ESSENTIAL OILS: Effective Tools for Health
By Amylee Udell
Essential oils are natural extracts from plants’ flowers, seeds, roots, bark, and stems. They make flowers smell the way they smell AND they give plants protective qualities against disease and predators. When I first heard about aromatherapy, I thought it a little much to think you could just smell something and have it heal you. While inhaling essential oils CAN affect you, I learned that it’s more than just the odor. It’s the actual plant constituents that are able to enter your cells that make it effective.
Well, that sounds great— a plant based, more natural approach to healing. But for a long time I hesitated. First, I can’t make essential oils at my house and that is what I consider ideal. I can (conceivably) make my own bread or granola, grow my own sprouts, render my own cooking fat, create my own salves and herbal teas and tinctures. Concentrating the oils of plants seemed a somewhat involved process during which the natural properties could be altered and even damaged. Second, the “magic bullet” reductionist approach to health is counter to holistic health. In the search for the one chemical or one molecule that will cure our ailment, we often miss the forest for the trees. Yes, it’s easier to take a pill than change a lifestyle but it’s the lifestyle changes that will truly improve our health. Isolating the essential oil of a plant and then just “taking” it with no thought to underlying issues didn’t sit well with me.
While I still think these are valid points to consider, I have been won over ( within reason!) to the wonder of essential oils. First, they’re a great “gateway” remedy for those just beginning to explore more natural options in healthcare. And that’s BECAUSE of my “magic bullet” doubt. Additionally, as my kids get older and sometimes wince at mom’s “weird” remedies, rubbing some oil on feet or wrists is easy and doesn’t taste bad, so they’ve been very receptive. Next, I love having EOs when my family travels. I love my herbs, but dragging several bags of herbs and herbal blends for “just in case” situations takes up a lot of space and can possibly attract weird looks during airport security checks. With EOs, I am able to bring my most likely candidates in very small bottles. Plus, I can administer them very easily with no special equipment. Last, I’m not abandoning my herbs and whole foods lifestyle, which is more powerful and lasting in terms of healthcare. I use these to support that lifestyle and give an extra boost when needed.
So what are some of my travel go-to oils and “extra boosts?” I’ll list a few but there are so very many to explore.
Lavender– Lavender is probably the most famous oil, smells divine and from that comes it’s ability to calm and ease anxiety. It also has antimicrobial properties and can heal and soothe cuts, bruises, burns and rashes, as well as internal infections, as well as to help ease growing pains and assist sleep during the disruptions of travel.
Lemon- Lemon oil is cleansing and disinfecting for your body, your clothing and other items. It cuts through greasy and gummy messes. I love citrus and find it uplifting. I put a drop in my water bottle when I travel to keep my bottle clean but also for overall immune boosting and digestive help. Lemon is also one of the less expensive oils!
Digestive blend – One of our most common travel issues is digestive upset due to restaurant food, overeating, too many sweets and generally being off-balance. You can make or purchase a digestive blend and I do not travel without ours. I put a drop in my water at the restaurant prophylactically, rubbed some on my kids’ tummies when things are moving too quickly or too slowly or if there are gassy stomach aches. My blend contains ginger, peppermint, fennel, coriander, anise and more. You might find just one of those works for you.
Immune blend – There are so many immune boosting oils. Some popular blends include clove, cinnamon, citrus, and rosemary. Other popular immune helpers and antimicrobial EOs include lavender, oregano, thyme and tea tree. I bring an immune blend with me when I travel for cuts and sores, colds, stomach bugs and anything else I don’t want to think might hit. It also provides that extra layer of protection that comes just having it with me: If I bring it, I won’t need it!
Using Essential Oils
You can use essential oils in several ways. You can take your oil internally by placing a few drops under your tongue or in water, as well as in capsules. Topically, you can apply many oils directly to your skin, where it will be absorbed quickly. Some oils may need a carrier oil like almond or coconut, as the oil might sting or burn. Youngsters usually appreciate a carrier oil for their delicate skin. I apply EOs to my children’s feet. In addition to being delivered right into their systems, what ailment isn’t helped some by a loving foot rub? EOs are also great to add to your lotions and salves. To take oils aromatically, rub a few drops on your palms and inhaling from there. You can also buy a diffuser to dissipate the oil in your home. This is a great way to clean the air of bacterial and viruses. Finally, you can cook with your oils. Peppermint, oregano, lemon and more can add a great flavor boost. Be careful, though, as a little goes a long way.
A few final precautions: just like herbs, these can be effective and powerful. Some oils and herbs should not be used indefinitely. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most proponents of EOs insist that you make sure your oils are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. This will ensure the highest quality and purity of your oil and the best results overall. As with your food and other remedies, take some time to find out where the plants are sourced and how they are treated after harvesting. I know people that use EOs to treat carpal tunnel, ADHD, hormone imbalances and more. As with all medical issues, consult your healthcare provider to see if and how EOs might support your treatment. For common seasonal ailments and everyday scrapes and bruises, EOs are a great addition to your medicine cabinet. Their cost is reasonable up front and very low over time as you need but a few drops per use.
So come by your local La Montanita to take a few whiffs and see what oils might be useful to you and your family.
Amylee Udell, mother of three homeschooled girls, is often found in her kitchen whipping up delectables and avoiding housework. She works part time with a small non-profit and loves NM. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org