Tag Archives: Babies & Children

FEED YOUR SKIN

(picture from: catwalkfashion.co.uk/…/healthy-skin-month.jpg)

Skin Acid Mantle – sound familiar? It should, it is the largest and first protection we have. SAM is a layer of bacteria that covers our entire body. There are plenty of different bacteria, all specialists in their fields. For example, we have the little guy (the lash-sweeper) who comes out and cleans our lashes during the night, leaving the waste in the inner corner of our eyes…ever wonder how it got there?

These bacteria create a protective barrier against the surroundings. They are really tiny, much tinier than pathological (disease) bacteria, like a small roman army they let nothing pass. Each persons SAM is as individual as a fingerprint. When we are newly born, we have not yet developed our SAM, but it develops quickly:

  • Baby 1 day old:         6 000 bacteria/square centimeter
  • Baby 9 days old:     80 000  b./sq.cm
  • Baby 1 month old: 3 million b./sq.cm  which is a normal SAM.

The SAM needs to be protected and fed to stay healthy. Damaging agents are anything that dries out the skin or in any way has a to low or high pH. (applied on the skin):

  • Soap
  • Too much water
  • Chemicals
  • Alcohol

To stay healthy we need to feed our SAM:

  • Fats, essential fatty acids as in vegetable oils. The oils have to be cold-pressed and fresh, otherwise the essential fatty acids are all destroyed and the product filled with free radicals (BAD for the skin/body).
  • pH-friendly substances; hydrosols, essential oils, macerations, herbs, clays, waxes…

The more chemical stuff there is in your skin-care, the more you are destroying your SAM. When you have the “squeeky” clean feeling it means that your SAM is seriously destroyed and the skin dried-out, resulting in…

  • Pathological bacteria enters and the result can be non-hormonal acne and clogged pores.
  • The skin might overproduce sebum, giving the impression of oily skin.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles, premature aging of skin.

So lets look at the babies: When I read the labels of baby-products, they are full of chemicals, mineral oil, soaps, synthetic perfumes and conserving agents – all the stuff that seriously damages the SAM. And this on little babies that don’t even have fully developed SAM’s. No wonder that skin-disease, eczema and allergies are increasing in children! (and adults too).

In Ayur Veda babies are cleaned with an oil-infused dough-ball (whole-wheat flower mixed with water and almond oil)  every day for the first 6 days, from the 7th day the babies are massaged with this dough-ball until they are one month old and massage with the hands (and oil) commences.

If you are interested in some more info about SAM, check here.

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DERMATITIS

(picture from: www.medical-look.com/Skin_diseases/)

Many people suffer from dermatitis (eczema) on small or large areas of their bodies,very often on the hands and arms.  (You can read more about dermatitis here.) One type of dermatitis, contact dermatitis, is a reaction to a substance which the body part is in contact with for a prolonged time. This can be brought on by most any substance that can be an irritant to the skin, even essential oils – especially in high doses. Over the years, two of my aromatherapy pupils have developed contact dermatitis to essential oils after 2-4 years of exposure and this condition seems to be irreversible. I am not saying stop using the oils, just be aware of the fact that they are strong substances and need to be used with care.

The skin-cells have a life-span of about 28 days. They are “born” in the lowest level of the skin, epidermis, at which point they are round and plump, filled with fluid. On their journey up towards the surface they get flatter and drier, depositing the protein keratin which  cements the cells together and creates the upper, protective layer of skin, epidermis. When this “journey” is out of balance, it will show as skin-problems – dermatitis.

The most used substance to deal with dermatitis is cortisone which is a steroid hormone. By suppressing the immune system, cortisone reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. It is extremely effective but it only suppresses, it doesn’t heal. Once you stop using cortisone the problem re-occurs. Over time cortisone causes the skin to become very dry.

ALTERNATIVES: (always see a therapist if your problems are serious or get worse. Don’t use essential oils if you are not sure that they won’t irritate your skin.)

