HabitatBiotics™ Cleansers & Habitat Modifiers

— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on 15 January 2012, was last revised on 22 January 2022. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 12:01(01).

NOTE: This article introduces two cleansers and habitat modifiers presently manufactured by EntomoBiotics Inc., each of which is the result of 40+ years of research and testing conducted by the author. The first, HabitatBiotics™ LR35, is a water-based (aqueous) cleanser containing a fully vetted blend of extracts and essential oils derived from four essential oils and eleven herbs and spices.

The second, HabitatBiotics™ G1440, is a granular cleanser containing a similar blend of whole herbs, spices and essential oils, absorbed into and combined with a base of milled corncob granules. This product is currently out of stock, and will not be available again before March of 2022. 

The cleansing properties of each of these two products revolves around the characters possessed by their natural constituents. Those properties are enhanced by taking advantage of the synergism that takes place when they are combined. In what follows we will explore some of those functionalities. Please note that these products are not intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and are not intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals, as defined by FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1).

When Mother Nature put together her earthly garden, she did so in what amounts to an extraordinary array of complex molecular and structural forms. Each of those forms generally benefits the plant-life in which it is found. A common benefit is to keep the plant clean, in all the various ways cleanliness is beneficial. Many of those molecular forms, extracted from plants and evaluated in isolation, possess cleansing properties that benefit humans in similar or identical ways. Others, though harmless to the plant, can be harmful to humans. A few, though toxic to man in concentrated form, can still be beneficial when present in small amounts. Combinations of these individual forms, in precise, measured quantities, often act in synergy to magnify their beneficial effects. Sometimes those effects are reliably predictable. Often, though, unexpected positive or negative effects are witnessed, which explains the imperative of testing those combinations thoroughly, with real people — not defenseless animals — in the real world.

The two products described here represent the culmination of all the investigations and real-world testing that I’ve conducted with natural plant-based extracts thus far. It has been a long but exciting journey. At the start I was amazed by the cleansing capabilities each botanical extract possessed. Along the way that amazement has never faded, but only grew stronger in a cascade of new discoveries. Many of those discoveries forced me to exclude certain extracts from the mix, while making the case for keeping certain other extracts in the mix in even stronger concentrations. In similar fashion, experience with various modalities led me to avoid persistent, liquid oil-based combinations that produce slip hazards and are prone to staining. Of the available alternatives, aqueous solutions that quickly evaporate, leaving small but important traces behind, were found to be the most useful, followed by dry granules impregnated and coated with traces of cleansing ingredients. Based on reports from those who use them, the range of the specialized cleansing qualities of the aqueous cleanser HabitatBiotics™ LR35, and the granular cleanser HabitatBiotics™ G1440, appear to be unparalleled by anything presently on the market. Those who use them with regularity say they work as intended, and nothing else seems quite as capable.

The research that culminated in the production of these two products continues to this day. Too, real-world testing of the fruits of that research — on real people instead of defenseless animals — proceeds unabated. Both of those products are expected to continue to evolve as more and more is learned about the natural ingredients of which they are composed.

But why? What caused me to undertake this work in the first place? And why is so much of my time today, even at this late date in my already long life, consumed by an incessant quest for even better results? That’s a good question, deserving of a thoughtful reply. The work that led to the formulation of these products started humbly, with concerns about the most basic objectives of human hygiene, beginning with the lowest part of the human body, our feet.

I explain in what follows…   

Foot Odor, Why it exists, and Why it’s so hard to control…

Foot odor is a subject most people would prefer not to discuss. Still, it is an issue with a lot of humans (some of whom you may even know), to the point that $millions are spent by Americans each year, usually in a vain attempt to bring it under control. Though ads touting remedies for nail fungus and athlete’s foot don’t mention it, food odor, nail fungus, and athlete’s foot go together; if you have one, you probably have all three, as they are the result of conditions connected with one basic thing, namely the footwear we put on our feet and the state of uncleanliness that persists within the confines of that footwear. 

