell apart, you might be able to recycle the tube, but it’s not very easy to take apart and you can't recycle them without removing the cotton wick from the inner tube.

The first alternatives I turned to were glass / metal aromatherapy inhalers that are fully reusable. I really wanted to love them, but they all smelled metallic (not in a nice way) because of an odd coating on the applicator and I always thought they were going to spill on me (some of them did leak). They didn’t last nearly as long and I was going through essential oils much more quickly with them than I was with plastic inhalers. They just weren’t good enough to win me over. Carrying a cotton ball or hankie around in my purse for inhalation purposes on the go worked well as an alternative option, but it didn't solve the "not everyone wants to smell my essential oils" dilemma.

I finally settled on an option that really works for me: smelling salts. I filled a 5ml amber glass bottle with some rough, chunky Himalayan salt (which actually brings its own therapeutic effects to the table – have you seen the Himalayan salt inhalers that are available now?), dropped in a bit of herb, added some essential oils, and tested out this “new” old idea. I think you know where this is headed. Ummm, I love this method. It’s pretty, it feels good, the jar / bottle is totally reusable, and it’s still a personal application method that won’t leave the whole room smelling of your oil(s) of choice. I completely recommend giving this method a go if you're interested in a more sustainable inhalation option.

Once in awhile, I'll place a blend in a 1 ounce, clear glass jar to add a bit of 'pretty factor' to the blend (just keep away from sunlight) and it's turned out to be a great conversation starter. I also really appreciate that inhaling an aroma from a glass bottle or jar looks a lot more normal than inhaling an aroma from a tampon-esque plastic inhaler does. ;) (Yes, I have really had clients think the plastic models were tampons.)

If you're interested in moving toward a more sustainable, earth-friendly option for convenient aromatherapy inhalation, I highly recommend giving smelling salts in small glass containers a try. The blends I've been testing have lasted impressively well.

A Few Key Points About Safety

  • 5ml bottles with orifice reducers are a good alternative for children's inhaler blends - the orifice reducer will allow the aroma to escape, but keep the salt inside the bottle so that the child isn't tempted to taste it. Use a chunky Himalayan pink salt that won't come through the orifice reducer and the child can use the smelling salts the same way they would use their custom aromatherapy inhaler. *Children should only use essential oils under adult supervision. Take care to use the smelling salts in an area where the bottle will not break if it falls.
     
  • Smelling salts should still be kept away from pets.
     
  • Keep your jars / bottles clearly labeled and include safety information, such as, "For inhalation purposes only. Not for internal use. Non-edible. Not for use with pets or children."
     
  • Use common sense, as always.

Have you experimented with a different sustainable option for aromatherapy inhalation on the go? Share it with me in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin

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Herbal Aromatherapy for Back-to-School Season

I'm a bit of a germ freak. Not in a weird, "Get away from me, I don't want to touch you," way. Just in a, "Okay, please stop coughing in my hair," kind of way. I once spent a few extra minutes in a long line at a local Michaels craft store during the holiday season and the whole time I stood there, a sick woman and her friend stood behind me coughing, sneezing, and sniffling the whole time. They apparently didn't think covering their mouths was necessary because I could literally feel the wind coming out of them blowing through my personal bubble. I caught whatever they had and spent the holidays sounding like a bullfrog and feeling like a bear. Since we're fast approaching the season of increased exposure to vast amounts of [possibly ill] strangers (at school, at the mall, standing in longer-than-usual lines, at the airport, etc.), I thought this would be a good time to talk about supporting your body's natural defense system with herbs and essential oils.

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Use Herbs Daily

Herbs are full of so many beneficial compounds that help support our well-being and including them in our cooking is one easy way to incorporate them into our everyday routines. Chop fresh herbs from your garden or the farmer’s market and add them to your meals. As the weather cools and your herb garden slows down, try adding dried herbs to your dishes instead. They add complex layers of flavor that brighten up (or warm up) our food while also helping our bodies to be at their best.

