Is there such a thing as well-being in a bottle? I think that one of the most potent remedies that anyone can have in their medicine chest, gym bag, desk drawer, or purse — is a 10 milliliter bottle of lavender essential oil. This is considered to be the most universal of all of the essential oils, and if you’re just learning about this extraordinary healing tool, it’s a good starting point. Just to give you an idea of what lavender oil can do to improve your life (and this is only the short list):
- It is an instant mood elevator and can help relieve depression.
- It is effective in the treatment of tension, headaches, migraines, and high blood pressure.
- It rapidly heals skin conditions, including serious burns, sunburn, eczema, insect bites, and abscesses.
- It can soothe muscle aches, including sprains.
- It encourages restful sleep and can lessen insomnia.
A six-month trial study at a hospital in England showed that vaporizing lavender oil through the air caused patients to sleep in a more natural pattern, and made them less aggressive throughout the day. The calming effect that lavender has on the brain helped some of the patients to be completely weaned off their tranquilizers. During a six-year period I traveled more than 50 times to Japan, as well as other destinations in Asia. Most of my flights averaged 12 hours of breathing recycled air. One year I got the flu four times, the last one resulting in pneumonia. Following that experience, I learned that spraying a few drops of lavender oil, mixed with water or witch hazel, on the seat at the beginning of the flight (with a few well-spaced spritzes throughout) is a great way of preventing contamination from germs. Upon arriving at my hotel, a few drops in my bath water (along with some other revitalizing oils) helped mitigate the effects of jet lag. A drop or two on my pillow also helped me to sleep, and if I had a tension headache, rubbing a few drops around my temples and forehead would often relieve the pain within a matter of minutes.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the extraction of the volatile liquids of fruits, flowers, herbs, spice plants, seeds, leaves, shrubs, and fragrant trees. Through a method using low pressure and low temperature, the life force of the plant is extracted. This highly oxygenated liquid can be likened to the blood of the plant. They have an extremely high bio-electric frequency, much greater than that of food and herbs, so they can rapidly transport nutrients to the cells of the body. Because they contain the immune defense properties of the plants, essential oils make excellent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents. They also repel microbes and insects. For instance, the oil in a eucalyptus tree makes the bark toxic to insects, as a form of protecting itself from invasion.
Buying Essential Oils: A Warning
You can buy essential oils in health food or specialty stores or online — but make sure that what you are getting is the real stuff — not something just labeled “aromatherapy”. If possible, try to get organic essential oils, which have much stricter standards. Because there is no existing legislation on labeling in this field, there are many synthetic products on the market that call themselves natural or essential oils, such as the vast array of scented candles you can find in your local five and dime. In earlier times all perfumes and flavorings were made naturally, by distilling the essence from flowers, fruits, barks, and plants. Then modern science found ways of imitating just about any scent or flavor, from new car to cotton candyby isolating the molecular structure and duplicating it in a test tube. Suddenly everything became synthetically flavored and scented, and very few of our products are now being made with the original elements. Chemistry and laboratories have their higher purposes — after all, some of essential oils are extremely difficult to come by, such as jasmine, which requires pressing hundreds of thousands of petals to get a minuscule vial of its essence. But by now we know the long-term effect of exposure to chemicals. And when manufacturers bypass natural sources for their products in favor of expediency, the uneducated consumer buys the chemical-laden products without knowing the possible side effects.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy originated in Egypt, where essential oils were used in the mummification process. The Egyptians also developed the art of the bath, “an art that might be restorative, sensuous, religious, or calming, depending on one’s mood.” In Roman times, flower essences were highly prized — especially rose oil — reserved for royalty and the very rich. The Romans also used essential oils in their baths and for therapeutic massage for treating fatigue and depression. There are 188 references to essential oils in the Bible e.g. Frankincense and Myrrh gifted by the Magi to the Christ Child. In European spas during the 17th and 18th centuries, essential oils were popular for inhalation therapies. Remember how good it felt as a child to have your mother rub Vicks’ VapoRub (one of the few remedies containing a real essential oil, eucalyptus, rather than a synthetic substitute), as your chest seemed to expand and it became easier to breathe? Over the past decade aromatherapy has resurfaced as an alternative care modality and is used for massage, facials, as well as the treatment of an astounding variety of maladies. A very effective way of treating the major organs of the body is through combining reflexology (acupressure foot massage) with essential oils.
How do Essential Oils work?
