Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Do it Yourself Mosquito Spray - Get Stuffed Health Canada

 Humans have lived with insects ever since the beginning and like most animals we found ways keep them away. Covering ourselves, our homes, creating barriers out of mixed herbs, spices and oils are proven deterrents for all kinds of pests like bed bugs, moths, even the dreaded mosquito. When you make your own products it provides empowerment, it is easy on your budget, and in cases where you can no longer find natural versions available for purchase you don’t need to worry about it.

A little while ago, way back in 2014 Health Canada was making moves to ban citronella based on some animal testing stating that, "citronella contains a substance called methyleugenol. When methyleugenol on its own was administered internally to mice – via a stomach tube – tumours arose at multiple sites" these kind of studies are problematic for various reasons especially when considering that citronella being used on the skin is hardly comparable to internal administration, also as Bruce Ames the developer of the Ames Test to discover if a substance is cariogenic has presented that: "Using this test, you can take a compound and assess its potential to cause gene mutations and based on the outcome, you can determine how likely it is to cause cancer, or not. According to Dr. Ames, you have to be careful about drawing conclusions from this and he used fruits and vegetables to make this point. He noted that, if you take any fruit or vegetable and break it down into its constituent compounds and test them individually, invariably about half of them will cause cancer (i.e. test positive), yet fruits and vegetables themselves don’t cause cancer. They are, in fact, protective against cancer. Thus, the effect of the whole cannot be assessed from the parts and you definitely can’t draw direct conclusions from one constituent. (http://commonground.ca/2012/10/health-canada-bans-citronella/). Additionally frustrating, when we look at products such as DEET who are provably toxic for our bodies and environment are allowed to stay for purchase.

Heath Canada has since bowed into to pressure from the public and the scientific community and will leave these products to be available… for now dun dun dun. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/citronella-bug-sprays-get-2nd-chance-from-health-canada-1.2881452 

Since this has happened I am driven to share knowledge so people will be able to become self-sufficient and effectively tell Health Canada to piss off. So here we go:

I will include two different types of repellent that can be used, an oil version and an alcohol based spray, like a perfume or linen water. The oil version starts by infusing an oil base of your choosing. For all of my cosmetics I use a combination of grapeseed oil and olive oil this has worked out really well because the grapeseed is light, doesn’t have a strong smell while the olive oil is loaded with omega acids. Don't forget to buy organic where possible as it makes a huge difference in your health, the health our environment and is a great political statement - vote with your dollars! 

I decided to go with a few different herbs including, lavender, peppermint, lemon balm, cloves, rosemary and also included comfrey leaf for skin benefits.  There are a couple of ways to infuse your oil. The most preferable is the slow infusion where you put your herbs into a glass jar pour oil over them and let them sit for a 4-6 weeks in a warm dark space. When using fresh plants (make sure they are completely dry, hanging them in the sun for an hour works great) you can loosely fill the jar up to the top and if you are using dried herbs I generally fill it up to a little under half because dried herbs will get bigger.

If time is a factor doing a stove top method is equally effective and takes a fraction of the time. It is important to use non-metal when you are working with herbs, I have a collection of glass pots that are easy to find second-hand and are wonderful for any herb work. Put your herbs in a pot, pour oil over them, cover, and very slowly heat until the oil is warm, it is quite bad for your oil if you heat to bubbling so keep an eye one it. Again keep in mind that dried herbs will expand to close to double. Once warm turn off heat and allow to cool completely. Something I have been doing that gets even more from my herbs is to repeat this method a couple of times. In my own herbal preparations I heat and cool three times. Once your oil is infused, strain it and label it!
Stove top infusion method

Oils mixed in with the alcohol

The next part is really fun and my favourite when making cosmetics - scenting! I find making perfumes, blending smells to be really rewarding and food for the soul. This particular combination of essential oils includes: citronella, eucalyptus lemon, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, clove and cedar wood. Feel free to play with the balance and leave out any of the oils that you find to be unpleasing, the most important ones to include are the citronella and eucalyptus. Have fun and make it you. Once blended transfer the oil into a bottle for application. I find spray bottles to work really well for this. Super easy to make, and super easy to use.

