Essential Oils and Science

 

This journey of mine has been prompted by many different factors. Some of them are obvious, like my weight and my ever increasing anti-sociability. But some of them were less visible to my loved ones, like just how much pain I was in and my ever increasing pile of pharmaceuticals. In fact, I would say I’ve done a pretty good job of hiding just how miserable I’ve been. Most of the time, anyway.

So, part of this adventure had to be finding a way to get off some of those damn meds. Now, I’m a believer in the power of western medicine-but I am also a believer in its limitations. I’ve been reading a lot about alternative options to the prescriptions that I am currently taking. And I’ve come to the realization that there is only so alternative that I am willing to go. When the conversation takes a turn towards my aura, and how I store my memories of past traumas in my liver- I’m out. No offense to anyone at all, but I just can’t do it.

Aromatherapy, however, is not that kind of alternative therapy. There have been a lot of studies that show really positive health benefits from using high quality essential oils. And they aren’t just emotional benefits, which I admit is what I originally thought of when I heard the term. I’m not going to even try and list every benefit that you can get from essential oils- and it is important to remember that just like with a medication, an oil may have a different effect on you than it does on your neighbor (but unlike with medications, they have no real side effects- unless you blatantly ignore common sense rules like don’t drink that whole bottle and don’t pour that undiluted peppermint down your pants.)

Let’s look at a couple of different body systems, and how aromatherapy can be used.

The lymphatic system is a large network of vessels that carry lymph toward the heart. It plays an important role in the immune system and is responsible for naturally detoxing the body. Lymph moves through the body based on several factors: muscle movement, and involuntary movement of the  valves and arteries. This movement is crucial because it determines how well the immune system and waste systems work. There are several oils that help to boost lymph movement through the body: spearmint, lemon, lime, grapefruit, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, helichrysum, sage, tangerine, cypress and sandalwood. (This is why they tell you that if you put a citrus oil into your water every day it will help remove fat- it literally does, just not in the diet way that we are used to thinking of.)

The endocrine system consists of the glands in the body that secrete hormones and enzymes. The major glands in the endocrine system are the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, pancreas, parathyroid gland, pineal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, ovaries and testes, (which are also part of the reproductive system). Essential oils help regulate the hormones in our bodies, sometimes they do this by mimicking a hormone, but most of the time they stimulate a specific gland to secrete the hormones we are in need of. Think of the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin. Melatonin helps to regulate sleep- that’s pretty important for your health in general.There are several oils that are known to specifically support your pineal gland when applied topically: frankincense (one of my personal faves), cedarwood and spruce. There is so much more research out there on oils and the endocrine system- but like I said, I’m not going too deep here.

Finally, let’s look at the immune system. Everyone knows that the immune system is responsible for keeping us healthy- that’s Bio 101, right? However, the details of how it does that and what happens when it begins to go wrong are a good bit more complicated. Essentially, our immune system detects foreign organisms and substances in the body and determines if they are good or bad. If they are bad, it sends out the troops and attacks. If our immune system is out of balance, either too slow or overactive, we get sick. Some oils that are known to boost the immune system: clove, oregano, eucalyptus, lemon, ravensara, melaleuca, and again Frankincense.

There have been some really good scientific studies on essential oils – in fact, if you’re into it, I really recommend checking out some of them- even if you just read some of the sources at the bottom. That said, there is still a long way to go before people start to view them as truly medicinal. And that’s just because of public perception as far as I’m concerned. I’ve done my research, and I’ve tried them, and now I’m a believer. I truly believe that in another 20 years or so, we will see oils being used much more prominently for medicinal purposes.

 

Sources used in this article:

O’Sullivan, Jen (2015-09-02). The Essential Oil Truth: The Facts Without the Hype (Kindle Locations 915-1081).

PubMed Health (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0032645/

Reichling J, Schnitzler P, Suschke U, Saller R, Essential Oils of Aromatic Plants with Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral, and Cytotoxic Properties – an Overview. Forsch Komplementmed 2009;16:79-90

 

 

5 thoughts on “Essential Oils and Science

  1. Thank you for sharing. Still not showing on my work email when I need this! I’ll figure these gadgets out sooner or or later.

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  2. I love the amount of research you are putting into this and how well it fits with your public health educational background and your personal journey. But I am most proud lately at your ability to write so well about your oily and personal adventures!

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  3. Excellent article! Thank you for sharing this! There are numerous therapies that it has taken our conventional medical model to embrace. When I was growing up, my mother (an RN) referred to chiropractors as “quacks,” and now physicians write referrals to them for chronic pain. The common use of shark cartilage, turmeric, and vitamin D are other such examples.

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