Fragrances – facts you should know

We use them to make us feel good, smell good and look good…and we are spending huge amounts of money on them, products containing fragrances. Fragrances are being used for perfumes/colognes, most of our every day cosmetics, household cleaners, washing powders and softeners, air fresheners, aroma therapy, …the list goes on and on, because smelling good sells!

But, how good and safe are these products?

  1. First of all, it’s really difficult to find out as manufacturers don’t always list them under their full names. To make matters worse, fragrances contain between 30 and 50 ingredients.
  2. For eczema patients they are particularly tricky as those “cocktails” are increasingly adding to their problems.
  3. Most Fragrances are composed of neurotoxic solvents. These solvents are used to push the actual fragrance into the air. These are the most common ones used: (a) hexachlorophene, (b) acetyl-ethyl-tetramethyl-tetralin, (c) zinc-pyridineethione, (d) 2,4dinittro-3-methyl-6-tert-butylanisole, (e) 1-buthanol, (f) 2-buthanol, (g) tert-butanol, (h) isobutanol, (i) t-butyl toluene. Solvents have been linked to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer and sudden infant death syndrome.
  4. Play make-up and perfumes for children contain sometimes very high levels of fragrance chemicals!
  5. The most common frgrance ingredients for our daily toxic cocktails are :
  • 1,8-cineole (might irritate eyes)
  • beta-citronellol (dangerous to the environment)
  • beta-myrcene (no available data)
  • nerol might irritate skin and eyes.
  • ocimene (no available data)
  • beta-phenethyl alcohol (no available data)
  • alpha-terpinolene (no available data)
  • Acetone (mostly found in cologne, nail varnish remover, dishwashing liquid) is classified a hazardous waste in some countries and is regulated in most countries. Inhaled, it acts primarily as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and might cause dryness of the mouth/throat, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, slurred speech, and in severe exposures, coma.
  • Benzaldehyde ( mostly found in perfume, cologne, deodorants, shampoo, detergents, dishwashing liquid, lotions, bar soap, and found in vanilla scents) acts as a CNS depressant and local anaesthetic. It can cause irritation to mouth/throat, eyes, skin, lungs, the gastro-intestinal tract, and could cause nausea, abdominal pain and maybe kidney damage.
  • Benzyl acetate ( mostly found in perfume, cologne, deodorants, after shave, shampoo, hairspray, soap, fabric softener, air freshener, dishwashing liquid, and adds a fruity, flowery smell) is an environmental pollutant as it will not break down. It can be easily absorbed through the skin, causing problems in the entire body (so far it has been linked to pancreatic cancer), and is an irritant to airways and eyes.
  • Benzyl alcohol (mostly found in perfume, cologne, deodorants, shampoo, soap, lotions, nail varnish remover, fabric softener, bleach) is an irritant to the airways, but could also cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fall in blood pressure and in severe cases death due to respiratory failure.
  • Camphor (mostly in perfume, air freshener, shaving cream, mail varnish, dishwashing liquid, fabric softener) is a local irritant and can be absorbed through body tissues. Inhalation might cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, muscle twitches, convulsions, and in the air it might irritate eyes, nose and throat.
  • Ethanol ( perfume, air freshener, hairspray, shampoo, shaving cream, lotion, nail varnish, nail varnish remover, dishwashing liquid, laundry soap, paint) is listed on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a hazardous waste. Even in low concentration it might cause irritation to eyes and respiratory tract. Inhaled it might cause drowsiness, impaired vision, loss of muscle coordination and affect the CNS.
  • Ethyl acetate (perfume, cologne, after shave, shampoo, nail varnish, nail varnish remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) is also EPA-listed as a hazardous waste. It has a defatting effect to the skin and can cause drying and cracking. Eyes and respiratory tract might get irritated, it could cause headache and narcosois, and in extreme cases anaemia with leucocytosis or kidney damage.
  • Cyclopentadecanolide is one of the artificial musks which are commonly used as a synthetic fragrance in perfume. It is a known hormone disrupting chemical, a carcinogenic, and irritant.
  • Galaxolide 50 is another one of the synthetic musk fragrances, also a hormone disrupting chemical, irritant, and a carcinogen.
  • Limonene ( perfume, cologne, deodorants, after shave, disinfectant spray, air freshener, bar soap, nail varnish, nail varnish remover, dishwashing liquid, fabric softener, bleach, paint, paint remover)is a known carcinogen, but also a skin and eye irritant.
  • Linalool ( perfume, cologne, shaving cream, after shave, deodorant bars, shampoo, hairspray, hand lotion, air freshener, nail varnish, nail varnish remover, dishwashing liquid, laundry soap, bleach, fabric softener) adds hints of wonderful-sounding French lavender and bergamot, but is unfortunately a narcotic and causing CNS disorders. I might cause depression, poor muscle coordination and sometimes fatal respiratory problems. Animal tests have indicated that it could also affect the heart.
  • Benzenemethanol is used as a carrier for other fragrance chemicals, it is a solvent and sweet floral synthetic fragrance. It is irritating to eyes, respiratory tract and skin, is carcinogenic, and can adversely affect the CNS.
  • Methylene chloride (cologne, shampoo, paint, varnish remover) is on the hazardous list of quite a number of government agencies(EPA, RCRA, CERCLA). I was banned in the USA already in 1988, but certain secret trade laws keep protecting the fragrance industry from removing the ingredient. It is a carcinogen and disrupts the CNS. The body will absorbe and store it in the fat cells. “It metabolises to carbon monoxide, thereby reducing the oxygen-carrying capacuty of the blood.” Other symptoms might be headache, tingling in the limbs, irritability, giddiness.
  • Alpha-pinene(perfume, cologne, deodorants, shaving cream, air freshener, dishwashing liquid, liquid soap, soap bars) is a sensitiser, potentially damaging the immune system.
  • Gamma-terpinene ( perfume, cologne, deodorant, shaving cream, soap, air freshenermight cause asthma and could damage the immune system.
  • Alpha-terpineol (perfume, cologne, after shave, deodorant, soap, lotion, hair spray, air freshener, bleach, laundry soap), a flowery synthetic fragrance,  is irritating mucus membranes, inhaled it could cause a pneumonitis or even fatal oedema in the lungs. Headache, depression, nervous excitement, loss of muscle coordination could are also possible effects. Scientists are warning against repeated or prolonged skin contact.

These are the”heavies”, I am sure you agree, but unfortunately, the list goes on with fragrances with a high potential of causing allergic reactions. All of those have to be listed separately on the product label within the EU:

  • Amyl cinnamal
  • Amylcinnamyl alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Bencyl salicylate
  • Cinnamyl alcohol
  • Cinnamal
  • Citral
  • Coumarin
  • Eugenol
  • Geraniol
  • Hydroxycitronellal
  • Hydroxymethylpentylcyclohexenecarboxaldehyde (WOW!)
  • Isoeugenol
  • Anisyl alcohol
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Benzyl cinnamate
  • Citronellol
  • Farnesol
  • Lilial

I am still busy writing this article, but half my bathroom shelf has been emptied, and won’t be filled again in the usual way. I have bought real soap and some essential oils to make myself and my house smell nice!

Please contact me for sources or visit my website for more information.

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Toothpaste – what you should know


Toothpaste has been used for nearly 4000 years. Before a “modern toothpaste” was invented by Dr. Washington Wentworth Seffield in 1850, there was all kinds of techniques to clean stains and remove food particles. In the old China ground fish bones were used, people living in desert areas used sand, bush men in Africa and native Americans chewed certain leaves or roots, and Western cultures experimented with a number of acids and other corrosive mixtures. The world’s first known recipe for toothpaste was comes from Egypt and included ingredients such as rock salt, mint, dried iris flower, and pepper. Once these ingredients were mixed together, they could be used on teeth to help create a dazzling smile.

Modern toothpaste was first sold in tubs around 1873, until one of Dr. Sheffield’s sons came across paints being sold in metal tubes. Soon after, in 1892, toothpaste was commercially sold in metal tubes as well.

In the mid-twentieth century research brought the net big step in toothpaste development. Fluoride proved to be an aid in fighting tooth decay, and soon toothpaste without Fluoride was history. But, not all researchers agreed with the effectiveness and safetiness of Fluoride being added to toothpaste, and still don’t!

