By Tara Daye, PTS/FIS
As a student of alive Academy nutrition, I am getting the opportunity to exploring all sorts of alternative therapies and modalities including the use of essential oils.
Essential oils, also known as volatile oils, are extractions from plants that are potent and powerful smelling. Oils can be used to treat everything from coughs and colds to heart problems. Plants that contain essential oils may also have the ability to stimulate the immune system and are known for their capabilities of being antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. Essential oils and can be used in their pure forms or in blends. Some blends can contain up to as many as 50 different oils and not many are used undiluted, with the exception of lavender and tea tree oil which are skin-friendly. As with any treatment, be sure not to mix with doctor-prescribed medications. Oils are categorized based on their purpose and aroma: uplifting & stimulating oils such as lemon or cinnamon, warm & mellow oils that help with body functioning and metabolism like lavender and chamomile, and also deep and relaxing oils, for example sage and frankincense, of which some have history in ceremony and religious use.
How do essential oils work? Our brain responds to odours by producing electrical responses that directly affect our digestive system, emotional behavior, and the sexual system. The very small molecules are able to penetrate the skin and pass through the capillaries and into the blood through cell walls. The oils contain natural hormones, vitamins, antibiotics and antiseptic. Many problems can be aided with the use of oils such as stress, digestive issues, colds, flu, skin problems, and some aches and pains.
The following four oils are considered to be the most versatile of essential oils:
Camomile (Matricaria chamomilla): has a soothing affect and can be used to treat skin conditions, aches and pains, conjunctivitis, and sore eyes.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus australiana or radiata): an effective decongestant indicated for respiratory problems, colds and flus, and aches and pains.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): known for antiseptic and soothing qualities, this oil may alleviate headaches, insomnia, indigestion, colds, flus, depression, premenstrual pain, insect bites, stings, sunburn, and boils.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): Tea Tree is an antiseptic and antifungal used to treat sore throats, cuts, acne, athlete’s foot, and can combat the spread of colds and flus.
Other common oils include clary age, everlast, geranium, mandarin, neroli, peppermint, rosemary, ylang-ylang to name just a few.
Where we are on the cusp of spring and allergy season, here are a few remedies that may be useful if you are experiencing allergy symptoms: Itchy watery eyes: put 4 to 6 drops of camomile oil with 7 oz (200 ml) of pure water in a spray bottle. Spray cotton pads liberally and apply to the eyes 2 to 3 times a day. To relieve itching: put 6 to 8 drops in a bath to calm you and your allergy symptoms. Congestion and sinus woes: mix a few drops of Frankincense with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed oil, and apply a bit under the nose and just over the sinuses or inhale through steam or a bath. Mucus: Thyme oil in a diffuser can break up thin mucus and can act as an anti-inflammatory stimulating the body’s natural resistance to allergens.
Essential Oils are a great, natural way to combat some common ailments and conditions. Botanical medicine has a long history in many traditions dating back thousands of years. To be sure a product is safe, try a patch test first – mix with a carrier oil such as grapeseed or coconut oil and apply 1 drop to the back of your wrist/hand. Wait one hour, if irritation occurs wash off with cold water and discontinue use.
If you plan to try essential oils, be sure to talk to a qualified practitioner with experience in the field before making your choices.
There are many great companies offering essential oils. Young Living products are available through Lifestyles Health & Fitness and locally, we highly recommend Drops of Mercy owned and operated by Joyce Lee and located in Saint John.