God’s Gift: The Power and Versatility of Essential Oils, Part 1
God’s Gift: The Power and Versatility of Essential Oils, Part 1

God’s Gift: The Power and Versatility of Essential Oils, Part 1

Aromatherapy   /   Dec 29th, 2021   /  A+ | a-

Part 1: Chronic Health Conditions

 

This blog post was written by Victoria L. Freeman, Ph.D., CHFS, CMH.

 

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. ~ Genesis 1:11-12 NIV

 

Ever since God spoke them into existence, plants have played a vital role in Earth’s ecosystem. Later on, plants began to play an important role in our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In modern medicine, most prescription drugs are derived from naturally occurring compounds found in the flowers, roots, bark, seeds, and foliage of jungles, forests, and wilderness areas all over the world.

 

Essential oils (EOs), which are the aromatic, volatile liquids within many trees, roots, bushes, flowers, and seeds, have been used successfully for centuries to combat bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They have also been used to counteract snake and insect bites and even to support tissue and nerve regeneration. Richly complex, essential oils can contain hundreds of chemical compounds. It’s important to note that EOs are more potent than dried herbs and are highly concentrated due to the distillation process through which they’re made. Their concentration and potency stem from the fact that it takes an immense volume of plant material to make even a small quantity of distilled essential oil. For example, 5,000 pounds of rose petals are used to produce one kilo of rose oil!7  

 

Essential Oils Have a Rich History

 

Across the centuries, healing traditions have incorporated essential oils into their health-promoting practices for a simple yet powerful reason: they work. As far back as 4,500 BC, records from ancient civilizations indicate that “balsamic substances with aromatic properties” were used for religious and medicinal purposes.7 Ancient writings tell of scented barks, resins, and spices that were used in rituals, temples, astrology, embalming, and other aspects of healthcare. Hieroglyphics on the walls of Egyptian temples show the blending of oils and describe numerous oil recipes.7 At least 33 specific EOs and oil-producing plants are mentioned in the Bible, and there are over 600 references in the Bible to essential oils or the aromatic plants from which they were extracted.1

 

So, as modern-day essential oil enthusiasts, we’re in good company! Natural health practitioners worldwide currently turn to EOs in a variety of ways for a vast array of conditions. We can’t cover them all here, but we have selected three aspects of natural healthcare that rely heavily on essential oils to be presented in a three-part blog series. For this installment in Part 1, we’ll discuss some basics of essential oil use applicable across the entire series and how natural health practitioners incorporate oils while supporting clients with certain chronic health conditions. In Part 2, we’ll present the Ayurvedic approach to essential oil use, and in Part 3, we’ll discuss how Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy suggests EOs can support balance and encourage health.

 

A Few Essential Oil Basics

 

Safety first

“Experienced essential oil users and newbies alike need to understand how powerful essential oils are,” says Trinity’s own Beth Hovis, BCND, BCMH, CNHP, and instructor in several Trinity programs, including the Certified Aromatherapy Program. “Many times we hear, ‘essential oils are natural, so they aren’t harmful,’” Hovis says. But this thinking leads to people using essential oils without the respect and caution they deserve. Essential oils can and do help support recovery in many health conditions when used properly, but their improper use can also do harm, she cautions.

 

Of particular concern is the use of EOs in children. For example, Hovis reports that topical use of EOs in children is not recommended until after the age of 2, and any oils considered dermal irritants, sensitizers, or phototoxic should not be used on children at all. Seek the advice of a qualified practitioner when working with young clients or anyone who has major health concerns or allergies.

 

If you’re taking medications, Hovis says, always check for possible interactions or contraindications since some essential oils can enhance the effects of medications. Furthermore, some can reduce or even completely negate their impact. Check with a knowledgeable practitioner as some oils should not be used at all during pregnancy and lactation. Additionally, some oils should be completely avoided by those experiencing epileptic seizures.

 

A final note on safety: don’t over-diffuse essential oils, recommends Hovis. Due to the potential to become sensitized, multiple short exposures, for example, 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day, is better than letting a diffuser run for hours.

