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INNER BEAUTY: Protecting your personal "air-rights" this season.

This month the NY Times published an almost comprehensive article called Colds In-Depth Report on the Prevention and Treatment of Colds and Flu. What was blatantly missing from their list of proactive measures was conditioning the air you breathe. Not making it colder…on the contrary: researchers believe that the flu virus is more stable and stays in the air longer when the air is cold and dry. Instead making it cleaner (fewer germs), supportive to your immune system, and a source of symptom relief for respiratory ailments. To that end we can condition the air we breathe by diffusing essential oils that have, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. But not all oils and diffusion techniques are equally effective; in fact some can be downright dangerous. Dr Andrew Weil tells us in his article on Air Fresheners in this months Prevention Magazine via MSN that the chemicals in most commercial air freshening products can make you sick. The power we are looking for comes from pure essential oils, which have no chemical additives.

Not all air diffusion techniques are equally effective

Man has harnessed all of earth's elements for the purpose of diffusing aromatic oils into the air. Here are the pros and cons of each method for treating an indoor space.

EARTH: Oils are inherent in natural plant materials in their live and dried form.  In dried form fragrant plants are used in potpourri and sachets, with additional oil added to refresh the aroma.
PRO: Pretty to look at, and when you get close enough it smells nice.
CON: Oils in their natural source material are not concentrated enough to make a difference; these items are too generally too small to have a powerful impact on a room; relies on passive air current to disperse into space.

FIRE: Using heat is the most popular method of diffusing aroma in the form of burning incense; candles; oil burners and oil lamps; electric devices including burners; light bulb rings; and heated plug in devices.
PRO: Efficient in diffusing the aroma fast.
CON: Heating pure essential oils can severely diminish their germ killing and therapeutic properties.  In fact, the difference between "therapeutic grade" and regular essential oils is the method by which oils are extracted from the plants.  To maintain the active ingredients in the oils, distillation must be over lower heat for a longer time than commercial grade.  As far as incense is concerned, there are usually chemical additives, and the smoke can irritate the same respiratory system you are trying to protect!

AIR: There are two methods of air diffusion: passive and active.  In each case what is being diffused is the essential oil in its concentrated form or mixed with alcohol for faster evaporation.  For effective passive air diffusion, the diffuser must allow for maximum air circulation around the diffusing element or wick being used.  In active diffusion an electric fan is used to propel the aroma into the air.
PRO: The oils maintain their integrity as the air does not need to be heated to generate diffusion.  Fans are very effective in circulating the treated air.
CON: Most consumer fans are on the small size, and may require mutiple fans to treat a large space effectively.  Commerical air treatment fans are expensive.

WATER: Essential oils used with cold air humidifiers, warm air vaporizers and ultrasonic humidifiers all actively propel water and essential oils into the air.  There are several new ultrasonic aroma diffusers on the market.
PRO: Introducing humidity in the air with the essential oils during the cold and flu season has added benefits.  Not only does it make for a less condusive environment for the flu germs, but given the dryness generated by heating systems it is healthy and soothing to the respiratory system.
CON: These units must be kept clean, particularly if not in use for a few days.  Standing water can also be a source of bacterial growth.

But what about when you are on the go... How can you create a personal bubble of good air around you?

If you are not into wearing a face mask and carrying a tank on your back, the great humidified air with essential oils method is not the best. See this month's section on OUTER BEAUTY for some more stylish suggestions.

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