Saturday, December 31, 2011

Essential oils: Patchouli

I admit, I'm not a fan of patchouli essential oil. I find the smell reminds me of concerts I attended as a teenager, some of which I had to leave early because the overpowering smell made me physically ill. I have banished from my workshop because even having the bottle in my fragrance cabinet made me feel just awful. I will try to be as unbiased as possible as I write this post. 

Patchouli essential oil is steam distilled from the Pogostemon cablin plant, generally found in the tropical parts of Asia. It is rectified to remove some of the darker colours in the oil. (Rectification means there's a re-distillation of the crude oils.) CO2 extraction was find to produce a higher yield of patchouli oil from the raw materials - generally the leaves, and it takes 100 kg to create 3.5 kg of oil, which explains why it's so expensive - and a "better quality" essential oil (Journal of Supercritical Fluids, Feb 2009, Vol 48, issue 1, p 15-20).

Click here for more processing technique information!

The main compound in patchouli essential oil is patchouli alcohol or patchoulol, which makes up about 32% of the oil. The other components include α-guaiene at 15.6%, Ϭ-guaiene at 16.7%, α-patchoulene at 5.5%, and seychellene at 5.3%. The main odour of patchouli comes from norpatchoulenol, which makes up 0.6% of the oil. (Journal of Essential Oil Research, issue 16, p 17 to 19, Jan/Feb 2004.)

Patchouli is generally used for its fragrance, although there are some claims made about this essential oil. It may be beneficial for skin, preventing chapping or wrinkling. It may help the digestive system. It may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, antiseptic, tissue regenerating, and itch relieving properties. (Tony Dweck, click here and scroll down. No page number given.) Please note that I have not been able to find any studies on any of these claims, so I can't provide you with any more information than this. I was able to find that patchouli essential oil is considered a potential contact allergen when used at more than 1%, so I'd suggest you keep your usage of this oil under 1% (p. 91, Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology).

As with most of our essential oils, it is suggested to use patchouli in the cool down phase of our products (below 45˚C/113˚F) and it sounds like using it at 1% or lower is a good idea.

If you can provide me with some studies on patchouli essential oil or any of the components, let me know! I've seen many claims made, but can't find a single study on patchouli, patchouli alcohol, and patchoulol in my texts, on Ebsco host, Google scholar, or Google books! 

Join me on Monday for more fun with essential oils!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Essential oils: Peppermint essential oil - formulating a shampoo for dry hair

It seems like people like to have a little tingle in their hair care products, so let's take a look at how we could formulate a shampoo for dry hair with a little peppermint in it.

First, let's take a look at our surfactants! When I'm formulating for dry hair, there are three surfactants I really like - SMC or SMO taurate, polyglucose/lactylate blend, and SCI.

Using SCI (prill form), SCI (with added stearic acid), or ACI (liquid) will give me a creamy, conditioned after feel that I don't get with other surfactants, it will help thicken my product, and it might pearlize my product. A pearlized product always feels a bit more moisturizing - mainly because it is - so it's a good idea to use something like this in a dry hair shampoo. I'm going to use this at about 10% of my shampoo.

I like SMO taurate because it also thickens our product and has a nice pH level, so I don't have to do a lot of adjusting with citric acid.

I like the polyglucose/lactylate blend because it offers a lot of moisturizing goodness - way too much for us oily haired girls - and it has a good pH for hair care products (5.0 to 7.5). It thickens with Crothix easily.

So which ones shall I use? (I also want to include some cocamidopropyl betaine to increase the mildness of the product.) I think I'll go with SCI noodles and SMO taurate. You can use the polyglucose/lactylate blend here, if you wish. I just have a lot of SCI and SMO taurate in the house! I think I'll use 10% SCI, 10% SMO taurate, and 10% cocamidopropyl betaine, which means I have 30% surfactants. This is a nice amount for dry hair.

I know I want some good things for hair in here - 2% hydrolyzed protein (I find silk protein works well with dry hair), 2% panthenol, 2 to 5% humectant (glycerin is a good choice, although you could go with something like Honeyquat that'll work double duty as a conditioner!), 0.5% to 2% cationic polymer (I'm having a love affair with polyquat 44, so I've added that, but I also like 2% polyquat 7) - and an emollient. I'm considering up to 5% PEG-7 olivate (water soluble oil), up to 3% Cromollient SCE, or 1.5% glycol distearate. I think I'll go with 5% PEG-7 olivate in this product, but any of these would be a good choice.

As a note, glycol distearate is a very inexpensive thickener and pearlizer - I encourage you to read more about it if this interests you. It would be a fantastic choice here, but it is something you have to heat up in the surfactant/water phase of the product, so you might need more thickener depending upon the type of essential oil you choose. Peppermint tends to thin products out, so you'll need more thickener like Crothix at the end. I don't like to go over 2% glycol distearate as it can form a white film at the bottom of the product over time, but this product will not thicken with 1.5% glycol distearate alone! 

For the rest of the water phase, you could use a hydrosol (lavender might be nice) or aloe vera at 10%. (Aloe vera has the added bonus of helping to thicken the product!) You can just use water.

For my cool down phase, I know I want to use 1% peppermint essential oil, 0.5% to 1.5% preservative (I'll use liquid Germall Plus at 0.5%), and the 2% panthenol.

10% aloe vera
10% SCI prills or noodles (or 10% ACI liquid)
10% SMO or SMC taurate
10% cocamidopropyl betaine
3% glycerin
2% hydrolyzed protein (I suggest silk for dry hair)
0.5% polyquat 44
5% PEG-7 olivate
43% water

2% panthenol
1% peppermint essential oil
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Optional: Up to 3% Crothix after the product has cooled

Combine the SCI prills or noodles with the cocamidopropyl betaine and heat well until the SCI has melted. In a separate container, add the rest of the water phase and heat at the same time. When the SCI noodles or prills have melted, combine the two phases and heat for 20 minutes at 70˚C (heat and hold). (If you've already had all the ingredients heated and held before combining them, you don't need to re-do the heat and hold.) Let all of it cool down to 45˚C then add the cool down phase ingredients and mix well. Let this all come to room temperature before adding the Crothix. Add at 1% at a time and mix it very well to see if you like the viscosity. Add up to 3% Crothix to make this product thicker. Bottle and rejoice.

If you want to add peppermint to any hair care product, by all means go ahead! Add 1% in the cool down phase like you would any other essential or fragrance oil. You can add it to any of the shampoos you see in the hair care section of the blog, and it would be lovely in a shampoo bar - for dry hair or normal to oily hair. And you can add it to conditioners if you want - again, up to 1% in the cool down phase.