  • Castor oil (ricinus officinalis) A client of mine, a builder, told me that he always had problems with hardened skin and deep cracks on his hands. Then they started keeping the bolts for the scaffolding in jars of castor oil so they would not rust. Since then his hands were much better. I started using castor oil on cracked, dry skin with great results. Very heavy texture, needs to be blended.
  • Shea butter (butyrospermum parkii), Shea butter oil. Anti-inflammatory & protective
  • Coconut oil (cocos nucifera) more a butter, solid in room-temp, melts on skin.  Protective film on skin, softening
  • Macerations (herbal infused oils) such as Marigold (calendula officinalis), St Johns Wort (hypericum perforatum)
  • Jojoba-oil (simmondsia chinensis) resembles the skins sebum and helps protect the skin.
  • Bees wax (cera alba) Protection, creates a protective film.
  • Cocoa butter (theobroma cacao) Solid in room-temp. melts on skin. Softening & calming.
  • Vegetable oils with anti-inflammatory properties; Andiroba oil (carapa guianensis), Argan oil (argana spinosa), Borage oil (borago officinalis), Cashew nut oil (anacardium occidentale), Evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis), Kukui nut oil (aleurites moluccana), Olive oil (olea europaea).
  • Vegetable oils with calming properties that can be used as bases for blending: Apricot kernel oil (prunus armeniaca), Peach kernel oil (prunus persica), Sunflower oil (helianthus annuus), Walnut oil (juglans regia)
  • Essential oils; Lavender (lavandula augustifolia), Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla), Yarrow (achillea millefolium).

When working with beeswax, you need to melt it in a bain-marie together with butters or fats such as shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and vegetable oils. Add special vegetable oils last, together with essential oils (if you use them), when the liquid starts to cool. You can see a basic recipe for a balm here.

HYDROSOLS

A hydrosol (also called hydrolate) is the condensate water produced during steam-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes. In distillation of plant material for essential oil, water-steam is pressed through the plant material which releases all chemical molecules light enough to travel with the steam. From there it goes to a condenser where the steam is cooled down to form water and essential oil that separate upon cooling, with the EO usually floating on top of the water. The resulting water is an unique product as it contains all light-weight water-soluble substances + tiny amounts of essential oil (approximately 0.2%), but none of the heavier water-soluble substances. This is quite different from an infusion where all the water-soluble substances stay in the water, including some plant material and other heavier substances.

Hydrosol means “water solution” and comes from the Latin hydro (“water”) and sol (“solution”). Hydrolate means hydro (“water”) and late from the French lait, meaning milk.  Supposedly this name stems from the fact that often the hydrosols are slightly milky when they first come out of the stills.

Sometimes the word Floral Water is used which I find misleading; hydrosols come from all aromatic plants, not only flowers. Very often a floral water is water scented with essential oil or synthetic fragrance in which case it is something entirely different. Therefor I prefer to stick with the word hydrosol.

A Hydrosol has a life-span of 1-3 years, depending on the original plant and storage. Hydrosols need to be stored in cool and dark places – the fridge is perfect. They should be distilled from organically grown plants and bottled without preservatives. The label should clearly state the name of the plant from which it was distilled, including the latin name, when it was distilled and if it is organic. A Hydrosol is primarily acidic, with a pH of 3.6-6.0,  making it ideal for skin & personal care. It is mild enough to be used safely by most anybody –  aged, sick and weak individuals as well as babies and children. Use it as a tonic for your skin, taste-enhancer in cooking and baking, to wash wounds, sooth burns and inflammations…The possibilities are endless.

Tips:

  • Tonifying water for skin: Wipe your skin with hydrosol on cotton balls after cleansing: dry, mature skin: Hydrosol of lavender or rose. Oily  blemished skin: Hydrosol of orange water, witch hazel, Rosemary. Use Hydrosol in a spray for a guick freshen-up during the day (brilliant when traveling). Just spray a fine mist onto skin and let dry. You can even do this when wearing make-up.
  • Sun-burn: Spray the area with Hydrosol of Lavender (soothing) or Mint (cooling). Apply Aloe Vera Gel. Works also for itchy skin and hot flashes.
  • Disinfectant for air and hands while traveling; spray in the air, on your hands, on tissue.
  • Drinks; add 5 ml of hydrosol to 200 ml of water for a refreshing drink. A dash of Rose hydrosol in some champagne – very luxurious – or white wine as an aperitif.
  • Use as a scent to spray on linen, hair, clothes, curtains…
  • Add to bath. (Even for babies and small children; lavender, rose)
  • Use when baking cakes, cookies and pastries. (Do not mistake Hydrosol for the “floral waters” you can buy in asian markets. These “waters” are usually synthetically enhanced water.) Always check the label.

If you want to know more about hydrosols and their uses, this is an excellent read: “Hydrosols, the next aromatherapy” by Suzanne Catty.

Rub Your Pains Away with Pregnancy Massage

When I was pregnant I had great help of essential oils and massage for all the little things that come: prevention of stretch-marks (4 children later and not one mark!) Nausea, lower back pain, leg-cramps, swelling and of course the Grand Finale: Birth!!! I gave birth to my last child at home in the living-room one stormy night in September. It was pure bliss. I will write more about this later. For now here is an article about massage in pregnancy for you:

The article is from “JUST PARENTS” and the website is: http://www.justparents.co.uk/

Rub Your Pains Away with Pregnancy Massage

Your back aches, your feet are swollen and your neck is sore. And, to top it all off, you feel fat and lethargic. You’re a typical pregnant woman with raging hormones and an expanding waistline.

Pregnancy takes a major toll on the body—the skeletal structure is supporting an increasing amount of weight and organs shift to accommodate a growing baby. Your center of gravity has changed and your back, shoulders, and neck feel achy. All of this is normal, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer until your baby is born.

All you need is a little human touch.

Physical Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Massage offers a range of benefits for the average person, but it is especially beneficial for pregnant women. Natural-touch therapy is known to improve circulation and digestion, ease backache, decrease pain in the pelvis and hip, reduce swelling of the feet and legs, provide relief to weight-bearing joints, help maintain proper posture and reduce fatigue. And these are just the physical benefits of pregnancy massage.

According to a study conducted by the Touch Institute at the University of Miami (U.S.), 20 minutes of massage performed two times a week for five weeks effectively improved sleep patterns and reduced stress hormones in pregnant women. Additionally, women that received regular massages had lower rates of postnatal complications and premature birth.

And you thought massage just felt good!

Pregnancy Massage as Mood Booster

Human touch is inherently nurturing. For many women, pregnancy is an emotional rollercoaster. Massage can smooth the ride by giving you the attention and emotional boost that you deserve. Natural-touch therapy lessens anxiety and promotes relaxation—all of which trickles down to your baby. A happy, relaxed mum is a happy, relaxed baby.

Not All Massage Therapists are Equal

Finding the right massage therapist is key to maximum comfort and safety. Look for a massage therapist specifically certified in pregnancy massage.
Certified massage therapists have undergone specialized training and know what is—and isn’t—safe for pregnant women. Just because a clinic or spa offers pregnancy massage doesn’t mean the staff is capable of handling the special needs of a pregnant woman.

What to Expect

Before the massage, you should be placed on your side or seated in a semi-reclining position and propped with pillows. Avoid lying flat on your back after 22 weeks because it puts pressure on deep blood vessels that can reduce circulation to you and your baby. Some massage clinics have a special table with a hole cut out, allowing you to lie on your stomach. However, massage therapists disagree on whether this device strains the lower back.

Precautions

Because doctors have differing opinions on the safety of pregnancy massage during the first trimester, it’s best to wait until the second or third trimester before booking an appointment. As with all therapies, consult with your health practitioner beforehand. Even though pregnancy massage is generally safe, there are conditions where a massage must be avoided. Women with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, placental dysfunction, a high-risk
pregnancy, heavy discharge and morning sickness, as well as women who are at risk of early labor, should not have a massage.

Save the Pain for Childbirth

Everything you feel should be soothing, not painful. Chances are that you don’t want to stimulate labor while sitting in a massage chair. There is a pressure point between the ankle bone and heel that must be avoided. According to reflexology, these pressure points relate to the uterus and vagina, and labor may be stimulated if direct pressure is applied to the area. A certified massage therapist will know to avoid this area and to not perform deep-tissue massage.

Experience Massage in Your Pajamas

Recruit your partner as your own personal massage therapist and get relief in the comfort of your home. To begin, straddle a chair so you’re facing the back of it. Place pillows between you and the chair and lean forward. Have your partner rub some massage oil in his hands, cross his hands across your back and apply gentle pressure around—not on—your spine. He should press in a circular motion with the heels of his hands or pads of his fingers and move up and down your back. Say, “Ahhh…”

AROMATHERAPY & CHILDREN

I have quite a few children brought to me for different reasons, ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old. There are plenty of reasons why a child / adolescent would need to see a therapist not least because of stress. Growing up is not so easy and there are so many different signals and pressures in a child’s life to make it confusing. At different points in life we need different back-ups – I am one.

