Nowadays everyone is worried about germs and how to protect yourself from all the dirt and grime in the world. Hand sanitizers have become extremely popular among our germaphobic culture, but most hand sanitizers on the market are not all that effective and some of them are even dangerous. Today I’d like to provide you some information on why not to use the mainstream hand sanitizers and what alternatives we have.
When it comes to commercial hand sanitizers you have two options: chemical based or alcohol based. Sanitizers that have a chemical based active ingredient are dangerous to the user. In April of 2011 the FDA started cracking down on companies that claimed that hand sanitizers prevent infections from bacteria and viruses. Not only were they making false claims, but triclosan, an ingredient in many “antibacterial” products, is proving to be more harmful than helpful. Triclosan, and other "antibacterial" chemicals, are readily absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream disrupting the body’s endocrine system and helping create antibiotic resistant superbugs.
If your hand sanitizer doesn’t contain nasty chemicals then the active ingredient is alcohol. If the percentage of alcohol is greater than 60% then the sanitizer will reduce the number of germs on the skin but will not kill them. The downfall is that it stops working after about two minutes when the alcohol has evaporated. If there is visible dirt and grime on the hands then there is little chance that the sanitizer will be effective.
So my goal is to provide an easy to make product that is safe and effective (for more than 2 minutes). Even many of the homemade hand sanitizers use alcohol as their main active ingredient. I wanted to focus the antimicrobial activity of my homemade hand sanitizer on essential oils (EO’s). Essential oils are lipid soluble allowing them to dissolve the cell walls of bacteria, where most of the energy metabolism takes place. They can also stay active for 60-90 minutes after they are applied. This recipe is also well rounded in its ability to fight bacteria (lavender, tea tree, rosemary and lemongrass), viruses (eucalyptus and tea tree) and fungi (lavender and tea tree). Lavender, tea tree and rosemary also activate the immune system by increasing the activity of white blood cells. Witch hazel extract also has some antiseptic and antimicrobial properties as well. The recipe is as follows:
¼ cup of lotion or aloe vera gel
1 Tbs Witch hazel extract
10 drops of tea tree essential oil
10 drops of lavender essential oil
8 drops of rosemary essential oil
8 drops of lemongrass essential oil
5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
Mix all ingredient together and place in a glass gar with a pump. For a more traditional feel to the hand sanitizer use the aloe vera gel. If you prefer to have a more moisturizing feel, use the lotion.
Do not use on serious burns, cuts or wounds and avoid using if nursing or pregnant and on very small children. It may cause minor skin irritation. Don’t forget that nothing beats the germ fighting ability of soap and water but when you are unable to wash your hands, use this all natural, homemade hand sanitizer.
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International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.http://www.brighterdayfoods.com/PDFDocs/j/JRMU0UJ26H3H8PDWUGS7PDXMLJSS1JW4.PDF
Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.