As an aside, consider adding 1% tea tree oil to a product like this to help with dandruff. You can go as high as 5%, but I find 2% smells very medicinal. It's a nice combination with 1% peppermint.

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at patchouli essential oil!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Links to lists!

If you take a look to your right, you'll see the links to lists section of the blog. I've created a permanent link to all the essential oil posts and I'll be updating the sections as I write the posts. Blogger's been kind enough to give us 20 pages that we can keep in this way, so I'll be organizing other sections this way in the near future.

Essential oils: Formulating with peppermint essential oil - foot care products

A big reminder before we get started formulating with peppermint essential oil - don't put peppermint essential oil in any product in which you might soak (bubble bath, bath bombs, bath salts) or that might get close to tender mucous membranes. That lovely tingle we like on our feet doesn't do well for other parts of our body! 

Peppermint and foot products seem to go together well. Perhaps it's because peppermint can increase circulation or because it offers a cooling sensation - either way, it's a great addition to any foot related product.

126 grams baking soda
61 grams citric acid
13 grams oil of your choice
2 to 3 grams peppermint essential oil
oil based colour, if desired

Mix together your baking soda and citric acid. Then add the oil, a few drops of colour, and your fragrance oil. Mix together well. Press the mixture into small molds - ice cube sized at most - and let set for at least 1 hour (overnight is best). Package in cellophane bags. Use 1 cube per foot bath.

Feel free to double or triple this recipe. I know I normally write my recipes in percentages, but I haven't done it for this recipe and I find that bath bombs are so picky at times, I'll just leave this as is!

As an aside, if you're a mom toilet training a toddler, consider making a batch of small bath bombs your child can use as a reward. When they've used the toilet successfully, they can throw one in and enjoy the fizz and fragrance (flush first, then use bath bomb). Allowing the child to choose which colour or fragrance they would like to use this time is a good idea. You don't have to forego the prize chart in the bathroom, but this will offer the child an immediate reward and that's easier to see than a prize at the end of the week! (I did mention my day job is family support worker, right?) 

1/4 cup Epsom salts
2 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp citric acid
2 ml peppermint essential oil
Colour, if desired.

Put the Epsom salts into a container, then add the baking soda and citric acid. Add colour and essential oil and mix until well blended. Use 1 to 2 tbsp per foot bath. Do not use these in a body bath - the mint is tingly!

50% cocoa butter
20% mango, shea or other butter
3% stearic acid
4% Incroquat BTMS
2% wax of choice - beeswax, soy wax, etc. For candellia wax, please use 1% as it is very hard.
3% sodium lactate
12% oils - heavier oils are good here - avocado, castor, olive oil
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone
1% fragrance oil (I recommend peppermint)
1% Vitamin E (if you are using oils with less than 6 months' shelf life)
0.5% to 1% preservative of choice

Add up to 100% pumice (or 80% pumice, 20% baking soda)

Feel free to leave out the silicones and substitute 4% oils in their place. The sodium lactate is here as a bar hardener, not a humectant, and you can leave it out if you wish. Feel free to substitute the stearic acid for cetyl alcohol, cetyl esters, behenyl alcohol, or cetearyl alcohol for a different skin feel. 

Melt everything except the silicones, fragrance oil, and Vitamin E in a heat proof container in a double boiler until all the ingredients are well melted. Remove from the heat and add the silicones, fragrance oil, and Vitamin E. Add your exfoliant and mix well. Then pour into a mold and put in the fridge or freezer until set. Let sit for 24 hours before using.

I suggest you put a very clear label about usage for this product because I've had people try to stand up in the bath after using them and I've had others use it as a facial exfoliant (I'm not kidding!!!)
Write something like this...Rub this bar into sore, tender, or rough patches and feel the tingle. Now rinse. No need for lotion; it makes its own! Please do not stand until after rinsing -- it can be slippery! 

For more labelling ideas, click here

Join me tomorrow as we have some fun formulating non-foot care products with peppermint essential oil! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Essential oils: Peppermint - the science relating to other things

A few more things about peppermint and then we'll do a little formulating with it!

Smelling peppermint oil might be good for enhancing your memory and increasing alertness (Moss et al, 2003).

Peppermint oil might be good at repelling mice and it might be good at repelling ear mites (put a little on a Q-tip and swab your ear). "Ticks can be removed by applying 1 drop of cinnamon or peppermint oil on Q-tip by swabbing on it." (Handbook of Essential Oils, p. 884).

Gobel et all (1995) found that a blend of 10% peppermint essential oil and 5% eucalytpus oil rubbed on the temples and forehead might improve cognitive performance and work as a mental and muscle relaxant, but it this blend didn't work well for pain. 10% peppermint essential oil showed  an analgesic effect and reduce the sensitivity to headaches. In another study by the same researchers, 10% peppermint essential oil was shown to have increase capillary flow in patients with headaches by up to 225%, but had no effect on migraine patients. In contrast, eucalyptus  essential oil decreased the blood flow by 16%. (In an earlier study - 1994 - the researchers found that a combination of peppermint, eucalyptus, and alcohol worked as a mental and muscle relaxant but not a pain reliever.)

Join me tomorrow as we do a little formulating with peppermint essential oil to take advantage of all these great qualities! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Essential oils: Peppermint - the science relating to menthol

Peppermint essential oil is composed of 38% to 48% menthol (a monoterpene alcohol), 20% to 30% menthone, and about 6% 1,8-cineole (aka eucalyptol, which we discussed in the post on eucalyptus!) Menthol is the most interesting part of peppermint as it's the compound that gives us that cooling sensation we seek when we add it to our products.

As I mentioned the other day, menthol and 1,8-cineole react with a temperature transient receptor (TRPM8) that we find on our skin and in the nasal vestibule (the thing we call our nose in this elaborate picture to the left). When we use menthol as a decongestant, it's a sensory illusion. There's no change in the amount of air we can inhale or exhale, it just feels like there's less resistance. 1,8-cineole and camphor offer these same sensations.

In an early study (Packman & London, 1980), they found inhaling menthol was effective at reducing cough frequency in people who had citric acid induced cough (a reminder as to why we should wear masks in our workshops!). It wasn't as effective as 1,8-cineole (or eucalyptol), but it was more effective than the placebo. In another study (Keria et al, 2008), menthol was found to be effective at reducing cough frequency, but it wasn't as effective as the placebo. But here's the problem - the placebo was eucalyptus oil, which has been shown time and time again to reduce cough frequency. So how can we trust this study when the authors thought that something like eucalyptus oil was an effective control? Unfortunately, the other study I could find on this topic - click here - had volunteers inhale 75% menthol in eucalyptus oil! So how do we know if it's the 1,8-cineole or the menthol that worked well?