Today I want to tell you about one child in particular – with the permisson of his parents. I will call him Joe.

Joe’s parents brought him to me when he was 11 yrs old. He had been vaccinated with the rubella-vaccine while he had a cold and after that he had slowly slipped into a non-communicable state. He would not make eye-contact, hardly played, very quiet, disappearing into himself when spoken to. He was hunched over with his arms across his chest, facing the floor. His whole posture screamed of protection and tuning out the world. He was failing badly at school and his condition just seemed to get worse. His parents had tried everything; doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, homeopathy…to no avail, he would not connect with anybody. When they asked me for help I told them that we could try, but there are never any guarantees in my line of work. Still they wanted to give it a try.

The first time I met Joe he would not meet my eyes or talk to me. Trying out oils for him would not function in the normal way and, of course, I could not get close to him or touch him. So we set up a meeting where some of his friends from school would be around and I joined them in their games. By doing this I could get some connection to Joe and through this connection choose oils for him. The oils that came to me were: Angelica (angelica archangelica), Frankincense (boswellia carterii) and Orange (citrus sinensis). I blended these essential oils in vegetable oil for the parents to massage him every evening before bed during one month.

When I saw him one month late he was much changed. He carried himself straighter, met my eyes for short moments and would even play with me and the other kids. He was curious about the oils and watched me intently when I chose “his” oils. Still he would not take part in the choosing. The moment I talked to him or tried to connect, he would withdraw into himself. This time the oils chosen were: Patchouli (pogostemon patchouli / p. cablin), Cypress (cupressus sempervirens) and Mandarine (citrus reticulata) again they were blended in vegetable oil for the daily bed-time-massage.

One month later he was like an extremely shy boy; the school had commented on his positive changes. He even played the flute on stage with the other children at school. His parents were very happy. He would look at me and talk to me, but refused to choose oils, though he was definitely curious. Oils chosen were: Vetiver (vetiveria zizanoides), Mandarine (citrus reticulata) and Rose absolute (rosa damascena). Blended in veg. oil. Same procedure with the evening massages, but this time for a 3-month period as I felt he needed to “land” in himself with the help of one oil-blend.

The 4th time I saw Joe, 3 months later,  he was good. He was like any boy; back straight, met my eyes, talked and chose the oils himself. He was doing much better at school; both in his work and connection with other children. He had started to play football. He told me that he loved the oils, that “they made him feel safe so he didn’t need to live in his box”. (his words) The oils he chose were: Bergamott (citrus bergamia), Rose otto (rosa centifolia), Benzoin (styrax benzoin). Blended in veg. oil. Same procedure with the massage at bedtime. At this point I terminated the treatments of Joe, telling him that he could come back anytime he wanted but that he didn’t need me anymore. Joe was very proud.

A little more than a year later, Joe came back since he wanted some oils just for the times he felt low. He chose: Patchouli (pogostemon patchouli / p.cablin), Orange (citrus sinensis) and Elemi (canarium luzonicum /c. commune) blended in veg. oil.

Last year (almost 4 years later) I saw him at a fair, helping children climb a pile of crates. He looked so strong and happy, next to him stood his girlfriend.

Avoid Certain Additives in Baby Skincare Products

You should read the ingredients of your baby”s skincare products very carefully to avoid certain ingredients that are potentially harmful. This includes shampoos, lotions, bath soaps and creams. Some of these ingredients may even be contained in “natural” products.

Here”s a handy list of synthetic ingredients to avoid in baby”s products:

* Alcohol: This harsh additive can make body tissues more vulnerable to carcinogens. Special note: Check your mouthwash to make sure it doesn”t contain alcohol; if it does, throw it out and purchase a brand that doesn”t. This is one of the number one ways that toddlers are poisoned in the household.

* Alpha hydroxyl acid: This removes the skin”s protective barrier, which can result in long-term skin damage.

* Animal fat, or tallow: Lye and animal fats and lye are found in many bar soaps, which can be a breed bacteria.

