My thoughts on soy

When I first began making products I considered using soy as an alternative to synthetic paraffin wax in our candles.  After all, I’m all about natural and want to use the best organic ingredients I can find.  I read some pretty scary articles about the soy industry but not being one to blindly accept anything, I decided to revisit the research.  I found this very informative article written by Small Footprint Family.  It essentially backed up my previous opinions on soy.*

* I do not expect everyone to share our beliefs, however the beliefs below are mine.

For starters, why soy?

Soy has been commercially manufactured since at least the 1950’s, probably longer but I wasn’t doing an essay on agricultural history.  Soy use wasn’t prolific during the 50’s and 60’s, despite commercial manufacturing, due to studies showing evidence of adverse effects such as sterility and cardiovascular disease in animals.  Brilliant marketing professionals decided that the only way to surmount this was to make the competition look even scarier.  In came the demonization of saturated fats in the 1980’s.  Saturated fat consumption was linked to heart disease and the American public began “low-fat” and “fat-free” diets.  Restaurants substituted vegetable oils, to include soybean oil, for the evil tropical oils (avocado, coconut, palm oil, etc).  Legitimate consumer interest groups participated in multi-million dollar campaigns to rid the U.S. food industry of saturated fats.  The soy industry, campaigning for the “health benefits” of soy, absolutely thrived.  Soy made up about 80% of the oils on the market. (Side note: If you haven’t heard, the vast majority of the info about saturated fat has been retracted or disproven.  Hello, keto.)

The only problem was that the evidence didn’t lie.  Not only was soy linked to a slew of health issues but so were many of the vegetable oils.  Hydrogenated vegetable oils are full of trans fat.  In 2002, the U.S. Institute of Medicine finally acknowledged that trans fat (key ingredient in hydrogenated vegetable oils) is not.  Edit: Nearly four years after I originally wrote this, on June 18, 2018, the U.S. FDA has banned all artificial trans fats from our food.

With the U.S. food industry going back to the healthier (and ironically, better for the heart) saturated fats, the soy industry began to suffer.  The industry broadened their horizons and soy was offered as an alternative to almost any consumable product. This includes soy milk, oils, candles, baby formula.   This is very troubling when you realize that the majority of soy is genetically modified.  Think that GMOs are no big deal?  Then you should read this article about how they impact your organs.  Or how about this article from January that states that “In North America, approximately 75 to 89% of the soy beans grown are genetically modified (GM)…recent research found that GM soy is toxic to the kidneys, liver, and more.”  Read the full article here.

There are many who choose to ignore the research, find contradictory research (I fully acknowledge research on GMOs is very contradictory!), or just flat out don’t believe it.  Many claim there are not enough peer-reviewed studies full of empirical data to support these claims.  Dig deeper and you will see the that scientists have been silenced.  Even if you choose to question it, why are we feeding this to babies?

So why I insist that my company care about soy?  Simple. I care about my customers.  There are studies linking soy to allergies.  The links may be tenuous but if up to nearly 90% of soy in the U.S. is genetically modified and studies show that genetically modified foods contribute to or worsen allergies, then that is enough for me to avoid it in my candles and skin-care products.

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What is aromatherapy?

 

What is aromatherapy? Did you know that this very question causes major debates? There are a whole bunch of words and terms tossed about: aromatology, aromachology, aromatherapy, holistic aromatherapy, psychoaromatherapy. Seriously, it’s still a little daunting for me and I’m a pro. So, what exactly is aromatherapy?

For most people who are new to aromatherapy, they conjure up images of candles or bath salts.  Maybe they picture a scene with a woman in a bathtub, surrounded by things that smell good.  Well, that might be part of it, but it definitely does not cover it.  

Aromatherapy has a vast number of definitions, even amongst some aromatherapists.  Some definitions, such as the one contained in The Concise Oxford Dictionary, which defines aromatherapy as “the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage and other treatment”, seem to be overly restrictive and do not fully embody modern aromatherapy.  According to Jane Buckle, author of our Clinical Aromatherapy textbook, aromatherapy is a misnomer because it is not just about smells and massage.  

The Sense of Smell Institute (SSI) recognizes aromatherapy as “the therapeutic effects of aromas on physical conditions as well as psychological conditions”.  This definition is much more inclusive and allows us to break aromatherapy into several subdisciplines, as described by Başer.  Aromatherapy is the more generic and overarching term, which will include: aromatherapy, aromatology, and aromachology

Aromatology, a subdiscipline of aromatherapy, is concerned with the internal usage of essential oils.  The method of internal consumption is not as important as the effects of the chemicals.  This is usually overseen by doctors or herbalists and is traditionally quite common throughout much of Europe.

Aromachology is closely aligned with psychology since it is concerned with the impact of smells on feelings.  It is also referred to as psychoaromatherapy and aims to study the impact of aromas on endorphins and the limbic system. (Buckle, 2003)  

The term “holistic aromatherapy” seems to refer to an approach that considers that patient as a whole and aims to treat them as such.  This is a practice undertaken by many nurses in the U.K. who have begun to embrace complementary modalities in their healthcare practices.  This term most closely describes what I, as a student, envision aromatherapy to be.  

Now, you may still be wondering how aromatherapy works.  There are a couple of different ways that the essential oils cause therapeutic actions within the body.  Oils can be applied topically to the skin, with somewhere around 20-75% of the oil absorbed by the skin.  It varies greatly by atomic weight of the oil but it is pretty straightforward.  The oils either treat a topical issue or treat an internal issue once they have gotten into the bloodstream.  Oils are sometimes ingested. This is also a pretty simple concept. The final way that oils work their magic is through inhalation. This is pretty complex so if you want to learn more, check out How the Sense of Smell Works.

Before we conclude this topic, I need to make an important point.  Essential oils are the key to aromatherapy.  Essential oils are one of the many chemical constituents that come from plants.  Plants used medicinally, whether the whole plant, or just particular chemical compounds (i.e., volatile oils), are considered to be herbs.  This means that by that definition, aromatherapy, a very powerful modality, could be considered a subset of herbal medicine, which is a far older discipline.  I make this distinction here because many herbalists are unfamiliar with aromatherapy because it is a “newer” discipline with less research and historical documentation. Many aromatherapists are unfamiliar with herbs and don’t realize understand the connection to the plant or that there are times when one approach is better than the other.  For me, they are the same thing.  Organic chemical substances that have a biochemical effect on the anatomy, physiology, or psyche of humans.  It’s science.

References:

Başer, K. H., & Buchbauer, G. (2010).Handbook of essential oils: science, technology, and applications. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.

Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical aromatherapy: essential oils in practice (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.