Happy Fall, Y’all

Hello All!

Fall is in full swing here in Texas, although warmer than usual.
Fall is my favorite season. I love the cooler weather, the color, and especially the scents and the flavors. Pumpkin, cinnamon, clove, apple, cranberry, and more. We had a Fall Make and Take recently here in San Antonio, and featured some of these aromas in the take-home goodies.

Along with all those good things, it is also the beginning of flu and cold season. We made a Thieves Honey for to keep the immune system strong and supported through during the season. You can add a drop or two to tea, coffee, water, or your favorite drink.

The Warm Vanilla Room Spray features orange, cinnamon, and clove. It is lovely for a nice autumn scent and a natural deodorizer.

Check out the recipes below and on www.yldist.com/janpatterson

Happy Fall and Happy Oiling, Y’all!
Jan Patterson MD MS


Warm Vanilla Room Spray
Add to 2 oz glass spray bottle:

2 Tbsp vanilla extract
6 drops orange essential oil
5 drops cinnamon essential oil
5 drops clove essential oil
Fill to top w distilled water and add spray top.


Thieves Honey
Add to 2 oz glass spray bottle:

5 drops Thieves essential oil
5 drops Lemon essential oil
1 to 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Add ~2 oz raw honey to fill to top.
Replace dropper.
Add 1-2 drops to tea, coffee, or water for immune system support


No More Antiseptics?

Last week the FDA banned certain antiseptic ingredients in over-the-counter soaps and body washes. Why? Because there was no evidence that they were more effective than plain soap and water, and because they could be harmful. As an infectious diseases physician, I spend a lot of time cleaning my hands. There is now good evidence that hand hygiene helps to prevent infections acquired in the hospital. Also, there are compounds specifically studied in the healthcare setting, like alcohol-based hand sanitizer and chlorhexidine antiseptic handwash, with known antimicrobial activity. The use of these in healthcare can lower rates of infection. These products should be used in the healthcare setting.

However, the antiseptics that are commonly found in over-the-counter soaps, like triclosan and triclocarban, have not been demonstrated to be effective. And, how could they be harmful? Triclosan products end up in our drains and then in our rivers and waterways. In addition to the environmental load, triclosan has also been detected in human urine, breast milk, amniotic fluid, and blood. There is concern it is an endocrine disrupter, interfering with estrogen and testosterone levels. Further, some bacteria have become resistant to triclosan, and can lead to cross-resistance in antibiotics that are important for human use. We already have enough problems with antibiotic resistance.

While banning these ineffective ingredients from over-the-counter soaps is a good step, these compounds are still found in many other types of household products, including toothpaste and deodorants. Read the label to know what you are getting.

For cleaning your hands outside the healthcare setting, rely on the physical removal of contaminants using plain soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good idea when sinks are not accessible and can be used after handwashing during cold and flu season for extra protection.

At my house, we use handwash made with Castile soap (for the detergent to physically remove contaminants), vegetable glycerin (for hand softening), and essential oils (for immune support and a lovely smell). See the recipe below.

Click here to see the full ruling by the FDA:


Homemade Hand Wash

One 8 oz foaming soap dispenser

10 drops of essential oil of your choice (Thieves®, Lavender, Lemon)

2 Tbsp. castile soap

1 tsp vegetable glycerin

Fill almost full with distilled water, just leaving enough room to replace the foam pump.


I’ve started a personal website. I needed a place to pull together my academic work, interest in essential oils, grief experience, and writing to communicate with others.  So, I’ve started


Here I’ll have a Calendar of Events that will list training and speaking events, and will post information about infectious diseases, Wellness Aromatherapy educational posts, grief resources, and a link to my blog.

After 30 years of doing academic writing, I’m longing to share information about all the tools that are helping me get through this life, as well as current information about emerging infections.

Check it out and let me know what you think!



It was a slow clinic day. The first patient was “no show” and the next two patients were followups.  There was a lull before the next patient. I decided to take a break and get a soda.  I passed up the break room vending machine. The clinic recently decided to do away with Dr. Peppers and transition to Pepsi. Ugh. So I headed to the pharmacy downstairs for my Diet Dr. Pepper.  I grabbed one from the cooler and stood in a short line.  The woman in front of me in line looked back, glancing at my white coat and name tag, and gave me a quick smile. I smiled back. When it was her turn to pay, she said she wanted to pay for my soda!  I was startled and said no, but she insisted. The 20 oz. bottle was $1.79 and more change than she had, so I suggested we split it.