Drinking nourishing herbal infusions each day can also help build up our body’s ability to stay well even when we’re exposed to people who aren’t. Part of the reason that they’ve become so popular is because they really work! Good herbs to try include: oatstraw, nettles, and red clover. On days when you’re feeling like you need a little something extra, have some Echinacea and Ginger tea or a spoonful of Elderberry syrup.

Treat yourself to an herbal foot bath (or full bath) each evening.  Adjust the herbs you use based on how your day went and how you’re feeling when you sit down to choose your herbs. Relaxing herbs like Lavender, Chamomile, and Rose almost always make it into my blend. I also like to add flower essences that I choose based on how I’m feeling that evening to my bath blend. For example, if I’ve spent a long day working and can’t get my get-it-all-done brain to shut off and relax, I reach for Oak flower essence and add a dropperful to the bath after I’ve brewed my herbs.

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Utilize Essential Oils As Needed

Especially during cold and flu season, I like to keep a jar of smelling salts in my bag. The formula I use varies, but it will always include some sort of antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oils. It’s helpful to have it on hand when I’m around a lot of people (i.e. a high risk area) or when I’m noticing that a lot of people around me are sniffling / coughing. It’s also a lifesaver for those moments when you’re standing in line and the person standing behind you is hacking a lung up into your hair. Whip out that jar and breathe in those anti-yuck essential oils to help counteract all of the other who-knows-whats that you’re breathing in at that moment.

Using tonifying essential oils throughout the season can also help to strengthen your body’s defense system. Try incorporating regular facial steams into your routine. Put together a massage oil that you can apply to your skin after you step out of the shower. Create a diffuser blend or two that you can use on days when you feel like you need a little extra boost. Make a foot lotion that you can massage into your feet at night to help you relax after a day of work. My approach to essential oils throughout this season is to use them to nourish and tone the body. I don’t use them everyday, but I do use them as needed to help me feel good, strong, and relaxed. Stress adds to the likelihood that you’ll become sick if you’re exposed to something, so keeping your body and mind in a healthy state of relaxation can do wonders for supporting your immunity.

Take Care of Yourself

Protect your sleep quality as much as possible. Lose the screens and electronics in your bedroom and resist the urge to stay up late finishing that book you just can’t put down. Craft a ritual around your sleep habits that keeps that time of the day protected from distractions so you can do all you can to make sure you get a good night of quality sleep each day.

Stay active. A little bit of exercise (even gentle exercise) each day helps to keep your lymphatic system functioning at an optimal level. On days when you can’t work in a full workout or a few laps around the block, set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour on the hour. Whenever the alarm goes off, turn on one of your favorite upbeat songs and take a little break for a dance party and some herb-infused water. I try to take dance breaks every hour throughout the day when I’m working from home. If I don’t, I’ll get lost in my computer screen and forget to get up and move at all except to refill my water bottle and visit the loo. Dancing helps me get moving and releases endorphins that help me to feel happier when I sit back down to keep writing. Win-win.

Allow yourself some space to relax each day. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to the things that want to distract you from your purpose. It’s okay to leave something to be done the next day. It’s okay to take care of yourself and the other people who rely on you too. Schedule non-negotiable relaxing time into your day, every day. Trust me – it helps!

Take care of yourself, my friend. I want you to be healthy!

What keeps you feeling great during the germy seasons? Let me know in the comments section below.


Much love,
Erin


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The Different Kinds of Aromatherapy Diffusers

My very first diffuser was a gift from a colleague who I used to create recipes and photos and blog content for. It's a lovely little nebulizing diffuser that is still running now, years after it was given to me. I've since acquired several others and I'm often asked about the differences between them, so I thought I'd go over that a bit today. If you've ever been curious about how the different kinds of diffusers work, wondered which kind is best for any given situation, or thought, "How do I clean this thing?" this blog post is for you.

