READ LABELS: Carcinogens ingredients in many personal care products.

Carcinogens are known to cause cancer and disease in humans. Surely then, carcinogenic agents wouldn’t be used as common ingredients in personal care products, right? But they are, commonly! At least 11 of the over 100 Group 1 carcinogens listed by the Intentional Agency of Research on Cancer [IACRS-WHO] are commonly used as ingredients in hygiene products.

Sadly, many people buy face creams and cleaners, zit zappers, makeups, shaving creams, and many other daily-used toiletries, not knowing that they contain cancer-causing agents. People trust marketing-based claims that promise beauty and health while never mentioning that their ingredients include carcinogenic agents like chromium, formaldehyde, phenacetin, coal tar, benzene, mineral oils, methylene glycol, ethylene oxide, cadmium and its compounds, arsenic, and crystalline silica / quartz. These agents can cause cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, carcinogenic bioaccumulation, and ecotoxicity. 

Check your products. Read the labels. If they aren’t up to the health standards, throw them away. I have thrown hundreds of dollars of bad products away. After I learned their ingredients are hazardous or harmful, even carcinogenic, the cost was nominal.

NOTE: IARC-WHO* consolidates scientific evidence and classifies the chemicals it reviews into five levels:

  • Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 3: Not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans
  • Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans.
  • *The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC_WHO) is an intergovernmental agency that’s a part of the World Health Organization. IARC’s mission is to enhance collaboration in cancer research internationally

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Gramma Judy’s Special Cream

Recently, my crafty Aunt Judy asked me if I would send her a simple hand cream recipe that she could have fun making at home. Moisturizing hand cream is a bit thinner than a balm or salve because there is no wax in the recipe. I sent her a super simple moisturizing cream recipe that uses easy to find wholesome ingredients.

Easiest recipe option.

  • 16oz. Olive or Sunflower oil
  • 12oz. Cocoa Butter (may substitute for Shea Butter)
  • 4oz. Coconut Oil (may substitute for Mango Butter)
  • 10-20 drops Essential Oil (optional)

1) Infuse the purest quality or organic olive or sunflower oil from the baking section of your grocery store. 

2) Warm the oil to melt temperature.

3) Separately melt coconut oil and cocoa butter (or substitutes) together. 

4) Mix the heated oil and melted ingredients. Then turn off the heat. Note: Do not heat over 170 F degrees.

5) Add the essential oil, like lavender, tea tree, or Cajeput essential oil it. Mix gently, stir well for about 20 seconds. Add about 10-20 drops of essential oil per pint of carrier oil, so if you add more than one essential oil, adjust ratios as needed.

6) Pour the ingredients into mason jars. (Note: Be sure to check with the manufacturer that the glass is heat-tolerant). I find 8 oz. Wide-mouth Mason jars work well for home.  

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Copyright 2019 The Apothecary Company llc, All rights reserved.

Prepping for our 2019 Growing Season

At The Apothecary Company, we grow most of our infused botanicals at our two garden locations. We have 50 acres of land in Bristol, Virginia that we wildcraft from mostly, however, about an acre of the land is used for organic gardening of non-GMO and heirloom plants. The Apothecary Company practices “lost skills” like wildcrafting that were once commonplace (which is a topic talked about in an earlier post).

The Apothecary Company also maintains an organic garden in Johnson City, Tennessee growing non-GMO and heirloom herbs, flowers, and botanicals. This plant matter is used directly in our oil-infusions, tinctures, teas, syrups, decoctions, and macerations. Check out our handmade products at our Apothecary.

Creating natural solutions for daily self-care needs.  Copyright 2019 The Apothecary Company llc, All rights reserved.

Don’t light a health hazard.

Check your candles.

Not all candles are created equal. As a proponent of meditation, mindfulness exercises, and relaxation techniques we believe in the power of being able to take a deep pure breath. Simply enjoy our Infused Soy Wax Tealights knowing you are not introducing toxins into your home from burning paraffin or hidden chemicals. 

Here is what we consider when selecting our candle ingredients.

Our standards are key to our success: 

1. All-Natural: Our candle wax ingredients include USA grown and made soy wax infused with the real scent of herb, flower, fruit,  and vegetable essential oils. Learn more about our infusion methods here. 

