Can I use essential oils with my cats?

Sassy black farm cat

One of the most hotly debated subjects in animal aromatherapy…cats. There are many out there that suggest it is perfectly safe. Then there are those that vehemently say, not safe at all.

Using essential oils can be a huge benefit for people. They can also be beneficial for animals, but no one is created equal. Every person and animal is going to react differently. But why are cats such a hot topic?

The reason those of us that follow safety guidelines say no is based on science. Cats lack the enzyme glucuronosyltransferase. Most mammals have this enzyme, which is responsible for processing and removing most drugs, toxins, and dietary substances. Since cats lack this enzyme they are more likely to suffer from toxic reactions to substances. Essential oils are a substance that needs to be processed and eliminated by the body.

Some signs of an adverse reaction would be; salivation, a change in breathing (panting or coughing), diarrhea, abnormal behavior, depression, weakness or vomiting.  These are only a few of the possible signs, knowing your pets’ behavior is key.

Holistic options for cats would include; dietary supplements with herbs, diluted hydrosols and flower essences. There are also trained practitioners in aromatherapy, acupuncture and massage that can provide safe services.

Don’t worry you can still use all your oils and keep your cats safe. Using a diffuser is probably out of the question if you have in indoor cat, but here are some great options:

Personal inhaler
Aromatherapy jewelry
Lotion or Body Butter (if the cat won’t lick)
Aromastone (small space where cat isn’t)

I feel that every person needs to make an informed decision. There are plenty of articles stating it is safe. Many of the articles are even written by veterinarians. Although there is no definitive proof now about the safety I tend to be cautious. I would prefer to keep my cats’ exposure to essential oils to a minimum. As more research is done we may discover cats have a different enzyme to help process toxins, but for now let’s keep our fur babies safe and healthy without essential oils.

Herb Gardening – Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb that I have had great success with. In my outdoor garden, I sometimes get lazy and this herb tends to be self-seeding if you leave it alone. Self-seeding means that as the plant matures it will flower and develop seeds, the seeds then fall and if the birds don’t eat them they start to grow again. Due to this I haven’t had to plant dill in a couple years.

When I first started my Florida garden it was mostly in pots. As you can see dill does just fine in a small pot. I will be the first to admit that I did not stay on top of trimming or caring for this plant. If you take the time to trim plants regularly they will continue to grow nicely for an extended period and they won’t bolt.

I love drying the aerial portions to use on fish, in salads or sprinkled in sandwiches to add a unique delicious flavor. Another great use for dill is to make a lemon dill compound butter which you can use on chicken, pork or beef. Consider adding it to some pasta with garden fresh vegetables for a tasty summer dish.

To make a compound butter always make sure to use unsalted butter so that you can control the salt (sodium) within your recipes.

For a lemon dill compound butter:

one stick of butter (1/2 cup)
the zest and juice of half a lemon
approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
salt to taste. (adjust all ingredients for personal preference)

When you don’t keep the plant nicely trimmed it will bolt, meaning it grows taller and starts producing flowers. The flowers will produce a bunch of seeds. Once the seed pods dry on the plant some cut off the top portion to continue allowing them to dry. The seeds can be used for a variety of purposes. A delicious option would be dill pickles. A recipe I like came from this site The Kitchn about making dill pickles.

Herbalists also delight in the different medicinal applications of dill which include improving your appetite and digestion. You can make the feather/aerial portion of dill into a tea to help ease abdominal pains or cramps. According to Michael Tierra in the Way of Herbs it can help with colds, flu or cough. It may also help with the flow of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers (pg 43, Reader’s Digest The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs). As with any holistic practice always consult with a physician or a natural health practitioner.

To learn about dill essential oil, please visit my article here. I would enjoy hearing how you use fresh herbs and what is your favorite? Stay tune for my next installment of fresh herbs from my garden.

Marijuana – Yes or No

Today I am writing about marijuana and the ongoing debate in our country about its use for medical purposes or personal enjoyment. I would imagine that some of my readers would assume that because I study natural medicine and use many herbs and aromatherapy to keep myself and family healthy that I would be a supporter of legalizing marijuana. This question is one that plagues me on a daily basis though. I am definitely in support of using a plant for the positive medicinal qualities that it may have, but when it comes to using it for recreation I do not see the need, but how do you separate the two.

Over the last several years there have been many reports about marijuana being addictive or a gateway drug. Having never tried marijuana or tobacco for that matter I can’t speak to the addictiveness of either of these substances. I recently read that marijuana use leads to dependence about 9-10% of the time, while tobacco is the highest at 30%. The child of two lifelong tobacco smokers I have witnessed firsthand the challenge of trying to stop and unfortunately neither of my parents have succeeded yet. When it comes to marijuana use I become very confused about the true affects it has on the body and why with all the legal ramifications would someone continue to use it if they aren’t addicted. Unfortunately I have seen people that continue to get arrested for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia and face fines yet they still use. If this drug is not addictive then what affect does it have that becomes more appealing then freedom? Why do people risk both personal and financial freedom to keep using marijuana?

I have tended to stay on the right side of the law in the choices I make. I will admit that I drank while underage once and the experience was so unpleasant that I didn’t drink again until I was 25. Now I drink the occasional beer or glass of wine, but I did experience a short period in my life where I started to binge drink to avoid things that were upsetting me. For me this became a turning point, I could either keep drinking and getting hangovers and generally feeling like crap or I could face what was going on in my life and make changes. This is how I feel about recreational marijuana use. If we legalize it are we giving people another substance to use to hide from problems?

