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What are essential oils, really? A look into essential oils and what they really are — beyond the hype and “magical cures.”You’ve heard the term. You may even be rolling your eyes (because I’m 95% sure you know at least one person who is selling them and is annoying as hell — am I right?). I don’t blame you. I don’t like being pushed a product with an ulterior motive either. I mean, all products make someone money, but sometimes the MLM (multi-level marketing) crowd can come on a bit too…… enthusiastic. Yeah, that’s the word we’ll use.

So full disclosure here, before I dig myself into a grave. I do use an MLM company. I like their products. I won’t try to sell you on them. I’ll probably throw a link in here somewhere so that you can explore IF you want to, but this post is not about me and it’s not about that company.


It’s about essential oils and what they really are — beyond the hype and “magic cures.”

So what are essential oils?

Put simply, essential oils are a liquid derived from plants. Generally this liquid is obtained via a distillation process from leaves, flowers, rinds, roots, etc.

Essential oils are not actually oils in the way that we are most familiar. It’s not like olive oil or other seed oils that we might use in the kitchen. They actually get the name from long ago when they were considered oils because of the way they floated on water. (Oil & water don’t mix, right?) They were believed to be the fifth element — quintessential oil — or the life force and spirit of plants, alongside air, water, fire, & earth.

Essential oils are often called the “life blood” of plants. They are an essential part of their ability to survive in a world of ever-changing conditions. They can help plants by attracting insects for pollination, by way of deterring smells, or even helping fight against bacterias and funguses that threaten the plant’s survival.

Basically, they are bit like the plant’s immune system.

How and why are essential oils used?

Essential oils have been used for years, and there are many historical references of their use. Before modern day medicines (many of which are derived from plants, and some of which laboratory created synthetics) herbs, tinctures, and essential oils were used to treat ailments. While medicine is not a perfect science — now or then — there is certainly value in learning from what works.

Essential oils (EOs) can have amazing effects on the body when used to maintain wellness. Unlike a host of modern day supplements and body wellness products, EOs are more easily absorbed by the body than products that use petrolatum and other byproducts from industry processes.

You’ve heard it before, but your skin really is your largest organ — and despite it’s ability to protect you from objects and it’s highly absorptive. Medicines (whether modern or traditional) can be absorbed through the skin, and ingredients in the products that we use (for body care, cleaning, etc.) What you put on your skin matters.

EOs (like modern supplements & medicine) can be used topically, aromatically, or internally. (Warning, lots of opinions coming in this next tidbit) I am personally most comfortable with topical and aromatic use, except in the case of oils that have already been blended properly into a supplement. I have reservations about the use of oils used by filling a capsule, in water, etc. Not that I think it cannot be done safely (or that I have never done it), but EOs are very potent, and I believe that they require a level of respect, care, and knowledge when used internally.

I don’t go around recommending ingestion outside of formulated supplements with ingredients to help disperse and balance the oils. Let’s put it that way.

Why would I want to consider essential oils?

EOs can support a range of bodily systems, like healthy skin, hair, muscles, bones, and even our emotional state. They can also be used to support healthy immune, respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular, hormonal, and nervous systems. Remember, that there are many different kind of plants (an estimated 400,000 species!), each with it’s own needs for survival and each with a contribution to make to the world around it. Not all plants or oils are the same, which is why it’s important to do your research and figure out what might help you achieve whatever goal you have. Don’t take my word for it, and don’t take your best friend’s neighbor’s uncle’s word for it. Essential oils can help support your health, but herbs and EOs need to be taken seriously before use.

I have seen the results in my experiences with my own health and with my family, but that doesn’t mean I have it 100% right and it doesn’t mean that your body will metabolize the oils I use in the same way. Listen to your intuition and listen to your body. I’m happy to offer what information I have and find, but I encourage you to look beyond this post if you have an interest in oils or herb.

The Herbalist Journal is one great resource, as is Wellness Mama. I’m sure there are many more. In your search, look for resources that don’t send up alarmist red flags, and that don’t make wild claims. EOs can be amazing, but random people claiming that they can cure “Insert Deadly Disease Here” with 2 drops of anything is dangerous and you probably don’t want to get any of your information from them. Listen to your intuition.

Can you tell me about labeling?

One of the things you’ll likely here associated with EO companies of any kind is about the use of terms like “therapeutic grade”. The thing is, there are no labeling standards. So while these names do mean something to each company, they do not mean the same thing across companies — because there is no universal standard.