Soy wax is a healthier alternative to paraffin wax because it doesn’t release dangerous carcinogens into the air when melted or burned. Paraffin wax literally is developed from the slug the bottom of an oil barrel. After petroleum is processed into motor oil, kerosene, diesel gasoline, and other saleable fuels the discarded oil is separated into wax and industrial waste by chemical crystallization, intense heat, and industrial solvents (e.g., ketone) to create “paraffin wax”. The “soot” created from burning paraffin wax candles in your home is identical to the toxins found in diesel fuel emissions. The researchers at the University of Michigan found paraffin wax candles give off emissions that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for outdoor air quality.

Due to the inhalation toxicity of paraffin wax soot, the American Lung Association has issued a warning since 2005 that paraffin candles emit acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acetone, benzene, 2-butanone, carbon disulfide, carbon tetrachloride, creosol, chlorobenzene carbon monoxide, cyclopentene, ethylbenzene, phenol, styrene tetrachloroethene, toluene, and xylene. Lighting paraffin wax candles or wax melts release at least 16 known toxins, 2 of which are carcinogens.

Carcinogens are known to cause cancer in people and animals by altering DNA. Often additives and fragrances are added to candle wax and never disclosed to the consumer.  The candle industry hides toxic chemicals (e.g., scent boosters, color enhancers, etc.) behind the term “additive” and “fragrance” to cover up a plethora of synthetic substances used to make the aromas or create a lustrous finish on a product.  The problem is that most of these chemicals are quite toxic to breathe in and have serious inhalation risks.

For example, Phthalates (a well-known endocrine/hormone disruptor [EDC]) are a group of industrial-grade concoctions that are used as plastic softeners, solvents, and fragrances. Commonly Phthalates are used in fragrances, and manufacturers are allowed to legally hide them as “trade secrets”. The World Health Organization recognizes EDCs, like Phthalatesin fragrance oils, a global threat to the fertility of men and women. 

Another thing about soy wax, while I love the smell of natural beeswax candles, let’s ‘bee’ honest – beeswax is not a sustainable resource. Our planet has seen the greatest modern decrease in the bee population over the last decade.  Bees are struggling to keep up with the ever-growing demand for beeswax and honey. Soy wax is a vegan substitute for beeswax. 

2. Safety: We only use UL approved flame-retardant plastic which we have found to be the best flame retardant plastic available.  Also, the eco-friendly cotton wicks are designed to safely extinguish once all the wax has been consumed.  

3. Renewable & Sustainable: A group of college students from Purdue University developed a birthday candle using a renewable resource made from soy.  Soy wax is a 100% biodegradable vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. The U.S. grows the vast majority of the world’s soybeans, primarily in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. We proudly make our products with soy wax Made in the USA. 

4. Recyclable Materials: Our tealight cups are made from recycled plastic, our glass votives are made from recycled glass and both are recyclable after use. The metal wick-base is also recyclable and no waste is added to the planet from these candles use.  Please, keep the cycle going. Remember to put used tealight cups in the recycle bin, not the trash.  Or wash the candle cups with soap and water, and refill with more wax and a fresh wick

5. Eco-friendly: Soy wax is a 100% biodegradable vegetable wax, and our cotton wicks are made with 100% cotton also biodegradable. After the tealight cup and the metal wick-base are recycled, no waste is added to the planet from its use. 

Don’t light a health hazard, buy all-natural. 

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Teas, Tisanes, Oil-Infusions, Decoctions, Macerations, Tinctures, and Percolations, oh my!

Herbal medicinal products are pharmaceutical products of plant origin, also known as phytopharmaceuticals. They exclusively contain one or more herbal substances or herbal preparations as active ingredients or combinations of them.

Most people are familiar with a herbal infusion like putting a tea bag or tea ball in a cup of hot water and allowing it to steep a couple minutes before drinking – tea is one of the most common infusions used today. But tea isn’t the only way. Infusions are used to extract vitamins and volatile ingredients from soft ingredients like leaves, flowers, citrus peelings, etc. There are many great ways to infuse plants. Teas, Tisanes, Oil-Infusions, Decoctions, Macerations, Tinctures, and Percolations all are forms of plant infusions used medicinally. Matter of fact, tea is the weakest of these herbal infusions. Let’s take a look at some differences between these Phytopharmaceutical mixtures.

Teas & Tisanes

Technically, tea refers to the leaves of just one plant native to China. Green tea & black tea, are examples of this type of infusion. Tea is generally made with boiling water and tea leaves steeped for about 5 to 10 minutes before drinking. The short brewing time helps to retain the volatile ingredients like antioxidants while drinking.

