Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Does Skin Do?

We see our skin everyday and we always read about it being the largest organ of the body, but what exactly does it do? It must do something if it is an organ. What is the role of skin? Here are seven important physiological roles for skin.

1. Regulation of Body Temperature (Thermoregulation). The skin helps the body maintain its desired temperature of 98.6F or 37C. It does this by dilating (opening or enlarging) blood vessels on the surface to release heat, or by constricting blood vessels to retain heat. A second way is by secreting sweat which evaporates on the skin's surface so that in evaporating it has a cooling effect. Finally, the hypodermis layer of the skin provides insulation to maintain heat. The hypodermis is the deepest layer of skin under the dermis and is composed mostly of fat .

2. Protection. The skin is physical barrier that prevents not only bacteria, viruses, and fungi from entering the body but also keeps most things from the environment or that you put on your skin from entering the body. Yes, you may have heard differently but the skin absorbs very little of what goes on it. This is often called the Skin Barrier Function and it provides a barrier between the inside of the body and the outside of the body. If the skin surface becomes compromised, however, due to abrasion, pathogens and toxin can enter the body more easily.

Besides preventing things from getting into the body, the skin also prevents water from leaving the body thus preventing dehydration. In situations like severe burns to the body, preventing excessive dehydration becomes a major, life threatening challenge.

3. Sensation. The skin is a sensory organ that we use to evaluate the outside environment. Receptors in the skin transmit information on temperature, pain and pressure.  In some cases this can be very enjoyable, even sexual.

4. Excretion. Through the process of sweating the skin can secrete products of metabolism from the body as well as drugs and toxins. The skin also contains enzymes that process toxins helping to break them down.

5. Immunity. Cells of the immune system called Langerhans cells can be found in the skin ready to be called into action when necessary to prevent infection. The skin also participates in the inflammatory response to protect the rest of the body from potential pathogens.

6. Blood Reservoir. Approximately 8-10% of the total blood volume of the body resides in the skin. When necessary this blood can be sent to the skeletal muscles to increase oxygen and nutrients there when needed it is directed to the more central parts of the body to maintain warmth.

7. Endocrine gland.  The skin acts as an endocrine gland by making hormone vitamin D or more specifically vitamin D3 from 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), a process that requires sunlight or UVB radiation. This vitamin D3 is then sent to the liver for additional processing. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium from the intestines as well as other less defined roles.

Want to learn more about skin physiology? You can purchase our downloadable class notes here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Transitioning into Winter

We had our last market yesterday; the Boulder County Farmers Market Holiday Market. I readily let out a big sigh of relief when markets end. Its hard work packing things up every Friday and then getting up early every Saturday to set up at Farmers Market. However. Even though we love getting to meet new people every week and show off our Colorado Aromatics products every Saturday, come December I am more than ready to call it quits and start to focus on my own family and our Christmas.

This week we will cut a tree down from our yard, bring up the boxes of decorations from the basement, put up outdoor lights if the weather permits. I'll need to think of Christmas gifts for my husband and two boys (any ideas?) and drop hints for what I want (which of course I don't know, I really just want to spend good time with my family relaxing). This year will be special as 3 of my siblings will be visiting. I wish they all could but its rare to get everyone together. I'll have fun coming up with things we can do around town and surrounding areas. Maybe we'll even go skiing for a day.

Since we had our major frost I haven't had a chance to roll up the drip tape in our field, nor have I cleaned out the goat pen. So although the work load may be lighter for growers in the winter, it never goes away. In the extra time I might find, I hope to formulate new products, read some books (both fiction and non-fiction), figure out an exercise routine, and maybe do some knitting.

I'm well stocked on herbs this year and might experiment with some nice herbal tea recipes. I'd like to use lemon balm more. I'm attracted to its gentle citrus taste/aroma. It is used as a nervine to renew and strengthen the nervous system. For me, its a good uplifting herb for this transition time into winter. This is the tea I am planning to make tonight:

Lemon Balm Tea
1 part lemon balm
1/4 part chamomile
1/8 part orange peel
1/8 part oatstraw
pinch of lavender


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