Friday, February 10, 2017

Greatest Hits -- Molecules!

This post is for all the science teachers out there seeking a practical chemistry lesson.  We're constantly encouraging our students to apply critical thinking to real world problems.  We also want them to exercise public speaking skills.  Around this time of year students get bored no matter how exciting the lesson and it's good to get them actively involved in a dynamic lesson to keep them engaged in learning.

Periodically I will write about a molecule or a related group of molecules.  I always try to include the chemical name and structure of the molecule.  I printed out the text of each of the posts below and gave students about 20 minutes to read and analyze the content.  I asked them to answer the following 3 questions in an oral presentation using the board:

Tell us about your molecule:

What does it do?

How does it work?

Draw its structure!

I had the students complete this exercise in pairs.  It was one of the most engaging lessons of the entire semester.  After each group made their presentation to the class, we spent the remaining 15 minutes covering the Drug Free Campus Policy information for students.  We talked about how some of the molecular stories were about depressants, stimulants, and club drugs.  We talked about how just because a drug is available by prescription, doesn't mean it isn't dangerous.

If you're interested in receiving the text only of the following blog posts (without all the sidebar and URL information) send me an email and I can send you a .pdf.  It's so important to engage students in the fun and exciting (and practical) applications of chemistry to give them some incentive to learn all the basics we are trying to teach them.

Even though my class was populated with college freshmen (who have no Organic Chemistry experience) we were able to recognize common substructures in molecules with a common effect in vivo. The students can identify 5- or 6-membered rings, as well as noting heterocyclic rings and side-chain lengths, without formal training in functional groups.

In the future, a blog post will appear about the class of benzodiazapines including Lorazepam (Ativan) and Alprazolam (Xanax), which share a common substructure.  These molecules have a high potential for abuse.  Stay tuned!

We were able to talk about Kary Mullis in the following class period and how he enjoyed making analogues of LSD until that practice became illegal.  Maybe I can also write about ayahuasca.

1) DMT:

2) Aromas:

3) Antacids:

4) Amphetamine:

5) Adderall:

6) Antioxidants:

7) NSAIDs:

8) Celebrex:

9) Cycloastragenol:

10) Goldenseal:

11) Henna:

12) Isoflavones (Part I):

13) Isoflavones (Part II):


15) Opioids:

16) Retinoate:

17) Serotonin:

18) Sumatriptan:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 7: Part 2 -- Ingredient Analysis Of Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion

Over the weekend, I was lazy.  Can you relate to this feeling?  I had planned to write and catch up on a few articles and ended up doing nothing of the sort.  What did I do?  I binge watched old seasons of the popular show "Grey's Anatomy".  Kayla is into the show.  I was reading while she was watching the show on Saturday.  I asked her to turn up the volume....she said "Mike, If I turn up the volume, you might get sucked into the show?"  I responded "probably not...."  From then on, for the remainder of the weekend, I was a couch potato watching the show.  Why am I admitting this to you?  Well...

There was a scene where two surgeons were talking small talk in the doctor's lounge on the show.  Who they were is not necessarily important.  At one point in the conversation, one holds up a bottle of lotion and says, "We are doctors and we don't even know what the chemicals are listed on the back of this lotion....What is dimethicone?"  At that point, I perked up and thought of the blog that I was in the process of writing for the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" which originated out of the long article that Kayla asked me to simplify titled "Can Science Really Reverse Aging Skin?".  The chemical dimethicone is an ingredient that was discussed in a previous blog post.  I decided to scrap the first draft that I had and start over.  We last left off with a glossary of terms which would help us in understanding the ingredient list on the backside of a bottle of lotion -- Jergen's Skin Firming Moisturizing Lotion (previous blog).

The above introduction proves that an interest does exist for an understanding of the chemicals which are listed on the back side of products.  Even if the interest was stated on a Hollywood set in "Grey's Anatomy".  In the next blog post, I will tell you a real story about a chemist with a similar medical experience.

