Rosemary Monograph

Rosemary

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Nomenclature    

Rosmarinus officinalis

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves, flowers, and essential oil.

Identification of Genus/Species

 

Part Identification
Stem Shrub with scaly branches and bark. Grows to 3 feet.
Leaves 1 to 2 inch long needle-like evergreen leaves.
Flowers Flowers are small and pale blue or white.
Taste Strong, oily, bitter.
Odor Strong and pleasant. Camphor-like.

Cultivation

As a Mediterranean native, Rosemary does best in warm, sunny, and dry spots. It can be propagated by seed, cutting, or layering.   

Collection

To get the most essential oil, harvest the upper parts before they flower. The flowers and upper parts can be harvested in early Spring and Summer.  The leaves and flowers should be dried in the shade.

Constituents

The leaves and flowers contain an essential oil made up of borneol, camphor, 1,8 cineole, linalool, terpenes, and borneol esther.

The leaves also contain tannins, resin, carboxylic acid, and minerals such: as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and potassium.

Actions

Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antispasmodic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hepatic, hypertensive, nervine sedative, rubefacient, stimulant, and tonic.

Medicinal Use

The essential oil is thought to be responsible for the majority of the Rosemary’s therapeutic actions. Rosemary has many uses for the hair and skin: hair growth, dandruff, ulcers, sores and wounds.

Rosemary is used to support colds, headaches, fevers, poor memory, rheumatism, and sprains.  Due to its antispasmodic properties, Rosemary is useful for cramps and spasms. It has a general tonic effect on the circulatory system and may be helpful with varicose veins.

Contraindications & Side Effects

Rosemary contains two toxic constituents, borneol camphor and pinene. Camphor in high doses can aggravate asthma and epilepsy.

Rosemary should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy. Rosemary should not be administered to children under the age of four.

Rosemary should be tested via a skin patch test prior to topical application.

Follow dosage recommendations for the essential oil carefully. Rosemary can impact blood pressure.

 

Dosage

Doses can be taken three to four times a day.

Infusion: 3 to 5 tablespoons

Tincture: 5 to 20 drops

Essential Oil: ½ to 3 drops

 

References

Balick, M. J. (2014). 21st century herbal: A practical guide for healthy living using nature’s most powerful plants. V. Mattern (Ed.). New York: Rodale, 341-345.

Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.

Easley,T. and Horne,S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). Herb 201 Herbal Studies. Portland, OR:  American College of Healthcare Sciences

Weiss, R., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: Thieme

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Lemon Balm Monograph

Lemon Balm

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Nomenclature

Melissa officinalis

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves

Identification of Genus/Species

Part Identification
Stem Similar to others in the Lamiaceae family, the stem is square.
Leaves Leaves are slightly hairy, broad and ovate. Low lying leaves may be heart shaped.  They omit a lemony aroma.
Flowers Flowers bloom in summer and are small and hooded, in white or lemon color.
Taste Pleasant, lemony, and mildly spicy.
Odor Lemony

Cultivation

Lemon Balm is an easy to grow perennial herb that will reach up to three feet high and two feet wide.  It is hardy to zone 3 and prefers fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH. Supplementing the soil with different nutrients will impact the chemical composition and essential oil yield.

Lemon Balm can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or division. Lemon Balm grows best with regular watering.  It will grow in sun or partial shade.

Collection

The entire above ground herb is harvested.  Lemon balm should be harvested by hand in the early morning, after the dew dries.  The leaves should be dried immediately.

Constituents

Essential oil contains citronellal, citral, linalool, and other monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Also contains tannins, flavonoids, and bitters.

The herb contains caffeic and rosmarinic acids.

The chemical composition of the oil is similar to the pheromone that helps worker bees locate their colonies.

Actions

Antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, and nervine sedative.

Medicinal Use

Due to its mild sedative action, Lemon Balm is useful for concentration, depression, sleep and stress.   Lemon Balm is also indicated for gastrointestinal disorders and nervous disorders and is especially prescribed for children with these conditions.

The essential oil has antiviral properties so it is used for cold sores and shingles.

Contraindications & Side effects

No known safety concerns.

Dosage

One to three times daily.

Infusion: 1 cup

Liquid Extract 2 to 4 millimeters

Tincture: 2 to 6 millimeters

References

Balick, M. J. (2014). 21st century herbal: A practical guide for healthy living using nature’s most powerful plants. V. Mattern (Ed.). New York: Rodale, 341-345.

Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.

Easley,T. and Horne,S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). Herb 201 Herbal Studies. Portland, OR:  American College of Healthcare Sciences

Weiss, R., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: Thieme

Basil Monograph

Basil

 

Nomenclature

Ocimum basilicum

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves, flowers, and essential oil.

Identification of Genus/Species

Part Identification
Stem Grows 3 feet high. Obtusely quadrangular.
Leaves Leaves grow opposite, are 2 to 3 inches long, oval, and bright green.
Flowers Flowers are white or pink whorls
Taste Pleasant, strong, and peppery
Odor Highly fragrant

Cultivation

Sweet basil, ocimum basilicum, is an annual herb that is very easy to grow.  It prefers light, well-drained soil in warm climates with full sun.  It will also grow in a container. The top shoots should be clipped to promote fuller, healthier growth.  Cuttings can be rooted in water and grown in pots indoors.

Collection

Optimal harvest is just before the blooms open.

Constituents

The exact chemical profile of basil depends on the particular cultivar.  Sweet basil contains many chemical compounds in the essential oil: estragole, methyl cinnamate, ocimene, cineole, linalool, thymol, and camphor.  The leaves contain tannins, vitamins, and minerals, such as: calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, B2, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Actions

Analgesic, antibacterial, antiflatulent, antifungal, antiemetic, anticmicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antivenom, antiviral anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, digestive, diuretic, galactogogue, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, insecticide, kidney tonic, nervine, orexigenic, sedative.

Medicinal Use

Basil has both topical and internal use. Taken orally, basil helps with digestive issues, stomach spasms, kidney issues, and blood sugar issues.  Multiple Ocimum species have exhibited a hypoglycemic effect. Basil may also help with headaches, appetite stimulation, circulation, and fevers.

Topically, basil can be used for bites, stings, and may be helpful for acne.  Basil can be used as an astringent mouthwash.

Basil essential oil exhibits antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, making it useful for cleaning and disinfecting.

Contraindications & Side Effects

Basil essential oil is not safe while pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactating. Sweet basil should not be consumed in doses higher than a culinary dose while pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactating and should be avoided entirely by infants and toddlers.

Basil should be avoided by those with an allergy to the Lamiaceae/Labiate families.

There are very few adverse effects reported.  Those with allergies to the Lamiaceae/Labiate families could have an allergic reaction to basil.

Dosage

Infusion: 1 cup of tea

Essential Oil: 1 drop

Tincture: 4 millimeters

Fluid Extract: 2 millimeters

 

 

 

Medicine Making in the Woods

During early Spring, as the plants were just beginning to poke out of the ground, I had the privilege of once again working with the students of Washington College.  The workshop this time was all about making medicine in the woods so we took it offsite and explored the flora (and fauna!) of the beautiful land owned by the school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

This workshop allowed us to examine medicinal herbs in their natural habitat.  We discussed the plants from both an ethnobotanical and chemical perspective.  Thanks to permaculturist Shane Brill, identification was quick and easy. After we identified the plants, we discussed their historical use by various world cultures and the main chemical compounds that are responsible for their therapeutic actions.

The students were able to touch, smell, and in some cases, taste, the materials we were discussing.  Most students had some prior knowledge of some of the plants, making for a few hours of interesting and educational conversation while we explored the woods.

While I am normally all about ratios, measurements, and precise chemistry, it isn’t always practical in real life scenarios.  I can’t imagine that most people have weight scales, liquid measuring cups, and the like with them when they have first aid emergencies in the woods.  For the “medicine making” portion of this trip, we made medicine the way our ancestors did.  As the village medicine woman in this scenario (that’s really fun to say!), I passed down my knowledge of the plants as everyone was gathered in a circle. The students harvested plants and combined them in jars to make their medicine.  We used Apple Cider Vinegar to extract the fat-soluble constituents and all those vitamins and minerals that come out best in acetic acid. The students also made a simple infusion that they could take him and try.

Check out the highlight reel and photos below.

 

 

 

 

 

MUIH Microbial Analysis Experiment Internship Part II

The second part of this post covers the first phase of the actual experiment.  If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it here.  Technically, this is no longer an internship because I didn’t do it for college or work credit.  After all the research and planning for the experiment, I wanted to be part of it.  I was excited about the prospect of participating in a study between two universities, with the possibility of the findings being published.

We were testing the theory that a bunsen burner could create a sterile field. The reason this would be cool is because many product makers are small businesses that cannot afford to rent lab space for product creation.  The execution of the experiment required learning and using aseptic lab techniques (limiting variables), meticulously documenting each step and then counting colonies.

 

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The bunsen burner was turned on for five minutes to create the sterile field.  Measurements on the table indicate the distance of each TSA plate (a.k.a. a petri dish to most) to the burner.  After 5 minutes the lids were removed to expose them to the microbes in the air.
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After the predetermined amount of time the lids were replaced and the dishes were wrapped in lab film to keep them secure.
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Close up of the dishes before the incubation period.
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Here is a couple of days in.