What’s in modern toothpaste and what maybe shouldn’t?

  1. Water
  2. Silica, an abrasive to polish and clean. The amount used in toothpaste is considered safe.
  3. Glycerin keeps toothpaste from drying out. It will though cover teeth with a sticky layer, which could even create a well protected breeding ground for remaining bacteria if you don’t brush properly.
  4. Sodium Laurel Sulphate is a foaming agent. The small molecules can penetrate the skin easily, enter the blood stream being carried to every organ. It is a suspected liver toxin and might increase the chance of oral cancer in mouth ulcer sufferers.
  5. PEG 6/12 is a short version for Polyethylene Glycol and is used to bind water and to keep Gum uniform throughout the toothpaste. It is considered harmless.
  6. Titanuim Dioxide is a pigment and used as a stain remover/whitener. In 2006 it has been clasified as potentially causing cancer by the IARC.
  7. Sodium Saccarin and Sorbitol are sweeteners. Saccarin has been removed in 2000 from the list of carcinogen. Sorbitol is considered harmless in toothpaste.
  8. Gum is used as a binder in toothpaste and is considered harmless.
  9. Carrageenan is made from seaweed and used as a stabilizer. It is considered being harmless.
  10. Sodium Hydroxide is used to neutralize th pH of other ingredients. It could contribute to mouth ulcers in sensitised individuals, and larger amounts ingested could cause vomiting and diarrhea (it is also being used as a drain cleaner!).
  11. Propylene Glycol is, like PEG, keeping the toothpaste from drying out. It can penetrate the skin very easlily, and ingested it could potentially harm liver and kidneys.
  12. Fluoride in toothpaste is added to harden the tooth classified a poison ( a family sized tube ingested by a child might be potentially lethal). Therefore, any toothpaste with Fluoride has to be labelled with a “poison” warning in the USA and Sweden. Other conditions due to fluoride overdose might be linked to thyroid problems, osteoporosis and cancer.

Of course these are just the main ingredients and every manufacturer has added ones, i.e. colourants, flavourants and more.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the “good old times” with a recipe like this…

Mix 3 parts of baking powder (cleanser) with 1 part salt (abrasive). Add to each half cup of mixture 3 tsp glycerin and 10-20 drops of flavouring (peppermint, anise, or anything else you like). Add small amounts of water while mixing until it feels “tooth-pastey”. Keep in a sealable small container or refillable squeeze bottle.

…or take a trip to the next Weleda Pharmacy.

Please feel free to contact me for sources of my article or have a look at my website for more.

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Johannesburg Soccer World Cup 2010 – Top ideas for your visit

Johannesburg is not necessarily one of the most beautiful cities, but it certainly is one of the greenest. In fact it is classified as an urban forest. I lived in this fascinating city for more than 15 years, and if you are interested in some ideas for outings and shopping that is not in your travel agent’s brochure, keep reading.

Rosebank Area

  1. Shopping: If you want to experience a market flair with lots of African vibe take a trip to Rosebank (corner Baker/Craddock Street). There are 2 markets for you to visit; the Rosebank Rooftop Market opens every Sunday from 9 until 5. You will find evrything from African art and craft to jewellery and food. If this is not enough, go downstairs through the mall to the African Craft Market. This market is open 7 days a week and only has African Craft to offer. Of course there is also the Rosebank Mall and plenty of shops opposite the mall. If you prefer to shop for African Art in nicer ambience make your way to Parkview (a view minutes away from Rosebank). On Tyrone Ave you will find “Art Africa”, the place to go when it comes to African craft from old to modern. I have spend 1000s in that shop!!
  2. Food: The best places to eat in Rosebank are Fournos (with the best Croissants you have ever had in your entire life, plenty of bread and baked specialties; Jo’burgers go out for breakfast there, maybe you even get lucky to see Johnny Clegg who is a frequent customer), Ocean Basket (great family restaurant if you enjoy prawns and all sorts of fish) or Sophia’s Mediterranian Restaurant (upmarket but reasonably priced place with fantastic pizza). All 3 places are situated either in or just outside the Mall.
  3. Entertainment:The mall has a very nice Cinema Art Nouveau with an excellent selection of interesting movies. Have drinks afterwards at one of the plenty bars just outside the mall. About 5 minutes away from Rosebank is the Johannesburg Zoo on Jan Smuts Ave, a very nice and responsible place with loads of fun things for kids. And if there is still time left in the day, opposite the Zoo is the Zoo Lake, one of the most popular weekend destinations for local families. You can hire a boat or go for a really nice drink at the Moyo restaurant, African style presented to perfection. They are having brunch buffets on weekends, which are very busy (don’t worry if you have to wait for a table, they have a very interesting art shop and a walk through their sculptured garden will let time go by fast).

