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

The Best Wellness Supplements to Keep Sickness at Bay

When you’re sick or starting to feel sick, these are the four supplements that you WON’T want to be without. When I feel myself starting to get run down, I of course try to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating a nutrient dense diet, eliminating processed foods, and washing my hands regularly, but sometimes all of these things aren’t possible or enough, and I need a little boost.

Being a busy stay at home mother of four (soon to be five), I don’t get to take “sick days” (although my husband does pamper me on the weekends and when he’s at home). So, when I see everyone around me dropping like flies, or when I start to feel the first onset of an illness, I try to take it easy as much as I can and start loading up on these supplements. It’s amazing how when you take a supplement that’s REALLY good, you can feel the positive effects right away.

Over the years through much research and experimentation, these are what I have found to be the best wellness supplements on the market!

1. Pure Radiance C

I have done a TON of research about vitamin C supplements and tried everything under the sun. These pills are simply AMAZING! If I take ONE PILL when I am starting to feel sick, within 30 minutes, I can literally feel my symptoms start to reverse.

Pure Radiance C

Pure Radiance C

Vitamin C is an excellent supplement when you’re feeling sick because it helps to boost the immune system, but this vitamin C from Pure Radiance is different from the acidic chewable tablets you’ll find at the grocery store. Instead of containing the synthetically manufactured component of vitamin C known as ascorbic acid, Pure Radiance C contains only vitamin C derived naturally from berries. And although studies show that they both boost the immune system equally, I have experienced different results. I think it’s because it’s very concentrated, and that is why I notice such a difference from just one pill.

You can obtain vitamin C naturally from diet in foods such as raw milk (vitamin C in pasteurized milk is destroyed) and fruits and vegetables such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries and brussel sprouts, but fruits and vegetables today don’t pack the same nutrient dense punch as they used to because of the depletion of nutrients from the soil. That is why I especially try to make sure to buy organic produce during cold and flu season.

2. Activate – C

This dietary supplement drink mix has blown me away with its effectiveness. The powerful combination of ingredients and the ease of taking it in delicious liquid form makes it something that everyone in our family enjoys. When I start to feel sick and drink one of these, I feel a noticeable improvement in my health right away.

Activate - C

Activate – C

Activate – C is a supplement you add to water that contains 1,200 mg of Vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid, water soluble, acts as an antioxidant), 15 mg of zinc (white blood cells can’t function without zinc), vitamin E (a fat soluble antioxidant…so take this with a meal that contains fat), astragalus extract (a powerful immune booster), and aronia berry extract (which has more antioxidants than elderberry).

3. Wellness Formula

This used to be the ONLY supplement we ever needed to keep sickness at bay, but since they changed their recipe, it just doesn’t pack the same punch as it used to. But still, if I take these pills when I FIRST start feeling sick, I am usually able to prevent the illness from settling in. They also have liquid and chewable options for children (although they don’t boast as impressive of an ingredient list).

Wellness Formula

Wellness Formula

I actually wrote an entire blog about how this was the ONLY wellness supplement I needed, and even though this is a part of my “wellness arsenal”, it’s no longer at the top of my list ever since they modified their ingredient list to pretty much include less of everything…so it’s still effective, you will just need to take a LOT of it.

*There is a warning label advising that this is not for pregnant or breastfeeding moms…although I believe that this is because not every ingredient has been through a clinical trial for this demographic. I personally have taken it after researching each ingredient and have had no problems, but this is also why I prefer having other sources for wellness supplements while I’m pregnant and/or nursing. 

4. Umcka

My sister married a man from South Africa, and Umcka is his family’s secret weapon against illness. Unlike the other supplements, this doesn’t need to be taken at the onset of illness. It’s meant to be taken during illness and will shorten the duration and severity. I usually like the cold care formula in a drink, but the chewable tablets are good too and the kids love them!

Umcka

Umcka

The main ingredient in Umcka Cold Care is pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as African geranium, a medicinal herb. It is especially effictive for treating acute bronchitis and increasing the body’s natural healing rate. Read more about it here!

5. Other Supplements

These supplements aren’t currently part of my regular regime, but I have had success with them in the past, and they might work perfectly for you!

  • Throat Coat Tea – When you wake up in the morning, and it feels like your throat is clogged with phlegm or is sore from coughing, preparing this tea with a bit of raw honey will do wonders!
  • Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough Syrup – If you have a little one who is having trouble sleeping because of a bad cough, this all natural syrup is amazing! It has vitamin C and zinc to boost the immune system along with honey (so don’t give to children under 12 months) and melatonin (a natural hormone, safe for kids) to help them sleep.
  • Chewable Vitamins for Kids – For our kids, sometimes giving them some cheap chewable vitamin C and chewable vitamin D (especially when they’re not getting much sun) can help them keep sickness at bay. I also like giving them these children’s vitamins that are designed to be recognized by the body as food.
  • Bee PropolisBees create this propolis out of tree resin and honey to seal small cracks in their hive. It basically acts as nature’s antibiotic and is great for ear infections, killing very harmful bacteria, stopping the growth of candida, and boosting the immune system. I have noticed really good results after using this.
  • Elderberry Syrup – You can make your own by boiling dried elderberries or you can buy it. It’s supposed to be an amazing immune booster, but I have just never found it to be super effective, although I have heard many people swear by it!

In Conclusion

If you’re scouring the internet because you’re feeling sick or want to prevent illness in your home as we embark on yet another cold and flu season, then you will be bombarded with one article after another touting a variety of different claims, so I am here to tell you that these are the supplements that have worked for me and my family.

Nothing is as good as getting lots of quality sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating nutrient dense foods, and avoiding overly processed food substitutes, especially for our little ones, but sometimes the cold and flu season is especially brutal and we need a boost (or a break), and that’s when these supplements can make all of the difference.

What's So Bad About Phthalates?

What’s So Bad About Phthalates?

I’ve done a bit of research about phthalates to know that they are bad, but I wanted to dig a little deeper to see just how bad and learn more about the possibilities for exposure.

My Health Journey

As a health conscious mother of four (soon to be five) and also on a pretty strict budget as a stay at home mom, I’m always trying to balance out health and cost. I first of all try to serve my children as much nutrient dense food as possible while at the same time try to eliminate as many toxins as I can. That being said, stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol which leads to inflammation, free radical damage, and a weakened immune system, so I try to avoid that too by not getting too paranoid about things that can affect our health.

That being said, I believe the best health journey is one that is continuous and involves baby steps. Once, I tried throwing out everything processed and only purchased organic whole foods, but the cost was overwhelming and something we couldn’t support on one income. So now, we do what we can, and I’m always trying to just focus on the next step rather than the final destination.

In this series of articles, I would like to explore some of the toxins that are lurking in our everyday lives, explain what they are, how they are hurting us, and discuss how they can be avoided. I hope that this research will serve our family as we continue our health journey, choose better and safer products, and try to live the best life that we can every day for both our current and future health.

What are Phthalates?

Most phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-ates) are plastcizers that are added to plastics (such as vinyl flooring, raincoats, shower curtains, plastic toys, and IV drip bag tubes) to make them more flexible and harder to break. They are also added as a dissolving agent (solvent) and fragrance carrier to many personal care products including soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and laundry detergents.