Much of the $millions spent each year on foot odor, nail fungus, and athlete’s foot remedies is wasted. Often, they just don’t work. But even when they do work, the cure is only temporary because they attack the symptoms, rather than the cause. That’s bad enough, but many of those products can also cause health problems. It probably doesn’t have to be that way.

BFW (Before FootWear)… way back in the Olden Days

I grew up in the 1940’s, when a lot of youngsters like me either didn’t have shoes or often went without them even if they had some. Like our distant ancestors. That is, going everywhere barefooted, back when humans didn’t give any thought to encasing their feet in sandals, shoes, or boots…

Sounds pretty primitive, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. And, of course, to most of us “primitive” is an ugly word. But not to me as a child. At the time I didn’t realize that my primitive ways were actually good for me. That fact wasn’t quite so clear until many years later, when I read some of the writings of those who proposed a return to nature. People like, for example, Katy Bowman, author of the books “Move Your DNA,” and “Whole Body Barefoot.” Her expositions track the beliefs expressed by Erwan LeCorre, creator of MovNat. In LeCorre’s words “(MovNat is) …a school of physical competency based entirely on natural movement, which includes the locomotive skills of walking, running, balancing, crawling, jumping, climbing, and swimming, the manipulative skills of lifting, carrying, throwing and catching, and the defensive skills of striking and grappling.

Of course, anything can be taken to ridiculous lengths, but people like Bowman and LeCorre point out how important it is to remember from whence we came. Modern advances in technology are important, but sometimes they produce negative results, especially when they isolate us from the real world “out there.

According to Bowman, for example, we need to recondition our bodies with natural, useful movements and skills, unencumbered by man-made contraptions that limit our contact with the earth. When we do, we enhance our physical experience of the world, as well as our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. She points out that our bodies are suffering from a cultural lack of movement, but not only do our bodies suffer, but our minds, hearts, and lives suffer too. Why? Because “natural movement is freedom,” and where most of us are today, says Bowman, “we may as well be caged animals.” 

Now, this discussion is about feet and footwear, so why mention Bowman, LeCorre, and MovNat? Simple… because as LeCorre puts it so clearly in his forward to Bowman’s book, Whole Body Barefoot, movement is the foundation of life, and “the foundation of that foundation lies where you might expect it: at the bottom. The feet. Naturally, the healthy, efficient function of our feet is essential to healthy, efficient movement.” Barefooted movement is more than primitive. It takes us back to our roots, and helps us become healthy again… So, you see, when I went barefooted as a kid I was actually doing something that was beneficial for me. But not for long. Eventually I had to become civilized. And barefooted was not that.

Why Going Barefoot Can Be Beneficial…

Anyway, back in those olden days of yore, foot perspiration was a normal, healthy process that — under what were then ordinary circumstances — produced an altogether positive result. Thousands of years ago, when all or nearly all humans walked barefooted, foot perspiration helped keep their bare feet clean, moisturized, and lubricated. Their feet then, like our feet today, were naturally equipped with about 250,000 sweat glands. Those sweat glands give human feet and hands the highest concentration of perspiration generators in the human body.

There are good reasons for this, reasons that are associated with the way our ancestors spent the vast majority of human history. Those ancestors went barefooted, wholly dependent on their feet and hands to move their bodies about their environments safely and efficiently. What today we call hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the feet and hands) was to our paleolithic forebears both normal and beneficial. Today, though, circumstances have changed a bit. Our ancestors’ feet and hands perspired under conditions of primal stress. That stress was induced by the imminent risk of death and/or dismemberment by another human or one of the dangerous animals they were either fleeing from or trying to make into their next meal. Today, the stressors we face tend to be less physical and more “civilized,” but our bodies don’t distinguish between the two sources of stress, so our physiological response to today’s stresses is pretty much the same as that experienced by our ancient forebears.

