Wholesome Healing

essential oils: how they effect the brain

family health & autism

Essential oils are truly amazing. Every time I use them, I am not only grateful for the way they promote my health, I am in awe with their effectiveness within the body. With the human brain, essential oils can communicate with certain neurotransmitter receptors, which allows them to interact directly with brain cells by crossing the blood-brain barrier (which pharmaceutical drugs can’t do). This is because the tiny molecules of the essential oils dissolve through the dermis layers of the statum corneum (on the skin). The oils then diffuse into the bloodstream and are taken up by the lymph and interstitial fluid, a liquid surrounding all body cells. Once an essential oil enters a capillary, it has entered the circulatory system and can now be distributed to other tissues in the body (Aromatic Beyond the Basics).

At the same time, the aromatic properties of essentials oils can powerfully…

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If you’re reading this, then you must be skeptical about essential oils just like I once was. Well, I’m glad you’re here because we have some things to straighten out. First, let me start by admitting this: I didn’t always sing the praises of essential oils. In fact, for a few years I was very skeptical for good reason. That’s because I was using essential oils without a whole lot of results happening. So what changed? I educated myself. Not saying you’re uneducated, but perhaps there are some things you need clarification on. So, I decided to compile a list of things that I did not know about essential oils before I started using them. Ready? Here we go.

I remember reading testimony after testimony claiming that this essential oil did this amazing thing for that person, blah, blah, blah. It was kind of frustrating at the time to be honest because I figured that these people must have either been making things up, exaggerating, or not telling the full story. Why were essential oils working for them and not for me? Apparently, just because it has a nice label doesn’t mean it’s going to work effectively. Maybe you’ve had this experience. Maybe you’re having this experience now and that’s why you’re reading this.


The frugal shopper in me just didn’t want to believe it, but it’s true. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. Now, I’m not saying you have to go find the most expensive oil on the planet to reap the benefits, but let’s just all agree that your local discount shopping center is not the best place to find a very high quality essential oil. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE not spending a hundred dollars on something I could get for $5. But what you need to understand is that in the world of essential oils what determines whether an oil will be effective or not has everything to do with the quality. That is because essential oils contain chemical constituents that are greatly affected by a variety of factors (climate, season, altitude, soil condition, geographic location, etc.) and these chemical constituents are what give them their therapeutic benefits and make them effective. (We’ll talk more about chemical constituents and how they work in the body later in another post). I know what you’re thinking. “What if I can’t afford the best quality?” All you really need to get started is one oil. Start to incorporate it into your everyday life and routine, educate yourself on it’s benefits, and then gradually add on from there. But you definitely want to seek out the best quality you can afford.


It makes sense if you think about it, really. Imagine, you’re a knowledgeable retailer that has spent a lot of time finding the optimal locations to source your oils and then pay fees on top of it to have your oils tested. You should definitely be charging a little more than the retailer who hasn’t done so, right? Also, keep in mind that if you’re producing the purist essential oils possible, this can be extremely costly to you. Did you know that the distillation process requires hundreds, sometimes even thousands of pounds of plants to produce just one pound of essential oil? Basically, don’t expect to pay very little for a very high quality, pure oil. It just doesn’t make sense.


Here’s where it gets confusing. Some people will tell you there is no such thing as therapeutic grade oils and that it’s just a term made up for marketing purposes. Not true. While it is true that there is no governmental regulation on therapeutic grade essential oils, many companies do in fact have their own standards for therapeutic grade. Obviously these standards are set by the companies themselves which can be a good or bad thing depending on the integrity of the company (some companies actually have very high standards while others do not). Furthermore, these oils may or may not be third-party tested in an independent lab by people who may or may not be well qualified. (Is your head spinning yet?) Most companies don’t intentionally try to deceive customers with this label, but it’s possible that there are some that do. However, it is still important to find a company that labels their oils as 100% pure therapeutic grade. Why? Because it should mean that the oil was sourced with having the purpose of therapeutic use in mind (so it’s not just food-grade quality or perfume quality). Once you’ve established that the oils are 100% pure therapeutic grade, you’ll also want to make sure that they are tested in an independent laboratory (or third-party tested). This is usually something you’ll have to ask about as most companies don’t put this information on their labels. And if you’re still skeptical, send them an email to ask for documents showing their third-party testing on a few oils. A company that has nothing to hide will be more than happy to send you the information you’re seeking.

pure vintage seal

Remember those oils I told you about that didn’t quite work so well? Well, on the labels of those oils, they all claim to be 100% pure. Some even claim to be 100% pure therapeutic grade and a few are even certified organic. Again, we don’t know what the label “therapeutic grade” really entails until we do some research on the company’s standards since there are no real regulations for that in the industry. Also, keep in mind that even oils labeled as “100% pure” can still be distilled from poor quality crops or even be distilled incorrectly. So how will you know which company to trust? Here are some things you should be looking for:

-Plants should be grown in their indigenous (natural and ideal) environment.
Did you know that when an oil is sourced from a plant that’s grown in its indigenous environment, it can double or even triple the beneficial compounds of that essential oil?

There should be nothing added or taken away from the oils.
-Nothing else should be listed in the ingredients but the oils.
-There should be no toxic solvents used in the extraction process.
-The oils should be extracted using only steam distillation or expression (for citrus).

lavender bundle
-The essential oils should have a strong, clean aroma and they should be effective, meaning they should actually work. (That’s why we’re looking for therapeutic grade to begin with, right?)

Note: Although convenient, buying essential oils (even 100% pure therapeutic grade) at your local health food store is probably not the best idea. Here’s why: sometimes the staff is not as knowledgeable as far as the way the oils should be stored (not in a hot storage room for long periods of time, for example). So even if the brands they carry are high quality, they might have lost some potency or effectiveness by the time it reaches your home. So either make sure you ask a lot of questions or seek out a retailer who specifically specializes in high quality essential oils.

essential oil

Okay, that about wraps things up. If you would like to know which essential oil brand I use and love, then please feel free to message or email me.

Modern Essential Usage Guide, 6th edition


(serves 4)
2.5 lbs cubed beef for stew
3 tbsp coconut oil or grass-fed butter
4 cups beef stock
1/2 large organic yellow onion, chopped
3 large organic carrots, chopped
4 small organic red potatoes, cubed
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp fresh rosmary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil or butter. Stir in the onions, carrots, and potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add in the beef, followed by the tomatoes, stock, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
3. Cover the saucepan, lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove the lid, slightly increase the heat, and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes (or until desired thickness is reached).


paleo crisp
Please note: This recipe was adapted from one by BIG EATS… tiny kitchen. Go here to see the original.


1 1/2 cups green apples, peeled and diced
3 cups fresh strawberries, quartered (with stems removed)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of arrowroot


1 cup of almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used raw hazelnuts)
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick spray or rub with coconut oil. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients. Place filling ingredients into 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine almond meal, salt, baking powder, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup. Mix in walnuts and shredded unsweetened coconut. Mixture will look like wet badder.
  4. Sprinkle or crumble topping over fruit filling.
  5. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
  6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then dig in.Optional: top with fresh homemade whipped cream, or dairy-free homemade whipped cream using chilled cream from coconut milk. (See the Whipped Cream section on my List of Substitutions.)




2 tablespoons coconut oil or other high heat oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound ground meat (I use bison)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 jar (12 ounces) of roasted red peppers (no sugar added), drained and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
optional: chopped cilantro and/or sliced green onions

1. Over medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add chopped onions and minced garlic to the oil and allow them to soften and become fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
2. Add the ground meat and cook thoroughly.
3. Once meat is cooked through, add chopped tomatoes, chopped red peppers, and chili powder. Mix until well combined.
4. Turn heat down to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.
5. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and/or sliced green onions.


4 large eggs
2/3 cup melted (but cooled) grass-fed butter or ghee
2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
*1/4 cup minced Peppadew peppers (whole, sweet, HOT Piquante peppers)
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

*Note: These do contain sugar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk together eggs and melted butter in a large bowl.
3. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until moistened.
4. Stir in minced Peppadew peppers.
5. Rub the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish with melted oil and pour batter into dish.
6. Bake for about 20-22 minutes or until the center is well set.
7. Serve with Easy Paleo Chili and top with grass-fed butter, if desired.



