5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

5 Fresh Ways to Use Fresh Mint #garden #mint #cleaneatingGot a mint plant (or two) that’s going crazy? Not sure what to do with it?

I hear ya! Mint is famous for flourishing whether or not you want it to, which can be good (Hey, it’s yummy! And good for you!) and bad (There’s only so much mint one person can handle at a time.). It’s kind of tricky trying to find different ways to use fresh mint when it’s coming out of your ears. I’ve done all the usual things with my fresh mint so far:

All of those things get old, though, after a while, so I put myself on a mission to find some fun and creative ways to use my mint plant. I’m looking forward to trying out these five fresh ideas for my fresh mint!

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

  1. Fresh Mint Iced Coffee – You know me, I’m always up for a good cuppa joe. So much the better if it’s made with an unexpected twist and an unusual ingredient. (Remember my Lavender Iced Coffee?)
  2. I never in my life would have thought to put fresh mint into cookies or cupcakes, but these bloggers totally went there! I’d like to try some Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies or Fresh Mint Chocolate Cupcakes!
  3. And while I’m baking, I think I shall have to whip up some Cranberry Mint Scones, which not only use fresh mint, but fresh cranberries, too! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  4. It’s admittedly not that odd for baked goods to incorporate a fresh mint flavor, but savory foods? This Moroccan Spiced Potato Pizza doesn’t have any cheese… but it does have fresh mint!
  5. Another yummy-sounding savory option is this Honey Mint Glazed Chicken. I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t already prepped all my chicken in marinades before putting it in the freezer!

 

How to Wash Produce

How to Wash Produce #ygbt #oams #cleanfood Don’t you just love a tip that saves you time and money… and is good for you in the process? You can’t beat that, right?! Well, that’s the sort of tip I’ve got for you today.

  • I’ll save you TIME by showing you how to wash your produce all at once (and if you only go grocery shopping once a month, it saves you even more time).
  • I’ll save you MONEY by showing you how washing your produce all at once will make it last longer and stay fresher.
  • It’s GOOD FOR YOU because washing your produce and having fresher produce means fewer pesticides entering your body and more nutrition.

It’s a win-win all around, my friend! Here’s how to wash produce in big batches to save you time and money.

How to Wash Your Produce (and save time and money in the process)

First of all, I want to highly recommend that you go grocery shopping once a month if you’re really interested in saving yourself significant time and money. It might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s totally doable and it works. You’ll find all the info you need to get started in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

Once you’ve gone on your monthly shopping trip, you’ll have a mountain of produce that you want to last as long as possible. There are a lot of ways to do that, and many of them are discussed in the book, but one of the best ways is simply to wash all the produce before you put it away. So pile up all the produce on the counter next to the sink, and then get started!

1. Fill the sink with water and some vinegar.

You can also add a couple drops of Thieves oil for added cleaning power! You don’t need a huge amount of vinegar; I just add a few generous splashes and call it good.

Place your produce gently in the water. Be sure not to put things like apples and blackberries in at the same time, because that could be seriously bad news for the blackberries. Depending on how much produce you have, you may need to do several batches.

Let the produce sit in the water for a minute or two.

2. Rinse the produce in a colander.

Remove the produce from the sink and place in a colander. If you have a double sink, you can rinse it right away; otherwise, you might need to wait to rinse until you’ve run all the produce through the vinegar bath.

Be sure to rinse the produce very thoroughly to get off all the remaining pesticides and bacteria, as well as all the vinegar.

3. Place the produce on a towel to dry.

Set out some towels on your countertops and put the produce on the towels in a single layer to dry. I sometimes leave it on the countertops overnight, depending on the time I get started with it, but generally it will take only a couple hours.

Carefully store the produce in the appropriate spot in the fridge or pantry.

This whole process takes 10-15 minutes plus drying time and saves you a lot of money in the long run! You’ll find that your produce lasts significantly longer when you wash it this way before storing it, which means less produce dumped in the trash. And, of course, your produce will be cleaner and fresher for you when you go to eat it, which is good for your health as well.

Helping you save money on your groceries is one of my favorite things to do ever, so I’m super excited about my latest project. I’m working on updating and slightly revising the ebook I mentioned earlier, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. It’s going to be an even better resource to help you keep your money in your pocket while purchasing the highest quality  of food possible for your family. Once the second edition of YGBT is released, I’ll be working on a spiral-bound print copy as well! And on top of all that, pretty soon after that I’ll be releasing an eCourse that personally walks you through the process of saving money on your groceries. I’m not a squee-in’ kinda girl normally, but I’m so excited about what I’ve got in store for you that I’m about to do just that! So make sure you sign up for email updates so you know when all of this brand new awesomeness is released. Here’s to healthy food… and more money in your pocket!

 

Bust Summer Boredom with Summer Camp at Home

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids

For the past two years, I’ve been teaching in a summer camp at the school where I am a preschool teacher. Since I taught in summer camp, my kids tagged along with me and benefited greatly from the structured environment and the regular academic review (plus lots of time outside and plenty of fun activities).

This year, however, I’m not teaching summer camp in any official capacity… but I don’t want my kids to get bored! Neither do I want them to forget EVERYthing they learned in school this past year, so I feel that they need to be regularly reviewing basic concepts. Summer camp is the easiest way to address both problems, but I can’t exactly afford to sign them up for any programs available in our area.

Enter Summer Camp at Home! Now mind you, despite the fact that I teach for a living and lesson planning is actually one of my favorite parts… well, summer is summer. Ain’t nobody got time for that planning stuff. So this is my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let-somebody-else-do-the-planning… and-the-cleanup… kind of summer camp.

Sound good to you? Yeah, thought so.

Here’s how we fill our time, have fun, and get in a little bit of education, too (while still leaving plenty of time to relax), without hardly any work on my part:Summer Camp at Home #summer #summercampathome

1.Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic

It’s so important to keep these basic concepts fresh in the mind throughout the summer, and it’s also super easy! It only takes about half an hour each day to do some simple worksheets, reading practice, and flash card review. I love to do creative, play-focused activities with my children and students, but in my opinion, these 3 subjects require plain old hard work (repetition and regular practice in applying the skills) in order to truly master them.

Try a few of these options:

  • Preschool and lower elementary grades can take advantage of the dollar store’s selection of basic workbooks. They’ll especially love the ones with Disney or other cartoon themes! My kids do a combination of phonics/spelling (depending on their level) and math workbooks every day, one page in each workbook. I’ve also picked up age-appropriate workbooks at their levels in thrift stores and at yard sales.
  • Free printables abound online! My K3-General Subjects Pinterest board has some great links on it; check out my othe
  • r Pinterest boards for more subject-specific printables.
  • Flash cards for many basic topics are also available at the dollar store: numbers, shapes, colors, letters, math facts, and more. You can use these flash cards to play lots of different games, as well.
  • Various websites offer customizable worksheets so your little summer students can focus on areas specific to their needs. Twisty Noodle is great for beginning writers, while the AtoZ Teachers website offers a handwriting worksheet generator for older writers. Math Fact Cafe is a great resource for creating math worksheets on any level. Starfall is one of the best online resources for teaching and developing reading skills.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids2. Science & History Field Trips

Do you have any nature centers in your area? Trails to hike? Public gardens, zoos, animal parks, farms you can visit? All of these qualify for science study, and give your kids great hands-on experiences without a lot of planning or prep on your part. Many of these types of places often have special programs for kids that are cheap or free and provide an even more educational experience. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks, most cities have children’s museums and science museums with lots of great hands-on exhibits (and a relief from the summer heat).

My county (Fairfax County in VA) has a special program for kids that rewards them for visiting 8 of their 12 parks and nature centers, and many national/state parks have similar programs. Check out what your local state and national park programs have to offer!

I also plan to take my kids to nearby farms to pick fruit that’s in season throughout the summer, which adds another element to their science (and health and nutrition) education.

In addition to a wealth of science opportunities, we also live surrounded by Civil War battlefields and other historic areas. We also live within driving distance of Colonial era historic sites, like Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown and the like. On top of that, we can head into DC or Baltimore, MD (Fort McHenry!) anytime we want for a field trip as good as any they’d encounter anywhere! For those of you who live in the Metropolitan DC area (or are planning a trip this way), check out Specialicious for local deals on various activities. Also try Certifikid, which is available in 10 different cities around the country, and offers discount deals on all kinds of family-friendly activities, including local historic sites and more. Dealize is a great resource to help you find local group deals wherever you live.

My plan is to take my kids on two field trips each week – one science based, the other history based. You can fit it into your schedule however it works best for you!

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids3. Exercise

We play outside a lot, too, which has tons of obvious benefits besides being just plain old fun. For hot days, sidewalk chalk and bubbles under the shade are the way to go, at least until evening comes and we can run around a bit in the cooler air.

We also invest in an annual pass to the water park just down the street from us – it’s a wonderful way to cool down and have fun throughout the summer, and adds a vacation feel to our busy summer.

If you live near a Bowl America, consider their Summer Blast Pass, which offers free bowling games to kids all summer long. All you have to pay for is shoe rental.

Otherwise, we opt out of sports programs in the summer, preferring to keep our schedule on the slower side. You might find, though, that your little summer campers benefit from more organized sports programs – swimming lessons, perhaps, or participating in fun runs.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids4. Arts & Crafts

If you’re not very artsy – see me raising my hand?- and/or you dislike cleaning up a mess made by little artisans – raising my hand again – then consider checking out local arts and crafts stores for their kids’ programs in the summer. Here are some that we’re going to try:

  • Michael’s has a kids’ art class program called Passport to Imagination with different themed activities each week. One class costs $5, 3 classes are only $12.  Joanns has a program called “Little Makers” with different classes in various arts and crafts. Most of them are geared towards children 8 and older, some are designed for younger children, ages 5 and up. Also, most of their classes cost, some $20 or more, some $10 or less. If you have AC Moore near you, they have “Summer Fun Wednesday” classes from 1-3pm each Wednesday.
  • Home Depot and Lowe’s also have free kids’ workshops throughout the year.
  • The Lego Store also has a monthly Mini Model workshop where each attendee can build and take home a mini model. You have to register for these right away, though, as they are quite popular!
  • If cooking is more your thing, and you have one near by, try Williams-Sonoma’s free Junior Chef classes.
  • Microsoft stores and Apple stores have kids’ programs (ages 8 and up) for the more technologically-minded.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids5. Fun & Relaxation

What’s summer without fun? I mean the kind of fun that doesn’t have any other purpose! I check out Facebook groups, local blogs and websites for links to free and cheap fun summer activities. Local libraries are also a great source of fun kids programs in the summer and all year long.

Here are some of the fun things we’ll be doing this summer:

  • Free/Cheap kids’ movies from several different local theaters. Regal Entertainment is one that offers $1 kids movies once or twice a week throughout the summer.
  • Downtime at home: we don’t have a lot of time during the school year to watch TV or play video games, so I let my kids have some free downtime during the summer to do those things.
  • Playdates: We’ve had a couple already and have scheduled a couple more. We are especially looking forward to spending more time with friends we don’t get to see as often during the school year.
  • We also hope to schedule a few day or weekend trips throughout the summer, just to relax and get away and “feel” like vacation.
  • And finally, when my husband and I go on a missions trip to … wait for it… Arkansas!… my in-laws will be watching The Boyz for a week, so they get a whole full week with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, & Cousins!

So how do you do summer at home? Do you continue school? Try to maintain structure to one extent or another, or just let the lazy summer days ride on by? 

Sharing at Mommy Monday

Remembering {and Reviving} the True Story of Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As a child, I remember feeling a certain affinity for Raggedy Ann simply because she (sorta) bore my name. I didn’t really have a passionate interest in the doll (frankly, I didn’t love dolls much at all), but I did feel a kinship with my namesake doll.

Fast forward to 2015… I’m all grown up now and I still have an affinity for Raggedy Ann, but for entirely different reasons. As the vaccine storm whips up into a frenzy, I’m reminded that Raggedy Ann was a potent symbol of one of the earliest anti-vaccine movements that holds eery similarities to today.

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Sad Story of Raggedy Ann

Johnny Gruelle was the creator and inventor of Raggedy Ann, a creation intended for the enjoyment of his daughter Marcella. Around the same time he was developing the story and character of Raggedy Ann to prepare for publishing, Marcella was given the smallpox vaccination at school without the consent of her parents. Shockingly, although she developed an infection from the vaccination, they inoculated her several more times. Marcella died a slow and painful death, eventually becoming so weak she could not move her muscles, and so was much like a rag doll in appearance. After her death, Johnny became a staunch supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and Raggedy Ann became a symbol of that movement. You can read more about the Raggedy Ann story here.

At a time when scared and angry parents are calling for compulsory and mandatory vaccinations across the board – no exemptions – it behooves us to remember the hard-won freedoms of earlier generations who had valid concerns about that very practice. 

Raggedy Ann, Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I know many of us who have questions about vaccines have been feeling rather attacked lately in social media and mommy wars. The insults, the threats, the anger, and the hate are bullets that, while they may not change our course, certainly leave wounds behind. Many of my fellow vaccine-questioners have expressed to me that they are tired of dealing with the onslaught, tired of debating, tired of the hatred directed at them. Most of them have come to the conclusion that they’d rather not get into these heated debates – not with people they love, and not with strangers online – and so have resigned themselves to silence.

I’m torn myself because I am also heartily tired of the debate, and I’m tired of the vitriol. It’s exhausting to be constantly defending myself and trying to educate folks on the very real dangers of vaccination. But I feel like the heat of the battle means that it’s almost over, and if we don’t keep pressing on, we’ll lose. We’ll lose the right to make medical decisions for ourselves and our children, and that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to take a ride on.

So. I have an idea. Let’s all take up the symbol of previous generations who fought the very same battle and faced the same foes. Johnny Gruelle fought with ink and paper, let’s fight on social media. But you don’t have to say a thing! All you need to do is replace your profile pic on all your social media accounts with a picture of Raggedy Ann. It’s a seemingly innocuous image that won’t get in people’s faces and it won’t anger anyone. But it will represent what you stand for and it will remind you of your historic right to fight for that stand.

And if enough of us do it, then we’ll have a sea of Raggedy Ann profile pictures all across Facebook, across Twitter, across Instagram. Folks will see all those Raggedy Anns and will start wondering. And when they do, you can point them to the history of Raggedy Ann by posting a simple link. You don’t have to say a word. Let Raggedy Ann speak for you.

Are you in? Let’s do this thing!

Raggedy Ann Social Media Storm

  1. Download a free graphic of Raggedy Ann.
  2. Upload it as your profile picture to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… wherever you are on social media.
  3. If anybody asks you why, direct them to this link that explains the story of Raggedy Ann.

Palm of His Hand Valentines

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines While browsing through Pinterest for Valentine’s-Day-Card inspiration, I spied a brilliant card/gift idea that incorporated the verse from Isaiah that says “I have engraved you on the palm of My  hand”. Beautiful verse, beautiful thought, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Plus also, perfect for gifting with a pencil instead of junky VDay candy. Can I get an Amen?! You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

The particular card that inspired me was not exactly what I was looking for, though, and as it turns out, what I’m looking for really wasn’t out there. However, I’m very grateful I spied it because it started my wheels turning… and they kept turning… and turning… until they came up with this cute little Valentine idea!You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

I re-worded the verse just a bit (call it the Simpson Limited Edition Version) to make it more personal and easily understood by its future recipients… and also to make it fit even better with the pencil idea. As I was making the cards with my boys, I explained to them that sometimes people write something very important on their hand that they want to remember, and that’s exactly what we are to God: very important and unforgettable!

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentinesI intentionally made these cards with the bold turquoise/red theme because I love that color combo and because – hello – I have boys. Pink and purple – not their thing. ‘Nuff said. You can use any color scheme you want, depending on the paint you have and the color of doilies you find. I kept you in mind when creating the printable circles with the verse on the back and made a set with pink and purple just in case. You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

Palm of His Hand Valentine’s Day Cards

Supplies

  • 1 package of medium sized doilies
  • paint
  • white card stock
  • printable verse circles
  • glue stick
  • black pen (or whatever dark color works best with your color scheme)
  • sharp scissors or X-acto knife
  • Valentines’ themed pencils

Instructions

  1. Have your child make one handprint for each card using whatever color of paint you’d like (we used a bold turquoise).
  2. While the handprints are drying, cut out the printable verse circles and glue them onto the back of each doily right in the center.
  3. Once the handprints are dry, cut them out and glue on the front of each doily in the center.
  4. Write the name of the recipient across the palm of the handprint.
  5. Use sharp scissors or an X-acto knife to cut a slit a little bit above and a little bit below the name. Thread the pencil from above into the bottom slit, and then from below into the top slit so that it is held securely on the heart.
  6. Spread Valentine’s Day cheer by giving to friends and loved ones.

You are written on the palm of His hand. #valentines

 

Simple and Elegant Wedding Card Storage

Wedding Card Keepsake

In my ever ongoing efforts to de-clutter, I’ve come across my stash of wedding cards several times. As unsentimental as my husband accuses me of being at times (well, he’s right… I’m a pretty practical old girl at heart), there are some things that I am loathe to part with even though their one and only value is sentiment. Wedding cards are one of those things. Up until recently, I really didn’t know what to do with them; I just had them stashed in a wedding gift bag waiting until I had a brilliant idea.

Wedding Card Keepsake

And it’s true that good things come to those who wait… since I gave it about 9 years, give or take a day, I finally hit upon a brilliantly simple idea. Let’s not talk about how it should have come to me quite literally YEARS ago, ‘k? Let’s just call it brilliant, simple, elegant, and leave it at that.

