It’s time to talk about Essential Oils

As many of you know, each year LüSa Organics embarks upon a sustainability initiative to bring our brand closer to the environmental ethics we hold most dear. Two years ago we cut the cord on palm oil, while last year we curbed our use of plastic by 90-plus percent. This year, we’re taking a closer look at essential oils (EOs) and sustainability.


When I started LüSa Organics (then “Queen Bee Soaps and Baby Moon”) back in 2002, I was already smitten by essential oils.

I had been making body care since 1996, and EOs were already my go-to. They came highly recommended as a safe skin care choice, had a long history of effective use, and some highly rated benefits (be them physical, mental, or emotional).

They were also a natural way to create amazing scent profiles in our soaps and balms without resorting to synthetic chemicals.

In short: I loved them.

I was new to herbs back then as well. And though I dabbled in a few herbal infusions, I didn’t know much about working with whole plants. So EOs were a wonderful source of plant magic (if you will), not readily accessible to me in other forms.

But with time, we evolve and grow.


I began studying herbs. Bit by bit, I learned more about working with whole fresh and dried plants, and I began creating herb-infused base oils as the foundation for many of my products.

And just like that EOs didn’t seem quite so magical as before.

Because in my experiments and experience, an essential oil-based product could rarely hold a candle to a whole herb infusions, except in the scent department. Sure, there were exceptions, but formulas I once created using lavender essential oil or peppermint were leagues more effective when created with a calendula or chickweed infusion (alone, or in conjunction with EOs).

And while essential oils still had their place at the table, I felt myself gradually inching away from them and toward the wholesome embrace of whole, organic herbs.


Roots and leaves and flowers infused in raw, organic oils bring so much to a product, that once I began exploring this potential there was no looking back.

When I explain the difference to my students, I tell them this: that EOs are a wonderful tool, but they’re not everything. And to me (in some applications) they feel more heavily processed and less nourishing than an herbal preparation.

Put simply, herbal infusions feel whole.

And so products that I had been making for a decade or more with only essential oils were reborn, laced with long-infused herbal goodness.


And everything felt different.

Instead of simply being a lavender-scented moisture balm and stretch-cream, Belly Balm became something more when infused with calendula, rose hips, marshmallow, and lavender.

Da Balm, infused with nine powerful plants, was added to our line (and our family’s grab-and-go first aid kit as well). Booby Balm arrived on the scene to great enthusiasm by nursing parents–an unscented, nursling-safe nipple balm for those early days of breastfeeding.

And these new products either didn’t need EOs at all, or just needed a few drops, to brighten up what the herbs were already bringing to the table.


“But EOs are amazing!” you say. “They’re nearly magical!”

I hear you. I do! Even today I love and appreciate all that EOs offer. But I now also see the drawbacks of essential oils alongside the benefits.

I haven’t broken up with EOs, if you will, and I will continue to use them in much of the LüSa product line. But essential oils and I have grown apart a bit, from how smitten I was with them earlier in my life and career.

Because there is much more to herbal magic than potent, concentrated essential oils. So much more. And while I don’t foresee a day when there aren’t EOs in my home or business, they just aren’t at the forefront anymore.

And so we’re making a few changes here at LüSa Organics as to how (and what) EOs we use. Those changes (and why it’s important to us) are outlined below.


What’s the issue?

Here are a few of the reasons we’re reevaluating our relationship with and usage of EOs, as well as some exciting changes we’re making to address these concerns.

1. Essential oils are resource-intensive.

Essential oils take a lot of resources to make. For example, it takes a whopping 2 lbs of fresh lavender to create a .33 oz bottle of lavender essential oil. That’s a lot of plant matter for a bottle of EOs! Some other oils take far, far more than that (it takes some 40,000 roses, for example, to make 1 oz of rose otto essential oil).

This raises some sustainability concerns for me, simply due to the amount of land we’re devoting to these crops, as well as pesticide use for non-organics.

And the more we move toward zero-waste in our lives and in our business, the more I want to face the fact that using a massive amount of EOs in our products contributes to resource waste.