Living in a house full of people, trust me… I know all about being sick. It’s amazing how quickly things fly around. 1 person gets sick and before you know it, all 7 of us are sick. I don’t know about anyone else, but I cannot afford to constantly be sick. So after many attempts at “dodging the bullet”, I think I’ve finally narrowed down the trick to avoiding the bug… or at least fighting it more quickly with a stronger immune system. Here are my favorite tips & tricks…



1. High quality, whole-food multi-vitamin
High quality brands include: Divine Health, Garden of Life, and Mega Food
2. Fermented Cod Liver Oil or high quality Fish Oil
I prefer Fermented Cod Liver Oil for the vitamin D boost, but fish oil is great too. Just look for a high quality one and supplement with extra vitamin D if needed.
3. High quality Vitamin C
Vitamin C is usually made from corn, most of which is GM. If you are trying to avoid GMOs, look for a high quality, whole food vitamin. Here is one made without corn.
Note: I supplement with vitamin C because I have thyroid issues but I also love it because it helps me to recover faster when I workout.
4. Magnesium
This is best taken not as a vitamin but as a mineral bath with magnesium flakes. (I’ll get into this more on another post).



1. Double dose of Fermented Cod Liver Oil or high quality Fish Oil
I only double the dose for a few days, then go back to my normal dose.
2. Double dose of high quality Vitamin C
Same as above, I only double it for about 3 days, then go back to my normal daily dose.
3. Oil of Oregano 
A powerful antioxidant that only needs to be used for a short amount of time to boost immunity, depending on the supplement form. If it’s concentrated, you may only need to use if for a few days, and then stop.
4. Elderberry Syrup
An awesome anti-viral remedy that can be used as many days as you feel is necessary. Just mix it into a little water, add ice, and it tastes just like a berry tea!


1. Get more sleep & take it easy.

Your body does it’s most important repairing work during times of sleep. It’s wise to increase your normal sleep time to allow your body to fight off any infection. Beyond more sleep, you should also try reducing unnecessary stresses. This can mean doing more walking instead of high intensity or long duration workouts or anything that causes you to feel over-stressed and fatigued. 
2. Avoid refined sugar like the plague. 
This was something I had heard before I really decided to try it. The fact is, sugar does cause inflammation in the body and makes it much more difficult to absorb vitamin C, so even if you are taking some vitamin C here and there, you may be sabotaging your immunity with all that extra sugar you’re indulging in to make yourself feel better. This really hit me when I got sick right before I started a sugar detox. At the end of day 1 of the detox, I felt 50% better. On day 2, I was 100% better. If you’ve already caught something and you’re battling a sore throat, ginger tea with raw honey is great, so is raw honey mixed with a little cinnamon. Yes, honey is sugar but if you buy raw then it’s not refined. 
3. Drink more water and less everything else.
Flush out the toxins with water. If you can, try to drink less caffeine, milk, sodas, juices, etc. Teas that don’t contain caffeine are completely acceptable. Certain varieties can actually help reduce inflammation (try rooibos or chamomile).
4. Eat real food.
If you don’t know what I mean by this, go over to my Real Food Challenge post to get the idea. Basically, you want to minimize overly-processed junk food as much as possible. Let real food be your medicine. Really, this is the most important step you can take to help your body overcome a virus. 




The nutritional information of a product is the part of the label that tells you how many calories the product consist of, as well as how many grams of fat, carbs, etc. While this information is definitely helpful for many people (especially those with blood sugar issues, etc.) it does not tell you everything about the product. Unfortunately, our culture has taught us that this is what matters most (low-fat, low-carb, low calorie, low-sugar) and so many people really only look at that section of the label, completely not realizing that what they are eating may actually be a far cry from real food.

So, if eating healthy, real food is your goal, then you need to start paying attention to the list of ingredients. The list of ingredients will tell you much more about what is actually in the product. You cannot simply trust the advertisement on the front label (advertising is so deceiving!) Think about it, their goal is to get you to want to buy the product. And who has time to read labels anyway? Something can be labeled “organic” and many people will buy it mainly for that reason, without ever checking the ingredient list. Advertisement is powerful.