So here’s how you create you very own simple, elegant, and truly quite brilliant wedding card keepsake and you probably won’t even have to spend a dime.Wedding Card Keepsake

Wedding Card Keepsake

Required Items

 a length of ribbon, preferably left over from your wedding or at least in the same color scheme

a hole punch

your wedding/bridal shower cards

Process

  1. The hard part is the de-cluttering process where you might need to part with some of your cards if you haven’t already. If you don’t have a stack that rivals a mini-mountain, you can skip this step; but if your stack looks anything like mine, you’ll want to weed it out a bit. I went through my stack and threw away (yes, it hurt a little) all the cards that were multiples from the same person (Bless their heart, those people who bothered to gift and/or write a card twice! They are much nicer than me.) and all the cards from people whose name and face I could not put together and/or am no longer in touch with. (When you wait 9 years, this happens. Sad but true.)
  2. Once you have a manageable stack, grab your hole punch and punch a hole in the top left corner of each card, making sure to leave enough of a margin around the hole that it won’t wear through easily. In other words, put the hole a good half inch or so down into the card.
  3. Thread your ribbon through each card one at a time until they are all strung. Tie as beautiful of a bow as you can manage, making sure to leave just a bit of a gap to allow for moving the cards back and forth.
  4. Voila! Done!
Wedding Card Storage

See my little wedding card keepsake snugly tucked into the photo album shelf?

Told ya that was brilliantly simple. And really rather elegant, yes? And it makes it easy for me to read the card from my grandma and grandpa, both who have passed on to their eternal home within the past nine years. Their legacy of a lifetime of love is one I will treasure always. A Lifetime of Love

5 Indisputable Facts About Vaccines

5 Indisputable Facts About VaccinesI don’t normally get controversial here on the blog but some things weigh heavily on my heart and this is one of them. I’m concerned by the growing number of people who are angrily shouting “You dumb anti-vaxers with your pseudo-science! You’re killing everybody else with your stupid refusal to vaccinate!”; they are so blinded by their anger (fueled by media reports funded by pharmaceutical companies) that they don’t stop, take a breath and listen to actual facts. Well at any rate, that’s the impression I get from their ranting internet comments.

First of all, I’m not technically an “anti-vaxer”. My children have been partially vaccinated  on a delayed schedule and I myself have had at least one vaccine as an adult. I do believe strongly, however, that vaccines carry an inherent risk and that every parent should have the freedom to decide if they want their children to take that risk or not. There are valid, logical, science-based reasons why some parents choose not to vaccinate, and I think everybody needs to take a step back and acknowledge that truth.

So here we go. Five indisputable facts about vaccines:

1. Vaccines Contain Toxic Ingredients

A vaccine does not contain merely the active vaccinating ingredient (i.e., a virus in some form or other) and the culture media required for its development, it also contains additional ingredients that are intended to either increase the effectiveness of the vaccine, or to stabilize and preserve it. The CDC has published a little booklet called The Guide to Vaccine Contraindications and Precautions, for your perusal. Among other things, this booklet informs you of all the known ingredients in the vaccines currently available today. Here are a few selections detailing some of the ingredients in commonly administered vaccines, copied and pasted directly from the bookDTaP (Daptacel) - Aluminum Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Casamino Acid, Dimethyl-beta-cyclodextrin, Formaldehyde or Formalin, Glutaraldehyde, 2-Phenoxyethanol, Aluminum Hydroxid MMR (MMR-II) - Amino Acid, Bovine Albumin or Serum, Chick Embryo Fibroblasts, Human Serum Albumin,  Gelatin, Glutamate, Neomycin, Phosphate Buffers, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Vitamins Pneumococcal (Prevnar) - Aluminum Phosphate, Amino Acid, Soy Peptone,  Yeast Extract Rotavirus (RotaTeq) - Cell Culture Media, Fetal Bovine Serum, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Phosphate Monobasic Monohydrate, Sodium Hydroxide Sucrose, Polysorbate 80 Other vaccines have very similar lists. To sum up, vaccines contain a cocktail of the following ingredients:

  • Antibiotics
  • Aluminum
  • Animal and Human Cells, including from monkeys, chickens, cows, and aborted human fetuses
  • Formaldehyde
  • MSG
  • and of course, the infamous Thimerasol

Additional facts for your consideration:

  • It’s important to know that in order to protect the trade secrets of vaccine manufacturers, they are only required to disclose inactive ingredients “when a safety factor”. One would assume that vaccine manufacturers abide by this stipulation, and therefore those undisclosed ingredients should fall under the category of “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA. Unfortunately, potential allergens and other ingredients many people choose to avoid are considered GRAS by the FDA, and thereby could be included in vaccines without anyone’s knowledge. One can only speculate about potential additional ingredients, but let’s stick to the facts, which are: there are additional unlisted ingredients in vaccines.
  • Another fact to consider is that by utilizing animal and human tissue for the development of vaccines, a whole assortment of various contaminants can potentially find their way into vaccines. The FDA has discussed the difficulty of ensuring that “adventitious agents” do not make their way into the final vaccine product. This is a valid concern because it has actually happened on several different occasions, the contamination of the polio vaccine with SV40 being the most infamous. Of course, vaccine manufacturers do their very best to ensure that such things don’t happen; but consider how difficult it would be to effectively test every batch of a vaccine, in each step of the process, for any number of known and unknown pathogens and other undesirable materials. The fact is: developing vaccines with animal and human tissue increases the risk of “adventitious agents” finding their way into vaccines.
  • The CDC and FDA and all vaccine manufacturers insist that the majority of these ingredients are present only in trace amounts, but keep in mind that a child following the CDC schedule will have received 16-18 shots by the time they are 6 months old. Those trace amounts (of multiple toxins and other potentially dangerous ingredients) add up quickly at that rate. Those who say a child could encounter that much or more of the same toxins environmentally fail to take into consideration that these toxins are injected into the bloodstream, bypassing the body’s natural defenses.

My Conclusion: I go to great lengths to ensure that my children eat a healthy diet that is as free as possible of GMO’s, pesticides, artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, refined sugars, and refined flours. I purchase only grass-fed pastured meats and dairy products to avoid overexposure to antibiotics and hormones. I avoid antibiotics as medication whenever possible. In fact, I avoid pretty much all medication, finding instead that natural remedies are at least as effective as the pharmaceutical options. I also breastfed both of my babies, avoiding introducing food until they were at least 6 months of age, and continued to breastfeed as long as I could. In short, I do everything I can to reduce my family’s exposure to chemicals and toxins to the extent it is possible. Based on this working philosophy, why would I intentionally repeatedly inject the very ingredients I otherwise work diligently to avoid, into my infants’ developing body? To do so would contradict all my efforts to ensure their maximum health. 