With this in mind, lets explore the backside of the ingredients which were listed in the previous blog post for the moisturizing lotion made by Jergen's -- which supposedly leaves a younger and healthier looking skin after use.  A picture of the front side of the bottle is shown below:


To start out with, I must admit that I have had difficulty in trying to decide the format of these blog posts with the ingredients listed on the back of the container and their associated toxicities.  In light of this revelation, bear with me through the next few blog posts.  I am finding my way in terms of design and information layout.  My plan is to lay out the ingredients in this blog with the chemical structures shown along with a brief discussion of the grouping/function of them relative to the product description.  In the next blog post, I will discuss briefly a few aspects of the associated toxicology of the ingredients.  The learning curve was much longer (took me way longer than I had imagined -- a month and a half) to find my way.  But we are here now and lets get started.

The structures of most of the ingredients are shown in the three panels below.  Initially, I decided to take structures from two main websites: Wikipedia and the Environmental Working Group.  After some time, I decided to learn a program (that I have no used in quite a while) to draw the chemical structures myself.  The advantage of drawing the images myself with a chemical sketch program is that I am allowed to orient the molecules my own way to illustrate the point of function.  With that being said, the four images below contain the chemical structures listed in the ingredients section on the back side of a bottle of Jergen's Skin Firming Moisturizer Lotion as shown below:

The three panels above show a variety of chemical structures.  Some of which might be recognizable and others that are not.  Note: the structures above were taken from different sources and might appear different.  I will discuss that shortly for clarification purposes.  I will be discussing the function of the ingredients in the product and talking periodically about the chemical structure, so feel free to scroll the mouse back up to the picture to view the structures as we move along.

These are some of the ingredients listed on the back of the bottle of lotion as shown below:

To start with, figuring out the function of the ingredient is relatively easy.  In the previous post, I listed the function and definition of each ingredient.  The important connection is to make between the function and the reason why the manufacturer chose to incorporate the ingredient into the lotion.

Two questions can be offered at the start in order to understand the ingredients:

1) Why is the ingredient in the product?

2) What is the concentration of the ingredient in the bottle?

These questions might seem redundant, but in actuality, chemists ask themselves these two questions before starting the research and development phase.  Further, during the testing phase, these questions come up arise again if the product does not meet the intended  purpose.  For instance, does the cream spread smoothly over the surface of your skin without 'caking up'?  Part of the answer lies in understanding the concept of "hydrophilic" and "hydrophobic".  The concept of "hydrophobic" and "hydrophilic" is sometimes difficult to convey.  Here are two videos taken from YouTube that are each less than 5 minutes in length and might help clarify the distinction between the two terms.

The video above is just one of many different explanations of the two terms: "hydrophilic" and "hydrophobic".  I would encourage you (the reader) to search the internet on your own for an example that taps into your learning style.  The easiest way that I can visualize the difference is to look at a bottle of Italian salad dressing whose components have separated into the hydrophobic layer along with the hydrophilic layer.  An image is shown below:

As you can see, the two components have separated completely.  If you were to shake the bottle up, the two layers would mix for a short (a few minutes) duration until the two layers.  Here is a short explanation of how salad dressing works from our website.  There are numerous explanations out online to clarify the distinction.  One explanation that I found helpful was from an episode of the wildly popular show called "Science Friday". The episode was called "Salad Dressing Science."  Here is a very simple explanation:

Most vinegars are solutions of acetic acid and water (plus some other acids and alcohols, depending on the type of vinegar you are using). Water, acetic acid, and alcohol are all examples of polar molecules—molecules that have a slightly negative charge at one end, or pole, and a slightly positive charge at another end. These slightly charged poles arise because one or more atoms in the molecule are electronegative, meaning that they tug electrons—which are negatively charged—towards them, creating an uneven distribution of charge within the molecule. Polar molecules are generally attracted to other polar molecules because their slightly negative poles have an affinity for their slightly positive poles. Polar molecules are attracted to water molecules—which are also polar—and are called hydrophilic, which means “water loving.”

