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:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/09/06/2016-21337/safety-and-effectiveness-of-consumer-antiseptics-topical-antimicrobial-drug-products-forhandwash

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.

drjanpatterson.com

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

www.drjanpatterson.com

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!

 

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients:

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.

Lavender – the Swiss Army Knife

 

Since I was introduced to the world of essential oils six months ago, I’ve been impressed with the flexibility, usability, and effectiveness of lavender.  Previously, I thought it was good for relaxing, especially in the bathtub.  But since joining the EO world, I’ve learned it can do so much more than that.  The word lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare” (to wash).  It is great in a bath–use lavender-infused Epsom salts so that the oil distributes throughout the water. The well-known relaxing effects can lead to decreased blood pressure and sleep quality.  It can also be used on burns, scrapes, sunburn, acne, or cold sores.  A famous story about the use of lavender on burns is about Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist in the early 20th century.  He sustained burns on his hands during a laboratory explosion. The hands quickly developed what he described as gas gangrene, an almost universally fatal infection at the time.  He applied lavender oil, and healing began the next day.  Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapie and wrote the first book with that title in 1937.

Studies as well as anecdotal experience have shown that massaging lavender on the abdomen can relieve menstrual discomfort and cramping.  I use lavender in combination with lemon and peppermint diluted in coconut oil as carrier for relief from allergies and nasal congestion.  This “allergy bomb” can be applied to the lower part of the back of the neck and over sinuses (be careful with the peppermint–make sure it is diluted enough if you get close to the eyes, and do not get oils in your eyes!).  I also dab a cotton swab in the mixture and swirl in each nostril.  I have never breathed more clearly!  I have heard many times from colleagues, and continue to hear, this combination is effective for relief of allergy symptoms.  Just today, a friend told me that she previously relied on antihistamines almost daily, and has not used any since using essential oils.

Scientific studies about essential oils’ effects on clinical problems are relatively rare, but precious when we find them. This week, I came across a study done in an animal model showing that inhalation of lavender essential oil suppresses allergic airway inflammation.  The authors determined this by showing lower lung resistance and less peribronchial inflammatory cells in the group that inhaled lavender vs.  the control group.  While it is an animal model study, it gives credence to our anecdotes and such studies may eventually lead the way to more essential oil clinical trials in humans.

In any case, lavender does indeed seem to be the Swiss army knife of essential oils and if I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one essential oil, I think it would be lavender!

Juno MS et al. Effects of aroma massage on home blood pressure, ambulatory blood pressure, and sleep quality in middle-aged women with hypertension. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013;2013:403251

Ueno-lio T et al. Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma. Life Sciences 2014;108:109-115

Dehkordi AR et al. Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial.  Complementary Therapies in Med 2014;22:212-219

http://roberttisserand.com/2011/04/gattefosses-burn/