The renewed interest in how Essential Oils can help with your health will be covered in a regular monthly series of articles by Sheila McGinnis, first up, a little bit of background:
The use of plants (flowers, stems, bark, and root) has been used since ancient history. The Egyptians have been given the credit of discovering their benefits, but from what we know it’s been used in China and India during the same period and credit also goes to the Romans for their scientific advancements of extracting oils from plants. The oils during this time were generally made by infusing them in olive oil as well as animal fat, vinegar, and even honey. Plants were also burned to release their volatile compounds.
Egyptians used myrrh, frankincense, lavender, thyme, and cinnamon during the mummification process to cover the odor of death as well as a source of beautification (baths, hair, and deodorant). There is a legend that the father of medicine, Hippocrates, protected Athens from the great plague by burning large fires of herbs in the streets because they thought you could catch the disease just by the smell. He has also been quoted to say “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.” There are many more historical figures who studied plants, as well as, theories of how they worked such as Louis Pasteur and the germ theory, the miasma theory, John Snow, and René-Maurice Gattefossé who coined the term aromatherapy and discovered that lavender oil healed a severe burn he received in the lab. He wrote a book that was published in 1937 by the title Aromatherapie.
You may often hear that essential oils are very safe, and to this, I agree, under the statement of Aromatherapy. There is a difference in aromatherapy and aroma-medicine; there are still precautions when using the inhalations with small children and pregnant women.
Aromatherapy-inhalation or topical (generally diluted by a carrier oil) and most commonly used with massage.
Aroma-medicine-these oils are taken internally and have been scientifically as well as clinically studied to prevent hazardous reactions. You should not ingest essential oils without the knowledge of a certified professional.
Which leads me to the very popular movement of essential oil direct sales company.
WARNING: I may upset a few people which is not my intent. A lot of the direct sales people are NOT trained. They are told how safe the oils are, they are given a book to tell you the many oils can help with any and every issue you are having. I am all for someone making money doing what they love, and yes they are good oils, but the term “certified” or “medicinal grade,” is not true because in the U.S. there is no formal governmental approved agency that grades the oils.
They will use what’s called anecdotal stories of “my grandma used x and it healed her gout,” but this can’t be considered a fact that essential oil x cured gout. Proof must come from scientific and clinical studies. I do know several who have been trained and also sell oils and in my opinion take their advice, just don’t fall for the terms that their oils are the ‘very best’. If you want tips on how to buy oils visit the Aromaweb’s site How to Buy Essential Oils, do your own research and check out PubMed to see if there has been any type of clinical studies.
In future issues, we will look at particular oils and their uses. You will learn what part of the plant is used, the method of using it, and any warnings you may need to know. Until then stay healthy and increase your joy.