People have been harnessing the power of essential oils for a long time. They were used in ancient Egypt, Sumeria and even in earlier times.
In this truly holistic therapy the mind and body are inseparable. Plato once said that the source of most illness has its roots in the soul. There may be no better way to influence the mind and spirit, than through a physical medium that includes nature’s essences and essential oils provide this.
Harnessing the power of essential oils throughout history
Aromatherapy came to prominence in the early part of the 20th century. Rene Gattafosse coined this term while working in his family’s perfumery, in France. It was Rene who “discovered” the healing effectiveness of lavender after he treated a burn on his hand.
A few researchers continued the study, but that slowed during WW II, except for the work of Jean Valnet, MD. Valnet was a military surgeon who used what he had learned from Gattafosse’s writings to treat wounded soldiers. Today, in France, there are more than 1,500 physicians who prescribe essential oils.
Scent is linked to our autonomic nervous system
Scent has a special impact on living organisms. Scientific research into the human sense of smell finds it to be 10,000 times more powerful than taste. Scent travels rapidly to the brain, and is shown to have a direct effect on the limbic system.
The limbic system communicates with the autonomic nervous system. This is the known connection in the brain to the hypothalamus, emotion, memory, and some visceral (gut) reactions. Since the 1980’s olfactory research has promoted the psychological benefit of essential oils used in aromatherapy.
The profound and complete therapeutic effects of essential oils derive from more than their pleasant fragrance. They have vital electromagnetic properties and vibrational energies that invigorate the mind, the soul, the body’s energy, and thus their functioning. – Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
The most common treatment applications using pure essential oils are inhalation and application through the skin.
Essential oils can be inhaled or applied to the skin
Inhalation may be as simple as sniffing the aroma from the bottle, applying a few drops to your pillowcase, or making up a spray bottle. Most professional aroma-therapists recommend utilizing a nebulizer for more constant exposure.
In the European tradition, however, using ingested essential oil remedies are more common. A professional aroma-therapist should always advise you on the proper dose and administration if you wish to use this method.
The benefits of essential oils can be achieved by direct application of the oils when used in baths, massage, or skin oils and lotions as well. Carrier oils (high quality vegetable oils) like sweet almond, hazelnut, or apricot seed are good choices. Lotions should be made from all natural ingredients, with vitamin E or rosemary oil as preservatives.
Sedative oils are psychoactive by ingestion, but inhalation allows for more rapid effect, and smaller doses. Absorption rates of essential oils vary and this can be helpful in dose titration. The stimulant oils seem to work best with this approach.
Essential oil’s positive effects can be measured with EEG
The psycho-physiological effect essential oils can be observed with EEG. Cortical activity is altered in alpha, beta, delta, and theta waves. Research in Japan established that jasmine oil increases alertness and attention through beta-wave activity. Jasmine oil can also offer a stimulating effect.
The central nervous system has much to gain with the use of essential oils. They can be anti-depressant, sedative, tranquilizing, and release endorphins. The hypothalamic response affects the endocrine system through hormone release. Ultimately, all cells in a living organism are touched through the use of the oils.
Certain essential oils, for example, offer different psychological effects:
|Jasmine||Cypress||Rosemary (rosemary shows a positive effect in Alzheimer’s)||Cedarwood|
Studies dating from the 1920s report the following benefits of selected essential oils:
- Lavender: relaxing, circulation, meditative.
- Pine: strengthening, stabilizing.
- Angelica: anorexia, relieving hopelessness.
- Basil: fatigue, general nerve tonic, anti-depressant, soporific, confusion, melancholy, mental clarity and concentration, reduces anxiety. (careful use prevents over-stimulation).
- Bay: anti-hysteric, sedative, hypotensive.
- Bergamot: sedative for anxiety and antidepressant, stimulates appetite.
- Chamomile (Roman): calming, hyperactivity, good for use with children.
- Clary Sage: sedative and nervine for insomnia, paranoia, panic, and hysteria.
- Cypress: anxiety, confusion.
- Everlasting: grounding, increases dream activity.
- Juniper: apathy, paranoia, confusion, anxiety, nervous trembling and paralysis, diuretic.
- Marjoram: grief, insomnia.
- Spikenard: grounding.
- Baths: 8 –10 drops.
- Massage: 10-20 drops in 1 ounce of oil.
- Inhalation: 2-5 drops on a tissue or cotton ball.
- Diffusers: use pure oils only.
- Body lotion: 15-20 drops in 1 ounce of lotion.
- Spritzer: 4 ounces of distilled water with 40-60 drops of pure essential oil, shake before using.
To be truly effective, essential oils must be absolutely pure. Synthetic or adulterated oils, although less expensive, will not give you the effects you desire and may even have adverse effects.
To insure quality, you may want to choose only oils that are guaranteed to be organic or ethically wild crafted, properly distilled or extracted, originating from a reliable source and priced accordingly. It is essential that the oils are species specific.
Notes: Glass or PET bottles are essential oil safe. Caution — certain essential oils are not recommend for use during pregnancy, and may be skin irritants if not properly administered.
The precious oils of plants enable us to use the art of aromatherapy to enhance well being and open a new door to healing the spirit.
Dr. Gayle Eversole is a long time natural health advocate and educator. Growing up in a medical family she developed her interest in natural health care at age 12, weaned in the 1950s on Organic Gardening and Prevention magazines. She is the Founder and Director of CHI (Creating Health Institute) and The Oake Centre for natural health education.
Gayle has completed education in psychology (1963), traditional naturopathy (1968), nursing and whole systems design (1969, 74, 75, 77), Oriental Medicine (1972), Mediation and Arbitration (1982 - 83) western herbalism (master herbalist - 1985), Ethics and counseling (1991), therapeutic aromatherapy (1998), Ayurveda (2000), homeopathy and flower essence therapy (2002).
In addition Gayle is a Reiki master and teacher, deeply involved in the study and use of American indigenous herbalism, and a certified Voice BioAnalysis practitioner. She holds many other professional certifications.
Based in the Pacific NW, Eversole's organization is a 501c3 tax exempt organization which serves internationally and has provided community and college based education; corporate wellness programs; consultation to health care professionals and the supplement industry; to business, organizations, and elected officials; established three community-based natural health libraries, and a veteran's resource program. CHI develops and manufactures targeted nutritional and herbal supplements.
Gayle is a highly respected educator, speaker, author and writer who is often sought by the media and natural health venues for interviews and her expertise. She recently joined a panel of experts for the natural products industry.
She has been associated with many professional health organizations, works closely with The Silver Valley Community Resource Center (www.silvervalleyaction.com), and is a founding member of the SnoIsle Coop.Mediation and Arbitration (1982 - 83) Coop. Currently, Eversole is working on new supplements and herbal remedies and novel uses for her unique sports supplement – ADVENTURX. Gayle publishes the Healthy Handout series, Natural Health News (2004), leaflady.org (1991) and simply4health.org (2006). She has published numerous books and articles, and contributes to other natural health publications. Her column, Health Matters, has been featured in mainstream media since 1991; Natural Notes on Health since 2002. She publishes two newsletters, herbalYODA Says! and the Diabetes E-list, and has an online radio program.