 

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This is after 7 days of incubation. Look at all of those organisms!

The study has not been published yet so I will not discuss the results.  Needless to say, my personal results were… gross.  It was really awesome learning about aseptic lab techniques and getting to participate in this study.

Part III of this post will be the final part and will cover the second, and last, experiment conducted as part of this study.

 

 

Essential Oils and the Law

Essential Oils (1)


If any of you are like I was, you began your essential oil journey in an earnest attempt to find the best ways to care for yourself and your family. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you just like the way they smell as air freshener, personal perfume, or additives to your cleaning supplies. No matter what you use essential oils for, it’s important to understand the laws surrounding them.

U.S. regulations regarding natural products are unclear, ambiguous, and often confusing. The European Union (EU) has more specific definitions but even so, still lacks total clarity. I’ll try my best to break this down and make it easier.

Let’s look at some legislative definitions.

“Natural”

This word is easy for us all to understand, right? This is the most challenging and complex of the definitions.

“Natural” by U.S. standards means that all of the materials used to create something are derived from nature (that “derived from” part is the loophole). This looser interpretation of natural means that so long as a product contains all natural ingredients, it can still be considered a natural product, i.e. essential oils, smoke based flavors, etc. EU standards have a more restrictive definition of the term “natural” and apply it to the manufacturing process, as well as the component ingredients. The chemicals used for extraction, as well as the exact temperature that can be used are highly regulated. Many things that are “natural” by U.S. standards would not be deemed so when applying the EU standard.

The U.S. has the Flavoring Extract Manufacturer Association (FEMA). The EU has a comparable group, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). They also have the European Flavors and Fragrances Association (EFFA). The EU has new regulations that further restrict ingredients by implementing a list of positive ingredients that are much easier to regulate.

“Organic”

The USDA “Organic” seal is protected by federal law (7 CFR Part 205.311). In order to use it companies must comply with a set of USDA standards and have official certification (USDA Organic Factsheet). Pay close attention to the labels. If a product says “organic” it means that 95% of the ingredients meet organic criteria. The only way that you know the product is totally organic is if it says “100% Organic”. Non-agricultural products are broken down into: soap (self-explanatory), cosmetic, or a drug (FD&C Act, sec. 201 (i).

“Cosmetic”

The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”

Cosmetics are things like: moisturizers, hair products, lipstick, deodorant, makeup remover, nail polish, etc. If your cosmetic products claim to cure you of something then it is also a drug (or known as a “cosmeceutical”).

“Drug”

This is where it gets scary, folks, pay attention. Drugs are classified by their intended use. The FDA classifies drugs as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals”. Why should you care? Well, your essential oil products (and some cosmetics!) may actually fall into this category.

Now, why do you care?

Whether you use, purchase, or sell essential oils, listen up. If you sell someone an essential oil and tell them that the oil, peppermint, for an example, will restore hair growth, lower a fever, treat indigestion, etc, you are breaking the law. Those are considered medical claims and it makes the product a drug. Unless you are a licensed physician, you are now practicing medicine without a license (hence the breaking the law part). Is it always fair? No. There are plenty of times we all eye-roll because we know peppermint tea helps an upset stomach. Is it necessary? Yes. I will give you a very real example. If you are offended, then you are exactly the person that needs to be reading this article.

Sellers/associates of both DoTerra and Young Living were caught making egregious and unqualified medical claims. These individual sellers were stating on social media, in sales “parties”, and on their personal blogs and websites that their products could cure all manner of diseases, to include Ebola. Yes, you read that correctly! These well-intended, but grossly unqualified people were making profits by telling the world they could cure a disease that is closely regulated and has not been tested against any of those products. The result was that both companies received warning letters from the FDA, advising them of the violations and directing them to remove all marketing materials related to the claims. If not, the FDA will initiate regulatory actions. You can read the DoTerra letter here and the Young Living letter here.

I use that situation as an example of why regulation is important. It is not to pick on either company. They happen to be the largest essential oil sellers in the U.S. so it’s natural that they would get caught for violations that I’m sure many smaller companies make, as well. I am a huge advocate of people choosing to buy their products wherever they want, based on educated choices.

To be clear, I am no fan of the FDA or the USDA and have a fair amount of distrust when it comes t the motives and honesty of both. Either way, essential oils are tricky but we are still ultimately responsible for compliance. If you don’t sell essential oils or essential oil products, knowing the regulations is still worthwhile. Pay attention to who you buy them yours from and what their qualifications are. If you are purchasing from someone that does not know the law, you may want to reconsider where you source your products.