The Essentials of Essential Oils
By Ryan Durand, DC
Most have heard about essential oils and their potential health benefits. Today, they play an important part in the trend towards a healthier lifestyle and are utilized for many purposes in achieving this end. In the past, essential oils were used for food preparation, perfume and bathing, and antibacterial agents and medicine. Many of the ’fathers’ of modern day medicine utilized essential oils in their care of their patients. Both Hypocrites and Galen utilized various combinations of essential oils in treatment of their Roman and Greek people. Roman soldiers would even carry a tincture of myrrh into battle with them in the event of receiving a wound. At that time, modern medicine did not exist. There were no tablets or creams available to be prescribed. There are even references in the Bible to the use of essential oils with frankincense and myrrh being possibly the most famous being given by the wise men to Mary mother of Jesus.
Ancient versus modern medicine
Modern medicine is the derivative of a natural source (plant, micro- organism, etc.) concentrated down from its original source into a tablet or pill. Much time, energy, and resources are used to create the medicine of today and the discovery of these drugs have shaped our modern world. There can be no argument that the advent of such drugs has led to an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in disease. Research has shown that Essential oils can be as effective in treating common place ailments today. Tea tree oil is shown to be as effective as common place acne medications, antibacterial to MRSA and other ’super bugs’, and for several rashes and dermatitis type skin conditions. Sandalwood oil is used for skin cancer prevention. Peppermint oil is effective in decreasing irritable bowel syndrome. Aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and pain. Thyme reduces inflammation. Lavender is used for inflammation, anxiety and insomnia reduction. There are many more examples of the effects of these botanicals on common place ailments but, the fact remains that these are the purest forms of these substances. Drugs take the component that is found to be most effective and concentrates it into a tablet. Who is to say that some of the lesser impactful components of that plant were not just as vital in promoting the healing effects of the primary ingredient? With so many known side effects to drugs, maybe, the balance is now out of whack due to most impactful ingredient not being kept in order. Time will tell. Whenever research compares an essential oil to the drug counterpart for a specific ailment most often, the drug is quicker to act but also has higher side effect occurrence compared to the essential oil. This point should be made that essential oils too, have side effects associated with them and proper use and recommendations from a doctor should always be maintained.
It is always recommended that one should consult their doctor before they make any medical changes. Never stop taking medications prescribed to them without their doctor’s consent. Essential oils can be an excellent alternative to prescription drugs. in some cases, for more common place ailments, essential oils can be used in place of OTC drugs. Many oils can be used as a topical agent, ingested, and/or diffused in the air as mist. However, some can only be used one way and should never be ingested, for example. It is important to consult your doctor before use and follow the oil instructions. The nature of their natural composition makes risk of side effects low and, in many cases, negligible but, care must still be taken. The key to usage of essential oil is education and purity. Many companies put out a decent product. In my experience, Young Living and doTerra are two of the higher quality brands with reputations of having the highest quality and standards for purity second to none. Many less expensive brands dilute their oils or add in additives for increasing shelf life, lowering cost, etc. If an oil truly is 100% pure, it will last many years providing it remains pure and is not corrupted. This would be another benefit to buying products more on the expensive side.
In summary medicine is a vital component to our health system. Essential oils have been used for centuries and possibly before the written word as medicine. They can be utilized to treat common place ailments in a more natural way. Care should be taken to only take oils as they are recommended. Quality is vital to the effectiveness of the oil with purity being of utmost importance.
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Bassett, I. B., Pannowitz, D. L., & Barnetson, R. S. (1990). A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust, 153(8), 455-458.
Brady, A., Loughlin, R., Gilpin, D., Kearney, P., & Tunney, M. (2006). In vitro activity of tea-tree oil against clinical skin isolates of meticillin-resistant and -sensitive staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci growing planktonically and as biofilms. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 55(Pt 10), 1375-1380.
Burt, S. A. (2003). Antibacterial activity of selected plant essential oils against Escherichia coli O157:H7. Letters in Applied Microbiology 36, 162-7.
Caelli, M., Porteous, J., Carlson, C. F., Heller, R., & Riley, T. V. (2001). Tea tree oil as an alternative topical decolonization agent for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. The International Journal of Aromatherapy, 11(2). [Originally published in The Journal of Hospital Infection (2000), 46, 236-237.]