Oils are a different story. Oils are a type of fat (like butter, shortening, and lard) and are considered non-polar. Fats and oils are composed primarily of long molecules called fatty acids (usually bound together by glycerol molecules into groups of three called triglycerides). Most of the atoms in a fatty acid molecule share electrons evenly and are neither negatively nor positively charged (although fatty acids do contain small regions of polarity—just not enough to make the whole molecule polar.) Non-polar molecules love other non-polar molecules and will glom together when mixed with water. You can observe this phenomenon by placing a few drops of oil on the surface of a bowl of water—eventually the drops will form a single large oil slick. Oils repel polar molecules such as those found in vinegar. Because oils also repel water, they are called hydrophobic, which means “water-fearing.”

The natural question arises when considering how the two layers stay together for a short time:

What holds the two layers together?

Obviously, whatever chemical that holds the two layers together will have to contain both properties.  That is a long chain molecule could serve as the linker.  Although, the linker (or emulsifier) molecule has to have a hydrophobic end along with a hydrophilic end too.

What does a molecule that serves as an "emulsifier" look like?

  Here is a photo of the linker molecule shown on the webpage below:

Notice how the molecule in the picture has both a polar and a non-polar end.  Again, from the website "Science Friday" for the episode "Salad Dressing Science" -- a short excerpt explaining the function of an "emulsifier":

How can we bring together polar and non-polar molecules to make something delicious like mayonnaise (which is essentially a combination of water and oil) or salad dressing? We need an emulsifier. Emulsifiers are the hand-holders of the molecule world. They contain both hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions and are able to attract and “hold hands” with polar and non-polar molecules simultaneously, pulling them together to form a special type of mixture called an emulsion. For instance, after adding an effective emulsifier to oil and vinegar and mixing thoroughly, separation of the oil from the vinegar will take much longer or won’t happen at all.

At this point, you are probably thinking the following question:

What does salad dressing science have to do with producing a cosmetic formulation?

Actually, from a chemist's standpoint, there is no difference.  Both are mixtures of chemicals.  Furthermore, each chemical has a distinct purpose (or supportive purpose) in the product formulation.  Lets start with the categories that each chemical is partitioned into.  In certain instances, some chemicals will play a dual role.  This will become clear shortly in the next section.

Categories Of Chemicals

In the previous post which contained a dictionary of 'functions' that chemicals play in cosmetics and food chemistry.  Before that, the previous post was the first post in which I chose a product as shown above -- Jergen's Skin Firming Moisturizer lotion -- to break down.  In that post, I listed each chemical with the function that each serve.  Now, the time has come to group the chemicals into categories in their respective functions -- to drive home the function of the components.

A) Categories: Hydrophobic, Hydrophilic, Emulsifier, and Surfactant:

Above, there was a brief introduction into the 'hydrophobic'(water fearing) and 'hydrophilic'(water loving) chemicals.  This distinction is very important since a large amount of chemicals are thought of in these terms in product formation.  Additionally, there are 'linker' molecules which have both properties -- 'hydrophobic' and 'hydrophilic' -- which are extremely important to make a mixture appear to be uniform.  This class of chemicals is known as 'emulsifiers'.  I will refer to the previous post with the dictionary for more information.

Note: the categories listed below -- hydrophobic, hydrophilic, and emulsifier are used for simplifying purposes.  Depending on the professional settings and synthesis, the degree of each categorical placement can be argued.  I use these categories to help the reader understand that a certain amount of  cosmetic formulations have a fatty component (nonpolar), a hydrophilic component (glycerin) and an emulsifier (cetearyl alcohol) to make a mixture.  Other chemicals are present to assist in stabilizing the mixture to hold together along with other attributes (properties) which will be highlighted below.

