Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Essential oils seem to be all the rage these days. People are looking for safer and more natural ways to take care of their bodies and homes and essential oils have a very strong allure. But are essential oils really all they’re cracked up to be?

When I get to talking with my friends about essential oils, two things always come up: 1) What are you actually supposed to DO with essential oils? and 2) What is the safest way to use essential oils? So I set off to do some research, and do you know what I learned? I learned that while essential oils aren’t the be all/cure all for everything, they are just like the spices we use for cooking. The more you play around with aromas and healing properties, the more you will be able to add a drop here and a drop there to positively effect the health and well-being of your entire family. So come learn with me!

What ARE Essential Oils?

Essential oils are basically the distilled and concentrated oils of a plant. But interestingly enough, they are not really essential and they are not really oils.

They are called “essential”, not because we need to get them from our diets (such as with essential amino acids like lysine or essential fatty acids like omega-3s), but rather because they contain the essence of the plant’s fragrance. Also, they are not really “oils” like olive oil and coconut oil because they do not contain fatty acids (although they are both hydrophobic and repel water).

If you look at the two examples below, the first one is a picture of oleic acid (up to 83% of olive oil is comprised of oleic acid), and is basically a long chain of carbon atoms (with a bend) surrounded by hydrogen atoms.

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

This next picture is of eugenol (about 20% of clove oil is comprised of eugenol), and it has more of a hexagon shape that is made of mostly hydrogen atoms and hydroxide diatomic anions.

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

So the term “oil” is used to reference the highly concentrated part of a plant that has been extracted. The oils extracted from plants are basically stored as microdroplets in the glands of plants.

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) - Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) – Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

The droplets diffuse through the walls of the glands and spread over the surface of the plant evaporating and creating the fragrance of the plant. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

The function of the essential oil in a plant is not well understood.

Some postulations are that it protects the plant from parasites, or maybe it attracts bees, but since very few essential oils are actually involved in the plant, some people say that these materials are simply a waste product of plant biosynthesis. At any rate, they sure smell good!

How Are Essential Oils Made

Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants using steam distillation. Freshly picked plants are placed in a still and suspended over boiling water. The steam saturates the plants for fairly short about of time (about 15-30 minutes), and then it is rapidly cooled causing the steam to condense back into water. The water is drained from the still, the essential oils float to the top, and are then collected. The remaining water is sold as floral water, otherwise known as a hydrosol.

Another method is known as expression and is typically reserved for citrus peels such as orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit. It is made in a similar way to olive oil by pressing the oil from the plant’s flesh, seeds, and skins.

Some plant material is too delicate and must be extracted with solvents (as is the case with rose oil). The oils that are extracted with solvents are called absolutes.

The Concentration of Essential Oils

I find it absolutely fascinating to think about how much of the raw plant is needed to make a small bottle of essential oil. I’ve found a few examples here that may vary slightly based on each oil company producing it, but will still blow your mind nonetheless.

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

  • 27 square feet of lavender are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender oil
  • 75 lemons are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lemon oil
  • 1 lb of raw peppermint material is needed to make one 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil (source)
  • One drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of 26-28 cups of peppermint tea (source)
  • 200,000 rose petals are needed to make one 5 mL bottle of rose oil (source)

What Makes a Good Essential Oil?

Choosing the best high quality oil can take a little bit of research. Here are some of the things to look for when selecting an oil.

  • Special Note – There is no classification in the aromatherapy world for “therapeutic grade” oils. So any oil company who say, “no other oil company can say…”, it’s probably because their company has trademarked these words. (Read more about The ‘Therapeutic Grade’ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign here.)
  • Growing Methods  – Look for oil companies that use sustainable and ethical farming practices free from herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Note that the “organic” certification is great, but may not be available in some countries where the plants are grown.
  • Label – The label should include: the botanical plant name (i.e. lavandula angustifolia for lavender), plant part (flower/stem oil, flower oil, peel oil, etc.), and common sense caution (i.e. keep out of reach of children, consult a health practitioner if pregnant or nursing, etc.). Country of origin is also nice to know as well.

    Clove Oil Label

    Clove Oil Label

  • TestingGC/MS (Gas Chromatopography/Mass Spectrometry) testing identifies the different substances within a test sample.
  • Cost – If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. For example, jasmine oil and rose oil are very concentrated, hard to make, and will therefore run about $80 – $100 for a mere 5 mL. But higher cost does not always mean higher quality when it comes to price comparison.

Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

  • Is it safe to use undiluted oils? – It is generally recommended that you can use oils like lavender and tea tree “neat” without any dilution, but if you repeatedly use an essential oil without dilution on the skin for a period of time, you can become sensitized to it with an adverse reaction that will appear “suddenly” and may possibly never go away. It’s always safest to dilute essential oils using this guideline:
    • For Young Children (6-24 months) – 1 drop plus 1 T. of carrier oil
    • For Children (2+) and Sensitive Skin – 1 drop plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For General Daily Use – 2 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For Periodic Use – 3 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
  • Which carrier oils are the best? – Carrier oils are the best way to dilute essential oils. Here is a list of the best carrier oils with notes about why you might consider each one.
    Carrier Oils