My, How Things Have Changed…

Of course, physical threats still affect humanity, but not nearly as much as in the past. In its place we are bombarded by psychological fears, like those attending the imminent risks of embarrassment, of failure, of being fired, or of losing a sale or a promotion. Yet, as previously mentioned, the physiological response by our hands and feet is the same.

Both physical threats and their psychological mimics lead to near-identical changes in blood chemistry. The human body reacts — just as before — by making the feet and hands perspire. The body still acts as if that extra lubrication and moisture might still give us the physiological edge our ancestors needed to make them victorious, or ensure their escape.

But it wasn’t until humans began to wear appliances on their feet that ordinary levels of perspiration — whether the wearer was physically or psychologically stressed or not — became problematical. We now give the “problem” a modern label, calling it bromhidrosis, or offensive-smelling body odor. Initially, though, the problems posed by foot perspiration were minimal, due to the way the earliest forms of footwear were constructed. As a result, most of the earliest shoe-wearing humans probably wouldn’t have needed that modern label, even if they’d had it.

According to one authority (DeMello, 2009), the wearing of sandals may date to as far distant as 500,000 BCE. Footprints in hardened clay dating that old appear to have been made by feet shod with primitive foot coverings. Spanish cave drawings, believed more than 15,000 years old, depict humans with feet wrapped in animal skins. Still, the earliest firm evidence of human footwear dates from around 10,000 years ago, and suggests humans in that time wore sandals woven from sagebrush bark. More recently, a 5,000 year old corpse — of a man preserved in alpine ice — revealed feet wrapped in leathern boots stuffed with straw.

Early forms of footwear…

Most of the earliest forms of footwear probably tended to provide adequate ventilation, so perspiration would not have caused problems until tight, unventilated shoes and boots became commonplace. It is surprising, to the so-called civilized man and woman of today, to learn that the practice of regularly wearing tight-fitting shoes is a relatively recent development. Wise and ancient Greeks such as Anaximander, Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato, for example, shunned footwear altogether.

One particularly famous Greek, Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), conquered half the civilized world with an army of entirely barefooted men. The unshod soles of the feet of Alexander’s soldiers were toughened with thick calluses, produced by a lifetime of walking barefoot over all manner of rough and uninviting surfaces. Absent such naturally thickened soles, they would have been at the mercy of the elements. With those toughened soles they could walk long distances and fight fierce battles, often without a hitch.

But not we humans of today.

Shoes are so much a part of modern life that we can scarcely imagine living without them. Yet podiatrists know that the 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the human foot work at peak efficiency when the foot is allowed to function unhampered, i.e., when it is not imprisoned within a hardened, unyielding, unventilated shoe. Most important, human posture is also at its best under conditions of barefooted ambulation.

Let’s face it: the human skeleton was engineered by mother nature and her handmaiden — natural selection, — over thousands of years of barefooted existence. Indeed, our entire bodies were optimized for a barefooted lifestyle.

Ah, but civilization would have none of that…

The Romans, thinking themselves more enlightened and progressive than their Greek counterparts, lived tender-footed, “civilized” lives. Accordingly, those enlightened souls began using footwear with regularity during the early days of the Roman Kingdom, perhaps as far back as 700 BCE.

Later, after the Roman Legions conquered Greece, they brought the cultural practice of wearing shoes with them.

The rest is the stuff of history. Today’s humans rarely sally forth to work or play without shoes of some kind on their feet. And with this practice, the present era of stinky feet got its start.

The Modern Era of Stinky feet…

By the time of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), that era had become so firmly entrenched that The Bard wrote of it in verse:

“I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking, So full of valor that they smote the air For breathing in their faces, beat the ground For kissing of their feet—yet always bending Towards their project. Then I beat my tabor, At which, like unbacked colts, they pricked their ears,

Advanced their eyelids, lifted up their noses As they smelt music. So I charmed their ears That, calflike, they my lowing followed through Toothed briers, sharp furzes, pricking gorse, and thorns,

Which entered their frail shins. At last I left them I’ th’ filthy-mantled pool beyond your cell, There dancing up to th’ chins, that the foul lake O’erstunk their feet…” William Shakespeare: The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1

Footwear and Foot Odor

Shakespeare’s comical lyrics aside, foot odor is anything but funny. Its etiology, however, is both sobering and instructive.