2. Overuse of EOs can be unsafe.

We live in a day and age when EOs are everywhere! You can buy essential oils from your friends, at the coop, even the pharmacy or grocery store. Because EOs have become so common, their misuse has become more commonplace as well. It’s not unusual for folks to apply essential oils neat (undiluted on their skin), while some even consume them on occasion (both of these are applications that most aromatherapists agree are unsafe).

As more and more people experiment with using essential oils at home, and the more EOs we use in our products, the more concerns are bubbling up that many of us are getting too much of a good thing.

And while we love our EO-scented products, we think that we can make some improvements with how we approach product-scenting (more on this below).


3. Some essential oils are extracted from rare or endangered plants.

Some essential oils are simply unsustainable–and unethical–to continue to use. Here at LüSa, we researched the 70 essential oils we currently have on the shelf, and two of them are rare or threatened, due to unsustainable harvest techniques or poaching.

Those oils are Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansiand Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

What can we do about it?

Just like palm oil in 2018 and plastic use in 2019, we can look at our own status quo and move in a fresh direction. Change can be hard, but it leads us to better, more sustainable places time and again.

All this to say: we can change the way we choose to do things.

It won’t be easy, but we’re certain that it’s worth it.

How we’ll go about it is outlined below.


Essential Oil Sustainability Plan

Here are the actions we are taking to bring our essential oil use in line with our sustainability goals in the coming year.

1. Phase out all rare essential oils

We’re starting in the simplest place: with the two oils on the list above. Just as we would not purchase an endangered animal, we will not purchase a rare or threatened plant oil simply to make something smell nice. While in some cases the therapeutic uses of these oils may be justified–I have a friend who is using frankincense oil as a part of her cancer treatment, for example–recreational/pleasure-only use feels inappropriate.

Spikenard is an oil we began working with more than a decade ago, but one we never got deeply involved with. We add it in small amounts to Sweet Soul Sister Soap as a scent anchor. In a small and easy swap out, we’ll replace this oil with a more sustainable one. Expect a subtle, negligible shift in the scent balance of this soap in the coming year.


The second oil we’re phasing out is Frankincense. This one I’m certain that many of you will miss. We add small quantities of it to a few products for its therapeutic value, while it plays center stage in our Frankincense & Goat Milk Soap. Needless to say, we’ll have to retire this soap scent from our regular product line-up in order to achieve our sustainability mission.

And while that is one of our favorite soaps ever, we just can’t with good conscience keep offering it on our website. We hope you understand and can support us as we make this big change! We will keep selling it for the time being (as we are well stocked with the oil) but expect to see it disappear in the coming three to six months.

What other products contain Frankincense? Only three, and we’ll simply reformulate these in the coming months. Expect a small, subtle shift in the scent of Muscle Magic Arnica Oil, Charcoal Facial Bar, and Eye Serum, after we replace it with an oil with similar properties from a more sustainable source.


2. Reduce EO use in many other products

In addition to phasing out these two threatened oils, we’re reevaluating our use of essential oils in our Pregnancy + Postpartum line, our Baby + Kids line, and our Everyday body care.

No, we won’t stop using EOs in our products! No way, no how.

We love good smells around us as much as you do. But we will be reducing the amount of essential oils in some of our products, in order to create a more subtle (but still aromatic and delightful) experience.

We’ve experimented with a few formulas already, and are smitten by the complex and subtle scents created with a higher dilution rate.


3. Offer more scent-free products

In the coming season, we will start offering more luxurious unscented products for hair, skin, belly, and baby.

Products like an unscented, herb-infused shampoo bar (which we’re making now, for a March release), EO-Free Baby Wipe Juice, and more delightful unscented soaps and balms–all coming later this year.

We hope you’ll join us in this embrace of the unscented side of LüSa by trying out some of these new products (as well as our existing unscented line) in the coming months.

4. Continue seeking sources for certified organic essential oils

EOs are among the only ingredients we regularly purchase non-organic. A large number of the 70 EOs we use are simply not available as a wholesale, organic oil. Others are, but at a price point that is exponentially higher than those we currently use, which would drive up the cost of each product significantly (approximately a $2 increase per tin of balm).

Since many of our essential oils are wildcrafted, they are by their very nature organic, but others are farmed.

