Our sense of smell is an amazing thing because aromas can have a powerful effect on our emotions. You know how the smell of mum’s cooking can teleport you to another time and place? That’s what I’m talking about!
Sensing a smell results from chemicals in the air around you stimulating your nervous system. Fragrances are part of our everyday environment and humans can detect more than 10,000 different aromas.
Fragrances are a very important sensory stimulant that affect our wellbeing on all levels – spiritual, emotional, mental and also physical. This attraction to fragrances has created a multi-billion dollar global candle industry, one that will gain a significant boost in the lead-up to Mother’s Day. If you’re thinking of buying mum a fragranced candle, here’s what you need to know.
Scented candles can be hazardous
From the supermarket to the farmer’s market, you can buy scented candles almost anywhere these days. The two most common waxes used in candles are paraffin and soy. So what? Well, paraffin is a waste product from the petroleum industry – it’s extremely cheap to produce and is the major type of wax used in candle production (think standard ‘power off’ candles, birthday candles and so on).
Meanwhile, soy wax is made from soy bean oil and is typically promoted as a ‘natural’ plant-based product. So it must be good for us, right? Unfortunately not. The first problem with soy is that many soy crops are genetically modified. Secondly, ‘natural’ soy bean oil does not actually smell very pleasant at all. So the oil used in candles is refined and chemically bleached to make it lighter in colour and less smelly. The process of making any oil into a solid, such as a wax, is called hydrogenation and the substance used in this process is usually nickel, a heavy metal. In other words, your ‘natural’ soy candle has been manufactured using chemical bleach and heavy metal. Scary stuff!
There’s more than meets the nose with fragranced candles
Most candles are made with ‘fragrance oils’ that in most cases have little, if any, natural component. They are chemical reproductions of real world scents or combinations of these, and their ingredients are often kept as trade secrets. The same is true for fragrances used in personal care products and perfumes. Many manufacturers are now responding to science that is increasingly showing that many of the ‘secret’ components of synthetic fragrances are known or potential carcinogens. Remember, it was only in 2012 that Johnson & Johnson announced its emblematic baby shampoo had contained at least two carcinogens, including formaldehyde, for the past 60 years.
So are essential oil fragranced candles any better?
Some candles are manufactured with essential oils. They’re usually more expensive because pure essential oils are costly to produce. Essential oils are amazing and yes, completely natural but they should never be burned. Sure, use them aromatically in a diffuser or an oil burner where they are not in direct contact with a flame. However, when essential oils are mixed into the wax of a candle, they – along with the wax – get burned. Whenever essential oils are burned, they produce carcinogens from the polycylic hydrocarbon family, as well as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
The candles you should gift mum with
Enter beeswax candles. Not only are beeswax candles completely natural, they also have other advantages such as:
- They produce negative ions to counter all the positive ions in modern buildings from lights, electricity and other technology, therefore actually sanitising the air as they burn.
- The light they produce is the same frequency as the sun.
- They don’t produce soot like other candles (which we breathe in, contributing to the health risks of soy or paraffin candles).
Sure, beeswax candles are more expensive than other candles but health is priceless. Many health concerns, including cancer, can be prevented by making good choices each day. For those of us concerned about preserving the planet for future generations, beeswax is produced ethically and sustainably by people who care about bees.
So before you go into default mode and buy mum yet another fancy scented candle this Mother’s Day, think about the alternatives so that you can gift mum with something priceless: wellbeing.
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