She told me she was so grateful for doctors.  She said she had her first experience with doctors when she had a brain tumor and told me “I appreciate everything you all do.”  We got on the elevator together. It thanked her again and she told me to have a blessed day.

Wow.  Gratitude. How great this small gesture made me feel.  A total stranger told me she appreciated me for my profession even though she didn’t know me.  It made my day.  I think all of us need a pat on the back every once in a while and it seems those are rare.  What a blessing this small gesture was for me.  I’m going to look for opportunities to pay this forward and make someone’s day. Just like she made mine.

My parents were the best examples to me of Gratitude.  They were faithful Christians and loved the Lord.  Wayne and Zona Evans were pictures of dedicated followers of Christ and church servants. Their first child was developmentally delayed due to birth complications. It was something they had to find out over time, as my brother David did not develop normally. Their second child, my sister Zee Ann, was a beautiful strawberry blonde child with a cheerful disposition. Everyone’s sweetheart.  She died in a car accident when she was 3 years old.  Only when I lost my son could I begin to appreciate the grief they felt and how their hearts were broken.

And yet, they remained grateful.  Grateful and faithful to God. Grateful to their friends, their church, their work.  I could only appreciate how amazing their Gratitude was as I grew older and could appreciate their circumstances.

I’m so grateful for my loving, Christian, grateful parents. I pray that I can be close to as grateful as they were.

Gratitude. It makes a difference for those who are shown it, and for those who have it.

Sifting through Memories

My sister and I recently had the responsibility of preparing our deceased parents’ house for sale. My dad had moved to long term care after my mother died, but all of their things were still in the house after having lived there for 25+ years. And, everything from their previous households had moved there with them, so there was quite a bit of “stuff.” Boxes in the attic contained dolls from my childhood and my siblings’ childhood, as well as our baby clothes. We even came across an outfit that my dad (born in 1919) had worn as a toddler in some of his early photos.

I never knew my sister Zee Ann because she died in a car accident at 3 years old, before I was born. When going through the boxes from the attic, we found a child’s red train case with the name “Zee” painted on it. Inside were my deceased sister’s baby things—a small pink rattle, baby bracelet from the hospital, a lock of hair, tiny hair curlers. My heart ached, knowing the heartbreak my mother would have felt as she put these things in the case.   All of the baby things associated with hope and promise for the future, and yet she had to close them away in a case and put them in the attic.

Zee Ann's case
Zee Ann’s case

We smiled when we reviewed her Abilene High School annual and found her full page photo labeled “Most Friendly” from the Class of 1936. There were so many kind notes from her friends. “Swell” must have been a word used often back then–maybe kind of like “awesome” is used now.

I had such mixed feelings about letting their things go. It was clearly not practical or helpful to keep too many “things.” Just the fact that we were having to sort through so many items was reason to let go. And yet so many items were tangible reminders of my childhood. I had to tell myself that the memory itself is what matters. I selected a few items to keep, lots of photos to scan, and pulled away from the house.


My heart ached for the tribulations my parents had to suffer—my brother’s developmental disability, my sister’s death. I wished life had been easier for them. I thought about this on the drive back home from Fort Worth to San Antonio. Unfortunately, the traffic was horrific that 4th of July weekend. I keep my lavender essential oil and Joy essential oil blend handy when I’m driving. I used some in my car diffuser, on my neck and forehead, and just inhaled some from the bottle. After 20 minutes I was less sad, more calm, and breathing easier.

I remembered that am grateful for an upbringing full of love and care from my parents. And we had happy times as a family. I hope they felt love from my sister Lyn and me at even a fraction of the love they gave us.

Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Lyn and Jan, 2016
Lyn and Jan, 2016


Summer Strategies

It is summer here in Texas which means HOT. Being an outdoor person, I’m using tools in the toolkit to stay cool while still enjoying the outdoors. Here are some strategies:

  • Get in the water. We are fortunate to have a pool in the back yard, so I get in the pool after work and have something cool to drink. It is a good way to exercise in this heat, and it makes me feel cool the rest of the evening. I can do water aerobics in my backyard pool. For some serious exercise, I do laps in our neighborhood pool. A great way to cool down and work in a new exercise at the same time.
  • How much water should you drink in a day? The 8 X 8 rule is easy to remember and a good place to start—Drink eight 8 ounce glass a water each day. But with heat and exercise, your body needs more. A good way to determine if you are well-hydrated is to pay attention to the color of your urine when you urinate. If it is dark yellow, your urine is very concentrated and you need more hydration. Work on keeping your urine clear to very light yellow. Also, remember that caffeine and alcohol dehydrate your body, so drink less of these when trying to stay hydrated.
  • Stay in the air conditioning during the hottest times of the day. I love being outside and during the summer I still go outdoors, but in the early morning and late evening. We took a recent hike in Palo Duro Canyon in July – but we started the hike when it was 68 deg F at 7:00am, and finished our hike a little after 9:00am when it was already 90+ deg F.
  • Use essential oils support – Since I’m still outdoors some in the summer, I make use of essential oil blends to stay cool and keep the bugs away.  Below is my recipe for citronella-based outdoor spray to stay annoyance-free. I add some peppermint for the cooling effect on the skin. See my blog post (Mosquito Strategy) for more tips on keeping the mosquitos away. Cooling spray is great for skin after being in the sun, or just to help cool your body down. It contains lavender, which soothes skin and peppermint, a natural cooling agent. I add aloe vera, witch hazel and water.
  • Wear a hat.  It’s been said “He who wears a hat lives a long life.” I’m not sure who said it, but this makes sense. A hat protects from the elements in the cold and the heat. In summers, a wide-brimmed hat protects your face and neck from the sun. I wore one when I hiked at Palo Duro Canyon recently.

    Palo Duro Canyon
    Palo Duro Canyon and my Stetson from Herb’s Hat Shop – July 2016

See recipes below:

Natural Outdoor Spray Recipe


Pinch of salt

10 drops of Purification (Young Living blend)

8 drops of Thieves

8 drops of Peppermint

8 drops of Lemongrass or Citronella

8 drops of Eucalyptus (Lemon Eucalyptus if you have it)

1 oz natural witch hazel (preservative)

Add distilled water to almost the top of the bottle.

4 oz glass spray bottle (http://www.abundanthealth4u.com
 or Amazon)

Directions.  Add salt to bottle, and then add essential oils and witch hazel. Add water last, filling to almost the top. 
Shake well and spray as needed on body or even around home to avoid annoyances.

After Sun and Cooling Spray


Pinch salt

2 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gel

1 tsp Everclear or vodka (or witch hazel) for preservative

10 drops Lavender Oil

10 drops Peppermint Oil

4 oz glass spray bottle (Abundant Health or Amazon)

Instructions:  Add aloe vera gel to spray bottle. Then add essential oils and distilled water. Shake well to mix and spray on skin as needed.  Avoid eyes.

Coping with Holiday Blues

In my last post, I talked about the unspeakable grief of losing a child, and the sadness and alienation that can occur at Christmas in particular. I am certainly more aware of the challenges of the bereaved in getting through the holiday season. In this post, I share things that help me cope.

