Modern medicinal, therapeutic use of essential oils is finally being recognized in the US as a valid tool to compliment a diverse natural health, wellness and fitness program. There is still a significant amount of resistance to this science, mainly from 'quackwatch' type individuals, but it is suspected their true backing is from companies marketing synthetic chemical concoctions to address every conceivable ill. 'Big Pharma' for example, is THE industry with the highest average profit margins on earth, and is dedicated to producing, patenting, marketingd selling new, unnatural chemical compounds that are supposed to answer every need of health and wellness. With some formulations they do remarkably well; with others they appear to act with a total disregard for human safety and welfare, concentrating only beating Wall Street analysts' profit estimates for the upcoming quarter, and moving stock prices ever higher. How effective, really, are essential oils in treating stress and disease in humans, and how can you learn more? Let's review the current state of affairs, and see how you might investigate their use in your own natural health and wellness lifestyle.
There is an amazing disregard for natural healing in the mainstream media - despite the fact that so many of today's 'modern medicines' are derived directly from plant compounds. There are HUNDREDS of plants that are known to contain anti-cancer compounds, for example. Many of these without the side-effects of chemotherapy (it takes a skilled, knowledgeable naturopathic doctor to develop an effective personal protocol for this type of work, but success is certainly possible). This brings us to the amazing derision placed upon the science of Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is purely the science of therapeutic use, for physiological as well as psychological imbalances and disorders, of naturally-produced volatile aromatic plant chemicals. It may be that the term 'Aromatherapy' lends itself to being pigeon-holed into mystical 'new age' hocus-pocus, but in reality, it is simply the practice of using a particular class of natural compounds to improve one's health, wellness and well-being.
The education seems inevitable, however. As more folks get fed up with the costs and red tape of our allopathic medical system, they are paying more attention to reports on the efficacy of natural remedies. The use of essential oils has been shown as, if not more, than any other available medicine in certain instances. For Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a painful and debilitating condition, Peppermint essential oil taken during and after bouts of the disease has profound effects on pain, duration, and recurrence of the illness - more so than the most commonly used modern medical treatment. Patients using Peppermint oil felt better than those using conventional treatments, in part because the natural antibiotic effect leaves much needed intestinal flora in balance. It is this balance that is inherent in knowledgably practiced natural medicine; a facet which occurs with essential oils and many other so-called alternative therapies.
Another widely-published effect of a particular essential oil is that of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) for the treatment of oral and genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus, or HSV, is one that a patient is thought to have to live with for the rest of their lives once contracted. The virus remains dormant in the nervous system until times of stress reduce immune system function enough to allow recurrence of painful sores and legions. It's not fun, nor is it considered 'curable' by the American medical establishment. However, in many university studies performed in Germany, Lemon Balm (as well as other combinations of essential oils containing the same ant-viral compounds) has been shown very effective at reducing the pain, duration, and frequency of outbreaks through topical application. One professor has even proclaimed that repeated use before and during outbreaks can lead to complete remission of the disease. Again, Aromatherapy to the rescue!
Then, of course, there is the 'aroma' therapeutic aspect of essential oil use. The hard facts show the olfactory sense of the brain is wired directly to vital control centers of the gray matter - particularly those governing emotions, stress levels and, well we're not sure how this relates to your health, but sexual arousal as well. And with acceptance of the importance of one's mental health relating to their physical well being continuing to grow, Aromatherapy may eventually find it's place in hospitals and doctor's offices alongside stethoscopes, syringes and cotton swabs. Many, many studies have shown the self-evaluated improvements in mood and stress levels when inhaling particular essential oils - and because stress is considered by many health professionals as THE number one cause of disease, it's a short leap to believe the inhalation of spirit-lifting aromas can result in improved states of health.
Aromatherapy in a natural health, wellness and fitness regime is not a cure-all, miracle path to health, however. Like any other medicine or treatment, it has it's place, and should be used when it provides the best combination of safety and efficacy. How do you find out if essential oils can help you, your friends or your loved ones? Educate yourself! There are several wonderful books available on medical and clinical aromatherapy. Some will deal mostly with the psychological aspects, others mainly in treatment of infectious illness, and others touch on every conceivable application. Buy them, get them from your library, borrow them from friends - but educate yourself as much as possible, and find a degreed practitioner if need be. But most of all, give Aromatherapy a chance. The particular class of plant compounds called 'essential oils', which just happen to smell nice, have as much validity as any other field of medicine, and deserves to be appreciated with the same respect. Whether they work for you is up to your own knowledge and dedication to the practice!