Many of the shoes humans wear today provide a relatively snug fit, often without provisions for ventilation, and even those that do ventilate are constructed of synthetic materials that soak up and accumulate quantities of contaminants extracted from the moisture that passes through them. Though those materials dry out, somewhat, in the period between each wearing, the fresh load of perspiration that floods them while being worn dissolves the old contaminants and creates a perfect environ for the growth of all manner of microbial fauna. It is by this means that foot perspiration manages, shall we say, to rear its smelly toes. Repetitious accumulations of moisture, within the confines of tight fitting footwear, invariably lead to chronic and acute overgrowths of bacteria, molds, mildews, and yeasts on the materials making up the insides of our footwear.

Yet the travesty does not stop there: these same agents also infect the foot-owner, not only on the surface of the skin and under the nails, but within the deep tissues of the body. Once infected, the foot itself transports the “problem” to other footwear, too, including those with adequate ventilation which — like that of our ancestors — would otherwise not produce foot odor on their own. All such infections of the footwear and the shoe-wearer, produce foot odor and damage our footwear. Some lead to medically-significant diseases, including athlete’s foot and topical and/or systemic yeast and bacterial maladies.

The Usual Suspects…

Foot odor results, at its core, from microbial fermentation. The nature of the odor depends on the predominating chemistry of the fermenting media. Certain ferments result in vinegar (CH3COOH) and similar chemicals, some of which actually aid in reducing foot odor, but others result in ammonia (NH3) and its analogs. But these products of fermentation are only part of the story. The chemicals involved in the production of foot odor vary considerably, in terms of their sources and their chemical makeup.

—The brevibacteria…

One important source of foot odor is a genus of gram positive soil bacteria in the order Actinomycetales, the brevibacteria. These organisms, which are a common part of the fauna of the human skin, not only cause foot odor, but are known to attract mosquitoes, and are also responsible for giving Limburger cheese its delicate, delightful fragrance…

Before continuing, perhaps a word of explanation is in order. The above sentence, along with a few other lines below, offers what may be interpreted as jocular praise of what many of us consider as “ugly” odors. These words, however, are not written entirely in jest. As discussed later in this article, many humans honestly think the aroma of Limburger cheese, along with similar odors — like that of Valerian root (actually, the various forms of the valerenic acid phytoconstituent which is found in Valerian root) — to be either strongly or mildly pleasing, while others are either conflicted on the issue or find such odors horribly offensive. There is a broad lesson to be learned from this: Some smells elicit entirely opposite responses in different people. Those wise to this fact recognize that, in order to properly address offensive odors, one must seek first to neutralize them, rather than to replace them with “more pleasant” fragrances. What is perceived as more pleasant to one may, in fact, be all the more odious to another…

At any rate, brevibacteria metabolize dead proteinaceous matter, converting methionine to methanethiol, a sulfuric-smelling effluence with a strong ammonia-like quality.

— The propionibacteria, and a whole host of others…

Propionibacteria metabolize amino acids to produce propanoic acid (CH3CH2COOH), with physical properties intermediate between formic acid (HCOOH) and acetic acid (CH3COOH), with a pungent and penetrating odor. Bacteria in the genus Propionibacterium are commonly found in the stomachs of ruminants such as cattle, goats, sheep, and deer, and in the perspiration glands of animals, including humans. The products of their anerobic metabolism are partially responsible for the odors imparted by Swiss cheese and sweat.

