The Healing Benefits of Essential Oils
I sit here typing at my computer, silently smirking to myself that for the first time ever, my face herpes retreated into the realms in which they belong, that is, dormant underneath the skin. I can openly smirk too, with confidence, knowing that a volcano is not erupting on my face for all the world to see.
You might be wondering, how did such a miracle come about?
I’ll admit that I always categorized using essential oils for healing in the western-medicine-avoidance category, used by the patchouli-laden hippy type. I certainly didn’t think much of them except that they smelled nice in my oil diffuser. That is, until now.
Recently I felt the onset of a mouth herpes breakout coming on, and over the years once I feel that “tingle of anticipation” if you will, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’ve tried everything western and witchy. Since my teenage years, I’ve dabbled with a smorgasbord of prescription topical creams and pills. Switching to a more natural stance in my later years, I’ve tried L-Lysine, Colloidal Silver and our locally produced Abaco Neem products, known to Help the Body Heal. But I birth uncontrollable monsters.
Mine typically stem from exposure to mother nature’s elements as I neglect to consistently reapply sunscreen on my lips while spending hours on and around the harsh tropical ocean. Unfortunately, due to the endless hours I spend in nature, I have been prone to developing these nasty cold sores at least every six weeks. They erupt in a violent explosion, leaving me feeling vulnerably exposed. Not only is it hideous, it’s weeping and painful and lingers for up to two weeks, cracking and bleeding.
In a last-ditch effort, I happened to glance upon the Reference Guide to Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley, which is housed at the yoga studio where I teach. I flipped through it until I found the herpes section, which is grouped along with hives, hemorrhoids and hepatitis. You could have imagined the look on my student’s face as he peered over my shoulder wondering which ailment I was suffering from.
There was a list of topical recommendations, and I chose to work with a few of them I had in my kit. I made a mixture using 5 drops lavender, 5 drops eucalyptus and 5 drops peppermint with a tablespoon of coconut oil.
When I started applying the concoction to my lip, the eruption stopped in its tracks.
So, let’s talk a little more about essential oils.
Essential oils were historically used by priests and physicians for thousands of years. “In Egypt, essential oils were used in the embalming process and they even had temples dedicated to the production and blending of oils, their recipes recorded on walls in hieroglyphics. There are also 188 references to essential oils in the bible.” – From Reference Guide for Essential Oils.
It’s true that there was a stint in history when the use of plant extracts for healing was considered witchcraft, but essential oils are now making a comeback as alternative and natural therapies that are being successfully used in conjunction with western medicine, and the good news is that users don’t have to worry about being burned at the stake if they wish to dabble in them.
Their applications run the gamut. They can be used for their antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, to induce sleep, to promote relaxation, as a mosquito repellent, for household cleaning, or for a multitude of bodily ailments ranging from cold & flu, heartburn, and rashes and skin conditions. There are too many uses to list, but as I skim through the Reference Guide for Essential Oils it appears that if you have a malady, there’s an oil combination for it.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are volatile chemical compounds extracted from the various forms of plants, including its seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers or fruit. The oil captures the plant’s scent, or essence, hence the term “essential.” No, it doesn’t mean that it’s vital, crucial or indispensable, such as essential fatty acids or essential amino acids that are nutritionally required for the body, it simply means it captures the fragrance of its origin.
Why are pure essential oils so expensive?
Several hundred or even several thousand pounds of plant material may be required to extract one pound of pure essential oil. Rose oil is one of the most expensive oils, for example. Roses must be hand-picked very early in the morning and distilled immediately. It requires 22 pounds of rose petals to create 5-ml of essential oil, that’s nearly one ton of rose petals for 1lb of oil.
The vast majority of essential oils are produced by the perfume industry, that is, oils that are being purchased for their aromatics only, not their healing attributes. To extract just the scent, processes of high temperatures and chemical solvents are used in the distillation process, and diluters or additives are often used to create the final product. The oils smell just as nice, but they lose their chemical structure that result in therapeutic value. So, make sure you are purchasing 100% pure essential oils if you want their healing benefits!
Essential oils can also be used topically but should be used with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba, since the oils are so concentrated and can trigger extreme detoxification in the surrounding blood and tissues. Fast absorbing areas are behind the ears, wrists and feet, or you can massage it into the whole body.
Examples of topical remedies are using melaleuca and patchouli to relieve itching associated with hives. Palo santo oil relieves pain and inflammation. Cedarwood can be used for skin conditions like acne, eczema and dandruff. I’m now using a mix of lemon, frankincense and lavender with jojoba for an anti-wrinkle serum.
Fill a bowl with hot or cold water and add the oil, then place a towel in the water to absorb the oil mixture. Apply the towel over the areas needing a compress. I enjoy cool water and lavender over the eyes for relaxation.
The easiest way of getting the oils into the air for inhalation is a diffuser. With a diffuser you can purify the air by removing metallic particles and toxins, increase negative ions which inhibit bacterial growth, and equalize odors from mold and animals.
If you have a diffuser, try lavender for relaxation and sleep. Ylang Ylang, chamomile and sweet orange are used for calming the mind and reducing anxiety. Use rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree for their activating properties.
Because of their antibacterial properties, you can use essential oils for washing dishes, cleaning and disinfecting. I started using a 16oz glass spray bottle (oils can break down plastic) with a mix of vinegar, water and essential oils (combos could be lavender and lemon; eucalyptus, peppermint and wild orange; grapefruit and lavender) for general household cleaning.
For an aromatic spritzer, one of my favorite blends that I use in my yoga classes is a mix of lavender, lemon and rosemary with a carrier oil. I give a gentle spritz above my student’s heads before they settle in for savasana.
If you’re going to make any of these concoctions, I’d suggest getting a few glass bottles or vials and a reputable essential oil reference guide which will give you the proper ratios for mixing.