2. Vaccines Can Have Serious Side Effects

Most doctors will say when pressed that vaccines typically only trigger mild side effects or reactions, such as slight swelling at the injection site, a mild rash or a low fever. Those are indeed the most common reactions/side effects, but that does not mean they are the only ones. On the contrary, a brief skimming of a vaccine insert will reveal that at least two pages are required to list and explain all the possible side effects of each vaccine.  If your doctor didn’t offer you a chance to read through the vaccine insert before injecting your child, you can access the information readily online from each manufacturer’s website. Here’s a partial listing from some of the more common vaccines: MMR - Atypical measles; fever; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability; pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; nausea; diabetes mellitus; anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions; arthritis; encephalitis; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; febrile convulsions; pneumonia; otitis media; conjunctivitis DTaP - Cyanosis; injection site pain; injection site rash; injection site nodule; injection site mass; cellulitis; febrile convulsion; grand mal convulsion; partial seizures; screaming Polio - lymphadenopathy; convulsion; febrile convulsion; headache; paresthesia; and somnolence Additional facts for your consideration:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System that catalogs all submitted vaccine reaction reports. All reactions deemed “serious” are reviewed by medical experts; and from October 2011 to August 2013, on average, 870 serious adverse event reports were filed per month. The CDC is the first to admit that one of the main limitations of VAERS is underreporting, meaning that the actual numbers of serious adverse events are significantly higher. How much higher? It’s impossible to know for sure, given the variables, but the FDA surmises that in some cases, as little as 1% of adverse reactions to medications are reported to MedWatch, the pharmaceutical product counterpart to VAERS. In the same publication, they mention that the British passive reporting system estimates underreporting to be anywhere from 2-10%. So let’s go with the highest estimate of 10%, and that means that if an average of 870 serious adverse events are reported to VAERS each month, then in all likelihood, there are at least 8700 serious reactions each month. 
  • Another limitation of VAERS is that anyone can report an adverse event, including parents of affected children. You might assume, therefore, that the database would be rife with inflated reports from militant “anti-vaxers”. However, the DHHS confirms that the majority of reports (83%) are actually filed by vaccine manufacturers, health professionals, and state immunization programs. Only 7% are reported by parents, and the remaining 10% are “other sources”.
  • The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (more on that establishment in a minute) has awarded more than two and a half BILLION dollars for vaccine-related injuries and deaths since 1989.
  • Autism and developmental disabilitiesfood allergies and asthmaType 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases have all dramatically risen in number in the past couple decades. Coincidentally, the number of vaccinations has also risen dramatically. When confronted with this fact, many people say, “Correlation does not equal causation”. In other words, just because those two numbers rose concurrently does not mean the one caused the other. Interestingly, the same people will say that vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide and polio nationwide because the decline of those diseases coincided with the increase in vaccination against them. If that is not a correlation/causation argument, then what is? Furthermore, such an argument fails to take into consideration other factors involved in the eradication of disease, namely, clean water, healthy nutrition, good hygiene, and excellent medical care. It also fails to take into consideration that cholera and typhoid disappeared in this country without the help of vaccination programs. It also fails to take into consideration that all infectious diseases -including those we currently vaccinate against – were on the decline from 1900 on, and were already well on their way out the door prior to the vaccinations that began in the forties. A fascinating study on infectious diseases (and other causes of death) during the twentieth century was conducted at the end of the last century and can be found in its entirety here. Of particular interest is Figure 4, which shows that measles, polio, and pertussis all declined rapidly during the first half of the century, and that trajectory merely continued. To say that vaccination alone caused the decline of those diseases is patently false. Now, back to our correlation/causation argument: I think it is safe to say in both instances that vaccines played a part, both in the eradication of infectious disease, and the rise of autoimmune and other diseases. One final thought on this matter: correlation does not equal causation… but does it disprove it? Hardly. Rather, it indicates a potential connection that must be explored

My Conclusion: The risk of vaccination is incredibly high. The potential side effects and possible reactions are enough to give me pause, especially considering that is the main reason I avoid most pharmaceutical medication in the first place. I prefer remedies with few to no side effects for the treatment (and prevention) of disease. 

3.Vaccine Manufacturers are Not Held Accountable For Vaccine Injuries

Due to increased concerns from parents whose children suffered serious side effects from vaccinations, and resulting lawsuits and liability costs, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed into law in 1986. Several measures took effect with the law, including the aforementioned VAERS, but the key element was this:

(1) No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.

This is astonishing, considering that any other type of pharmaceutical manufacturer can be sued by anyone who is injured by their medication. Medical malpractice laws protect patients from negligent and inept practitioners. If you or your child is injured by a vaccine (and as we have discussed, this happens with alarming regularity), your only recourse is to file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. From there, your claim is passed around to a few legal and medical experts, who add their reports to your file, which ends up in the hands of a “special master”. The special master is a lawyer who decides if the claim is worthy of compensation or not, and if so, how much. No trial, no judge, no jury. Just one lawyer who decides whether or not your case is solid. If your claim is determined to be eligible for compensation, guess where the money comes from? Not the manufactures! Oh, no, they don’t give a dime to those injured by the vaccines. The money comes from a tax excised on all vaccinations, so the injury compensation is actually paid for by the people (or their insurance companies) receiving the vaccinations.  If your claim is denied by the VICP, then you may file a civil lawsuit under certain conditions.

My Conclusion: I believe strongly that all manufacturers should be held responsible for their products and the claims they make regarding their product. This means that anyone affected by a vaccine should have the freedom to sue the manufacturer in a court of law. If vaccine makers are not held liable for the safety and efficacy of their product, then how can anyone ensure they are indeed safe and effective? 

4. Immunization From Vaccines Doesn’t Last Forever

Many people assume that once vaccinated, they are protected indefinitely, but that’s simply not the case. In truth, it’s very difficult to come up with accurate numbers regarding the duration of vaccine-induced immunity, and you’ll find that different studies come up with different numbers. There are a couple obstacles to determining exactly how effective a vaccine is, one being that scientists must first figure out what level of antibodies indicates immunity(another topic that raises important questions which we will not delve into here). Here are a few estimates for the duration of immunity from various shots:

Additionally, one should consider that it is common knowledge no vaccine is 100% effective even immediately after the shot. In other words, with some people, it just doesn’t “take” no matter how many boosters they get, perhaps due to genetic factors.