We will continue to seek certified organic essential oils for our products, in hopes of finding stable sources for enough of our oils to transition our Pregnancy + Postpartum, and Baby + Kids lines to 100% organic in 2021. By reducing the amount of essential oils in each product (or removing them all together), we’ll be able to do this while keeping prices stable. (We’d love to hear from you if organic certification matters to you, or if all organic ingredients is enough.)


Growing up, my mom frequently told me two things:

“All things in moderation” and “The only thing constant is change.”

I think both of these gems of maternal wisdom apply here. Because we still love EOs, we’re just working on exercising some good, judicious moderation.

And that, of course, means it’s time for all of us to embrace a little change.

Thanks for standing by us while we make this shift. It means so much to have you here, cheering us along.


Rachel Jepson Wolf and the rest of the LüSa Organics Team


Have a thought to share? Comments are open on this post. We welcome your input. Truly.


LüSa Organics product and production photographs by our friends Ray + Kelly Photography. All other photographs by Rachel Jepson Wolf.


Wellness, naturally: five simple tricks to help you get well soon

This winter has been a strange one, with temperatures fluctuating wildly from cold to warm, dry to wet. These weather fluctuations–whether atypical, like this year, or the normal changes common during the beginning and end of winter–often trigger bouts of winter colds for children and adults alike.

Last week a bug landed in our home, leaving half of our crew down for a couple of days. And like any time we find ourselves with a cold or flu, we reached for our herbal kitchen arsenal to bring comfort and healing–fast.

I thought some of you might be interested in hearing some fresh ideas to get well on the double. With this in mind, five of my favorite wellness tips for cold and flu season are below. I hope they help you and your loved ones feel 100% again soon!

(A few afflinks follow. That said, I always encourage you to purchase what you can locally!)

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.

Five simple tips to help you get well soon


Lots and lots of rest.

As a rule, we suck at this in western society. We go to school or work sick. We pound cold medicine to feel well enough to keep up with what we think we “should” be doing, despite being sick and needing rest.

No, not everyone has the luxury of missing a day of work because they are sick. But if you are in the group of folks that does, please stay home and rest.

For me, a comfy chair, quilt, and basket of knitting beside the fire helps (a lot). Press pause on any out-and-about activities. This will not only speed your own healing, but keep your friends, classmates, or coworkers from unnecessary exposure to your bug.

Getting adequate rest when you’re under the weather means falling asleep early and staying in bed as late as you can. It means taking it easy during the day, as much as you can manage.

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.

2. Homemade (or purchased) Chicken Broth or Stock

Sipping flavorful mugs of bone broth is an easy way to nourish your body during cold and flu season, without overtaxing your digestive system. It’s my magic potion for getting well in a hurry.

My basic recipe is can be found here. During cold and flu season I love adding a giant knob of smashed ginger, a full head of smashed or sliced garlic, and two big handfuls of astragalus root at the start of my cooking cycle.

Make a big batch of homemade broth now, then sip it throughout your resting period and until you feel 100% again.


3. Herbal Tinctures and Teas

I think simple, homemade tinctures and teas are the best medicines of all. Our family makes many different kinds each season, and we rely on them throughout out the year to support our health.

Tinctures are available for purchase in most natural food stores, but they are ridiculously simple to make at home. If you’ve never made tinctures before, give my simple folk remedy for homemade elderberry tincture a try!

Suggested teas are below. For tinctures, look into the specific symptoms you are looking to comfort, as well as your own constitution. Generally speaking, immune-supporting herbs like elderberry and echinacea area a good choice, as well as herbs for specific symptoms like fevers, body aches, chills, or herbs for lung support.

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.


Warm drinks are key to a fast recovery. The aforementioned chicken broth and tea are key. Along with hot toddies, they are my top picks to deliver good medicine while helping us stay hydrated.

A hot toddy (in our world anyway!) is not a boozy concoction, but rather a strong lemon and ginger infusion, sweetened with honey, then spiked with optional herbs and tinctures. My easy hot toddy recipe – with variations from the most simple to more complex – can be found right over here.