    Carrier Oils

    • Sweet Almond Oil – This is my favorite to use for skin care because it’s very light, reasonably inexpensive, has a sweet smell, and is very nutritious with lots of vitamins including A, B, and E.
    • Jojoba Oil – This oil is a bit thicker, has a longer shelf life, and has pretty much no odor. It mimics collagen making it great for people who suffer from any skin conditions.
    • Fractionated Coconut OilFractionated coconut oil has almost all of the long chain fatty acids removed leaving it with mostly medium chain fatty acids making it very saturated and very stable with a long shelf life. It will also stay in liquid form, is less likely to clog pores than regular coconut oil, and has the antioxidant and anti-mircorbial properties of capric and caprylic acid.
    • Olive Oil – This can be the most convenient carrier oil to use because you probably have it in your cupboards! It also contains lots of proteins, vitamins, and minerals that really help with skin and hair.
    • For Aging Skin – Apricot, Aragan, and Rosehip are all really great oils for aging skin.
  • Can young children use essential oil? The safest way for babies and young children to use essential oils is through diffusion, hydrosols (floral water left over after steam distillation), and application to the feet – the least overwhelming place for the senses (if they won’t put them in their mouth that is). Plant Therapy makes some great blends for kids over 2 like this Nighty-Night blend.
    • 0-3 Months: Avoid all essential oils, their skin is too sensitive and permeable
    • 3-6 Months:  Very little contact with essential oils with the exception of: Chamomile, lavender, dill, and blue yarrow
    • 6-24 Months: Can safely use a variety of essential oils including: citronella, grapefruit, orange, and tea tree
    • Children 2+: Can safely use an expanded array of essential oils including: clary sage, clove (for teething), frankincense, lemongrass, myrhh, oregano, spearmint, and vetiver
    • Avoid: Stay away from peppermint with children under 6 and eucalyptus and rosemary with children under 10 because they contain the constituent (1.8, cineole) which has been known to cause breathing problems (so this also means no thieves oil). (source 1, source 2)
  • Can pregnant and nursing women use essential oils? – Even though many pregnant women enjoy the benefits of essential oils, there haven’t been any studies to determine their absolute safety (ethical reasons), so pregnant women should use with caution. Here are a few general guidelines:
    • Avoid the use of essential oils in their first trimester
    • Only them use periodically – not daily
    • Avoid absolutes because of the trace chemicals
    • Avoid adding oils to the birthing pool because it could be harmful to the new baby
    • Avoid clary sage, all eucalyptus, lemongrass, myrrh, and oregano to name a few (source)
  • Is it safe to ingest essential oils? – When you think about how oil and water don’t mix, it is weird to add even just one drop of lemon essential oil to your water because not only is that the equivalent 1 lb of lemons, but it could cause burns, blisters, and lesions in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach lining if the undiluted droplet comes in contact with your sensitive tissues.
    • If you really want to get the health benefits of lemon in your water, I would just squeeze half of a lemon into your water and leave the oils for diffusing and skin care.
    • You can also find lavender tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea made from dried herbs that is a much safer method of ingesting.
    • Enteric coated capsules that will not release until they reach the small intestine (like these peppermint capsules for IBS) are also safer than trying to ingest essential oils.
    • Unless there are extreme circumstances (i.e. you are suffering from a debilitating illness and NOTHING else is working) and you are under the specific guidance of a trained aromatherapist, I would NOT RECOMMEND INGESTING ESSENTIAL oils. (source)
  • What should I do if I get some essential oil in my eyes or it burns my skin? – If you get some essential oil in your eyes or on your skin and it burns, the worst thing you can do is try to rinse it off with water. The best thing you can do is wipe the area clean with a carrier oil, some whole milk, or cream which will bind to the oil and rinse it away (source).
  • Other Precautions – Keep undiluted oils away from airways (nose and mouth) and avoid essential oil use with people who have respiratory diseases such as asthma because they can inflame the airways (source).

Best Uses for Essential Oils

Once you get past some of the basics about essential oils, I think that the most common question that I have heard (and thought myself) most often is,

“How do I actually use essential oils in my daily life?”

So here are some of the ways to use essential oils that are safe, practical, and things we could all use in our daily lives. Everyone has different smells that they find either intoxicating or disgusting, the best advice I have is to just get your nose in front of as many essential oils as you can until you find the fragrances that you really like.

  • Diffusing – Our sense of smell is very powerful at triggering emotions and memories and by diffusing essential oils, it can create very significantly alter your mood in a positive way by inducing anything from peace and calm to vigor and energy. Look for a cool air diffuser that uses high frequency vibrations to create an ultra fine mist. Check out this list of amazing diffuser blends that will fit just about any mood you might have. There are also a lot of pre-made blends you can get for different purposes. As a beginner just testing out my own blends, I like using a few drops of orange and clove oil or lavender and vanilla.
  • Rollerballs – Preparing rollerballs with your favorite essential oils and a good carrier oil can help you to enjoy your favorite scent on the go or give you a healing mixture at the tip of your fingers. Just apply to your wrists, neck, or feet. Check out this list of some great rollerball blends.
  • In the Bath – DO NOT add essential oils directly to the bath…they will not evenly disperse in the water. Make sure to add them to a surfactant (soap), carrier oil, or even some cream or whole milk first.  Sugar scrubsbath salts, or bath bombs if you want to get really fancy, are great ways to get essential oils into your bath experience.
  • Skin Care Products – I like making my own toothpaste (using peppermint oil), my own deodorant (using tea tree and lavender oils), my own body butter (using whatever essential oils I want to enjoy), and my own lip balm (using eucalyptus oil). You can also make your own massage oil (lemongrass, marjoram, and peppermint soothe muscles) or any other number of skin care products using essential oils. (I love all of Wellness Mama’s recipes.)
  • Cleaning – By mixing white vinegar, dish soap, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus oil, you can make your own tub and tile cleaner.  You can also make your own all purpose cleaner by mixing together vinegar, lavender, lemongrass, sweet orange, oregano, and tea tree oil. Check out more cleaning recipes here. Just make sure you’re using amber spray bottles if you need your cleaner to have a long shelf life.
  • Compresses – Hot compresses are typically used to help muscles and tissues while cold compresses are typically used to constrict blood vessels and control swelling. To make either one, fill a pan or large bowl with either very hot or very cold water, add about 6-12 drops of oil (examples: clary sage for menstrual cramps, peppermint for headache or stomachache), swirl a cloth through the water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area (source).
  • Cotton Balls – Put a few drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball and place in the bottom of a trashcan, behind the toilet, in some stinky shoes, or in a drawer to help eliminate odors and leave behind a fragrant aroma. You can also add a few droplets on dryer balls to make your clothes smell really nice.
  • Spray Bottles: Mix your favorite oils in water, make sure to shake before use, spray on clothes, to freshen up a room, as a bug spray or to keep cats off from things (citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass).
  • Inhaler: Add about 25 drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, fir, cypress, etc.) to a cotton ball and stuff into one of these inhalers. (See more on how to make one here.)