This really does show you that you need to read more about the study than just the results! What is wrong with with these researchers? Are you studying menthol or eucalyptol???

Why is it (possibly) effective for coughs? It could be because of menthol's interaction with airway cold receptors - apparently our body likes colder air - or with the neuronal cough reflex.

With the digestive stuff, our products wouldn't be really all that effective unless you were eating them and you were using peppermint oil in huge doses. But we can make someone with a cold feel a little better by making something containing peppermint oil or menthol they can huff...I mean, sniff. For instance, making a blend of essential oils someone could breathe in straight from the bottle or put into the reservoir of a humidifier might be a nice thing indeed. I like to make a blend of 1 part eucalyptus, 1 part peppermint, and 1 part camphor and put a few drops into the holder on my humidifier. And I keep a small bottle of this beside my bed so I can smell it regularly. I also put some foot lotion with the Vicks' blend (3 parts menthol, 1 part eucalyptus, and 1 part camphor or 3 parts peppermint, 1 part eucalytpus, and 1 part camphor) on my chest so I can inhale its awesomeness when I need to breath easier (although we know it's an illusion, it still feels good!)

Click here for some ideas for products in which you can use peppermint!

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at some of the other awesome benefits of peppermint oil!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

The hardest thing about going to bed on Christmas Day is deciding which book out of the stack I should read that night! I chose Dr Joe's Science, Sense & Nonsense, but I was kind of leaning towards Snuff, Terry Prachett's new novel!

Today is all about the sleeping, resting, napping, and dozing. I've got a sugar hangover and I'm still fighting this cold, so it's all about the not doing much today!

I don't shop on Boxing Day - I don't like being that close to anyone who isn't my husband, we don't get really killer deals like we used to, and I hate the idea of making someone work on Boxing Day. I had to work Boxing Day one year - I know, only one year! I'm lucky! - and it ruined my Christmas night as I had to make sure I treated it like a work night. I was at the mall at 8 am to man my ticket and lottery booth. No one came by until well after 11! I think our local mall opens at a normal time, but I saw Coquitlam Centre opened at 8 on Boxing Day. Seriously? (In the Province newspaper today, they note there were a few shops on Robson Street that were open yesterday! We can't have one day a year on which we don't shop?) I find it hard not to spend money on Buy Nothing Day (aka Black Friday) because I generally work that day and work means buying coffee for clients, putting gas in the car, and so on, but I find it easy to be thrifty today!

This paragraph isn't intended to judge people who go shopping on Boxing Day. For a lot of people, this is the one time a year they can treat themselves to something nice with Christmas money! If you've braved the crowds today, kudos to you! You're a braver person than I! 

My husband pointed out how much my family and friends have accepted my obsession with science by looking at the gifts they've given to me! (Check out my awesome new The Elements calendar to go with the book I received last year!) Did you get any cool, science-y presents this year?

Well, I have a long day of resting and vegging ahead of me, so I best end this with a cherry Happy Boxing Day before I make a bacon sandwich! Happy Boxing Day!

Your normal programming will resume tomorrow with more on peppermint essential oil!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas! I hope you're reading this blog post with a steaming cup of hot chocolate or tea in one hand and a piece of Toblerone in the other! I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas Day filled with laughter, love, and far too much chocolate.

As for me, I'm probably standing over the stove making our traditional breakfast of Pillsbury turnovers, bacon, and eggs after opening presents! Then it's an afternoon of fun and games with my husband, my mom, and my friends before a lovely dinner of prime rib with roasty potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, Brussel sprouts (ick!), other vegetables, with Christmas pudding with custard for dessert!

And a Christmas wish from Blondie...We wish you a merry Christmas! We wish you a merry Christmas! We wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy new year! Give me bacon!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Essential oils: Peppermint - the science relating to digestion

Peppermint essential oil is one of the more common essential oils. It's plentiful and inexpensive, and the minty coolness it brings to our products is most welcome (except when we're soaking in it! Eek!) Peppermint essential oil is composed of 38% to 48% menthol (a monoterpene), 20% to 30% menthone, and about 6% 1,8-cineole (aka eucalyptol, which we discussed in the post on eucalyptus!)

Peppermint has been studied mainly for three things - the coolness it offers. its effects on the digestive system, its effect on respiration and cold symptoms, and its possible effect as an anesthetic for pain or itching. Let's take a look at digestion today!

There have been quite a number studies showing that mint, is great for digestion, but this doesn't really help us when we are studying the essential oil. We find different compounds in the leaves when we make a tea out of it - water soluble compounds like flavonoids - than we do in the essential oil, where we'd find oil soluble compounds like terpenes. (Click here for a bit more information.)

This study (2008) looked at the efficacy of peppermint oil on post operative nausea, and found it was more effective than placebo...but we have no idea of the size of this study, so we'll have to take those results with a grain of salt. Another study (Hills & Aaronson, 1991) found that peppermint essential oil has a "calcium blocking activity in gut tissue" that relaxes the lower sphincter and helps facilitate eructions (known to non-medical people as burps!) but it can aggravate reflux. This study also that concluded that "peppermint oil relaxes gastrointestinal smooth muscle by reducing calcium influx."

This study concluded that, "Peppermint oil and caraway oil show a relaxing effect on the gall-bladder and the former slows small intestinal transit...", and this study noted that, "...all other studies result in effects, indicating a substantial spasmolytic effect [muscle relaxing effect] of PO of the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract." (Grigolet & Grigolet, 2004).

There have been quite a few studies on peppermint essential oil on irritable bowel syndrome. Here's a critical review and meta-analysis that concluded that "The role of peppermint oil in the symptomatic treatment of IBS has so far not been established beyond reasonable doubt. Well designed and carefully executed studies are needed to clarify the issue." And there was another analysis by Grigolet & Grigolet (2005) that found that enteric coated peppermint oil at 180 to 220 mg given thrice daily was an effective treatment. Is the jury out on peppermint's usage for irritable bowel syndrome? It appears it might be.

So it looks like peppermint oil is effective for stomach problems by making the muscles in our digestive tract relax. But this comes from ingesting peppermint - quite a few of the studies made use of time released peppermint oil capsules - not from inhaling it. This isn't to say there aren't some benefits to inhaling this wonderful essential oil, but it doesn't appear that relieving digestive issues are amongst them.

Join me tomorrow for more fun with peppermint oil as we take a look at peppermint's effects upon respiration and cold symptoms (which I need right now....sniff! sniff!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

As much as I'd like to post today...

...there's just way too much to learn about peppermint! I've spent the last three mornings researching it, and I think to post on menthol this morning would be a disservice as I don't feel I can adequately put together all the cool stuff I've been learning about peppermint essential oil! Instead, here are a few posts with products I've made using peppermint oil or menthol! I'm hoping to post something tomorrow or Monday - it's just so interesting!