PASSIVE DIFFUSERS

The most simple kind of diffuser is a passive diffuser. A passive diffuser is something that isn't necessarily meant to diffuse essential oils, but does by nature. A tissue, a cotton ball, a piece of dry clay, a porous stone included in a gemstone bracelet...these are all things that were not necessarily created to diffuse essential oils, but if you place a drop of essential oil on them, they will diffuse the essential oil into the air as the molecules evaporate from their surfaces. A drop of Black Spruce essential oil placed on a facial tissue that I wave throughout a room as I walk through it will leave the whole space smelling like a beautiful Spruce forest. A couple of drops of Lemon essential oil placed into a tray of clay charms can leave a bathroom smelling fresh for a few hours.

Affordability: $

 

ULTRASONIC DIFFUSERS

Ultrasonic diffusers are probably the most popular kind of diffuser available on the market right now. They use water and ultrasonic vibrations to disperse the molecules of the essential oil into the air via a fine mist. They are easy to find, affordable, and are available in a wide variety of aesthetics so you can choose one that will look nice with your home's decor.

If you choose to use thick, resinous, or citrus oils in an ultrasonic diffuser, you will want to clean the diffuser with distilled white vinegar after each use. (This is a good idea anyway, no matter which kind of essential oils you are using.) You definitely don't want to let the thicker oils sit in the reservoir overnight. It is recommended to avoid using carrier oils in ultrasonic diffusers.

Ultrasonic diffusers produce a mist that is effective, but not as potent as that produced by some of the other options. This allows them to be run for longer periods of time (though you should still follow safety recommendations) while using small amounts of essential oil. Many ultrasonic diffusers have built-in timers that will automatically shut off the diffuser after a certain amount of time or that will alternate on/off every few minutes.

You can clean an ultrasonic diffuser by filling up the well with warm water and white vinegar and letting it soak for a few hours. (Make sure your diffuser is unplugged whenever you are cleaning it.) Pour out the water/vinegar mix and use a cotton swab to wipe away any residue that remains; be gentle around the disk. Rinse with cool water and run the diffuser for a few minutes with water only.

Affordability: $$ - $$$

 

NEBULIZING DIFFUSERS

Nebulizing diffusers also produce a fine mist, but they do not use water like the ultrasonic diffusers do. This is a great explanation of how they work. Resinous oils and carrier oils should generally be avoided with this kind of diffuser. Thick oils will do best when blended with other oils. Because nebulizing diffusers do not use water, they go through essential oils very quickly and can therefore be more expensive to use. (6-12 drops could last you several hours in an ultrasonic diffuser, but would only last for 10-15 minutes in a nebulizing diffuser. That said, they aren't meant to be used the same way.) This video explains how to clean your nebulizing diffuser.

Nebulizing diffusers are best suited, in my opinion, to very specific applications. I prefer to use them most often for acute situations or respiratory ailments because they really 'pack a punch' when it comes to administering the essential oils. (Their use is much more treatment-like.) They get the job done quickly and effectively in a couple of minutes and can then be shut off until the next application. Because they do not use water, they produce a much more potent mist that quickly delivers the essential oil constituents to the blood stream.

The units themselves are usually more expensive than ultrasonic diffusers, but since I find them much more effective for certain situations, I think they are worth the few extra dollars. I also really appreciate that this kind of diffuser usually does not have any plastic parts that come into contact with the essential oil. The diffuser in the foreground of the picture below is a nebulizing diffuser.

Affordability: $$ - $$$

REED DIFFUSERS

Reed diffusers are made of a narrow-necked vase or jar that is filled with essential oil diluted in a lightweight carrier oil. Reeds are placed into the jar through the neck and the aroma of the essential oils gradually travels up the length of the reeds and is dispersed into the air. The reeds need to be flipped over occasionally, but this style of diffuser does work well for applications meant purely for enjoyment. I love incorporating them into the decor of a room - you can use any narrow-necked glass or glazed vase to make your own. I often see them in the restrooms at natural foods stores as an alternative to chemical air 'fresheners.' You can see a reed diffuser in the background of the image below.