Healing with Essential Oils

If you can think of an ailment or condition and type that into google next to the words “essential oils”, I am sure that you will find a TON of ideas. Some of the most healing oils that come up over and over again for different ailments are: tea tree, oregano, chamomile, and lavender. You can make a really good healing salve (better than Neosporin) using: Coconut oil, tea tree, lavender, frankincense, and helichrysum essential oils.

Keep in mind that if you’re using essential oils to treat a physical symptom (i.e. skin condition), you’ve got to treat the underlying cause or the symptom will keep reoccurring. That being said, if you’re feeling any of the symptoms below, I have listed some of the best essential oils for eliminating them (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5, source 6).

  • Insomnia: Lavender and chamomile, maybe a little bit of orange are the best choice, also marjoram, ylang ylang, lime, bergamot, neroli, and lemon (spray the room, pillow, or diffuse in room 30 minutes prior to bedtime)
  • Headache: Peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, or rosemary (roller ball, compress, diffuser)
  • Cold and Flu: Tea tree, pine, lavender, peppermint, thyme, lemon, eucalyptus, or rosemary (diffuser, roller ball, inhaler, compress)
  • Chest Congestion/Cold: Eucalyptus (or fir and cypress), frankincense or bergamot will help kill germs too (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Skin Fungus: Tea tree, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, and lavender (roller ball, carrier oil, lotion)
  • Tooth Pain: Clove oil – only use over the age of 2, numbing agent, so don’t swallow (external compress, with carrier oil in the mouth)
  • Eczema: Lavender and chamomile are very soothing (mix with Renew lotion)
  • Bug Bites: Basil, lavender, tea tree (carrier oil)
  • Morning Sickness/Nausea: Ginger, spearmint, lemon, grapefruit, orange, or lime (inhaler, rollerball)
  • Back Pain/Sciatic Nerve Pain: Marjoram, lavender, cypress, chamomille, and black pepper (massage oil)
  • Stretch Marks and Scars: Chamomille, orange, and rosehip mixed together (carrier oil, lotion)
  • Stress/Anxiety/Fear: Lavender, chamomile, citrus scents, geranium, ylang ylang, petitgrain, and neroli (diffuser, inhaler, rollerball)
  • Fatigue: Spearmint, grapefruit, lime, and sweet orange mixture (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Menstrual Cramps: Chamomile, clary sage, lavender, peppermint, rose, or rosemary (hot compress)

In Conclusion

I do not think that essential oils are the be all and end all to all things related to health and beauty, but I do think that they are an integral part of every natural household. The attraction to essential oils seems to be such a buzz these days, and I’m glad that now I have a pretty strong understanding of what essential oils are, how they are made, how to find high quality oils, the proper safety precautions that should be taken when using essential oils, and have some practical ideas for how to use essential oils in my home. I am excited to continue using essential oils and learning more about each of their individual properties, aromas, and uses. Thanks for learning with me!

*I recently used these Essential Oil NOTES for an essential oil presentation. Feel free to print them out and use them for your own purposes. If you would like the Word document so you can make changes, please contact me.

Additional Resources

Embracing Motherhood How to Make All Natural Homemade Lip Balm

How to Make Your Own Lip Balm

Do you already make your own deodorant or whipped body butter? Then with one more ingredient (beeswax), you can also make your own lip balm! I’ve always been a big fan of using Bag Balm on my lips, but I like this even better! It makes my lips super smooth, and I love the smell!  This recipe is super easy to follow, and you can have your own lip balm in no time! I made quadruple this recipe because (as always), I like to have extra to give away and store for another day.

Ingredients/Materials

Ingredient Notes

  • The ratio for this recipe just needs to be one part beeswax, two parts coconut oil, and two parts shea butter or cocoa butter (or even mango butter) for a medium firm recipe.
  • To make a softer lip balm that you might want to store in a tin like this, reduce the amount of beeswax (up to half), and if you want a firmer chap stick, increase the amount of beeswax (up to double).
  • Essential oils are all about your preference. You might enjoy using mint, lavender, blood orange, or any other oil that you fancy!
  • I’ve linked to my favorite brands from Amazon above, but I really prefer ordering all of my natural care products from Bulk Apothecary. They carry superb products at a reasonable price.

Directions

  1. Set up a double broiler by boiling a pan of water and placing a glass bowl on top of it.
  2. Add the beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter and/or cocoa butter.
  3. The beeswax takes the longest to melt which is about 15-20 minutes. (To speed up the process, you can put a towel over the bowl. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the burner!)
  4. Transfer your melted mixture to a pouring container (like this). A spatula can help to transfer all of the mixture.
  5. Stand up all of your lip balm containers and place them close together in a bunch.
  6. Use the funnel to fill each container.
  7. Let cool, harden, and then use!

Here’s a video of my daughter helping me to fill our our lip balm containers. It is so much fun to make homemade products together!

Embracing Motherhood All Natural Homemade Deodorant That Really Works!

All Natural Homemade Deodorant That Really Works!

I have been using my homemade deodorant for awhile now, and I am blown away by how well it works. Not only is it better for me, but I get to tailor it to my likes and needs. I first got the idea that commercial deodorants were bad when I read this article about how the aluminum in commercial antiperspirant deodorants prevents your body from sweating (which is one of the ways that the body releases toxins), and it was reason enough to make me search for an aluminum free deodorant! (Not to mention that aluminum is toxic to the body.) My husband was easily able to find a deodorant without an antiperspirant (Dove), but I was only left with a few natural options at the grocery store. I tried every one, and none of them worked. In fact, Tom’s Natural Deodorant actually made me smell worse!