  • Remembering him. We talk about what Will loved about Christmas. We hang his stocking. We give gifts of scholarship money in his name. I write on his Facebook page. We honor him by remembering him. Most people who lose a child do not want to forget them. In fact, one of my biggest fears is that Will will be forgotten. So we remember him. And we talk about him with those friends and family members comfortable in doing so. He is still with us.
  • Change the routine. Our first Christmas without Will, we went to our ranch home in the country instead of waking up and going through what had been the routine in our home for many years. It would have been too painful to do that, and too much a reminder that we were missing someone. The second and third years, we went to Boston to spend Christmas with our son where he was in law school. Initially, I shuttered at the thought of waking up Christmas morning in a hotel. But, at the Fairmont Copley, it was actually quite nice and we have some special and fun memories of making Christmas dinner in my son’s apartment.
  • Avoid what you need to in order to survive and thrive. For instance, in the first three years without Will at Christmas, I didn’t open Christmas cards. The smiling family photo with all the family members that are supposed to be there, was just too painful. They were just a reminder of what we had lost. Christmas parties can be difficult to attend. Decline these if you want. If there is a work-related party that you feel you must attend, go early and leave early. Making an appearance may be all you can do. If there is another Christmas ritual that is just too painful, avoid it. Most people will understand. If they don’t, you do not owe them an explanation. Know that you are doing what helps you at this time.
  • Seek the sun. Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. Many people are affected by the shorter days and longer nights this time of year, and this is even more pronounced in the northern part of the country. I remember living in Connecticut and going to work in the dark, then coming home in the dark. If you are affected, talk to your physician. There are non-pharmaceutical treatments for this, such as light therapy. And, find some time to get outside in the middle of the day on sunny days.
  • Experience Oils of Joy. The best thing I’ve discovered this past year is the power of essential oils. These God-given natural wonders can do marvelous things for us without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.   Our sense of smell goes through the olfactory nerve directly to the limbic system in our brain, the seat of our emotions and motivation. I discovered that oil blends of bergamot, ylang ylang, geranium, jasmine, citrus, and rose (JoyTM ) and a blend of black spruce, blue tansy, and frankincense (ValorTM) used every day were uplifting for me. These made a tremendous difference in how I felt and functioned. I had an epiphany when reading David Stewarts book on “Healing Oils of the Bible” as reading about Isaiah 61:1,3 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to give them Beauty for Ashes, the Oil of Joy for Mourning.” There was ancient wisdom that these natural products are a gift to give us into joy and gladness. (Hebrews 1:9).

At this time of year especially, I never know when a wave of grief will hit me. At work this week, I was headed to make hospital rounds with a team of people and a memory of Will hit me and I cried. I took out the Valor TM I carry in my purse, put a few drops in my palm, and inhaled several times. I was calmed and able to finish what I had to do.   If you have not discovered these oils yet, seek out a friend who has been talking about them, or check out my website https://yldist.com/janpatterson to learn more.

  • Stay physically active. In Texas, this is actually a good time to be outdoors and walk, jog, or cycle. Wherever you live, exercise and get your heart rate up for 30 minutes or more. This helps generate endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” compounds. Aerobic activity can help get your mind away from the grief and hurt. In the early days after our son’s death, jogging or other aerobic exercise was the only thing that could give my mind and heart a break from the crushing grief.

Give yourself permission to do what you need to do, and what you need not to do during this time.  Remember that there are others who find this time difficult and  reach out to them if you can.

Holiday Blues


I have loved Joni Mitchell’s hauntingly beautiful “River” since I first heard it in the ‘70’s. Even in my youth, I understood that Christmas was an unhappy time for many people, although I was fortunate to grow up in a loving family with happy and sacred memories of Christmas. I fell in love with a romantic and fun-loving man and one night we lay underneath the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree as he told me “I think Christmas is my favorite time of year.” As an adult and mother of young children, I experienced the happiest Christmases ever—filled with the joy and wonder that we can only see through children’s eyes. Our family worked on putting together an advent calendar for our church every year and sought daily devotionals written by our church members. Our son, Will, drew a picture for it entitled “Yay for Christmas!” when he was a young child. It showed family members around a Christmas tree and the sharing of smiles and gifts. We wrote a devotional that reflected Christmas as seen through his eyes. The highlights were seeing cousins and grandparents, decorating the tree, lights and decorations, sharing gifts, Christmas music, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Our children were fortunate to be led in Christmas music and spontaneous Christmas pageants by the exceptionally talented and loving “Ms. Phyllis” who treated every child as her own and shared God’s love with each of them.

We lost our beloved son Will to suicide in 2012 when he was 18 years old. This will be our fourth Christmas without his presence here on earth. Because we have such wonderful memories of Christmas with him, Christmas without him is bittersweet. We have joined other bereaved parents in the struggle to make it through the holiday season. I guess the first year was the toughest; some say the second year is worse because the permanence sinks in. It is hard to say. Each year we learn a little more. We are able to smile a little more when we remember him, instead of cry.