Body lotion becomes foot cream
Foot lotion becomes foot cream
Whipped butter for my painful back! 
Lotion bar for my painful muscles
A possible shampoo for dandruff prone hair (add 0.5% to 1% essential oil in the cool down phase)
An oil stripping shampoo (again, add 0.5% to 1% peppermint essential oil in the cool down phase)

As to the names of these products, please note that I'm not making claims here. These are aspirations based upon the chemistry of the ingredients! 

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Essential oils: Peppermint

Peppermint seems to get associated with foot care products quite a lot, but it seems there is more this minty essential oil can offer to our products!

Peppermint essential oil tends to be steam distilled from the flowers of the Mentha x piperita plant, a hybrid plant. High pressure distillation seems to be the norm, but it could be infused or even water distilled. The oils become the essential oil, the water soluble portion becomes peppermint hydrosol. It's one of the more popular essential oils, with 3300 metric tons produced in 2008. (I know I bought about 4 pounds that year!)

Peppermint essential oil might undergo rectification, a redistillation of crude oils intended to remove something unpleasant. In the case of peppermint, it can be done under a vacuum to remove sulfur compounds. For something like eucalyptus, it might be done to increase the amount of something like eucalyptol.

Peppermint essential oil is reported to be a digestion aid, headache reliever, reducer of nausea or travel sickness, soother of sore throats, respiration helper, and anti-spasmodic. We tend to use it in our products because it offers a perception of coolness to our skin.

Peppermint essential oils is composed of 38% to 48% menthol (a monoterpene), 20% to 30% menthone, and about 6% 1,8-cineole (aka eucalyptol, which we discussed in the post on eucalyptus!)

Peppermint considered a thermoreceptor agonist - in other words, it makes our skin feel hot or cold even though there's been no change in temperature. (You might remember from the post on eucalyptus essential oil). It makes our skin feel a little colder, which is why we include it in pain relief essential oil blends, as well as foot related products. I love to use it in a cooling spray along with spearmint and a little menthol.  This is thanks to the menthol which "interacts with TRPM8, the cool-sensitive thermoreceptor" (click here to read more!). Because of this nifty feature, you'll want to keep peppermint related items away from mucous membranes and tender areas. I know the Vicks' blend bath bomb sounds like a good idea, but take a moment and think about it.

Add peppermint oil at up to 1% in the cool down phase of your products. You can also use peppermint essential oil in cooking - add a drop or two to some chocolate for a minty sensation or add some to a simple syrup and use it as an additive to a cocktail (do not use it at 1% in your cooking products!!! Too much!0. Just remember that peppermint essential oil is an oil soluble ingredient, so you will need an emulsifier if you want to add a significant amount to either a body care or eating product!

Join me tomorrow to take a look at the science behind peppermint!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dove's beauty bar...just a few thoughts

I'm really frustrated right now by the Dove commercial in which they show a bar of soap looking all wizened and dried out, then imply this is what said bar will do to your skin. My skin is not like soap, and the appearance of the product I use to clean it has nothing to do with how it will make my skin feel. To compare cold process soap to a Dove bar is disingenuous at best - the Dove bar is a syndet bar made from synthetic detergents (like SCI) and is generally acidic, while cold process soap is made from saponifying fats with sodium hydroxide (lye) and is generally alkaline.

What you see in the picture is Dove's unscented, sensitive skin beauty bar, all wizened and dried out. I use this on a daily basis, and you can see the cracks and drying out happening on this bar. Yes, the picture is altered slightly because the bad kitchen lighting made it all yellowy, but I didn't add the cracks to it. Dear Dove...don't write cheques your syndet beauty bar can't cash.

I love this post on the Alabu Skin Care Blog concerning experiments on Dove Soap to see if it lives up to its claims! Chemistry is awesome! 

Yes, I'm out of cold process soap right now. I don't make CP soap myself, and I don't know any soapmakers locally. I think part of my plans for 2012 will include making CP soap for the first time!

Essential oils: Anise or aniseed - part 2, the science

I've seen these properties quoted time and time again in my research about anise essential oil - antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative (it decreases gas or encourages the expelling of it), expectorant, and a stimulant. I've seen information about it being estrogenic (mimicking the hormone estrogen), and I've seen that it can be used as the starting point for psychedelic drugs. So what can we prove?

What did I find about anise being an antiseptic? I found this paper that confirms that anise is considered to be those six things I list above, but no proof is offered in the form of studies or other papers. This study didn't find that anethole was an effective treatment against salmonella. This study showed that anethole combined with dodecanol might be effective together, and this study concluded that although anise was not effective against bacteria, it might work against mold (and this one found something similar). Another study (Journal of Applied Microbiology; July 2008, Bluma, R, Amaiden, M. R., Daghero, J., Etcheverry, M) concluded that anise used on stored maize could help inhibit the growth of Aspergillus. This study gives some information on what combinations they used against microbes, and they found that anise was good against molds and fungi.

As for being an insecticide, this study (European Journal of Pediatrics, Jan 2010, Burgess, Bruton, and Burgess) found that a coconut and anise spray was an effective treatment against lice. The coconut and anise spray was a proprietary blend from a German company containing fractionated coconut oil, propan-1-ol - an alcohol, thus our solvent - star anise oil, and ylang-ylang oil. There has to be an emulsifer in there somewhere as you don't get fractionated coconut oil and alcohol to mix without one! I digress...and I realize this is about star anise, but there's a lot of anethole in that essential oil as well!

Anise is listed as being a good expectorant and anti-tussive. I couldn't find much on this topic, although this medical web page notes there isn't much proof that anise is good for a cold.

As a digestive aid, we find it in gripe water - the house brand at Price Smart contained it - but there isn't a lot of proof that anise can work for our digestion. It is a great breath freshener, and I encourage you to seek out either the candied aniseeds in Indian markets or restaurants or some aniseed balls if you haven't had a chance to try either.

As for being an anti-spasmodic, this study is really the only thing I could find, the conclusion being "The relaxant action displayed by Pimpinella anisum justifies its use in the folk medicine as an antispasmodic agent." The down side being that this study was about the water/alcohol soluble bits of the plant - not the essential oils - and that the actual study was on rats and the amount given to them was pretty huge. We can't necessarily extrapolate that inhaling the essential oil will result in muscle relaxation.

As for being estrogenic, I'm not finding much about that either.

To summarize, I think there's some good science to indicate that anise or aniseed might be a good weapon against mold and that it might be a good weapon against lice. There's some evidence to indicate it might be an anti-spasmodic, but not a lot to indicate it might be good for a cold or that it helps with digestion. (If you have some contrary evidence, please share it with me! I can't search every database, and I would love to be proven wrong about this wonderful essential oil, which is one of my favourites!)

Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with anise!

Monday, December 19, 2011

No post today - sorry!

It's Monday morning and I'm getting ready for my math exam - EEK!

Saturday was a crazy day! Video games with the girls at the library, including Dance Central 2 for the Kinect, then Raymond took me out roller skating for my birthday on Saturday night. I haven't roller skated since I was about 11, but I picked it up again more quickly than I would have expected! I did fall pretty dramatically while arrogantly trying to spin around in a circle, so I'm a little bruised and sore, but in a good Saturday-night-was-awesome kind of way.

And I have a cold...but it's abating. So no post from me today - except for this...which I forgot to post on Monday!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Essential oils: Anise (or aniseed)

I love my aniseed! From the aniseed balls and Imperials I would get when I'd visit my grandma in England to the anise-vanilla combination a friend used in her CP soap, I love this herb! (Don't confuse it with star anise, though! That's a different herb altogether!)

The main compound in anise (Pimpinella anisum) is anethole (anywhere from 70% to 95%), a phenylpropylene or aromatic compound that is responsible for the flavour of liquorice in things like anise and fennel. It's used extensively in food flavouring, and we find it in a lot of alcohols like ouzo and absinthe. You might see those candy coating anise seeds at Indian restaurants - they're great for freshening the breath and (possibly) helping with digestion. (My husband bought a bag of these and they're fantastic!) I've seen anethole listed as having an estrogenic effect, helping increase breast milk and helping with menstrual cramps, but I haven't been able to find any studies confirming this (but more about that tomorrow!)

Anise seed oil is soluble in oil, and it's more soluble in alcohol than water. This is what can cause the ouzo effect, which is when an alcohol containing anise is added to water and causes this clouding of the water. As an interesting aside, this clouding is thanks to an emulsion being created in the glass! (I really encourage you to click on the link because it's quite interesting!)

When anise essential oil is extracted by CO2 extraction (click here and scroll down), there's generally an increase in the amount of anethole.

While the essential oil is in storage, the anethole content can increase thanks to chemical reactions between other compounds, so you might get an even more liquoricier anise seed oil than you expected!

The main use of anise essential oil is in flavouring or fragrancing various things. Anise oil is thirteen times sweeter than sugar, and it's a chemical precursor to a psychedelic drug called paramethoxyamphetamine. It's reported that it's like catnip for dogs - I haven't confirmed this yet as I don't really need Blondie tripping out on me the day before my math exam - and it is supposed to be good for menstrual cramps and colds (I will be trying out the latter today as I'm fighting off a doozy!!!)

As with all the other essential oils, use this at safe levels in the cool down phase of your product. I've been using it at up to 1% (and in combination with vanilla - yum!) in my products. As with any essential oil, you'll want to ensure that you are using it at safe levels for individuals who can handle it. Always be careful with pregnant or nursing mothers, the infirm, children, and those who are bed bound.

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at some of the science behind aniseed essential oil!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No post today...look for something tomorrow!

It's been a whirlwind week! I made candles with the pregnant and parenting teens on Thursday morning, and chocolate, sushi shaped beeswax candles, Shrinky Dinks, and Star Wars related snowflakes on Thursday night at the Christmas Extravaganza! Today we're at girls only Rock Band (and Dance Central 2) at the library, so I haven't had time to write a post. Look for something tomorrow!

When you contribute to our groups by buying the Formulating & Creating Lotions and Creams, Lotion Making 101Back to Basics, or Hair Care: Shampoos & Conditioners e-books, you contribute to four different programs at three different locations (Chilliwack and Yarrow libraries, and the Ed Centre alternative school). For more information on our groups and what we do, please click here

If you've never made Shrinky Dinks, you need to try them! They are incredibly awesome and you can make all kinds of jewellery with them. The picture you see above is of one of the kids making Pokemon and Mario jewellery with some sushi thrown in! They make awesome presents for your kids to make and give to their friends! (Click here for the jewellery making handout!) Get a few sets of earrings, some 5 to 6 mm jump rings, and a package of Shrinky Dinks from somewhere like Michael's or Jo-Ann's. I like the frosted ones - 10 for $8 to $10, but use the coupon! We can get enough out of half a sheet to make an entire charm bracelet. I know your kids are out of school this week - spend $20 on all the supplies and let them go nuts making them! (If you need any ideas for pictures, I have tons of handouts. Just write to me at and I can send you tons of ideas!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Essential oils: Eucalyptus in lotions and body wash

For some reason, menthol and eucalytpus go fantastically together, so I suggest trying a lovely foot lotion with 3% menthol, 1% eucalyptus, and 1% camphor, just remove 2% from the cocoa butter or soy bean oil to compensate for the essential oils that will go into the cool down phase.

35% water
10% aloe vera
10% peppermint hydrosol
3% glycerin
3% sodium lactate

3% menthol
10% soybean oil
10% cocoa butter
7% emulsifier
3% stearic acid

2% panthenol
2% dimethicone
0.5% preservative

Click here to see the original post with each ingredient explained!

Please click here to see the lotion making instructions!

You know I love body washes, so let's make one with a lovely eucalyptus-lime blend. My best friend suggests using 3 parts lime to 1 part eucalyptus for a refreshing blend, but you can play with the levels you like!

Click here if you want a break down for why I'm using each ingredient. I'm giving you a short summary, but there's so much more to learn! 

I think I'll go with a really mild body wash for those of us who have dry skin that can only feel drier this time of year!

(Click here for the original post.)

27.5% water
15% Amphosol CG (coco betaine)
15% SMC or SMO Taurate or ALeS
15% polyglucose/lactylate blend
10% aloe vera
5% glycerin
5% cationic polymer (like condition-eze 7 or honeyquat)
4% water soluble oil like PEG 7-olivate or water soluble shea
2% hydrolyzed protein

2% panthenol
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% to 1% preservative
1% to 2% Crothix (as necessary)

Weigh the heated water phase and heat until it reaches 70˚C. Hold for 20 minutes. Compensate for the lost water by adding some water after the heating part. (Weigh your container before you heat it. Weigh it after wards. Heat some water to 70˚C - or higher - and add it at the end.)

When the body wash reaches 45˚C, you can add the cool down phase. Let it cool completely to room temperature and ensure you've added your fragrance oil before you add the liquid Crothix. Add at 0.5% at a time until you reach the desired consistency!

You can substitute the water for hydrosols, if you wish, and feel free to leave out whatever ingredients you like.

If you want something slightly more moisturizing, try this body wash for the winter! I love the polyglucose/lactylate blend for the drier months! I've included SCI in this recipe and I think SCI and polyglucose/lactylate are my new favourite surfactant combination!