Affordability: $-$$

CANDLE / HEAT DIFFUSERS

Candle diffusers are usually made out of ceramic, soapstone, heat-tolerant glass, or other natural stone. They usually have a chamber for a tealight candle in the bottom and a bowl that sits on top of that chamber. The essential oil is usually placed into a carrier oil or water in the top bowl and then a tealight is placed underneath the bowl to heat the oil/water, causing the essential oil to evaporate into the room.

There are also other diffusers that work by applying heat (via electricity) to the essential oils to cause them to evaporate into the atmosphere. These diffusers are not generally recommended by most professionals or enthusiasts.

Affordability: $$ - $$$

 

TRAVEL / FAN DIFFUSERS

Many of the travel diffusers I have used/seen either plug straight into the outlet in the car or plug into the USB port in the car (or elsewhere). Most of them seem to operate via a fan. Essential oils are placed onto a pad in the center of the unit and then, when the unit is plugged into the car, a fan blows across the pad and distributes the essential oils. I have also come across car units that are essentially mini ultrasonic diffusers and use water with the essential oil.

While I love the idea of a diffuser convenient for traveling / use in the car, I have yet to find one that lasts very long or works properly and therefore don't recommend them at this time. If you have found one that you think is of exceptional quality and that has lasted longer than a few months for you, please do let me know. I generally prefer a clay diffuser or a plain cotton ball for use in the car.

Affordability: $-$$

 

USB DIFFUSERS

USB diffusers are made to be plugged into your laptop or some other device so you can diffuse oils near you while you are working at your computer. They periodically send up a little squirt of essential oil mist, much like the scented fragrance units you see in public restrooms. I have not yet found a USB diffuser that works very well or for very long, so I don't generally recommend them. There are other options that are much more effective.

Affordability: $ - $$

 

NOVELTY DIFFUSERS

Novelty diffusers can include such things as pens that have a cotton wick inside, much like an aromatherapy inhaler has, jewelry pieces that have cotton pads incorporated into their design, and other such things. Jewelry pieces should be made of stainless steel. An example can be seen in the photo below.

Affordability: $ - $$

WHAT DO I RECOMMEND?

For most families who are wanting to invest in a diffuser, I would recommend an ultrasonic diffuser. It's generally the most versatile type of diffuser and is the easiest kind to maintain. For practitioners or those who deal with a lot of respiratory or sinus ailments, I would go with an ultrasonic diffuser first and then I would suggest adding a nebulizing diffuser to your collection second. They both have their place in the work of a practitioner or serious enthusiast. I also recommend passive diffusing - it's easy, doesn't require any electricity, and is an accessible method of diffusing for anyone because it doesn't cost anything

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF DIFFUSER?

Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin

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How to Make Beeswax Candles with Essential Oils: Forest Scents

This tutorial is an excerpt from our December issue of AromaCulture Magazine. To purchase the full issue, CLICK HERE.


Pure beeswax candles are one of my absolute favorite air purifiers. They lend a cozy glow and a sweet smell to the atmosphere, but are also known for their ability to release negative ions into the air, improving air quality and lending an uplifting, sunny gleam to a space.  Their energy is pure sunshine and honeybee. Candles made of pure beeswax are also free from the chemicals and toxins found in conventional candles and burn much cleaner than do other waxes. The high melting point of beeswax helps the candles last longer as well.

I make fresh beeswax candles each year. Most of the time, I don’t scent them at all. I really enjoy the aroma of the pure beeswax on its own and don’t find that they need any additional fragrance. Once in awhile, though, I do add some of my favorite essential oils in. Who can resist a beautiful, divine-smelling candle? They make lovely, thoughtful gifts for candle lovers - perfect for this season.

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CANDLE MAKING TIPS

  1. Purchase your beeswax from a local beekeeper who raises their bees organically and truly loves beekeeping. You’ll find the energy of the beeswax to be much more vibrant and you’ll be supporting healthy honeybees. Commercialized beeswax is often unsustainably harvested and we need to be conscious of our sourcing. By supporting small scale beekeepers, you’re helping them to build and establish healthy hives that can produce more healthy honeybees!
     
