How I Got into Essential Oils and Became a Part of Heaven Scent
Why, hello, there! My name is Stacy Horesh and I’m the other half of the Heaven Scent team. I’m very excited to write my first post for the blog! There will be many more to come. 😉
For my first post, I figured it would be nice to share how I became interested in and started using essential oils. Like Lexy, I have a litany of medical conditions that cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms. One of these conditions is called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS).
What Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
In short, mast cells are special immune cells in your body that release several chemical compounds—the most well known being histamine—when activated, which happens by coming in contact with an allergen or having an inflammatory response (such as to an acute injury). There are a few other situations that can activate mast cells as well, but those two are the most common and the most relevant to MCAS. When activation occurs, the compounds (called mediators) that are released from the mast cells cause symptoms that we recognize to be an allergic reaction—rashes, hives, welts, itching, difficulty breathing, fast heart rate, blood pressure changes, difficulty controlling body temperature, etc. Mast cell activation can either be a slow leak of the mediators inside, or it can be very sudden and intense. Sudden, intense activation is what causes anaphylaxis (a severe, body-wide allergic reaction that can be extremely dangerous if not treated immediately).
Here’s the problem: in the vast majority of people, things that aren’t allergens don’t usually trigger mast cells to degranulate (release their mediators). But in people with MCAS, our mast cells are a little faulty, and they are frequently activated by all sorts of things that we aren’t actually allergic to. So, for example, when I had extensive allergy testing done last year, the only allergen that tested positive for me was dust mites. However, my mast cells kind of missed that memo, so I have allergic-type reactions to all sorts of things that I shouldn’t, such as various foods (that I’ve tested as not allergic to), NSAIDs, alcohol, strong emotions, exercise, temperature changes, things brushing against my skin—the list goes on and on, and is often unpredictable. Sometimes I can eat tomatoes with no problems, and other times they give me giant welts on my tongue. Sometimes I can ride my stationary bike or do my other physical therapy exercises with only skin flushing, a fast heart rate, and overheating (about as mild as it gets for me), and other times the exertion causes me to break out in hives and have difficulties breathing that even 50 mg of Benadryl (on top of all my daily allergy medications) can’t control. I have an EpiPen for this reason.
If you want to learn more about mast cells and MCAS, check out these webpages:
MCAS isn’t my only medical condition, though. It’s actually a secondary condition that is frequently comorbid with hypermobility type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (HEDS) (which, guess what, I have!). HEDS is a genetic disorder that affects my connective tissue, especially the protein collagen (which is the main constituent of connective tissue). Collagen can be thought of as basically the “glue” that holds our bodies together. Because of my HEDS, though, my collagen is mutated, so it does a pretty crappy job of actually doing the “glueing.” It’s a lot like if you were to use your average Elmer’s glue to hold together a model of a skeleton, but the glue never dried. Instead, everything just sort of continues slipping around and falling apart. That’s what’s going on inside my body—my joints slip out of their sockets (either partially, which is called a subluxation, or fully, which is called a dislocation) on a daily basis; my shoulders, hips and the entire length of my spine are particularly bad about this.
As you can imagine, having multiple subluxations and dislocations all over my body multiple times every day is pretty painful. The problem, though, is that Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (all the different subtypes of it, not just hypermobility type like I have) is extremely underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed. In fact, it is estimated that only 5% of everyone with EDS gets an accurate diagnosis within their lifetime. The average amount of time it takes for those 5% to receive their correct diagnosis is more than two decades. That’s over TWENTY YEARS average of no proper treatment (and statistically likely to also be over twenty years of medical abuse and gaslighting) IF you are in the lucky 5%—the other 95% continue dealing with improper medical treatment, gaslighting, and abuse their entire lives (which, sadly, also continues for most of the people who do get a diagnosis, as EDS is not well known, and the vast majority of medical practitioners have either never heard of it or have grossly inaccurate preconceptions of it that hinder patients’ ability to access proper care).
Unfortunately, because EDS is considered a rare disease (which is increasingly becoming clearer to be untrue according to the experts), nobody wants to fund research for it because it is thought to not be a “profitable” disease for pharmaceutical companies, like cancer and arthritis and many others that do get research grants are. This means that even the “lucky” 5% of people who get a correct EDS diagnosis have zero FDA-approved treatments. The only things we can really do to help are physical therapy and pain management, but proper pain management is ridiculously difficult to get in this day and age, especially in America, and unless a physical therapist is specifically trained to deal with patients with EDS, they are likely to do more harm than good with us. AND, because nothing is FDA approved specifically for EDS, insurance companies are almost certainly going to deny coverage for anything prescribed (including non-medicinal treatments such as physical therapy and dry needling).