My Conclusion: This fact in and of itself may not persuade me to forego vaccines, but combined with the vaccine’s toxic ingredient list and potential side effects… to me, the risk/benefit analysis provides clear direction. 

5. Vaccines are Not the Only Way to Prevent Disease

If I should insert my opinion here, it would be to say that neither are they the best way to prevent disease. But let’s stick to established fact: Vaccines are NOT the only way to prevent disease. In fact, there are lots and lots of things you can do to boost your immunity very effectively. Some of them are simple, some of them take more time and effort. But they’re all effective.

Just to scratch the surface, here’s a little list:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Definitely before cooking, after using the restroom or changing a diaper, before and after visiting a sick person or a newborn, and any other time that it makes good sense.
  • Practice good personal hygiene. It seems obvious, but seriously. This is why in developed countries we don’t struggle so much with infectious diseases, not to the extent of developing countries at any rate.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. And by nutrient-rich, I do not mean “diet” foods. I mean foods that are naturally rich in nutrients like bone broth, cultured and fermented foods, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy, etc.
  • Take supplements. Given the toxic environment of modern life, and the depleted nutrients in our food sources, it helps tremendously to supplement. I’d start with a good probiotic, vitamin C, vitamin D, and a few other immune supporters like elderberry syrup and Thieves oil. Up your dosage whenever you’re exposed to sickness of any kind.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid sick people. If everyone were as careful about spreading disease as they were about vaccines, we would have a lot less illness going around! If you’re sick… stay home! If your child is sick… stay home! If someone you live with or work with is sick, then limit your exposure to them and up your supplementation.

These are just a few of the simple, every day things we can do that in the end are extremely effective in fighting disease and helping our immune system out.

My Conclusion: There are easy methods of fighting disease readily at my disposal that are not only safe but actively beneficial to my overall health. They not only prevent disease, they enhance wellness. Weighing these options in the balance against injecting myself with dangerous toxins that may or may not prevent disease… for me the right choice is painfully obvious. 

So there you have it! I don’t expect everyone to agree with my conclusions (hey – we’re all individuals, free to make up our own minds!), but you cannot deny the basic facts. Each of the 5 points in this post is a confirmed, actual fact that cannot be argued against. Anyone who chooses to vaccinate needs to understand and appreciate that there are true logic-based, scientific facts that give a person pause when considering the issue. Even if you feel strongly that the benefits outweigh the risks, you have to acknowledge that there are indeed risks that some people are not comfortable taking or forcing their infants to take. Each one of us should have the freedom to weigh the risks and benefits for ourselves and choose what is best for ourselves and our children without fear of angering or alienating our friends, family… and the CDC and FDA.

PS. Because pro-vaxers are some of the most hateful and malicious commenters I have experienced in my life, I am closing comments on this post. Thanks for understanding.

75+ Questions You Need to Ask About Vaccines

75 questions about vaccines #questioneverythingIn the pro- vs. anti- vaccine debate, the “pro” side often accuses the “anti” side of being anti-science. In my observations from the sidelines, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is science but asking questions? Isn’t that the very foundation of the scientific method? The vast majority of non-vaxers that I have had the privilege of interacting with have spent countless hours asking questions and searching for the answers. Of course, they can’t pursue the scientific method themselves in the sense of performing experiments and observing responses when it comes to vaccines, so they are left with sorting through the piles of evidence left behind by other scientists of the past and present.

Science doesn’t mean accepting someone’s word for it. Science means asking questions and not resting until you get reliable answers. Following are some of the questions many moms and dads (and medical experts and yes, even scientists) have had about vaccines. Some of them don’t even have answers yet. Some of them (OK, most of them) have multiple answers that conflict – you have to think analytically and critically to figure out which answer is the right one and who is lying and/or misrepresenting information. (No easy task!) Some of the questions overlap; some of them look at the same issue from a slightly different angle.

And…. each of these questions must be asked about each vaccine. (You can see why the majority of non-vaxers have spent a great deal of time and even money getting to the bottom of these questions in the process of making their decisions.)

If you haven’t personally taken the time to ask these questions, I would encourage you to do so. And don’t assume the obvious answer for any of them; take the time to Question Everything. I guarantee more questions will pop up as you begin your pursuit of science and truth, because that’s exactly what happened to me.

Safety

  1. Are they safe?
  2. What are they made of?
  3. How are they made?
  4. What are the FDA recommended doses/limits of each ingredient contained in the vaccine?
  5. How does the body respond to the injection of these ingredients into the bloodstream?
  6. Is it more or less dangerous for toxic ingredients to be injected into the blood vs. natural exposure to the same ingredients?
  7. What sort of safety testing do vaccines undergo?
  8. Are any double-blind placebo tests conducted on the vaccines?
  9. Has the entire vaccine schedule been tested for safety (double-blind placebo) as it is given?
  10. Have the vaccines been tested on children the age and size to which they are administered?
  11. What are the potential side effects of each vaccine according to the manufacturer?
  12. How often do the side effects occur?
  13. What is the result of injecting foreign DNA into the body?
  14. What is the risk of other contaminants (foreign matter, unintended bacteria or viruses, etc.) entering the vaccines?
  15. Are some people more at risk for developing side effects or adverse reactions than others? If so, how do you determine who is?
  16. Are infants and small children more at risk than adults?
  17. How many people have died from vaccines?
  18. Given that all medical procedures and treatments carry a risk, however slight, what recourse do you have if you or your child is injured by a vaccine?
  19. Can vaccine manufacturers be sued in a court of law if their product injures, maims, or kills an individual?