Then my cousin said she tried Primal Pit, and it was the first natural deodorant she had ever used that actually worked. I was going to buy some myself, but when I saw the price tag and the list of ingredients, I thought, “I can make this!” I was also inspired by Wellness Mama’s all natural homemade deodorant recipe to just make my own, and so I did! (If you’d like to buy some that I’ve made, check out my Etsy shop!)

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

Ingredients:

*Note: The pictures below actually show me making a double recipe. When I make things, I like to have enough to last for a long time, and I like to have extra to give away! A single recipe should make four 4 oz jars of deodorant, and each jar should last for about 2-3 months. Coconut oil has a shelf life of about 18 months (if in a covered jar), so that’s a pretty good expectation for how long it should keep.

Directions:

  1. Measure the Ingredients: Measure the coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax and place in a glass bowl.

    cocoa butter shea butter coconut oil beeswax

    Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, and Beeswax

  2. Double Broiler: You can use a double broiler like this, or you can just put a glass bowl on top of a pan of boiling water (that’s what I did). Make sure everything is completely melted before moving on. This should take about 15-20 minutes. If you want to speed things up, put a towel over the top. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the burner!

    double broiler

    Double Broiler

  3. Add Powders: Using hot pads, place the bowl on the table. Then add the arrowroot powder and baking soda. Mix with a fork until it’s nice and creamy.
    melted butters and oils

    All Melted!

    stirring ingredients

    Adding the Dry Ingredients

  4. Add the Essential Oils: I like using a dropper like this for measuring my oils. Don’t add the essential oils before you heat everything up because they will evaporate and not be as strong.
  5. Storage Containers: I like keeping my deodorant in small glass jars because that is what fits best in my bathroom. I like using a pouring container like this to transfer the recipe into small jars.

    ready to pour

    Ready to Pour

Deodorant in a Glass Jar

Deodorant in a Glass Jar

Deodorant Stick

hardened deodorant

Deodorant Stick Hardened

If you want to be able to keep your deodorant in a plastic deodorant container, you can use the above recipe and just keep your deodorant in the refrigerator. I don’t really like this because I need to have all of my beauty products in one location or I’ll just forget to use them. Plus, I’m not really a fan of the cold shock. But you just might like the awakening jolt of a cold stick in your pits! It melts pretty quickly once it hits your warm skin and this way, you don’t need to get your fingers “dirty”.

filled deodorants

Deodorant Sticks

If you want to modify the recipe to be able to keep your sticks out and solid at room temperature, just substitute beeswax for the cocoa butter and shea butter. I did a little experiment however, where I put the beeswax deodorant stick on one armpit and my original recipe on the other, and the original recipe fared much much better.

FAQs

How Should I Use This? First of all, natural deodorants really work best on thoroughly cleaned armpits. So when you’re in the shower, don’t just graze your pits with a loofa; really get in there with a bar of soap and make sure they are clean! I find it’s best to apply this deodorant right after I get out of the shower (I have never had it sting after shaving my pits) and before I put any clothes on, but you could apply it once you’re dressed too. (It won’t leave any white marks on your clothes like traditional deodorant sticks, and it’s not so oily so that it will leave grease stains on your clothes.) Scoop a pea sized amount onto your fingertips and rub into your pits. With the leftover residue on my fingertips, I usually smooth out any flyaway hairs on the top of my head and rub the rest into my hands to soften them up. I typically don’t reapply throughout the day, but if you’re worried about stinking, it might be a good idea.

Can I Play Around with the Recipe? I have played around with many different combinations and types of oils, butters and wax, and even though this exact recipe is my favorite, there is a lot of room to play around with different combinations of things. For example, you could substitute cocoa butter for shea butter or eliminate the beeswax altogether. I just think that the coconut oil is the most important moisturizing component to keep. You also want dry ingredients to be about one and a half times more than the liquid ingredients. (So, about one cup of “liquids” and one and a half cups of dry ingredients.) I have used many different essential oil combinations, and this one turned out simply divine! I really think that the tea tree oil and lavender oil are essential, but the honeysuckle was just for my personal preference. Feel free to add whatever essential oils you like until you find the right combination that works for you.

Where Can I Get the Ingredients? I originally bought all of my ingredients on Amazon, and I have linked to them above. I used my favorite organic brands, and I really loved the quality. But since then, I have discovered Bulk Apothecary. They are an amazing company that consistently delivers a quality product at a reasonable price. I buy coconut oil (not organic) in bulk from Country Life to use for cooking. It’s such a great deal at $70.00 for 50 lbs that I can use it liberally without breaking the bank! If I can’t afford to buy the organic coconut oil, this totally works for my deodorant. Also, once you buy the shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils, you’ve got a lot of the ingredients to make whipped body butter, toothpaste, and lip balm (recipe coming soon).

How Can I Make This Recipe More Manly? I have not yet made this deodorant for my husband, but I’d like to someday, and I will update this post when I do. In the meantime, to make this recipe into a version fit for a manly man who likes manly smelling things, I would use all of the same ingredients except for the lavender and honeysuckle oil. If you take those out, the tea tree oil might be a little overpowering, so you could add sandalwood oil, cedarwood oil, vanilla oil, patchouli oil, or any other scent you fancy to find the scent combination that works for you.

Is There an Adjustment Period? If you’ve been using an aluminum based deodorant for awhile, you’ll need to “detox” for a bit before your body fully adjusts. With your antiperspirant deodorant, your pits weren’t allowed to sweat freely. Now they are, and they will have a lot of toxins to eliminate. So you may initially see a large amount of perspiration as your body adjusts. After awhile, however, things will taper off and you’ll settle in to a new normal. I’ve also heard that your pits might be a little sensitive at first, but I haven’t personally experienced that myself. If this happens to you, you might want to make a batch with about half of the recommended baking soda and go really easy on the tea tree oil, which is probably what’s irritating you.