*On a side note, phthalates are not commonly found in things like plastic wrap, food containers, and water bottles…although these plastics do contain other dangerous chemicals that can leech into your food and beverages that I will discuss in future articles.

Finding Phthalates on Labels

If you’re a label reader (like me), the scary thing about phthalates is that under current law, they can simply be labeled as “fragrance”, even if they make up to 20% of the product.

If you’re looking at your labels, you may notice different acronyms and names:

  • DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) – used in nail polish and other personal care products
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate) – used in personal care products, such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, aftershave lotion, shampoo, hair gel, and hand lotion
  • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) – used in vinyl flooring, car-care products, and personal care products
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate) – used in insect repellent, plastics, and solid rocket propellant
  • DEHP (di-phthalate, bis-phthalate, or 2-ethylhexyl phthalate) – used as a softener in PVC products, such as IV bags, tubing, and other medical devices

*In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a law calling for the phthalates DBP, DEHP, and BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate) to be banned in all toys (including teething toys) and bedding intended for children 12 and under. There are, however, no regulations on phthalates in toys made in China, and they have been tested to have very high levels (28%-38%).

Why are Phthalates Dangerous?

While most studies reflect the effects of phthalates on animals, the results have been disturbing enough for people to start taking notice. Most adults will metabolize phthalates through the digestive system and excrete them via feces or urine, but this isn’t really possible for fetuses in the womb and particularly dangerous for the immature digestive system of infants and young children, so they are most at risk.

While more research is needed, animals studies show that low exposure to DBP phthlates (found in most grocery store cosmetics) can damage the reproductive system of males and that DEHP (used to soften plastics) is toxic to the developing fetus (especially at high exposures such as experienced by those undergoing medical procedures). Other studies show that,

“there is a potential for phthalates to impact birth outcomes, including gestational age and birth weight, fertility (lower sperm production), and anatomical abnormalities related to the male genitalia,” states Maida Galvez, a pediatrician and director of the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in New York City.

Phthalate exposure is also linked to asthma, the timing of puberty, childhood obesity, and other health conditions such as breast cancer.

How to Avoid Phthalates

While I don’t think it’s practical or possible in this day and age to chuck every man made material possession and move deep into the woods to be free from human influence or innovation, there are some ways that we can start to eliminate our phthalate exposure both gradually and practically.

  1. Look for phthalates or fragrance on labels. Avoid anything with “fragrance” or any mention of any type of phthalate. Instead of using air fresheners, just put a few drops of essential oils into a spray bottle filled with water.
  2. Look for phthalate-free labels. This may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but it is a pretty good way to find things that are free from phthalates. 🙂 Look for phtalate-free labels on cleaners and cosmetics especially.
  3. Check the bottom of plastic bottles and choose those labeled #2, 4, or 5. Avoid #3 and #7 because they may contain phthalates.
  4. Use a french press for coffee. The plastic tubing and high heat in coffee pots are a recipe for high phthalate exposure.
  5. Don’t buy plastic toys from China. If you buy children’s toys in the U.S. (made after 2008), they cannot contain phthalates, but even still, you might want to steer towards wooden toys like these wooden teethers that my friend makes! And don’t buy plastic toys from China (or other countries) where there are no regulations on phthalates.
  6. Know where your milk comes from. Even organic milk may have passed through plastic tubes (with DEHP) on the way from the cow to the bottle. The fatty acids in milk basically pull the the DEHP out of the plastic tubing and into the milk. We actually get raw milk from a farm (that we have visited) where the milking is done by hand and never touches plastic of any kind.
  7. Sweat more. Sweating helps your body to eliminate phthalates twice as effectively as elimination through urine. So, adults can exercise more or visit the sauna!
  8. Be careful when painting. Most paints have DBP to help them spread better, so make sure there are no children are around and the room is well ventilated, or look for natural paints without DBP.
  9. Choose non-vinyl options if possible. For example, you can check out these non-vinyl shower curtain options and these PVC and phthalate free raincoats at Puddlegear that will not produce chemical off-gassing bringing phthalates into your environment. *These options are expensive and things I would save for more advanced elimination.

Conclusion

The people most at risk from phthalate exposure are unborn babies and infants (especially males), so it’s especially important for pregnant mamas and parents of young children to be aware of things that contain phthalates. During human studies, women have tested higher for the type of phthalates found in cosmetic products, so women are typically at greater risk as well. So before slathering lotion on yourself or your baby, spritzing on some perfume, or washing your clothes, check your labels and know what you’re putting onto and into your body.

Like I said before, I don’t think it’s worth the stress to get super paranoid about every possible danger in life because we’re all going to die one day anyways, but by taking thinking of it as a health journey instead of a health destination, we can continuously choose one thing at a time to improve in our lives that will help not only our current health, but our future health, and the health of future generations as well.

Embracing Motherhood Chicken Soup Recipe

Healing Chicken Soup Recipe

This is just your basic chicken soup recipe, but when each component is carefully prepared from the roasting of the chicken, to the making of the stock, to the preparation and addition of other ingredients like the soaked barley, it is truly a masterpiece. I like to make some sort of soup every other week or so (especially during the cold months) because it makes a great “go to” lunch, dinner, breakfast, or snack. Whenever I am too busy to prepare a meal or feel hungry and tempted to eat a pile of cookies or go to McDonalds, I just put my soup on the stove and minutes later I have a nice, delicious, healthy, and nourishing meal.

Ingredients

  • Roasted Chicken (Cut into bite sized pieces. Usually when I make a roasted chicken, we are able to make one meal out of just eating the meat and what’s left over gets put into the soup.)
  • 4 Quarts of Chicken Stock (Check out how I make my simple bone broth here.)
  • 2 c. Soaked Barley (You could also use soaked rice or soaked beans, but barley is the healthiest choice.)
  • 2 c. Chopped Carrots
  • 2. c. Chopped Celery
  • 4 T. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • Optional: 1 c. Chopped Leeks, 1 c. Chopped Bok Choy, or whatever else is leftover in your fridge that could be chopped up and sounds like it would be good in soup (broccoli, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, etc.)!

Directions

  1. Bake the chicken. Check out my roasted chicken recipe here, but basically, you’re going to season your chicken and bake at 350° F for 1.5 hours.

    roast chicken

    Roast Chicken

  2. Cut it up. Let the chicken cool, cut it off the bone, and leave to soak in it’s own juices.
  3. Make your bone broth. Read more about making bone broth here, but basically, you’re going to low boil your bones, skin, etc. with cold filtered water and a dash of apple cider vinegar (to draw out the minerals) for 24-36 hours (or at least overnight). Then, drain the broth and use it for your stock.

    straining the broth

    Straining the Bone Broth

  4. Low boil and add the chicken. Bring the chicken broth to a low boil. As it’s heating up, add the chicken. If it looks like there is too much broth, drain some off and either freeze it or save it for later. (I like setting some broth aside and adding it later to make my soup last longer!)
  5. Add the veggies. Depending on how big of a pot you’re making and how long you think it will last, keep that in mind when you cook your veggies. Carrots and celery tend to take longer to cook, so I like to add them first. If I’m adding bok choy, leeks, and parsley, I’ll wait to add them to the end and not cook them for very long so that they don’t get soggy.

