By Dr. Mercola
Can light affect your health? In this interview, Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology, shares the hidden dangers of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting that most people are completely unaware of.
In fact, this could potentially be one of the most important video interviews I've done, as it has enormous impacts — not only on preventing blindness as you age but it is also a pervasive hidden risk factor for sabotaging your health.
Largely as a result of energy efficiency, there's been a major transition to using LED as a primary indoor light source. In this regard, it worked like a charm, reducing energy requirements by as much as 95 percent compared to incandescent thermal analog sources of lighting.
However, the heat generated by incandescent light bulbs, which is infrared radiation, is actually beneficial to your health, and hence worth the extra cost.
There are major downsides to LEDs that are not fully appreciated. LED lighting may actually be one of the most important, non-native EMF radiation exposures you're exposed to on a daily basis.
If you chose to ignore these new insights, it can have very serious long-term ramifications. It could lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and elsewhere.
Other health problems rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction may also be exacerbated, and these run the gamut from metabolic disorder to cancer.
What Is Light?
The definition of light, as applied to artificial light sources, is rather distinct. Visible light is only between 400 nanometers (nm) and 780 nm, but "light" is actually more than just what your eye can perceive. As explained by Wunsch:
"When we look at sunlight, we have a much broader spectral range, from somewhere around 300 nm up to 2,000 nm or so. For our energy efficiency calculation, it makes a big difference if we are talking about this broad natural range or if we are only talking about … vision performance
[T]he definition that we are only looking at the visible part of the spectrum [given in the 1930s] …
led to the development of energy-efficient light sources like the fluorescent lamps or what we have nowadays, the LED light sources, because they are only energy efficient as long as you take the visible part of the spectrum [into account] …
[F]or example, [lamps providing] phototherapy with red light can be used in medical therapy to increase blood circulation, and this is a part we are taking away as long as we only look at the visible part.
Physicists think that infrared radiation is just thermal waste. But from the viewpoint of a physician, this is absolutely not true; in the last 30 years there have been hundreds of scientific papers published on the beneficial aspects of a certain part in the spectrum, which is called near-infrared or infrared-A."
What Makes Near-Infrared so Special?
You cannot feel near-infrared as heat, and you cannot see it, but it' has a major beneficial impact in terms of health. Near-infrared is what's missing in non-thermal artificial light sources like LED.
There's also a difference between analog and digital forms of light sources, and this difference is another part of the complexity. In essence, there are two separate but related issues: The analog versus digital light source problem, and the spectral wavelength differences.
Starting with the latter, when you look at the rainbow spectrum, the visible part of light ends in red. Infrared-A or near-infrared is the beginning of the invisible light spectrum following red. This in turn is followed by infrared-B (mid-infrared) and infrared-C (far-infrared).
While they cannot be seen, the mid- and far-infrared range can be felt as heat. This does not apply to infrared-A, however, which has a wavelength between 700 and 1,500 nm.
"Here you have only very low absorption by water molecules, and this is the reason why radiation has a very high transmittance," Wunsch says.
"In other words, it penetrates very deeply into your tissue, so the energy distributes in a large tissue volume. This near-infrared A is not heating up the tissue so you will not feel directly any effect of heat.
This significantly changes when we increase the wavelength, let's say, to 2,000 nm. Here we are in the infrared-B range and this already is felt as heat. And from 3,000 nm on to the longer wavelength, we have almost full absorption, mainly by the water molecule, and this is [felt as] heating."
Near-Infrared Is Critical for Mitochondrial and Eye Health
The near-infrared range affects your health in a number of important ways. For example, it helps prime the cells in your retina for repair and regenerate.
Since LEDs have virtually no infrared and an excess of blue light that generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), this explains why LEDs are so harmful for your eyes and overall health.
Chromophores are molecules that absorb light. There's an optical tissue window that ranges from 600 to 1,400 nm, which means it is almost completely covered by the infrared-A part of the spectrum. This optical tissue window allows the radiation to penetrate several centimeters or at least an inch or more into the tissue.
Chromophores are found in your mitochondria and in activated water molecules. In your mitochondria, there's also a specific molecule called cytochrome c oxidase, which is involved in the energy production within the mitochondria. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — cellular energy — is the end product.
ATP is the fuel your cells need for all of their varied functions, including ion transport, synthesizing and metabolism. Remarkably, your body produces your body weight in ATP every day. And, while you can survive for several minutes without oxygen, were all ATP production to suddenly stop, you'd die within 15 seconds.
Lighting Plays an Important Role in Biological Energy Production
This is why this issue of lighting is so important. Light is a sorely misunderstood and overlooked part of the equation for biological energy production, specifically at the mitochondrial ATP level. As further explained by Wunsch:
"The cytochrome c oxidase, which is this [light] absorbing molecule, is the last step before the ATP is finally produced in the mitochondria. Here we have this tipping point where light in a wavelength range between 570 nm and 850 nm is able to boost energy production, especially in cells when energy production is depleted …
We know today that many signs of aging, for example, are the consequence of hampered mitochondrial functioning, and so we have a very interesting … tool to enhance the energy status in our cells, in the mitochondria in our cells, and not only on the surface but also in the depths … of the tissue. This is one important aspect and there are hundreds of papers published on these positive effects …
Infrared saunas are another magnificent way to nourish your body with near-infrared light. But not just ANY infrared sauna. Most offer only FAR-infrared and are not full spectrum. Most also emit dangerous non-native EMFs. So you need one that emits low or no non-native EMFs.
After searching for a long time I finally found a near perfect one and hope to have it made to my customized specs in a few months. And it should be significantly less than $1,000. So stay tuned for this exciting development.
Wound Healing and Anti-Aging Procedures Make Use of Near-Infrared
These beneficial effects can be seen in wound healing and anti-aging procedures where near-infrared is employed. Since the cytochrome c oxidase is responsible for an increased production of ATP, the cell has a better supply of energy, which allows it to perform better, and this is true no matter where the cell resides.
This means liver cells with more ATP will be able to detoxify your body more efficiently; fibroblasts in your skin will be able to synthesize more collagen fibers and so on, because ATP is crucial for all cellular functions. Wunsch expands on this even more in the lecture above.
According to Wunsch, as little as one-third of the energy your body requires for maintaining the thermal equilibrium comes from the food you eat. The electrons transferred from the food, primarily the fats and the carbohydrates, are ultimately transferred to oxygen and generate ATP. The more near infrared you get, the less nutritional energy is required for maintaining thermal homeostasis.