A.1: Hydrophobic Ingredients

The first category will be the 'hydrophobic' compounds (i.e., non-polar, oils, fats, starch, etc.) shown below:

1) Mineral Oil

2) Petrolatum

3) Cyclopentasiloxane

4) Acrylates Copolymer

5) Dimethicone

6) Stearic Acid

7) Glyceryl Dilaurate

8) Fragrance

9) Methyl Paraben

10) Butylene Glycol

11) Acrylates/C10-C30 Alkylacrylate Crosspolymer

12) Propyl Paraben

13) Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PNP Crosspolymer

14) Tocopheryl Acetate

15) Centella Asiatica Extract

16) Cocos Nucifer (coconut oil)

17) Hydrolyzed Collagen

18) Withania Somnifera Root Extract

19) Fusus Vesiculosus Extract

20) Hydrolyzed Elastin

Upon inspecting the ingredients in the list above, you will notice that some of them do not have chemical structures shown in the image panels above.   Which raises the following question:

Why are their chemical structures not shown?

The reason is that oils contain mixtures of fats along with other long chain carbon molecules.  The chains are nonpolar and are repeating carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached in most cases.  In the image below, I show a distribution of carbon chains of varying length to illustrate my point:

An example of such a mixture of carbon chains is Petrolatum.   Petrolatum is a jelly with viscous properties.  The viscosity can be controlled by the distribution of chain lengths in the mixture.  For a mixture with a high viscosity, the chain length might be greater than 25 carbons in length.  Whereas, for a less viscous mixture, the carbon chains might be in the range of less than 25 carbons in length.

In the image above, I show carbon chains

A.2 Hydrophilic Ingredients

The next category is the opposite of the first in properties -- the 'hydrophilic' compounds (i.e., polar, ionic molecules, water, short chained alcohols, etc.) are shown below:

1) Water

2) Glycerin

3) DMDM Hydantoin

4) Sodium Hydroxide

5) Arginine

6) Polyimide-1

A.3 Emulsifier Ingredients

Finally, last but not least, the category of the 'linker' molecules -- 'emulsifier' compounds (i.e. surfactants, soaps, detergents, etc. ) are shown below:

1) Cetearyl Acohol

2) Acrylates/C10-C30 Alkylacrylate Crosspolymer

In this mixture, there are few emulsifiers present.  I must note that the structure for cetearyl alcohol is rather ambiguous in the picture above.  You probably do not understand what chemical structures with parenthesis () mean?  In the image below, the chemical structure is expanded to the chemical cetearyl alcohol-14:

Shown above are 4 different illustrations of cetearyl alcohol.  Since the length of the alkyl (carbon chain) can vary based on the index (the number outside of the parenthesis), cetearyl alcohol has many different structures.  Meaning that the length of the carbon chain will vary.  As you can probably guess, the longer the carbon chain, the more that the molecule will acts as a 'nonpolar' one rather than a polar molecule.  short chained cetearyl alcohols are 'polar'.

In the structure (B) above, cetearyl alcohol-14 chemical structure is shown without the hydrogen molecules attached.  This representation is referred to as the 'line structure.'  Often chemists will use the 'line structure' to simplify the representation to focus on other aspects of the molecular structure.  Structure (C) has all of the hydrogen atoms attached to the structure.  Structure (D) shows the full structure flattened out for clarity of the numbers and types of atoms present.  In future blogs, I might just use line formulas to simplify the case in point of ingredients in a given product formulation -- be aware!

A.4 Surfactants

Note: these are not the only three categories of ingredients.  There are other main categories which are slightly separate from the above three categories.  One such category is surfactants -- which are listed below:

1) Ceteareth-20

2) Aluminum Starch Octenyl Succinate

Here is the structure of ceteareth-2 shown in the image below:

Again, shown above are 4 different structures for ceteareth-2.  Notice in the structure (A) that in parenthesis there is one "O" on the chain?  If the index 'n' is two, there will be two as shown in the line structure (B).  If the index 'n' was 20 as in ceteareth-20, then there would be 20 "O" (oxygen atoms) and the molecule would run off of the page of the screen.  Therefore, I used an example of ceteareth-2 to show the chemical structure.

