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Archives | Hands for Life

Essential Oils as Insect Repellents

How do they work? Plants have been used as natural insect repellants since ancient times, often grown strategically to deter harmful or pesky insects from entering human habitations. The mutually beneficial relationship between plants and humans has been extremely important, particularly in areas where mosquitoes and other biting insects can carry devastating diseases. Beyond planting some lavender, or growing basil, studies have shown that crushing or burning certain plants increase their insect repelling properties. This is where essential oils come in. Essential oils concentrate the oils in the plant, creating a more potent and active form of the natural substances found in the plant. Before we dig too much deeper, the first step in understanding essential oils as insect repellants is to understand how they work. Contrary to popular belief, not all of these plants push bugs away. Some of the more common oils have a potent scent, which hides other smells and confuses mosquitoes and biting pests. While the oils are not directly driving mosquitoes away, they are making it much harder for the mosquito to find and bite you. Other plants actively repel the insects, producing smells that drive them away. These plants tend to react when damaged by an insects bite, or when brushed against, so are typically more useful when used in an oil or smoke form. Finally, certain plants contain chemicals that are toxic to insects. This is where the ever popular citronella fits in, repelling and killing simultaneously.   How to use them? As mentioned above, having live plants in strategic locations can offer limited protection as an insect deterrent. Most plants that...

What Causes a Sunburn?

What is a sunburn? Sunburns occur when bare skin is exposed to UV rays, most commonly from direct sunlight or spending too long on a tanning bed. These rays cause the skin to respond by making melanin, a natural protective substance that gives us suntans and is responsible for the variety of skin tones across the globe. When the melanin defense system becomes overwhelmed, a burn occurs. You may have noticed that those with darker skin tones do not burn quite as easily as those with lighter tones. This is due to the quantity of melanin in the skin, and is determined genetically. Those with darker skin are naturally able to produce more melanin, while those with fairer skin have less melanin to work with and burn easier as a consequence. How do we protect ourselves? Sunburns can occur on sunny days, overcast days, snowy days, and even while swimming. Studies have shown that up to 80% of UV rays will pass through clouds and that snow, ice, water, and other reflective services can actually magnify the effect of the UV. This means that only going outside when it’s cold or cloudy won’t protect us. Wearing protective clothing that covers the skin is one of the surest ways to prevent sunburn. Be it a hat, long sleeved shirt, sunglasses, or long pants, covering the body protects us from exposure. This may not always be a practical solution, however, especially when temperatures peak and a nice dip in the swimming pool is needed. In these situations, the best preventative is a good sunscreen. Sunscreen comes in a variety of forms,...