That said, a differentiation is in order. Most of the METABOLICALLY USED energy does come from food. But there is a thermodynamic aspect to it as well. Maintaining a normal body temperature (37 C or 98.6 F) involves two mechanisms: Energy production in your mitochondria from food, and photonic energy (near-infrared radiation from sunlight and incandescent light bulbs) that is able to penetrate deeply into your tissue, even through clothing.
"The radiation can enter your body and then be transformed into longer wavelengths in the infrared part. They are very important for supporting the temperature level, the thermal energy level, of our body which is … a very crucial aspect. A lot of energy comes in the form of radiation and this is supporting our thermal balance," Wunsch explains.
The key take-home message here is that your body's energy production involves not just food intake. You also need exposure to certain wavelengths of light in order for your metabolism to function optimally. This is yet another reason why sun exposure is so vitally important for optimal health.
Analog Versus Digital Lighting
LED lamps are a form of digital non-thermal lighting whereas incandescent light bulbs and halogens are analog thermal light sources.
"For a color changing system you have three different LEDs, a red, a green and a blue LED, and the intensity of these three colored channels has to be changed in order to achieve different color use, which is perceived by the eye in the end. The control of the intensity output of an LED is realized in a digital manner because it's very difficult to have a low intensity in many different steps.
The dimming of LEDs is realized by a so-called pulse-width modulation, which means the LEDs switch on to the full intensity and then they fully switch off, and then they switch on again. So we have the constant on and off in frequencies, which are higher than our eyes are able to discriminate. But on the cellular level, it is still perceivable for the cells …
[T]his causes a flicker, which is not perceivable for let's say 90 percent of the population. But it's still biologically active. And flicker is something that is very harmful to your [biology]."
You've likely experienced this if you're old enough to recall the older TVs that had a very visible and intense flicker. Modern flat screens do not have this perceptible flicker, but they're still switching on and off. Scientists are now trying to develop systems capable of transmitting information via high-frequency flicker in the LED lighting to replace the wireless LAN system. According to Wunsch, this is a very bad idea, from a health perspective.
"I call these LEDs Trojan horses because they appear so practical to us. They appear to have so many advantages. They save energy; are solid state and very robust,. So we invited them into our homes. But we are not aware that they have many stealth health-robbing properties, which are harmful to your biology, harmful to your mental health, harmful to your retinal health, and also harmful to your hormonal or endocrine health," he says.
Unfortunately, the use of LEDs has been mandated by federal policy in both the U.S. and much of Europe, in an attempt to conserve energy. While inarguably effective in that regard, the biological impact of these bulbs has been completely ignored, and by mandating them, options have been restricted.
Understanding the Dangers of LEDs
Understanding how LEDs can harm your health begins with the recognition that light emitted from an LED bulb is of a different quality than a natural light source. Normally, a natural light source is a black body radiator that gives off all kinds of wavelengths in a more or less continuous manner.
LEDs are fluorescent lamps, consisting of a blue LED, a driver LED, and a fluorescent sheet that covers the blue LED, transforming part of the blue light into longer wavelengths, thereby creating a yellowish light. The yellowish light from the fluorescent layer combines together with the residual blue light to a kind of whitish light, a large portion of which is an aggressive blue light.
"Blue has the highest energy in the visible part of the spectrum and produces, infuses, the production of ROS, of oxidative stress," he says.
"The blue light causes ROS in your tissue, and this stress needs to be balanced with near-infrared that is not present in LEDs. We need even more regeneration from blue light, but the regenerative part of the spectrum is not found in the blue, in the short wavelength, part. It's found in the long wavelength part, in the red and the near-infrared. So tissue regeneration and tissue repair results from the wavelengths that are not present in an LED spectrum.
We have increased stress on the short wavelength part and we have reduced regeneration and repair on the long wavelength part. This is the primary problem … [W]e don't have this kind of light quality in nature. This has consequences. The stress has consequences in the retina; it has consequences in our endocrine system."
You probably know by now that blue light in the evening reduces melatonin production in your pineal gland. But you also have cells in your retina that are responsible for producing melatonin in order to regenerate the retina during the night.
If you use LED lights after sunset, you reduce the regenerative and restoring capacities of your eyes. Needless to say, with less regeneration you end up with degeneration. In this case, the degeneration can lead to AMD, which is the primary cause of blindness among the elderly. However, and this is that most fail to appreciate, LED light exposure that is not balanced with full sunlight loaded with the red parts of the spectrum is always damaging to your biology. Just more so at night.
So, to summarize, the main problem with LEDs is the fact that they emit primarily blue wavelengths and lack the counterbalancing healing and regenerative near-infrared frequencies. They have very little red in them, and no infrared, which is the wavelength required for repair and regeneration.
When you use these aggressive lower frequencies — blue light — it creates ROS that, when generated in excess, causes damage. So when using LEDs, you end up with increased damage and decreased repair and regeneration.
Are There Any Healthy LEDs?
There's a wide range of LED lights on the market these days. Some are cool white, others are warm white, for example. The former emits higher amounts of harmful blue light. The warm LEDs can be deceptive, as they give out a warm-appearing light but do not actually have the red wavelength. The warmth comes from masking the blue with high amounts of yellow and orange.
There are also LEDs available with less blue, which are closer to the spectral distribution of incandescent lamps with regard to the blue part of the spectrum. Unfortunately, without tools to measure it, you won't know exactly what you're getting. This is in sharp contrast to an incandescent light bulb, where you know exactly what kind of light spectrum you're getting.
"With LED, the layman is not able to tell if it's a tailored spectrum where you have the blue part only masked by excessive parts of other spectral regions," Wunsch says. "There are different technologies … Soraa, for example, have violet driver LED, not blue … By their technology, the red is a little bit more emphasized compared to the standard white light fluorescent LEDs.
So there are in fact better and worse LED types around. But the spectral distribution is just one thing … We are interested in the R9, which represents the full reds. This information is sometimes given on the package. You have, for example, CRI, which is the color rendering index of 95 with an R9 of 97 or so. This is the only sign for the customer that you have a high level or a high index for the R9."
How to Identify a Healthier LED
So, when buying LEDs, one way to get a healthier light is to look at the CRI. Sunlight is the gold standard and has a CRI of 100. So do incandescent light bulbs and candles. What you're looking for is a light that has an R9 (full red spectrum) CRI of about 97, which is the closest you'll ever get to a natural light with an LED. Another factor to look at is the color temperature. There are two different kinds of color temperature:
1. Physical color temperature, which means the temperature of your light in degrees Kelvin (K). This applies to sunlight, candlelight, incandescent lamp light and halogens. What this means is that the source itself is as hot to the touch as the color temperature given.
The sun, for example, which has a color temperature of 5,500 K, has a temperature of 5,500 K at its surface, were you to actually touch the sun. Incandescent lamps have a maximum of 3,000 K, as the filament would melt if the temperature got any higher.