A good rule of thumb for reading labels is the fewer ingredients listed, the better. For example, something that lists only chicken, water, and salt as the ingredients qualifies as a “real food” item. On the other hand, a different brand may advertise the same product but include 10 more ingredients, half of which you can’t even pronounce. This probably would not qualify as a “real food” item.

However, there is something to be said for the foods that ARE real that contain more than 5 or 6 ingredients. Many of the recipes on my blog contain more than 5 or 6 ingredients and they are considered “real food” recipes. So, technically, you could have a product with over 10 ingredients listed, but if they are all natural, real, unprocessed ingredients, it’s totally fine.

Another good rule of thumb to go by when reading labels is to consider each listed ingredient individually. Are they all items you would buy to cook with in your own kitchen at home? For example, if preservatives are listed in the ingredients, then it’s probably not something you want to buy.

Lastly, another  trick to reading labels is to really look at those first few ingredients and ask yourself if they represent what’s advertised. For example, if the second ingredient listed on a box of “Almond Granola” is sugar and the third is maple syrup then you know that instead of oats and almonds for breakfast, you’ll be eating primarily sugar covered in milk. Not good.



Although it’s nearly impossible to cover them all on this short post, I can give you a list of the most popular ones that you probably see everyday. These are ingredients that you most definitely want to avoid, when possible:

Can also be listed as mono- and diglyceride, high-stearate, or stearic rich.
Ingredients that always contain MSG: Glutamic acid, glutamate, monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, anything “hydrolyzed” and any “hydrolyzed protein”, autolyzed yeast, and gelatin.
Ingredients that usually contain MSG: flavors, flavorings, broth, stock, maltodextrin, protease, malt extract, soy sauce, and
Such as: Aspartame, Acesulfame-K (Acesulfame Potassium), Cyclamates, Saccharine, and Sucralose.
Brand names include: NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal-Measure, Sunette, Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, Sweet ‘N Low, Sugar Twin, Necta Sweet, Sweet Twin, and Splenda.

SOY (almost always genetically modified)
Such as: Canola oil, vegatable oil, or cottonseed oil
Most common GM foods: corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, papayas, and some zucchini.


*For a more extensive list with descriptions and very helpful information, go here.



real food


The 7 Day Real Food Challenge is an idea I came up with to help people who really want to eat healthier but don’t know where or how to start. I know that the idea of eating healthy can be very overwhelming, especially if you have other very important responsibilities on your plate (and who doesn’t?).

This idea really came to me when I first started to receive feedback from the 30 Day Sugar Detox. Those who completed it came back to me with amazing results including, weight loss, clearer skin, minimal cravings, and better digestion. Fantastic!

However, there were many others who expressed great interest in doing the detox, but it just seemed too overwhelming to commit to. Those are the ones I’m after this time around. You who have such a strong desire to be healthier but just can’t find the time or motivation to really get started. You who find yourself time after time eating the same stuff that you know is not good for you (because you don’t feel so good afterwards) but you don’t know how to say no because you’ve said yes for so long. I’m doing this challenge for you, because I know that getting started is the hardest part. But be encouraged, because once you feel the difference, it creates less of a desire to go back.

The key to success in eating well that I think so many miss is that at the root of it all, it’s really not about eating less calories or less fat or even less sugar (although one or more of these things can have there place for certain individuals, it still should not be the focus). It’s about eating more nutritionally dense foods that help keep you satisfied. I think so many people choose to focus on 1 or more of the aforementioned things and end up missing the point entirely. The problem is, our society has embraced this idea of “dieting” and “losing weight” so much that even our foods in the grocery store are marketed this way (“low-fat”, “sugar-free”, “fat-free”, etc.) and we buy into it, thinking these foods are gonna help us “get healthy”. These foods are not gonna help you get healthy. Sure you may see some weight loss for some time, but that is in no way an indication that you are healthy. There is so much wrong with this type of thinking, I really don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll leave that explanation for another time.

So, in essence, this challenge is a foundational way to jumpstart your healthy eating lifestyle and retrain your mind to stop the “diet thinking” and just nourish yourself. Hopefully this guide will provide helpful tips to get you excited about your new journey.


The 7 Day Real Food Challenge will begin next Monday, June 10th and will end on Sunday, June 16th (However, hopefully you will be inspired to continue eating this way, but that’s entirely up to you).


