Every year I can't wait for summer to arrive. Life gets taken out side, put on the road, in the garden or the swimming pool. Longer sunny days bring with them a sense of freedom and holiday. Nature is in her stride, exploding in colour everywhere! So much beauty, bloom and buzz in the air.
Yes. Buzz. Of the bug variety.
Bug bites are definitely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. So of course we want to repel those bugs, right? But how? By using chemicals or natural ingredients? Which direction to go in?
EWG, (Environmental Working Group) surprisingly, leans heavily towards the use of chemicals over natural ingredients. When I first read this, I had to give my head a shake. What?!? Then I read a little closer, between the lines. They focus on an increase of tick-born diseases since 2004 as the basis of their recommendations. As such, they are erring on the side of blanket-blasting all ticks and bugs with everything in the arsenal. This feels like a panicked overkill to me, given the research on DEET being potentially damaging to brain function.
Bug repellents in Canada are regulated by Health Canada. They recommend everything from DEET (in concentrations ranging from 10%-30%, depending on the age of the user) to blends of specific essential oils. Their approach seems more evenhanded, taking into account safety considerations and individual preferences--allowing something for everyone. How Canadian, eh? I just love that!
My preference is to go natural, as much as possible. I also want to empower you to DIY. So here are a couple of recipes that can bring and your family some relief.
1. Natural Ant Killer
My son, Javid is no fan of the creepy or the crawly. So when the neighbourhood ants started conducting long parading visits through the house, something had to be done. Our research took us to WikiHow, where we found the recipe that did the trick.
Its a simple but effective blend of three ingredients--Borax, sugar and water. The sugar attracts the ants, the ants ingest it. The borax interferes slowly with ant digestive systems, giving enough time for an ant to get back to its colony and share it with its fellow ants. Once shared, the borax can take out the whole colony. Most humans don't have major reactions to this small an amount of Borax. That being said, handle the Borax carefully and follow the cautionary advice on the Borax box.
What you'll need
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoon Borax
1-1/2 cups warm water
A Jar for mixing
Stir stick or chopstick
Cotton balls or pads
Shallow dishes or Yogurt container lids
Pour the sugar and the borax into the jar. Cap the Jar and shake, shake, shake the sugar and borax together. Uncap the bottle and pour in warm water. Use stir stick or chopstick to stir water until borax and sugar are completely dissolved. Place cotton ball or pad on container lids. Pour ant killer liquid onto cotton ball or pad until it's saturated. Place the container in a high ant traffic zone indoors. Give it a few days, and then buh-bye ants!
2. Natural Mosquito Spray
This recipe is from Scratch Mommy. It's a simple, four ingredient blend that relies mostly on the wonderful properties of Tea Tree and Geranium Oil. I've adjusted the amounts of essential oils in the formula to reflect Health Canada safety standards and metric volumes.
Tea Tree or Melaleuca has been used for centuries by Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It's really a superpowered plant, known for its antimicrobial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps human wounds heal, and it is toxic to many insects, including mosquitoes. Its some pretty stong stuff, so Health Canada recommends that it make up only 1% of your total formula.
Geranium Oil has some of the same properties as Tea Tree Oil (anti-bacterial, wound healing). It's also known for its ability to keep mosquitoes away. Health Canada recommends between 1-5% of the total formula.
Vegetable Glycerin helps hold the essential oils to your skin.
Combine the following ingredients in a 113ml spray bottle.
Glass or metal is best. I get some of my supplies from here.
• 1.5 ml (22 drops) Tea Tree Essential Oil
• 0.5ml (8 drops) - 5ml (110 drops) Geranium Essential Oil
(Scratch Mommy recommends only 0.5ml. Health Canada says you can go up to 5ml. My recommendation is somewhere in the middle--2.5ml (55 drops). The choice is yours, depending on your skin and scent sensitivities.)
• 15 ml (1tablespoon) Vegetable glycerin
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water and shake until well mixed. Spray on as required and reapply as needed.
In case you don't feel like making it yourself...
If you don't feel up to making it yourself, I'm happy to do that for you. My Shoo Fly! formula has a number of extra goodies that make it useful for keeping more than just mosquitoes away. It also has soothing ingredients that can help in after-bite care.
So here's some anecdotal evidence about Shoo Fly! and its efficacy. Free Lion Body Care was at the Mission Folk Festival, enjoying both sunshine, music and meeting people who were trying out our products. Along came a little guy with a sad face.
"Why so glum, chum?" I asked. he told me he had been stung by a wasp. He showed me a huge, angry red welt on his forearm. His mum asked if I had anything for that.
"Try our Shoo Fly!" I suggested. I told her more about the formula. In a nutshell, Shoo Fly has witch hazel and aloe vera in it to help soothe the itchy feeling and speed up healing. There's Tea Tree, Geranium and Peppermint essential oils to help heal and cool the wound. These, plus the rest of the essential and carrier oils in it, work together to help keep other bugs away.
So Mum sprayed some Shoo Fly! on his red, swollen sting and off they went. The next day they came back. The little guy was smiling and eager to show me his wound. It had almost disappeared! Thank you, said Mom. She bought a bottle for the rest of the summer. And I had the satisfaction of a job well done.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Do you have a favourite natural way of keeping the summer bugs away? Please share it with us.
There are so many current conditions that can benefit from a little lavender oil. Here’s a couple of situations where Lavender Oil can be the champ you need. Word. Most essential oils have to be diluted before use. Not Lavender oil. You can use it topically, straight up, no carrier oil. Some Aromatherpists advise not to ingest Lavender Oil. If that's really the case, someone should tell those peeps who make lavender shortbread and infuse tea leaves with it to cut it out!! Seriously, though, historical anecdotal evidence and Wise Woman Wisdom tells us that it has been safe to ingest, a drop or two when needed, for centuries. And Personally, I've benefitted from ingesting Lavender.
That being said, here's the fine print: I’m not a doctor. But I have tried various home remedies over the years on my family and myself. I’m sharing some instances when Lavender Oil came to the rescue. Use your own discretion and experience to figure out what will work for you. It's best that you test for your self. See how you react to Lavender by spot testing a drop on your skin or ingesting a drop and seeing if you have any reactions.
Relieve Tooth Pain
A few years ago, I developed a bad toothache that felt like it was on the road to a root canal. Not fun. Dentists. Even less fun, except at parties! I had been using Lavender oil on wounds for many years so I thought, “What the heck! It can’t hurt.” Within a day or two, no more toothache.
Lavender’s antibacterial properties got to work under my gums and essentially neutralized the infection that was causing the pain. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t see a dentist when one has to. But I am saying, to morph a quote from Shakespeare, that, “There are more things in heaven and earth, dental profession, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I have passed that piece of anecdotal evidence on to friends and family since then. We’ve saved a ton on dental bills.
Heal Burns and Wounds
At our house, we use Lavender oil for burns and on cuts (2 drops applied to the gauzy part of a plaster bandage). It did a bang up healing job that time I accidentally poured boiling water on my hand. I have even used it on gauze to heal a major surgery wound. The nurse who visited the house daily to change my bandage used only Saline water to disinfect. She was impressed at how efficacious Lavender Oil was in my speeding up my healing process.
The A to Z of Essential Oils also calls lavender a “first-aid kit in a bottle,” suggesting that it should be kept in the kitchen to treat First and Second degree burns. A first-degree burn, like typical sunburn, is red and hurts mildly, with usually only the first layer of skin affected. A Second-degree burn is worse and may have blistering with more pain, with the first and underlying layers of skin affected. You can use Lavender Oil straight up or blend it with Aloe Gel (10 drops of Lavender Oil to ½ cup of Aloe Gel). This makes a fabulous healing combo. While Lavender is busy desensitizing your nerves, relieving pain, healing and preventing scarring, the aloe is cooling and protecting the skin.
In case of first or second degree burn:
In case of a cut or scrape:
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Have trouble sleeping? Can’t relax? Those thoughts keep romping round your head? Lavender Oil can help. It’s calming components basically chill you out so that you can more easily fall asleep. It works well for adults and wonderously for children who can’t seem to settle down. I have used a Lavender Spritz on my pillow when I'm super stressed out. Before I know it, I'm off to lala land!
There are a few options on how to use lavender to help you fall into the Big ZZZ:
These are some ways our family uses Lavender Oil. Hope you find them helpful, from our pride to yours. .
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are your favourite ways to use Lavender Oil?
Leave us a comment.
Lavender flowers have been keeping humans fresh in potpourris and baths for centuries. And its essential oil has been used in perfume and medicinally for just as long. The word Lavender could have come from the Latin lavare, meaning ‘to wash’. Or it could have come from livere, meaning ‘bluish’.
Lavender is a member of the mint family, indigenous to the mountain regions of the Mediterranean and Middle East and valued back in the day for its therapeutic, culinary and beauty benefits. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used it to scent baths, skin, beds, clothes and hair; to help them sleep; to dress battle wounds, in food preparation and for air purification. Bundles of dried lavender were given to women in labour to squeeze during contractions, as the fragrance released was known to relax the pain. It was used extensively for body, mind and spirit health.
Lavender proved indispensible in combatting The Plague in the 17th Century. It protected against infection. Bundles of lavender, or ‘posies’, were carried or tied at the wrist to help ward off infection. Gloves were infused with Lavender Oil to do the same. The story goes that the entire town of Bucklersbury completely escaped the plague, due to it being the center of the European Lavender Industry, where everyone had access to the healing powers of Lavender Oil.
In the Victorian Era, English royalty were particularly fond of Lavender. It was used throughout the castles for everything. Floors and furniture were washed with lavender; linens were perfumed with it. wanted a supply of fresh flower bundles brought to her daily. Lavender flowers, strewn over stone castle floor, released its scent under foot. Queen Vic started a trend and soon all fine English ladies followed suit and scented themselves and everything else with Lavender, which was grown in just about every home herb garden. During the First World War, Lavender oil gained widespread use for its antiseptic properties. Lavender washes were used to bathe wounds and it was an essential in every soldier’s burn kit.
What say you, Science?
Fast forward to now. Recent scientific and medical research (Biological activities of Lavender essential oil. 1. H.M.A. Cavanagh and 2. J.M. Wilkinson / Article first published JUN 2002) has proven that the essential oil of lavender has properties that rival—and even surpass—many modern antiseptic chemicals and antibiotic drugs. Lavender oil’s powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, sedative, calming and anti-depressive properties make it a ‘must have’ in any contemporary medicine cabinet.
The Infographic below from www.ayurvedicoils.com breaks down Lavender's chemical properties in a simple way.
In short, Lavender oil has what it takes to calm us down, alleviate pain, kill bacteria and fungus, take down inflammation, help us breathe better, suppress coughing, repell some insects and fight free radicals on the skin. That’s one powerhouse plant! Thank you, Mother Nature. Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are your favourite ways to use Lavender Oil?
Please share in a comment below.
Humans have been rocking rocks and crystals probably for as long as we’ve been in existence. Talismans and amulets are unearthed in countless archeological digs all over the world. The Ancients, it seems, had an understanding that matter is affected by the flow of energy (Chi, Prana, Life Force) and vice versa. Today, thanks to the genius of scientists like Nikola Tesla, we understand that all things in the universe are forms of energy with their own frequency and vibrations--including crystals. Tesla declared this the key to understanding the universe, proving how certain forms of energy can alter the vibrational resonance of other forms of energy when they occupy the same space.
Human trust in the Stone People (as they are known by many Aboriginal peoples) and crystals hasn’t ebbed away. Healing crystals and stones are still a thing, used to align and alter the vibration of body cells, chakras and subtle bodies (that's your emotional, mental field and intuitive fields). These ancient practices still continue while scientists and doctors develop their medicinal solutions. What I’ve come to understand is that one can support the other. Healing is dependent on many, many variables, and no one healing practice has all the answers. Our critical thinking, discernment, feelings and intuition play a huge role in the choices we make for ourselves in these areas. And what works for one may not work the same way for another.
When I was growing up, talismans for support and protection were definitely a part of my life. My mother would tie a cord around my neck made from red and green string strands twisted together. The red stood for passion, life blood; the green for verdant peace. Seven knots were tied into the cord, a protection prayer solemnly spoken over each one. Its job, she said, was to keep me safe and surrounded by some positive vibes.