  2. Use a crockpot. Beeswax is slow melting and when you heat it on the stove, you have to keep a pretty close eye on it, which means you could be sitting in the kitchen for a long time. I fill my crockpot with a few inches of water, place my giant Pyrex glass measuring jar inside and fill it up with my beeswax bars. Set the crockpot to high for 4-6 hours and leave it to melt. Don’t put the lid on the crockpot or you’ll end up with water in your wax and air bubbles in your candles that cause them to burn unevenly. Once the wax is melted, use a potholder to pull your jar out of the crockpot, wipe the bottom dry and pour your wax into your prepared jars. I use organic cotton, beeswax-coated wicks for my candles and they work beautifully.

FOREST SCENTED CANDLE

To 4 ounces of melted beeswax, add the following essential oils:

  • 25 drops of Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
  • 25 drops of Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • 15 drops of Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)
  • 15 drops of Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

WALK IN THE WOODS SCENTED CANDLE

To 4 ounces of melted beeswax, add the following essential oils:

  • 25 drops of Norway Pine (Pinus resinosa)
  • 25 drops of Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
  • 15 drops of Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
  • 10 drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 5 drops of Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

High quality essential oils can be purchased from reputable companies here and here.

Much love,
Erin

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How to Make Clay Essential Oil Diffuser Charms

This tutorial is an excerpt from our December issue of AromaCulture Magazine. To purchase the full issue, CLICK HERE.


Clay acts as a natural diffuser for essential oils, making it a wonderful canvas for creative aromatherapy projects. I often make fresh batches of clay charms like these to use in my car, around the house, or to give as gifts.

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Tip: The trick to using these charms as diffusers for your essential oils is to leave the back of each one unpainted. The essential oils have to be applied to a blank surface and will ruin the painted front of your charm. So...paint the front; apply the essential oils to the back.

SUPPLIES

  • self-hardening clay (I’ve used this one and this one with success.)
  • clay carving tools (I used these ones for this project.)
  • a sprig mold (I used this one.)
  • acrylic paint
  • paint brushes or a paint sponge
  • jute, hemp twine, or copper wire

INSTRUCTIONS

To make your diffuser charms, start by kneading a piece of clay for about a minute. Once you feel like it’s workable, press it firmly into your sprig mold.

Use a rolling pin or something with a smooth surface to make sure that the back side of your leaf (the side that is facing you, outside the mold) is reasonably flat so you will have an even finished piece.

Remove your clay from the mold.

Use your clay carving tools to cut away the extra clay from the leaf. Go slowly to preserve the integrity of the mold’s design. Use an awl (included in the carving tools set I linked to earlier) to make a hole you can use to string your hanging thread through later.

Allow the clay to air dry overnight (or until thoroughlydry and hardened) on a flat surface.

Using a paint sponge or brush, start layering your acrylic paints onto your leaf. I chose to use natural colors for these pieces, but you could also use more playful, abstract colors. Lay down lighter colors first and build up to the darker colors to give your leaf dimension.

Let your finished piece air dry again until the paint is completely dry.

Now you can attach your string or wire! If you choose to use wire, you’ll want to be extra careful while adding it to your piece - it can cause the clay to break if too much pressure is applied. 20 gauge wire works fairly well if you prefer to use wire, though I do recommend using thin jute or hemp twine. It’s much more gentle on the clay piece and can easily be adjusted if you want to change the length at which you hang your piece.

To use your charm, add a drop off essential oil to the back of the finished piece.

Diffuser charms can also be made to nestle in a pretty dish or bowl instead of being made to hang from something. If this is your preference, skip the hole-drilling step. Leave a tray of charms in the bathroom or a clothes closet to scent smaller spaces where you don’t keep a diffuser. Enjoy!

Much love,
Erin

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