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I love aromatherapy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical at first.
But one of my friends, Dr. Maura, a fellow Chiropractor added Aromatherapy to her practice and reported remarkable results. So I started using a little bit of aromatherapy in my office too. I’d drop a few drops of Vanilla essential oil (E.O.) on the tissue paper of the headrests where patients had to lie, face down. When patients inhaled aroma of vanilla while lying down, it’d calm their minds and relaxed their muscles so that I can treat them more effectively. The patients loved it and so did I.
Now that I don’t practice (Chiropractic) anymore, I use E.O. in my home. One of my favorite brands is Aura Cacia because my local Whole Foods carry the line and I could get lost in front of the display. I might need E.O. intervention soon because I could come home with half of my grocery bill from buying E.O.
So what is it about essential oils that are so beneficial? I asked one of my friends, Jenny Bradford of Living Consciously (read her interview about Yoga and Pilates. Yea, she’s awesome.) about her experience on using essential oils. But first, a little info on essential oils and aromatherapy.
According to Cancer.Gov:
- Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils (also known as volatile oils) from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) for the improvement of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
- Essential oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic plant material by steam distillation or mechanical expression; oils produced with the aid of chemical solvents are not considered true essential oils.
- The effects of aromatherapy are theorized to result from the binding of chemical components in the essential oil to receptors in the olfactory bulb, impacting the brain’s emotional center, the limbic system. Topical application of aromatic oils may exert antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects.
- Human clinical trials have investigated aromatherapy primarily in the treatment of stress and anxiety in patients with critical illnesses or in other hospitalized patients. Several clinical trials involving patients with cancer have been published.
- Aromatherapy has a relatively low toxicity profile when administered by inhalation or diluted topical application.
As you can see, aromatherapy is so effective that even agencies like Cancer.Gov recommends it. While essential oils are given orally or internally by aromatherapists in France and Germany, use is generally limited to inhalation or topical application in the United Kingdom and United States. E.O. is also very common for flavoring and making fragrances. Most essential oils have been classified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), at specified concentration limits, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Here is my interview with Jenny Bradford on essential oils and why she loves it so much.
Essential Oils for Better Health
1. So we know E.O. supports many aspects of people’s lives. Tell us one (or two) ways that you use E.O. and can’t imagine living without it.
First is cleaning and disinfecting, honestly. I use an essential oil cleaner for my entire house – floors, kitchen, bathrooms, everything! I also have several recipes such as a Lysol alternative made from essential oils and antibacterial hand soap made from essential oils that are in constant use.
Second is ongoing wellness, particularly since I am hard on my body as a mom and fitness instructor. Lavender is my best friend for muscle aches, assisting relaxation and sleep, and even for use during yoga and childbirth.
3. Can you give us an example of what the most common EO’s are used for?
I use lavender for relaxation, thieves oil for immune system, and peppermint for headaches. One of the blends I use for my children’s cough works really well. You can find the formula here.
4. Let’s talk quality. What kinds of things should we be aware of when buying EO from stores or online?
First of all, there is no regulation on the term “pure” when it comes to essential oils. Anybody can slap the word “pure” on an oil and there is no way to verify that it’s indeed “pure”. I like to tell people to make sure you know these things about any oil that you buy:
a) How is the oil extracted from the plant? Some cheap retail brands take the plants and soak them in chemicals to extract the oils. Obviously, the chemicals are now part of the oil and have changed their entire chemical makeup. Not pure at all. What you want to look for is 100% steam extraction. If you can verify that it is the FIRST extraction, that is even better. Some companies extract over and over from the same plants, weakening the oils removed.
b) Is anything added to the oil after extraction? If you look at the ingredients of some oils, you will find they are actually diluted with carrier oils already in the bottle. You are definitely not going to get desirable results with a pre-diluted oil because you won’t be able to monitor the dilution level yourself.
c) Failing all else, is the oil designated “Food Safe/Food Additive” by the FDA? If so, it will have a nutrition label on it. Oils that have secretly added ingredients do not have FDA approval. Who knows what they have in them.
Finally: NEVER apply any oil topically that says “for Aromatherapy use only”. If the manufacturer could ensure the oil was safe for your skin, they would not feel legally compelled to include that warning. I saw a bottle of Lavender that had warnings against coming in contact with skin. Since I can safely rub a leaf of Lavender on my skin, what have they done to the oil to make it no longer safe? Something to think about.
5. I usually buy my essential oil from my local natural foods’ store. Where do you buy yours?
I am a distributor for a company called Young Living. I was really torn because doTerra is a great brand too. My mom uses doTerra and so does my pediatrician. However, I like that Young Living has been around more than 20 years. They kind of originated the Seed to Seal quality control and I trust that.
Thanks Jenny for your insights. If anyone wants to find out more about becoming a distributor of Young Living Essential Oils, you can contact Jenny via Living Consciously.
Disclosure: I was not given any products for this post and this is not an advertorial for any companies or brands. For more information on how aromatherapy can help you, visit, National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.