Whether you choose to breathe them in, rub them on, or gargle with them, essential oils have been used to treat a host of physical and emotional ailments for at least 6,000 years. From Egyptian to Roman to Native American societies, there is a host of recorded data that documents how ancient societies utilized the powerful healing processes found naturally in essential oils. This practice is known today as aromatherapy.
The method of extracting essential oils from various plants, flowers, and seeds comprises a unique sect of herbal medicine that is recognized for its incredible healing properties. From skin diseases to respiratory infections to gastrointestinal health, aromatherapy is a versatile form of treatment since it can be used for a variety of conditions. The secret to its effectiveness lies in the powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties found naturally in almost all essential oils.
Most essential oils contain the germ-fighting agents necessary to knock out bacteria, fungi, yeast, parasites, and viruses. And unlike pharmaceutical drugs, essential oils interact with multiple body systems at once, making aromatherapy a broad-spectrum form of treatment. The reason behind this rapid absorption of essential oils in our bodies is due to the fact that our bodies and essential oils contain many of the same naturally occurring chemicals. Because of this similar composition, our systems very easily absorb and employ the complex chemical treatments found in essential oils.
How To Use
The best way to determine how to use aromatherapy is to consider the ailment you are treating. Almost every essential oil can be inhaled, making inhalation through various methods a popular form of treatment. This method is best used when treating respiratory conditions, colds, flu, and addressing emotional and mental disturbances. For a skin condition, wound, or burn, a topical application would be the most effective. Ingestion is a popular method throughout the world, but few essential oils can be consumed. Before taking any essential oils by mouth, it is imperative to consult with your physician as certain essential oils pose a toxic threat when ingested. There are several different ways to unlock the antiseptic properties present in essential oils.
The first and fastest form of treatment is inhalation. Inhalation is an ideal aromatherapy technique as it safe on the system and employs our sense of smell, the most powerful of senses. Through sense of smell, the healing properties of essential oil rapidly interact with body systems connected to emotion, nervous system, body temperature, and appetite.
Creating a steam tent is most beneficial when treating cold and flu symptoms. To do so, simply boil a pot of water, remove from heat, and add in about three drops of your essential oil of choice. Create a tent around your face by standing a few inches over the pot, covering your head with a towel, and trapping the steam around you. You will want to inhale the steam deeply for a few minutes, or until your nasal passages clear and your cough subsides. Be sure to stay far enough from the pot to avoid burning your face.
Another inhalation method is with the use of an essential oil diffuser. As with a steam tent, you will want to add three drops of essential oil to the water-filled diffuser. Diffusers come in different forms; some are candle-lit and others are electric. As the diffuser is activated and heats up, the water will steam and release the essential oil into the air. You will want to breath deeply and slowly to take in the essential oil molecules that are released through the diffuser.
Another common method is through external application. Utilizing essential oils in a bath is the preferred method of treatment as the warm water assists in the absorption of essential oils into the skin. As Hippocrates taught, “a perfumed bath and a scented massage everyday is the way to good health.” A recommended dosage for a full bath is 3-15 drops per tub. This form of application is effective as it is one of the few therapies that can rapidly penetrate body tissues.
An essential oil massage is an excellent form of therapy that will also alleviate the pain and itching associated with viral and fungal skin infections. To create aromatherapy massage oil, combine 10 drops essential oil for every ounce of vegetable oil or lotion. To treat physical injuries using aromatherapy, a compress soaked in essential oils will provide a soothing effect and reduce swelling of the injured area. To create the compress, utilize 5 drops of your chosen essential oil in 1 cup of water and soak the compress in the solution.
In some cases of illness, a throat spray or gargle made of essential oils may be the most effective form of treatment. This can be easily created by combining two drops of essential oil into a teaspoon of honey and taking by mouth, or by adding 1-2 drops of essential oil to 1/4 cup of water and using as a gargle to treat throat infections. It is common practice in European countries such as France to ingest essential oils to treat certain forms of organ dysfunction. However, it is vital to consult a physician before taking any oils internally, especially if you are pregnant as a few varieties of essential oils can cause a toxic reaction when ingested.
Types of Essential Oils and Their Uses
There are over fifty kinds of essential oil that are used therapeutically. Here is a complete list of those most commonly used. As always, be sure to consult your physician before use.
- Angelica: The seed and root oils from this plant contain properties that effectively manage menstruation, digestion, and coughing. However, this essential oil can over-stimulate the central nervous system, making it important to use sparingly and with caution.
- Anise: This delicious tasting (and smelling!) essential oil is useful as a lactation stimulant while breastfeeding, and can soothe muscle spasms, indigestion, and insomnia. It is vital to control the amount of anise essential oil used due to the fact that large doses can cause skin rashes and retard proper circulation.