2. Correlated color temperature. This is a measurement that tells you how the light source appears to the human eye. In other words, it is a comparative measurement. A correlated color temperature of 2,700 K means it looks the same as a natural light source with a physical color temperature of 2,700 K.
The problem here is that while such a light LOOKS the same as a natural light, it does not actually have the same quality, and your body, on the cellular level, is not fooled by what your eye sees. On a cellular level, and on the level of the retina, the majority of the light is still cold, bluish white, despite its apparent, visible warmth.
Incandescent light bulbs have a color temperature of 2,700 K whereas LEDs can go up to 6,500 K — the really bright white LED. In this case, the closer you are to incandescent, the better. Lastly, there's the digital component, which is virtually unavoidable no matter what. To determine how good or bad a particular LED is:
"You would have to measure somehow if the LED produces flicker or not. Two, three years ago, it would have been much easier because the camera of an older smartphone was not as high-tech equipped as they are today. With an old smartphone camera, when you look into the light source, you can see these wandering lines, so you can detect if the light source is flickering," Wunsch explains.
A simpler way would be to purchase a flicker detector, which are available fairly inexpensively. Another way to determine the flicker rate would be to use the slow motion mode on your camera. Record the light source in slow motion mode and check it for visible flickering.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always work. Some newer cameras and smartphones have a built in algorithm that will detect the flicker frequency and change the shutter speed accordingly to improve the recording, thereby eliminating the interference. If your camera has this algorithm, it will not record a visible flicker even if it's there.
I like being on the cutting edge of technology and I quickly switched out all my incandescent bulbs for LED lighting. I now realize the enormity of my mistake, but at the time — going back almost 10 years now — I was completely unaware that it could have health consequences. Before that, I used full-spectrum fluorescents, which is equally deceptive, as it is full spectrum in name only.
I'm now convinced LED light exposure is a very serious danger, especially if you are in a room without natural light. The biological risks are somewhat mitigated if you have plenty of sunlight streaming through windows. At night, LEDs become a greater danger no matter whether you're in a windowless room or not, as there is no counterbalancing near-infrared light.
Personally, I've not swapped all my lights back to incandescent because they're such energy hogs. But all the lights I have on at night have been switched to clear incandescent bulbs without any coating that changes their beneficial wavelengths. So the take-home message of this interview is to grab a supply of the old incandescents if you can and switch back to incandescent light bulbs.
Just remember to get incandescents that are crystal clear and not coated with white to give off a cool white light. You want a 2,700 K incandescent, thermal analog light source. Actually, fragrance-free candles would be even better. Be particularly mindful to only use this type of light at night. After sunset, I also use blue-blocking glasses.
"It is definitely a good idea to keep away the short wavelengths in the evening, so after sunset. It's also a good idea not to intoxicate your environment with too much light. We know that artificial light levels at night have reached insane intensity. The candle, the intensity of the candle for example, is absolutely sufficient for orientation.
If you have to read in the evening or at night time, my personal favorite light source for reading tasks is a low-voltage incandescent halogen lamp, which is operated on a DC transformer. Direct current will eliminate all the dirty electricity and it will eliminate all the flicker.
There are transformers available where you can adjust the output between 6 volts and 12 volts. As long as it's direct current, there is no flicker, there is no dirty electricity, and you are able to dim the halogen lamp into a color temperature that is comparable to candle light even. This is the softest, the healthiest electric light you can get at the moment," Wunsch notes.
Low-voltage halogen lights are also very energy efficient — up to 100 percent more energy efficient than the standard incandescent lamp. Just be sure to operate it on DC. Incandescent lights, including halogen, can be operated at both AC and DC, but when operating on AC, you end up generating dirty electricity, Wunsch explains. On DC, you get no electrosmog with a low-voltage halogen.
The following graphic illustrates the differences in color spectrum between an incandescent light, which has very little blue, compared to fluorescent light and white LED.
This next graph illustrates the differences between daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, cool white LED and warm white LED. As you can see, there's a tremendous difference between incandescent and warm LED. While they may look the same to the naked eye, there's no comparison when it comes to their actual light qualities.
Looking at the spectral differences between incandescent and halogen lamps, there seems to be no difference at all. In order to elucidate the disparity, Wunsch did some measurements of incandescent and halogen lamps using his UPRtek MK350S spectrometer. The differences are almost imperceptible, indeed.
Spectrum of a standard incandescent lamp: Correlated color temperature (CCT) = 2890 K.
Spectrum of a energy saving halogen lamp: Correlated color temperature (CCT) = 2842 K.
How to Make Digital Screens Healthier
When it comes to computer screens, Wunsch suggests reducing the correlated color temperature down to 2,700 K — even during the day, not just at night. Many use f.lux to do this, but I have a great surprise for you as I have found a FAR better alternative that was created by Daniel, a 22 year old Bulgarian programmer that Ben Greenfield introduced to me.
He is one of the rare people that already knew most of the information in this article. So he was using f.lux but was very frustrated with the controls. He attempted to contact them but they never got back to him. So he created a massively superior alternative called Iris. It is free, but you'll want to pay the $2 and reward Daniel with the donation. You can purchase the $2 Iris software here. OLED screen technology is another development that may be better than conventional screens.
"[With] the OLEDs technology, I'm not sure if the color is really stable in every angle you can look at the display," Wunsch says. "But definitely, if you have the screen technology where black is really black, then you have less radiation coming into your eyes and the OLEDs technology is able to provide this.
So the high contrasts between the black and white, all the black areas in the thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen or the standard screen are not really black. They are also emitting shortwave radiation. The OLED screen only emits where you see light, where there is black on the screen, there is no light. This might be preferable as long as you have no problems with the [viewing] angle."
To Protect Your Health and Vision, Stick to Incandescent Lights
LEDs are a perfect example of how we're sabotaging our health with otherwise useful technology. However, with knowledge, we can proactively prevent the harm from occurring. In summary, we really need to limit our exposure to blue light, both during the daytime and at night. So for nighttime use, swap out your LEDs for clear bulb incandescents, or low-voltage incandescent halogen lights that are run on DC power.
I also strongly recommend using blue-blocking glasses after sundown, even if you use incandescent light bulbs. Without these modifications, the excessive blue light from LEDs and electronic screens will trigger your body to overproduce ROS and decrease production of melatonin, both in your pineal gland and your retina, the latter of which will prevent repair and regeneration, thereby speeding up the degeneration of your eyesight.
