The other night, I was at the Bowery Hotel Bar in NYC ordering a pre-dinner dirty martini when I was deliciously startled by the bartender’s demand for ID. Convinced he was joking, I laughed. My joy was met with a stony brow and a thin, piggy-bank slit of a mouth. Said bartender held out his hand expectantly with a bored expression and eyes fixed in the non-specific distance. He was ready to catch naughty teen me and deny me my martini. Galvanized, I fished in my wallet and produced my driver’s license. It was his turn to look startled. Did I really look younger than 21 I wondered? Was it the lighting? The good company I was in? Had my friends paid him? My wellness lifestyle? Or was it my fabulous homemade skin cream that utilizes thousands of years of plant evolution and contains no chemicals?
Before you think this is the beginning of the kind of skin care commercial – let me warn you – it is! The story is true and I am making my own anti-aging line – more information on that coming soon. What propelled me to make this line was a combination of many forces… One was certainly my return to Gotham City which has the power to set a fire of action under the most dimpled and sedentary of bottoms. Another spark to the flame was the sensation I was losing touch with nature (more prevalent in Geneva) and besieged by a commercial onslaught since my return…. Ads for beauty products promising impossible dreams and costing a fortune leap out on every block. Careful examination however, reveals that most contain chemicals, preservatives, toxins, synthetics and some, neurotoxins. All are delightfully packaged and marketed and showcased by barely pubescent models whose perfect skin is rendered fairy-tale cartoonish by further God-strokes of some tech artist.
What is the result of these creams ladies? The chemicals are endocrine and immune system interrupters. You could have long-term weight gain, thyroid and fertility issues, cancer etc. Remember the chemicals are not just in your creams – they are everywhere. But creams are absorbed directly and cleanly into the skin so they are particularly dangerous. I was at Bergdorf Goodman the other day and watched, fascinated, as unbelievably chic women of every age dropped their credit cards on hugely expensive creams in plastic packaging – riddled with chemicals. A good part of anti-aging and health is taking responsibility for self-education.
While living in Geneva, I had ample opportunity to read hundreds – wait – possibly thousands of books. Yes, Geneva is that much of a snooze-fest (at least for a NYer). That moment was a semi-sabbatical – a time for re-educating the mind – if not the soul. I became pre-occupied with plants – their powers and sensitivities… I began reading a few long forgotten French books by doctors who were ardent in their obsession for the powers of essential oils. These powers, if true, promised all kinds of rewards for overall health using millions of years of natural evolution – encased in the pungent lifeblood of these plants. Of course, all oils are not created equal. Synthetics and fragrances are added. Oils are standardized to lower the prices. Not all are organic. Some cancel each other. Some can trigger the wrong effects. But, for the average woman who will buy a pot of cream for $400 that is riddled with fake fragrance and preservatives – do the fakes really matter?
Since I am the kind of woman who is interested in health and skincare and is happy to read the books and do the research – fakes do matter. In order to eradicate the fakes, I have sourced my oils with great effort and come up with the formulas and combinations that promise the best results. Girlfriends ask: but Anna what will the FDA say? I think it is safe to say that with all the toxic crap the FDA approves they won’t be saying anything about a 100% chemical free product.
Don’t forget that your skin is your largest organ. What you put on it is cleanly absorbed. I wonder why we don’t deliver medication through skin-absorption? When you swallow a pill it enters your stomach and intestines combining with all the acids and whatever toxins you unknowingly take –which could affect the efficacy of the medicine. If applied to the skin, you absorb efficiently minus all the interrupters.
But what is some of the science based logic behind the power of true essential oils?
Just to lightly sauté the juices of your interest, I will regale you with some brief notes on the power of plants for mankind. Personally, I need a little science to convince me. Essential Oils are hereafter referred to as E.O.:
Some 40% of medicine comes from natural organisms:
- 25% of all prescription meds are from substances extracted from plants
- 13% from microorganisms
- 3% from animals
Fewer than 3% of flowering plants world-wide have been studied for their medicinal benefits. Killing off the rainforest has resulted in the extinction of millions of plants that could cure any number of diseases.
Conventional Corporate Pharmaceutical Research Protocol
- The institutional approach to medicine tends to rely on an ‘active ingredient’ protocol. This is a reductionist perspective where they want to isolate one ingredient responsible for affecting a cure. This approach overrides the fact that the human immune system functions best when external stimuli are complex and varied.
- E.O. have many components – unlike aspirin for instance. So big pharma cannot isolate an active ingredient to copy and claim that E.O. = twaddle for health
- However, multi-component mixtures have advantages over single component. For instance, the non-selective activity of E.O. make it impossible for pathogens to develop resistance – as bacteria and viruses do to antibiotics.