Why Do Underarms Stink Anyways? Sweating is how the body cools itself down when we get too hot. Sweat has no odor. The odor is caused by the bacteria that live on our skin. Basically, the bacteria metabolize the proteins and fatty acids from our sweat, and this is what causes body odor. We don’t need to stop the sweat to stop the odor, we just need to stop the bacteria. This is why so many of the ingredients in this deodorant recipe are anti-bacterial. If you’re really concerned about having stinky pits, you should make sure to shave often so that the bacteria have less places to get trapped. Other things can effect the smell of your pits as well. Being overweight, being diabetic, taking antidepressants, and eating garlic, certain spices, and alcohol can also effect the smell of your pits.

Reasons to Avoid Commercial Deodorant

When I researched these harmful ingredients found in commercial ingredients, I was very glad that I had stopped using it and found a better alternative.

  1. Aluminum – A metal used to help block the sweat from escaping from the pores. It has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Here’s a study showing aluminum found in breast biopsies. This is a great article if you want to learn more about the dangers of aluminum.)
  2. Parabens – A synthetic preservative that disrupts the hormonal balance leading to early puberty, a higher risk of hormonal cancers, birth defects, and organ toxicity. (Check out this study about how parabens are found in breast tumors, and read this article that explains how when mothers are pregnant, parabens cross the placenta and are even found in higher concentrations in the baby.)
  3. Propylene Glycol – A petroleum based material used to soften cosmetic products that in large quantities can damage the central nervous system, liver, and heart. It is also found in many processed foods. (This is a great article to learn more about the dangers of propylene glycol.)
  4. Phthalates – A class of chemical used to dissolve other ingredients and to create a better consistency that has been linked to birth defects, cell mutation, and a disruption of hormone receptors. Used in cosmetics, synthetic fragrances, plastics, body care products, and medical goods. (This is a great article to learn more about how phthalates can affect you when you’re pregnant and what to do about it.)

In Conclusion

If you google it, I’m sure you can find a plethora of articles saying that these ingredients and commercial underarm deodorant is just fine, but if there’s even a shadow of doubt in your mind, why risk it? Especially when this deodorant recipe works better than anything else on the market. And if you don’t feel like making it, check out my Etsy shop, and you can buy some from me for a great deal!

Homemade Deodorant, 4 fl oz.

Homemade Deodorant, 4 fl oz.

How to Make Whipped Body Butter

I love moisturizing my skin with nourishing creams and lotions, but the more I have been learning about living a healthy lifestyle, the more I have been learning that what you put on your body is just as important as what we put into our bodies. When we eat food, it is processed and filtered through our digestive system, but when we put things on our skin, they are absorbed and enter the bloodstream without any filters. When I realized this, I knew that it would be important to start really looking at the ingredients in all of my skin care products. Something else I learned is that there are no FDA regulation for beauty products. This means that there’s really no way to know if companies are being truthful in their labels.

There are many different recipes for body butter but the best recipe will basically have a ratio of 25% liquid oil (almond oil or jajoba oil) to 75% solid oil (coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, etc.). I’ve linked to some of the Amazon ingredients I’ve purchased, but I really love going through Bulk Apothecary for all of my wholesale needs. They have excellent products at a great price. I like to get everything organic, but they have some great naturally refined products if you’re looking for something without the odor.

Ingredients:

*After learning about the health benefits of each oil and butter, I would like to create another recipe that calls for less coconut oil, a little more cocoa butter, and a lot more shea butter. Shea butter is the least clogging and the best for your skin. Cocoa butter is really good too, but coconut oil really clogs pores. Plus, it is always makes my skin feel really dry and itchy. After using the above recipe, I feel like my hands were even drier than when I started. I would also like to make one recipe with whipped butter and one without whipping it for more of a salve. I will post an update!

**Update: I made One with only cocoa butter, shea butter, almond oil, and olive oil (because I ran out of almond oil). I didn’t whip it very much, and it hardened quite a bit and was too hard to use. So I gathered all of it up from the jars again, threw in just a handful of coconut oil, and whipped it up really well again. I still feel like it made my skin a little itchy, so maybe I’m just really sensitive to coconut oil. I’ve read that jojoba is the best oil for the skin because it most resembles the bodies natural oils. So the next recipe I make will have jojoba oil, shea butter, mango butter, and aloe vera. I also want to try and get the deodorized brands because I’m not a big fan of all the different smells. I will update when I make it!

Directions:

  1. Melt everything (except the essential oils) in a double broiler. (If you don’t have a double broiler, you can put a glass canning jar into a pot with an inch or two of boiling water or you can do what I like to do which is to place a glass bowl on top of a boiling pot of water because it’s easiest to mix that way.)
  2. Put in the freezer for about 20 minutes. It should start to harden.
  3. Use a hand mixer and beat until there are peaks (about 10 minutes).
  4. Add desired essential oils.
  5. Put back in the freezer for about 10 minutes to stiffen up (if necessary) before putting into small glass storage jars.

Notes:

  • Why Shea Butter? Raw, unrefined shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins A and E. It has a creamy color and a distinctive and somewhat unpleasant smell. It is widely used for its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. It also won’t clog your pores like cocoa butter and coconut oil.
  • Why Cocoa Butter?  Raw, unrefined cocoa butter is rich in essential fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants. It’s been claimed to help reduce stretch marks and help with sensitive skin issues like eczema because it contains cocoa mass polyphenol which has been shown to thwart cancer, prevent cardiovascular disease and ease arthritis. It also has a nice chocolaty aroma.
  • Why Coconut Oil? It is anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant, the medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut oil deeply penetrate the skin for great moisturizing, it screens 20% of the ultraviolet exposure, and it has vitamin E to aid in my recovery of skin damage such as burns, cuts, scars, etc.
  • Why Almond Oil? It is loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, and E. It has a light and less greasy feeling to it. Jojoba oil can be a great carrier oil too. It has a shelf life of five years versus almond oil’s one. But it is more of a wax and creates a barrier on the skin that doesn’t really penetrate. Plus, it costs five times what almond oil does.
  • Essential Oils: Blood Orange, Honeysuckle, Vanilla, and Lavender are some of my favorites.
How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

How to Make Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent to save money and for the health of my family. This recipe is definitely a cost savings, much better for us than commercial detergents, easy to make, and it really works! I wash a lot of pee soaked toddler bedding and soiled cloth diaper wipes, and this detergent gets them all super clean.