Isovaleric acid (3-methyl butanoic acid), a metabolite of Staphylococcus epidermidis, produces the nostalgic, inviting odors of the well-used athletic locker room. It is also a constituent of the afore-mentioned valerian herb (Valeriana officinalis), where it is concentrated mostly in the root. Powdered valerian root is known to have a sedative, anticonvulsive effect on those who take it, primarily because of the way isovaleric acid binds to special receptors in the nervous system, specifically those for γ-Aminobutyric acid (commonly known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter of our central nervous system, responsible for regulating neuronal excitability and muscle tone). Another chemical, isobutyric acid, a close cousin of both isovaleric acid and GABA, is the source of the “dirty sock” smell most of us know and either love or hate and, not surprisingly, is also a constituent of valerian root that figures into its reputed faculties as a sedative.

Corynebacterium striatum, a leading cause of axillary odor in the armpit and groin, generates foot odor as well.

Micrococcus luteus, a Gram-positive, spherical, saprotrophic bacterium in soil, dust, water and air, is part of the normal flora of mammalian skin. Besides colonizing the human mouth, mucosa, oropharynx and upper respiratory tract, it also figures in the production of foot odor. This particular agent is highly tolerant of drying and high salt concentrations, and survives well even in dehydrated, low-nutrient environments. As a result, previously infected shoes that have been thoroughly dried-out quickly become smelly factories of foot odor again, once their owners resume wearing them and introducing new accumulations of foot perspiration.

Fungi (yeast) in the genus Malassezia are often involved in malodorous dermatitis, as well as in the production of foot odor. These agents requires lipids to survive, but — along with most of the agents listed above — are sometimes associated with other microbials, working in synergy to produce smelly skin infections of the feet and elsewhere on the body.

Foot odor and athlete’s foot

Closely associated with foot odor is a more serious medical condition known as tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot. This disease is caused by fungal infections that usually begin in the webbing between the fourth and fifth toes. Three fungal agents bear the greatest responsibility in the disease’s etiology: Trichophyton rubrum, T. mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum. All thrive exclusively on dead body tissue, including hair, the epidermis, and eventually the toenails themselves.

Though many people carry these fungi as part of their natural skin fauna, they are not rapaciously contagious, but only produce serious infections when conditions become optimized for their propagation. We haven’t always known that. In fact, the myth of athlete’s foot contagion was once so firmly believed that, especially at public swimming pools and shower rooms, that special depressions, intended to be filled with anti-fungal solutions, were required to be built into the shower room foundations. Swimmers and athletes had to wade through those solution-filled depressions, in their bare feet, when entering or leaving the pool or locker room. That myth was later debunked by research proving that simply walking barefoot over a contaminated damp floor is not sufficient to contract an athlete’s foot infection. Excessive foot perspiration, tightly fitting shoes, wearing socks of synthetic man-made fibers that poorly absorb and wick moisture, living in warm and humid climates, and failing to dry the feet thoroughly — after swimming or bathing — before donning footwear, all play a necessary part in the creation and propagation of athlete’s foot.

As the infection develops, athlete’s foot spreads from the webbing between the toes to the soles of the feet, the tissues around and under the toenails, and to the toenails themselves. Stubborn toenail infections lead to both thickening and breakdown of the nails, and — eventually — to nail loss. The infection can spread from the feet to the groin (where it is known as jock itch) and the armpits, where the symptoms mimic those exhibited in the feet in most respects. Chronic infections are so difficult to treat that prescription medications have recently been marketed to treat them. Unfortunately, most such medications carry significant risks of liver damage and other complications, many of which appear to be worse than the infections they seek to cure.

Three important complications…

Certain conditions involved with foot odor make things somewhat more complicated. First, many people lack, or have reduced numbers of, one or more of the olfactory receptors for the common odors that footwear fermentations produce. Individual sensitivity to each foot odor varies from one person to another. Because of this some who are afflicted with foot odors are unaware of their affliction: they either cannot smell the odors the infection produces, or — to some of us, oddly — the odors that are offensive to others may seem inoffensive or even pleasant. Hence, as alluded to earlier, the honest love of Limburger cheese and its volatile odors by some, and its absolute abhorrence by others. Humans are a diverse lot. They truly are…

Case in point: Often the companions of those whose feet, unknown to them, generate noxious odors, are not themselves similarly afflicted, yet are extremely sensitive to the aromas they cause. Neither party may be aware of the disparity in their individual senses of smell, or even that such disparities are common. Thus, when the offended companion goads the other with “What is that smell?” and the foot odor propagator innocently replies with “What smell do you mean?” the resulting disconnect bodes poorly for their mutual, long-term, amicable and strife-free friendship.

