Nature's Medicine: Essential Oils
As a little girl, my grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer that infects the immune system, (do not worry - this story ends happily). My grandma's prognosis was initially one year left to live, but anyone who has met my grandmother knows that she is a fighter and not the type of person to accept the fate she was given. She would spend hours at a time online researching ways to fight cancer, (possibly another time in my life that pushed me towards science and studying medicine). Anyways... after chemotherapy, loads of research, and naturopathic remedies, she was cancer-free and has been in remission for 13 years. Somewhere along the way, she was introduced to aromatherapy and essential oils and eventually introduced me to them. I always remember her smelling like various oils and melaleuca, it is one of my greatest memories going to visit her and her house always smelling so amazing. Since then, essential oils have been such a huge part of my life, so I want to share everything that I know about them! Let's start with my favorite thing to talk about...
THE PATHWAY TO THE BRAIN
Smells and scents travel to the brain via a pathway called the olfactory pathway. This nasal pathway is responsible for every scent that we smell and how it is sent to the brain. My favorite class I took in college was Functional Neuroanatomy and we went so in depth about this pathway. Smell is so unique and something that we take for granted - I actually have a friend that was born without the ability to smell, (but more on that next week)! I love this photo because it is a simplified explanation of the olfactory pathway and how scents make it to our brain to be processed.
When we have a substance that releases a scent, it travels through our nasal cavity and interacts with tiny receptors on the olfactory bulb that, as you can see, has a direct link to the limbic lobe of the brain. Humans can detect up to 10,000 different odorants, but we only have 300 scent receptors. A combination of odorants are detected by a number of receptors work together to create a smell. The limbic system is largely responsible for mood, emotion, and drive - which makes sense why some memories are linked to scents. Our brain is wickedly strategic and wired our sense of smell directly to our brain for many good reasons. One is for emotional memory, and another is to protect ourselves from harm. If our food smells rotten, we know that it could be harmful to our bodies so we do not ingest it, which is an extremely useful tool to have in life! Okay now that I've nerded out - let's get to the actual essential oils!
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils are distilled oils from various plants often used for aromatherapy or medicinal use. The oils can be applied topically, (directly to the skin), taken orally, (using a capsule), be put directly on clothing or bedding, or used in a diffuser. I personally have done all of the methods and use essential oils strongly in my yogic practice and it has changed my life. My diffuser is constantly running with various blends that I make and it has a positive impact on my mood. But how does it make sense that taking an oil can be a medicine, or that putting it on our skin can be considered a topical medication?
USING ESSENTIAL OILS TOPICALLY
It is so important to be mindful of what chemicals and products we are putting on our body. What we put on our skin dissolves into the blood stream within seconds - so these oils and their purpose are quickly introduced into our body and immune system. Though more expensive, it is vital to have 100% essential oils. Though they can range widely in cost, I promise you it is beneficial to your health. You do not want anything else going into your body - especially when you are trying to use an oil to treat various symptoms. To use oils topically, I recommend spot treatment, (placing the oil directly onto an impacted area), or diluting the oil with mineral oil or water and using widely on your skin.
HOW TO TAKE ESSENTIAL OILS ORALLY
Many companies make veggie or gelatin capsules to put essential oils into and I like to use a droplet to be able to move the oil easily into the capsule. Some of my favorite capsules are clickable links to amazon below. There are different capsule sizes that you can buy depending on how much you would like to put in each pill. Again, check the ingredients, no matter which brand you decide to use, and make sure there are no added chemicals.
Acne and Skin Irritations
Though everyone's skin is different, I think that we can all agree that acne is THE WORST. It is irritating and embarrassing and often hard to completely banish. I struggled with acne for years and was even prescribed Accutane for 8 months. It cleared up for awhile and then came right back. What actually helped me was apple cider vinegar (ACV) and essential oils. Though ACV is not an essential oil, I had to add this because it is so beneficial! I take one teaspoon of ACV and dilute it with three teaspoons of water and put it on my entire face about once or twice a month and this tremendously helped my acne. I also use oils topically using spot treatment. The oils that I regularly use for acne and skin irritations are:
◍ Tea Tree Oil ◍ Oregano ◍ Helichrysum ◍ Lavender ◍ Bergamot ◍ Rosemary
With acne, and other life incidents, comes scars. Lemon is a great home remedy to lighten all types of scars.