*I like using the liquid laundry detergent better because it lasts longer, and since the soap has been previously dissolved, it works better, but you could also just not add water and use it dry (just make sure you’re washing with hot water).

Ingredients for Homemade Laundry Detergent

Ingredients for Homemade Laundry Detergent

Ingredients

  • 1 Bar of Soap: I like to use Dr. Bronner’s Lavendar Castile Soap or Kirk’s Natural Castile Soap, which is a little cheaper.
  • 1 c. Washing Soda: Get some here or find it in the laundry aisle at your grocery store for about $3.50.
  • 1 c. Borax: Get some here or find it in the laundry aisle at your grocery store for about $3.50.
  • Cheese Grater: I like using this stainless steel stand up grater.
  • 2 Quart Pot Filled with Water
  • 1 5-Gallon Bucket: Get one here.
  • *Oxygen Booster Get some here. You can add this separately to your wash cycle to get whites whiter.
  • *Fels Naptha: Get some here. This works really well to get out tough stains. You can add a grated bar to this recipe to make it really powerful, or just grate some up in a bucket of hot water to soak the stained garment.

Directions for Liquid Laundry Detergent

  1. Boil Water: I like using a two quart pot, but really any size will do.
  2. Prepare the Soap: Use a cheese grater to grate an entire bar of soap. You could also just cut the soap into chunks using a knife or cut it coarsely and put it into a food processor. You just want it to dissolve into the boiling water.

    Grated Soap for Laundry Detergent

    Grated Soap for Laundry Detergent

  3. Add Ingredients: Add the soap to the boiling water and “cook” until it dissolves. You can add the washing soda and borax at any time.
  4. 5-Gallon Bucket: Fill a 5-gallon bucket with hot water and add the 2 quarts of dissolved soap, washing soda, and borax.

    5-Gallon Bucket Filled with Liquid Laundry Detergent

    5-Gallon Bucket Filled with Liquid Laundry Detergent

  5. Cover: Cover and let sit overnight. Stir the next day. Stir every few days until it reaches a gelatinous consistency.

    liquid laundry detergent

    Liquid Laundry Detergent

  6. Pour into Containers: I like to use a cup and a funnel to pour the detergent into an old detergent jar from the store. You could also use gallon size jugs or just use the detergent right out of your 5-gallon bucket.

    Use a Cup and Funnel to Transfer the Laundry Detergent to a Smaller Container

    Transferring the Detergent to a Smaller Container

  7. Use: I do a lot of laundry and a lot of big dirty loads, so I usually use 1 cup per load, for smaller less soiled loads, you could use ½ cup. Sometimes I use the cap from the old laundry detergent container and sometimes I just glug some into the washer.

(To make a dry laundry soap, just mix the dry ingredients together and don’t add water, store in a mason jar, and use 2 tablespoons per load. I personally feel like the liquid soap is better and lasts longer, however.)

FAQs

  • What about HE washers? This detergent isn’t very sudsy and should work just fine in HE washers.
  • Why hot water? The next time you make some hamburger patties, try running your hands under some cold water to get them clean. Doesn’t work so good, does it? Now try adding some soap. Still doesn’t work too good. Now try rinsing your hands with warm to hot water. Pretty cool, huh? Now, try adding a little soap to some warmish hot water and notice how your hands are finally clean. Keep this in mind when doing laundry. 🙂
  • Why washing soda? The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it act as a solvent to remove a range of stains. You can heat baking soda to make your own washing soda.
  • Why borax? Borax works by converting some water to hydrogen peroxide which increases the effectiveness of other cleaners. This chemical reaction works best in hot water. There is some debate as to how “green” Borax is, but it’s just a laundry booster, so you could skip it entirely and this would still be a good recipe.
  • Why soap? Soap is an emulsifier which means that it can suspend oil and dirt in a way that it can be removed.
  • How much does it cost? If you buy the washing soda and borax at your local grocery store and get some good organic soap online (Like Dr. Bronner’s) I figured out the cost of each 5 gallon bucket to be about $3 for 80 loads of laundry (if you use 1 cup per load), which is about $0.04 per load.
  • What about really soiled clothes? If I have something with really tough stains, I keep a stain remover stick like this around to pretreat the stain. Then I grate up some Fels Naptha (about a quarter cup grated) along with a cup of my liquid detergent to a small bucket with really hot water. Then I soak the soiled garment for at least 20 minutes or so. I have not encountered any stain that couldn’t be removed this way.

    Soaking a Stain Away

    Soaking a Stain Away

Dryer Tips

  • The Harm of Dryer SheetsIn addition to being made with a laundry list of toxic chemicals with negative side effects, the artificial fragrances are a carcinogen and coat all of your clothes.
  • White Vinegar: I like to add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to reduce static cling. Don’t worry, it won’t make your clothes smell like vinegar at all!
  • Dryer Balls: We have also eliminated the use of dryer sheets by using these dryer balls. They are supposed to soften the clothes.
  • But honestly, I usually don’t typically add anything to my dryer (because of time really), and I just deal with what little static cling there is. 🙂

The History of Laundry Detergent

Did you know that the use of “laundry detergent” as we know it today took off because during WWII the fats and oils used to make soap were needed to manufacture nitro-glycerine into explosives? Another source had to be used, and that’s when the synthetic form of laundry detergent using a base of petroleum became widespread. (Read more about the history here.)

