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Humidity Control to Prevent Illness

     As winter weather lingers on, so does the problem of a lack of indoor humidity.  Some of the obvious things it can cause are dry skin, itchy skin, cracked skin, even bleeding and infections. Other things that we can't see are the same things happening to our delicate mucous membranes that filter the air that we breathe.  Dry, cracked mucous membranes allow the passage of bacteria and germs into our respiratory system that normally would be filtered out. Some bacteria thrive at low humidity levels. Without proper humidity, this can lead to a variety of illnesses, especially in the winter when we are most vulnerable. This can also be one of many causes of SBS or 'Sick Building Syndrome', where improper humidity levels cause outbreaks of illnesses in office buildings.   Turning on the furnace, turns down the humidity.  Likewise, turning on a whole house humidifier can be detrimental as well, if you are allergic to molds or dust mites as they thrive in high humidity. While you don't always have control of humidity levels at work, there are simple things you can do at home. 

     The exciting news is there's an easy way to humidify the air you breathe in a beneficial way that negates all the negatives and enhances all the positives.  The secret I am going to share with you lies in the power of essential oils.  Plants period.  The essence of life.  Without them we are nothing.  We don't exist.  And the most powerful of all, when it comes to breathing, is the eucalyptus tree.  Native to Australia, this tree is now found growing in many parts of the world and there are several hundred different varieties.  The precious oil is extracted from the leaves of this tree.

     Eucalyptus oil not only eliminates dust mites, it also create a healing environment for respiratory ailments such a colds, flu, bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, etc.  The particular oil used for this purpose is Eucalyptus Globulus also known as Blue Gum.  Minty oils such as peppermint and spearmint, also containing menthol, can be added to the eucalyptus oil to vary the scent.

     A great way to accomplish all three, eliminate dust mites and germs, increase humidity, and heal respiratory ailments all at once, is to diffuse the oils into the room through steam distillation.   You can do this with an inexpensive mister or diffuser designed for this purpose, or my favorite, a mist fountain. Both of these are available online. Some portable humidifiers have ports for adding essential oils, but be wary of any that heat the oils as this renders them useless.  Heat destroys the medicinal benefits of the oils similar to how cooking vegetables destroys many of the nutrients. Your room might smell good, but you won't gain the added benefits of purifying the air and restoring your health.  At work you might want to keep a spray bottle of the recipe below and just spray a light mist around your desk periodically throughout the day.  The mist fountain below is a great way to diffuse the oils in your home.


     If you diffuse the oils shortly before retiring, you might want to add a few drops of lavender oil, known for its calming effects and relieving tension, to the eucalyptus solution.  Stress symptoms will seem to just disappear.  You will drift off to sleep more easily and get a good nights rest.  For daytime diffusing, you can add a few drops of peppermint or spearmint oil, both containing menthol that acts as a decongestant as well.  Even orange oil goes well with eucalyptus to vary the scent, but these three oil are known to be stimulants and should be used during the day as a pick me up and not upon retiring as they may make it more difficult to fall asleep. It requires several more drops of the orange oil than the minty oils to notice the scent when mixed with the eucalyptus oil.

     Once you have decided on the oils you want to use just follow the manufacturer's instructions for the diffuser.  If you are using a mist fountain, I recommend diluting the oils in a jar filled with 1 cup tap water or distilled water if you have hard water.  Also, make sure to protect the surface around the fountain from overspray. Approximately 30 -35 drops of eucalyptus by itself mixed with 1/2 tsp. of witch hazel or vodka as an emulsifier.  As an option, you can add to this 5 drops or so of peppermint or spearmint, or 10-12 drops of lavender oil.  For the orange oil it may take up to equal proportions or perhaps 20-30 drops depending on your preference. Always make sure to use only pure essential oils, preferably even organic when available, to avoid breathing in toxic chemicals and additives detrimental to your health.  Then fill the bowl with water to the proper level and shake up the jar you mixed up.  Pour it in and turn it on.  In just a few minutes, your room will be filled with mist and smell antiseptic clean and fresh!  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for helpful hints. 


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