"One thing to emphasize again, it's not the blue light coming from the sun itself which we should be concerned about. It's the blue light, the singular high energy visual light (HEV), which comes from cold energy-efficient non-thermal light sources. This is what causes the problem, not the blue light which comes together with longer wavelengths in a kind of natural cocktail that has the beneficial near-infrared spectrum …
The light surrogates from non-thermal light sources, these are [what cause] problems, and you have to be clever to avoid these Trojan horses. If you want to make it [safe], stay with the candles, stay with the incandescents," Wunsch says.
Another Healthy Light Alternative
Candles are even a better light source than incandescent bulbs, as there is no electricity involved and is the light that our ancestors have used for many millennia so our bodies are already adapted to it. The only problem is that you need to be very careful about using just any old candle as most are toxic.
As you may or may not know, many candles available today are riddled with toxins, especially paraffin candles. Did you know that paraffin is a petroleum by-product created when crude oil is refined into gasoline? Further, a number of known carcinogens and toxins are added to the paraffin to increase burn stability, not including the potential for lead added to wicks, and soot invading your lungs.
To complicate matters, a lot of candles, both paraffin and soy, are corrupted with toxic dyes and fragrances; some soy candles are only partially soy with many other additives and/or use GMO soy. There seems to be a strange mind-set that exposure to small amounts of toxins is OK, even though the exposure is exponential over time!
The soy is non-GMO, is clean burning without harmful fumes or soot, is grown in the U.S., and is both sustainable and renewable. Also, my candles are completely free of dyes. The soy in these candles is not tested on animals, is free of herbicides and pesticides.
It's also kosher, 100 percent natural and bio-degradable. All of my fragrances are body safe, phthalate- and paraben-free, and contain no California prop 65 ingredients. The wicks are simply flat braided cotton coated in a natural vegetable wax and self-trimming, which reduces carbon build up.
Enjoying a Circle of Life Farms naturally good soy candle and following the simple burn instructions — located inside the candle lid — will give approximately 70+ hours of burn time. Every candle is hand-poured with love for you to enjoy a cooler, cleaner burn, all while being kind to the both the environment and yourself.
You can search online healthy candles, but if you like, you can use the ones I found at www.circleoflifefarms.com. This is not an affiliate link and I earn no commissions on these candles; I just thought you might benefit from the ones I now use in my home.
How Blocking Blue Light at Night Can Help Transform Your Sleep
Doctors Issue Warning About LED Streetlights
Recipe From Chris Freytag
The Paleo Diet is one of the latest diet trends today, and it revolves around the idea of eating foods similar to what our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic period, with a focus on lean meat, fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood. The goal is to "normalize" your system and return to a diet that is congruent with your genetic ancestry. By doing so, you can avoid the many diseases that come with eating high-sugar processed foods sold these days.
While the Paleo Diet can be a healthy way of eating, I believe that it focuses too much on protein intake. Too much protein can stimulate your mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway, which can increase your risk of cancer.In addition, excessive protein intake makes your kidneys work harder in removing excess nitrogen waste products from your blood, which can lead to dehydration.
Ideally, your protein intake should only be one-half gram per pound of lean body mass, or around 40 to 70 grams of protein a day. If you are athletic or physically active, you can add 25 percent more than that.
This recipe, Paleo Carrot Cake Protein Balls, from health and fitness expert Chris Freytag of Get Healthy U is what I believe to be a good interpretation of the Paleo Diet. It contains a wide variety of ingredients, from vegetables to nuts to spices. Not only is the recipe packed with just the right amount of protein, it also offers you a good serving of healthy fat, courtesy of the walnuts. You can enjoy these protein balls as a snack or as a post-workout protein boost.
2 cups shredded carrot
12 medjool dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and minced
8 tablespoons (8 servings) collagen powder
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Shredded coconut for rolling
Optional: dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs, melted, for drizzling
- Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
- Chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes until it reaches a batter-like consistency, or until stiff enough to form into balls.
- Use your hands to form the mixture into 16 even-sized balls.
- Roll the balls in a shallow bowl of coconut shavings.
- Drizzle with melted dark chocolate (optional).
- Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
- Enjoy two at a time.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Carrots: The Core of the Cake
Carrots have been around for centuries and are used in different cuisines around the world. They're a great addition to stews, salads or as side dishes. Surprisingly, they work well in cakes too, like in this recipe.
One of the most prominent benefits of carrots is their abundance in beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A when digested. In turn, vitamin A can help develop good eyesight. I recommend that you include carrots in your meals regularly, as our body cannot produce beta-carotene and must be obtained from your diet. Carrots also contain generous amounts of phosphorus, which is essential for softening your skin, while at the same time, hardening your teeth, hair and bones.
Carrots may have strong potential anti-cancer benefits as well, as proposed in one study. Researchers investigated the effects of beta-carotene on myeloid and lymphoid leukemia cells, and found out that the bioactive chemicals in carrot juice extracts were able to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in the cancer cells.[i]
Grass-Fed Collagen Is Good for Your Skin
Collagen is one of the most abundant types of protein in your body, comprising 30 percent your total protein amount. Your body has the ability to produce its own collagen, but it can be taken in supplement form, which is normally sold in two kinds. The first one is hydrolyzed collagen, which come in tablets or capsules. The second one is powdered collagen, which can be used in cooking.[ii] You may be surprised to know that it's actually the ingredient used to make marshmallows puffy.[iii]
Collagen can help combat the signs of skin aging. In one study, 57 middle-aged women took collagen peptides regularly for eight weeks. By the end of the trial period, their facial wrinkles were reduced by 20 percent.[iv] It may also help reduce joint pain as suggested in a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion. Athletes who participated in the study experienced a reduction in joint pain after taking collagen daily for 24 weeks.[v]
When sourcing for collagen, be sure to purchase products made from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals to ensure that you're not ingesting any potentially harmful substances.
Dates Are a Good Source of Dietary Fiber
Dates were introduced to America in the 1700s by Spanish missionaries. These plants usually bear fruit within three to five years of planting and fully mature within 12 years.
This humble fruit offers notable benefits, first of which is dietary fiber. It can help move waste through your intestines easier, while helping prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol by binding with cancer-causing substances. Dates also contain potassium, which can help control your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as iron, an important component of hemoglobin in your red blood cells.
Walnuts Provide Plant-Based Omega-3 FatWalnuts are an amazing source of omega-3 fat. Just a quarter-cup of them can already provide more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value for plant-based omega-3.
Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the unique omega-3 fat found in walnuts, has a strong potential for helping combat inflammation and the formation of pathological blood clots, and may even help improve your cardiovascular health. In one study, researchers concluded that a diet high in ALA can lower your risk of developing a fatal heart attack and reduce your chances of sudden cardiac death by 50 percent.[vi]
Cinnamon and Nutmeg: Spices That Bring Flavor and Health Benefits
Spices can add a lot of flavor and aroma to your food, and this recipe makes use of not just one, but two of the most popular spices in the culinary world.