Harmful Ingredients in Commercial Laundry Detergents

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate  – Used as a surfactant (lowers the surface tension between a liquid and a solid – helps the water to get everything wet), detergent, and emulsifier in thousands of industrial cleaners and cosmetic products including shampoos, toothpastes, body washes, and laundry detergents. 16,000 studies have been published showing the dangers of this chemical including irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endrocine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes, along with possible mutations and cancer.
  2. Dioxane – It’s not really an ingredient, but rather a byproduct of ethoxylation which combines low sudsing ingredients with ethylene oxide to produce softer detergents that produce more suds. It has been found in about 2/3 of all detergents (excluding USDA certified organic brands). It has been found to cause cancer and to be potentially toxic to the brain, nervous system, kidneys, liver, and respiratory system.
  3. Nonylphenol Ethoxylate – An inexpensive nonionic surfactant that is an endrocine disruptor and estrogen mimicker that can potentially cause hormonal problems or even cancer. It has also been shown to cause kidney and liver damage, decreased testicular growth and sperm count, disrupted growth and metabolism, and increased mortality.
  4. Phosphates – They break down the dirt particles and remove stains by softening the water and allowing suds to form, but they can cause nausea, diarrhea, and skin irritations in humans, and they are difficult to remove from wastewater and often end up in rivers and streams where they increase algae growth which starves the animal life of oxygen. 40 states have currently issued phosphate detergent bans.
  5. Other Harmful Ingredients: Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates, petroleum distillates (which have been linked to cancer), phenols (which can cause toxicity throughout the entire body), optical brighteners (which cause bacterial mutations and allergic reactions, and can be toxic to fish), sodium hypochlorite (bleach), ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate, and artificial fragrances (which have been linked to various toxic effects on fish and animals, as well as allergic reactions in humans). (Source)

In Conclusion

Making your own laundry detergent is really easy once you get in the habit of it. With a large family and the high cost of laundry detergent, this has been very helpful for our budget. Not only that, but it is a definite health improvement from using the commercial toxic laden detergents. If you’re convinced to make your own laundry detergent, but you don’t have the time (or desire), you can buy some that I’ve made at my Etsy shop! You can use it dry or use it to make the liquid version by boiling the contents in a quart pan and then adding it to a 5 gallon bucket of water. It will make enough detergent to get you through about 80 loads.

laundry detergen etsy

Homemade Dry Laundry Detergent

For Further Reading

Are You Poisoning Your Household With This Chore?” by Dr. Mercola – A very in depth look at why commercial laundry detergent is bad that cites many more sources for even further reading.

*You might also like my articles about:

Homemade Diaper Wipe Solution

I have had every intention of using cloth diapers, but with two and sometimes three in diapers at a time and one particularly sensitive child prone to very bad diaper rashes, it just hasn’t worked out for me. But using cloth wipes and making my own diaper wipe solution has been an easy to maintain and cost effective home solution for me.

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ c. Olive Oil (Helps to slide away the waste.)
  • 2 T. Weleda Calendula Soap (Any soap will work.)
  • 5-10 Drops of Lavender Oil (Adds a fresh scent.)
  • 5-10 Drops of Tea Tree Oil (Great for treating yeasty diaper rashes.)

Directions:

  1. In a small bottle (I use an old glass pizza sauce jar), mix a concentrated version of this mixture that’s about ¾ full of water to mix as needed into a larger container.
  2. I like to use an old diaper wipe container or a tupperware container to put the solution in.
  3. First pour in a glug of olive oil. (It doesn’t need to be extra virgin, any oil will help the sticky messes to slide away).
  4. Then add a generous squirt of soap (For my newborns I like using Weleda Calendula, but for budgetary reasons, I usually just end up using hand soap)
  5. Next add few drops of tea tree oil (This is a great anti-fungal and I used it when my son was getting a bunch of yeasty diaper rashes.)
  6. Then add a few drops of lavender oil. (This just helps it to smell good.)

ragsCloth Wipes: I love using these Bumkin Reusable Cloth Wipes. When I got them on Amazon, they were $8.15 for 12. I ended up buying 36 and that seemed a good amount to only have to wash about once a week for two kids at a time in diapers. (Note: Do not use dryer sheets, they will prevent the wipes from absorbing.) What I do is dip the cloth in the solution, wring it out, and use as needed. I also like to have some thinner cloth diapers around to give a dry wipe afterwards to prevent too much moisture from accumulating.

Diaper Rash: If we do have a diaper rash problem, I LOVE using this Weleda Diaper Cream. It’s kind of expensive at $9.09 for 2.8 oz., but a little bit goes a long way!

How to Make Squeezable Remineralizing Toothpaste

How to Make Squeezable Remineralizing Toothpaste

I started making my own toothpaste because I got sick of my kids trying to eat the expensive sugar laden little tubes of the My Little Pony and Spiderman infant brand fluoride-free toothpaste. So, I researched a bunch of recipes, did a lot of experimenting, got some feedback from family and friends, and finally settled on this recipe. And let me tell you, this recipe is simply amazing! It cleans our teeth, keeps them white and stain free, prevents tartar build up, and is liked by everyone in the house. But most importantly, we can use it liberally without concern of ingesting any harmful ingredients found in commercial toothpastes. (*See more info on this at the end.)

Ingredients

This will make enough to fill one 4 oz. container. I actually like making mine in bulk, so instead of tablespooons, I’ll use cups for my measurements. 🙂 A good rule of thumb is: 4 parts coconut oil (with a splash of olive oil) and 4 parts diatomaceous earth, baking soda, and calcium carbonate. Then add stevia and peppermint extract to taste.

  • 4 T. Coconut Oil (Anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal)
  • 1 t. Olive Oil (I only use this when making my squeeze tube version because it helps to keep it soft.)
  • 1 T. Baking Soda (Slightly abrasive, gently cleanses, tastes salty)
  • 1 T. Diatomaceous Earth (Slightly abrasive, gently cleanses, kills parasites, no flavor)
  • 2 T. Calcium Carbonate (Remineralizes teeth)
  • 1 T. Hot Water (This will help to melt the coconut oil and provide the perfect texture for squeezable toothpaste.)
  • 5-10 drops Liquid Stevia (A sugar free sweetener)
  • 5 drops Peppermint Extract (Adds flavor)

*Note: For the most basic tooth cleaner, you can just use baking soda, the next step up would be to use coconut oil and baking soda. The rest of the ingredients are really an added bonus depending on your taste, preference, and needs.

