Essential oils may promote health & healing

rose-geranium-herbal-oilNatural cures, remedies, and treatments regularly make their rounds in social media, sometimes promising relief where medicine has failed. Skin rash? Tea tree oil is the solution. Upset stomach? Ginger tea is what you need. Cancer? Cannabis oil is your answer. But what is the validity of such claims?

Using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, such as tree oil, lavender, or even cannabis oil, is considered by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) as CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine.

The NCCIH, part of the U.S. government’s National Institute of Health (NIH), differentiates alternative medicine from complementary – both considered non-mainstream – through definition: Alternative medicine is practiced in place of conventional medicine; Complementary medicine is practiced in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Essentials oils are often used in massage therapy offices and yoga studios for therapeutic purposes, including calming or relief from various medical symptoms. Once in an office or studio, the scent of essential lavender oil may lead to a sense of calmness or a relaxed sensation. The effect is beyond placebo, however.

An April 2012 study published in The Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand titled “The Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Emotional States, Autonomic Nervous System, and Brain Electrical Activity” by Winai Sayorwan MPham, Vorasith Siripornpanich MD, et. al., revealed:

…that lavender oil caused significant decreases of blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal. In terms of mood responses, the subjects in the lavender oil group categorized themselves as more active, fresher, relaxed than subjects just inhaling base oil.

A different study on workplace stress in nurses showed reduced stress symptoms for up to four days for those who wore a 3% lavender solution, in a small bottle pinned to the chest of their clothes, compared with no effect on the control group who had no oil in their bottles.

These studies are a small example of the potential efficacy of essential oil for individuals seeking anything from reduced stress to outright healing of wounds. However, not all oils are natural and fit for therapeutic use, particularly inexpensive “oils” found at major department stores.

Licensed Massage Therapist, Angie Wohar Danek, of Van Voorhis, PA, whose independent massage therapy practice is inside Wohar Chiropractic Health Center at 1295 Grand Blvd. #100, Monessen, PA, provides education and counseling for her clients regarding her, and their, use of essential oils.

When choosing oils, Danek cautions that essential oils are “not regulated as vitamins or healing products, they’re regulated as cosmetics, so manufacturers don’t have to disclose everything used in the distilling process…which could include solvents,” while adding “My advice to people is to make sure you’re working with someone who isn’t just marketing a product, but who is trained.”

Danek outlines four levels of products, starting with therapeutic grade – the type which she uses with her clients and are manufactured by Young Living Oils in Lehi, Utah:

Grade 1: Therapeutic Grade – There are never any chemicals in growing, synthesizing, and distilling. The plants are grown naturally and without pesticides. Only 30% of what’s grown is qualified to be used in Young Living Oils. The growing and distilling conditions need to be ideal for the oil to maintain its therapeutic qualities.

Grade 2: Organic or natural oils – The plants are grown organically, but no conditions are placed on how it is distilled, but it could be solvent based. Even if the solvent is removed, it’s never completely removed and is less desirable.

Grade 3: Extended or Altered Oils, etc. The plants can be grown organically, or not, and are not intended for therapeutic use. They’re blended with other grades of oil to stretch the product.

Grade 4: Usually found at major retailers; these are completely synthetic.

Although essential oils have not undergone extensive clinical trials, as have regulated pharmaceuticals, professionals using top grade oils for therapeutic and healing purposes identify positive effects on both clients and animals.

Anthony, a retired massage therapist in Pittsburgh, PA, used a fibromyalgia mix of essential oils for direct contact massage, which includes oil extracts such as sweet almond oil, thyme, oregano, and patchouli, to name a few. Anthony explains “The oil gets absorbed into the skin and helps relieve nerve ending pain” in fibromyalgia clients. Anthony also used eucalyptus with clients to help open airways, lemongrass to stimulate their senses, and lavender for its calming effect.

Danek utilizes essential oils as her “go-to”, first aid even on the family farm. “We raise chickens and ducks for 4H with the kids. One of our ducks was wounded by a fisher or weasel. The damage was a tearing wound that covered almost 6 inches over the back of the animal’s neck. We applied essential oils to the wound, and in less than two weeks the animal was completely recovered.”

According to Danek, therapeutic grade essential oils can be used alongside of chiropractic care, nutritional changes and emotional support to effect a wide variety of conditions. In their Chiropractic and Wellness practice, they have experienced patients have dramatic healing from medically deemed terminal conditions.

“Essential oils, when used safely and correctly, can help to accelerate healing. There is movement within the medical industry across the country, but progress is slow and it will likely be years before they are widely accepted,” she said.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges