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The Sunshine Vitamin

In last week’s blog, I mentioned a benefit of walking outside is getting some vitamin D. But some of you might be wondering what exactly is vitamin D, why do we need it, how much do we need, and where do we get it?

So what exactly is Vitamin D and why do we need it? You might be surprised to learn that it is actually a hormone. When skin is exposed to Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, your body can produce vitamin D. Pretty cool, right? But why do we need it? Because it does all kinds of stuff. It helps control calcium levels, regulates the immune system, balances minerals in our blood, supports heart, thyroid, and nervous system health and more! Bad things happen if you don’t get enough. Low vitamin D levels can increase the risk of cancer, cause a fast heartbeat, contribute to Type 1 diabetes, cause weak bones, and lead to tooth decay. And you know what else? If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you’ll feel awful. Exhausted, hopeless, and unmotivated. I know because at one point my levels were very low. I was constantly tired and depressed. It made everyday life so hard!

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Lets Take a Walk

I met a friend in college who was from the west coast. One day we were discussing why we decided to attend West Virginia University (WVU). She explained that she didn’t like how everything was close together on other college campuses. While attending WVU she enjoyed the change of scenery and various experiences she had simply by walking to class. As anyone who has attended courses in Morgantown can tell you, you have to walk quite a distance from one building to another. As I look at my treadmill covered in a layer of dust I can understand exactly what she meant.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the treadmill. I have spent plenty of time walking on it while watching my favorite tv shows. It’s been great when I’m participating in a challenge and need to get my final steps in for the day. I also like that they give us the ability to walk even when the weather outside is not great. And in West Virginia, it rains. It rains a lot. But walking outside is a totally different experience. Just as my college friend stated when we walk outside we feel like we are going somewhere. Even if we aren’t. Even if we’re simply on a trail that circles around back to where we began.

So let’s celebrate walking this spring. We should do it as much as possible. When we head outdoors we get more than just a walk. Walking outside on a nice sunny day means we’re getting some Vitamin D from the sun. We’re breathing in fresh air. One of my favorite things about going for a walk is the scenery. You get to see animals, flowers, trees, and people. Every walk is different. The scenery is never completely the same. Going for a walk invigorates us. It changes our entire attitude. Stumped on a problem? Head out for a walk. You’ll likely see it from a different angle when you return.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, try it for yourself. Put on your walking shoes and head outside. Make it a habit and maybe one day we’ll run into each other out there. Enjoy your walk!

What do you like about walking outside? Comment below and let us know!

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Grief and Trees

As anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to have a pet knows, losing them is difficult. That is a big understatement.
Here’s a short description of my afternoon after losing my cat, Zoeie. I think this provides a more accurate portrayal.

We arrived home after the euthanasia and burial. I walked into the kitchen and collapsed. The screams of anguish coming out of my mouth were unrecognizable to me. I stared at an empty food dish trying to absorb the knowledge it wouldn’t be used again. I was inconsolable. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to move. And at that moment, I didn’t want to live. The light of my life was gone.

Although I was still wandering around in a state of mindful numbness, I went to work the next day. Society expects us to keep showing up. It doesn’t matter if we can’t concentrate, the tears are flowing, our heart has shattered. We must go to work and move on. This tradition of disallowing grief after pet loss only made me angry. People are uncomfortable with silence and with pain. Although we mean well, we tend to want to cheer each other up. Grief is not wrong. It is not a state we need to change. Grief is vital. It’s a state we need to exist in so we can learn how to move forward with this change in our life.

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Mosquitoes!

It’s the first day of summer! Summer in West Virginia is a wonderful season of warm weather, days at the pool, and trips to amusement parks. Unfortunately, due to the many lakes and rivers across the region, it’s also a prime time for mosquitoes. So many times I’ve spent an evening outside enjoying the wilderness and then wake up to a swollen itchy red dot. Those tiny creatures are stealthy. Much of the time I don’t see them and I don’t feel them but I wake up and have proof they were there. The itch of the bite is enough to drive even the calmest person crazy. But the itch isn’t the worst thing that can happen from a mosquito bite. The West Nile and Zika viruses are now in the US and that’s an even better reason to keep those bugs away.

Last year as confirmed cases of the Zika virus grew and travel advisories were issued there was an announcement that Lemon Eucalyptus oil was as effective as DEET. DEET is the most common ingredient in commercially available insect repellents. This announcement turned out to be a bit misleading. While there is a component in Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) oil that does repel mosquitoes, it is only occurs naturally in the oil in a very small amount. The product that was tested and compared to DEET had this component in a much larger amount. So if you are purchasing the essential oil and expect it to work just as well as the insect repellents you’ve used in the past you will be disappointed.

Here are a few tips if you’d like to create your own spray. Keep in mind these sprays will have a short shelf life if you are using water without a preservative. Catnip and Peppermint oil are both effective oils to use in a spray for your skin to keep away the mosquitoes. (Peppermint is fine for adults and older children but shouldn’t be used on children under six.) You could also begin by using a Catnip or Peppermint hydrosol and then adding essential oils to it. Turmeric is a great essential oil to use in a mosquito repellent. And, of course, Citronella essential oil has been found to be effective at keeping these pesky insects away. Just remember that natural insect repellents need to be applied more often than others so reapply often if you don’t want to end up with those itchy bug bites!