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

  6. Add your starch. You can add your pre-soaked barley, some rice, or even beans too (garbanzo and white beans are my favorites). Sometimes, I like to hold off on the starch and just leave the meat and veggies, and sometimes, I like to cook a pot of rice and pour my soup over it. Yum!

    chicken soup over rice

    Chicken Soup Over Rice

  7. Salt to taste. Yes, you can over salt your soup, and I have done it many times! Start out with some, then add a little more and a little more until it tastes just right.
  8. Enjoy! When everything is just right, get out your bowls and enjoy some soup! It’s also really good to serve some piping hot sourdough muffins with this meal.

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

In Conclusion

Chicken soup make with organic, pasture raised chickens using properly prepared broth and grains is just about one of the healthiest meals you can eat. I love making a pot whether it’s summer or winter for a nourishing go to meal that can last my family through the week. Read more of my soup recipes here or my chicken recipes here.

How to Make the Best Roasted Chicken

How to Make the Best Roasted Chicken

This is a very basic recipe for roasted chicken, but sometimes the best meals stem from simplicity. I like to make a roasted chicken about once a week. My kids love eating it cut up into bite size chunks when it’s fresh out of the oven, and my husband always gets first dibs on the legs! After I pick all of the meat off, I’ll boil the bones to make chicken stock and the extra chicken will either go into a pot of soup, or I’ll use it for some other meal.

Ingredients

  • One Whole Chicken (Organic and pastured is best, look for a local farmer, or check it our here)
  • 1 Stick of Butter (Pastured butter like Kerrygold is the best.)
  • 1 t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here. You can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 1 t. Pepper (Buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Ground Oregano (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Ground Basil (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Garlic Powder (I buy mine here or you can buy it here or here.)
  • 1 t. Onion Powder (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)

Directions

  1. Thaw the chicken. If the chicken is frozen, try to remember to put it in the fridge for a day or two until it thaws out. If you’re in a pinch, fill the sink up with warm water and let it soak for an hour. (Don’t try to cook the chicken frozen.)
  2. Get the oven ready. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  3. Prepare the chicken. Once the chicken is thawed, pull out the giblets and give them to your cat/dog, rinse with cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and place in a roasting pan. (I like using a glass pan).
  4. Season. Sprinkle the seasonings generously all over the chicken, especially inside the cavity. I actually never measure my seasonings, I just try to coat the chicken evenly.
  5. Butter. Put the stick of butter inside the cavity of the chicken. (You could also rub some of the butter into the skin of the chicken. Just do it before you add the seasonings.) *Butter is not to be feared as we have so previously and erroneously thought. Read more here.)

    raw chicken with seasonings stuffed with butter in glass pan ready to be cooked

    Seasoned Whole Chicken Ready to be Cooked

  6. Bake. Bake at 350˚F for 1½ hours.

    roast chicken

    Roasted Chicken

  7. Let cool. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting. (This gives the juices a chance to settle in.) If you notice that the juice is really pink or that the chicken is still pink, cook for another 20 minutes and check again. If you’re the type who likes to check the internal temperature, it should read 165˚F.
  8. Cut into pieces. Peal the skin back and cut horizontal lines in the breast followed by vertical lines. Then cut down at an angle until you get big chunks of breast meat falling off the bone.

    pre-cut chicken breast on a cooked roasted chicken in a glass pan

    Pre-Cut Chicken Breast from a Roasted Chicken

  9. Soak the meat in the juice. Let these chunks of meat soak in the juice of the chicken. Cut the rest of the meat off the bones as much as possible. (To remove the chicken legs, find where the two bones connect and gently saw through the cartilage.) Leave the legs and wings intact if it suits your fancy. Let all of the meat soak in the juice, sprinkle with a fresh bit of salt, and serve! *My chicken legs never make it past my husband; they’re his favorite! 🙂

    roasted chicken breast meat cut up and soaking in juices legs cut off

    Roasted Chicken Meat Cut and Ready to Serve

  10. Save the scraps. Save the bones, skin, and all other remnants to make a healing chicken broth and/or use the chicken (and all of the juice of course) to make some delicious chicken soup!

Variations:

You can use any combination of the following variations. Try a few things out. See what you like and don’t like. Get creative and try something new!

  • Cut a lemon in half, gently squeeze both halves into the cavity of the chicken, and place both halves in there as well.
  • Peel some garlic cloves (about 4-6 nice sized ones) and place them in the cavity of the chicken.
  • Use rosemary, salt, and pepper only.
  • Chop up some big chunks of onion and place them around the chicken.
  • Cut up some potatoes (or leave them whole) and place them around the chicken.
  • Cut up some carrots and celery into big chunks and place them around the chicken.
Embracing Motherhood How to Make Bone Broth

How to Make a Nourishing Chicken Bone Broth

Making a good chicken bone broth (or chicken stock as it is also called) is one of the simplest and most nourishing things you can make. You can use it immediately to make some chicken soup, put it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it to use later, freeze it in ice cube trays to have little bursts of “bullion” to use whenever you need it, or you can simply sip a nice hot mug of it instead of coffee or as a snack/meal replacement.

Health Benefits of Chicken Broth

I love making soup of any kind because it provides a nice complete meal that can feed my family at a moment’s notice for the week, but I especially like making any kind of soup with chicken bone broth because it is pretty much the most healing and most nutritious food there is.

Chicken bone broth is easy to both digest and metabolize (two things that are very different yet people think are the same…I’ll be exploring this in more depth at a later time). This makes it perfect the perfect food when you are trying to heal from any chronic illness or are sick with the flu or the common cold.

During digestion, the gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, which helps to support proper digestion. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon also states that chicken soup,

“Has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system. It is easily pulled away from the intestine through too many laxatives, too many additives…and parasites.”

Chicken broth also contains valuable minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals that are in a form your body can easily absorb. When your body is healing, you NEED these nutrients from nutrient dense food to heal.

Another cool thing about bone broth is that because of the anti-inflammatory acids such as arginine, it helps to inhibit infection caused by cold and flu viruses. In her article, Broth is Beautiful, Sally Fallon explains,

“Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.”

My Recipe

Ok, so are you ready to make some broth? For such a simple meal, there sure are a lot of different recipes for bone broth. With four young children underfoot, I like to cook food that’s as nutritious as possible as simply as possible. This is why I don’t add anything (except apple cider vinegar, which helps to draw out the minerals) to my bone broth. You can surely get creative and add whatever you’d like, but if you’re looking for simple, you’ve come to the right place!

Ingredients

  • One Whole Roasted Chicken (Preferably organic and pastured, the stock will not gel properly with a battery-raised chicken.)
  • One Large Pot
  • Cold Filtered Water
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (This pulls the minerals, especially calcium, out of the chicken bones.)
  • Optional: Carrot tops and pieces, celery stalks and leaves, onion skins and onion, parsley, and salt (I usually don’t add any of these ingredients except the salt, and I wait to add that at then end so that I can salt it to my taste preference. If you’re going to add parsley, wait until the very end.)
  • Advanced: Chicken feet (Provides a more gelatinous broth.)