Marriages, business relationships, even diplomatic ties of world-shaking import, have been known to reach the breaking point because of such unexplained perceptual disjuncts. Because social stigmas associated with foot odor make people reluctant to discuss it, much of the time the cause behind the break is never made known…

Second, many of the biological agents that produce foot odors actually influence the foot’s rate of perspiration. Their presence causes infected skin to produce conditions unusually favorable to propagation of the agent. Athlete’s foot is an obvious example, what with its weeping sores and blisters, etc., but other microbial agents of foot odor function in a similar, though often less obvious manner. This has the effect of exaggerating the foot odor condition, sometimes exponentially. In other words, untreated foot odor conditions tend to grow more serious over time, while properly treating such conditions not only reduces odor, but even reduces the amount of foot perspiration as well.

A third complication bears special elucidation:

The Infamous Vibram Five Fingers Stink…

The Good: Recent advancements in footwear design, e.g., the VIBRAM FIVE FINGER® barefoot sports shoe (often abbreviated as VFF), allow humans to return to what proponents call the ergonomically superior barefoot and postural conditions of our ancestors without having to develop calluses on the bottoms of their feet. This modern miracle (I and both of my sons have, at least in times past, been enthusiastic wearers of this shoe) is accomplished by specially engineered shoes that are both tight-fitting and yielding. So yielding are they, in fact, that it is as if the feet shod with them are essentially bare. The shoe design actually provides separate pockets for each toe, thin but highly protective soles underfoot, hardened but resilient toe-caps to mitigate the risks of stubbing, and impervious uppers to protect against the elements.

The Bad: Unfortunately, all these otherwise said-to-be excellent features, in combination, exacerbate the foot perspiration issues we’ve already discussed. It should not be a great surprise to learn, then, that VFF foot odor is — well — infamously famous.

The Solution: Recently the VFF manufacturer reportedly began treating their shoes with “Aegis” antibacterial, a product of Microshield®. However well that product works, it does not do so for long, as many VFF owners report that foot odor still becomes a problem unless they take strenuous steps to prevent it. Those steps are complicated. Some who blog about the processes they go through to rid their VFF’s of foot odor admit nothing really works well.

Classical foot odor remedies

Though many foot odor remedies have proven ineffective, and others that work for a time fail to perform well in the long term, the world has never lacked for “solutions” to the problem of foot odor. Powdered corn starch, charcoal-impregnated and antibiotic/antifungal footwear inserts, and a host of other remedies have been marketed worldwide.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they fail, but most have become known as part of a long series of unsuccessful attempts to find a truly effective solution with few or no drawbacks.

Why finding an effective remedy was personal for me

The search for an effective foot odor remedy has been very personal for me. As mentioned earlier, I grew up in the 1940’s, the second of seven children in a family whose feet — as a group — tended to perspire like those of the average human, if not more so. Though we tried to avoid smelly feet by practicing good hygiene, foot odor was, to some degree at least, pretty much a fact of life.

Dad was a career military man of modest means. Military pay in those days, even for a Chief Warrant Officer, was at or near the poverty level. Naturally, we kids went barefooted for the first few years of life, but even when we became civilized enough to become shod, we were expected to wear our single pair of tight-fitting shoes out before they were replaced. Of course, we were not unusual in having to do battle with foot odor on a regular basis, but we would just as soon have been immune to it.

During our childhood years we were all introduced to just about every foot-odor remedy known to mankind, with generally mixed (and usually negative) results. Later, as an adult out in the world on my own, I tried all the new remedies that came on the market, and was uniformly disappointed in all of them.