Essential oils are versatile healing agents in that their mode of operation is two-fold. They access the autonomic nervous system through the sense of smell — via inhalation. And, when placed directly on the skin, under the tongue (please note that most essential oils are not edible) or in bathwater, they are absorbed by the bloodstream. Here’s how they work. A) Inhalation Smell is our most primordial sense. The olfactory bulbs were likely precursors to the brain. Odor molecules float back over the receptor cilia in the nose, where five million of these cells fire impulses to the olfactory bulb, which are direct extensions of the brain. When we inhale a scent, neurotransmitters in our brains trigger the production of biochemical secretions that affect our moods, feelings, and emotions. There is an instant link between the sense of smell and the memory centers, a route that carries us nimbly across time and distance. Smells are linked with memories and feelings. Helen Keller said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived… odors instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief.” I know that when I smell a certain perfume, I am instantly transported to the time in my life when I wore that scent. When scent molecules reach our nose, they are subsequently converted into electrical impulses in the brain, causing a cascade of instinctual reactions and emotions. This is why specific aromas invoke certain reactions — there is a coding that exists in our primitive brains, which is automatically triggered. Therefore, by simply inhaling an essential oil, we can have an immediate shift in our mood. I remember one November taking my niece to the California Adventure. We were so delighted by the Soaring Over California ride that we went on three times in a row! In a “hang glider” moving rapidly over three dimensional large screen scenes, you have the feeling of really being there. While whooshing through a canyon suspended over river rafters, the smell of pine came wafting through specially designed ducts, then the aroma of fresh oranges rose up to meet us as we soared over a massive orange grove. These were real essential oils, as I have developed the ability to sniff out the authentic from the synthetic, and it made the experience all that more thrilling. B) AbsorptionPermeating the skin (through bath, massage, or direct application), the oil penetrates the epidermis, stimulates our lymph duct system, and enters the bloodstream, oxygenating our blood, and restoring the nerve endings. The high frequency of the oil helps to stabilize and balance the electrical and nervous systems so that the body can get on with the business of fighting off the problem. The contact of the oils on your skin increases circulation, which improves cellular and organ function.
How to Use Essential Oils
You can use them directly on the skin, although it is best to dilute some of the more volatile oils, such as clove, cinnamon, basil, oregano, and peppermint with a small amount of almond or sesame oil. Massage the affected area, or try an end of day foot massage before you go to sleep. Put a few drops in your bath water. If you shower, put a few drops on a washcloth and either massage the oil directly onto your skin or inhale the scent. Put a few drops on a cotton ball and carry it with you. Put a few drops in a candle once a bit of wax has melted. Put 15-30 drops in a spray bottle and mix with water (this is my favorite method). When you burn essential oils, such as in the heat lamps available in many stores, you change their molecular structure and therefore alter their properties. In my book, Your Mind: The Owner’s Manual, I teach how to create a comfort zone by linking a favorite essence with suggestions for relaxation. Once you discover an oil or blend that is particularly pleasing to you, make it a part of your life. Whenever I sit down to write I use a blend called Inspiration (available through Young Living Essential Oils), and I feel that it helps open the pathways to my creativity. You can carry a cotton ball saturated with a few drops of your favorite oil or lavender into a medical examination or when you have to take a test. The oils will recharge you and immediately elevate your mood! In the previous articles I written about Feng Shui and setting intentions for your space. I have found that it is particularly useful to spray essential oils as you are stating your intentions or visualizing your goals as a way of coding your home. Because of the link between scent and your brain, this accentuates your resolve. Also, due to the high vibration of these oils, spraying them around your energy field and space is extremely effective in clearing toxicity from your environment.
Motivation to work out: Sniff peppermint oil!
Sweat Detoxification: Mix a spray of rosemary, thyme, roman chamomile
Sore Muscles: Rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, and peppermint Stale Air: Lavender mixed with lemon (or peppermint)
Depression: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Lavender, Rose, Geranium
This was merely an introduction to a fascinating subject. By all means, go online to do more research and check out the excellent sources below. Aromatherapy has been one of the key ingredients in my own growth and healing process in the past few years and I invite you to enter this world of delicious fragrance and well-being.
Recommended Reading: The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood; The Fragrant Mind by Valerie Ann Worwood; The Essence of Feng Shui by Jami Line; Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach; Reference Guide for Essential Oil by Pat Leatham & Connie Higley