As I mentioned, I do buy from an MLM company because I like their products. Companies all provide information about their products, but it’s important to use your head and your instincts to weed through that information to determine what’s not enthusiastic overselling and what is the raw information that you are looking for. Go by results, not hype.

DumbledoreGeeze Louise, I sound like a skeptic! I’m not. Not exactly, but I know money and the reach for power can easily cloak good messages. Just this week I heard a very heartfelt and enlightened quote from a political figure that I never thought I’d hear an intelligent word from — let alone a thoughtful one. Even though I don’t care for this person, I can allow myself not to be shut off to the good things that come from whatever source they come from. And really, that’s often how life is. It’s easy to tune someone out because you feel like they are just always SO wrong. And maybe they are 99% of the time, but if you can be open that 1% might just be what you need to hear, learn, whatever.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Dumbledore

So this all took a crazy turn, but the point here is that… no, there is no universal standard, and yes some brands have their own brand standards. Lots of companies, of all types, have internal standards that they hold themselves to. The presence or absence of a standard, even a non-universal one is not a bad thing. It doesn’t make it awesome (unless you trust the brand) but it also doesn’t make it a platform to discount the whole industry/company/etc.

Where do I look if I’m interested in essential oils?

There are lots of great companies, and I think it’s important to use one that you trust. Do your research, and keep in mind that some people will write bad things in order to gain your favor. If the article feels angry, alarmist, or offensive, perhaps it’s not the right source of information. I encourage you to read on past my article so that you are comfortable with whatever product you decide to use in your home, on your body, etc. This is the one I use, and you can check out the membership types here if you want.  I am happy to answer questions if you have them, about anything written here, and none of it is contingent on you clicking anything here. I just want to make that crystal clear.

Consider the intended purpose before choosing an oil. Do you intend to use it as a health aide? Some oils are not as potent, or may be blended with carriers already. These may be most suitable for using to scent your home, use in perfumes or cosmetics. If you plan to use them for health purposes or even diffusing for health benefits, you’ll want to find oils that you trust to be as free from any sort of filler as possible. You need to know that what you’re putting onto your skin (or wherever) is #1 not diluted or mixed with other compounds and #2 was distilled properly to give you the best results. One tip I’ve heard to determine if an oil is pure is to place a drop on a coffee filter. If it evaporates and doesn’t leave a ring, it’s pure. If it leaves a ring or greasy residue, it contains a carrier oil.

I’m not an expert, but I do know that there are variations in the distillation process that can lead to different end results (much like when I cook food — if I mess it up, it may be edible but it’s not going to be good!)


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This coming Monday, some awesome sh*t is going down! Together with 30 other companies and blogs, I will be participating in a first ever #Periscopathon event! Think 1990 PBS telethon but 25 years better.

Just like a traditional telethon, #Periscopathon will have goodies galore and we will be doing all of this to raise money for a great cause. Your shares, donations, and hearts will help raise funds for Giving Diapers, Giving Hope and help educate the general public that cloth diapers can be a solution for diaper need.


Here’s how it will work:

  1. Enter the giveaway form over on the blog at Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.
  2. Prizes donated by the participating brands will be unlocked based on the total donation count.
    1. Donations can be made now thought the #Periscopathon AND within the 24 hours following it. All donations made in that time frame will count toward the goal and unlocking prizes! The total goal is $5k.
    2. You do not have to donate to win (we want everyone to have a chance, regardless of ability to donate). If you cannot donate funds, consider sending a diaper you no longer use (more info here). Your chances of winning are not influenced by the size of your donation.
  3. Join Periscope if you haven’t already. It’s a free app that is pretty darn awesome. Lots of great brands are using it, and it’s a fun way to interact and get exclusive info!
    1. If you cannot join or don’t want to, that’s okay. You can still enter, donate, and be eligible for prizes. You’ll miss out on some great fun though, so we really do encourage you to join us on Monday.
  4. On Monday the 28th, you’ll want to have your charger ready (Periscope sucks battery life) and be ready to TAP your screen – a lot (to give hearts!)! Brands will start broadcasting live at 9:30 in the morning, sharing fun information about themselves, GDGH, the event, and more. AND each brand will be making a donation based on the amount of hearts they receive during their broadcast. The more hearts you give, the more donations you can help earn for GDGH!