- Cinnamon is known for its warm, soothing fragrance while adding a slightly spicy punch to your food. In terms of health benefits, one teaspoon of cinnamon can already provide 22 percent of the daily recommended value for manganese, a mineral essential for optimal health.
Manganese can help in the formation of strong bones, connective tissues, sex hormones and even coagulate the blood properly. It may even benefit your digestive system, as manganese can help metabolize fat, carbohydrates and manage your blood sugar levels as well.
- Nutmeg, on the other hand, is a flavor enhancer that can provide warmth and complexity to your food. It has a high amount of manganese similar to cinnamon, but it has antioxidants, such as myristicin and elemicin, that give you unique health benefits. Both of these compounds contain properties that can soothe and stimulate selected areas in your brain. Nutmeg also contains eugenol, an antioxidant that, when used topically, can help relieve joint and muscular pain, as well as toothaches.
Note: Be sure to consume these Protein Balls in moderation, as the dates and raisins may contain high levels of fructose that can be potentially harmful to your health.
About the Author
Chris Freytag is a health and fitness expert, blogger, author and motivational speaker. She has been teaching fitness classes and personal training for over 20 years, and is also the founder of Get Healthy U and Get Healthy U TV, a digital publishing company specializing in fitness, food and healthy living space. Visit Chris' website for more fitness tips and healthy recipes.
By Dr. Mercola
"Consumed" is a fictional action thriller about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. The lead character is a single mother who is desperately trying to get to the bottom of her young son's mysterious health problems.
Her struggle to learn the truth intersects with other storylines, including that of an organic farmer, the CEO of a biotechnology company, two scientists and a former police officer caught in the middle of the unfolding drama.
Daryl Wein, who wrote, produced and directed the film, managed to enlist a long line of well-known actors for this film, including Danny Glover, Anthony Edwards, Victor Garber, Taylor Kinney and Kunal Nayyar. In the words of Erin Brockovich:1
"Entertaining, relatable, suspenseful and informative, and a real eye opener to what is going on. This film has re-inspired and educated me. BRAVO!"
Uncommon Ailments Becoming More Common — Do GMOs Have Something to Do With It?
The lead character reminds me a bit of Robyn O'Brien, a typical American mom with four kids and a limited food budget who, virtually overnight, became a real food activist when her youngest child suffered an acute allergic reaction following a typical breakfast of Eggo waffles, blue-colored yogurt and scrambled eggs.
O'Brien — featured in the TED Talk below — threw herself into researching food allergies, and was shocked by what she found. She'd assumed that if something was sold as food, it was obviously safe and probably, for the most part, healthy. The reality of the situation was a rude awakening.
The notion that something is wrong with our food becomes obvious when you look at disease statistics and consider the fact that food is foundational for health.
Allergies are a good place to start, as allergic reactions to food occur when your body reacts to a food protein as a foreign invader. This in turn triggers an inflammatory response.
Our Food Supply Has Been Radically Altered Since the Mid-'90s
Between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled, and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by 265 percent.2
Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies (of all types) among children rose by 50 percent.3 Today, an estimated 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans have some form of food allergy. Incidence of celiac disease and other forms of food intolerance have also become more common.
So is there something "foreign" in our food today that wasn't there before? Absolutely. There's a whole host of ingredients that could cause problems, including food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, various additives and, of course, GMOs.
Ever since the mid-1990s, new food proteins have been engineered and steadily introduced into our food supply, yet many are still unaware that a major shift has occurred. One of the first foods to undergo this change was milk, which incidentally is also the No. 1 food allergen in the U.S.
A Global Experiment Gone Awry
No long-term human trials have ever been done to evaluate the health effects of GE ingredients, and no one knows what the effects of a lifetime's worth of GMO consumption might be.
But food is foundational for health, so when people suddenly suffer ill health in great numbers, it makes sense to look at the basics, starting with food.
The problem with GMOs is not restricted to novel proteins. GE foods also introduce greater amounts of pesticides into your diet, and such chemicals have also been linked to a long list of health problems, including infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer. More generally:
- Insecticides primarily produce neurological symptoms
- Fungicides tend to produce skin-related symptoms
- Herbicides are associated with digestive and skin problems, including nutritional deficiencies, systemic toxicity and gut dysbiosis
What a Difference 20 Years Can Make
It's quite astounding how rapidly our food has changed. The first GE food, the Flavr Savr tomato, was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994.4 The following year, the first pesticide-producing crop was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the Bt potato.
Modified canola, Bt maize, herbicide-resistant cotton, Bt cotton and glyphosate-resistant soybeans followed in rapid succession.5 In 1997, the European Union (EU) took action to protect the public from what was clearly a mass experiment by requiring mandatory labeling on all GE food products.
By 1999, GE food crops equipped with herbicide-resistant genes were already starting to dominate the global market, and today, the vast majority of all soy, corn and cotton grown in the U.S. are GE varieties.6,7
GMOs Were Fraudulently Presumed GRAS
Last year, I interviewed Steven Druker, author of the book "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public," in which he reveals how GMOs managed to infiltrate our food system without appropriate safety testing.
In the late 1990s, Druker, who is an attorney, filed a landmark lawsuit challenging the FDA's presumption that GMOs are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), which allows them to circumvent safety testing requirements. The evidence clearly reveals the GRAS presumption was fraudulent when first announced in 1992, and remains so to this day.
There's actually a 1958 law requiring that novel food additives must be demonstrated safe. They cannot be presumed safe ahead of time. Each and every one should, by law, undergo stringent safety testing. The FDA broke this law, pretending as if it did not even exist, when it claimed that GE foods are GRAS and don't need to be tested.
This dishonest and illegal maneuvering is what allowed inadequately tested GE foods to permeate the American market in the first place. Druker's book also details the irresponsible behavior of eminent scientists and scientific institutions in the earlier decades of the genetic engineering revolution, long before Monsanto's lackey Michael Taylor and the hordes of revolving door cronies came into the picture.
The Origins of the GMO Safety Myth
Genetic engineering first became a reality back in the early 1970s. At the time, molecular scientists were in charge of these advancements, and it was a breakthrough of truly epic proportions. Even the scientists who were doing it were mindful of how radical it was and how important it was to be careful. Initially, the scientists themselves said there may be dangers associated with this new technology, hence, they had to proceed with extreme prudence.
Alas, once they realized that negative feedback from the public could jeopardize the entire field of genetic engineering, potentially blocking its emergence altogether, they quickly changed their tune. Presenting a united front, the molecular biology establishment in favor of pushing genetic engineering forward lobbied for as few regulations as possible.