This year I am thinking about what helps me through the season. We are so fortunate to have our son Evan and his fiancée Ivy. We celebrate their lives and the joy they have and give to us. And we have other extended family. There are many Pattersons—my husband’s side of the family. And our new family member, Ivy, has a great family we are getting to know. A few of our extended family members will talk to us about Will during the holidays, however, most do not mention him. This is part of the heartache.

When one experiences the unspeakable grief of losing a child, the heart enlarges and is more capable of compassion and empathy with others. I am certainly more aware of the challenges of the bereaved in getting through the holiday season. In my next post, I will share some things that help me cope.

Where’s the Turkey?


Many of us are old enough to remember the little old lady opening the bun and asking “Where’s the beef?” Well, this Thanksgiving, some of us may be asking “Where’s the turkey?” Avian influenza (bird flu) is responsible for this turkey shortage. Detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 influenza A viruses were detected in 21 US states last spring. These viruses occur naturally in wild aquatic birds and typically don’t make them sick. However, the viruses can sicken and kill domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks and turkeys. And, it is a highly contagious disease among flocks. Human infections can also occur and are usually due to transmission to humans from domesticated poultry. When these viral infections do occur in humans, they typically have a high fatality rate. Spread from human to human is rare at this time.

So, the US has a surveillance program for avian influenza A viruses in wild and domesticated birds. Most of the viruses detected are low pathogenic viruses. However, this spring, outbreaks of HPAI occurred in the Midwest and Western US. When detected in domestic poultry, the flock is culled to prevent further spread to other flocks and potential spread to humans. This spring, millions of poultry were culled. In fact, more than 48 million poultry were culled from infected flocks between December 2014 and June 2015. The outbreak decreased the US turkey supply by <10% of its total volume.

So, we may have a smaller turkey than usual at the table this year, but most of us are fortunate to have a cornucopia of dressing, side dishes, pumpkin pie and all the rest. And, we can be thankful for the plenty that we do have. And for being with family–the best part of  Thanksgiving.






Get Smart about Antibiotics

Get Smart about Antibiotics

rhinoviruses_456pxIt’s getting to be that season…..respiratory viruses are starting to increase in our community. Influenza viruses typically peak during December through February, but there are cases out there already. It’s a great time to get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already. A recent study showed that the flu vaccine decreases your risk of getting hospitalized with influenza pneumonia. The cases of influenza reported so far this year are a good match with this year’s influenza vaccination, and protection is good.

So, flu vaccine can help keep you from getting influenza. But what about the other respiratory viruses? Rhinovirus, the usual cause of the common cold, is more common than influenza virus right now. And there are several other respiratory viruses to worry about. How do you prevent those?

There are not vaccines, but you can wash hands and use hand sanitizer often. Keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes. And, if possible, avoid sick people. (I know, you with young children just chuckled.) So, if you do get sick, what then?   Your first inclination may be to go to the doctor for antibiotics. After all, your head is stuffy, your nose is running, you have some fever, and now you are starting to cough. If you have body aches, fever and chills and a high fever (102 or higher), you could have influenza and could benefit from early treatment with an antiviral such as oseltamavir (Tamiflu®). Call or see your doctor to determine this.

If your symptoms are mild, however, you most likely have a non-influenza respiratory virus and antibiotics will not help you. In fact, they can harm you. Besides the usual side effects of gastrointestinal upset, antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria in your gut and change your microbiome. Your gut microbiome is the population of bacteria in your intestinal tract. Research is finding that the microbiome plays a very important role in our health. It helps to maintain our health and immune system. In fact, studies have found that changes in the microbiome can increase your risk for obesity!

There are things you can do to support you respiratory system and health while you have a cold. Decongestants can decrease nasal secretions, but they can increase blood pressure and cause a dry mouth.   Use a cold steam ultrasonic diffuser and add some essential oils or oil blends containing eucalyptus oil to soothe your nose and throat. Drink lots of fluids and stay well-hydrated. Hot tea including honey, lemon, and/or clove and cinnamon will help you stay hydrated and provide relief to your throat. Get plenty of rest.

This is “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage on this topic and learn when to use antibiotics.






Blaser, Martin. Missing Microbes. 2014. Henry Holt & Co.