Are you tired of spending five minutes with your doctor and walking out with nothing more than a prescription for pills?
Do you want to learn how to take care of your own health and your family’s health without taking prescription drugs?
The following keys can save you years of trial and error in learning how to use essential oils for treating acute illnesses. I specifically want to spare you the many mistakes I made when I first started using essential oils.
1. Avoid heating essential oils. Every oil has a “smoke point.” Above that temperature the oil begins to oxidize, damaging the oil and its health-promoting benefits. When I first learned about essential oils, I went to the health food store and bought a small bottle of orange essential oil and a diffuser to plug into my car’s cigarette lighter. I put a few drops of the oil on the cloth wick, plugged in the diffuser and drove 75 miles home. When I arrived, my bronchi were tight and my lungs felt like they had been singed from the inside-out. Thankfully I soon learned safer, more effective ways of diffusing essential oils.
2. Choose the safest delivery method. One drop of an essential oil is roughly equivalent to 30 cups of tea! Just as you would not drink 30 cups of tea in a day, you also do not want to take essential oils by mouth. Instead dilute the essential oils in a vegetable oil to a 1-2% dilution (1 -2 drops of essential oil in a teaspoon of unsaturated vegetable oil.) Inhaling essential oils directly affects the brain and central nervous system. Essential oils quickly move through cell membranes, so inhaled essential oils rapidly move through the cells lining the respiratory tract and into the blood stream and reach every cell in the body. Caution: Taking essential oils by mouth can cause liver damage. I have worked with patients who were ingesting essential oils whose liver enzymes and bilirubin levels were elevated. As soon as they stopped taking essential oils by mouth, their levels normalized. Take away: inhalation is the safest method for essential oils, followed by skin application (1-2% dilution in a poly-unsaturated vegetable oil). Take essential oils by mouth only under the direction of a physician who has additional training in working with essential oils.
3. Less is more. In our culture we tend to think, “If a little bit is good, a whole lot must be a whole lot better!” The reverse is true with essential oils. Increasing the dose of essential oils that reduce muscle spasms (e.g. lemongrass) actually increased muscle spasms![i] Increasing the dose of an essential oil that helps break up mucous in the respiratory tract actually reduced its mucolytic effect.[ii]
4. Rotate oils. Using the same essential oil day after day after increases the possibility of becoming reactive to that essential oil. Often someone develops sensitivity not only to that particular essential oil, but also to the entire class of essential oils. To minimize the possibility of becoming reactive to essential oils (and thereby lose the ability to work with these tremendous healing allies), rotate the oils you are using every week or two. Choose at least two, even better three oils that have similar properties. For supporting relaxation and sleep, for example, someone might rotate lavender, frankincense and ylang ylang essential oils.
5. Keep essential oils away from children and pets. Although essential oils have fabulous healing properties, they also are very difficult for the liver to metabolize (break down and excrete). Some researchers have theorized that exposure to plants containing essential oils triggered our human livers to develop very advanced cytochrome P450 (CYP) detoxification pathways. Carnivorous animals, e.g. dogs and cats, do not have the same level of CYP development, presumably because they did not evolve eating plants and therefore did not have the essential oil exposure to trigger the development of those metabolic pathways. Babies and young children have not fully developed those CYP pathways, so only certain oils are appropriate for children under 12 years of age.
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[i] Wagner, H, Sprinkmeyer, L. Uber die pharmakologische Wirkung von Mellissengeist. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitun 113 (30)/1973, pp. 1159 – 66.
[ii] Both quoted in Schnaubelt, K. Advanced Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1998, pages 39 – 40 (Boyd) and 27 (Wagner)
Boyd referenced in Price, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, p. 131.
ABOUT DR. JUDITH BOICE
Dr. Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO (Naturopathic Doctor, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology) is deeply trained in both western and Chinese medicines, so she sees people with two eyes, from two perspectives. These two medical disciplines are seamlessly integrated in her practice.
Dr. Boice’s practice differs even from other naturopathic physicians’ in her focus on creating health rather than simply eliminating disease. Her concierge practice combines cutting-edge, scientific medical research with the ancient roots of healing practices that address emotional, mental, spiritual as well as physical health. Her work bridges the worlds of science and soul.
A woman of many accolades, Dr. Boice is an award-winning author and international teacher. She has a passion for working with cancer, women’s health, pain and chronic illness. Traveling all over the U.S., she has conducted over 1000 trainings and public lectures on women’s health, menopause and osteoporosis. She is the author of several magazine articles and 10 books, including The Green Medicine Chest: Healthy Treasures for the Whole Family which was honored with a Silver Medal in the Nautilus Book Awards and a Bronze Medal in the Living Now Book Awards. Dr. Boice worked for three-and- a-half years as a naturopathic oncology provider at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Southwestern Regional Medical Center.