Directions

  1. Roast your chicken. You can read more about my roasted chicken here, but basically, I stuff mine with a stick of butter and season with salt, pepper, and onion powder and bake at 350° F for 1.5 hours.

    roast chicken

    Roast Chicken

  2. Pick off the meat. I like to cut my breasts into cubes before cutting off the bone. Then I methodically pick off all usable pieces of meat, cut into bite size pieces, leave all pieces to soak (Don’t you dare waste the drippings!) in the remaining chicken juice, cover, and store in the refrigerator until the next day.

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

  3. Save all skin, bones, and other parts. I do typically discard the giblets (unless my cats want to eat them), but other than that, every last little scrap goes into my pot including the carcass, bones, skin, and any other little tidbits. I also like to leave just a titch of meat on the bones for extra flavor.

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

  4. Cover with water. After filling the pot with your chicken scraps, fill to just about the brim with cold filtered water.

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

  5. Apple cider vinegar. You have to be careful that you don’t add too much or you will really taste it. You might want to start with just a teaspoon and adjust to taste. Even though 2 tablespoons would be most effective, I usually only add about a teaspoon because that’s the flavor I like.
  6. Slow boil. Bring the water to a slow boil and skim any scum that comes to the top. (These are impurities.)
  7. Cover and simmer. Cover and reduce to a low rolling boil. (On my stove, this usually hovers around a 2 or 3.) Ideally, you’ll want it to simmer for a good 24-36 hours for the maximum benefit, but at the very least, just let it simmer overnight.

    bone broth cooling

    Bone Broth Cooling

  8. Cool and strain. Turn off the burner, let it cool, then strain into a separate bowl through a colander. You’ll notice that the bones will be soft and break apart easily. Do not feed them to any animals, it will tear up their insides.

    straining the broth

    Straining the Broth

  9. Enjoy! Time to put your broth to use.
    • Chicken Soup: Add some chicken, celery, carrots, and soaked barely to make a simple chicken soup.

      Chicken Soup Bowl

      Chicken Soup

    • Egg Drop Soup: Bring it to a boil, add some Bragg Liquid Aminos, Sriracha, and eggs to make an egg drop soup to die for.

      egg drop soup

      Egg Drop Soup

    • Store in the Freezer: Store your stock in Ziploc bags in the freezer. (Just be sure to lay them flat instead of plopping them on a rack where they will freeze while seeping through the cracks and then rip open when you try to take it out later….um, personal experience!)
    • Freeze into Cubes: Freeze in ice cube trays to save for smaller size portions to use instead of those MSG laden “bullion cubes”.
    • Sip It: Pour into a mug to sip on. Sometimes, I like adding some Bragg Liquid Aminos and Sriracha for a spicy oriental flavor!

      Bone Broth in a Mug

      Bone Broth in a Mug

In Conclusion

If there is one food that you could add to your family’s meal plan that would make the most difference, I would say that bone broth is in the top ten for sure! If you’re not much of a cook, don’t worry! You can hardly get this recipe wrong! If you are, there are certainly a lot of variations you could try to make this a gourmet dish. As we enter another cold winter season full of viruses, I’m sure that I’ll be finding ways to incorporate this bone broth into our diets on a regular basis.

See more ideas for what to make with this broth in my soup section.

Embracing Motherhood chicken cordon bleu

The Best Chicken Cordon Bleu You’ll Ever Taste!

This is the best chicken cordon blue recipe I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The taste is amazing and complex, but it is seriously easy to make.

I have so many other blogs that I want to write right now, but I just have to take a moment to share this recipe that I stumbled upon for chicken cordon bleu because it is soooooo good! (Thanks mortgage company newsletter!)  I have tried making this before, and I always felt like I needed a sauce to go along with it, but the way that all of these ingredients work together makes a sauce or any sides even…irrelevant.

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
  • 1 lb of Deli Ham
  • 1 lb of Swiss Cheese
  • 1 Cup of Melted Butter
  • 4 Slices of Bread (I prefer sourdough.)
  • Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika, really…whatever you fancy

Directions

  1. Preheat the Oven: to 350º F
  2. Cut the Chicken: Use a really sharp knife to cut the breasts into layers that are ¼ thick.

    My Workstation for chicken cordon bleu

    My Workstation

  3. Ham and Swiss: Top each chicken breast filet with a slice of cheese and then ham.
  4. Roll It: Roll, tuck the ends, and secure with a couple of toothpicks.
  5. Butter: Use a glass bowl to melt the butter (the shallower the better), then dip the entire roll in it. Make sure the butter gets into every crevice.
  6. Breadcrumbs: Use a blender, or crumble by hand, the slices of bread. Add your preferred seasonings and mix. After dipping the chicken in butter, roll it around in the breadcrumbs.
  7. Baking Pan: Place the chicken rolls into a (preferably glass) baking pan. You can squish them together pretty closely.

    Ready to bake my chicken cordon bleu!

    Ready to bake!

  8. Cook: Bake for 40 minutes at 350º F.

    chicken cordon bleu out of the oven

    Ok…so a few are missing already. 🙂

  9. Serve: Serve alone or with noodles or rice and some sort of veggie like broccoli or asparagus.

    Kid's Plate of chicken cordon bleu

    Kid’s Plate

Embracing Motherhood Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Ever since the Flint water scandal, my husband and I have both been a bit more concerned about lead being in our water. We are fortunate enough to live in a city that does not flouridate its water…check to see what’s in your city’s water here, and we’ve always used a simple faucet filter, but we wanted to learn a little more.

 

So we ordered these testing strips and learned that our water had no noticeable levels of lead, chlorine, copper, or bacteria. And when I tested the water that came through the filter, I got the exact same results, so guess what? We ditched our filter. 🙂 Our water did test at being very hard (which is probably why the previous owners installed a water softener system), but after doing some research, I learned that having hard water means that it’s full of a lot of minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that are very good for your body, but will clog up your coffee pot tubes, shower heads, and leave dirty rings in your tub and toilet. We have opted to simply clean things out a bit more and enjoy the benefit of the extra minerals!

In this article, I’d like to share what I learned about the Flint water scandal, what’s so bad about having lead in your body, how to detoxify from lead poisoning, how to know if your water has lead, the best filters to get lead out of your water, and other sources that might lead to lead poisoning, .

The Flint Water Scandal

Basically, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early, was faced with the task of saving the failing city money and on April 25, 2014, he oversaw the switch from Detroit’s water supply (that drew from Lake Huron) to the Flint River (while waiting for their own regional water system connection to Lake Huron to be built).

The contents of the water in the Flint River are actually not to blame for all of the lead. Instead, the blame lies with the high levels of chloride ions (present from the over deicing of the roads which causes chloride ions to run off into waterways) that are really to blame. Nick Krieger explains in his article, “What Makes Flint Water So Corrosive,”

“The negative chloride ions are corrosive, so when the high-chloride water is pumped through lead pipes (or iron and copper pipes joined together with lead solder), lead leaches into the water.  It’s as simple as that.”

Flint could have added orthophosphate to neutralize these chloride ions for $100/day, but it chose not to. As a result, the lead pipes corroded and leached lead into the water. In addition, the corroded pipes allowed other contaminants such as bacteria from the soil that led to a spike in those contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease.