Bryanston and Fourways

  1. Shopping: Best place to enjoy a morning out is the “Bryanston Organic Market“, open every Thursday and Saturday from 9 until 3. They have very strict rules on quality, and you won’t find any sort of cheap rubbish there! You will find it in Culross Road (off Bryanston Drive). African Art, handmade crafts, organic food and other unusual things are available. Very enjoyable to visit is also the Design Quarter on William Nicol Drive (entrance from side road) with lots of trendy gift and decor finds, but also very nice restaurants.
  2. Food: Around the corner from the Organic Market on corner Bryanston Drive/Culross Road is a small health centre with a Weleda Pharmacy visible from the road. On the property you will find the Cafe Organica, a family run restaurant with excellent healthy meals.
  3. Entertainment: It’s one of the well known places in Jo’burg, the Monte Casino on William Nicol Road. Safe parking 24 hours together with loads of entertainment, fun and food for all ages. My kids always loved to just walk around as the whole place looks like an old Italian City with old cars parked here and there, a little river and all kinds of other things to discover. Jusy outside the Casino is the Bird Park giving very interesting tours.


Tours: in every hotel you will be offered the usual Soweto tour. Try something different with a Soweto Bicycle Tour! The guys have good bikes, the route is very safe and entertaining! Here is the number to call: +27 (0)11 936 3444.

Outside of Johannesburg

If you don’t have much time to travel to large game reserves to take your “Big 5” photographs, visit the Lion Park on Malibongwe Drive. They have most big animals and because of the size of the park you will get to see them all! For children they have most of the time some of the very young lions to get really close to and maybe even touch.

Have a good time in SA! Send me a note on the success of my suggestions or visit me on

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KliebensuppeKliebensuppe is probably one of the best childhood memories of my mother. She was still very little once the 2nd World War was over. Good food was rare and ingrediets like sugar were a luxury!

Mix 100g flour, 1-2 eggs (depending on size), a pinch of salt, 2 tb sugar and a little water until thick, but still runny.

Heat 1.5l milk until it starts foaming up, then let the flour mix slowly run over the back of a spoon into the milk.

Let the soup simmer on low heat.

The soup is ready to eat once the “Klieben” are floating on the surface.

Of course, we don’t usually have a shortage of sugar in our lives, so add a little extra if you feel like it!

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Baobab Tree – things you didn’t know yet

Baobab TreeThe african Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata) is a tree with many stories and interesting facts.

(Adansonia digitata) can be found all over the African continent and even Madagascar. It reaches heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and has a trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Flowers are equally large with up to 7 inches in size. The tree produces edible fruit, called monkey bread as especially baboons love it. I have eaten monkey bread, and have to admit that the sour taste is not especially appealing to my European pallate. Having said that, in the African culture the fruit,  seeds and even young leaves and seedlingsis very much used for local dishes and drinks.

