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Preservatives: What They Are and Why I Avoid Them

No preservatives here, just pure plant medicine!
No preservatives here, just pure plant medicine!

Our biosphere is an interesting place. One of the most important functions of the biosphere is to recycle organic material back into the chain of life. The way our biosphere does this is with the help of microorganisms that begin to feast immediately on organic material that has died as long as they have sufficient moisture to support the process. This is the way compost is made, for example. This same process starts to take place whenever you prepare fresh foods – eventually this too will break down and sometimes in a not-so-nice way in your refrigerator!

One of the ways that man, in his infinite wisdom, tries to defeat this process is by creating what are known as “shelf stable products.” Products, whether they are food, hygiene or cosmetic often contain water, and that is all that is needed to start the process of decay.  Shelf stable products like lotions, soaps, etc. that have a virtually endless life which is possible only with chemicals called preservatives. If you have bought a lotion off the shelf, for example, you will find a preservative listed on the label. Even brands which are noted for their organic status will contain a preservative. It’s not because they are bad companies, but rather because it is impossible to offer the public a shelf stable product that contains any amount of water without adding a preservative to stop the natural action of our biosphere from decaying the product.

Preservatives, what’s the problem?

FDA approved preservatives are supposed to be safe for the “general population.” Since I’m not part of that generality due to my allergies and autoimmune conditions, I stopped using products with preservatives altogether a few years ago due to sensitivity issues. Preservatives are known immune system dysregulators. You can verify this by researching the most common preservatives on Wikipedia and the material data sheets. Honestly though, after reading much of the science behind the immune system problems that preservatives cause, if I were a totally healthy person I might think twice about exposing myself to them!

There is only one way to create a semi-stable product of any kind that contains any amount of water without preservatives included to defeat the action of the biosphere and that is to use refrigeration. Eventually though, even this will break down, albeit it will take a little bit longer. Many of you are already familiar with the refrigeration and small batch/quick use technique I advocate for in my book when making cannabis spa preparations like cannabis lotions that do require water. Making your own lotions and cosmetic products and following this method is the way around all of this preservative madness–and this is the method I teach in cannabis lotion making.

More ways to avoid preservatives

There are a lot of good brands out there that aren’t using preservatives because their formulations do not contain water and that lends to some shelf stability.

Products that are 100% fats, glycerin, alcohol, resins and waxes that use dried herbs and other dry plant material don’t have to contain preservatives to remain stable on the shelf. Although, eventually, even these products will start to break down but this usually takes months to a year for it to start happening. By then, most people will have used up the product anyway so it really isn’t something you will notice unless you leave one of these products open and unused for more than a year.

Remember, dust to dust

If you are trying to defeat the biosphere, stop. There’s nothing wrong with products or food “going bad” –and you will want to use or dispose of products before this happens! This is life as it was meant to be on planet Earth. Preservatives aren’t required to make a quality lotion at home as long as you use these products quickly and keep them refrigerated!