For teas, think of immune-supporting herbs like echinacea, elderberry, and chaga; lung-support like mullein and wild cherry bark; or fever remedies like yarrow and elderflower.



Made from a simple decoction of white pine needles and thin branches, pine needle tea feels excellent on the throat, quiets coughs, and is loaded with vitamin C. I share a how-to for my favorite version on page 160 in my book.

If you don’t have a copy on hand, simply harvest fresh white pine needles, twigs, and bark. Cut into pieces and place in a large nonreactive pot. Fill pot with water and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 10 additional minutes. If desired, additional herbs can be added to the pot, depending on the cold or flu you’re working through. Consider mullein leaf, bee balm, yarrow, elderberry, elecampane, or wild cherry bark.

If you’re aren’t up for making your own tea blends, choose a purchased herbal tea that matches your symptoms. We love the Traditional Medicinals brand, especially Throat CoatBreathe Easy, and Gypsy Cold Care

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.


Body aches? Epsom salt baths are a wonder for sore muscles. Arnica massage oil also supports healthy, happy muscles and joints. Also try a hot water bottle tucked up against an aching back or sore neck.

Earache? You can’t beat garlic ear oil. There is a recipe for my favorite version with mullein flowers in Herbal Adventures. I also shared this simple garlic recipe years ago (along with a few other holistic earache remedies).

Support healthy respiration with LuSa EOs

How are your lungs? Support them with herbal steams and by keeping your humidifier filled and running.

Here at LüSa we also make two lines of essential oils and chest rubs to support healthy respiration. Our Breathe Easy EO blends and Children’s Chest Rub are eucalyptus-free designed specifically for kids under 10, while our Breathe Deep EO blends and Original Chest Rub are just the thing for ages 10 and up.

The undiluted oils can be added to a diffuser or humidifier, or mixed with a carrier oil along with your epsom salts in the bath. 

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.

Sore Throat? Those hot toddies (above) work wonders; so does gargling a simple cup of hot salt water. My go-to remedy for sore throat is homemade Monarda tonic or oxymel. Made with just wild bee balm, raw honey, and brandy or organic apple cider vinegar, it soothes sore throats in a hurry.

I share an entire chapter of Bee Balm/Monarda recipes in my book, Herbal Adventures (including a Bee Balm Oxymel recipe). If you already own a copy, head to page 118 and dive in.

Since many of you don’t have bee balm on hand, try a tea made from sage and thyme instead–herbs with similar medicinal properties to bee balm, but found right in your spice cabinet.

Pro tip: always steep herbal teas covered to keep the healing aromatics in the cup.

Fever? My favorite herbal remedy is a tea made of 2 parts peppermint leaf, 1 part yarrow, 1 part elder flower, and 1/2 part catnip. Again, there’s a proper recipe in Herbal Adventures! (Noticing a theme? These are most certainly my favorite, go-to home remedies.)

Try Belladona 12C homeopathic remedy. This along with our homemade fever tea and the other wellness steps above are our best defense.

Get well soon! {A cold and flu season recipe round-up} Clean.

Cough? I can’t sing the praises of this remedy enough. If you don’t have elecampane on hand I urge you to pick some up now and have this remedy ready for your next round of coughs. It works like magic. 

What would you add to the list of wellness tips above? What are your go-to solutions to cold and flu season?

Pssst, LüSa Fans…From now until January 15, jump in on a buy-3-get-1-free offer on all LüSa Organics cold and flu season wellness products. Find the details here



5 simple tricks for healing from cold or flu, naturally.

One small step: upgrade your moisturizer (sans-plastic)

Yes, indeed, friends. I am falling a bit behind. Because life and work and holidays and homeschooling are happening over here, and sometimes even a weekly blog post feels like a lot to keep up with.

Thank you for your patience, and for joining me on this journey to greater sustainability, one small step at a time. What say you instead of calling this a weekly challenge, we call it a bi-monthly to weekly challenge? Please and thank you for your understanding. Now let’s get on with it!

~ Rachel 


For challenge 7 in One Small Step, I want to get personal, and look at what you use to moisturize your skin. Most of us keep a big plastic pump or squeeze bottle of lotion in the house, plus a thick plastic pot (or two) of rich body cream in the bathroom or bedroom.