B) Additional Categories: Skin Conditioning Agent, Skin Protectant, Humectant, and Emollient:

B.1 Skin Conditioning Agent

1) Glycerin

2) Mineral Oil

3) Cyclopentasiloxane

4) Dimethicone

5) Glyceryl Dilaurate

6) Butylene Glycol

7) Arginine

8) Tocopheryl Acetate

9) Centella Asiatica Extract

10) Hydrolyzed Collagen

11) Withania Somnifera Root Extract

12) Fucus Vesiculosus Extract

13) Hydrolyzed Elastin

Inspecting the list above and comparing it to the three additional lists below, some chemicals will serve two purposes.  This multifaceted nature of the chemical gives rise to the distinction of definitions of these categories.  Meaning that a skin-conditioning agent is also an humectant and an emollient in certain products.  The important take-away message is that in order to interpret the function of various ingredients, look at the product.  Ask yourself the following question:

What is the purpose of adding the ingredient into the product?

To determine the function, the website EWG gives the categorical function (i.e., skin-conditioning agent, skin protectant, humectant, etc.).  In this blog post, the product is a 'skin firming moisturizing lotion' from the manufacturer Jergen's.  The list above gives a few ingredients that will not be common across various lotions (products) from different manufacturers.  Alternatively, the majority of the chemicals are common ingredients.  This will become apparent in the future posts which look at different products.

Skin conditioning agent is defined in the previous blog as:

A skin conditioning agent and an essential fatty acid that helps maintain optimal skin health and function.  Lipid Organic products found in living systems that are insoluble in water, like fats. Cell membranes are made of lipids.

The nonpolar nature of the chemicals will serve as a 'skin-repleneshing agent' to the lotion under inspection.  As I mentioned in the very first post 'anti-aging' post is that there is very little in terms of regeneration of collagen by external chemical means possible.  Therefore, the purpose of adding a distribution of lipids, oils, and fats will serve as a "coating" to adhere to the upper layer of the Stratum Corneum (the outer layer of the epidermis).  If you were to add a highly polar liquid as the major ingredient to the lotion, the consistency would change and possibly not stick to the outer layer of the epidermis.  Remember the following rule:

Like loves Like!

If you apply this principle in formulating products, then formulation will be much easier.  As I mentioned, some ingredients serve many different purposes.  Adding oils, fats, lipids that will adhere to the skin will produce a layer which might be perceived as 'new skin' or 'moisturized skin'.  Really, the layer is just sitting on your skin.  How do you ensure that the layer will stay on the skin?

In order to make that happen, you will need to add a binder and a skin protectant.  Before moving to the next section of skin protectant, remember that skin conditioning agents will diffuse down into the top few layers of the skin -- but mostly sit on the outer layer.

One ingredient to highlight out of the skin-conditioning agent list is: Fucus Vesiculosus Extract.  Research from 2002 suggests that the extract might have anti-aging properties as highlighted in the abstract to the research article shown below:

Recently the researchers found that an extract of Fucus vesiculosus, which is a type of seaweed, promotes the contraction of fibroblast-populated collagen gels through increased expression of integrin molecules. In this study, they investigated the effects of topical application of an aqueous extract of this alga on the thickness and the mechanical properties of human skin. A gel formulation that included 1% of the extract was applied topically to human cheek skin twice daily for five weeks. A significant decrease in skin thickness measured by B-mode ultrasound was elicited, as was a significant improvement in elasticity measured with a Cutometer as compared with controls. In cheek skin, the thickness normally increases and the elasticity usually decreases with age. These results suggest that the Fucus vesiculosus extract possesses anti-aging activities and should be useful for a variety of cosmetics.