Research on the Powers of E.O.
There have been many studies over hundreds of years attesting to the efficacy of using E.O. for health and healing. The Greeks, Egyptians, Arabs, and Chinese all used E.O.
Modern studies show E.O. are:
- Hormone balancing
- Great detoxifiers
- De-stresses thanks to the powerful connection of aromatics on the mind.
In the late ‘90s there was significant research into the anti-tumor effects of terpenoids (a large class of organic hydrocarbons produced by a wide variety of plants, and referred to as terpenoids when denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers). They are the main building block of any plant resin or “essential oils” and contribute to the scent, flavor, and colors) and other E.O. components. Even clinical trials. But in 2001 all research abruptly stopped. Perhaps, because corporate pharma doesn’t want remedies that are too accessible to the general public? (That said, 5ml of rose costs $200 so not many in the general public can have access…)
Example of the power of big pharma: mandatory flu shots for children under the age of 6.
Examples of the Multi-Benefits of Lavender
- Anti-tumor, anti-fungal, reduces spasms, anti-convulsant, modifies nervous system activities, heals burns
- Lavender is made up of over 1200 components – none of which work well if isolated. The sheer number of compounds and their varied strength (based upon the environment of the plant and how it was distilled) ensures that resistance/tolerance to it cannot be built (unlike antibiotics).
Example of the Multi-Benefits of the Neem Tree
- Known as the “village pharmacy” in India
- Used in toothpaste, for skin disorders, stomach tonics, bug repellent
Plants that have survived for millions of years have evolved through millions of genetic re-combinations. They have defied predators, insects, animals, competition and have successfully reproduced over and over again. Health and survival is built into genetics. While the same could be said of humans, wild plants have not been corrupted by processed food, cosmetics and drugs or an artificial lifestyle. Correctly distilled E.O.s still carry the vitality and life force (chi) of these plants. E.O.s are truly nature and evolution in a bottle.
The purportedly much safer pharmaceuticals are often no more than fifty years old – and often much less. Synthetic drugs cannot register on a comparable evolutionary time scale and inevitably interrupt the natural functioning of the body. Modern medicines and creams represent the kind of ‘virtual reality’ we have become accustomed to as evidenced in artificial foods, mass produced wine, hormone fed animals, digital music and computer generated images on TV. Simplified substitutes have overruled the originals. Beauty creams and drugs are constantly changed to satisfy the consumer’s desire for fast results. People used to turn to fad diets to lose weight but now, there is increasing attention on changing one’s lifestyle and environment for long-term results. The educated are returning to a slower and more natural approach to health.
All synthetic drugs and essences can give rise to further diseases and weaken immunity and natural systems by nature of their very falseness. They were 100% not meant for our body.
E.O. are a part of living nature so they have no resemblance to conventional medicine because they are governed by a living force.
- They act as agents of interaction vs weapons.
- Their composition reflects evolution of the plant within its natural environment
- Plants possess Secondary Metabolites – or molecules that trigger physiological responses in other organisms – enabling plants to defend or attract. These Secondary Metabolites are not essential for nutrition or reproduction but help ensure the plants survival against competing plants or fighting bacteria, fungus, viruses, herbivores.
- Secondary Metabolites are very similar to the structure of human hormones and neurotransmitters and the metabolism of plants and mammals is very similar. E.O.’s have often been termed ‘plant hormones’. (Essence of pine stimulates the adrenal gland and essence of cypress seems like the homologue of the ovarian hormone).
Secondary Metabolites Affect:
- DNA/RNA – which can modify gene expression
- Biological membrane – can change the permeability or function of the membrane protein
- Interaction with neuro and hormone receptors
Plants use complex mixtures of secondary compounds to protect themselves against herbivores, bacteria, fungi and viruses. Because secondary metabolites are not molecules with random structures but active metabolites which have been selected over the course of evolution we can use them in medicine. Secondary Metabolites, which plants use to defend against bacteria, fungi or viruses can be used in almost the same way in medicine to treat microbial or viral infections. The ability of E.O.s to halt the spread of micro-organisms can be explained by their ability to penetrate the cell membrane and influence cellular metabolism.
Hence, using mixtures of secondary metabolites that can act on protein and gene expression there is a high likelihood that disease-relevant targets will be hit.
Now, this may have all been a bit of an overshare for many of you. But I wonder – despite the genius of mankind – are we arrogant enough to presume we can replace the evolution and mysteries of nature with synthetics? My studies on plants has returned me to a far away past where pagans worshiped nature and wrote odes to their magic. Now, I want to put flowers in my hair and dance naked under the full moon in a beautiful landscape and rife with the energy and fragrance of pure plant vitality…
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