Many beverages called “tea” are actually not tea. Herbal ‘tea-like’ infusions are actually Tisanes, a French word for “herbal infusion”. Historically consumed for medicinal reasons or as a caffeine-free alternative. Tisane infusions are made from the leaves, bark, roots, berries, seeds, and spices of plants and have a multifarious medicinal effect. Steeped the same way as tea, herbs are let to soak in boiling water for a few minutes before strained for drinking. Of all the infusions, however, typically there is less medicinal value in teas and tisanes than other infusions because it is steeped for only a short time.

Calendula and Castor Oil

Oil infusions have become more popular with olive oil shops popping up all over the place offering oil-based seasonings. Infused cooking oils and medicinal oil-infusions are typically made in the same fashion – soaking plants in oil. An infusion’s purpose is to extract more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll from your herb than from tea. It’s considered more medicinal because of this and in addition to producing a more concentrated elixir, it’s often used for preparations that contain hard, woody stems or bark since they need more than just a little warm water to extract their medicinal properties. To make an infusion, add one cup of herb to a quart jar of your favorite carrier oil (e.g., Coconut oil, Grape Seed oil, Avocado oil, Apricot Seed Oil, etc.), vacuum seal the mason jar and let it sit. Depending on the plant part and type you might infuse the mixture for more or less time. Our recommendation for infusion times for Roots/Barks/Seeds is at least 12 hours minimum; Plant Leaves a minimum of 8 hours; Flowers have a 2 hours minimum; and, Berries infuse for at least a 4-hour minimum. You can see how the more fragile parts of the plant need a lot less steeping time than the woody parts. Also, consider the dryness of the plant material. If the plant if fresh-cut the minimum time recommendations can be used. However, with dried plants, you will likely need to use more time than the minimums suggested. Use your judgment to examine the plant material for when it looks and smells “done”. When the plants have completely infused their nutrients into the preparation the plants lose their scent and the oil takes it on. With the vital nutrients infused into the preparation, the infusion is ready to use for cooking, making handmade hygiene products, or for medicinal purposes. You then strain it, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the plant material. The remaining plant matter can then be put in your compost.

Watch the tempature to not overheat and denature the phytochemicals.

The word “decoct” means to concentrate an infusion by cooking it down. A decoction is used to extract primarily the mineral salts and bitter principles of plants from hard materials such as roots, bark, seeds, and wood; however, it is sometime used to ‘simmer-down’ infusions into concentrated forms. These plant materials generally require a low-heat infusion for at least 24 hours and then are allowed to steep for a number of days in a vacuum-sealed mason jar in cool storage.

Steeping plants

Maceration is the process of soaking or slow-steeping plant material to make it softer or to dissolve. Maceration is most commonly used in the wine-making process when macerating fruits with sugar, lemon juice, and spices. Maceration involves a number of biological and chemical processes and is useful to preserve plants by freeing the botanicals from contact with bacteria. Maceration is a process that requires proper control. If maceration proceeds for a longer time than the correct time, it breaks down plants and makes it overly mushy or may denature the phytochemicals.

A tincture is a liquid preparation produced by using Comminution (i.e., reduction) and Maceration to prepare plant material in a mixture of alcohol, glycerine, or water at room temperature over a prescribed period of time. The mixture is then pressed and filtered to yield a fluid into which suspend active constituents of the herb. Effectively any herb can be converted into a tincture, but tinctures are not appropriate to all therapeutic strategies. One consideration of using alcohol-based solvents is that the tonics may not be appropriate to use for some people. Considering which solvent you use for your tincture is important. Glycerine is a better solvent of natural color transfers and tannin-suspension than alcohol. In fact, some herbalists will only use glycerine tinctures for tannin-rich remedies and other constituents that tend towards sedimentation.

Percolation is a more challenging method of making tinctures which uses seeping a substance through plant matter or filtering a liquid through a porous substance/material in order to make use of gravity to extract constituents from botanicals. In simpler terms, think of making coffee. Sometimes called the ‘menstruum and marc’ method – where an alcohol, oil or water (the menstruum) is allowed to slowly drip through the marc (the herbs) to pull the micronutrients from the plants. The entire process unusually takes a few days for herbal compounds and generally requires specific instruments.

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Copyright 2019 The Apothecary Company llc, All rights reserved.

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