Life in Every Drop: The Vital Impact of Blood Donation

June 14th is World Blood Donation Day. This is a cause close to my heart, since I can no longer donate blood. I developed a pulmonary embolism when I was pregnant in 2008, and then again in 2011. Two blood clots means no more donating. 

My story is not uncommon. In fact in the UK, 135,000 new donors are required each year simply to keep up with the demand of replacing donors like me. 

The most common type of donation is of whole blood, which you can donate as regularly as every 56 days. Each whole blood donation can then be broken down into two useful products: plasma and red blood cells. One donation of blood can help upto three people.

One of the key challenges for the blood service is that red blood cells have such a  short shelf. They will only last for about (42 days). Six week’s storage is very small when you think about it.

My old dad was always such a wuss about any kind of medical procedure and whenever he used to have blood taken he used to do the old Tony Hancock quip of “They took an armful!”. Daft old beggar! As average adults we each have about 10 pints of blood, but a whole-blood donation is typically just a pint.

In fairness to him, giving blood is hard for people in my family because we have a familial trait of rubbish veins. (Scientific term, you understand!)  While it is almost impossible to get blood from my right arm, it seems to flow perfectly easily from my left. Oddly, my daughter is the same. So I was excited by a trial by The University of Pennsylvania (overseen by nurse-aromatherapist Jane Buckle) that proved that rubbing your arm with a 20% dilution of black pepper essential oil improves the availability of blood vessels. This has many applications, including making it easier to put in IV catheters  and also taking blood. (Kristiniak , 2012)

Science shows that black pepper increases nitric oxide in the blood, which in turn opens blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow out. 

Donating whole blood takes only about 10-15 minutes and as we know the best bit is the doctor does actually prescribe chocolate biscuits afterwards. Please consider donating and feel free to show off your essential oil skills for all to see. In my experience you’ll start to see very obvious effects after about five minutes. 

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