Efficacy

  1. What causes infectious illness?
  2. How does it spread?
  3. How can the spread of illness be prevented?
  4. Is there any way to boost your immune system to help it fight off disease?
  5. Is a  vaccine the most reliable and effective method of preventing the spread of illness?
  6. When did we first begin to see a decline of infectious diseases in this country?
  7. How did the introduction of vaccines affect the rate of decline, if at all?
  8. Are under-developed countries at a greater risk of developing infectious disease and experiencing epidemics? If so, why?
  9. How exactly does a vaccine work in your body to prevent disease?
  10. Does the vaccine assist the immune system’s natural method of preventing disease?
  11. How exactly does the immune system work anyway?
  12. How is the immune system of an infant designed to work and how does it differ from that of an older child or adult?
  13. Is an infant’s immune system capable of responding to a vaccine in the way it was intended?
  14. Does a vaccine confer immunity in every case and with every one?
  15. How can you be sure your vaccine was effective for you?
  16. What do antibodies mean?
  17. Does the presence of antibodies always indicate immunity?
  18. Which immunity is more effective: natural (from the wild virus or bacteria) or vaccine-induced?
  19. How long does immunity from a vaccine last?
  20. How long does natural immunity last?
  21. Is there any way to guarantee you will not contract and/or spread a disease?
  22. According to CDC and WHO, vaccines are responsible for eradicating smallpox. Were other factors involved? Why haven’t other diseases been eradicated by vaccines? Will they ever be?
  23. How did the diagnostic criteria of polio change after the vaccine was introduced?
  24. How were typhoid fever and tuberculosis virtually eliminated in the United States?

Herd Immunity (or The Benefits of Vaccinating for Others)

  1. What is herd immunity?
  2. What is the basis for the theory of herd immunity?
  3. Who coined the term herd immunity and what was meant by it?
  4. Does the concept of herd immunity apply to natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity?
  5. What is the threshold where herd immunity is said to have been achieved and how has that number changed?
  6. Have we achieved that threshold?
  7. Can vaccine-induced immunity ever create herd immunity if the immunity is known to wane following the shot?
  8. In what percentage of people does the vaccine not “take”?
  9. Given that some people will not receive immunity from their shot no matter how often they receive it, that a few people can not receive shots for medical reasons, and that immunity wanes at various rates in various people and with various vaccines (and therefore many older children and adults are effectively unvaccinated) is vaccine-driven herd immunity even achievable?
  10. Can vaccinated people carry the disease for which they are vaccinated?
  11. Do unvaccinated people automatically carry the diseases for which most are vaccinated?

Disease & Mortality

  1. What is the rate of mortality in the diseases for which we vaccinate?
  2. Of the diseases for which we vaccinate, which ones have high rates of mortality and complications?
  3. How likely are you to recover from the disease without permanent complications?
  4. How does the rate of mortality differ between developed and under-developed countries?
  5. What is the rate of complications of the various diseases?
  6. How serious are the complications?
  7. What is the likelihood of contracting the disease in the first place, vaccination aside?
  8. Is there effective treatment for the disease (either medication or natural remedies)?
  9. How does the rate of complications and mortality of the diseases compare with the rate of complications and mortality of the vaccine itself?

Information and Conflicts of Interest

  1. Who is a reliable source of information regarding vaccinations?
  2. Do government organizations like CDC, FDA and the international WHO profit in any way from vaccinations? If so, is their information trustworthy and accurate?
  3. Is it true that the CDC has covered up information regarding vaccines, and/or has misrepresented facts and figures?
  4. Who funds the studies regarding safety and efficacy of vaccines? Is there a conflict of interest there?
  5. Are there any doctors, immunologists, epidemiologists,or other scientists who disagree with the current vaccination schedule?
  6. If so, what are their qualifications and what led them to question vaccination as it is practiced today?
  7. Are their concerns valid? Is their research sound?
  8. Where can I find unbiased research on vaccinations?
  9. Has anyone studied the health of the vaccinated vs.the unvaccinated?  Why or why not? And if so, what were the results?
  10. How much education do doctors receive on the topic of immunology and vaccination?
  11. Do doctors learn about the ingredients in vaccines, how they interact with the immune system, the process of vaccination and how it works? If so, do they share this information with their parents when recommending vaccines?
  12. Do doctors receive financial kickbacks for vaccinations? If so, does this present a conflict of interest?
  13. Will the doctor know what to do in the event of an adverse reaction to a vaccine?
  14. Who has the best interests of my child at heart?

PS. You’ll notice I didn’t link to any information sources or resources in this post. That’s intentional. You can get accurate information from ANY source as long as you’re reading critically and asking questions as you go. Don’t believe everything you read, whether on a government website, a scientist’s journal, or an anti-vaccine site. Dig to the sources, analyze the information you uncover and be a real scientist.  

Question Everything.

 

Teacher Appreciation Gift

teacher appreciation card summer funI’ve been a teacher of one kind or another for most of my adult life, but it’s been a new experience for me the past couple of years to be the parent of a student. Having been on both sides of the equation, I know the importance of a thoughtful gesture that shows appreciation for the hard work a teacher does throughout the school year.

At the same time, I’m not exactly rolling in dough! Quite the contrary; every penny counts around here. So as the end of the school year rolls around, I have to put my thinking cap on to come up with a teacher appreciation gift that will be appreciated but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. This year, my Certain Little Someone helped me out with his own ideas and his own special flare. He’s only 5, but I thought he put together a great gift with only a few minor suggestions and input on my part.

An Inexpensive Teacher Appreciation Gift

teacher gift summer funHe was quite insistent that he wanted to buy his teacher a beach towel, which at first I thought was rather an odd gift until it rather grew on me. I mean, what could be more perfect to herald the start of the summer (and the end of the school year!)? So from there, we came up with a perfect summer-themed gift, including a card that he helped me design. He wanted to be able to color part of it, so I made one with black and white flip flops that he could color in himself.

I thought his little gift turned out so well that it deserved to be shared with the world at large, so I’ve created two PDF printables of the teacher appreciation card we designed: one that can be colored in and one that is ready to print and give. There are 2 cards on each page, so you can use them to gift multiple teachers. You can personalize the card with a note on the back.

I recommend printing on card stock, but you could also print them on regular copy paper, then cut out and glue onto scrapbook paper for a little more pizzazz.

The 3 R’s for Teachers

Click on the images below to get your free printable teacher appreciation cards!

teacher appreciation card summer fun teacher card

There are lots of great summery gifts that go perfectly with this little card! We chose a beach towel and some flip flops, but the possibilities are almost endless:

  • a brightly patterned beach towel
  • cute flip flops
  • trendy sunglasses
  • sunscreen and/or aloe gel
  • a swimsuit cover-up
  • a breezy beach hat
  • a picnic cooler
  • a gift card/certificate covering the entrance fee to a local pool or water park
  • beach reading material (Walmart carries an inspirational line of clean – if sappy – romance novels. Not what I would read on a regular basis, but perfect brain candy for a relaxing day at the beach!)
  • an insulated cup
  • or all of the above in a beach bag!