This week, I want to offer you a more sustainable alternative to lotions and creams: the humble and often overlooked lotion bar. (Yes, I’ll even share a DIY recipe later in the post!)

What are the benefits of lotion bars over lotions or creams? There are many!

Lotion Bar > Lotion

  • Lotion bars can be sold plastic-free: If you mindfully purchase or choose to DIY, lotion bars normally arrive without the disheartening plastic packaging. That’s an easy win in my book. LüSa Organics lotion bar tins are refillable, as, of course, are the bars you make at home.
  • Lotion bars are always water-free: When you purchase a lotion your bottle contains more than 50% water! That adds up to a higher carbon footprint, as the product is made, packaged, and shipped. A lotion bar, on the other hand, is water-free. This means they are lighter to ship, require no synthetic preservatives, and are super concentrated and long-lasting. And because cream and lotion are simply an emulsion of water and oil, you can create a similar experience with this water-free product by simply wetting your hands before application. Easy-peasy.
  • Lotion bars are preservative-free: Because there’s no water in a lotion bar, they lack a place for mold and bacteria to grow. That means no need for synthetic preservatives! A win for your skin (and for the earth).
  • Lotion bars are super concentrated: A tiny amount of lotion bar goes a very long way. That means you can buy or make one small tin, then use it for months. No need for filling your trash bin or recycling bag with lotion bottles week after week.


You can find our very own line of Lotion Bars (that we’ve been making since 1997) here, including my go-to, Unscented Calendula, or four essential oil-scented varieties from uplifting citrus to grounding patchouli, energizing peppermint to relaxing lavender.

Order one or more LüSa Lotion Bars (including our zero-waste refills) this week, and a note of “ONE SMALL STEP” to your order notes.  We’ll tuck a free sustainable gift in with your order (a scratch-and-dent, organic bar soap sample–palm oil-free, of course). 

Or DIY your own with the simple recipe I created for you. Find it below!


DIY Zero-Waste Lotion Bar Recipe + Tutorial

While I would be most delighted if you purchased Lotion Bars, that’s not in everyone’s budget or lifestyle. So a simple DIY lotion bar recipe follows if you’d like to try to make your own!

Worth noting: the way the lotion bar feels on your skin and how quickly it absorbs after application will vary widely with the types of oils and butters you choose. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

Also worth noting, some skin types find coconut oil to be quite drying (counterintuitive, I know), so I have not included it on the list that follows. If you make a lotion bar using coconut oil and do find it to be drying, try again with a more moisturizing oil. Conversely, if your lotion bar is quite oily, it could be on account of your oil choice (using straight olive oil, for example), which does not absorb as readily as other ingredients. Keep experimenting until you find a formula you love.


  • 1/4 cup liquid oil of your choice (we love jojoba oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil best, but you could even try working with the olive oil from your kitchen)
  • 1/4 cup moisturizing butter of your choice (try shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter)
  • 1/4 cup grated beeswax


Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a double boiler. Gently warm over simmering water until just melted.

Step 2: Remove from heat, and stir to combine. Pour into an unlined, unoiled muffin tin or small heat-proof dish.

Step 3: Allow your lotion bar to cool overnight. Tip out of the muffin tin. If it won’t release, pop into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, then tip out. Store in an upcycled tin or other storage container.


Are you already a lotion bar convert? How do they compare to conventional lotions and creams in your experience?

You can find the entire One Small Step series here, or click through below for individual posts:


One Small Step: bring your own to-go box


For challenge 6 in One Small Step, we’re looking at where to put those leftovers when you’re dining out. I think this is a timely tip for the holiday season and for everyday.

It’s rare for my family to eat out. But if we do dine at a restaurant, we inevitably have leftovers. I always cringed at the sight of that big styrofoam or paper clamshell–destined for the landfill–landing on our table, so I would normally request just a piece of foil for wrapping up the food we took home. That worked, but was often a mess, and was still waste-generating.

But then it occurred to me that I could do better. And all it would take was a little pre-planning.

