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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Essential Oils – Something Old is New Again

By Tracy Thomas

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Mention essential oils to most people, and they’ll immediately assume that it’s associated with other new age therapies, like using magnets and healing crystals.  What you may not realize is that essential oils are not new.  In fact, they have been used for thousands of years among various cultures who realized their medicinal properties.  Just like modern medicines, essential oils exhibit a number of proven therapeutic properties, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. 

Since the time of the pyramid builders some 5,000 years ago, when the Egyptians used to create essential oils by soaking a variety of plants in oil before filtering the liquid through linen bags, these healing oils have been utilized as medicines, beauty aids, and cleaning products.  While the technology used to manufacture, essential oils has evolved over the past five millennia, their benefits remain the same.


If you want to get technical, essential oils aren’t oils at all.  They are in fact highly concentrated plant extracts.  Of the 700 different kinds of plants currently known to contain essential oils, most of the “oil” is found in the plant’s glands, veins and hair.  To process the oil, the plants must be harvested the right way and at the right time.  Harvest the wrong parts, manhandle the plants, or even harvest them at the wrong time and the quantity and quality of the oil produced will be diminished.  This is a perishable commodity that if left stored too long can affect their medicinal properties. On top of that, essential oils have as much in common with moonshine as medicine, since they are produced using a still.

Just as there are many different kinds of essential oils, there are also many different uses for them.  Tired of keeping hazardous chemical cleaners inside your cabinets?  No problem.  A few drops of lemon oil and tea tree oil diluted in a few ounces of warm water makes a great kitchen counter cleaner.  Looking to eliminate shower scum?  Four drops each of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil mixed with 16 ounces of warm water makes a great bathroom spray that has natural mold killing properties.  Commercial Bug sprays have you bugged?  A simple mixture of orange essential oil and clove oil will kill bugs on contact.  You can also make a natural mosquito repellent by combining one drop each of lemongrass oil, citronella oil and eucalyptus oil with one teaspoon of coconut oil.

While there are hundreds of household uses for essential oils, the reason most people are drawn to them are due to their therapeutic properties.  Unlike medicinal plant ointments such as Aloe Vera, essential oils are not made to be applied directly to the skin. Nor are most meant to be ingested.  To release the genie from the essential oil bottle, you simply need to dilute them in water.  This can be done by tossing a couple of drops in your bathwater, or by using a diffuser.  You can even put a drop or two on a cotton ball and allow it to slowly evaporate.

Image courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Just as the familiar smell of a certain perfume or cookies in the oven reminds you of your mother, the aroma of essential oils can help jumpstart everything from sleep to digestion.  They can also help you deal with stress, allergies, depression, headaches, heartburn, and seasickness.  Anything inhaled, quickly makes its way to the lungs where it interacts with the respiratory system.  Even while still in the nose, these aroma molecules can affect the brain by attaching to known cerebral receptor sites.  One of these connections is to the limbic system, which in turn influences everything from blood pressure and heart rate, to stress levels and hormone balance. 

The secret to generating the desired result is to know which oils to use for a given condition. 

Got Stress?  The scent of lavender oil has been shown to reduce the stress hormone levels in the blood.  A couple of drops in your bath or a drop on your pillow before you go to bed is a great way to end the day

Need to pull an all-nighter? Peppermint stimulates the mind and promotes mental alertness.  (I wish I had known this when I was in college.)

Need to detox?  Lemon oil can not only be used to help detoxify the body, but it can help keep fleas off your pets.

Want to say goodbye to jet lag?  Grapefruit essential oil is a great remedy for exhaustion. 

Coming down with a cold? Eucalyptus not only helps you clear congestion,  it also has a number of antibacterial properties and has been shown to help boost the immune system.

Clove oil aids in cardio health. 

Cardamom essential oil supports digestion. 

By combining different essential oils, many other conditions can be treated.  However, it is important that anyone interested in trying essential oils, knows two things up front: 
  1.         Not all essential oils are created equal.
  2.         Being highly concentrated, they can be misused.

Unless you are using them as a household cleaner, you want to purchase therapeutic grade essential oils.  A perfume-grade essential oil may have only been distilled for 15 minutes, whereas therapeutic grade may be distilled for an hour or more, which ensures all the chemical constituents are present in the oil. 

While these products smell like perfume, don’t let that fool you.  They are highly concentrated chemical compounds that shouldn’t be mishandled or misapplied.  Always dilute your essential oils before using them.  They are also not water soluble, which means if you spill some on your skin accidentally, water won’t wash it off.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Above all, my advice is that you consult with a trained aromatherapy professional before you start dabbling with essential oils.  Not only will a professional be able to tell you which kinds of essential oils you should use to help you deal with a given situation, he or she can also make sure you purchase essential oils that were properly distilled by a respected producer.   The last thing you want to do is purchase a product that is adulterated.  Just as there were thousands of snake oil salesmen a hundred years ago who touted elixirs of questionable efficacy, there are all too many companies in the essential oil business who have little or no quality control. 

So, be wary of bargain basement essential oils.  And remember, something old is new again.


 Tracy Thomas is the Vice President of Vibrant Life Health Center. Tracy’s personal experience with chiropractic and nutrition has allowed her to watch many life changing transformations.  This is what drives her complete passion to devote her life to the mission of true Health & Wellness. Tracy’s life was changed drastically over 15 years ago and  her intensive transformation stands as a testimony to the life changing value of what we do at Vibrant Life Health Center today.   Tracy’s passion to educate families is what drives her on a daily basis! Being married to Dr. Jon for 18 years and raising 4 children has allowed her to continue to grow and master her holistic skills. Her family shares in the joy of Health and Wellness as she has made it a priority to pass on her wisdom of healthy living to her family and everyone who knows her. For fun Tracy loves scrapbooking, taking Sunday trips with her husband, reading and photography.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't realize that essential oiIs have been around since the Pharoahs. wonder what Cleopatra would have had to say?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's amazing how what once was in, is now in again. Actually, Essential oils have always been in if your were in the know. But don't be fooled by the mass marketers, find a knowledgeable practitioner and let them guide you to success.

    ReplyDelete