One of the most disturbing factors of the Flint water scandal were the people in charge who KNEW it was going on and yet did NOTHING!

On October 1st, 2104, 6 months after the switch to the Flint River, General Motors complained that its car parts were corroding when being washed on the assembly line, so they were quietly hooked back up to the Lake Huron Water. Meanwhile, residents complained about tainted, foul-smelling tap water and health symptoms such as rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it, but nothing was done for them. It took ONE YEAR of complaints, independent tests, lawsuits, national, and global recognition and FINALLY in October of 2015, the switch back Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system was made. (Read A Toxic Timeline of Flint’s Water Fiasco for a truly flabbergasting timeline of events.)

Now, under the public eye, Flint is faced with the insurmountable task of replacing all of the corroded lead pipes, which could take over two years and cost upwards of $60 million! And what are residents of Flint supposed to do in the meantime? You can only drink and bathe in bottled water for so long…and not only that, but plastic water bottles leach chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the water. (Which is why we try to stick with glass water bottles when we can!)

What’s So Bad About Lead?

Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children whose bodies and brains are still developing and growing. There are no levels of lead in the blood that are considered safe for children. While lead exposure can be stopped, the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

Even low levels of lead can cause the following side effects.

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage
  • Seizures, unconsciousness, and death

If adults ingest lead, 99% of it will leave in their waste in a couple of weeks. But with children, only about 32% of the lead taken in will leave in their waste. Under conditions of repeated exposure, lead (and other toxic metals…mercury, aluminum, cadmium) can accumulate in body tissues, even the bone. Even if you have removed the threat of lead, lead that has accumulated in the body can continue to do damage.

Get Lead (and Other Toxic Metals) Out of Your Body

If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to lead, go to your doctor (or free health clinic) to get a test done right away. They will be able to tell you after a simple finger poke if there is any lead present in your child’s blood and what the implications are. Lead that has accumulated in the body can take months or years to be expelled, so it’s a good idea to continue taking precautions to get rid of it long after the threat has been removed.

There are certain foods can help to get rid of lead accumulation in the body. The phytic acid present in all grains, seeds, nuts, etc. prevents our bodies from absorbing valuable minerals, but also chelates (binds to and removes) toxic metals from our bodies. One of the best sources for phytic acid is brown rice (that hasn’t been properly soaked and fermented to get rid of the phytic acid). Other sources would be any nuts, seeds, or anything “whole grain”.

Cilantro oil and chlorella are also really good at working in tandem to to eliminate lead (and other toxic metals) and they will actually add more vitamins and minerals to your body rather than leech them away! Get some cilantro oil here and some chlorella here. It’s also a good idea to take some really good vitamin c (not with ascorbic acid) to boost your immune system while you detoxify. *Check out some other great detox ideas here.

Check with your doctor or naturopath before starting a detox program with your child, but some general rules of thumb are to start with small doses using just a few drops at a time, and make sure it is really diluted with some other liquid.

Is There Lead in Your Water?

It’s not just Flint who has a problem with lead in their water source. In a Rolling Stone article by Tessa Stuart called, “It’s Not Just Flint: America Has a Major Lead-in-Water Problem” she explains that,

“There’s always going to be some amount of lead in some amount of homes — it could be from the service line, or from lead solder used as glue in some pipes, from leaded brass plumbing, or a myriad of other sources. “Most homes in the United States are going to have some form of lead-bearing plumbing,” Lambrinidou says.”

Check your water: You can go to the National Drinking Water Database, enter your zipcode, look for your city, and see exactly what they have found in your water.

Test your water: Or you can buy your own kit, like this, for $20 and it will test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH.

Best Water Filters to Get the Lead (and Other Toxins) Out

If you decide that you want to filter your water (probably a good idea), here are some filters you might want to consider. (FYI: Stay away from reverse osmosis filters because they filter out EVERYTHING including all of the good minerals that you want to keep!)

  • Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System ($1,595) – This is WAY out of our price range, but if you’re looking for the best of the best…It gets rid of ALL toxins, and you can tuck it away under your sink. (Also, if you’re trying to convince your significant other that you want to buy a $120 water filter, give them a choice between the $120 one and this one. The $120 one will suddenly seem like a much better deal!)

  • Berkey Complete Water Filtration System ($289) – This system is incredible! Not only will it work on city water, but you can take it with you camping to use on some pond water! It will filter out bacteria, parasites, pesticides, nitrites, nitrates, and gets rid of 99.9% of heavy metals (including lead and mercury). This model also comes with flouride filters.

  • AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System ($120) – This is cheaper than the Berkey and takes up less room on the counter (or you can get an under the counter version for $261). It filters out bacteria, parasites, 99% of chlorine, 99% of lead, 98% of other heavy metals, 95% of arsenic, 99.9% of glyphosates, 92% of nitrates, and gives an 85% reduction in flouride. It easily connects to a standard faucet with no tools and requires no electricity or permanent modifications to plumbing.

Lead Isn’t Just In Water

In 1978, the government banned the use of lead based paint in houses, so most homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead. When the paint chips and peels, children are especially susceptible to ingesting it because little fingers like to pick and peal and those little paint chips and then they don’t wash their hands before eating food. Not only that, but the dust from the peeling lead paint can be inhaled.

If there are no chips or scratches, you can paint over the lead based paint, and keep painting it every 4-10 years to prevent any from showing through. If there are, it’s best to call in a professional to remove the paint…or just move!

In Conclusion

 

The Flint water scandal was an eye opening headline that got everybody thinking about what is in our water. We bath in it, we cook with it, we water our garden with it, and we drink it…so it’s good to know what we’re taking in with our water. I highly recommend getting your water tested, and if you live in an old house, do some research about lead paint. I also highly recommend getting your children tested for lead poisoning if you have any doubt or even just to ease your mind.

Embracing Motherhood The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

The Mysteries of Digestion Unraveled

Before I delve into articles about what we should eat and why, I wanted to first take a look at one of the most basic functions of human physiology: digestion. After this, I will explore cellular respiration, which is how we metabolize food to make energy. In doing so, I hope to have a strong foundation of understanding to build future health articles upon.

So often, we hear about foods and ways of eating that are “healthy”, and as a whole, we have held many erroneous beliefs about what should constitute “healthy”. (Although this is changing…just look at the February 2016 issue of Time’s article, “The New Rules of the Heart” which talks about how cholesterol is actually good, why we should avoid statins, how saturated fat is actually good, how weight loss isn’t about calories in/calories out, and how we shouldn’t be taking an Asprin a day!)

The science behind what makes food “healthy” or not is simplified too much and the truth is hidden behind too many corporate slogans rather than actual science. Once we can understand the building blocks of food, how we digest them into individual molecules, and how we metabolize those molecules to make energy, the term “healthy eating” shouldn’t be so debatable or vague.

I have been reading about this information for years in an attempt to search for and serve my family the healthiest foods possible. Reading Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions was the first thing that changed my view about food and made me realize how misguided we have been about fat and the food pyramid. (Check out the Weston A. Price website to learn more!)