- Basil: Basil is used to treat the herpes and shingles viruses, headaches, and indigestion issues. It also acts as a lactation stimulant and aids in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders.
- Bay: The essential oil derived from the leaf of the bay tree relieves sinus and chest congestion and is used to improve memory and lymphatic circulation throughout the body.
- Benzoin: This antiseptic and antifungal essential oil also alleviates dry skin and provides emotional support.
- Bergamot: This refreshing essential oil can be used to battle the viruses responsible for flu, herpes, shingles, and chickenpox, ease digestion, and act as an anti-inflammatory for the urinary tract system, mouth, throat, and skin.
- Birch: Often made available for purchase under the moniker “wintergreen” essential oil, birch is useful in treating psoriasis and relieving arthritis and muscle pain. However, large amounts of birch are toxic to the system, so use with caution.
- Carrot Seed: No, this essential oil is not distilled from the carrots in your refrigerator. Carrot seed actually comes from the seeds of the plant Queen Anne’s lace, a distant ancestor of today’s carrot. This oil can be used to treat skin disorders such as eczema, rashes and certain precancerous skin conditions.
- Cedarwood: Cedarwood is most useful in treating respiratory and urinary infections, and can also be used to fight off acne, dandruff, and chronic itching. Avoid all cedar oils while pregnant.
- Chamomile: This versatile essential oil is used to treat a host of conditions. Chamomile acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, pain reducer, and addresses indigestion, ulcers, and liver damage. This essential oil is also commonly used to treat insomnia and acts as a powerful antidepressant.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon can be used to treat urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and is helpful to relieve tension. However, you will want to dilute cinnamon essential oil with a less potent essential oil, as cinnamon is a potential skin irritant.
- Citronella: While this essential oil is more commonly known as an insect repellant, citronella is also useful in treating colds and infections. Be cautious with topical applications as it can cause skin irritation.
- Clary sage: Clary sage is used throughout Europe as a sore throat remedy and also can be used to alleviate pain and menopause symptoms. Clary sage should not be combined with alcohol.
- Clove bud: This essential oil is used to fight infections such as colds, flu, and chest congestion. It can also act as a stress reliever and memory stimulant.
- Coriander: Coriander is an antiseptic essential oil that eases pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and acts as an antiseptic in treating flu, cystitis, and diarrhea.
- Cypress: Use this essential oil to treat sinus and lung congestion or to ease symptoms associated with low blood pressure, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
- Dill: Dill is useful in treating indigestion and can also be helpful as an appetite suppressant.
- Eucalyptus: The essential oil derived from the eucalyptus tree is a powerful antiviral agent. It is useful in treating throat infections, fever, flu, chest congestion, and herpes.
- Fennel: Fennel is commonly used as a lactation stimulant, but can also be helpful in treating indigestion, urinary tract disorders, and to quickly heal bruises. Do not use if you have epilepsy as fennel can over-stimulate the central nervous system.
- Fir: Use this essential oil to treat asthma, chronic cough, and to soothe muscle pain.
- Frankincense: This valuable essential oil treats fungal infections, ulcers, lung sensitivity, and chronic diarrhea. Additionally, frankincense has been used throughout the ancient world to increase consciousness and relaxation.
- Geranium: Geranium possesses both antiviral and antifungal properties, making it an important treatment for shingles, herpes, and ringworm. This essential oil can also be used to treat menopausal symptoms and regulate blood pressure.
- Ginger: Ginger can be used internally to alleviate digestion issues such as nausea, diarrhea, gas, and loss of appetite. It can also address infections of the lungs and urinary system.
- Helichrysum: Use Helichrysum to treat bronchitis, asthma, and pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- Inula: Inula is mostly used to treat skin infections and herpes, but can also relieve sinus, chest congestion, muscle pain, and inflammation.
- Jasmine: This essential oil is sometimes used to treat complications with the prostate. It also acts to soothe headaches.
- Juniper: Bronchial infections, eczema, and hemorrhoids are all treated with this essential oil. Use with caution as overuse can over stimulate the kidneys.
- Labdanum: This antiseptic essential oil is used to treat colds, coughs, wounds, and hemorrhoids.
- Lavender: This quintessential aromatherapy oil contains the broadest reaching of benefits. From treating burns and eczema to lung and sinus infections, indigestion, and skin infections, lavender is a go-to ingredient in aromatherapy treatment.
- Lemon: The essential oil derived from the lemon peel is antiseptic and antioxidant. Use it to treat viral and bacterial infections, aid with digestion issues, and boost immunity.
- Lemongrass: This antiseptic essential oil can be used to ward off scabies and ringworm and to treat headache and indigestion pain.
- Marjoram: Use Marjoram in treating colds, flu, migraines, and high blood pressure. It is also useful as a topical skin application in treating bruises, burns, bacterial and fungal infections.