To that end, they also launched a campaign to convince everyone that this technology, while novel, was inherently safe and within their full control, hence stringent regulations were an unnecessary burden. Lax regulations on genetic engineering ultimately set up the framework for the FDA's 1992 GRAS ruling. Had safety regulations for the industry been stricter from the start, it's unlikely the FDA would have been able to pull that off. As noted by Druker:
"The biotechnology industry — as irresponsible as they have been by and large — the main guilt lays at the feet of the mainstream molecular biology establishment; the scientists who were doing the research, getting the grants, and wanting to develop this technology. Most of them had altruistic goals. They thought this was going to be used to cure so many ills in the field of medicine ... I think they eventually developed an 'end justifies the means' psychology...
[T]he burden of proof that was placed on new technologies and new products, which ordinarily requires the developer to substantiate the safety of the new technology and its products, got shifted. It got shifted because of the subterfuge and the fraud … There were many good scientists who had concerns, but they were all of a sudden put into the position of, 'You've got to prove they're dangerous,' and the burden of proving safety was removed."
With GMOs, We Also Got More Pesticides
Another book well worth reading is Claire Robinson's "GMO Myths and Truths." It's concise and to-the-point, and provides solid counter arguments to the most commonly reiterated GMO propaganda. The fact of the matter is; genetic engineering is inherently unsafe for a number of reasons.
For starters, it has been and still is quite imprecise. This lack of precision carries the risk of producing countless unpredictable side effects, such as the creation of novel and allergenic proteins in a normally non-allergenic food.
Secondly, the human understanding of the complexity of life, be it the life of a plant, animal or the human body, is still very limited. We're discovering things we never knew before all the time. Hence the scientists tinkering with plants are incapable of predicting exactly how a modification will affect the plant, let alone those who eat it. And the fact that "they don't know what they don't know" will remain, even if the precision of the technology itself were to be perfected.
What we do know is that the creation of foreign proteins is commonplace in genetic engineering of plants — proteins that have toxic or allergenic potential, since they've never been present in the human food supply before. Moreover, most GE plants are engineered to either be herbicide-resistant or to express an internal insecticide. Both scenarios result in more pesticides being present in the food, and many of today's disease epidemics can be traced back to excessive pesticide exposure as well.
'Consumed' — Where Fact and Fiction Merge
I hope you enjoy this special limited-time viewing of "Consumed." Also remember to share it with your friends and family on your social networks. Education is key, and while the film may be fictional, the underlying story is all too real. Our food has changed, and dramatically so. The ramifications of these changes can be severe.
One take-home message is to really consider whether your, or your children's, ailments may be rooted in the food you eat. Don't just assume or accept that your health problems are inherited, or "in your head" (as suggested by one pediatrician in the film), or caused by some "inevitable" natural factor in your environment. Your problems may well be caused by unnatural foods, in which case there's light at the end of the tunnel. Change your diet; change your health.
If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh, real foods. If cost makes you hesitant to seek out organic foods, consider the fact that what little you save on conventional and processed foods today, you'll ultimately have to spend on healthcare. And then some. Non-toxic, healthy nutritious food is really the best health insurance you can buy.
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund8 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.9 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
About the Director
I believe in bringing quality to my readers, which is why I wanted to share some information about the director, Daryl Wein, from "Consumed." We sat down with Daryl to know a little more about what goes in to making these films. Thank you to Mr. Wein for sharing with us.
What was your inspiration for making this film?
Seven years ago, my writing partner and I stumbled onto a subject we knew nothing about: genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It was an engrossing topic, vast in scope, yet undeniably personal. We began the process of trying to understand the true nature of GMOs ourselves; their ramifications on our agriculture, our environment, and potentially our health.
From farmers battling BioTech Corporations, to everyday Americans eating new and novel foods unknowingly, we realized there was a deeply interesting and complex web of intriguing subject matter just waiting to be explored in a narrative film. The elements felt part noir, part thriller, and had us on the edge of our seats.
Harkening back to some of the great political thrillers of the 1970s, I wanted to revisit a time when filmmakers weren't afraid to blend real world politics with story structure and character development.
As a filmmaker, my biggest objective was to make an entertaining film; a film that created a world of characters who were both relatable and emotionally complex, against the iconic backdrop of the American heartland. Whether or not you know anything about the issues, my intention is for the film to stand alone, and to take its audience on a thrilling ride.
I saw an opportunity to raise questions around a subject that was impacting us all, but that too few were discussing. I realized only a few documentaries had explored the topic, but there hadn't yet been a narrative film to truly tackle the subject in all its complexities.
Rather than the often faceless debate that surrounds the topic of GMOs, we wanted to create a story that explored how real people confront these issues. What it means for the average mother, who doesn't necessarily have access to information, let alone healthy food.
We wanted to explore the difficulty of raising a child in this confounding era. In so doing, we honed in on one woman's struggle as the anchor of our story to comprehend this extremely complex subject, in the face of her son's devastating illness.
What was your favorite part of making this film?
Working with such a great cast of actors, from Danny Glover to Anthony Edwards to Beth Grant, they were such a lovely bunch!
Where do the proceeds to your film go?
If you buy the film through our website www.consumedthemovie.com, the proceeds go directly to the film and supporting it.
The Real World Challenge of Surviving in a World Swimming in Pesticides
Investigation Reveals First Commercialized GMO Maize Was Toxic to Farm Animals
By Dr. Mercola
Is clutter the bane of your existence? Stacks of paper, piles of toys, shelves overflowing with knick-knacks, drawers stuffed to the brim — all of these may contribute to your stress levels and, in turn, encourage a poor diet and weight gain.
This is perhaps especially true in your kitchen, where clutter may take up valuable space on your counters and in your cabinets, pantry, refrigerator and freezer. You need a clear, calming space to prepare healthy meals for yourself and your family.
The same goes for your pantry and fridge; an uncluttered organized space makes it easy to locate the ingredients you need, discourages food waste and encourages purposeful decisions about what to fill your shelves with (fresh, healthy foods as opposed to processed junk).
People Who Struggle With Clutter Are 77 Percent More Likely to Be Overweight or Obese
In the book "Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down," author Peter Walsh cites 2008 research that found people who struggle with clutter were 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.1
He attributed this weight gain to the rise in stress levels that comes along with a cluttered existence. Stress alters the way fat is deposited because of the specific hormones and other chemicals your body produces when you're stressed.
Further, stress-induced weight gain typically involves an increase in belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat for your body to accumulate because it increases your cardiovascular risk.