When several pharmaceutical companies began marketing oral medications to combat foot fungi (advertised cleverly as nail fungi remedies, but understood by all with that problem to include remediating “foot odor” as well, I studied them carefully. The lengthy list of health risks associated with such drugs was, and still is, absolutely appalling.

Imagine that. Some people are willing to jeopardize their health and well being, just to resolve the foot odor and nail fungi issues in their lives. It that doesn’t prove how crucial such remedies are to the quality of life, nothing can. I resolved to keep looking for good, healthy, positive solutions.

Early research

Years ago, beginning in the early 1960’s, I began conducting serious research into the utility of natural herbs and spices that could be used to — among other things — keep my feet fresh and clean. The focus of that study, which continues today, was the functional utility of natural materials, as distinct from unnatural, man-made ones with their typically unusual, toxicological profiles. This meant studying and experimenting with essential plant oils, natural plant-based lipids, natural solid, granular, and liquid substrates, and natural dispersal and delivery materials.

As soon as that research began to produce successful results in other fields, the notion of using the same ingredients and substrates to improve conditions inside shoes, boots, and athletic footwear took root. My focus there, as with my work with habitat modifiers elsewhere, was not on finding a direct cure for the foot odor and nail fungi issues involved. I knew, from the habitat modification work I’d done in other fields (not to mention the lessons taught by the Red Queen hypothesis), that direct approaches usually fail. Instead I focused on creating a super-clean environment, inside ordinary footwear, that neither attracted nor nurtured the microbials that caused such problems. I wanted a cleanser, not a medicine or a fungicide.

The theory on which I based my habitat modification methodology was that, absent the presence of attractants and nurturants, offending organisms will simply disappear. That’s the concept behind every cleanser on the market, isn’t it? Along with them will also go all the problems and complications that had come along for the ride. The concept has worked in every other venue where I’ve applied it, so I reasoned it ought to work with humanity’s footwear, too.

Soon I was applying, on a daily basis, small quantities of natural oils and herbal extracts to my feet, hoping to discover which were effective and which were not; which had drawbacks, and which had none; which would work all the time, or only part of the time, and which didn’t work at all. Before long, based on those experiments, I at least had a long list of ineffective ingredients to stay away from.

Oils, for example, tend to accumulate in shoe leather and insoles, and create ancillary problems too numerous to list. Although they are effective, they simply cannot be used with footwear. Aqueous solutions of certain herbal extracts, however, were generally found to be marginally effective. Some, in fact, were moderately effective. Combinations of these extracts were even highly effective, depending on the ingredients combined. Thus, I began to make extractions of every herb I could find, and tested them on my feet. Some worked well. Adding a small amount of grain alcohol and or aqueous acetic acid (vinegar) made them even more effective, because they allowed the alcohol and acetic acid carriers to dissolve more of the herb’s unique cleansing ingredients, which would be left behind on the skin after the carriers had evaporated or dried out. As the list of effective combinations grew I enlisted the help of others — primarily people who had confided their own struggles with foot odor — to see how their feet and shoes would respond to the various formulations and delivery methods that I put together.

Finally, I arrived at a list of a few herbs that just worked, and worked, and worked… Those that produced skin reactions were immediately discarded, but a few had no negatives of any kind. Among these were a few that had a generally pleasant but relatively strong and enduring fragrance, and though that seemed a good thing at first, it was anything but.

Again and again, I had to face the fact that smelling “nice” is not enough. A “nice” smell to one person can be a “nasty” smell to another. But even a fragrance that everybody likes at first, but that is too strong and persistent eventually wears thin.

Two important universal truths related to the problem of foot odor

That final dictum, I learned, defined a universal truth. What was needed — in whatever final product I could come up with — had to be a highly effective cleanser that had little or no odor at all. Alternatively, if an odor had to be part of the formula, it could not be a persistent one. I began to search for ways to keep the most effective odor neutralizers on the list. What that meant, in the final analysis, was finding a way to package them in a formulation that reduced their pungency — individually and in combination — to as close to zero as possible without sacrificing its efficacy as a cleanser.