- Melissa: This essential oil contains both antiseptic and antiviral properties and is an appropriate treatment for strep, herpes, chickenpox, chest congestion, and high blood pressure.
- Myrrh: Use myrrh as an external application on yeast infections, eczema, skin infections, ringworm, and wounds. It can also be used to boost immunity and aid with digestion, coughs, and diarrhea.
- Myrtle: Used throughout the ages to treat the complexion, myrtle is also helpful in treating respiratory infections, muscle spasms, and varicose veins.
- Neroli: Neroli is particularly useful in treating symptoms of menopause. It also addresses circulation problems like high blood pressure and hemorrhoids.
- Niaouli: Use this essential oil on bacterial and fungal infections as well as in treating respiratory allergies.
- Orange: Use the essential oil derived from the orange peel to treat flu, colds, and high blood pressure.
- Palmarosa: Palmarosa contains wonderful antiseptic and antiviral properties that are useful in treating acne, skin infections, and herpes.
- Patchouli: Patchouli holds antiseptic abilities and is used to treat eczema, athlete’s foot, and skin inflammation.
- Pepper, black: Pepper can be helpful in caring for colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and food poisoning. It is important to be cautious when using topically as pepper can be a skin irritant.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a powerful antiseptic essential oil and is used to destroy bacteria, viruses, and parasites found in the digestive tract. It also helps to alleviate sinus and lung congestion, irritable-bowel syndrome and the itching associated with ringworm, herpes, scabies, and poison ivy.
- Ravensare: This essential oil is an important antiseptic treatment against flu, bronchitis, viral infections, and sinus congestion.
- Rose: Rose oil is a strong antiseptic that fights infection and can also treat asthma, liver dysfunction, and depression.
- Rosemary: This essential oil stimulates the nervous system, lowers cholesterol and alleviates chest congestion, sore throat and sore muscles.
- Rosewood: Rosewood is a sweet-smelling essential oil that treats infections, colds, headaches, and nausea.
- Sage: This antiseptic essential oil is used to fight throat and mouth infections. It should be used with caution as it contains a potential neurotoxin that is especially harmful to individuals prone to seizures.
- Sandalwood: Sandalwood is primarily used to treat genital and urinary tract infections and can also be helpful with nerve pain, inflammation, and persistent coughs.
- Tangerine: This gentle essential oil taken from the peel of a tangerine combats sleep and digestive disorders. It is a wonderful essential oil to use on children and pregnant women due to its extremely safe and mild composition.
- Tea Tree: Similar to eucalyptus essential oil, tea tree oil contains strong antiseptic properties. It is useful in fighting vaginal, sinus, fungal, and viral infections. Like lavender, this is a popular essential oil for use in aromatherapy due to its extremely powerful and versatile nature in treating a host of conditions.
- Thyme: This antibacterial essential oil eliminates intestinal worms, chest congestion, and indigestion. In the past, Thyme was actually used to treat whooping cough. Due to its powerful antibiotic nature, it is not recommended for daily use.
- Vetiver: Use vetiver to increase circulation, treat muscle pain and sprains, and improve liver function.
- Ylang-ylang: This sweet-smelling essential oil lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscle spasms, and acts as a strong sedative. Be wary to limit dosage, as high concentrations have been known to cause headaches.
It is vital to be aware of the potentially toxic effect of some essential oils, especially for children and pregnant women. A few essential oils that are potentially toxic when ingested include bitter almond, hyssop, mugwart, oregano, pennyroyal, sassafras, savory, and thuja. Additionally, essential oils in their natural state are extremely concentrated and have the potential to burn or irritate skin and other sensitive tissues. It is important to dilute essential oils that pose a potential irritation to the skin with less irritating oils before topical application. The following essential oils should be diluted before use:
- Bay rum
- Black pepper
For elderly, allergenic individuals, or someone who has a serious health condition such as asthma, epilepsy, or heart disease, consult with your physician before the use of any essential oils. For continual use, be sure to vary the essential oils that you employ in your treatment, as overexposure of one kind of essential oil may be harmful to your liver and kidney functions over time.
From anise to cypress to lavender, there is a bounty of useful and medicinal essential oils that will banish viral, fungal, and bacterial infections all the while improving sleep, mood, and emotional health. From Egyptian civilization through today, aromatherapy has played a major role in addressing common illnesses and ailments.
By following sage medical advice and adherence to the recommendations provided here, you can employ and benefit from the antiviral and antibiotic properties drawn from the beautiful flowers, trees, and plants that surround us everyday.
As Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D and Director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy in San Rafael, California, puts it, “for many common infectious diseases, aromatherapy offers more effective and more wholesome solutions than conventional medicine.”
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- Essential Oils for Beginners. California: Althea Press