Not to mention, research also suggests that eating in a chaotic environment may encourage you to eat more sweets, with the caveat being that your mind may overcome the chaos or its tendency to lead to unhealthy eating.3
That being said, you can certainly help the situation by creating a calm, clutter-free kitchen in which to prepare your meals and eat. Rodale Wellness recently featured one plan to de-clutter your kitchen in 10 simple steps.4
10 Steps to Declutter Your Kitchen
1. Define Your Space
The first step is to envision your ideal kitchen space and, specifically, what you want from the room.
Write down your expectations, such as "I want a space to entertain guests and share meals with my family," "I want a calming space to enjoy my morning cup of coffee" or "I want a fun environment for cooking."
2. Identify Benign and Malignant Items
Look around your kitchen and identify the items that are more or less neutral and those that are malignant, i.e., they bring you down physically or emotionally.
Malignant items can take on many forms, such as dishes from a past relationship and fancy gadgets you don't use that make you feel guilty or like a failure.
Other malignant items include junk food, processed foods and unhealthy cooking tools like a deep-fat fryer. Gather up all the negative items in your kitchen and donate or dispose of them.
3. Clean Out Your Refrigerator and Freezer
Even your fridge and freezer have an intended purpose that's unique to each of us. Your ideal refrigerator may devote most of its space to fresh vegetables while someone else's may have equal space for raw dairy products or grass-fed meats.
Toss any food items that don't correspond with your vision, then give each shelf and bin a thorough cleaning.
The best time to clean your fridge is when it's low on food, such as right before a trip to the grocery store or farmers market, but ideally you should clean and de-clutter your fridge once a week or so.
Dispose of food that's spoiled (use common sense on this one, but don't base the decision on a food's expiration date alone). Next, tackle one shelf or drawer at a time, removing all items, cleansing the surface using a soft cloth, natural soap and hot water, and then drying it thoroughly.
While you might be tempted to use a strong disinfectant to kill germs in your fridge, such cleansers often contain toxic chemicals — and many of them can damage the surface of your shelves.
Check the owner's manual to be sure the cleaning agent you use is safe for your particular model (but most should do fine with natural soap and water).
For extra cleaning power, try making this homemade antibacterial solution: mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
Spray onto the surface, then wipe off. After you've done your weekly cleaning and de-cluttering, be sure to also "spot" clean as necessary, especially if you notice any spills or drips.
4. Clean Out Your Pantry
Similar to your refrigerator and freezer, decide how you want to devote your pantry space. You may want a section for teabags, another for spices and a shelf for pet supplies, for instance.
Get rid of junk foods to leave open space for healthy dry goods and other foods that don't require refrigeration, like sweet potatoes, onions and garlic.
5. Clear Off Horizontal Surfaces
If your counters are piled with clutter, your home will appear messy and you won't have room to use the space as intended. As Rodale Wellness explained:5
"In any space, especially the kitchen, it's important to remember that flat surfaces are not for storage — they're for preparing and serving. Anything that gets in your way or adds to your cleanup time needs to go.
Clear out all the piles of mail, instruction manuals, work materials, knickknacks, collectibles, computers, food wrappers and any other debris that doesn't belong.
If your horizontal kitchen spaces look like clean, functional workspaces, your kitchen will look larger and more inviting, and you'll be more likely to cook and less tempted to just load the family into the car and eat elsewhere."
6. Address or Create a Preparation Area
Your kitchen should have a dedicated zone for preparing meals. Decide where this will be and keep all of the necessary kitchen items nearby. This may include utensils, knives, pots and pans, herbs and spices and cutting boards.
Limit items to those you use regularly and remove duplicates or broken items that are only taking up space and adding to clutter.
7. Create a Countertop Command Zone
This is the area where you put food onto plates prior to your meal. It should be clear of clutter and contain only functional items such as necessary, regularly used dishes, serving pieces and utensils.
If you have items out on the countertop that impede your ability to efficiently plate your meals, donate them or move them to a new location.
8. Clean Up Your Dishes
Take an inventory of all of your dishes and glassware. If you have more than you regularly use, donate the excess or move them to storage for special occasions when you have large gatherings.
Get rid of any broken dishes and decide if you want to keep partial sets and other odds and ends you've collected over the years. Designate a space in your kitchen for the remaining dishware and put away only the items that can fit in that space.
9. Organize Cleaning Products
Many people store cleaning products under their kitchen sink. Clear out this area completely and safely discard any toxic cleaning chemicals. Make this spot an area for all-natural cleansers, such as baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, that can help you clean up your kitchen quickly and safely.
10. Get Rid of Malignant Clutter
Once you've collected items that are bringing your down mentally and emotionally, it's time to let them go. You may want to donate them, sell them, recycle them or throw them away. Making a point to remove such items from your home will free up physical space in your kitchen while making you emotionally lighter as well. As Rodale Wellness explained:6
"Your malignant clutter may have been tormenting you for years. But you're getting a fresh start, and this harmful clutter is presenting obstacles to your growth and success.
Now's the time to get rid of your first batch of malignant clutter … If you simply must have a reminder that this stuff was part of your life, take a picture of it, then tuck away the physical photo in a desk, or stick the digital version deep into the belly of your computer."
Take a Breath and Revel in Your Newly De-Cluttered Space
After you've de-cluttered your kitchen, take the time to enjoy it. Gather your family to prepare a special meal and share it together. You'll find that you'll be drawn to spend more time there, which is excellent for those of you looking to follow a healthier diet — and you may be motivated to move on to de-cluttering another room in your house.
From your kitchen to your bedroom, your office or your basement, it's important to visualize your home the way you want it. When considering whether to keep, donate or discard an item, ask if it will contribute to your ideal vision of the life you want.
Does the item make you feel good? Do you use it regularly? If so, determine its proper "home." If not, donate it or discard it. It may be hard to part with objects at first, but as you get into the swing of de-cluttering you'll begin to feel lighter and more able to focus and be calm in your home.
Of course, de-cluttering is an ongoing process, not one that happens overnight. If you feel overwhelmed, start small with one shelf or drawer. Ideally, you should de-clutter on a daily basis and always put items back where they belong. To do the latter, this means you must create a "home" for every item.
Before you create a permanent home for any object, paper or file, make sure it's something that is truly useful, important, valuable or otherwise worthy of keeping. Try to de-clutter a little bit every day and follow the mantra, "Don't put it down, put it away." Little by little, this will help you to achieve a life free of clutter — and the healthier body and mind to go along with it.