In Gujarat (where my people and Gandhi come from) there is a long, ancient tradition of wearing Navratan Jewelry. Navratan means, “nine gems” and refers to the nine different stones set into a single piece of jewelry, very often a pendant. The stones are chosen for their healing and balancing properties and their association with the nine planets in Indian astrology. By wearing this jewelry, it is believed you call in the qualities and energy of each stone and corresponding planet to yourself, thus making life a little easier to navigate. An interesting side note in the lore of these gems: each one is described as having a positive AND negative qualities, just like your average human (hence “Stone People”). When placed together in the same jewelry piece, the stones work to support one another but also to keep each other in check and balance.
Are the stones themselves the actual source of healing; or is it our BELIEF in them? Or is it both? I don’t know for sure. But I will say this: Medical research has shown that positive beliefs, attitudes and the determination to heal play a huge role in recovery. So if the Stone People do nothing more for us than act as a catalyst for a perspective shift from “I am a victim of life” to “I have Choice and Agency in my life,” then I, for one, will wear them and say, “Thank you.”
Lately in the Free Lion Studio, we’ve been making beaded Aroma bracelets combining Lava and gemstones to bring together the benefits of stone and crystal healing with Aromatherapy. In the spirit of my ancestors’ Navratan jewelry, I have been wearing a number of bracelets so that the Stone Peeps can work their magic together: Lava, Green Jade, Sodalite and Aventurine. Placebo or not, gotta tell ya, I’ve been feeling help to stay grounded as I go through some changes in my business and personal life. Guess I can thank the Lava for that. I’m working at growing Free Lion which means some creative thinking and dreaming the new dream. Yay, Green Jade! And staying balanced and centered in my emotions and self-care has been critical to navigating the changes. Woohoo, Aventurine! Writing these blogs has been an excellent adventure so far. I spent many years in self-doubt about my writing abilities and was nervous about putting myself out there. Thanks for the solid, Sodalite!
Check out our Lava Bead Aroma Bracelets. They allow you to take your Aromatherapy with you wherever you go. Aesthetically simple and clean; elasticated and easy to wear, they can be worn alone or in combination, depending on your Stone Peep needs. And they are a really good option for kids who benefit from Aromatherapy.
In the end it comes down to personal experience and choice. Trust your gut: it knows you better than anyone else.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Flowers and Fragrance are an evolutionary thing—attractive smells attract bees and other pollinators, ensuring the survival of a species. Over centuries, these fragrances have attracted humans, too and over time we have made the connection between good smells and good health, and spiritual peace. In today’s deodorized world, where chemical sensitivities lead to bans on fragrance, we assume that to be without smell is to be clean, wholesome and pure. But are we losing something really important to the human experience in banishing scent?
In the realm of health, the desire to surround oneself with pungent fragrances traces directly to the rank odour of the unwashed human, a story that starts with sweat. Human sweat by itself barely smells at all. But the symbiotic bacteria that lives all over our bodies finds our sweat a yummy meal. Post feast, the bacteria releases molecules that we recognize as body odour. Yup. We’re smelling of bacteria poop.
Throughout human history, we weren’t aware of the bacterial cause of body odor. But we sure could smell it. And so the art of extracting fragrance from plant materials began centuries ago in ancient times in different cultures all over the world. When early alchemists began extract the “essence” of a plant (or its fragrance) into oils, they believed that these concentrated extractions were a spiritual embodiment of nature, a plant’s soul, if you like.
In Ancient China, India, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, fragrances were primarily processed in oil-based infusions. Oil was pressed first from ingredients like olives. Then plants and woods were added to the oil using meticulous scale measurements and left to steep. This process is still used today by many body care makers, ourselves included. Another process used was maceration, meaning plant material was pressed to remove oils and then ground into powders which could be used on their own or combined with other ingredients to create a paste. Or there was enfleurage, in which leaves or petals were placed in a thin layer of solid fat, usually animal, which absorbed the plant’s essential oils. This was the process probably used to produce the spikenard used in the Bible to anoint Jesus.
