Friday, 22 March 2013


I'm happy to say I've enjoyed a very busy life. I've always had plenty of interests and hobbies, work I enjoyed and self improvement study. And there was house work, organising the family, health issues, friends, extended family and associated problems plus the children with all their interests including pets, homework, sport and other activities.  So, along the way I've had to decide that some things did not fit into whatever space I had left. Understanding how a car works was one thing I did not have room for and physical exercise was another.  One person cannot do everything.

Kambucha tea
I've always had an interest in health and natural remedies.  For years I talked to people and read what I could on naturopathy and herbal medicines, then using what I had learnt, diagnose and treat my family and myself (naughty girl). I did start some naturopathic study once but life got in the way. I am not a person to take things at face value though. I like to know what I am getting into so if something was recommended I would investigate ... things such as bark therapy (not for me), acupuncture (not for me), fasting (maybe occasionally), kambucha tea (eerrkk) reiki massage (seems a bit airy-fairy), aromatherapy (expensive and vague area), homeopathy (I don't understand it) and chiropractic (first experience was a bad one) were some areas I touched and then put aside.  Until recently. My wonderful physio therapist found a different job and I was desperate to find one who could treat the ongoing problems with my damaged neck and shoulder and ended up at the chiropractor.  It seems chiropractic has come a long way in the past 25 years and my shoulder and neck are being treated very well - as long as I take breaks from the computer.

However, I digress - and that's not like me at all!  Lets wind back to aromatherapy.  I don't know what I thought it was but I ignored it because I just didn't have the time. Then my sister emailed me about success she was having with some 'new' oils she was using for chronic bronchitis, so I read about it and found that using essential oils can be called aromatherapy - .  It never occurred to me that I already practiced a type of this therapy, many of us do when we massage Vicks Vapour rub or eucalyptus into chests and make menthol packs for colds and flu or burn scented candles. That's basically what it is.    

Avoiding the airy-fairy feel-good attachments to many alternative remedies, this area of alternative medicine uses essential oils distilled from herbs and flowers to improve personal comfort and health and to heal - just like my mother and grandmother did. My mother used eucalyptus or Vicks, rubbed onto the chest for infections like bronchitis, or spots of the oil on the pillow case for sinusitis. She massaged it into our feet and put us to bed in cotton socks for colds and flu. I always loved her honey and lemon juice sipped from a spoon, in the middle of the night, for a sore throat or the misery of a cold (but that, apparently, is naturopathy). As I suffered chronic sinusitis I learnt, at the age of eight, how to prepare an inhalation and everyone understood that a menthol lozenge would to 'ease the throat and clear the head'.

The essence of the oil is absorbed through the skin or inhaled - but let's keep it away from eyes and sensitive areas.  The brain is stimulated and muscles relax so you can rest or sleep. Blocked sinus passages can be cleared and mucous membranes strengthened. But beware, commercial oils can be very concentrated and some are poisonous so care is needed when handling them.  And, if you are allergic to any food or herbs, you could be allergic to the oils too. 

Oils can be antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial, such as Tea Tree.  Brochures available at health food shops list a wide variety of oils available and what to use them for.  I look down the list and always want to buy the lot, but I've learnt the hard way, they are expensive - some over $30 a bottle, and they have use by dates. You could use very little of some oils and end up throwing the bottle away. Apparently it's much cheaper to make your own oils and there are instructions about that here -

As the oils are very concentrated they are usually mixed with a 'carrier' oil before applying to the skin in massage.  Carrier oils are made from nuts and seeds which can cause allergies in sensitive people so the use of these essential oils must be tailored to the person being treated. You can substitute a light tasting/smelling olive oil for the expensive carrier oils. And if it's all too messy and too fussy, just use a blob of plain, low fragrance, hand cream in your palm, add one or two drops of the oil and mix together before applying to feet, chest, back etc.

I have never used oils with babies, in my family, apart from a little eucalyptus somewhere in the room, so I'm not sure what oils can be used with little ones - maybe consult a professional first. When one of my children needed it I used a steamer in the room, without oil. When I say children I mean from about age two and up. And take care they don't rub oils into their eyes.

So, oils can be used three ways.

Topical application - the oil is applied directly to the skin by massage or soaking in a foot bath or a whole body bath.

Aerial diffusion - the oil evaporates into the air disinfecting the room and treating the patient.  This can be done through a commercial diffuser, or in an oil burner. A hot scented heat pack, usually lavender, can bring comfort too.

Direct inhalation - the oil is inhaled to treat respiratory infection or decongestion. Boiled water is poured into a bowl and a few drops of the oil added. The patient holds their face over the bowl breathing in the steam, and the oil.  When I was young my grandmother insisted I have a towel over my head to avoid wasting the steam, but it is stifling inside that hot 'tent' for child and could possibly lead to burns, so I never do that now. You could make a larger tented area with a sheet if needed. Oils in the bath can be inhaled too but the bath needs a really good clean out afterwards and I got sick of scrubbing away greasy eucalyptus tide marks. In fact all oils are inhaled to a degree, from massage or spots on clothing or candles.