In writing this article, I started with Sally Fallon’s ideas as a framework in my brain, then used a college textbook called Understanding Nutrition by Whitney and Rolfes to really delve into the scientific explanations of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and how we digest them (throughout this article, my descriptions come from this textbook unless otherwise linked). But even this seemingly benign textbook was not written without bias and made many leaps about what we “should eat” based solely on government recommendations rather than actual science.

So after reading this textbook and using it to explain the facts, I continued to ask my own questions, do my own research, and am now presenting an in depth synthesis of what I’ve learned about the foods we eat and how they are broken down during digestion.

In a Nutshell

When we eat any food, from cookies and cakes to burgers and fries to salad and dressing, it is all broken down into single molecules before being absorbed through the small intestine and sent into the bloodstream to be used as energy, for building, or stored for later use. All food can be categorized as and broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates –> Monosachharides
  • Fat (Triglycerides) –> Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids
  • Protein –> Amino Acids
Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and the Smallest Molecules They are Broken Down Into

*It takes about 6-8 hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine. In a study with 21 participants, it took  men an average of 33 hours for the food to be eliminated from the large intestine. It took an average of 33 hours for children too, but an average of 47 hours for women. Interesting!

Digestive System

Here is a picture of the entire digestive system just to give you a visual reference for where we are going. In my drawings, you’ll notice that I have included only what is necessary and exaggerated certain things for the purposes of clarity.

digestive system

Digestive System (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, LadyofHats, 2006)

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are primarily an energy source for plants, some animals, and humans.

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

From Polysaccharides to Monosaccharides

Foods with Carbohyrdates

There is a misconception (probably due to that silly food pyramid!) that carbohydrates only refer to things like breads and pastas and not things like fruits and vegetables. But the truth is that lettuce is a carbohydrate, apples are carbohydrates, grain is a carbohydrate, and sugar beets are carbohydrates.

When you look at the nutritional profile of these carbohydrates, however, you’ll notice that the amount of carbohydrates differs greatly among different food sources. Also, keep in mind that carbohydrates (which all come from plants) can be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals if grown properly and not overly processed.

The total carbohydrates measured on nutrition labels include both simple sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and soluble and insoluble fiber (polysaccharides).

Types of Carbohydrates 

types of carbohydrates

Types of Carbohydrates (The numbers refer to the number of molecules.)

  • Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are one molecule of sugar. Some foods contain monosaccharides and others are created when disaccharides are broken down during digestion. They are small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine.
    • Glucose: The primary product of photosynthesis, found in all fruits and plants, most carbohydrates that we eat are converted to glucose during digestion
    • Fructose: Found in fruits, some root vegetables, cane sugar, and honey
    • Galactose: Combines with glucose to make lactose (milk sugar), not found on its own
  • Disaccharides: Disaccharides are two molecules of sugar. Some foods contain disaccharides and others are created when polysaccharides are broken down during digestion.
    • Sucrose: Made up of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose, found in the stems of sugar cane and roots of the sugar beet, occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables alongside glucose and fructose (especially in certain fruits and carrots), table sugar
    • Maltose: Made up of two molecules of glucose, formed during the germination of certain grains, mostly barley which is converted into malt, found in beer
    • Lactose: Made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in milk
  • Oligosaccharides: 3-10 monosaccharides connected together.  They are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine (so they give us no calories yet give us that full feeling). Instead, they pass directly to the large intestine where they are consumed by microflora thus increasing the amount of healthy bacteria. Examples include: artichoke, burdock, chicory, leeks, onions, and asparagus.
  • Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides consist of many monosaccharides connected together.
    • StarchStarches consist of tens to hundreds to thousands of monosaccharides connected together. They are how plants store glucose for future use. About 70% of a plant’s structure is typically made up of the starch amylopectin (which is highly branched making it easy for the plant, and for humans to hydrolyze, or break down in the presence of water) and the other 30% is typically made up of the starch amylose (which has a more linear structure that makes it easy to store, but can’t be broken down without the enzyme amylase).
    • Resistant Starch: Resistant starches cannot be broken down during digestion, and so they are sent to the large intestine where they feed the healthy bacteria residing there. Examples include: green bananas, rolled oats, green peas, white beans, lentils, pearl barley, cold potato and cold pasta (occurs due to retrogradation).
    • Fermentable FiberWe can’t digest the cell walls of plants, but some of them can be fermented in our large intestine like fructans (that occur in agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions, and wheat), inulin (occurs mainly in chicory), pectins (occurs mainly in the skins of citrus fruits and in apples, oranges, plum, guavas, and gooseberries), and raffinose (found in beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains). This fiber is soluble, meaning that it can mix with water, which creates a viscous gel that slows down digestion as it passes to the large intestine to be fermented by the microflora that resides there.
    • Nonfermentable Fiber: Humans do not possess the enzymes to digest some components of cell walls like cellulosehemicellulose, and lignin (which provide plants with the stiffness they need to stand upright), nor do we possess the bacteria to break them down either. (Ruminants and termintes possess symbiotic bacteria that help them to break these elements down.) These types of polysaccharides will pass through us unused. They are what is referred to as insoluble fiber (not soluble in water and NOT digestible or fermentable) and what gives bulk to our stool. Examples include pretty much any part of the plant that is hard to chew such as cucumber skins, the outer hull of grains, the hull of popcorn kernels, potato skins, grape skins, 80% of lettuce, and more.

How we Digest Carbohydrates

The digestion of carbohydrates occurs mostly in the small intestine.

carbohydrate digestion

How We Digest Carbohydrates

  1. In the mouth: The breakdown of carbohydrates begins in the mouth with the salivary enzyme amylase. Amylase works to break up the starch amylose, and hydrolysis begins breaking down the starch amylopectin. Very little digestion actually takes place here, however.
  2. In the stomach: Carbohydrates are churned into a paste in the stomach, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this process. The stomach actually neutralizes any amylase that was swallowed.
  3. In the duodonom: When carbohydrates enter the duodonem (which is the beginning part of the small intestine) the pancreas releases the enzyme amylase which breaks down polysaccharides into shorter glucose chains and maltose. (Babies produce very little amylase until over the age of one, although human breast milk contains a significant amount.)
  4. Throughout the small intestine: The brush boarder that lines the small intestine performs the final breakdown of carbohydrates by releasing the enzymes sucrase, maltase, and lactase that break down the disaccharides sucrose, maltose, and lactose into the monosaccharides glucose, fructose, and galactose.
  5. Absorption: The monosaccharides of glucose, fructose, and galactose are now small enough to pass through the walls of the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. Glucose and galactose need to hitch a ride on a sodium-dependent hexose transporter which will only transport them with a sodium ion. Fructose hitches a ride on another hexose transporter and doesn’t need sodium. As the blood circulates the liver, cells there take up fructose and galactose and covert them to other compounds, mainly glucose. This is why we say that most carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the blood!
  6. In the large intestine: Within one to four hours after a meal, all of the sugars and most of the starches have been digested. What passes into the large intestine are things that could not be digested or absorbed. This includes resistant starch (such as asparagus), fermentable fiber (such as the peel of an apple), and nonfermentable fiber (which includes cellulose, one of the components of cell walls). Resistant starches and fermentable fibers are water soluble and attract water which softens the stool. They are also able to be fermented by the good bacteria that (hopefully) resides in the large intestine releasing water, gas, and short chain fatty acids.
  7. Elimination: The nonfermentable fiber merely “bulks up the stool” and passes through unchanged. (Ever notice whole kernels of corn or popcorn hulls in your poop?)