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Essential oils: Eucalytpus in anhydrous products

I love to use eucalyptus in a number of different products - let take a look at some anhydrous products that might be awesome with the inclusion of this essential oil. Remember that we don't want to go over 1.12% - so stick with 1% - and we'll add the eucalyptus in the cool down phase.

If you've got someone with a cold, Vick's rub can be a blessing. We can make our own version with some menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus!

89.5% castor oil
5% beeswax
1% Vitamin E
2.5% menthol crystals
1% camphor
1% eucalyptus

Heat the beewax and menthol in the microwave or double boiler until melted. In a separate container, heat the castor oil. Pour the castor oil into the beeswax and menthol and beat until it reaches that vaseline-like consistency. When it cools below 45˚C, add the Vitamin E, camphor, and eucalyptus. (The Vitamin E is option - it just extends the shelf life quite some time...but this already has a 1 year life span, so make your decisions accordingly!)

I found the recipe at Voyageur for the non-petroleum baby jelly, but I've altered it to include 4.5% essential oils and menthol. Please don't use this for baby's bums with all those essential oils in it! 

If you like this recipe, consider making a pain relief lotion bar - click here - but include 1% eucalyptus for another essential oil. I like to use 2 parts peppermint, 2 parts spearmint, 1 part cinnamon, 1 part clove bud for my pain relief blend, which I then use at up to 3% of my cool down phase. Replace the cinnamon or the clove with 1 part eucalyptus if you wish. Click here for a recipe for a whipped butter that might be good for sore muscles, or continue reading for a balm that might do the same thing!

I love this balm I'm about to post (find it in its original form here if you want some explanation for all the various ingredients or if you want a different version with way fewer esters) because it's not a greasy product, and I really don't want to be all shiny and greasy when I apply this stuff to my forehead or shoulders and go out for the day.

20% beeswax
4% cetyl esters
24% shea butter
20% cetearyl ethylhexanoate
2% isopropyl palmitate
13% C12-15 alkyl benzoate
9% capric/caprylic triglycerides
3% menthol

1.5% dimethicone
1.5% cyclomethicone
1% eucalyptus essential oil
1% camphor essential oil

Heat everything but the dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and essential oils in a heatproof container in a double boiler. When it has melted, add the silicones and fragrance oil. This balm has a scoopable consistency, so you can wait until it has cooled to put it into jars or tins or you can pour it when it is still warm.

This essential oil blend is all about trying to get a Vick's like blend. If you want this to be more about the muscle pain relief, try the pain relief combination in the previous recipe. If you want to this to be a little more Tiger Balm-y, click to see what you can alter. It looks like clove bud is a major part of that product, which would give it the heat while the menthol, mint, and camphor bring the cold.

Click here or click here for more ideas for making balms! 

Remember! I am not making claims that any of these products will relieve pain or inflammation. In theory, they might, but I haven't had them tested to confirm any of my claims! These are suggested recipes that have worked for me, but that doesn't mean they will work for anyone else. 

Join me tomorrow as we use eucalyptus in other products!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Essential oils: Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus essential oil is a staple in my fragrance and essential oils cupboard because of all the awesome things it is alleged to do - plus it smells great in combination with camphor and menthol! Eucalyptus is listed as being antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, insect repellant, and helpful for respiration and our sinuses. How does it do all these great things?

The main compound in eucalytpus is eucalyptol also known as 1,8-cineole, which is a "cyclic ether and a monoterpenoid". Eucalyptus essential oil must contain at least 70% of this compound, although most contain more.

In this small study, prednisone dependent people with asthma were able to reduce their usage of steroids after ingesting capsules of 1,8-cineole. In this study, people with non-oozing sinus inflammation found that capsules containing 1,8-cineole found a reduction in "headache on bending, frontal headache, sensitivity of pressure points of trigeminal nerve, impairment of general condition, nasal obstruction, and rhinological secretion." (And as someone with sinus issues, I can assure you these are all awesome reductions!) And in this study, they confirmed it on rats.

In this paper on inflammation, it is posited that
Pathogenesis and symptoms of inflammatory processes are accompanied and/or initiated by the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS)...Eucalyptus oil ameliorate inflammatory processes by interacting with aggressive oxygen radicals of the OH.-type and interfere with leukocyte activation. These activities partially allow attenuation of oxidative attack and damage introduced by infections or environmental impacts.

As for ingesting it, in 2002 the EU has declared that it is safe in things like beverages and cough candy at up to quite high levels, although I don't know if you could get over the unsafe level because the horrible taste would stop you from being so foolhardy!

Eucalyptol can be used as an insect repellant - this study found that it didn't kill the larvae, but it did have an impact on the mosquitoes feeding and laying eggs on us! However, eucalyptus is very attractive to orchid bees, so you might have to get rid of those little creatures some other way! (Tea tree oil had the same effect...interesting!)

As for being an anti-septic, it looks like more study might be necessary (which is always a fancy way of saying "we're not sure yet!"). In this letter, we see a few studies cited that eucalyptus might be a local antiseptic, this case study shows it might be effective against MRSA, and this study shows that there is some promise but no conclusive evidence.

Interestingly enough, eucalyptus oil is showing that it can help other compounds penetrate our skin better, so it is being considered as a penetration enhancer (click here for study).

Does eucalyptus essential oil stand up to the claims? It looks like it does. We see studies confirming that it's good for respiration, we see studies confirming it helps with inflammation, and there's some indication it can be good for insect repellancy. (Click here and scroll to page 145 to see a summary of these studies.) I don't think we can call it antiseptic yet, but I do think we can call it a penetration enhancer

As for using it in cosmetic products, it is suggested that we use no more than 1.12% in our leave on products with a maximum of 4.5% when combined with menthol and camphor (Active Ingredients Used in Cosmetics). Add it to your cool down phase as you would any other essential or fragrance oil.

Why add it to our products? It's considered a thermoreceptor agonist - in other words, it makes our skin feel hot or cold even though there's been no change in temperature. Eucalyptus makes our skin feel a little colder. I add it to my foot cream for this reason, but we could add it our products to make someone with a cold feel a bit better. It can be used in a sports cream or Tiger Balm kind of product, as well. I also like it because it smells cold to me, and my best friend makes an awesome lime-eucalyptus blend that we've used in a body wash and a hand lotion.

A vital side note: Although combining eucalyptus with camphor and menthol can simulate Vicks, please do not make a bath bomb containing these ingredients for someone with a cold. Think about it for a moment...bath plus tingly essential oils equals super tingly bath. It isn't a good idea in a bubble bath either! 

Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with eucalyptus!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Essential oils: Processing techniques

How do we get our essential oils? There are as many techniques, it seems, as there are types of essential oils!

