“Essential oils are not magic or folklore. There is solid science behind them,” says Elizabeth Jones, founder of the College of Botanical Healing Arts, in Santa Cruz, California. Here’s what happens after inhaling lavender, the most popular of all essential oils: The cilia—microscopic cellular fibers in the nose—transport the aroma to the olfactory bulb at the bottom of the brain, from where it proceeds to the limbic brain and directly affects the nerves, delivering a soothing effect.
“Or put it on your skin and other properties of essential oils are absorbed straight into the bloodstream,” advises Jones, author of Awaken to Healing Fragrance. Thai studies show that a whiff of lavender oil is calming and lowers blood pressure and heart rate, yet there are many more benefits attributed to the art and science of aromatherapy and essential oils. For those struggling with summer maladies, here are several simple solutions essential oils can provide.
Minor Scrapes, Cuts and Blisters
Tea tree oil (melaleuca) is tops, because it contains terpenes that kill staphylococcus and other nasty bacteria and works to prevent infection, according to a meta-analysis from the University of Western Australia. The researchers further suggest that tea tree oil may be used in some cases instead of antibiotics. Oregano and eucalyptus oils are likewise acknowledged for their natural abilities to eliminate infection-causing bacteria, fungi and viruses. “Blend all three for a synergistic effect,” says aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand (RobertTisserand.com), of Ojai, California. “They sort of leapfrog over each other to penetrate the skin and cell walls.”
Sunburn, Bug Bites and Poison Ivy
A small amount of undiluted lavender oil will cool sunburn fast, advises Tisserand. Add a few drops to a dollop of cooling aloe vera gel for extra relief and moisture, suggests Jones. Undiluted lavender is also a great remedy for insect bites, says Tisserand. “You can stop the pain of a bee sting in 20 seconds with a few drops.” Chamomile, either the Germanor Roman variety, helps with rashes,according to Jones, especially whenmixed with her summertime favorite,aloe vera gel. She recommends mugwortoil for poison oak or poison ivy,a benefit affirmed by animal researchfrom the Korea Institute of OrientalMedicine’s Herbal Medicine FormulationResearch Group.
During hay fever season, several aromatherapy oils from a diffuser can offer relief, counsels Tisserand. He recommends eucalyptus, geranium and lavender oils, all of which contain antihistamines. Use them separately or blended. When using a diffuser, it’s not necessary to put the oils into a diluting carrier oil or gel. He notes that a steam tent containing 10 drops of each of the three oils mixed with two cups of boiling water is highly effective.
Sprains, Strains and Joint Pain
Lessen inflammation and the pain from tendon and muscle sprains and strains with rosemary or peppermint, adding a dash of ginger for additional benefit,says Tisserand. He recommends rubbingthe oils (diluted in a carrier) directly onthe sore spot.Rosemary is particularly effectivefor bringing blood flow to an injurysite, and the menthol in peppermintis a great pain reliever, adds Jones.A Chinese study published in theEuropean Journal of Pharmaceuticsand Biopharmaceutics confirms thepain-relieving and anti-inflammatoryabilities of peppermint oil. Researchersfrom Taiwan confirm that gingeris anti-inflammatory and can evenreduce intense nerve pain.Jones believes that essential oilshave a place in everyone’s medicinechest. “Sometimes I feel like Davidup against Goliath,” she remarks. “Iencourage everyone to use naturalhealing products from plants instead ofpharmaceutical drugs, the side effectsof which actually diminish the body’snatural ability to heal.”
Kathleen Barnes has authored numerous books on natural health, including Rx from the Garden: 101 Food CuresYou Can Easily Grow. Connect at KathleenBarnes.com.