My Toothpaste Making Station

My Toothpaste Making Station

Ingredient Notes

  • Baking Soda: Not only does slightly abrasive powder help to eliminate plaque, it also whitens your teeth, helps eliminates harmful bacteria, and encourages a more alkaline (rather than acidic) environment in your mouth. (Read more here about the benefits of baking soda.)
  • Diatomaceous Earth: This is slightly abrasive just like the baking soda, but without the salty taste and with the added benefit of killing parasites in the digestive tract by shredding and dehydrating them.
  • Calcium Carbonate: If you have active decay, demineralization (indicated by white spots), or sensitive teeth, then this ingredient is for you! This alone will not remineralize your teeth as much as diet, however, so check out this amazing book by Ramiel Nagel called Cure Tooth Decay to learn how eating a healthy diet based on Weston Price principles (such as avoiding processed foods and adding nutrient dense foods to your diet like pastured meat and eggs as well as raw milk and properly prepared grains). Increased saliva also helps to keep teeth clean, and chewing this Trident Recaldent Sugar-Free Calcium Gum might help you to do that while getting some extra minerals.
  • Coconut Oil: Ok, so the benefits of coconut oil are so vast, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard about them. (Check out this article if you want to learn more.) Basically, coconut oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and gives the toothpaste a nice creamy consistency.
  • Stevia: Stevia is derived from plant in South America called Stevia Rebaudiana. It is extremely sweet, so not much is needed and it’s calorie (and sugar) free. Some people like using xylitol, which extracted from fruits and vegetables and also calorie free, but it’s just a personal preference. (Read more about stevia versus xylitol here.)
  • Peppermint Extract: This gives the toothpaste it’s nice minty flavor, but you could use cinnamon or orange depending on your taste preference. I used to use peppermint oil in my recipe, but I just don’t think it’s the best idea to ingest essential oils, so now I look in the baking aisle.

    Freshly Whipped Toothpaste

    Freshly Whipped Toothpaste

Directions

  1. Mix the coconut oil, olive oil, h0t water, baking soda, diatomaceous earth, and calcium carbonate until creamy. You can mix by hand, but I usually like using beaters, until it’s nice and creamy.
  2. Add the stevia and peppermint extract to taste.
  3. I like using this baby food making system to store my squeezable toothpaste. You could also use small glass canning jars or even a disposable storage container. I basically just scoop the toothpaste into the containers, remove as much air as I can, rinse under hot water, remove even more air, and dry.
  4. To use, add a pea sized amount to your toothbrush and use like you would any other toothpaste.

Tips and Tricks

  • Even though I try to mask it as much as I can with the other ingredients, the baking soda has a salty taste to it that you may notice at first. If this bothers you, either start with a very small amount at first or mix with some other toothpaste that you have as you transition away from it. This might be really helpful for young children.
  • This toothpaste doesn’t foam or lather, so you may want to dip a little more on your toothbrush before you finish brushing to get your teeth extra clean.
  • For some reason, we all tend to drool a lot when using this, so you may want to make sure you’re standing over a sink.
  • Although it’s a pretty hard habit to break, you don’t have to spit this toothpaste out. The diatomaceous earth kills parasites and the coconut oil is anti-fungal, so by swallowing this toothpaste on a regular basis, you can help to prevent and eliminate any candida or parasite issues.

The Most Important Reason to Avoid Commercial Toothpaste…Fluoride!

By making our own toothpaste, we can avoid the worst toxin of all – sodium flouride, which is a toxic chemical that has not even been proven to prevent tooth decay. If you look at your tube of Crest toothpaste, it actually says to contact poison control if more than the amount needed to brush your teeth is ingested. If a 2 year old were to ingest 42% of a tube of toothpaste, it would kill him.

Among other things, ingesting too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which can permanently discolor the teeth, (especially children who have yet to get their permanent teeth), cause damage to the brain and alter mental behavior, result in a lowered IQ, produce impairment of the pineal gland which is linked to early onset puberty, lowers thyroid function, causes arthritis, damages the bones, and causes reproductive failures.

Other Harmful Ingredients Found in Commercial Toothpaste

  • Triclosan – An antibacterial compound found in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, deodorant, and many other household products that can lead to disruption of the thyroid hormone and endrocine system and creates a dangerous antibiotic and bacterial resistance. Many companies are banning its use.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – A foaming agent that is present in nearly all shampoos, laundry detergents, and toothpastes that can lead to organ, reproductive, and neural toxicity, endrocine disruption, cellular mutations and changes, and even cancer.
  • DEA (diethanolomine) – Formulated into soaps, detergents and surfactants, it has been linked with kidney, liver, and other organ damage according to several government-funded research studies, and has been proven to cause cancer in rats when applied to the skin.
  • Propylene Glycol – A colorless, viscous, hygroscopic liquid used in anti-freeze solutions, in brake and hydraulic fluids, as a de-icer, and as a solvent. It’s even found in some pet foods, processed foods and cosmetics, toothpastes, shampoos, deodorants and lotions. It is implicated in contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It can inhibit skin cell growth in human tests, can cause gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headache and vomiting, central nervous system depression and can damage cell membranes causing rashes, dry skin and surface damage.

In Conclusion

If you are considering making your own toothpaste, but you’d like to try some out first, or if you like the idea of homemade toothpaste, but you just don’t have the time to make it, check out my Etsy shop, and you can buy some of my squeezable remineralizing all natural toothpaste for $8 each!

Remineralizing All Natural Toothpaste Pouches

Remineralizing All Natural Toothpaste

Further Reading:

Ruby and Elliot Helping Me Make Toothpaste

Ruby and Elliot Helping Me Make Toothpaste