Here is some more interesting and mystical information on the Baobab Tree…

  1. The African tribes call the tree “the upside down tree”. When bare of leaves, the spreading branches of the Baobab look like roots sticking up into the air as if it had been planted upside-down. An African legend tells that the baobab was amongst the first trees to appear on Earth. When the palm tree, the flame tree and the fig tree appeared, the Baobab began to grumble that it wanted to be taller, to have brilliant flame coloured flowers, and bear tasty fruit too. The Gods grew angry at this incessant wailing and pulled up the tree by its roots, and replanted in upside down to keep it quiet!
  2. The African baobab tree is also called the “tree of life” as it can store water during the drought season which is sometimes vital to the rural population. Large baobab trees could contain more than 30,000 gallons of water, and to get to it, Kalahari bushmen use hollow pieces of grass like a straw to suck the water out.
  3. The baobab is Africa’s latest fair trasensation. On the 15th July 2008 the European Union has officially approved the export of powdered baobab fruit to the United Kingdom as a healthy additive to cereal bars and smoothies. The baobab is said to have three times the vitamin C content of an orange, and as much calcium as a glass of milk. According to Britain’s University of Southampton, the baobab is rich in vitamin B1, B2, and C, and calcium, plus it’s bursting with antioxidants.
  4. The citric and tartaric acids found in the pulp provide the base for cream of tartar, often used as a baking ingredient.
  5. Natural medicine uses the bark of the Baobab to lower fevers, chewing a leave is apparently waking you up and ingesting some of the tartar powder is helping with stomach aches.
  6. In rural Africa the bark is used to make ropes.
  7. Rafiki (the baboon) from “The Lion King” lives in a Baobab Tree.
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World Cup Soccer – How to stay safe in South Africa

It is unfortunately not just stories one gets to hear about robberies, murder and other crime in South Africa.

I know, I used to live in Johannesburg until August 2009!

When visiting South Africa for the Soccer World Cup remember the following list of “things not to do”…

  1. Arriving at the airport can be quite overwhelming as you will find a strange mix of European flair and sounds mixed with strong African influences. In case you are not being collected by someone known to you, be aware of the fact that only black guys in a marked uniform and a badge on them should handle your luggage. Don’t trust any civilian trying to be helpful with taxis and directions!!!!!!
  2. Still at the airport, make sure you don’t have too much visible and expensive looking jewellery and watches showing. Don’t get me wrong, but you are making yourself a target. There has been cases of people being followed from the airport and being hijacked and robbed on their way to th hotel or home.
  3. In case you decide to drive youself in South Africa, there is unfortunately a whole lot of things to watch out for…
  4. Don’t drive with your windows down in any city center. You will see quite a number of beggars or salesmen rushing around at robots, and not all of them are up to good. A good friend of mine lost his gold necklace that way, ripped off by a sweet little boy asking for some cents.
  5. Another problem at robots is window smashing. Most of the time its being done with spark plugs as they will make your window shatter right away. In seconds you will lose anything lying open! Never have handbags next to you on the seat, and keep your windows open by just about 5cm. This will automaticallymake it more difficult to smash the window (a trick the AA is giving out to South African drivers).
  6. If you are driving at night in a city, there is an unwritten rule you can follow…especially if you are a woman…any robot with absolutely no traffic coming from any direction can be treated as a four way stop (I never stopped at night anywhere if not necessary), of course very carefully!
  7. If you have the feeling of being followed, keep driving, don’t stop under any circumstances, even if it is an unmarked police car with a blue light. Call 10111 and ask to be directed to the next police station!
  8. There are lots of beautiful markets all over the country, and especially in Johannesburg and Capetown. Don’t walk with a backpack or a shoulderbag. There is quite a few tricksters around who will slice your bag open without you even noticing!
  9. Last and most important advice…if you are being robbed, assaulted or threatened, DON’T BE A DEAD HERO! DO WHATEVER IS ASKED! Don’t look at their faces, they don’t want you to be able to identify them!

It feels terrible to write all these horrible notes, especially since South Africa is such a beautiful country with so many warm and loving people living there.

Enjoy your trip, let it be an unforgettable one…for the right reasons!

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German Zuckerkuchen

ZuckerkuchenOf course I have to live up to my name and give away my first and best secret –  Zuckerkuchen.

Have you ever tasted this German traditional cake? No, then it’s time to change that…

Mix 375g Flour with 1 packet of dry yeast and mix with 1/8 l milk, 1 egg, 50 g sugar, a pinch of salt and 5ml vanilla extract. Work into a ball and leave to rise for about an hour.

Grease a baking tray and spread the dough evenly.

Measure 150 g butter and 150 g sugar. First cut the butter in small pieces and place all over the dough, then sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake in the oven at about 200 C for about 15 to 20 minutes.

My grandmotherused to bake this cake whenever she had unexpected visitors as it doesn’t require any fancy ingredients to shop for. Enjoy!

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Hello world!

Here I am…with a blog!

Not quite sure yet about procedures and possibilities, but willing to absorbe. And of course I have things to tell!

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