The other version is even more simple and safe for clothing. Take the same essential oils of citronella, eucalyptus lemon, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, clove, cedar wood and drop them into a jar. Once you have found the correct blend and it smells potent add a ¼ cup of all grain alcohol.
Blending Essential Oils
If the smell of the alcohol is overwhelming just add more essential oils. I generally use everclear for this but if you can’t find any vodka is a good substitute. This is a perfume now and can be put into a bottle for application or you can turn it into a linen water to stretch it out for a bit longer. Linen waters are created by adding a water component to the perfume blend, so you can top it off with just plain ol' water or use a hydrosol – lavender or lemon balm would both be good choices for a mosquito repellent. Voilà, it is finished!
Alcohol Based

Oil Spray
These are two easy methods to create any kind of repellent you are looking for, change the herbs and essential oils and the possibilities grow – for example, use pennyroyal and you’ve got flea repellent, I've even made blends to deter bed bugs . Remember that defending ourselves from insects is not a new thing that came around at the same time big pharma did, we've always had ways of dealing with bugs.  For most ailments there is usually a natural solution, and certainly no need to rely on government agency to tell us what we can use or can’t use or on big businesses to provide for us. Empower and do it yourself. 

Places to buy really excellent organic whole sale essential oils here:
Eden Botanicals - http://www.edenbotanicals.com/
Essential Aura - http://www.essentialaura.com/

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Herbal Abortion – An Alternative

While I had selfishly wanted to keep the addition to my story for myself, having shared before, after reading an article of the closure of an abortion clinic in Frederiction NB (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/morgentaler-abortion-clinic-in-fredericton-to-close-1.2604535) I decided it was crucial for woman to share knowledge of alternative means to less traumatic abortions. With slut shaming, victim blaming creating guilt attached to the procedure our support networks are quick to be non-existent and we cannot reach out for help when we need it the most.  We need “abortion on demand and without apology”.  Women have controlled our own bodies and choices until recently in human history by using plants to help control fertility, regulate our menstruation and terminate unwanted pregnancies.  This knowledge is now hardly accessible, seen as dangerous or just the stuff coming from those quacks.  When the majority of us are without this traditional knowledge we have ask for a procedure controlled by men and face the very real possibility that the answer could be no, as women in New Brunswick are experiencing.  We are left disempowered, without options and our human rights debated over.  Women die from childbirth.  We get maimed from childbirth.  Our lives and bodies are altered and at risk with every pregnancy. Abortion has and will continue to save women’s lives.  

I have had three abortions. The first was mechanical and the last two have been both herbal. For all of them I had those mixed feelings of glee and grief - a war within my mind when I started feeling the tell-tale signs of pregnancy.  It came with the constant nausea triggered by the heightened smell and sudden aversions to food I had normally enjoyed.  I could sense the budding life inside of my womb and I was looking forward to what was to come, coupled with nervousness and hesitation.  I had known I was pregnant by feeling the implantation take place: it was sharp, intrusive and beautiful. The last abortion was the hardest and for weeks I struggled with what would be the right thing to do; while it was heartbreaking, like everywoman facing this decision, I made the right choice for me and my situation. 

Herbs that shed the lining of a uterus wall are called: abortifacients, [which] had been in use, as a matter of common knowledge, since ancient times, and was certainly well known in the 16th and 17th centuries, for instance, the scurrilous lines in Middleton’s play, A game of chess, act 1; sc.2:

To gather fruit, find nothing but the savin-tree,
Too frequent in nuns’ orchards, and there planted
By all conjecture, to destroy fruit rather.”

For my first herbal termination I had chosen a combination of:

Ginger – “one of the strongest and fastest acting of the emmenagogues.” Susan Weed, Childbearing Year, pg 7.)

Black Cohosh Root – is known as a helper herb and will soften the cervix to release the contents of a uterus.  

Mugwort – “Mugwort has an affinity for the female reproductive system and is used as a uterine stimulant that can bring on delayed menstruation and help restore a woman's natural monthly cycle.” (http://www.anniesremedy.com/chart.php?prop_ID=96)

Sweet Flag – abortifacient

Blue Cohash - has two properties that encourage the uterus to contract. One creates an oxytocin effect, which happens during pregnancy when a woman is about to go into labour, and caulosaponin which triggers uterine contractions.

I really had to overdose on the herbs in order to make sure that they were effective.  I am approx. 135 pounds with a strong build so I had to up the dosage to affect my body weight.  It is recommended to make tinctures out of these herbs or strong infusions. I decided it would be easiest for me to put them into capsules.  This in itself was quite the process - I had to grind up all the herbs, which were hard roots, into a fine enough powder and then put them into caps.  It was long and monotonous and in that gave some time for contemplation and meditation.

I took them pretty much every time I thought of it and by the handful.  More accurately, I usually ate 4 at a time and I managed to take them 3 – 4 times a day totalling on average 12-16 capsules a day.  The process took 2 weeks to complete; for a successful termination the herbs must be taken until the end of your menstrual cycle.  I started noticing the hormonal effects within a day or two and really felt it by the end of the first week.  The cramping kicked in pretty close to the end of the second week and then a flood came on. 

Physically, my body ached, and my hormones felt out of control. I was crankier than a pissed off hornet, I wept at monumentally silly things and my uterus felt like it had been doing sit ups for weeks on end.

 Because of my first herbal termination I had stocked my arsenal of herbs with some plants that are have proven to be more effective.  So I was able to make a tincture of pennyroyal herb (DO NOT INGEST PENNYROYAL OIL), black cohosh, blue cohosh and mugwort. Had I the herb on hand I would have also included tansy. When making tinctures most herbalists suggest letting it sit in a cold dark area for up to 6 weeks, I was concerned about time so had heated it in a glass pot (to approximately scalding temp)and transferred the herbs and the 26 oz of vodka into a mason jar to sit for two days in the suns warmth so the infusion was sped up. Once complete it was strained and the dark brown liquid carried an earthy root fragrance, and tasted bitter leaving a harsh, unpleasant taste in my throat.   

The tincture was incredibly intense and coursed through my body in waves.  On the first day I started taking it by a tablespoon in a cup of warm water for every four hours.  I could feel the effect of the herbs entering my womb, cradling it the promise of an imminent shedding, it was uncomfortable and tugged on my heart.  Even my limbs were affected down to my toes and I was bathed in an eerie calm. That night my body had gone into shock and I had an anxiety attack – my heart was beating so fast that I was sure it would stop, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t stop weeping, I was an utter wet, sloppy mess.  In combination with not eating much, my sore heart and the intensity of the herbs I believe is what had created the environment for me to panic.  Every woman is different and understands her own body so it is important to adjust as necessary.  To make myself more comfortable I had cut down the dosage to ½ tablespoon every 4 hours and I was able to cope better while still being able to feel the effects in my body.

This also seemed to work quicker than the capsule version. I started taking it on 14th of July and had started feeling the cramps on the 17th of July.  They were very powerful and painful, it felt more like contractions than menstrual cramps; they visited in waves throughout the day and night and I was laying on a couch wrapped around a pillow for most of it.  The next day I started bleeding.  The blood was thick and heavy for the first two days and evened out to my regular cycle after that.  It took 5 days in total for my cycle to stop, I had felt empty and had taken another pregnancy test to confirm the feeling - it had come back negative.  

While any form of termination is incredibly unpleasant, herbal or mechanical, I have found the experiences of abortion using methods my ancestresses’ had used was one of the most empowering things I have done as a woman and as an herbalist; it was a freedom that I could never have expected. Hearing stories from women and their experiences of fear of being denied or guilt given by their family and friends is a huge reminder that yes we have come but not nearly far enough.

Though using herbs was less traumatic and freeing, I also want to emphasize that they should be an addition to our access to abortion, not a replacement. We need to re-empower ourselves, work together with conventional practices to provide every woman with access to support and solutions related to her reproductive health. I firmly believe that any reason to terminate is a good reason and I will always fight for our power of choice.