If you want to learn more about EDS, check out the links on these webpages:
You’re probably thinking, “But Stacy, the medical info is great and all, but you said you were going to talk about essential oils!” Well, I am, but my story doesn’t make as much sense without the medical background, and I love spreading awareness wherever possible. 😉
Here’s where the oils come in, though: nearly four years ago, I was in constant, severe pain (that part hasn’t changed much, unfortunately), but did not yet have a diagnosis that explained why, which meant that I was not eligible for any sort of pain management. Over-the-counter meds don’t even touch my pain—I may as well be taking a sugar pill. I tried every alternative therapy I could think of, but again, nothing helped. The only things that gave me even minor, momentary relief were products with menthol as the active ingredient, such as IcyHot® and Tiger Balm®, but I had allergic-type reactions every time I used them (due to MCAS, as I now know, though I didn’t yet, then).
I did some research and discovered that eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils, properly diluted, were a much more natural way to topically treat pain while getting that same cooling effect. I found a product online that used these two oils and bought it, and was pleased to find that it actually helped a bit! Every tiny bit of help with pain, no matter how fleeting, is a miracle for someone with EDS. With the all natural ingredients, I wasn’t reacting to the product like I had with store bought topical pain products.
I soon made the switch to all natural soaps and shower products, as well, as I realized (though I didn’t yet know that MCAS existed) that I tend to have my worst mast cell attacks when I come in contact with artificial ingredients. That includes artificial fragrances, dyes, flavourings, and sweeteners, as many as many other artificially-made chemicals than are frequently found in foods and skin care products. I discovered that I have no problems with products scented only with pure essential oils (as long as they are properly diluted), so I stuck to those.
There’s a downside to all natural products, though—as a general category, they are usually quite cost prohibitive (though here at Heaven Scent, we try our best to ensure the lowest prices possible for the highest quality products!). I read (and read, and read, and read) and figured out that I could make my own products for a whole lot cheaper. That’s when I started building my own personal stash of essential oils.
As I built up my stash, I did a lot of research on the potential health benefits of various oils (peppermint helps soothe headaches, lavender helps you fall asleep, melaleuca (tea tree oil) helps clear up acne, ginger helps get rid of nausea, etc.). I started out making small things for just myself, mainly massage oil blends and household cleaning products (commercial cleaning products make my throat close up o_o), but my repertoire quickly grew to include dry shampoo, sugar scrubs, bath bombs, deodorant, and much, much more. I did not have an official business, but sometimes I would sell my creations to my friends. My love of essential oils and the art of making all natural products only grew as the years went by.
Becoming a Part of Heaven Scent
Fast forward to this past summer. My friend Lexy (with whom I had bonded in a chronic illness support group online) founded Heaven Scent and decided to throw a launch party for her new company. I was very excited to attend, as not only would I actually be able to use her products without fear of mast cell activation, I would get to meet Lexy in person for the first time. The drive was about two hours long, but it was worth it, because Lexy and I talked for hours about making all natural products and the recipes we’d come up with, and it really sealed our friendship.
We became close friends quickly after that, messaging each other multiple times a day, and I soon planned another trip to hang out for a weekend. During that trip, Lexy and I talked about how I’d been wanting for a few years to start a business like Heaven Scent, but was too intimidated by the business side of things, which really does not compute with the way my brain works. I was incredibly honoured when Lexy then asked if I wanted to help make products for Heaven Scent. I said yes, of course, and everything kind of grew from there! I still am so touched that she trusts me with her baby (the company, not a human 😉 ).
Lexy and I share very strong ethics that are a guiding factor for Heaven Scent. We are very staunchly supportive of using only ingredients that have been ethically sourced and have never been tested on animals or been involved in any other animal (or human or environmental) cruelty. We try to buy as many of our ingredients as possible organic and non-GMO, and we only use natural ingredients (e.g. turmeric, beet powder, etc.) for colouring and pure essential oils or other natural ingredients (e.g. cinnamon, vanilla, etc.) for fragrances. Everything we make is customizable so that people with all different allergies are able to enjoy lovely self care products without having to worry about allergic reactions—just like Lexy and I now can! We are fiercely in agreement that we should be transparent in our business practices, which means (among other things) meticulously labeling the ingredients of every product, taking care to edit the labels to reflect any changes made for specific orders with substitutions due to allergies (or any other reason a substitution was asked for).
If you read this whole thing, thank you so much!! It turned out longer than I was expecting, so I hope I didn’t bore y’all. 😉 If you have any questions for me, leave a comment or message our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!