INFUSION: Soaking the plants in vegetable oil, water, alcohol, or other solvent. This is done for products like calendula, St John's Wort, and arnica. (This is something we can do at home, but I do recommend you learn from a skilled practitioner.) This can also be called the maceration method.

ENFLEURAGE: The plant matter is put on a fat layered screen and the fat absorbs the fragrance. They take the saturated fat off the screen and heated with alcohol to create an absolute. This isn't a common process, although jasmine and tuberose are still done this way (which might explain the extreme price of both!). As a note, many sources I've read say that the fats are generally animal fats - tallow or lard - so if you're a vegan, you might want to make sure your essential oils are not processed in this way.

COLD PRESSING: With something like a citrus fruit, the skin is pierced and the fruit is pressed to release the juices. The oils float to the top and are removed from the juice. This can also be called scarification (but put in "essential oils" with this word if you're doing a search because eek!).

STEAM DISTILLATION: The plant matter is steamed and the essential oil removed. The water soluble bits are left behind, which we called hydrosols. The plant matter is put into a still and pressurized steam circulates through the material. "Tiny droplets of essential oil evaporate and attach to the steam. The steam which then contains the essential oil, is passed through a cooling system to condense the steam, which forms a liquid from which the essential oil and water is then separated by decantation. The oil forms a layer on the water surface as it does not dissolves in water and hence is separated easily."

WATER DISTILLATION: The plant material is placed in water, then boiled. The water is condensed and cooled down, then the oil - which rises to the top of the container because oil is lighter than water - is removed. The water left over can be called a floral water or hydrosols.

CONCRETE: (This method has replaced enfleurage for the most part.) The plant material is mixed with a solvent - usually hexane - removing waxes, pigments, and aromatic molecules. The solution is filtered, then distilled, and we end up with some waxes and an essential oil - this is the concrete - or resin.

ABSOLUTE: The concrete is treated with alcohol to remove wax, then its vacuum distilled to remove the water.

OLEORESINS: This term can refer to two things. Resin from trees like the myrrh tree or the resin that comes out of the concrete process. I'm referring it to the latter. The resin from the concrete process is treated with alcohol or acetone, and the oils extracted.

CO2 EXTRACTION: This is a cold process, which means that plants that can't take high temperatures can enjoy this process, and it can get oils out of plants that have very low levels of oils or those that have not been traditionally used as essential oils. It's like pressure cooking, but with carbon dioxide, and at the end, it just evaporates into the air!

Supercritical carbon dioxide at around 31.1˚C and 72.9 atm behaves like a liquid and a gas...sort of. It expands "to fill its container like a gas but with a density like that of a liquid." (Remember that STP or standard temperature and pressure is 25˚C and 1 atm.) So they use this as the solvent instead of water, alcohol, hexane, and so on.

Rectification is a redistillation of crude oils intended to remove something unpleasant. In the case of peppermint, it can be done under a vacuum to remove sulfur compounds. For something like eucalyptus, it might be done to increase the amount of something like eucalyptol. For something like patchouli, it's to make the colour less dark, which is apparently offensive to some perfumers.

Which way is the best way to extract oils? I don't know. I know the concept of cold pressed sounds really lovely, but it can result in more furocoumarins in citrus essential oils, which can make them more phototoxic, and a lot of wasted fruits. The heated processing methods don't work for things that can't take the heat, so solvent extraction might be the only way we can get some of our lovelier oils. I am kinda surprised about the enfleurage in a way - vegans really need to be aware of this processing method - and I think the supercritical CO2 is awesome!

Some interesting downloads

I found a bunch of brochures for compounding various things for pharmacists, and thought you might be interested. We don't make medical or health claims for our products, but there's some interesting information in there about compounding things like styptic pencils, deodorants, and suppositories!

Compounding gels 
Compounding medication sticks
Compounding acne products

Want more? You can find these PDFs at this link - Paddock Labs - and click on resources!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Essential oils: Orange in surfactant based products

I love using orange essential oil in my rinse off products, especially shampoo, because it's a fantastic essential oil for degreasing oily hair and skin. But it is really awesome for hand cleansers, especially when we've been making products and need to get the oils off our skin!

I tend to use my orange essential oil with vanilla - 1:2 ratio orange to vanilla, which smells like Creamsicles!- or in my oily hair essential oil blend - equal parts sage, rosemary, cedarwood, and a citrus like lemon or lime - in my shampoo or body wash at up to 2% in the cool down phase.

Always check the suggested usage or restrictions on every essential oil before using. In the case of orange essential oil, 1% is just fine, but I want my hands to smell like Creamsicles, so I'll use 1% of that blend in the product (1 part orange, 2 parts vanilla by weight). This means I only have 0.33% in my product, which falls within the limits on the essential oil, so it's all good!

This is my favourite hand cleanser recipe, and I've modified it to include some orange essential oil. I've also included neroli hydrosol - it's not necessary, although it's nice for degreasing, so feel free to use other hydrosols or just use water. As for the surfactants, I suggest keep the cocamidopropyl betaine for mildness and thickenening and the SCI for the thickening and pearlizing, but you can use any combination that leaves your hands feeling soft. (If you'd like to see why I'm using the ingredients I'm using, click on the link above!)

10% cocamidopropyl betaine
11% polyglucose/lactylate blend
10% SCI
2% glycol distearate

33.5% water
10% aloe vera
10% orange hydrosol
3% PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate
3% glycerin

3% honeyquat
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance
Crothix (optional)

And here's a modification if you want to make it with ACI liquid! 

Weigh the first heated phase into heatproof container and heat in your double boiler until the SCI and glycol distearate has melted. Weigh the second heated phase into a heatproof container and heat until the SCI has melted in the other container. Remove both from the heat and add the second heated phase slowly, stirring as you go, until it is well incorporated. You may want to heat it a little longer to ensure it is well incorporated.

When the temperature reaches 45˚C to 50˚C, add the cool down phase BUT DON'T ADD THE CROTHIX! (Read more about Crothix here if you've never used it before.) I didn't need Crothix in mine, but that will vary given the modifications to ingredients and fragrance you choose.

When the mixture has reached room temperature or has sat for at least four hours, test the viscosity. Add 1% Crothix, and mix very well. If you want it a bit thicker, add another 0.5% and stir well. Repeat until you get the viscosity you want.

If you like foamer bottles, consider making a hand soap for your kids in Creamsicle or orange! They'll love it! Click here for a recipe!

Join me tomorrow for more essential oil fun!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Essential oils: Folded oils and phototoxicity of citrus essential oils

What the heck does folded mean when it comes to essential oils? Folded oils tend to be citrus based oils - orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon - and we see them as 5X or 10X folded.