The exact mechanism is not known.  The research results were preliminary and more research has to be done to decipher into the exact mechanism of the Fucus Vesiculosus extract.  This is a chemical that stands out.  Other chemicals listed above will be redundant in other products.  Next, I will comment on skin protectants below.

B.2 Skin Protectant

1) Glycerin

2) Petrolatum

3) Mineral Oil

4) Dimeticone

The list above are common ingredients which function as skin protectant.  The purpose of adding a skin protectant is to ensure that the layer of lipids, fats, oils, long carbon chains to form a film on the top layer of the skin.  Additionally, the purpose is to hold the moisture inside the upper most layer of the skin (to hydrate) which promotes the appearance of 'healthy and younger' looking skin.  Using these ingredients does not actually change the physiology of the skin.  Basically, the skin protectant serves as the outer layer of the skin -- i.e. fake layer.

Another purpose of having a skin protectant is to hold in the moisture in the top layer of the skin.  The chemicals that promote moisture build up are 'humectants.'  Humectants are chemicals which are 'hydroscopic' in nature.  Hydroscopic means that the chemical will absorb water.  Incorporating humectants into a moisturizing lotion serves two purposes: attracts water (keeps moisture in) and prevents the lotion from drying out (and cracking).  Below is a list of humectants found in the Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion:

B.3 Humectant

1) Glycerin

2) Butylene Glycol

3) Hydrolyzed Collagen

B.4 Emollient

1) Cetearyl Alcohol

2) Petrolatum

3) Mineral Oil

4) Cyclopentasiloxane

5) Dimethicone

6) Glyceryl Dilaurate

7) Hydrolyzed Collagen

The list above contains the chemicals which act as Emollients.  What is confusing to me is the vague distinction between the categories.  This is the reason why I chose the distinction of 'hydrophobic' 'hydrophilic' and 'emulsifier'.  These distinctions make more sense in formulating a cosmetic product.  Here is the definition of an 'emollient' from the previous blog post below:

Moisturizers or emollients are complex mixtures of chemical agents specially designed to make the external layers of the skin (epidermis) softer and more pliable. They increase the skin's hydration (water content) by reducing evaporation. Naturally occurring skin lipids and sterols, as well as artificial or natural oils, humectants, emollients, lubricants, etc., may be part of the composition of commercial skin moisturizers. They usually are available as commercial products for cosmetic and therapeutic uses, but can also be made at home using common pharmacy ingredients.

As you can see, certain chemicals that are categorized as 'skin conditioning agents' are also 'emollients.'  Confusing?  Yep.  Again, the idea is to return to the overall purpose of the skin firming lotion -- i.e. make the skin tighter, younger looking and moist.  All of these chemicals work in concert to form the formulation at hand.  Adding in various chain lengths of carbon (i.e., short chain - less viscous, long chain - very viscous) changes the properties of the product.  Formulating a cream or lotion is making a mixture.

Last but not least, these chemicals will not work together over time.  Spoiling might happen.  Degradation of lipids, oils, and long chain molecules when the product is exposed to the atmosphere will inevitably happen.  The following chemicals are incorporated to act as a preservative:

1) DMDM Hydantoin

2) Methyl Paraben

3) Propyl Paraben


Wow, that was a lengthy list of structures and functions -- right?  Although, now you have a better
understanding of the nature of the chemicals or at least should have.  Chemistry is about exploring structure and function.  Especially, since the two are intricately related.  In the above ingredient analysis, you were able to see how structure gives rise to play a part in function.  There are gaps left in the explanation -- some of which are intentional and others which are not.  Education is an ongoing process.  Remember that each of you hold the power to explore the chemicals in question on your own.  That is why I try (as much as possible) to stick to 'open source' without paywalls -- explanations.

