Therapeutic use of essential oils in the alternative health and wellness arena is on the rise; more and more people are venturing beyond mainstream ‘aroma’ therapy and finding the value in pure, therapeautic grade volitile plant oils. Education regarding the efficacy of essential oils in treating certain illness has been hard to come by in the US, a symptom of much of the natural health, fitness and wellness industry. There is, in fact, legislation floating around Congress to limit your access to natural medicines, which may include essential oils. Why? Because the pharmaceutical companies in the highest-profit industry on earth, want your business. This is one reason Aromatherapy has not gotten beyond the ‘aroma’ part, and why essential oils have yet to take their proper place in your holistic medical care. But they should, and here’s a few reasons why…
The term Aromatherapy was coined by a French scientist after accidentally discovering the remarkable healing effects of Lavender oil on burns sustained in the lab. He had thrust his burning hands into a vat of Lavender oil, finding the wounds to heal extremely quickly. Further investigation lead to his book, Aromatherapie, and the modern medical use of essential oils began. Aromatherapy refers simply to the branch of medicine utilizing volatile aromatic compounds naturally distilled from plants. Essential oils can be as effective as any other natural remedy when employed with proper knowledge and skill. In fact, many pharmaceutical drugs are plant extracts manipulated to give the inventor patent protection on their formulation. But essential oils cannot be patented – ANYone with the right tools and know-how can produce them. At the same time, there is no major lobbying effort underway to educate the public about their medicinal properties – likely the reason America has not gone beyond ‘aroma’ to ‘therapy’ with essential oils.
The dichotomy of deriding aromatherapy for it’s unfounded healing potentials and extolling its virtues as effective medicine is curious. Take the recent ‘proof’ of enteric-coated capsules of Peppermint essential oil being extremely effective in treating the sometimes debilitating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. IBS is a result of unchecked growth of ‘unfriendly’ bacterial in a weakened digestive system. Western medicine has been hard-pressed to find a safe and effective long-term treatment. Enter the steam distilled essential oil of whole peppermint herb – taken in capsules as to be well tolerated by those with sensitive stomachs, and to be released in the region of most effect – the intestines. The treatment has been widely accepted mostly due to it’s ‘proven’ efficacy in controlled studies. Peppermint has the wonderful result of eliminating the disease-causing microorganisms, while leaving the natural and healthy ‘bugs’ in the digestive system to do their job.
Another widely-published effect of a particular essential oil is that of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) for the treatment of oral and genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus, or HSV, is one that a patient is thought to have to live with for the rest of their lives once contracted. The virus remains dormant in the nervous system until times of stress reduce immune system function enough to allow recurrence of painful sores and legions. It’s not fun, nor is it considered ‘curable’ by the American medical establishment. However, in many university studies performed in Germany, Lemon Balm (as well as other combinations of essential oils containing the same ant-viral compounds) has been shown very effective at reducing the pain, duration, and frequency of outbreaks through topical application. One professor has even proclaimed that repeated use before and during outbreaks can lead to complete remission of the disease. Again, Aromatherapy to the rescue!
The ‘aroma’ therapeutic effects of essential oils are not to be overlooked, however. As the importance of the mind-body connection is developed in conventional medicine, natural medicine has taken it into account all along. And the connection between the olfactory sense and the emotional centers of the brain are a strong one – more direct than any other of the five senses. Many studies have resulted with participants noting improved moods, sharper minds and lowered stress levels after inhaling essential oils. Lavender is well documented in its effects for improving sleep and bringing a sense of relaxation without sedation. As research continues, we’ll be reading more and more about the true therapeutic effects of smells, and the synergistic psychological and physiological effects of essential oils.
Aromatherapy is certainly not a cure all, but like any medical specialty, should be used when appropriate by knowledgeable patients and practitioners. How do you learn to use Aromatherapy most effectively for yourself? Education is the way! There are many wonderful, well-written books on the subject of medicinal usage of essential oils; of particular note are those by Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt: Advanced Aromatherapy and Medical Aromatherapy; also Jane Buckle’s Clinical Aromatherapy, and any publication by Robert Tisserand. These books can open a whole new world of alternative health and wellness, giving you more options to control your health care decisions than ever before. If in need, find a qualified, degreed practitioner – and remember, always consult a medical professional for any serious injury or illness. In some cases, aromatherapy can be used to as an adjunct to other treatments – discuss this with your doctor. Finally, there’s little harm in simply getting started with essential oils – learn, buy yourself some nice oils, and have fun!