Early fragrance concoctions incorporated floral scents like jasmine, rose, lavender, violet, chamomile as well as spicy smells from materials like amber, cinnamon, camphor and cloves and musky smells from animals, thought to be aphrodisiacs. These were carried in ceramic jars, bottles or jewelry. Complex scents weren’t only intended for wear directly on the body. Besides direct application of fragrance on the skin, people burned fragrant materials as incense, believing the smoke carried prayers to the gods. Fragrant materials were also burned for medicinal purposes, to clear an infection or purify a room. Powders were also made, carried in fabric sachets; hardened pastes were made into beads and worn as jewelry and garments were sewn from fabrics soaked in perfume.
Europe became a huge market for fragrance products primarily because of the belief that bathing was bad and dangerous to the health. Yup. Not making that up. It was wildly held that water’s ability to soften skin and open pores actually weakened the flesh, making it more susceptible to sickness. One of the side effects of this belief system was the development of more complex methods of perfume production, ingredients and scent dissemination. Ornamental devices continued to be developed that would mask unseemly odours, like the pomander, a spherical pendent that acted as a scent diffuser worn to purify the air wherever one walked.
In Renaissance Venice a serious breakthrough in perfume production came when they discovered how to create a clear substance make of 95 percent alcohol imbued with a strong scent. The process can give thanks to the work of Islamic scholars who progressed such knowledge while Europe went through the Dark Ages. Many believe that the invention of the distillation process that led to the discover of base alcohol is due to Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the West), the Persian doctor, chemist and philosopher, who experimented extensively with distillation to try and make better scents and figure out the chemistry behind non-oil based perfumes.
Liquid perfume was brought to France by Catherine de Medici. Gradually, France came to dominate the perfume industry in Europe, supported by an increasingly extravagant Royal class who still did not believe in bathing. There are accounts of the fetid stench that proliferated the Versailles court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette where courtiers would relieve themselves wherever they felt like it. Which gave rise to more scent devices. Decorative filigreed scent smelling boxes, or “vinaigrettes” were designed to hold liquid perfumes in small sponges or fabric swatches. They were often attached to chains at the waist of a woman’s dress. Perfume was also worn in rings, lockets or in pendent vials worn as necklaces.
The swing towards deodorizing and disinfecting came once science began to show that filth was not good and baths were not bad. Studies of epidemics and germs in the following centuries showed the importance of clean water and sanitation to health. As better hygiene took over, strong perfumes were needed less and became more aligned with fashion and cosmetics. These ideas were exported to the Americas, where the tools of personal hygiene became integrated into living environments via indoor plumbing and garbage removal. Personal hygiene standards changed, and daily bathing was encouraged. Products were developed to disinfect and deodorise. Manufactured scents were no longer bound to the natural world of essential oils as chemists developed entirely new, man-made compounds. The side effects and dangers of many of these to human health were not adequately known or explained, or they were disregarded altogether, landing us where we are now in the place of increased allergies and sensitivities—and a move back towards Nature.
Aroma jewelry is back, too, in answer to the scent sensitivity problem. Paired with fragrance oils, the jewelry brings flexibility to fragrance wearing. You can keep your scent very personal, experiencing it when you want. You can control how much fragrance you want to wear. You can still wear fragrances you love without irritating your sensitive skin. Wearing your Aroma jewelry allows you to move freely from scent-allowed to scent-free environments—just put your locket in your pocket. And should you have an aromatherapy blend that helps you stay calm, or ease a headache, this is a great way to have it quickly on hand.
Fragrance is still a significant part of the human experience. The nose is thought of as the gateway to consciousness through which the breath, the energy of life passes. It is tied to memory, transporting us to moments in time where those smells made their first impressions. Aroma can release emotions and awaken joy. They can bewitch, soothe, inspire, relax, liberate and uplift. Feeling emotionally uplifted can, in turn, improve our physical wellbeing. To ban this potential from our experience now seems like a counterintuitive step backwards—like saying, “bathing is bad” again. Our world now is a complex mix of chemicals, natural and synthetic. The trick is trying to choose what’s most effective and safe for us from both these sources. We have the possibility to pick the best of both worlds and hopefully find our way to some form of balance that honours both the gifts of Nature and the ingenuity of Science.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team