Carolyn DeMarco, MD
Aromatherapy is a potent and effective branch of natural medicine that is barely recognized in North America. In Europe, medical doctors prescribe pure oils for a wide variety of medical conditions.
Aromatherapy is a potent and effective branch of natural medicine that is barely recognized in North America. In Europe, medical doctors prescribe pure oils for a wide variety of medical conditions. They are used orally, topically by inhalation, and as suppositories.
In England, hospital staff administer essential oil massage to relieve pain and induce sleep. Some hospitals also use lemon, lavender, and lemongrass essential oils as antiseptics, to reduce transmission of airborne infectious diseases.
Many essential oils are strongly antibacterial and antiviral. Thyme oil, for example, was traditionally used as a disinfectant in hospitals and is still the active ingredient in Listerine. Cinnamon and oregano essential oils, according to French researcher Dr. Jean C. Lapraz, eliminate bacteria and viruses. The true future of essential oils may be in combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other bugs resistant to conventional treatment.
In the meantime, though, we can use essential oils to regulate the limbic system in the brain and control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. Other essential oils improve adrenal function, balance thyroid function, aid digestive problems, and clear sinus and chest congestion.
"The oils exert much of their therapeutic effect through pharmacological properties and small molecular size," says Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy and a world leader in the field. "This makes them one of the few therapeutic agents to easily penetrate bodily tissues."
Over 200 types of oils with several thousand chemical constituents have been identified. The eugenol found in cinnamon, clove, and basil is antiseptic, stimulating, and acts as a local anaesthetic. The esters found in lavender, rose, and geranium are calming and sedating. The phenols found in oregano, as well as those in thyme, are antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic. And the sesquiterpenes in sandalwood, cedarwood, and frankincense sooth inflamed tissue, stimulate the immune system, and cross the blood brain barrier to improve brain function.
Lavender has been shown to be highly effective for burns. It also has a calming effect and induces alpha waves in the brain. Diluted tea tree oil is effective for trichomonas vaginal infections, and peppermint oil is useful for treating irritable bowel syndrome and in improving cognitive function in classrooms.
Get the Real Thing
The most important thing about using essential oils is to make sure they are of the highest quality. Pure essential oils are expensive. Oils must be extracted through low pressure and low temperature to preserves all their fragile constituents. Each batch is then thoroughly analyzed to meet European and World standards for therapeutic grade oils.
"The biggest scam being perpetrated on the North American continent has been the scam of adulterated and synthetic oils being marketed as pure essential oils," Young asserts. Lavender is being replaced with a hybrid named lavendin, which is heated to high temperatures and then diluted with synthetic fragrance. Synthetic or adulterated frankincense oil, for example, can cause rashes, burns, and other irritations. It contains none of the powerful therapeutic properties of real frankincense.
To experience the benefits of true aromatherapy, look for quality essential oils at your health food store and do your research into this branch of natural medicine.
To find out more, check out Valerie Ann Worwood's The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (New World, 1991) or visit the website of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (naha.org ).