In our current society we have so many prescription drugs that are being used to treat countless numbers of physical and psychological problems do we really need one more or maybe marijuana would help us to get rid of some of the synthetic drugs. In conclusion I will say that for medicinal purposes I would support the use of marijuana, but for states like Colorado and Washington that are allowing it for recreational use I am scared. I think that people really need to just slow down, enjoy nature and each other and they may find that they don’t need drugs, alcohol or nicotine to enjoy themselves. The debate is definitely complex and one that I believe will continue on for years. What are your thoughts?

Herb Gardening – Sage

Sage plant in bloom

I have had great success with sage both in the ground and in a container. When I first planted my garden I put sage in the corner of the garden with the intention of it being a companion plant to benefit the vegetables. Due to an extremely wet season the first year it was in the ground it grew very large, very quickly and took over the space that I had allotted for it. The next spring we decided to move it into a container to free up the space in my raised bed. Although I was nervous that it wouldn’t survive the transplant it seemed to do just fine. Now a year and a half later my sage bloomed with beautiful bee attracting purple flowers.

Sage is an herb that is great to have in your garden to help repel insects, cabbage seems to benefit best since it will repel cabbage moths, but it also repels other flying insects. It is a perennial that grows best from starts. Keeping my sage trimmed has been encouraging new growth and my plant has thrived since its transfer into a pot. A huge advantage of having it in a pot has been the ability to move it around to my different raised beds depending on what I am growing.

This herb is a superstar when it comes to the medicinal qualities; it has antibiotic and antiseptic properties. It has been used by herbalists as an expectorant to help expel mucus experienced with the common cold. The stimulant properties help increase circulation which can increase energy and has helped some women experience a decrease in night sweats experienced during menopause. Sage also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat sore throats and other inflammation within the mouth. Creating toothpaste with sage can also help with gingivitis. Similar to rosemary you can spray a mist of sage in your hair both herbs may help darken greys for anyone with darker hair. (The New Age Herbalist, and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

A couple of years ago The Chew did an episode with a Lemon Sage Turkey that quickly became a favorite in our house. The compound butter used in that recipe has become a constant in my freezer. Sage pairs well in turkey, chicken and pork dishes. It has a slightly pepper taste that works well in sausage and stuffing.

Compound Lemon Sage Butter

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature 1/2 of the fresh sage (minced) 1 shallot (finely minced) 1 clove garlic (finely minced) zest of 1 lemon juice of half a lemon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine room temperature butter, shallot, garlic, minced sage, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Stir together with a rubber spatula.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Every day I am learning more about the joys of gardening and the benefits of using the things that I can grow to keep my family and I healthy and well fed. I would love to hear about your favorite herb, what do you enjoy most?

Herb Gardening – Rosemary

Rosemary 4-2014

As I shared in my last gardening article Florida has taught me a whole new way of gardening. It is hard to say what my favorite herb is, but if I had to make a list rosemary would definitely be near the top. Rosemary is an herb that grows well in poor soil that likes good drainage. These are conditions that I don’t have in my yard therefore I do a lot of container gardening. Over the last three years Florida has had above average rainfall not ideal for rosemary. It is also fairly tolerant of cold weather being hardy to 20°, which made this a great herb to grow in Northern Nevada.

I found some interesting folklore and legend about rosemary. According to legend rosemary got its name from Mother Mary as she rested during her escape to Egypt she was sheltered by a rosemary bush. While resting she threw her blue cape on the bush to dry and the white flowers turned blue so the plant became known as “the rose of Mary”. Part of Greek folklore includes that a sprig of rosemary placed under a pillow will ward of evil spirits and bad dreams. It is also said that dried rosemary laid in bed will ensure faithfulness.

Since discovering that my older son was allergic to several antibiotics I began studying natural ways to keep us healthy and time and again rosemary was an herb I continued to come across. Rosemary is known to have stimulant, astringent, and diaphoretic properties. It has calcium, diterpenes (plant compounds), antioxidants (vitamin E and flavonoids) as well as caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid. All of these combine to make rosemary mildly antibiotic and antiviral. Research has been done to find many more potential benefits of including rosemary in your diet. (The Way of Herbs, and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

Being in the middle of allergy season my home often smells of rosemary, because of its strong aroma it is great for clearing the sinuses. Whenever a cold is coming on we add a few drops of essential oil to our bath which helps relieve congestion and cough. Due to the stimulant properties you can lift your afternoon “fog” by spraying some in the air near your desk or better yet spray it in your hair, it might stimulate hair growth. Always consult a physician or natural health practitioner before using herbs medicinally.

Rosemary can be added to many of your favorite sauces and soups, because of its distinctive flavor it is general used to enhance meat dishes. With summer quickly approaching you might want to try this chicken salad with rosemary for your next picnic.

Chicken Salad with Rosemary

3 celery ribs, 3 cups, cubed, cooked chicken, ½ cup mayonnaise, ½ cup sour cream, and 1 tbsp, finely chopped, fresh rosemary

Thinly slice the celery and combine it in a bowl with the chicken. Blend together the mayonnaise, sour cream and rosemary then pour over the chicken and celery stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Every day I am learning more about the joys of gardening and the benefits of using the things that I can grow to keep my family and I healthy and well fed. I would love to hear about your favorite herb, what do you enjoy most?