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  • InHerbs, Non-toxic Home, Safe Skincare

    Do Lavender and Tea Tree Essential Oils Cause Endocrine Disruption?

    Do Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Cause Endocrine Disruption in Children?We've been hearing the question of endocrine disruption in lavender and tea tree oil since 2007, and we just got it again in response to our recommendation of organic skincare made with those particular essential oils.  I can understand that it seems like a valid concern, especially when you consider that many natural skincare products are made with essential oils.

    We investigated the question of estrogenic activity in lavender (and tea tree oil) and learned that the claim is completely unfounded.

    Here's the research we received from our favorite herbalist, Melinda Olson (RN, herbalist, and founder of Earth Mama Angel Baby), along with clarification of the vast difference between essential oils and aromatherapy oils (highly concentrated volatile oils).

    When concerns about the safety of lavender and tea tree oil first came out in 2007, we spent a great deal of time researching the reported issues about these time-tested essential oils. Since then, this story has circulated, and been the source of much confusion, misunderstanding and fear.

    Here’s the back story: In 2007, two doctors released their opinion that two boys had developed gynecomastia, or enlarged breast tissue. The one apparent commonality was that they boys had both used care products containing lavender and/or tea tree oil. The doctors’ study did not, however, take into account any other factors that may have been the cause of the gynecomastia. They didn’t look at their lifestyle, environmental exposure, or diet. Were they eating meat or drinking milk contaminated with growth hormone? Were other known endocrine disruptors like BPA in their water bottles or canned foods? Were they eating foods heated in plastics? The study did not ask these questions. Nor has there ever been a subsequent evidence-based study to evaluate the validity of the conclusion that lavender and/or tea tree essential oil are the cause of gynecomastia in boys. Yet despite the lack of usual scientific practices or a large-scale control group, the study was widely published on the internet, causing much concern!

    Another common misconception is the confusion between an essential oil used diluted in personal care products vs. being ingested or used undiluted on the skin. While they are called “essential oils”, aromatherapy oils are really highly concentrated volatile oils and not fixed oils like olive oil or canola oil. If left in an open container, essential oils that have no fat molecules will evaporate. Fixed oils will not. When reading about the safety of essential oils, be sure to note the mode of application – I’d never recommend anyone drink either lavender or tea tree essential oil. These plant oils have been used externally for thousands of years, and according to our research, it is our belief that they are safely used externally, when diluted in personal care products. There is, however, a plethora of evidence-based research to document their efficacy (plus they smell fantastic!).

    You can learn more about the background on this misconception here.

    P.S.  Read your labels carefully and avoid products with “lavender fragrance” on the label.  The term “fragrance” is a legal hiding place for up to 3,000 unknown chemicals.

  • InDIY & How-to, Natural Pest Control

    5 All Natural DIY Flea Busting Tricks for Your Dog

    I was working away with my mini dachshund nestled on my shoulders the other day when a flea hopped onto my arm – ewwww!

    It's been a long time since we last had fleas, so I couldn't remember how to eradicate the little buggers without bombing the whole house.  So I did my thing and researched until I found a solution.  I was really impressed with the brilliant eco hacks available online, so I picked my favorites and tried them all.  I wasn't taking any chances!

    My Favorite Flea Busting Tricks

    1. Vacuum, Vacuum, Then Vacuum Some More

    You should especially do this in areas that don't get much exposure to sunlight (fleas like humid and cool spots), anywhere that you find dried blood and feces (flea debris), and upholstered furniture.

    • Before vacuuming the carpets, sprinkle salt, diatomaceous earth or baking soda around liberally.
    • Work it into the base of the carpet with a broom.
    • Let it sit for a few hours while the powders do their work in causing flea eggs that are tucked deep into the carpet to dry out.
    • Be sure to empty the dust bin or discard the bag outside and continue vacuuming thoroughly every other day.
    • Fleas can develop resistance to insecticides, vacuuming regularly is essential in order to bring them under control.

    Be sure to wash bedding too.  Toss everything – including blankets from family beds where your dog sleeps – into the washing machine with hot, soapy water.  Don't forget to include everything they like to lie or sleep on regularly too.  If the bedding can go in the dryer, running them for 15 or 20 minutes in a hot dryer will kill adults, larvae and eggs.  Then followup by washing all bedding at least once a week until the fleas are gone.

    2. Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

    Food-grade DE is completely natural, and it can be used pretty much anywhere. It’s a very sharp material, deadly to insects, but harmless to humans and mammals because it’s particles are so tiny. Farmers add it to stored grains to stop insects from invading their silos, and they feed it to their animals to control internal parasites like worms.

    3. Bathe Your Dog with Dish Soap

    Smother your dog in soap, but don't do it with Dawn.  I used Better Life's safe dish soap and I could actually see those fleas go running – without the toxic chemicals!  You'll need to bathe your dog every two or three days until the fleas are entirely gone.

    4. Make Your Own Flea Traps

    This one surprised me.  I've heard of gnat and mosquito traps, but never flea traps.  Turns out it's really simple and I was able to trap a ton of fleas overnight.

    • Fill a shallow bowl or pie pan with soapy water and set it out overnight in the area you suspect of harboring fleas.
    • Set a desk lamp over bowl of water.  The fleas will be attracted to the heat and jump towards it, causing them to land in the soapy water. It helps if you turn off all other light sources so they are attracted to the spot you want them.
    • Be sure to change the water daily until there are no more fleas.  This technique helps you keep tabs on your progress: the more fleas you see, the more you need to clean the area and treat your dogs.

    5. Make Your Own Herbal Flea Spray

    Plants produce essential oils which function as their own built-in insect repellents, which makes them great for use in people and animals.  With the exception of tea tree oil (which can be toxic for dogs), essential oils are natural, mild and may even help boost the immune system.   Some of the most common oils that act as flea and insect repellents include lavender, citronella, cedar, peppermint, eucalyptus and lemongrass.

    • Mix 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil with 1-2 ounces of mild, organic soap and water.  I used my Earth Mama Calming Lavender castile soap with several extra drops of lavender and some vinegar as an added boost.
    • Pour into a spray bottle and spray your pet periodically throughout the day.
    • Don't soak, but rather dampen the fur.
    • You can also add 2-3 drops of the mixture under your pet's collar to help keep fleas away.

    In the end, I was able to rid our dogs of fleas within one week.  But I'm not going to lie – it took some effort and repetitive natural treatments.

    How do you take care of fleas in your home?