By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Sister Knowitall
Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's safe
By Cindy Gilbert

Dear Sister Knowitall, 

I have a question about natural home remedy safety.  I mean if it is natural, it is safe for my family to use it, right?   

Sincerely, Crunchy Mom Wannabe

Dear  Crunchy Mom Wannabe,

Thank you. I am so very glad you asked this question.  I am actually speaking at a Health Fair later this month about this very topic.  Just because it's natural doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.  I mean think about it. Mold is natural, but I think we all will agree that it is not something we want in our homes or want to breathe.  

Did you know that Penicillin was discovered in London in September of 1928, by Dr. Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist at St. Mary’s Hospital? He returned from a vacation to find that a mold  - “Penicillium notatum” -  had contaminated his Petri dishes containing colonies of Staphylococcus. He was amazed to find that the mold prevented the normal growth of the staphylococci.  He cultivated  more mold to learn that it could be the answer for many infectious diseases.  (Source: pbs.org.).  But we cannot assume that penicillin is safe in all situations. 

Many people are allergic to Penicillin, including Sister Knowitall.  I break out in a very itchy  rash if I am given any kind of Penicillin. What works for one does not work for another.  So you see, natural healing is very personal. It is really important for you to find out what is safe for you. Use caution and do your own research in your quest to live a natural life.    

That brings me to another point.  It is really important to read labels and find out what  the "Natural” label really means. Advertising can be somewhat deceptive; just because a label says something's natural doesn't mean you should put it on your body or in your mouth.  

The FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term “natural” or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."  (http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214868.htm)

A further read of “Natural” FDA labeling states that the policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, thermal technologies, and pasteurization irradiation.  Know what you are buying.

Lastly, let’s talk about essential oil safety.  This is a hot topic for me. This topic is "trending" right now, which is both exciting and dangerous.  I use essential oils daily, I am also a fanatic about essential oil safety. There are  three or four major direct marketing companies that are widely recognized. If you say the words “essential oils”  or “natural,” they will all raise a helping hand high in the air, itching to help with all that ails you.  

Essential oils are amazing. When I decided to start making products, it was mainly for gift baskets for family. I didn't want to make a gift that hurt a member of my family or a friend, so I started researching. There are rules and guidelines for using natural products safely.  Just because you can buy essential oils, and just because someone gives you a natural essential oil from a company or a natural product store, doesn't mean it is safe for everyone.  I will give you a few examples, and if you want to hear more come to the Health Fair at which I am speaking later this month. 

Rosemary is one of my personal favorite herbs and oils, but if you are pregnant, it could cause contractions. Therefore, it is not recommended for women to put on their skin or even breathe during pregnancy.  

Peppermint is often used to  relieve sinus congestion, headaches and  muscle pain. It is in many over-the-counter pain relievers, even toothpaste. Some essential oil users and manufacturers recommend applying it to a cotton swab  in the nose or on the brow bone.  Some people can apply oils directly to the skin, but most cannot. It can cause burning.  

Tea Tree is another amazing essential oil; when used properly, it can remove mold, ease yeast, and is a great insect repellent. It can also neutralize the venom of insects, such as bee stings or mosquito and ant bites.  It is not recommended for use on dogs for flea and tick control, as it can cause respiratory distress.  I once saw a very trusting esstial oil user recommended tea tree for  diaper rash, without even a mention about diluting.  Ouch! I almost had a coronary.  Tea tree in a sensitive diaper area is just going to  burn, no matter who uses it.  

 Follow safety guidelines: 

•Do a small patch test 

•Dilute!

•Do not to use water to remove the oil if it does burn your skin. You should dilute with another carrier oil, such as coconut, olive or almond oil.  

One last thought: “natural” is a way of life for me. It takes a lot of research, common sense and caution, but it can be an amazing journey to living a healthy, happy, simpler life. 

Come see Sister Knowitall speak more on this topic: 
October 28th at 11:00am
Fall Into Health 9am-1pm  Bethseda Senior Center  225 Bethesda Church Road, Lawrenceville

Cindy Pitts Gilbert is Director of Training for Know It Training for Professional and Personal Development in Gwinnett County.  She is also the Home Remedy Guru of the Blog Sister Knowitall: sisterknowitall.blogspot.com.  She has been learning natural home remedies after she developed allergic reactions to chemicals in household cleaning products. Send your questions to: askme@sisterknowitall.com

Tips are based on Cindy’s experiences, as well as “old wives tales” and local lore. They are not meant to be considered medical advice.