Q: What makes an essential oil therapeutic?
It is the chemistry
of an essential oil that gives it the therapeutic properties.
Essential oils contain hundreds of different chemical compounds, which in combination, lend important therapeutic properties to the oil.
Although chemists have successfully recreated the main constituents and fragrances of some essential oils in the laboratory, these synthetic oils lack therapeutic benefits and may even carry risks. Also, many essential oils contain molecules and isomers that are impossible to manufacture in the lab. This is one of the main reason why essential oils cannot be classified as "drugs".
Because essential oils are composites of hundreds of different chemicals, they can exert many different effects on the body. For example, clove oil can be simultaneously antiseptic and anaesthetic when applied topically. It can also be antitumoral. Lavender oil, often called the "Swiss Army Knife" of aromatherapy, is beneficial for various uses such as burns, insect bites, headaches, PMS, insomnia, stress, and hair growth.
One very important thing to note is that because of their complexity, essential oils do not disturb the body's natural balance or homeostasis. If one chemical constituent exerts too strong an effect, another constituent may block or counteract it. A great example of the intelligent molecules of plants working in harmonious synergy within the human body to enable healing! Synthetic chemicals, in contrast, usually have only one action and often disrupt the body's own balance. So, we begin to understand that not all "chemicals" are created equal!
Why Should We Diffuse Essential Oils Instead of Using Those Common Air Fresheners?
▪ Researching air freshener/plug-in ingredients from their Material Safety Data Sheets we find that these ingredients are toxic. Let’s look at a few of the toxic chemicals in air fresheners/plug-ins (Fleming):
Benzyl Alcohol - “…upper respiratory tract irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, a depressed central nervous system and a drop in blood pressure.”
Camphor - “On EPA's Hazardous Waste List… readily absorbed through the body tissues…irritation of eyes, skin, nose, and throat…dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions…avoid inhalation of vapors.”
Dichlorobenzene - “extremely toxic, a central nervous system depressant, kidney and liver poison. One of the chlorinated hydrocarbons that is long-lasting in the environment and is stored in body fat. Vapor irritating to skin, eyes and throat. Banned in California.”
Ethanol-- “… derived from petroleum and is carcinogenic… toxic to the skin, respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental, endocrine, neurological, and gastrointestinal systems.”
Formaldehyde - “…toxic if inhaled, poisonous if swallowed, skin and eye irritant, carcinogenic…”
Naphthalene - “… a carcinogen that accumulates in our waters and marine life. It can be irritating to the skin, alter kidney function, cause cataracts, and is toxic (cardiovascular and developmental), especially to children. It can be poisonous if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.
▪ Air “fresheners,” according to the Household Hazardous Waste Project, do not freshen the air at all. What they do is mask one odor with another, while diminishing one’s sense of smell with a nerve-deadening agent (Pitts, Whiff).
▪ Colorado researchers have helped figure out why mothballs and air fresheners can cause cancer - their chemicals block the natural process of "cell suicide," allowing tumors to develop (Scanlon).
The Healthy Benefits of Diffusing Essential Oils
Diffused oils alter the structure of molecules that create odors, rather than just masking them. They also increase oxygen availability, produce negative ions, and release natural ozone. Many essential oils such as lemongrass, lemon, Purification blend, Citrus Fresh blend, and Thie...
are highly antibacterial and are extremely effective for eliminating and destroying airborne bacteria, fungus, mold, and unpleasant odors.
Research shows that cold air diffusing certain oils may also:
· Relax the body, relieve tension, and clear the mind.
· Help with weight management.
· Improve circulation, alertness, and mental clarity.
· Stimulate neurotransmitters and secretion of endorphins.
· Stimulate growth hormone production and receptivity.
· Improve digestive function and hormone balance.
· Relieve headaches.
A cold air diffuser
is designed to atomize a microfine mist of EOs into the air, where they can remain suspended for up to several hours. Unlike aroma lamps or candles, it disperses oils without heating or burning, which render the oil therapeutically less beneficial and even create toxic compounds.
(From Essential Oils Desk Reference, Second Edition, Essential Science Publishing)
If you don’t have a diffuser yet, you can benefit from pure EOs by the following simple methods.
Place 2 or more drops of EO into the palm of the left hand, and rub clockwise with the flat palm of the right hand. Cup hands together over nose and mouth and inhale deeply. Avoid placing hands near eye area. If oil should get into eyes, use vegetable oil, rather than water, and gently swipe a cotton swab away from tear ducts toward the outside corner of the eye.
Misting Spray: Add 20 drops of EOs to 2-4 ounces of distilled water in a dark amber or blue GLASS spray bottle. Do not use plastic containers as EOs may react and break down plastic.
Be Well, Jen at Oils For Wellness