Folded essential oils are those that have been further distilled and concentrated to create a more concentrated, and usually stronger smelling, essential oil. The oils should have a longer shelf life because some of the terpenes that contribute to oxidation of the oil have been removed, and they should be safer to use in leave in products thanks to the removal of those same terpenes.

Unfolded essential oils tend to contain furanocoumarins or furocoumarins, which can make the oils photosensitizing. Removal of these compounds can make the oil less likely to be phototoxic when used in leave in products. (Notice I said the word "likely"...)

A phototoxic ingredient "is a chemical compound which becomes toxic when exposed to light. Some medicines: tetracycline antibiotics, sulfonamides, amiodarone, quinolones. Many cold pressed citrus essential oils such as bergamot oil. Some plant juices: parsley and Giant hogweed. Others: psoralen." (Wikipedia). You'll notice the word "cold pressed" before the word citrus. This is because the cold pressed versions of essential oils contain more furocoumarins, which is why they are folded to ensure there are fewer photosensitizing compounds.

Can we use folded oils in leave on products and be guaranteed the product users won't be subjected to phototoxicity? No, and here's the problem with essential oils in general....

I've mentioned before that mineral oil is used a lot in commercial products because it's predictable. We know that when we see something like "light mineral oil" (I'm making up this name for the purposes of this post) that it has a certain characteristics. When we see something like sunflower oil, we know some general things, but it is affected by the terroir - the place it was grown, the climate, the way it was processed, and so on - so the characteristics are not the same with every bottle. This means it could change the viscosity of our lotion, the amount of linoleic acid, and so on. It's the same thing with essential oils. Although we know that orange oil contains orange essential oil, each bottle could be different with differing levels of terpenes or other compounds depending upon the climate, growing temperature, processing, and so on. So when I see something called 10x orange oil, it means that the oil has been concentrated to increase the fragrance and remove some of the photosensitizing compounds. But the 10x orange oil from one company might be different than the 10x orange oil from another company thanks to different manufacturers and different places they've been grown.

As a rule, I don't put citrus based essential oils in anything that won't be completely rinsed out. That means I reserve them for my body wash and shampoo for the most part. It does suck because the Creamsicle lip balm I made with vanilla and orange essential oil tasted amazing...

If you're using folded essential oils, the risk is lower, so I leave it to you to make your own decisions based on the information you have from your supplier and past experience. If you're new to essential oils, please be really careful when using orange, lime, lemon, and so on...the goal is to make the end user happy, not burn them when they're out in the sun for a few hours.

I know some of you are considering writing to me to say that you have used citrus based essential oils safely and think my comments are insane. To you I say, fantastic! I'm glad you can use them well. But please consider this story...A very enthusiastic young woman posted her lip balm recipe - lime juice, sugar, and Vaseline - on a very large crafting forum with the comment, "I guess I sell lip balm now!" I got in trouble from the moderator for telling her this was a very bad idea, so I abandoned that forum, spent more time at the Dish, and started up this blog.  There are people out there who think this kind of recipe is a good idea to make and to sell. If you have successfully used non-folded citrus based essential oils in your products, to you I say, "Kudos!" But please remember that your success isn't necessarily what others will experience! 

Wow, how did we go from information to a lecture? Sorry about that! Join me tomorrow for some ideas on how to use orange oil in our products!

I encourage you to read my article from Handmade Magazine for more information on citrus essential oils as I've learned a lot more since I wrote this post! The quick summary? Orange and yuzu are not phototoxic! 

Chemistry Sunday: Introduction to organic chemistry - functional groups

We deal a lot with functional groups in organic chemistry, so I'm going to quickly go through the various types of functional groups so we can get to more stuff about essential oils! 

A functional group is "a molecular module, and the reactivity of that functional group is assumed, within limits, to be the same in a variety of molecules. Functional groups can have decisive influence on the chemical and physical properties of organic compounds. Molecules are classified on the basis of their functional groups." (Wikipedia). Okay, that made sense in a way that was not! Let's try again....

For example, we classify something as an alcohol when it has a certain molecular structure. When you see a compound called an alcohol, we know that it must have a certain molecular structure and that it will behave in a certain way. We know it will have this oxygen and hydrogen (a hydroxyl group) in the compound, which makes it an alcohol.

If you remember the post on alkanes, you'll remember that we had the one carbon with the four hydrogens attached and we called that methane. For an alcohol, for instance, we see that there's only three hydrogens attached to the carbon, then this oxygen and hydrogen in the fourth hydrogen's place! This is substitution changes the nature of the molecule. Before, it was methane (meth- meaning one, for the one carbon, and -ane because it was a carbon chain with no double bonds). Now we have methanol (meth - for one, -ol for alcohol). Methane was a smelly gas; methanol is a liquid! The substitution of the functional group of alcohol for that fourth hydrogen group really made a huge difference in the chemistry of that molecule!

Side note: The hydroxyl group appears in a ton of different molecules, so you'll be seeing it quite a bit. It's that oxygen and hydrogen you see in this picture. It's important for so many reasons, but two really interesting ones for us are its ability to increase hydrophilicity - increasing something's love for water - and increasing water's solubility! If you really want to know more organic chemistry, say hi to the little hydroxyl group and look for it in your favourite molecules!

The R in the picture indicates there's something else there - a chain of carbons, for instance - that doesn't interest us at the moment! 

Why do we care if this is a methane molecule or a methanol molecule? Because it affects how we might use it in our products. (Although we'd never use methane - too whiffy and gaseous!) 

Alcohols tend to have much lower freezing points than something like water and they can draw water from the atmosphere to itself (it's hygroscopic). If you look at our humectants - like glycerin or propylene glycol - we know that adding them to our products will lower the freezing point and make it easier to transport lotions and other things that might contain these poly-alcohols! If we poured water on the road in winter, it'd freeze. Pour propylene glycol, glycerin, even honey on the road in December and you're doing motorists a favour by keeping that patch from freezing quickly! We also know that including an alcohol in our products makes the product more hygroscopic, meaning we will get more moisturizing for our skin because we'll draw water to it. Alcohols aren't just for Saturday nights at the karaoke bar any more!

Side note: The alcohol that makes it easier to talk to boys is called ethanol. Eth- means two, an- from the alkane or chain without double bonds, and -ol from the alcohol. Take a look at that picture. You can see the last carbon has been replaced by an oxygen and hydrogen - that's what makes this an alcohol!

I know you're asking yourself how does this relate to fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, and behenyl alcohol? These are alcohols in the sense that they have the hydroxyl group on the end. We'll be talking about this more in the future, but in the meantime if you want to know way more about fatty alcohols? Click here for a great PDF on the topic!