In the paragraphs above, I have introduced you to the ingredients used in one product.  That product was Jergen's Skin Firming Moisturizing Lotion.  Since this was my first deconstruction of a product, the blog post was sort of all over the place.  If you would like to see more or less of certain content, please tell me in the comments.  This was a learning experience for me.  In the next post, I will continue with a brief analysis of the toxicology of the ingredients in the same products.  Then, I will move onto a new product which claims 'anti-aging' properties too.  At that point, the ingredients which are essential will start to become completely apparent.

Until next time, Have a great day!   References are below for the sources of the material above.


1) EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic Database:

2) Paula's Choice (beauty product database):

3) Cosmetics and

4) Chemist's Corner:

5) Prospector:

6) Cosmetics info:

7) The Pharmaceutics and Compounding Lab (at UNC):

8) Web MD:

9) Fujimura T1, Tsukahara K, Moriwaki S, Kitahara T, Sano T, Takema Y.  "Treatment of human skin with an extract of Fucus vesiculosus changes its thickness and mechanical properties." J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Jan-Feb;53(1):1-9.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Succulent Clones

December 11, 2016
January 29, 2017 
(7 weeks = 49 days later)

December 11, 2016
January 29, 2017
(7 weeks = 49 days later)

December 11, 2016
January 29, 2017 
(7 weeks = 49 days later)

It's about progress not perfection.  And patience.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Basics Of Opioids

The opioid problem has swept across the nation over the last decade and a half.  Since 2000, there have been around 300,000 opioid deaths (33,000 alone in 2015).  What is causing this emerging addiction?  Before we can understand the problem, maybe a step back would be good for us.   A step back that would entail looking at the molecular structures of various opioids.  Not Chemistry!

Yes, indeed - Chemistry!  In order to understand the problem, a look into the molecular similarities might be of great use.  Last weekend, Kayla -- who writes on this blog and other sites -- finished up a blog post on "opioids".  You can access that blog post by clicking -- HERE.  Kayla takes the reader on a short journey starting at the outset with the stated fact that over 150,000 plant and microorganism derived "bioactive" compounds are found in nature.  As she points out some of which are active in humans.  One class of "bioactive" compounds are the opioid family (shown below):

Structural similarities were shown to reveal that the active ingredient in cough syrup (Dextromethorphan -- derived from codeine) is not very different from the molecular structure of "vicodon" -- which is commonly abused by the public.  Although, Dextromethorphan has a lower risk of abuse.  The manner in which the drugs target a given "active site" forms a range.  This is due to the molecular structure.  Each molecular structure (in a family) has an "affinity" for a given "active site" in the body.  Drugs with a higher affinity to hit a given "active site" result in being labeled as "more potent."  Potency can be related to abuse.  Other drugs might hit a range of "active sites" which might contribute to the phenomenon of "side effects" associated with a given drug.  These drugs might not be preferable to an addict due to unwanted side effects.

The blog post is a great primer on the molecular similarities and differences  -- worth reading.  Especially for the readers who are interested in the content that is presented on this site and "Mike Thinks".  With that in mind, I hope that you enjoy the short primer on opioids written by Kayla.  Have a great day!  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Extreme Personality Traits And Making Small Changes

Are you a person who has extreme tendencies?

What are extreme tendencies?

What is extreme behavior?

The answer to these questions is centered around the behavior of focusing your attention or behavior (habit) on one task and going all in.  An example is of the disease of alcoholism.  Typically, as the disease progresses, the whole behavior becomes centered around the use of alcohol.  Extreme behavior is not limited to the use of drugs and alcohol.  In fact, many people suffer from being a 'workaholic' -- spending an unusually large amount of time at work.  Work becomes your life.

Why do I mention this behavior?

After returning from vacation, I had a short break from writing blogs on various sites -- which was much needed.  Over the vacation, I realized that I had taken some time off from checking in with my journal on the site "".  Periodically, I write about my mental journey.  These electronic journal entries are different from the learned "mental awareness" articles found on this blog site.  The last time I checked in was a few months ago.

Therefore, I wrote another entry which can be accessed by clicking -- HERE.

