Essential Oils

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Information on Essential Oils

Essential oils are volatile substances produced by plants for their own survival, to attract pollinating insects or repel predators or disease.  The chemistry of these essences, which are the basic raw materials of aromatherapy and perfumery, is complex, but they contain the plant's therapeutic properties in concentrated form.  Most have antiseptic properties.  Some have anti-viral and anti-fungal properties as well.  Tea-tree and Garlic are the most powerful.  But unlike chemical antiseptics, essential oils are harmless to healthy tissue.  Like other herbal medicines, they promote healing by stimulating and reinforcing the body's own mechanisms.   


Another property of essential oils is their very fine molecular structure which allow them to be absorbed into the bloodstream or lymphatic system through the skin or through the mucous membranes of the nose.  Aroma has a direct influence on the central nervous system and an indirect effect on the endocrine (hormonal) system.


The specific effects of the different oils can vary between individuals but the following represents the generally accepted psychotherapeutic uses of some of the popular essential oils:


Basil is a nerve tonic, alleviates mental fatigue, stimulates appetite and inhaling the essence can help de-congest chronic catarrh and rhinitis.


Bay Laurel is used to help ease digestive problems, colds, flu, tonsillitis and other respiratory conditions, improve appetite, treat lice and scabies, reduce swollen lymph nodes, and relieve rheumatic pain.  Do not use if pregnant.


Clary Sage is preferable to common sage which can be toxic even in small doses.  Clary sage is warming and sedative and can help relieve painful periods, ease anxiety and stress, menopausal symptoms and treat burns and eczema.  However, do not  use it during pregnancy.


Eucalyptus is used to ease fever and fight colds, flu, sinusitis and coughs.  Alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis and treat skin conditions such as boils and pimples.  It must never be taken internally.


German chamomile is used to relieve digestive problems, menstrual and menopausal problems, inflamed or damaged skin, burns (including sunburn), acne and boils.


Lavender, most popular and well-known of the essential oils.  is known as the 'mother' of essential oils and the most versatile at the aromatherapist's disposal.  It is great for skin conditions including acne, cuts, wounds, insect bites and burns, and is a superb sedative.  Also used to ease headaches, depression, insomnia, any form of nervous stress and tension, muscular aches, sprains, strains, menstrual pains, cramping and nausea.


Orange is a warm and comforting oil which may be used in steam-inhalation for chronic bronchitis.  It will soothe irritated skin in small quantities and is uplifting in a bath or massage oil.


Peppermint is a well-known oil used to relieve indigestion, nausea and headache, neuralgia and muscle pain, bronchitis, sinusitis and motion sickness.  However, this oil should be used in moderation and should not be used in children under the age of three.


Rosemary is a popular culinary herb ideal for the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, liver problems, and bronchitis.  It reduces fluid retention and treats depression.  It should be avoided during pregnancy or in cases of epilepsy and high blood pressure.


Tarragon is another useful culinary herb and essential oil that helps with menstrual and menopausal symptoms and digestive ailments including indigestion, flatulence, hiccups and loss of appetite.  It is also used in stress-related conditions and in cases of shock.  Tarragon should not be used in pregnancy.


Tea Tree is an Australian essential oil gaining popularity worldwide in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as colds, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis, and skin conditions such as abscess, acne, and burns.  Tea tree an also be used in the treatment of vaginal thrush, vaginitis and bladder infections.


Thyme is a culinary herb that helps relieve laryngitis and cough, treats skin and bladder infections, infectious diarrhea, and relieves joint pain and flatulence.  Thyme should be avoided in pregnancy and in cases of high blood pressure.


Ylang-ylang is an exotic essential oil used to treat acne and problems of oily skin.  It also relieves depression, insomnia, impotence and some stress-related conditions.  However use ylang-ylang in moderation as it may cause headache or nausea.


Essential oils enter the body in two ways - by inhalation and through absorption.  They can be used in a variety of ways, such as through direct inhalation of essential oils or through steam inhalation; They are used in electrical diffusers or vaporizers, burners that use candles, or a ceramic ring warmed by a light bulb.  Essential oils are used most commonly in massage treatment by aromatherapists for its healing effects.  Baths can be scented with chosen essential oils.  Footbaths can also be used for conditions such as chilblains (an inflammation of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold and moisture).  It can be applied to relieve bruising, skin conditions and muscle and period pain. 


Today there is increasing evidence supporting the effects of aroma on mood states.  Smell is a potent wizard that transports us.  Smell is one of our most enduring senses, a fragrance or odour can induce a memory from childhood.  It is also the sense most fully developed at birth, babies can recognize their mother's presence from her scent meters away, before their eyes can focus that far.  Smell registers in what is called the most primitive part of the brain, the limbic system, which also appears to trigger emotions, sex-drive, intuition and memory, so bypassing our rational brain.


More Articles on Aromatherapy


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