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This section is a vintage collection of opinions on natural remedies by various authors, some who have passed on. For historical reference only. These articles are old. They have not been updated since the early 2000s and are not intended to provide medical information.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Lori Herron

You've had a long day and you're tired.  You want to relax and kick back now that you're finally home. As you walk in the door, you catch a faint scent that makes you feel at ease.  If you're like most people, it's likely a floral scent, or possibly a piney one.  Floral, spices, and pine are popular fragrances for home deodorizers.  Why?

What's the scent that perks you up as you take a shower in the morning?  Faintly spicy soap, crisply floral?  It's likely that you've chosen a particular scent in your soap or shampoo without even realizing what it was, but you do know that it makes you feel a particular way, and that is why you enjoy it.

Medical research has only recently shown what aromatherapists have known for ages:  what we smell has a direct impact on how we feel.  Like the other senses, what we smell is transmitted directly to the brain.  Studies have shown that the aroma of lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the head, which is associated with relaxation. On the other hand, jasmine scent increases beta waves in the front of the head, which has been found to make you feel more alert.

The name of this art is something of a misnomer.  The use of essential oils includes, but is not limited to, inhaling their scent. Aromatherapy  is a system of caring for the body with botanical oils.  Sometimes it is the scent that provides the therapeutic value, and other times it works better to take the essential oil internally or rub it on the skin.  It depends on the nature and severity of the complaint.  Regardless of how the oil is assumed into the body, whether through the skin, the mouth, or the nose, essential oils have long been used to aid in healing.

You can enjoy the benefits of scent by placing a few drops of essential oil in your bath, or placing a drop or so on a scent ring, which sits on a warm light bulb.  There are also lamps and diffusers created specifically for aromatherapy.  When using an oil topically, it is often a good idea to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil such as almond, sesame, or olive.  This diffuses the impact of the oil somewhat, but can also prevent allergic reaction.  Of course, you should always to a small skin test the first time you try something new.  Just apply a small amount ? about the size of a dime ? to the inside of your arm and check it after 24 hours.  If you have no reaction, you should be safe in using the oil elsewhere.  As with many medications, more is not necessarily better.  Use essential oils sparingly and carefully to achieve the maximum benefit.

Here are some common ailments and suggestions for the use of essential oils in treating them.  It would be a good idea to find an aromatherapist to work with in your area so that you can have custom oils mixed properly to achieve the greatest benefit from them.

Allergies:  Try mixing one drop of cypress and one drop of hyssop* in the palm of your hand and then apply the mixture to the back of your tongue every few hours to relieve hay fever symptoms.

Backache:  Mix equal parts:  blue chamomile; birch; rosemary or eucalyptus; ginger or black pepper; lavender; carrier oil.  For example, two drops of each with ? ounce of oil.  Double the essentials, but not the carrier, for severe backache.  Rub into the affected area after a hot bath, when muscles are relaxed and pores are open.

Nausea or stomachache:  Put two drops peppermint oil on a sugar cube and suck the cube slowly.  Or, add a few drops of peppermint oil to hot water and drink as a tea.

Headaches:  Peppermint, inhaled directly from the bottle, or rubbed with a little carrier oil under the nose and at the temples can be very soothing for headaches.

Cuts, scrapes & scratches:  Lavender oil can be applied ?neat? (undiluted) to soothe and help heal minor cuts and abrasions.

Anxiety:  Lavender, bergamot, melissa, geranium, and ylang-ylang are great for calming frazzled nerves.  Even better is mixing three or four together.  Add to a bath, use in a scent lamp, or massage into the skin with a carrier oil.

Sleep aids:  Marjoram*, lavender and ylang-ylang in a warm bath can be soothing before bedtime and help with sleep.  Or, try putting a few drops each of lavender, marjoram*, chamomile, mugwort*, and rum on your pillow (or a special sleep pillow).

Colds or flu:  Blend three parts ravensare, one part naiouli or eucalyptus, one part lemon, one part rosewood, and one part lavender.  Add about 50 drops of this mixture to a diffuser, or add 6-8 drops to a bowl of just boiled water, place a towel over your head, bend over the bowl and inhale.

Stress:  Lavender and sage* are very relaxing (the florals and pines we love so!).  If you have a long commute, place a few drops of each on a tissue and leave on the dashboard so the sun can warm it and diffuse it into the air of the car.  By the time you get home, you should feel much better!

Arthritis:  Add 10 drops each of rosemary and chamomile to a warm bath and soak for 10 minutes.

There are many other essential oils, for treating everything from acne to high blood pressure to depression.  Most oils are not harmful if inhaled, but some caution should be used before applying topically, and do not take any essential oil internally without the advice of a skilled professional.

*A special warning for pregnant women:  Calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage and wintergreen can induce miscarriage when taken internally, but even using them externally or inhaling them is strongly discouraged.  Basil, hyssop, myrrh, marjoram and thyme can also cause adverse reactions and should be avoided as well.
  Copyright 1996, 1998 by Lori Herron and Alternative Nature
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