If we can hit the 5k goal (If? I really think we can knock it way out of the park!) it can do SO much for Giving Diapers, Giving Hope. GDGH is run by dedicated volunteers (no payroll at all) and has very few overhead costs. The majority of funds donated are directly used to pay shipping fees to families and buy diapers when supplies dwindle. You can read more about GDGH’s finances in this blog post. Their commitment to transparency is just one of the many great things about their organization.

Is cloth feasible for low income families?

Each year for National Diaper Need Awareness Week articles trickle in on big sites like Huffpo and the New York Times. They talk about the great need for programs that help families with the rising costs of diapers (which is great), but each article either omits cloth entirely or dismisses it as unrealistic for families — robbing them of the truth to make an informed decision.

Diaper need is a real struggle for many families and while cloth may not be feasible for everyone it is a real solution for many. According to census data, more than 60% of families living below the federal poverty level have a washing machine in their home. And while cloth can be costly to start up, GDGH exists to alleviate the start-up cost for families so that they can be financially unburdened by disposables and take charge of their baby’s diaper needs with cloth diapers.

Now that you can understand the needs families face and how GDGH helps, please take a moment to learn about the Periscopathon with this video. You can see how to follow all the broadcasters by viewing the video on Facebook.

Enter the giveaway and make your donation now until September 28
on the Giving Diapers, Giving Hope blog!


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School is in full swing and this year my youngest started kindergarten — as you might imagine, I soaked up every moment this summer. Now I’m really just trying to figure out what in the heck I’m supposed to do. It’s sort of surreal being surrounded by children for over 10 years and then suddenly it all comes to a halt. It’s not that I don’t know who I am, that is not my journey, but it’s that I don’t know what the hell to do. Where do I start? How do I feel about that?

Back to school crazies ❤️ and my first time putting all three on a bus

A photo posted by Amanda Hearn (@effblog) on

I miss my kids every morning but I’m lucky, you see. Our bus passes by the house again after they’re picked up, so I get to catch just one more glimpse and I wave as I watch the bus drive down the road and eventually turn the corner and go out of my sight, and every morning my heart sinks. I miss them. I may be biased, but I think I’ve got some amazing humans living in my house and, as much as they can drive me crazy, they bring so much to my days. They miss me too, but they’re happy. They love their wonderful teachers. They love their classes and their school. They’re getting to meet new friends, and as much as I’d like to deny it, it really is wonderful and amazing. I’m proud of them and excited for them.

They feel it too. My kids. They have all expressed concern about my loneliness — and really I’m not lonely. Not exactly. I work here from home — technically alone — with several people via the internets. People that I enjoy working with. People that I am proud to call my friends. I’ve been building this path for the better part of 6 years, but until now it’s been mixed with breastfeeding, diaper changes, snack time, baths and snuggles. I guess I’m just not sure of how to navigate this new structure of time. The last time I had ‘free time’ I spent it all sleeping and partying… and I feel like that’s not really an option.

I’m not sure how this story is going to play out, but I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful. I’m thankful for a career path that I truly enjoy. One where I feel like I make a difference and work with really amazing people. People who are passionate and caring — sometimes a little nuts, but all heart. (I think these are my favorite ones!) And now I get to do more of that! I get to spend more uninterrupted moments on the things that make me happy, aside from my family. As I make those moments count, I also get to spend more time uninterrupted with my family — which is everything.

Being a work at home mom is not for everyone. You’re trying to work and someone needs a sandwich. Someone got a boo-boo. Someone’s fighting with someone else. Oh gosh, someone’s heartbroken — I’ll fix it! Someone needs a bath. Someone need snuggles — yes please! It’s chaotic at times but it’s not all bad — it’s actually pretty amazing. It really has been such a blessing for me. I feel like I’ve been able to have (a little bit) of it all. I sucked at a lot of it (so much), but I did well at a good bit of it too.

So this is my long way of saying that I have more time for you. I love this space and I’m excited to have more pieces of me to put here. Additionally, you can find me at Earth911,, and Green Child Magazine — whew! I hope you all have a wonderful day, week, month, year, life – all of it ❤️

Free Time

Oh, I nearly forgot! I’ve set up a new email list to better serve everyone. I make no promises, but I hope to start up newsletters that share my work here and other places. If you’re a current subscriber you only see my posts here, so this will (hopefully) make it easier to see what I’m sharing and where. It’ll be the same style of newsletter – no spammy crap, just a heads up on new articles and fun events. If one isn’t relevant to you, don’t worry, the next may be. I cover a variety of green living topics that I care about: recipes, non-toxic living, personal care, parenting topics, etc. If you’d like to stay in the loop you can sign up below.