If you decide to create your own mosquito repellent, make sure you do a skin patch test first to ensure you do not have a reaction to the oils. Another alternative is to use the spray on your clothing. Safe dilution rates will depend on how often you are using the repellent. If you have any questions, let us know. Wishing you a fun-filled and bug bite free summer!

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Protect Yourself From Ticks

A few years ago I found myself with a loved one sitting in the exam room of a Lyme disease specialist. It was unsettling news, the specialist thought my loved one needed to be tested for Lyme disease. We were incredulous, there had never been a bulls-eye rash. There were no memories of a tick bite. That’s when we found out most people with Lyme disease never develop the most well known symptom. The costly test had to be sent to California and it would take a while before the results were back. In the meantime, we began researching the disease trying to see if the symptoms matched what we were reading. During our course of research we came across the movie, Under Our Skin. It was enlightening and also terrifying. So many lives changed by a moment in time. We got the results back, they were negative. We were, of course, thankful for the negative result but also moved forward with a heightened awareness of the possibilities a small bite may bring.

 

 

As if Lyme disease itself was not enough, there are also other risks from a tick bite. The Powassan virus originated in Ontario but according to the CDC there have been 75 cases reported in the Midwest and northeast US over the past 10 years. The main symptoms are fever and headache but neurological symptoms may also develop. The virus can lead to encephalitis and meningitis. Sadly, a small percentage of cases lead to death.

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10 Simple Dos and Don’ts for Using Essential Oils

Do use essential oils to help your body deal with issues such as emotions, skin problems, muscle pain, and respiration. This is where essential oils really shine and will provide the most benefit.

Do try different usage methods such as inhalers, diffusers, steaming, and topical application. Depending on how you want the oils to benefit you, the method of application will differ for potential benefit.

Do take time to learn about the oil you are using and the plant it came from, place of origin, and extraction method. Even oils with the same common name can have different scents and be beneficial for different issues. For example, there are several types of Lavender. Lavandula angustifolia is the one usually associated with being beneficial for resting.

Do dilute your essential oils in a carrier before applying topically. Applying essential oils directly to your skin will increase your risk of sensitization. In addition to being uncomfortable, you may be limited with essential oil use in the future. There are cases where an individual has had to stop usage completely after a long period of neat usage due to sensitization.

Do diffuse in 30 minute increments. You will receive the most benefits from the oil during the first 30 minutes of diffusing. Diffusing for longer times could lead to minor side effects. For example, some oils can lead to headaches if diffused for too long. Take a 30-60 minute break before diffusing again. Continue reading 10 Simple Dos and Don’ts for Using Essential Oils

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Memorial Day Flowers

If you drive by a national cemetery early next week you are certain to see an American flag placed at each grave. The flags, used as decorations for Memorial day, are part of a tradition started soon after the civil war. While flags are the most iconic decoration for this holiday, flowers also play an important part.

 

During the beginning of May in 1868, General John Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic declared May 30th to be “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…” He went on to state “Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”(Suvcw.org, 2017)
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Book Suggestions

The world today moves at a rapid pace. We are constantly bombarded with updates and stories.  Because information is so easy to access and publish it can be difficult to know where to look for reliable information. Sorting through information on a topic you don’t know much about can prove to be a futile experience. In the world of aromatherapy, it’s important to find information by a trusted source so I’m sharing a few book suggestions. The books listed below have been written by respected experts in the aromatherapy world.

 

Andrea Butje is the founder of Aromahead Institute. She is a licensed massage therapist as well as an aromatherapist and is the recipient of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists Lifetime Achievement Award. Her two books are The Heart of Aromatherapy and Essential Living.

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Cats, Dogs, & Essential Oils

Our pets provide us with unconditional love. They make us laugh, comfort us, and always listen without judgment. In return we provide them with a safe home, warm places to sleep, and food to eat.

Essential oils have been rapidly growing in usage over recent years. Their popularity only continues to rise. Many well-meaning pet owners have turned to essential oils to help their pets. Sadly, sometimes their efforts are misguided and their pets could end up sick or ultimately lose their life.

Humans rely on their sense of smell to find food, warn them of danger, or provide feelings of comfort. We use our 5 million smell receptors to do this. By comparison, cats have up to 80 million smell receptors and dogs have up to 300 million (Thompson, 2017). If a smell is strong to you just imagine how strong it is to your animal friend.
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Phototoxicity

There have been photos circulating recently on Facebook of a phototoxic reaction to an essential oil. While it isn’t clear which specific citrus oil caused this reaction, it is known how the oil caused the reaction. This was caused by neat usage on the skin of a phototoxic oil followed by exposure to UV light from a tanning bed.

Photoxicity happens when chemicals found in an essential oil absorb UV rays and a skin reaction involving burns, blisters, redness, or discoloration results. Not all oils are phototoxic. Below is a short list of commonly used phototoxic oils. (This is not a complete list.) 

  • Bergamot
  • Bitter Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime

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