January 20, 2017

Top 10 Essential Oils

 

The use of essential oils is based in a practice called aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses volatile (quick to evaporate) aromatic plant oils to bring about spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Essential oils provide healing in many ways including:

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Penetrating cell walls to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • Neutralizing free radicals with antioxidant properties
  • Killing bacteria, viruses and fungi[1]
  • Detoxifying cells in the body
  • Passing the blood-brain barrier to treat neurological issues
  • Increasing ozone and negative ions in the air
  • Raising the frequency of the human body. This fights disease and brings balance the physical, emotional, and spiritual health.[2]
  • Acting on the central nervous system. Oils can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress and also bring focus and alertness.
  • Bringing relief to pain and inflammation

Essential oils are not the same as fragrance or perfume. They are naturally potent medicines with constituents based in chemistry. Made of hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds, essential oils have the potential to be as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs. This is why safely using these powerful and effective oils is so important!

There are three primary and safe methods of essential oil use:

  • Inhalation
  • Topical
  • Internal

Inhalation of Essential Oils

The inhalation of oils is most effective on the central nervous system. When inhaling essential oils, the volatile molecules become a vapor. This vapor travels to the top of the nasal cavity and meet the olfactory mucous membrane. The olfactory membrane has thousands of sensory receptors to:

  • Identify the smell.
  • Convert the smell to an electrical charge.
  • Send the frequency to the olfactory bulb.

Inhaling Essential Oils CanThe olfactory bulb then sends those charged impulses to different parts of the brain, including the limbic system.

The limbic system includes parts of the brain that control emotional and psychological responses. Once the charge reaches the limbic region, it stimulates the hypothalamus and continues to the autonomic nervous system or pituitary gland. Once the charge reaches the autonomic nervous system, it can affect body functions such as heart rate and digestion. Its effects on the pituitary gland can initiate hormonal activity in the body.

Through the process of inhalation, essential oils have the capacity to:

  • Heal emotional trauma
  • Stimulate memory
  • Enhance focus and learning
  • Decrease stress levels
  • Balance hormones
  • And much more!

The entire process from inhalation to response from the brain takes place in a matter of seconds![3] The oils also reach the bloodstream during inhalation via the nasal mucosa and the alveoli in the lungs. Certain oils, eucalyptus for example, can also have a direct effect on the lungs.

When inhaled, eucalyptus acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and expectorant. Click to Tweet.

Inhalation can be performed using an essential oil diffuser or an inhaler. Another way that essential oils enter the body is inhalation through the nose or mouth. Diffusers are also an excellent way:

  • To neutralize odors
  • Kill airborne bacteria and viruses
  • Increase ozone in the air

I recommend using ultrasonic diffusers. They are the most effective at creating a fine mist of aromatic molecules. This inexpensive diffuser from NOW is a great introductory diffuser for a great price!

Applying diluted essential oil to the skin through a body oil or lotion is also a great way to incorporate the benefits of both inhalation and topical application.

Topical Use of Essential Oils

Topical application quickly gets the oils into the bloodstream by bypassing the digestive system. When applied to the skin, essential oil molecules pass through dermis of the skin, into the capillaries and then into the bloodstream.

Essential oils can be quickly absorbed through the feet. The feet contain bundles of nerve endings. These nerve endings act as neuroelectrical pathways to different organs throughout the body. Applying oils to the corresponding points on the feet allows healing to reach the particular affected organ.

For example, if you are nauseous, then apply peppermint to the stomach and intestinal locations on the feet.

To induce sleep and relax your mind, apply lavender to the brain’s location on the big toe. Click to Tweet.

Applying certain essential oils, such as peppermint, close to the chest or face of a small child is strongly discouraged due to risk of bronchospasm. Applying essential oils (always diluted) to their feet instead is a great, safer way for small children to get the topical benefits of essential oils.

Foot reflexology chart description

Using a reflexology or vita flex chart gives you a visual mapping of where to apply the oils on the feet to treat a particular organ. Other great application points are:

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Essential Oil Studies and The Sense of Smell

Apple pie fresh out of the oven, lilacs in bloom, sunbaked pine needles on a forest floor, bread baking—all these delicious aromas evoke pleasant memories and a sense of well-being for me. You could probably identify your favorite scents as well.