 

Dilution rates and carrier oils

 

“Always dilute your oils,” cautions Hovis. For healthy adults, when applying topically, a general rule of thumb is for delicate populations (e.g., elderly, infirmed, pregnant) to start with a 1% dilution rate with a carrier oil (5-6 drops of EO to 1 ounce of carrier oil). With growing stamina and for generally healthy people, a 2% dilution rate (i.e. 10-12 drops of EO to 1 ounce of carrier oil) works well. A possible exception would be when targeting a small surface area for a brief time, as when temporarily addressing sore muscles. In that case, a dilution rate of up to 5% may be appropriate. Choose your carrier oil based on personal preference and what works best for your body. Coconut, almond, jojoba, olive, argan, avocado, and grapeseed oils are some popular carriers. Always start with a skin patch test by applying the diluted mixture to a small area of skin to check for sensitivity. During the skin patch test, also assess how the skin feels and eliminate any essential or carrier oils that elicit a negative skin reaction or aren’t appealing in terms of absorption rate or fragrance.

 

For diffusing, a good starting point is 1 drop of EO to 1 ounce of water. Oral intake guidelines are beyond the scope of this article, so consult a qualified practitioner for additional information.

 

Essential Oil Use with Chronic Health Challenges

 

Allopathic medicine is generally effective with acute conditions, such as infections and injuries, whereas holistic health approaches are often beneficial for overall wellness. Natural health modalities, such as essential oils, can also effectively support long-term health challenges. As examples and for the sake of brevity, we’ll limit our discussion of essential oil use with chronic conditions in these three areas: fibromyalgia, respiratory disorders, and blood sugar imbalance.

 

Fibromyalgia

The results of a recent collaborative study among King’s College London, the University of Liverpool, and the Karolinska Institute strongly suggest that fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is an autoimmune condition “… caused by antibodies that increase the activity of pain-sensing nerves throughout the body.”2,6 Researchers reported the defining characteristics of fibromyalgia, including increased pain sensitivity, muscle weakness, reduced movement, and reduced number of small nerve fibers in the skin, are all linked to the individual’s antibody levels.

 

Knowing this autoimmune connection, many people with FMS may be reluctant to use anything that supports the immune system, Hovis explains. But most essential oils that support the immune system target the “bad guys,” like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so oils falling into these categories (antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial) should be safe for people with FMS when supporting immune system function, she says. Just begin low and slow.

 

Since FMS affects nerves and muscles, oils that support the nervous system and musculoskeletal system are good choices. Here are Hovis’ recommendations:

 

 Frankincense  
 An analgesic (relieves pain) that helps with inflammation
 Copaiba
 An anti-inflammatory useful for swelling and pain
 Lavender
 An analgesic helpful for pain caused by tension and stress
 Peppermint
 A cooling analgesic, useful in the presence of heat
 Clove, Ginger, Black Pepper 
 Promote circulation and bring warmth

 

Respiratory disorders

Chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes bronchitis and emphysema, are the fourth leading cause of death in America, and COPD is the third leading cause of death globally.9 So, it’s clear that the importance of breath cannot be overstated. Efficient breathing brings oxygen to every cell in our bodies, and without that oxygen, we cannot survive.

 

Viruses and bacteria are behind many acute respiratory challenges, like sinus infections, the flu, and pneumonia, but those are outside the scope of this article. Still, it’s important to note that several essential oils can help with those short-term health conditions. Focusing our attention on the symptoms shared by chronic respiratory disorders, like shortness of breath, coughing, and congested airways, Hovis recommends the following essential oils for respiratory support.

 

 FOR CHILDREN
 
 Frankincense
 Opens airways, helps with coughs and inflammation
 Conifers like fir and pine (cap test by lightly smelling the EO   lid to evaluate for sensitivity before use)
 Helps with easier breathing
 Cedarwood
 Both a decongestant and expectorant
 Eucalyptus (Children under age 10: Do not use near face or   chest. Dilution rate of 1% or less can be used on the bottom   of children’s feet.)
 Due to the 1,8-cineole* content, it is anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator,   antiviral, and antimicrobial, as well as an antioxidant
 German chamomile
 Antibacterial, antioxidant, strengthens immune system, analgesic (relieves   pain), nervine (relaxing), antispasmodic (reduces coughing), and a febrifuge   (reduces fever)
 Lavender
 Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, nervine, and   helps with sleep
 FOR ADULTS
 