Some useful oils to have on hand would be,

Eucalyptus  - This is the first bottle I reach for when I I have a cold or flu. It clears blocked airways and. I feel, can help to prevent the infection spreading from head to chest. Eucalyptus does not need a carrier oil before applying to the skin for adults, but maybe you should dilute it with young children. And we all know eucalyptus comes from Australia.

Lavender  -   I've found to be an aid to relaxation.  Massaged into neck and temples it can give relief from some headaches. It is also used as an antiseptic and pain reliever for minor cuts, burns and insect bites. It can be used in massage for muscle pain or in chest rubs. Some people add Lavender oil to a hair rinse to treat head lice. It is a traditional 'old lady' perfume, used in soap and talc.  Lavender originated in Europe and now grows widely across the world.

Sandalwood - I love the smell of sandalwood and use it as a comforting chest rub or foot rub.  I find it helps me sleep when I'm not feeling well. Sandalwood originates in India and is used in cosmetics and as a perfume.
Tea tree - I use it for its disinfectant and antiseptic properties - very handy for insect bites and apparently it can be used as a mouth wash.  During WWII Australian soldiers carried Tea Tree oil in their first aid kits. It's a little strong to be a perfume but you do get used to it.

Cloves - I use the oil in damp weather to discourage mould. The bottle I have is extremely concentrated and a stray drop can be smelled on the skin all day, and I don't like the smell.  Apparently is it a topical analgesic, or painkiller and I know it was traditionally used for toothache. My grandmother didn't use oil, she would just put a whole clove in her mouth and bite down!  It can also help with nausea but I'm not sure how.  Apparently cloves are native to Indonesia and can be used as a tea.  I'll have to look into that as I'm becoming in interested in teas lately.

Citronella - This oil is a great insect repellent. Used in soap, candles and incense to repel insects it is sometimes called the mosquito plant.  It grows in pots and is handy to have in outdoor living areas.  Apparently it is also good to calm barking dogs. I think they put it into those spray collars, but I've never used one.

And that's the news on good oils.

Monday, 18 March 2013


I do enjoy this information technology, as we called it in the 1990's. The terminology is difficult to keep up with, but there are websites like Webopedia, netlingo or Matisse, to help you understand the latest. Today's internet word of the day is critical mass - a term originating in nuclear physics and adopted into business-speak.  

Different words pop up with each new development AND instead of making up new words we  reuse old ones as brand names or technical terms - Apple, bit, bandwidth, Blackberry, bluetooth, Cloud, dropbox,  Java, mouse, software and tag  - with more added daily.  It's a patchwork of old and new.

When I check my facebook I find as many updates from Art, Medicine, Engineering, Poetry, Writing, Nature, Herb and Craft groups I've 'liked' as I see from my friends.  It's so exciting.  Some days it's a smorgasbord and others it's a feast of information and creativity I can hardly contain. 

But if I get tired of all this I pop over to YouTube and watch Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company make darling little baby covers from Jelly Rolls or Layer Cakes - the lingo is there too, but this is a much nicer world of patches.

As recently as last year I was irritated when visitors dropped at least one phone each onto the dinner table and 'played' with them throughout the visit. But now that an iphone has taken up residence in our house I can see what a wonderful toy it is. When you hold in your hand a device that can check the weather and email, look up the TV program, find an address with a map as well as taking photos, making calls and sending text messages, we know we have completely overtaken Dick Tracy and all that was imagined in the 1950s.

And Dick didn't even get to acronyms!  I can't give in to everything so if you find yourself ROFLYourAO or tgif-ing  .... well, I've just lost interest.  Acronyms started with phone texting and now with keyboards on every i thing acronyms are no longer necessary.  Come on, you can spell great without using 8, and to is just as easy as 2, lets not destroy the written language - but I am glad to see that someone has found a way to make money out of trying to oversee cyber space and redesign these toys or it really would be a big pigs breakfast.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, older people (that is over 65) are less likely to use the internet - well duh!  I know of 5 people in their 70's who use email and search engines daily, and now that I look at the page, the good old bureau of stats only publishes information up to 2010 anyway,  so what do they know about today?

I'm sure older people who use the internet at work also use it at home and will continue to use it after retirement - and their older brothers and sisters jumped in too, even before it was common to have PCs at home our libraries catered for retirees clicking on or diagnose-your-own-disease sites and emailing children overseas.

For those who are already over 75, not having access to the internet can put them at a disadvantage - 
- some banks charge for paper statements, to encourage on-line banking, 
- when paying bills often only Bpay or direct debit is accepted,
- the Post Office no longer handles payment for many of the services it once did, 
- if paying in person, some cashiers frown at the sight of a cheque book,  
- instructions for new appliances are on the 'net to be downloaded,
- some products can only be purchased on-line.

So if you have a dear old granny, or Mum, make sure they are coping - it might be nice to offer help in this area. Life in the techno age could be a little hard to follow if you were born before 1930.