Of all our senses, smell has the strongest ties to memory. But our sense of smell also serves as an early warning system. Have you ever pulled a container of leftovers out of the fridge, popped the lid off, took a whiff and thought, “That doesn’t smell right!”? Our sense of smell can alert us to a natural gas leak, or assault us with the news that it’s time to change junior’s diaper.

Without our sense of smell, we wouldn’t be able to taste. That’s why we don’t want to put into our mouths that we can’t get past our nose. (Limburger cheese, anyone?) The sense of smell plays into our enjoyment of life, many physical responses, our motivations, the way we learn, and mood.[1]

Is it any wonder, then, that we might benefit from aromatherapy, a complementary alternative medicine that’s so strongly tied to the sense of smell? Of course, aromatherapy extends beyond the olfactory nerves, especially when applied topically. But we could still argue that even in those applications, the aroma of that essential oil continues to play a lead role in its effectiveness.

Studies on Essential Oils Exist, but are Difficult to Stage

Remember when your mother would massage your chest with Vick’s Vaporub to help sooth congestion from a nasty cold? Was it the aroma; the warm, gentle massage; or the loving care of your mother that you found so soothing? Probably all three!

This example begins to get at the problem of designing clinical tests to demonstrate the effectiveness of an essential oil. As with the example of Vick’s Vaporub, when evaluating a complementary therapy, it’s not always easy to tell which part of the therapy played which role.

Second, when trying to determine the efficacy of a new drug, researchers will often create a “blind” study involving two like groups: a control group receives a placebo and a test group receives the drug. But with essential oils, this methodology is very difficult to pull off.[2]

thyme EO stops snoringAlso, essential oils are not standardized in their chemistry. The region, its soil, climate, and extraction methods all play into the chemical makeup of an essential oil. At this time, the International Standards Organization has set criteria for essential oils that measure a range of acceptable concentrations for their primary chemistries.[3]

Another difficulty with testing essential oils is the fact that individuals sometimes respond differently to the same oil. This is true of synthetic drugs as well. For instance, when I was a child my father smoked a pipe for a while. To this day, when I smell a certain pipe tobacco, it stimulates fond memories of my dad. But for others, the smell of pipe smoke may dredge up unpleasant memories, rendering the odor repugnant.

Finally, funding for research on essential oils is difficult to come by. Most major drug research is conducted by major pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit from the sales of that drug. These companies have little motivation to fund a study on a plant-based substance that cannot be patented and sold as proprietary.[4]

Still, there are numerous studies available on a broad selection of essential oils. In a blog article on lemon essential oil, Dr. Axe notes that at the time of his writing, he had found 519 scientific studies referring to lemon essential oils alone![5] So the studies are out there.

A Natural Remedy Approach to Essential Oils

Granted, we all like to read that something is backed up by scientific evidence. However, I know that when a trusted relative or friend tells us about a home remedy that worked for them, we generally accept their testimonial and may try the remedy ourselves.

thyme essential oils stops snoringLet me give you an example. Until recently, I knew nothing about essential oils. However, I did know that our youngest son snores like a sailor and sometimes his snoring drives his young wife from their bed. She finally had had enough of it and began looking for a remedy.

She read that thyme essential oil, when mixed with a carrier-oil and rubbed onto the feet before bed, stops the person from snoring. She ordered thyme oil and convinced her husband to try it. That night he mixed the oils, rubbed the mixture onto his feet and put socks on. He slept like a baby—NO SNORING! It has worked every night since. What can I say? I’m a believer.

Talk to people who use essential oils successfully and prudently. My guess is that asking an essential oil salesperson what oils to use is like asking a barber if you need a haircut. So ask someone you know, like and trust. Try out what they recommend and see if it works for you. But remember, not every solution works for everyone in the same way.

This way you can build your own experiences with essential oils and pass your knowledge on to others…but not your sense of smell. 🙂

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.
Sources:
[1] Piet Vroon, Anton van Amerongen and Hans de Vries, Smell, The Secret Seducer, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/v/vroon-smell.html.
[2] University of Minnesota, “What Does the Research Say about Essential Oils?” nd, http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/what-does-research-say-about-essential-oils.
[3] University of Minnesota.
[4] University of Minnesota.
[5] Dr. Axe, “Top 10 Lemon Essential Oil Uses and Benefits,” nd, http://draxe.com/lemon-essential-oil-uses-benefits/.

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