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If you’ve ever grown zucchini, you know how it can come on quick and in a fury. You’ll have so much zucchini, and you must find something to do with it all — or end up as that person who’s giving away buckets of zucchini to anyone who will take them.

Zucchini Everywhere! — Turn piles of zucchinis into delicious pies with a bit less guilt than the original. You'll be amazed by how much it tastes like an apple pie!

In my effort to make good use of the zucchinis in our first garden at our new house (seriously, we are so excited), I took to trying what seemed like a pretty crazy idea. My husband has a co-worker who said that his wife makes an “apple” pie from zucchini and that it’s great – just like apple pie.

I started by having a look on Pinterest to see what was out there, but ultimately decided to simply modify my favorite apple pie recipe. I love it and thought that subbing in zucchini couldn’t be all that hard – and it’s not. We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by this zucchini mock apple pie and hope that you will be too!

First Things First – The Ingredients

Zucchini Apple Pie Recipe — I can't believe how much this tastes like the real thing! Turn piles of zucchinis into delicious pies with a bit less guilt than the original.You’re going to want at least two huge zucchinis (or a few large). Aim for 8 cups of zucchini (a bit less will still work). Cut the ends, half them, scoop out visible seeds, and then slice it up like an apple! I chose to leave the skin on for the extra nutrients, and actually found that the seeds weren’t noticeable when eating the pie — though you may choose to remove them for appearance.

I wanted to give the zucchini a shot at an ‘apple’ flavor, so I soaked them in a bowl of water flavored with a hefty squirt of lemon juice (tart apples make great pies!) and a bit of sugar (I made a simple syrup to make mixing it in easy).

You can pre-cook the zucchini a bit to soften them up if you choose. I found that the cook-time for this recipe is more than enough to soften them up, skins included.

Next you’ll need the ingredients needed to make it taste amazing:

Start by melting the butter and then mixing in the flour. This will help thicken the sauce. Next add in the remaining ingredients and reduce it to a simmer.

Go ahead and prepare your pie plate now. You’ll need a crust for two layers – top and bottom. Feel free make your favorite crust, but I chose to use a natural prepared pie crust.

Give the sugar mixture a stir and then drain your zucchini. Once strained (try to get out as much water as you can), it’s time to add cinnamon and nutmeg, if you want it. I used 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon and a few shakes of nutmeg. Transfer this yummy mess to your prepared pie plate. Don’t be afraid to mound it up. It will cook down!

Now carefully pour your sugar mixture over the zucchini, being careful to keep it all inside the crust and reserving just a bit to brush the top crust with.

Apply your top crust, poke a few holes, do lattice work, or whatever it is that you enjoy in a pie crust, and then glaze it with the remaining sauce. You might want to dilute it just a bit with water to make it easier to brush on.

Bake it at 425°F for 15 min, then reduce the heat to 350°F for 40 minutes. Let the pie cool and serve!

Have you ever tried a zucchini pie? I’d love to hear what you think!

Zucchini “Apple” Pie
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  1. 8 cups Zucchini (sliced like apples - seeds removed - I left the skins on)
  2. 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
  3. 3 tbs Flour
  4. 1/4 cup Water
  5. 1/2 cup Organic Sugar
  6. 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  7. 1/2 tsp Vanilla (Optional)
  8. Cinnamon, Nutmeg (optional)
  9. 1 Pie Crust (with top!)
  1. Soak the zucchini in a bowl of water with a generous squirt of lemon (and sugar water if you want) and allow to sit while you work on the next steps
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter and whisk in flour. Add sugars and water and simmer. (add vanilla (optional)
  3. Strain and toss the zucchini with 1 tsp (or more) of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg
  4. Mound onto a prepared pie plate and crust
  5. Pour the sugar/butter mixture over it carefully to coat it all - reserving just a bit to brush the top crust with.
  6. Add the top crust, brush with remaining sauce (water down if needed).
  7. Bake at 425 for 15 min - reduce to 350 for 40 minutes.
  8. Let cook & enjoy!
The Eco-Friendly Family