How a Messy Kitchen Can Derail Your Diet
Top 10 Time Savers for the Stuff You’re Too Busy to Do
Vetiver oil, also known as khus oil, is a lesser-known plant oil that offers a heavy, earthy fragrance, which is reminiscent of patchouli but with a touch of lemon. It is believed to be very grounding, calming and stabilizing, and provides a range of essential oil uses and benefits. Learn more about this herbal oil.
What Is Vetiver Oil?
Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver, is a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family, which is native to India.1 Western and Northern India know this plant as khus.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), derived from a Tamil word that means "hatcheted up," can grow up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). It has tall stems and long, thin and rigid leaves. Its flowers are brownish-purple. Vetiver hails from India but is widely cultivated in the world's tropical regions.
Vetiver essential oil is derived through the steam distillation of the plant's roots. It has a strong initial aroma and is described as woody, smokey, earthy, herbaceous and spicy.2 While not widely known, it dates back centuries and, in the 12th century, even became a taxable item in India.3
Perhaps the most valued quality of vetiver oil is that it is deeply grounding,4 and often used for promoting sleep. It is said to also be equally helpful for restlessness.
Uses of Vetiver Oil
Almost the whole vetiver plant is used for various applications. The roots have been particularly used since ancient times.
Vetiver essential oil is extensively utilized in perfumery, including the creation of perfumes for the body, room fresheners and coolers, as well as soaps, cosmetics, and oils. It is also a flavoring agent in beverages, sorbets and other foodstuffs.5
Its aromatic effect on the mind is grounding, calming and balancing, while its other notable actions are antiseptic, antispasmodic, immune-stimulating, warming and sedative to the nervous system, and stimulating to the circulatory system, to name a few.6
Vetiver oil's calming and soothing properties are said to dispel anger, hysteria and irritability, and reduce neurotic behavior.7 This in turn reduces stress and tension.
These revitalizing qualities make it helpful with physical and mental exhaustion, and for addressing issues ranging from general aches and pains to insomnia and anxious feelings.
Composition of Vetiver Oil
According to a paper by U.C. Lavania from India,8 the chemical composition of vetiver oil is extremely complex.
It mainly comprises sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene derivatives, of which vetiverols, their carbonyl compounds and esters, serve as the main constituents. Their relative abundance normally dictates the quality of the oil.
Three carbonyl compounds are deemed the primary odor-influencing components of this essential oil, which is used extensively to blend oriental-type perfumes and floral compounds, along with other cosmetic and aromatherapy applications.
Vetiver oil is also a main ingredient in 36 percent of all Western-quality perfumes and 20 percent of all men's fragrances, says Lavania. The author adds that the main fibrous smooth roots are important for oil quality.
A separate study, published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research,9 looked at the chemical composition of selected vetiver essential oils. It found about 110 constituents, mainly sesquiterpenes.
The characteristic constituents were beta-vetispirene (1.6 to 4.5 percent), khusimol (3.4 to 13.7 percent), vetiselinenol (1.3 to 7.8 percent) and alpha-vetivone (2.5 to 6.3 percent).
Benefits of Vetiver Oil
According to Organic Facts,10 vetiver essential oil provides the following health benefits:
✓ Helps enhance libido and awaken sexual desire
✓ Helps provide relief to insomnia patients
✓ Helps speed up eradication of scars and other skin marks
✓ Has antiseptic properties
✓ Helps provide relief from all types of inflammation
✓ Helps improve and maintain good nerve health
✓ Assists in rejuvenating the body and helps boost immunity
✓ Helps heal wounds by promoting growth of new tissues
This plant oil is also believed to benefit those who are suffering from the following conditions:11
✓ Joint stiffness
✓ Menstrual cramps
✓ Mental fatigue
✓ Sore feet
One specific area that vetiver oil can potentially address is ADHD, in large part because it is a calming essential oil.12,13 A 2001 study conducted by Dr. Terry Friedman found that the oil's aroma improved the performance of children with ADD and ADHD by 100 percent.
The results emerged as much stronger than lavender's performance increase of 53 percent and cedarwood's 83 percent.
To harness these benefits, vetiver oil can be administered in different ways. It can be applied topically (recommended diluted with a carrier oil), directly inhaled, diffused or used as a supplement. The oil blends well with the essential oils of benzoin, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender and ylang-ylang.
How to Make Vetiver Oil
The roots of the plant undergo steam distillation in order to produce the oil. Vetiver essential oil is painstaking and labor-intensive to manufacture, which drives its price up.14
To reduce cost, it is often diluted with less expensive and therefore less effective oils, or even synthetic fragrance oils. This is why I advise you to make sure you are buying the oil from a reputable source and getting only the real deal. Easy Aromatherapy Recipes provides several essential oil recipes for specific health concerns. Here are three you can try:
• Injury blend — Blend four drops vetiver, three drops lavender and two drops bergamot in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into affected area.
• TMJ blend — Blend four drops helichrysum, three drops white fir and two drops vetiver in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into jaw muscles morning and night.
• Arthritis blend — Blend four drops frankincense, three drops marjoram and two drops each rosemary and vetiver in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into affected area.
Here is an eHow blend15 you can also try:
You will need:
- 4 drops Vetiver essential oil
- 4 drops Clary Sage essential oil
- 4 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
- 5 drops Lavender essential oil
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Combine oils well and store in an airtight container.
You may use this as an all-purpose massage oil, which can be massaged at your temples to calm an anxious mind. I recommend using it in a neck or shoulder massage to ease tension. This recipe also works in a standard massage for creating a more uplifting experience. Use it externally only and consult your doctor if you are pregnant or have any health condition.
How Does Vetiver Oil Work?
Since essential oils are extremely potent, I advise vetiver oil to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. You can start with one drop to 1 to 3 teaspoons of carrier oil. With caution, increase the essential oil as needed.
Vetiver oil works in vapor therapy16 — it can address nervous complaints, dispel anger and irritability, and relieve insomnia this way. It can also be blended in a massage oil or diluted in the bath. Through this mode of administration, it can assist with mental and physical exhaustion, nervous complaints, rheumatism and arthritic pain and skin healing.
This essential oil also works in a cream or lotion, moisturizing and nourishing skin. It especially benefits dry, irritated and dehydrated skin, and helps reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. On the other hand, it is generally NOT recommended to be taken internally.
Is Vetiver Oil Safe?
This essential oil is deemed non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-toxic, and therefore generally safe. But it should not be used by pregnant women, and you should use extreme caution and consult a doctor before using it on children. Prior to widespread use, always test for skin sensitivity by doing a patch test.
Always dilute vetiver oil using a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Given their quality and composition, most brands should not be ingested.
Side Effects of Vetiver Oil
WebMD17 says that that the possible side effects of vetiver oil are not known. However, it adds that it is unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to take vetiver, as it might cause a miscarriage.