Fats

Fats are the most efficient source of long term energy storage in both animals and humans.

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

From Triglycerides to Monoglycerides and Free Fatty Acids

Types of Fatty Acids

(*The following description of fats is adapted from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.)

Fatty acids can be categorized by how saturated they are:

  • Saturated: All available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom
  • Monounsaturated: Has one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and therefore lacking two hydrogen atoms
  • Polyunsaturated: Has two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms

In addition, they are also categorized by how long they are:

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Has four to six carbon atoms (always saturated, found mostly in butterfat from cows and goats)
  • Medium-Chain Fatty Acids: Has eight to twelve carbon atoms (found mostly in butterfat and tropical oils)
  • Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has fourteen to eighteen carbon atoms
  • Very-Long-Chain Fatty Acids: Has twenty to twenty-four carbon atoms (DHA)

How We Digest Fats

In children and adults, fat digestion occurs mostly in the small intestine (although in infants, it occurs mostly in the mouth). Most of the fat in our bodies and the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides (three fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule).

fat digestion

How We Digest Fats

  1. In the mouth: Fat digestion starts slowly in the mouth. Some hard fats begin to melt as they reach body temperature. A salivary gland at the base of the tongue releases an enzyme (lingual lipase) that plays a minor role in fat digestion in adults and an active one in infants. In infants, this enzyme efficiently digests the short and medium chain fatty acids found in milk.
  2. In the stomach: Once fats hit the stomach, they would float if it were not for the muscle contractions that direct all contents towards the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. This churning action emulsifies the fat by dispersing it into large droplets. The gastric lipase enzyme in the stomach (that performs best in an acidic environment) starts to work on breaking these droplets down. But very little fat digestion takes place in the stomach.
  3. Bile in the small intestine: When the large fat droplets enter the duodonem (the beginning part of the small intestine), they are coated with bile. (Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When fat enters the small intestine, it triggers the release of the hormone cholecystokinin which signals the gallbladder to release its bile.) The bile emulsifies the large fat droplets into smaller droplets. This increases their overall surface area making it easier for the next step. (Bile acids in the bile often pair up with amino acids which have one end attracted to water and one to fat. This helps with the emulsification process.)
  4. Lipases in the small intestine: The pancreas secretes a lipase enzyme that hydrolyzes (breaks down in the presence of water) the triglycerides into monoglycerides and free fatty acids. *Infants do not secrete much of this enzyme; this is why the lingual lipase excreted from under their tongues plays more of an active role.
  5. Absorption: Monoglycerides and free fatty acids are now small enough to pass through the intestinal wall.
  6. Elimination: If you are eliminating too much fat in your stool (white poop anyone?), it is a sign of poor health (i.e. your intestines don’t absorb food, your pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, or your gallbladder isn’t passing on enough bile).

Protein

Protein is the building block of life.

From Protein to Amino Acids

From Protein to Amino Acids

Foods with Protein

There are both animal and plant based sources of protein. Animal based sources of protein have all of the essential amino acids that we need, including the ones that we can’t make and can only get from dietary sources. Here are some examples of different foods and the amount of protein they contain:

  • Chicken (31 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Hamburger (27 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Salmon (25 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Eggs (19 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Milk (3 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Kidney beans (9 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Tofu (8 g of protein per 100 g)
  • Barley (2 g of protein per 100 g)

How we Digest Protein

The majority of protein digestion occurs in the stomach. *Watch a cool video that explains the entire process here.

protein digestion

How We Digest Protein

  1. In the mouth: Protein (basically a bunch of amino acids all connected and bunched together) are crushed and moistened in the mouth, but no chemical breakdown occurs during this part of the process.
  2. In the stomach: Hydrocholoric acid in the stomach uncoils, or denatures, each protein’s tangled strands so that the digestive enzymes can attack the peptide bonds. Hydrocholic acid in the stomach also converts the inactive form of the enzyme pepsinogen to its active form, pepsin. Pepsin cleaves large polypeptides into smaller polypeptides and some amino acids.
  3. In the Duodonem: When the smaller polypeptides enter the duodenum (the beginning part of the small intestine), proteases are released from the pancreas that hydrolyze them further (break them down in the presence of water) into short peptide chains, tripeptides, dipeptides, and amino acids.
  4. In the Small Intestine: Then peptidase enzymes on the membrane surfaces of the intestinal cells split these tripeptides and dipeptides into single amino acids.
  5. Absorption: These single amino acids are now small enough to be absorbed through the small intestine and enter the blood stream. Only a few peptides escape digestion and enter the bloodstream intact.
  6. Elimination: Only a small amount of dietary protein is lost in the feces.

In Conclusion

I have been reading, learning, making big posters, drawing models, redrawing models, talking to anyone who will listen, synthesizing, and applying all that I have learned about digestion for years in an attempt to understand it as best as I can. I feel like I could keep drawing better diagrams or synthesizing the information better and further, but I have to just stop here and move on knowing that I am going to continue to dig deeper, learn more, write more, and draw more, and keep building on this with future posts.

I think that understanding digestion is one of the fundamental building blocks for understanding health, and I hope that my synthesis of this information can help you understand it better as it has helped me. I am excited to move on and keep learning! I hope you’ll join me!

See it in action! Watch a camera go inside the digestive system to see a 5 minute video of what the process looks like first hand!

 

Embracing Motherhood Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Beat a Cold!

Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Keep Sickness at Bay!

Being a mother of four little ones, I cannot afford to get sick. That’s why at the mere hint of a cold, I start to take my Wellness Formula capsules. In doing so, I have been able to avoid all illnesses for the past 3 years (when I discovered Wellness Formula).

Unfortunately, this time around, I ran out of my magic pills right when I needed them most. I really didn’t think too much of it at first. The fact that I have not been sick in so long has given me a sense of over confidence about my immune system. I put off ordering more and instead went to work on my usual sick routine of making some bone broth soup, eating lots of fresh garlic and ginger, and supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin D-3. I even had some bee propolis around that I took as well.

Well flash forward to the day after I stopped taking my pills, and I felt MISERABLE! My head was pounding, my head was stuffy and clouded, there was so much pressure and pain in my ears, my nose was runny, I had a horrible cough, and because I hadn’t been sick in so long, it just hit me really really hard.

Since it was going to be two more days until my fresh shipment of pills from Amazon arrived, so my mother brought me over some of her Wellness Formula Tablets. I took some right away, and they stopped the progression of the cold in right its tracks. Unfortunately, these magic pills aren’t so good about reversing the progression. When taken at the first hint of an illness, they give your immune system the strength to stop things before they get started, but once a cold has settled in, it’s a bit harder to get rid of.

I made a solemn vow to myself to never ever again take for granted the magic that is in these pills. Even though I had just ordered a bottle, I went online and ordered another one and then every other product they made..my back up stash. After seeing most of my children sick with this terrible cold, I thought, “Boy, I wish they made a kids version!” And lo and behold when I typed in “wellness formula” and “kids”, I found out that they do!