 All the same oils and actions as for children
 
 Oils high in camphor-like spike lavender and rosemary
 Relieves congested airways and boosts circulation
 Other oils high in 1,8-cineole such as peppermint,   cardamon, and rosemary
 Due to the 1,8-cineole content, they are anti-inflammatory,   bronchodilatory, antiviral,   and antimicrobial, as well as antioxidants

 

*1,8-cineole, a.k.a. Eucalyptol, is a plant compound with a cool, camphor-like odor found in many essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, and turmeric. It has clinically proven mucolytic, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant actions on the respiratory tract.4

 

Blood sugar balancing

Essential oil aromatherapy used as an integrative component of wellness programs has a lot to offer for blood sugar imbalances, with some oils supporting insulin response and others targeting symptoms associated with diabetes. Often a greater synergistic effect results from a combination of oils than can be obtained from using them individually.9

 

Here are Hovis’ essential oil picks for supporting a healthy blood sugar balance.

 

 Cinnamon Bark   
 Supports pancreatic function and lowers blood glucose9
 Fennel
 Lowers blood glucose and has antioxidant effects3,5
 Melissa
 Increases cell glucose consumption (which removes it from the bloodstream) and slows fat accumulation
 Oregano
 Exhibits high alpha-glucosidase inhibition activity (inhibits digestion of carbohydrates)8

 

Some Final Thoughts

 

A results-based timeline with essential oils varies depending on individual biochemistry, health status, the specific health issue, the body system being supported, the quality of the oil used, and how the oil is used, according to Hovis. A possible time range is 24 hours up to a week. So, be patient as the effect of natural remedies is often not immediate.

 

Hovis suggests using oils until results are achieved and then stopping. Once they start working, though, the improvements don’t necessarily end when you discontinue use. Also, consider rotating oils that have similar effects to avoid sensitization to a single oil. If symptoms return after you stop using an oil, then Hovis says it probably means the foundations of health need to be addressed. “While aromatherapy is a lovely tool to help support and nurture health, it can’t make up for improper health choices.”

 

References

1.     Axe, J. (2019, December 20). Bible Oils: 12 Most Revered Oils and Their Historic Uses. https://draxe.com/essential-oils/bible-oils/

2.     Goebel, A., et al. (2021). Passive transfer of fibromyalgia symptoms from patients to mice. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 131(13). DOI: 10.1172/JCI144201

3.     Javadi, S. et al. (2008). The Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill (Fennel) Essential Oil on Blood Glucose in Rats. Plant Sciences Research, 1(3):47-49. https://medwelljournals.com/abstract/?doi=psres.2008.47.49

4.     Juergens, U.R. (2014). Anti-inflammatory properties of the monoterpene 1.8-coneole: Current evidence for c0-medication in inflammatory airway disease. Drug Research, 64(12):638-646. DOI: 10.1055/s-0034-1372609

5.     Kerns, M. (2011). Fennel & Diabetes. https://healthfully.com/418049-fennel-diabetes.html.

6.     King's College London. (2021, July 1). Fibromyalgia likely the result of autoimmune problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 18, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210701120703.htm

7.     (No author). Essential Oils Pocket Reference, Seventh Edition. (2016). Life Science Products & Publishing: United States of America. https://www.mylsp.com/

8.     The North American Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Experts. No date. Essential Oils for Diabetes – Type 1, Type 2, & Diabetic Neuropathy. https://essentialoilexperts.com/essential-oils-for-diabetes/

9.     Zielinski, E. and Zielinski, S.A. (2021). The Essential Oils Apothecary: Advanced Strategies and Protocols for Chronic Disease and Conditions. Rodale: New York, NY.

 

 

About the Author:

 

Victoria L. Freeman, Ph.D., CHFS, CMH has traveled a long and winding professional road that includes working as a teenage fine artist, later a  personal trainer and wellness coach, a college professor and administrator in exercise science and education, a freelance natural health and fitness writer for national magazines, a property manager and interior designer for vacation and executive rental properties and most recently returning to the natural health arena while attending Trinity School of Natural Health to become a Certified Holistic Fitness Specialist and a Certified Master Herbalist.


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