 

5 Questions to Ask Your Essential Oil Company (Or, How to Find a Reputable Source for Essential Oils)

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoilsTo say that there is a lot of confusion out there about essential oils is sort of like saying that Niagara Falls is kinda big. In other words, it’s a gross understatement. No matter your query or how it’s worded, any internet search about essential oils is bound to bring up conflicting information, making it extremely difficult for a novice to sort through it all and find the kernels of truth hidden in all the hyperbole.

One of the most difficult questions to settle is the most basic: how do I know if the essential oils I’m using are quality oils? One fact that is uncontested in the aromatherapy world is that essential oils are notorious for being adulterated, and even experts admit it can be difficult for them to determine for certain if oils have indeed been adulterated. If even the experts have trouble, where does that leave the rest of us?!

I have been researching this question (and many others regarding aromatherapy) for the past couple years; and although I haven’t come up with any “foolproof” way to determine the quality of an essential oil, my research has taught me what I should look for in an essential oil company, and what kinds of questions I should ask when considering a purchase.  My growing knowledge of essential oils and essential oil quality has only confirmed for me that I made the right choice in my source of essential oils, and I hope to help others achieve the same confidence! So many people are curious about the oils and interested in using them, but overwhelmed by the options and the questions that abound.

Companies throw around terms like “therapeutic grade”, “natural”, and “organic” to the extent that those terms have become almost meaningless, so it’s difficult to sort through the marketing hype and find out what’s really going into the bottles they sell. Any company trying to sell you some of their oils is going to insist that theirs is the real deal, and unadulterated, but clearly they’re not all telling the truth. If you’re searching for a reliable source of pure essential oils, I have a list of 5 questions you need to ask any company that you are researching to determine if they really are selling the real deal or not. 

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoils1. Do the oils come from indigenous plants?

Plants are living things, and the essential oils that come from them prove that by their widely varying makeup. A lavender plant grown in France will produce a very different oil from a plant grown in, say, Canada. The reason is because the compounds in the essential oil are developed specifically for the protection, nourishment, and propagation of the plant they come from; and the needs of the plant will vary depending on a lot of factors including soil, climate, and pests. Aromatherapy has developed around the concept that certain plants have certain therapeutic properties… but those properties aren’t guaranteed to exist in a plant that has been grown outside its natural habitat. One oft-recommended essential oil company sources many of its oils from India, which is fine if you’re in the market for jasmine oil (actually an absolute), but not so fine if you’re looking for eucalyptus, which is native to Australia.

2. Do you own any of the farms or distilleries?

The majority of essential companies out there are merely distributors and not producers. This is an important distinction, because the further removed the distributor is from the process, the more opportunity there is for the oil to be adulterated. And the less a company has control over the essential oil production, the less they even know about the possibility of the oil being adulterated. Their sources may swear to the integrity of their oils, but how can a distributor know that for sure unless they are involved in the daily production process? I am much more comfortable purchasing from a company that has their hands in the process from beginning to end; and I’m extremely confident in a company that controls the process from beginning to end. 

3. What kind of tests do you run on the oils?

Most companies will boast that they run a GC/MS (Gas Chromotography Mass Spectrometry) test on the oils, and that’s a good start. Much has been made of the GC/MS test in online circles in recent years, but honestly, that particular test doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about the oil. It can tell you if there are any chemical solvents added to the essential oil, and it can tell you if the oil has the generally expected number of various chemical compounds that it should… but it can’t tell you if each of those compounds are natural or manufactured, and it can’t tell you if they all came from the same plant or were pulled from a variety of different plants.

An essential oil can pass the GC/MS test and be declared 100% natural when that might not, in fact, be the case. It’s entirely possible (and actually happens all the time according to chemists and aromatherapists in the know) for an essential oil to be labeled as “lavender”, for example, when it’s really compounded from several different other (cheaper) plants. The problem is that when the oil is pieced together like this, it doesn’t work as it should for therapeutic purposes, because – as I mentioned at the beginning – plants are living things. Genuine plant oils cannot simply be manufactured from this and that; an effective essential oil is the oil in its entirety.

4. What quality control measures do you have in place?

This question ties in directly to the last 2 questions. Because most companies are merely distributing an end product, and not actually producing said product, the only quality control measure they can take is on the back end. Their control over the seeds, cultivation, harvest, and distillation is minimal at best because they have no actual say over the production process. Their only option is to accept or refuse the final product based on their own observations and/or tests. And typically, the only test they run is the GC/MS test, which as I have shown is limited in its scope.

Having said that, there are a few companies that either own the farms and distilleries producing the oils, or they have an ownership investment of some kind (almost like share-cropping) in the farms and/or distilleries. Those companies are the ones that can actually control the production process to one extent or another, and those companies should have some quality control measures in place. Such quality control measures should include things like the choice of seeds used for planting (Heirloom? GMO?), quality of soil, pest prevention measures, harvesting procedures, distillation standards, etc. The more a company can tell you about the measures they take, the more confident you can be in their final product. 

5. Are the plants grown organically?

This is a no-brainer, really. You don’t want chemical pesticides ending up in your bottle of therapeutic essential oil! Organic labeling gets complicated, though, with the vast majority of oils being sourced internationally with different countries regulating “organic” in very different ways. So it’s better to ask some pointed questions about how exactly the plants are protected from insects and disease. The best oil companies use organic and natural planting methods that do not leave any kind of chemical residue on the plants that could make its way into the essential oil. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the more I learn, the more confident I am in my own personal choice of essential oil brand. I’m sure there are other reputable and reliable brands out there, but to date I have not found any that answer these questions more satisfactorily.

Edited to Add: A fellow “oiler” actually did her homework and called a bunch of different popular essential oil companies, and asked them these and other questions. Here is a chart she made showing their answers:

questions to ask an essential oil company

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, how they are made, how they are adulterated, and how you can use them medicinally, I highly recommend the book “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils” by Kurt Schnaubelt.  (That’s an affiliate link there; you’ve been warned!)