Here are all of the products they make, where to get them, prices, quantities, recommended dosages, and my notes about each one of them.

Where to Get It

  • Wellness Formula Capsules 
    Wellness Formula Capsules

    Wellness Formula Capsules

    • Recommended Dosage: 2-4 capsules per day for wellness maintenance and 6 capsules twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: If you’re not sure what to get, get these. The capsules are about the size of Tylenol, and it’s the best value. When I take these and the illness is particularly strong or advanced, I’ll take 6 capsules every three hours until I can feel my symptoms subside. As my symptoms stop progressing, I’ll scale it back to the recommended 6 tablets twice a day.
  • Wellness Formula Tablets 
    Wellness Formula Tablets

    Wellness Formula Tablets

    • Recommended Dosage: 1-2 tablets per day for wellness maintenance and 3 tablets twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: These tablets are bigger and more potent, so you need fewer of them, but they are HUGE! I cannot swallow pills this huge, so I have to crush them up, mix them with water, and try not to puke as I swallow it because it tastes gross! But lately, I even have trouble swallowing the capsules (darn esophageal spasms) so these tablets have become my preferred source of Wellness Formula. Sometimes with the capsules, I can burp up the taste much later, but crushing these tablets gets them into my bloodstream much quicker and I can feel them taking effect right away!
  • Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers 
    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    • Recommended Dosage: 2 wafers four times daily for adults, for children 14 and up 1 wafer four times daily, for children 9-13 1 wafer three times daily, for children 4-8 1 wafer two times daily, and for children 3 and under, it says to consult your physician.
    • Notes: This is great for kids (and/or adults who don’t like swallowing pills). I didn’t even know these existed until now, and I am very excited to start giving them to our 5 and 6 year old the next time they start getting sick. We just opened our package and so far so good! They taste great and the kids love them.  *I will update this post to report how they work! These would also be great to keep in your purse or car to take whenever you start to feel a little under the weather. There are far less ingredients in these wafers than there are in the capsules and tablets however. The vitamin A is also significantly lower (from 5,000 IU to 500 IU). The ingredients in these wafers are exactly the same as the product called Children’s Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers.
  • Wellness Formula Liquid
    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: I have never purchased this, but I think it would be a nice thing to keep in my purse so that I can take some on the go no matter where I am if I start to feel ill. There are far less ingredients in this compared to the capsules and tablets, however, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.
  • Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid 
    Children's Wellness Formula Liquid

    Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid

    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: This is not recommended for children under one (probably because of the honey and risks of botulism), but I ordered this for my 1 and 2 year old who I know won’t eat the chewable wafers. It tastes about as unpleasant as Zarbee’s Cough Medicine (which is a great natural product to treat the symptoms of a cold), so I know that my little ones won’t be too thrilled about it, but I know I can get them to take it if I have to. I just baked some of my healthy oatmeal cookies and added a few drops into the batter for six of them, and I feel like this is the easiest way to get them to take it of all!

Why It Works

Instead of dealing with the symptoms you get AFTER getting a cold, this Wellness Formula gives your immune system the boost it needs to deal with the illness BEFORE it even begins. Watch this really cool animation to see how the flu virus invades your body.

Basically, a virus will hijack normal healthy cells, unlock them with little “keys”, and trick the cells into replicating more viruses. Only one virus needs to enter a cell to make millions more viruses. But humans have a 100 trillion cells, and when your immune system sees the virus, it will attack and kill it. It’s just about keeping that perfect balance in harmony and keeping your immune system as strong as possible.

Things like getting plenty of rest and sunshine, keeping stress levels to a minimum, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet void of processed foods and rich in nutrient dense foods like bone broth soup are all things that will do wonders for your immune system. But when any of these factors are lacking (like when you’re not getting any sleep because you’re up in the night with sick kids), then this boost of over 30 powerful ingredients including antioxidants, herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals will give your immune system the support it needs to fight the incoming virus! Check out more about how it works here.

List of Ingredients

Click here to see the package label from Source Natural. I’ve copied the list here so that you can see at a glance all of the goodness that’s going on. To the right of each ingredient is the amount found in 6 capsules and in parentheses is the percent of how this rates with what you need daily.

  • Vitamin A (as palmitate 4,000 IU & beta-carotene 1,000 IU) –  5,000 IU (100%)
  • Vitamin C (from ascorbic acid and zinc ascorbate) – 1,300 mg (2,167%)
  • Vitamin D-3 (as cholecalciferol) – 400 IU (100%)
  • Calcium – 40 mg (4%)
  • Zinc (as zinc citrate and ascorbate) – 23 mg (153%)
  • Selenium (as sodium selenite) – 60 mcg (86%)
  • Copper (as copper citrate) – 150 mcg (8%)
  • Sodium – 10 mg (<1%)
  • Garlic Bulb – 360 mg
  • Propolis Extract – 295 mg
  • Echinacea purpurea Root Extract – 270 mg
  • Elderberry Fruit Extract – 240 mg
  • Aromatic Solomon’s Seal Rhizome – 120 mg
  • Horehound Aerial Parts Extract – 100 mg
  • Olive Leaf Extract (10% oleuropein) – 100 mg
  • Andrographis Aerial Parts Extract (10% andrographolides) – 100 mg
  • Isatis Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Eleuthero Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Elecampane Root – 70 mg
  • Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts Extract – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts – 300 mg
  • Goldenseal Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Angelica Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Astragalus Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Isatis Leaf Extract – 40 mg
  • Elecampane Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Mullein Leaf Extract – 30 mg
  • Pau D’Arco Bark Extract – 30 mg
  • Cayenne Fruit – 30 mg
  • Ginger Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Grape Seed Extract (Proanthodyn™) – 10 mg

Other Info

  • If you read through the reviews on Amazon, you’ll notice that in 2013 and 2014, there are a lot of people complaining about the formula changing. Basically, it looks like a lot of the expensive ingredients were scaled back. A lot of people say that this is why it doesn’t work as well, but I still think it works great. This is also why I think that if it’s just not working, take a little more.
  • Don’t stop taking Wellness Formula the second you start feeling better after a brush with illness. I like to at least take half of the recommended dosage until I’m a day or two past it.
  • Unfortunately, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but some herbs like olive leaf extract could reduce milk supply and andrographis aerial parts extract may cause miscarriage. I have taken it while breastfeeding and had no problems with my milk supply, but I would encourage you to share any questions you have with your midwife or doctor and let me know what you find out!

In Conclusion

Being sick is no fun. Now that I’m currently sick after years and years of keeping illnesses at bay, I can definitely attest to that! I have since ordered every Wellness Formula product and hope to not let illness strike me (or my family) again. Back in the day when I was a teacher, I used to swear by Airborne, which is still okay in a pinch, but no where NEAR as effective as this Wellness Formula. This is hands down the best thing you can do (after sleeping, getting sunshine, yada, yada) to prevent illness from taking you down. So many people swear by this product. Just take a minute to read the plethora of positive reviews on Amazon. I’m sure once you try this, you’ll be a believer too.

* I also have a few other favorite wellness supplements that you might enjoy learning more about!