I hope that you find useful content on the journal entry that will help you move toward a healthier lifestyle.  In the coming week, I should be continuing the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" with the ingredients from Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion (as promised).

With that being said, I will finish the next post to publish soon.  Have a great day!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Packing for Your Car-free Vacation

Have you ever considered taking a vacation without a car?  Yes, I mean without a car.  No rental car when you arrive at a destination.  Oh My Goodness!!  Yep.  If you are not a seasoned cyclist who engages in these types of trips, then the following sites might be of interest to you.  We are not seasoned cyclists -- although, we are becoming seasoned cyclists.  Did this happen over night?  No.  Have we tried various trips and learned different lessons on each. Yes.

Engaging in a bicycle adventure trip is easy.  First, you have to make up your mind that you are going to try to go on one.  Second, decide where you would like to travel to.  Some bloggers suggest going on an overnight trip to a local hotel near your house on your bicycles with a couple of panniers to start out with.  This is one strategy.

Another strategy is to decide to go further.  If you decide to do this, the learning curve is steeper.  But you adjust very quickly -- which is a good thing.  We started by taking trips down to the beach near family (around 60 miles away) and staying in a hotel.  This trip was simple in that the whole trip involved a bicycle and a hotel (easy to plan).

Next, we extended this toward taking the train which we ride daily to the beach to camp last year.  You can read about that experience in the following blog post -- written by Mike.  Adding a train component to a bicycle vacation is not difficult.  But remember, the train usually has limited times of departure and arrival.  Be sure to consider these schedules while planning a vacation departure or arrival time and date.

Recently (as in last week), we took a bicycle trip up north to Grover Beach and stayed in a hotel.  The bicycles served the purpose of a rental car.  We were able to explore the town car-free and stress free with a bicycle.  Part of the journey is the bicycle trip.  Most of the time on vacation, people are trying to get to a destination to enjoy the destination (such as a beach).  When riding a bicycle to a destination, the journey is part of the enjoyment of the destination.   With all of this being said, you might be wondering what to pack for such a trip.

If you are considering a car-free vacation, you may find the following links to our previous trips useful.  Each contains suggestions for packing.

Newport Beach and Oceanside (July 2014) + Metrolink + Hotel

San Francisco and Santa Cruz (May 2015) + Amtrak Coast Starlight + Hotel

Doheny Beach (January 2016) + Metrolink + Camping

Grover Beach (January 2017) + Amtrak Pacific Surfliner + Hotel

We hope that you enjoy reading the above sites packed with the lessons that we have learned evolving over time while learning how to bicycle adventure.  The photos below are of the recent trip to Grover Beach which we just returned from.  Additionally, we hope to see you out on the road on a bicycle vacation.  Have a great day!

Day 1: Waiting for the Amtrak

Day 1: On Board the Amtrak

Day 2: View from our Hotel Balcony

Day 2: Monarch Butterfly Grove (FREE)

Day 3: Bike Ride to Avila Beach (FREE)

Day 3: Bicycle Parking in Hotel Room (FREE)

Day 4: Tour of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (FREE)

Day 4: Riding San Luis Obispo County Transit ($5 Day Pass)

Day 5: Returning via Amtrak

Day 5: A Beautiful way to End our Vacation

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vacation Time ... Happy Holidays!!!

Hello Everyone,

  This is Mike.  Since the Holidays are upon us, I am going to take a short vacation.  I know, you are going to miss all of the wonderful content.  I know that a few of you are desperately waiting for an update on "Mike's Mental Awareness" webpage.  Furthermore, those readers who are currently following my interest in demystifying the science behind aging and skin care products in the 'anti-aging' series are eager to move onto more products.  But first, we have yet to discuss the ingredients and a note about their toxicities -- which is coming next.

  With that being said, check back in just after the beginning of the new year.  I hope that each and everyone of the visitors to this site have a great set of holidays.  I look forward to writing soon.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Write to you soon!