Keeping Your Family Healthy Through The Winter Months With Essential Oils

Posted on Friday 30 October 2009

The body of scientific evidence regarding the potency of plant medicines against a great variety of viral and bacterial illnesses is growing. And with the Winter months — the “cold and flu season” — coming, now is the time to investigate all the ways you can protect your health and the health of your family. More and more people are turning to the vast healing potential of essential oils, getting beyond the soft ideas of “aromatherapy” and into the practical value of “aroma medicine”. Using essential oils for immune system support is a tried-and-true application — in fact, most medical aromatherapists consider the most important use of essential oils in medical applications will be for the prevention and treatment of infectious illness (see Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt’s ‘Medical Aromatherapy’).

Why Are Essential Oils Such Effective Antimicrobial Medicines?

An essential oil is simply a form of herbal medicine, like a tincture, extract or encapsulated herd concentrate. The incredible medicine found in essential oils stems from them being the primary immune defense for plants. Just like humans and other animals, plants also must defend themselves against bacteria and viruses. And it happens that essential oils are perfectly compatible with human physiology — they are easily and quickly absorbed, and destroy microbes in our bodies just as they would in plants. Further, they even enhance our cells in such a way as to make them more resistant to infection, and even make our immune cells more effective at removing foreign invaders — all from these great smelling natural plant extracts.

Scientific Support: Antibacterial, Antiviral and Immune-Supportive Effects

For the treatment and prevention of infectious illness, essential oils are used for two purposes: the general strengthening of the immune system and the direct eradication of viruses. A great many peer-reviewed research papers have been produced showing the efficacy of essential oils for both purposes. Using the database of the National Institute of Health (www.pubmed.gov) one can review the data by searching for terms such as ‘essential oil virus’ (currently producing 93 results) or ‘essential oil immune’ (producing 143 results) and the like. Essential oils have been shown to actually increase the power of lymphocytes and increase the speed at which the immune system produces antibodies to eliminate an infection. And of course many essential oils are highly-regarded antibacterial agents (we all know about Tea Tree and Oregano), and a few of them have been shown to destroy viruses directly (Laurus Nobilis was shown to eradicate the virus causing SARS, and very recently Tea Tree was shown to be effective against the Swine Flu virus).

Cold and Flu Prevention At Home and In The Workplace

So how can you employ essential oils for the health of your family and children? Or for those in clinical settings, how can oils be used to prevent the spread of infection? There are two primary features to the oils that you’ll want to utilize: their direct eradication of microbes in the air, and their ability to support our immune systems to prevent infection within our bodies. There are two methods of using essential oils for these purposes: Diffusion and topical application. Both these methods are also useful if one has already caught a cold or flu, particularly in the early stages.

Diffusing Essential Oils: Aromatherapist’s Favorite Immune Supporting Method

Diffusing essential oils is one of three primary modalities of aromatherapy (the other two being aroma-massage and ingestion). Evaporating the oils in your environment offers several important benefits: the air is disinfected, the scent of the oils is apparent — offering mood lifting effects, and secondary immune-enhancing effects for some people, and the oils are inhaled and absorbed by the body. This is an exceptionally useful means of using the oils for immune support in crowded environments, having the potential effect of reducing the spread of contagions. Perhaps the most important effect is the direct contact of the essential oils with our respiratory system — the sinuses and the lungs — where having cells be more resistant to infection can have the most beneficial result.

Nebulizing Diffusers: The Most Effective Style

One means to do both is using a professional-grade essential oil diffuser. For all these purposes, a high-quality nebulizing diffuser is the best choice, capable of making the highest concentration of essential oil in the air in your environment. Other diffusers will make a nice aroma for sure, but the cold-air (as opposed to ‘ultrasonic’) nebulizer will make a fine mist of pure essential oils, and is easily adjusted to suit the size of your environment. A nebulizer should only be used for a few minutes every hour; essential oils are very potent, and one should never feel overwhelmed by their aromas. By using a diffuser coupled with a timer, you can cycle the diffuser ON for 10 minutes, then OFF for 50 throughout the day and night. This method also conserves the oils to keep costs to a minimum.

Topical Application: Easily Absorbing the Essential Oils

Essential oils are also very effective when topically applied — they readily pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. For this purpose, very simple blends of essential oils and carrier oils can be made. A carrier oil is just any “fixed” oil (one that does not easily evaporate) like Jojoba, Olive, Almond and the like. The dilutions are as follows: for application to the feet, use ten percent total essential oils in carrier, for other parts of the body and for a bath oil, use five percent. A soak in a warm tub, with your oil formula mixed in is an absolutely lovely way to gain all the benefits of the oils: they’re absorbing into the skin and evaporating from the surface for inhalation. For blending: a one-percent concentration is equal to eight drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of carrier oil — from there you can multiply up to whatever volume of blend you’d like to make. For children, cut these concentrations by half, for children under 7, in half again, and under 4 half again. Do not topically apply essential oils to children under two without consulting a professional or highly-knowledgeable practitioner for precise instructions.

Simple Aroma-Therapeutic Massage

Your oil blend can be massaged into regions of the body associated with the immune system: the lymph glands are near the surface in the front of the arm pits, on the sternum, and the sides of the neck. Some folks will massage the blends into their sinus areas and temples as well. Further, the tops and bottoms of the feet are very receptive to the actions of essential oils — by consulting a reflex point chart, you can even pinpoint spots associated with the respiratory and lymph systems. Regular, daily application to either the feet or lymph-node regions can be a highly effective means of gaining the immune-supportive benefits of oils when diffusion is not practical, such as when traveling.

Choosing The Essential Oils

A few oils are considered both very safe AND highly effective for our purposes. Niaouli is considered by some to be the most potent immune-stimulating oil available, though its “fishy-eucalyptus” smell is a challenge for some. But other oils in the same family are also very effective, and more pleasant to use: Eucalyptus Radiata, Bay Laurel, Melissa, Tea Tree, Thyme (for family use, choose only the Linalool chemotype), Ravensara, Rosemary, Rosalina, Lavender and Hyssop are excellent choices. For home or clinical use, an excellent “starter” formula can be made by choosing any of these three oils and mixing them together in equal parts. Even better, choose one from each “family” of oils shown: Eucalyptus from the “cineol” oils, Lavender from the florals, and Melissa from the herbs. (Because of the high cost and exceptional potency of Melissa, it can be used at about 1/5th portion of the other oils).

Mixing any three of these oils will create an effective synergy (it appears that the more chemically-complex essential oils have greater antiviral action, and blending this way replicates this). A specific formula may be made like this: 1 milliliter each of Bay Laurel, Eucalyptus, and Lavender, plus 8 drops of Melissa. This recipe can be used directly in a diffuser, or blended in a carrier oil as above. In one ounce of carrier, this would make a 10% concentration (for foot use), in 2 ounces of carrier for application to the rest of the body and as a bath oil. Continue diluting the recipe as necessary for children depending on their age. Essential oils are highly potent, so don’t be afraid of really diluted them down for use by children (in fact, this should be the rule!).

Essential Oils: Simple Treatments for Maximum Health

During the cold seasons, these simple uses of essential oils can have profound results for your immune system, and the health of your friends, co-workers, clients, family and children. You can be confident of the scientifically-supported benefits of these wonderful herbal medicines. And as oils have so many positive health effects outside of just supporting immune system function, you’ll open the door to a new realm of natural health.

The Wellness author is currently writing a comprehensive wellness book for women. See her blog at www.organicmedicinalherbs.com

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