* Collagen: This is an insoluble protein derived from animal skins. The protein is too large to actually penetrate the skin, therefore it forms a filmy layer that can suffocate the skin.

* Diethanolamine, or DEA: This is a crystalline alcohol that is often used as a solvent, emulsifier, emollient and detergent; it is a common ingredient in skin lotions. DEA can irritate the skin and mucous membranes. It also reacts in products that also contain nitrates to form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines. You should also avoid triethanolamine, TEA, and monoethanolamine, or MEA.

* Elastin of high molecular weight: Like collagen, this is derived from animal sources and can suffocate the skin.

* Glycerin: Unless the air humidity is above 65 percent, glycerin draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin and retains it on the surface; this has the effect of drying skin from the inside out. But glycerin is completely harmless in toothpaste given the mouth”s natural moisture.

* Kaolin: This is a fine white clay that is actually used to produce porcelain. It suffocates and weakens the skin.

* Lanolin: This substance is extracted from wool; it is often contained in lotions.

* Lye: Lye is a highly concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. It is often mixed with animal fats to produce bar soap, which can corrode and dry skin.

* Mineral oil: This is a petroleum derivative. It forms an oily film over skin to retain moisture, but traps toxins and wastes; this suffocates normal skin respiration.

* Petrolatum: Like mineral oil, this is also petroleum-based and likewise keeps oxygen out of the skin.

* Propylene glycol: This form of mineral oil is also found in automatic brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, and industrial antifreeze! Would you want to rub those on your baby? Propylene glycol is a strong skin irritant; it can also cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

* Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS: This is a harsh detergent used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and auto cleaning products! SLS can prevent your baby”s eyes from properly developing. It”s also a common skin irritant. It”s also rapidly absorbed by the eyes, brain, heart, and liver; it can also slow healing and cause cataracts in adults.

* Sodium laureth sulfate, or SLES: This is an alcohol form of SLS; it is slightly less irritating but more drying. SLS and SLES can react with other ingredients to cause potentially carcinogenic formations of nitrates and dioxins. A large amount of nitrates can enter the blood stream during one shampooing.

* Talc: This soft gray-green mineral can be harmful if inhaled; it is recognized as a potential carcinogen.

(Source; http://www.thefreelibrary.com)

AROMATHERAPY & CHILDREN

There is always hopeI have quite a few children that come to me for different reasons, ranging in age from babies to adolescents, usually they are between 5 and 16 years old. There are plenty of reasons why a child / adolescent would need to see a therapist not least because of stress. Growing up is not so easy and there are so many different signals and pressures in a child’s life to make it confusing. At different points in life we need different back-ups – I am one.

When a child comes to me I usually have some information from parents and/or teachers beforehand so I have some vague idea of what is going on. When the child comes I ask questions and talk to him/her to get an idea of what is going on. Usually information comes through words or posture that even surprises the parents. Children are very clear and easy to read, but you need to watch carefully.  Once I have a good connection with the child and she/he is feeling safe and calm, I choose a range of essential oils for testing.

girl smelling flower

I let the child smell one oil at a time, paying close attention to visible and invisible signals from the child as well as preference; like / don’t like. Usually we end up with 3-4 oils that I then blend in a base of vegetable oil. What is really interesting is that the oils usually confirm or strengthen my  diagnosis of the child, sometimes a child’s choice of an oil gives me invaluable and extra information about what she/he is working on. The blend is of course very different scent-wise from individual essential oils, but the child always lights up when he/she smells his/her blended scent.

Massage child

At this point the parents need to get into the action. Children connect very deeply with a person who makes them feel safe and good and “seen”. This is why I never massage smaller children; they must not connect with me, but with their parents/care-takers. So I teach the parents to massage; when, where and how. I always give the oil-blend to the child when they leave, it enhances the feeling of being capable and positive which kick-starts the healing-process: The child feels that he/she has the power to change things. Another session is always booked for follow-up after 3 weeks time.

I have been able to positively help every child that ever came to me. If there are “problems” such as dyslexia, ADD etc we work around them, diminishing the idea of a problem and building up the idea of a challenge. A positive outlook on things changes a lot, but a child needs help with this, sometimes even the whole family.

There are always solutions