◍ Fresh Lemon - dilute lemon juice with water and topically treat scars up to three times a week.
◍ Lemon Oil - Spot treat any scars daily to lighten scars as well.
For Anxiety and Sleeping
If you have a hard time going to sleep, and you do not yet want to try melatonin or sleeping pills - or if you are trying to relax and unwind, essential oils also do a great job of inducing sleep and calmness:
◍ Lavender ◍ Vetiver ◍ Sandalwood ◍ Ylang-ylang ◍ Chamomile ◍ Frankincense
◍ Neroli ◍ Marjoram ◍ Cedar ◍ Bergamot ◍ Clary Sage ◍ Rose ◍ Juniper Berry
Stress is just a part of everyday life as a human, but it can be controlled and used in valuable ways to motivate us. I love to use essential oil before big exams, meetings, or any other stressful event:
◍ Rose ◍ Clary Sage ◍ Frankincense ◍ Lavender ◍ Bergamot ◍ Marjoram ◍ Ylang-ylang
◍ Lemon ◍ Geranium ◍ Orange ◍ Sandalwood ◍ Chamomile ◍ Vetiver ◍ Eucalyptus
In times where I am looking for a boost in concentrating on any task:
◍ Rosemary ◍ Basil ◍ Peppermint ◍ Helichrysum ◍ Cedar
◍ Vetiver ◍ Grapefruit ◍ Pine ◍ Juniper
These are some of my favorite! In those times where I really need a boost in energy:
◍ Lemon ◍ Orange ◍ Grapefruit ◍ Eucalyptus ◍ Cinnamon ◍ Peppermint
◍ Ginger ◍ Rosemary ◍ Spearmint ◍ Black Pepper ◍ Jasmine
Inflammation and Pain
These oils can help inflammation and pain in muscles, joints or bones such as: growing pain, gout, muscle spasms or soreness:
◍ Peppermint ◍ Eucalyptus ◍ Wintergreen ◍ Chamomile ◍ Nutmeg
◍ Ginger ◍ Cayenne ◍ Rosemary ◍ Black Pepper ◍ Sandalwood ◍ Juniper Berry
Colds and Sore Throat
When I have a sore throat or when I feel a cold coming on, I love to make ginger-lemon and honey tea for some relief and to build my immune system back up. I juice one inch of fresh ginger and boil it in one cup of water. I then juice one lemon and add it to the mixture with honey to taste. As for the oils that help:
◍ Eucalyptus ◍ Peppermint ◍ Ginger ◍ Lemon ◍ Tea Tree ◍ Sage ◍ Rosemary
TIPS & TRICKS
On days when I am cruising about my day with no real issue to handle with essential oils, I have a blend that I love for everyday use: helichrysum, geranium, and clary sage. It is both calming and helps with motivation and my mood. I love to add a couple of drops to each into my diffuser and it makes the whole house smell amazing, (and reminds me of my grandma).
Lotions, Hair Gels and Deodorants
Many products, including: hair gels, lotions, and deodorants, are full of chemicals and parabens that negatively affect our health. A tip that I love for a healthier alternative is to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to coconut oil - this can be used for softening skin, in place of hair gel and hair mousse, as well as deodorants. Most natural deodorants are coconut oil and mineral oil with essential oils added to them, so here's a little DIY!
This week, I challenge you to buy one essential oil - or if you already have one, to use it in as many ways as you can. I challenge you to see which oils work for you and which do not, which ones smell the best and which you are not so fond of. There are so many types of essential oils available, some that I did not mention in this post, so take a look! I encourage you to explore, make some deodorant, lighten some scars, and let essential oils help lift your energy and help you rest when needed; and as usual, listen to your body and take care of you.
HAPPY SMELLING, READERS! LIKE, SHARE & SUBSCRIBE!