So I put together a simple take-out kit that I store in my car, to grab whenever we need it. The first time that Lupine and I ate out after we put it together, we were over the moon to dash to the car to grab it for our leftover dumplings. Even our server thought it was a great way to reduce waste.

My kit was crafted around what we had on hand, and how we dine out. Yours will certainly be different, depending on the types of food you normally need to store, and the size of your family.

(A few afflinks and some non-afflinks links are below, but I hope you “shop” your own kitchen first, then shop the thrift store before you choose to purchase new. I cringe a bit when I see empty glass jars being sold as “sustainability solutions”, while most of us toss perfectly usable jars into the recycling bin nearly every week.) 


My kit includes:

  • Two reusable silicone bags
  • A wide-mouth pint and a wide-mouth quart-sized mason jar
  • Three sets of thrift-store purchased silverware
  • Three cloth napkins

Our kit has proven so handy when we’re away for the day, and we spontaneously grab lunch out, or when someone needs a snack from the coop on their way to a lesson or activity. We happily use both the jars and the bags for a variety of purposes at our coop’s bulk bins, hot bar, and coffee station (just be sure to weigh the bag and the jar with the lid, then jot down the tare weight before you fill up).

Aside from the jars (which I store in a bag in the trunk), everything fits neatly in my car’s glovebox for quick, convenient access. I keep it all contained in one of the silicone bags, but storing it in a cloth bag would work equally well.

Do you need to go out and purchase fancy silicone bags to set up your kit? Absolutely not!

In the spirit of low-waste, I’m cheering for you to find something already on hand that can do the same job.

Begin by asking yourself: what else do you own that might serve the same function? (This question is a great one to ask anytime you’re tempted to purchase something new.)

An old canning jar or cast off salsa or jam jar is likely already tucked into your kitchen cupboard somewhere. Or perhaps you own a couple of glass storage container with fitted, spill-proof lids. Or maybe you purchased a bento box or tiffin that doesn’t get as much use as it could.

Think outside the take-out box, and come up with something that can contain leftovers while you’re on the go.

Even an old bread bag or two could serve the purpose for non-messy leftovers.

Whatever container you choose, make sure it’s something your family won’t miss if it permanently disappears to your backpack or vehicle for use on-the-go. Then make a habit of using it anytime you can.

You might feel a little awkward at first, bringing your own take-out kit into a favorite restaurant, but that feeling will soon fade. And hey, that’s how change happens, after all. By one brave soul questioning the unsustainable norms and doing better, one day at a time.

Do you carry take-out containers with you in the event of grabbing a snack on the road? What do you keep in your carry-out kit?

You can find the entire One Small Step series here, or click through below for individual posts:

One Small Step: a year of small actions with huge impact

Swap Plastic Bottles of Soap for Bars (plus a DIY liquid recipe)

Buy Less Stuff

Switch to Loose Leaf Tea

DIY All Purpose Citrus Cleaner

50 Ideas for More Sustainable Gifts


Last Chance for Holiday Delivery!

As many of you move toward more sustainable living and giving, I wanted to reintroduce you to LüSa Organics, my artisanal organic body care company, and remind you that if you’d appreciate delivery before the holidays, today is the deadline to place your order.


We are a small team (really small!), based out of Viroqua in rural Wisconsin. Everything we create is made by hand, using organic herbs (often locally sourced) and organic oils. We never use synthetic fragrance oils, preservatives, or colorants.


Our team spent the past year transitioning our products into zero-waste and reusable/recyclable packaging, reducing our plastic waste by over 96%. It was a huge undertaking that has taken our business to a new level of sustainability, and we couldn’t be more delighted.

From biodegradable deodorant and lip balm tubes to refillable aluminum sugar scrub pots and glass oil bottles, the new packaging has been met with enthusiasm by so many.


If it feels good for you to share some of our handmade, sustainable, palm oil-free body care with those on your gift list, today is the deadline for orders! Visit our website, and stock up on all the sustainable goodness you’re wanting.

Use coupon code “HAPPYHEALTHY19” for a free gift with every order. (A holiday surprise, chosen especially for you.)

Offer good through Friday, December 13, 2019.

Thank you for supporting what we do, and cheering us on as we make these changes toward greater sustainability.