Along the way I learned another universal truth related to foot odor and shoe care: formulating a neutral smelling, but powerful cleanser for feet and nails is not enough either. The internal habitat of the footwear, too, needs to be constantly and consistently cleansed — 24/7/365 — not merely while the footwear is being worn, but also while it sits unused, on the shelf, awaiting its next stint on its owner’s feet.

Resolving the Apparent Contradictions…

How could I reconcile all these seemingly contradictory issues? The ingredients that worked best to clean feet and shoes simultaneously were all inherently fragrant. No matter how well they worked, they might produce an enduring odor that some would eventually find taxing.

The answer lay in the carrier solution. I tried a variety of carriers, from exotic oils that promised to biodegrade instead of accumulating, to vinegars, alcohols, and a bunch more. In the end only one was found to work every time. It consisted of mostly purified water mixed with a special blend of white, naturally fermented vinegar, and pure ethyl alcohol. Both absorbed the active herbal ingredients well. And both evaporated quickly upon application, leaving the skin coated with a minimal amount of cleansing herbal ingredients that had little or no lingering fragrance whatever. During application the natural fragrance was clearly present, but the minute the solution dried, practically all of the fragrance died with it.

I found that if the best cleansing herbals were added to the white vinegar and alcohol solution, in just the right combination, the result was a finished product that worked just as intended, without leaving the user trailing a strong herbal garden odor. The solution itself still has a strong odor, and for the first few minutes after putting it on one’s feet, the odor remains strong as ever. But, as the vinegar and alcohol evaporate, the odor begins to lessen until, several minutes later, only a faint fragrance remains.

Total herbal odor elimination is not possible, of course, nor would that be a good thing. The active herbal cleansers in the solution work because of the volatile chemical structures of which they are composed. But, if the carrier solution is formulated properly the end result — once the carrier has evaporated, leaving behind the essential cleansing herbal ingredients — is a faint, pleasant fragrance that does not offend the most sensitive of noses.

So, That’s How HabitatBiotics™ LR35 Came Into Being.

HabitatBiotics™ LR35 is a cleansing solution made from a combination of natural herbs and spices, extracted into an aqueous solution of naturally fermented white vinegar and alcohol. It is specially formulated for use as a multi-purpose, multi-surface cleanser, including applications to feet and hands, but strictly as a refreshing cleanser and nothing else. It does not do anything but clean the surfaces it is applied to. Thus, it is not intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and is not intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals, as defined by FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1). The original formula contains, as the anchor herbs, extracts of cinnamon leaf, frankincense, lavender buds, and lemongrass leaf essential oils, and as aqueous extracts of eleven complementary herbs, namely oregano leaf, clove buds, black peppercorns, green coffee beans, burdock root, rosemary needles, cassia bark, lavender buds,, catnip leaf, lemon grass, and bay leaves. I later added a tiny amount of thymol, to complement the formula’s basic cleansing functionality.

This product is packaged in 8 oz. and 32 oz.  spray bottles. Users are directed to wash their feet as usual, then spray HabitatBiotics™ LR35 on all foot surfaces and briskly rub it in. The spray dries in less than a minute, leaving behind a faint fragrance of fresh herbs. The user need not wait for the spray to dry before slipping into a favorite pair of Vibram Five Fingers, or donning socks and/or shoes and boots, and thereafter enjoying a full day with fresh, clean, good-smelling feet and footwear.

HabitatBiotics™ LR35 works to cleanse the feet, and ultimately one’s footwear as well. Use it every day, after every foot-washing, and before donning any kind of footwear. It can also be applied directly to the footwear, too, if necessary. However, applications directly to the feet are all that is needed to let the cleansing action of HabitatBiotics™ LR35 go to work.

Of course, good hygiene — in its most general sense — is a necessary accompaniment to the use of any cleansing product or procedure.


— Questions? Comments? Corrections? e-mail the author at jerry.cates@entomobiotics.com.

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