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The Science of Smell

Did you know that smelling peppermint can help you lose weight? Or that the aroma of lavender can be used to help you relax?

According to aromatherapist Lynn Sterling, of Cranberry, PA, the fragrant properties of essential oils can actually help the body heal everything from burns to headaches.

“Peppermint oil is remarkable because just by inhaling it, it will increase your mental acuity. It provides instant relief for sore muscles, a little on the back of your neck will perk you right up,” says Lynn, adding that peppermint acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. “When my kids have a fever, I use peppermint oil on the bottom of their feet. It’s cooling, and at the same time, it addresses the virus and brings the fever down.”

We don’t need scientific studies (although they do exist) to tell us that the sense of smell is closely linked to memory — just walk into a candle store and take a whiff of one that smells like hot apple pie. Such an experience awakens senses and evokes memories.

But that’s not all — “If you inhale peppermint when you’re studying for a test and then inhale it again when you’re taking the test, you’re more likely to recall what you’ve studied,” she says. “And putting a couple of drops in a glass of water helps suppress the appetite and soothe any digestive disturbances, as well as clean the liver. It also works well as an insect repellent.”

This information may make you want to run out and purchase peppermint oil, but Lynn advises against it.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s essential oils are adulterated,” she cautions, “So it’s important to used only Grade A oils. But they’re very difficult to find because true natural oils can’t be patented, and companies synthesize their products so they only have the smell — but not the chemical constituents.”

Aromatherapy is a phrase that was coined in 1928 by French cosmetic chemist Renee-Maurice Gattefosse. Says Lynn, “He was working in the lab and burned his arm in an accident. He plunged his hand into what he thought was a vat of water, but it turned out to be lavender oil. This cooled the burn and healed it without any scarring. As a result, he began studying the chemical properties of oils and determined that they contain healing properties.”

Defined as the art and science of using naturally extracted essences from plants to promote the health of mind, body and spirit, aromatherapy is used as a preventative measure, as well as an active treatment during illness.

Lynn can’t say enough about the benefits aromatherapy has brought to her family’s health and well-being.

“It’s not an accident that analgesic creams smell like wintergreen, because wintergreen has a cortisone-like effect,” she notes. “We’ve known for a long time that these natural substances work, and there are lots of references to their use in The Bible.”

Essential oils are indeed amazing, but they shouldn’t be used in place of medications, Lynn pointed out. “But if you can do these things first and save the meds for when you really need them, then it’s better for everyone.”

© Jill Cueni-Cohen

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The Dumpster

There’s a dumpster in the alley behind the building where her life was sucked away. Cold, green, hulking slabs of metal; MEDICAL WASTE stenciled on its side in big, white letters.

She was warm and cozy before her world was ripped out beneath her. Her tiny, developing Earth-suit dissolved into bloody remains. Her life was seen as an inconvenience, a mistake, a reason to commit murder.

So small, so young, yet she was a miniature, perfect specimen of a human being; she could have been so great, and she was so capable of bringing joy into the lives of anyone fortunate enough to raise her, but she was so easy to kill.

Not much larger than a peanut, she nevertheless gave them a good fight. Settled in the midst of a healthy pregnancy, she struggled against the sharp equipment as it ripped at her tiny arms and legs.

She would have had her mother’s blonde hair and gray-blue eyes. The siblings to come after her would all be beautiful, talented girls, but she would have been the best one. If only her mother hadn’t been so afraid — afraid of how this precious little creature would have changed her own young life.

Barren once again, her mother waited back in the alley by the dumpster for her ride to come, so no one would see her. The young woman stared blankly at the words: MEDICAL WASTE.

It was a sunny September day, but the shadows from the buildings made it dark in that alley. The former mother-to-be suddenly imagined that she heard crying – baby-crying – it was a sound of mournful misery that seemed to waft upwards from within the dumpster. And then her thoughts turned to what was in that dumpster, and she heaved a horrific sigh, felt the blood gush out of her womb in a burst of sudden recognition.

Her child’s life flashed before her eyes; a life that would never happen so she could go back to being a 19-year-old and finish college and find a husband and start a family. But her first baby would have to wait… in the dumpster until the big garbage truck came.

The garbage man would pull out shiny, white garbage bags containing others, just like her. Their Earth-suits have been smashed into bits of blood and minuscule, flexible bones. Legs and arms that would never learn to jump and hug have been left to rot in a white plastic bag, MEDICAL WASTE stenciled on its side, bound for the city dump, soon to be stashed away in a landfill.

Tiny eyes that would never see; the remains of one who would never be. The lifeless fetus would become a bad memory for the few who knew about her brief existence. But, most of all, she would haunt her mother into holding her future sisters tight. It was the worst decision the young woman ever made, but it was her decision to make. Just as it was her decision to have sex without a condom. She thought that abortion would be for the best – women did it all the time –and she considered herself lucky to be able to make this choice by herself. And then she saw the dumpster. Rationalizations stripped away, she cried for hours on her baby’s due date, knowing that two wrongs never make a right — even if the government says it’s okay to kill your baby, as long as you do it quickly. But the pain will last forever, and it will affect you and your family; whether you know it or not.

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen

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You Don’t Have To Be Irish To Be Lucky

“Lucky” people look at life differently than “unlucky” people do, and this lies in an optimistic attitude that good things can come out of the worst situations.

For instance: When my ex-husband and I moved from Switzerland to Pittsburgh, we searched for a house to rent. The house I wanted was nowhere near ideal, yet I imagined that it was our best bet for the money. However, the woman who owned it refused to rent it to us. I was angry at the time, but looking back, I realize that she was doing us a tremendous favor by not renting us her house.

The house we found—after looking at more than 30 frightening prospects—was absolutely perfect for us; reiterating my notion that what seems bad at the time may actually turn out to be fortunate. That experience taught me to always look on the bright side of seemingly negative encounters.

For the most part, my life has been a string of good fortune—I was adopted into a loving family, blessed with two beautiful children, a fulfilling career, amazing friendships and excellent health.  What’s my secret for success? I always expect good things to happen to me.

I do not believe in Murphy’s law that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Instead, I expect things to go right. And when things occasionally go awry, I figure that I must have chosen the wrong path.

There were several years when life kicked my ass, but I believe that it was that early foundation of inherent good fortune which enabled me to survive and even thrive. I truly believe that bad times make people stronger. However, I also believe that life is supposed to be fun!

Intuition plays a big part in the choices that I make. Sometimes, I’m rash and unpredictable, but I always listen to my heart. If something feels wrong, it probably is, and the same goes for those times when things just click, and I have the feeling that I’m onto something big.

I don’t dwell on my occasional disappointments, I instead focus on the things I’ve done right, because luck is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the same goes for failure.

Good luck charms, like rabbit’s feet and knocking on wood, are perfectly healthy ways to feel fortuitous, because they put people in a positive frame of mind. It doesn’t matter how you get there; as long as you believe in your luck, it will add to your self-confidence, and things will more than likely turn out the way you want.

Coincidence and happenstance occur most often for those who look for the random luck in life. The most important way to make lucky things happen is to be open to the possibility that the next person you talk to could be the love of your life or your next employer or your next best friend.

Keeping an open mind and an adventurous spirit is the key to encouraging luck to land in your lap. Instead of pitfalls, look for possibilities, and fear nothing.

Because as Tennessee Williams once said, “Luck is believing you’re lucky.” And as the lottery reminds us, “You’ve gotta play to win.”

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen