Aromatherapy Is the Real Deal!

lavender aromatherapy

The last time I participated in a health fair, I was situated across from a salesperson representing essential oils made and distributed by a multi-level marketing company. I heard this person repeatedly share some information that simply wasn’t true. It bothers me a lot that trusting consumers would believe the talking points simply because they’re uninformed.

I love essential oils! I encourage people to use them if they wish to do so. But we need to base our choices on science and legitimate information from authentic sources. Full disclosure: I’m not an expert, and this is not an exhaustive report on essential oils. Many websites are dedicated to essential oils and aromatherapy. (A good one to get started with is “Understanding Essential Oils” on Herbal Remedies for Dummies: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-essential-oils.html)

But I guess that’s my point—there are schools devoted to the study of aromatherapy, extensive certification programs, serious societies of practitioners.

Aromatherapy is a branch of herbology. Herbal medicine is humankind’s original healthcare. One could spend a lifetime studying botanical remedies. While they’re in the plants, the oils are like the “blood” of those plants—they deliver nutrients (chemical compounds) within the plant. Using essential oils amounts to the therapeutic application of chemicals. Naturally occurring chemicals, but chemicals nonetheless. For a lay person—including a massage therapist without additional education—to say to someone, “make a tea with this herb,” or “put a drop of this essential oil under your tongue,” is tantamount to practicing medicine without a license.

It’s important to know what you’re doing when you use essential oils. People ask me if they really work. YES, they can really work! In fact, they are very potent. They’re super concentrated—it takes hundreds, in some cases thousands, of pounds of plant parts to make an ounce of essential oil. Some oils can be very toxic if taken internally at too high a dose. Many essential oils have a specific effect. For example, Hyssop is known to raise blood pressure, so a person with high blood pressure would not want to use that one. Ylang ylang can lower blood pressure, so a person with already low blood pressure should avoid it.

They’re called “essential” oils because they contain the fragrant “essence” of the plant. If a company was to dilute the potent, natural oil and simply add fragrance, it would still smell the same. But it would lack the vital life force of the original botanical.

In their purest form, essential oils are very strong. So strong that almost none of them should be put directly on the skin. They can cause burning and irritation. There was a story making its way around social media a while back (with disturbing photographs) about a cat that had spilled cinnamon oil out of a reed diffuser, and had received very serious chemical burns. It was rushed to the vet and made a full recovery. But it would be unwise to take the use of essential oils lightly.

Essential oils are volatile, which means they vaporize or dissipate quickly into the air. This makes it easy for us to inhale them. Usually just inhaling the essential oil is enough to affect change in our bodies by stimulating the olfactory nerve, which sends signals to the brain in a most primitive, effective way. The aroma is the therapy. For example, smelling lavender can be relaxing. Smelling citrus like orange can be invigorating. But remember that essential oils are volatile! So, for example, we should never rub peppermint oil on our temples as a relief for headache pain. Those vaporized particles become airborne and can irritate the eyes. You may have seen or tried a sinus remedy of putting drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of steaming water, and leaning over the bowl with a towel over your head while inhaling the vapor. If you do this, be sure to keep your eyes closed!

Generally when we use essential oils, we put just a few drops in a plug-in diffuser, or on a cotton ball or tissue that is near the nose but not directly on the skin, and enjoy the aroma. To use on the skin, we might add a drop or two to a carrier oil or lotion, or put a couple of drops in a tub of water so that it’s very diluted.

Many essential oils actually kill germs and have a pleasing scent, so many people like to make their own household cleaners and skin care products with them.

As effective as they are, I would be very leery of claims that essential oils can “cure” cancer or scoliosis or any particular disease or condition. Aromatherapy is supportive of optimal health. I have no doubt that used the right way, essential oils can help relieve pain, clear up sinuses, boost our mood and immune systems, help with skin issues or digestive troubles or lots of other things. But I don’t believe they’re a miracle cure.

I’m no expert. I just would urge caution. Do your own research; don’t believe everything you hear!

Category : Blog Posted on June 1, 2016

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