Okay, so I bet you’re wondering how do-able this is. Well, lucky for you, I designed this to be a very short and easy (read: DO-ABLE) challenge. So if you aren’t joining in on the fun, you basically have zero excuses. 😉 Once the challenge is completed, it is up to you to assess how you feel compared to how you normally feel and decide if you want to continue eating this way… or mostly this way (believe me, I know that eating 100% perfectly healthy all the time is just not realistic). For these 7 days, you’re gonna need to buckle down and be very strict though, to get accurate results. That means, for 7 days it is 100%, all in. If you choose to continue this journey beyond the 7 days, be realistic with yourself, give yourself some grace, but also HAVE GOALS to keep yourself in-line.

Okay, so…. here are the rules…


1. Anything that contains an ingredient that you cannot pronounce or don’t know what it is. (Fair enough, right?)
2. Anything that contains refined grains, such as white flour, pasta or tortillas (corn or flour). (White rice in moderation, is okay.)
3. Anything that contains refined sweeteners, such as white sugar, corn syrup, or artificial stuff like Splenda.
4. All deep-fried foods (because they are often made using highly refined oils).
5. If it’s questionable, then it’s probably a no-go. Just put it down… walk away from the brownies, sir.
6. Anything that contains artificial colors, flavors, etc. (I mean, this is called a REAL food challenge, after all.)


1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
2. Lots of fruits and vegetables.
3. Dairy products like whole milk, unsweetened plain yogurt, eggs, and cheese.
4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (sprouted grains are best, like Ezekiel bread, found in the freezer section of most grocery stores).
5. Seafood (wild caught is optimal).
6. Meats such as turkey, beef, and chicken.
7. Beverages limited to water, milk, kefir, all natural juices, & naturally sweetened coffee & tea.
8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts, and popcorn.
9. All natural sweeteners including local raw honey, 100% grade B maple syrup (or grade A with only “maple syrup” listed in the ingredients), organic cane sugar, and fruit juice concentrates are all acceptable in moderation.


1. If you’re going to consume dairy, it’s best to choose organic, whole, & unsweetened.
2. If you can afford it, choose organic with fruits and veggies as well. Check out this handy list for foods that need to be prioritized when buying organic.
3. Check out my post on Substitutions for replacements for refined grains, oils, dairy, etc. While you’re at it, check out some recipes too, to help you get started.
4. Purge your pantry. Even if it’s just temporarily, get a box and fill it with all the packaged crap you won’t be eating and put it somewhere out of sight or hard to get to (preferably in the trash can or donation center, but the basement is fine). If you really feel like you can’t live without these foods because they make you feel so great all the time, then you can put them back in your pantry after the challenge is done (it literally hurt me to type those words, I hope you know).


Yes, they are more expensive than refined, packaged foods because they are worth more! Consider your priorities… do you really need another obnoxiously colored V-neck T-shirt? I didn’t think so.

Happy eating, folks. See ya on the other side. 🙂


1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw honey or grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup almond slivers
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of celtic sea salt

1. In a large frying pan, melt the coconut oil and then pour into a large bowl.
2. Add vanilla and honey to the melted oil in the bowl and mix well.
3. With a paper towel, dry the frying pan of any excess oil and return to medium-high heat.
4. In the frying pan, roast pumpkin seeds until they start popping (about 2-3 minutes).
5. Remove the pumpkin seeds from the pan and set them aside.
6. In the same pan, roast the almond slivers, coconut flakes, and shredded coconut until slightly brown  (about 2-3 minutes).
7. Add the pumpkin seeds, coconut mixture, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl of liquids and mix well.
8. Pour & store in an airtight container.



(serves 1)
1 cup of homemade organic coconut milk (or you can use canned full-fat organic coconut milk)
*1 – 1 & 1/2 scoops of chocolate protein powder (I use this one).
1 handful of unsweetened coconut flakes
5-6 ice cubes

*I use more or less powder, depending on how tough of a workout I had.

1. Place all ingredients into your blender and blend on high power until the ice has been completely blended.
2. Pour into a large glass and sprinkle with crushed coconut flakes. Enjoy!

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