Are all aromatherapy products the same?
Aromatherapy began being used in ancient Egypt, China, and Greece for physical and psychological healing. It is defined by NAHA as “The art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind, and spirit.”
Simply stated, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, concentrated amounts of very aromatic plant parts captured through different processes, like steam-distillation.
The ways to use essential oils depends in part on why they are being used. Inhalation, application, compression, and bathing are the most common methods of use. Oils can be applied directly to the skin in what is called a “neat” fashion, however, care should be taken to avoid over-application (ONE drop is enough) and to avoid certain “hot” oils. Over-application would be the use of more than 1-3 drops, one drop being plenty in the majority of the cases. “Hot” oils would include cinnamon and clove, for example. These oils can burn the skin and leave an area “sunburned”. Should too much oil get on the skin, dilute with coconut or olive oil rather than water. Once diluted wash with warm soapy water.
When inhaled essential oils have the ability to stimulate limbic are of brain (memory and emotions) thereby triggering neuro-chemical release (happiness, sadness, excitement, relaxation, euphoria). Inhalation sends scent molecules directly to the brain’s olfactory nerve, entirely bypassing the brain-blood barrier causing the effects to be almost immediate for some. This is possible due the the size of the particulate. They are extremely small. It is this very detail that separates real aromatherapy from most candles and body washes which are labeled, albeit inaccurately, “aromatherapy.” The chemicals used to create perfumes and air fresheners as well as other fragranced items contain man-made chemicals and proteins. It is to these proteins that individuals frequently react with allergies.
A rose ‘perfumed’ candle impacts the body very differently than a candle scented with essential oils distilled from the rose petals themselves. The rose essential oil absorbed into the bloodstream stimulates the body physiologically. It accomplishes this on a vibrational level. In fact, rose has one of the highest vibrations of all essential oils allowing it to resonate well with women during menstral discomfort. The oil supplies the body with a vibration it lacks and improves homeostatis.
Other oils, effective in treating headache, stress, allergies, insomnia, jet lag, etc, work within the body in the same way.
Lots of candles and body washes are (inaccurately) labeled “aromatherapy.” It is important to distinguish chemically scented items and true aromatherapy. The difference lies in that aromatherapy oils are distilled from a botanical source like a leaf or flower. The oils that result are essential oils. They are pure and unadulterated. Often individuals have allergic or asthmatic reactions to adulterated oils and chemically derived scents because proteins have been added to the oils to thin them out and allow companies to get more bang for their buck. These proteins encourage allergic reactions.
Aromatherapy is the use of scents for therapeutic purposes. It stimulates the limbic system which is the seat of emotion, memory, and instinct. The naturally occurring compositions of different essential oils have different healing effects.
Essential Oil Recipes
Essential Oil Perfume: Floral Garden
1/2 oz 100 proof vodka
10 drops Ylang Ylang
5 drops Jasmine
5 drops Bergamot
Add essential oils to 1 oz glass bottle. Add vodka. Fill up the rest with purified water. Shake well. Allow 24 hours for the scents to blend completely. Shake well before each use.
Raindrop in a Bottle
25 drops Valor
5 drops Oregano
5 drops Thyme
5 drops Cypress
5 drops Wintergreen
5 drops Basil
5 drops Peppermint
5 drops Marjoram
5 drops Aroma Siez
20 drops Ortho-Ease
20 drops V-6
(Use only therapeutic grade essential oils. Skin test on a small area before extensive use.)
Essential Oil Desk Reference Published Research and Studies
1998: Chao studied a blend of oils patterned after that used by 15th century thieves containing cinnamon, rosemary, clove, eucalyptus and lemon was diffused in a closed room in which bacteria cultures were sprayed. There was an 82% reduction in M. Luteus, a 96% reduction in P. Aeruginosa, and a 44% reduction in S. Aureusbioaerosols following 10 minutes of exposure.
Another study compared the effectiveness of essential oils to antibiotics – preliminary results showed cinnamon and oregano are comparable with Penicillin and Ampicillin in inhibitory activity against E. coli and Staph. aureus.
Tea Tree Oil: The Science behind the Antimicrobial Hype
Because of increasing resistance to antibiotics, interest in finding alternatives is strong. Tea tree oil (TTO) has been widely used in Australia for 80 years and is active against many micro-organisms. A pilot study of 30 MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) carriers comparing routine mupirocin nasal ointment and triclosan skin wash with TTO ointment and wash, showed one third were completely cleared by TTO but only 13% by conventional treatment.
In another trial of TTO in the treatment of herpes cold sores, the oil was found to assist healing to a similar degree as topical 5% acyclovir. The oil has about 100 components but 7 terpenes and their related alcohols constitute 80 to 90% of the whole oil. Several of these components have been shown to reduce levels of Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Terpenes are lipophilic and partition into the phospholipid layer of cell membranes, disrupting normal structure and function. Allen, P., LANCET 2001, 358 (9289) 1245 or: Janssen AM et al, 1987. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils: 1976-1986 literature review. Planta Med 53 (5) 395-398.
Kurt Schnaubelt’s Book Lists Basic Research
1960: Maruzella demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal effects of hundreds of aromatic compounds
1987: Deininger and Lembke demonstrated antiviral activity of essential oils and their isolated components
1973: Wagner and Sprinkmeyer in 1973 did research on a 170 year old blend of distilled oils still available in Germany. The effects of Melissa and the other oils in Kosterfrau Melissengeist had been empirically known since Paracelsus (about 1500). They concluded that, with varying degrees of intensity, there was an inhibiting influence on all the bacteria tested, (Pneumococcus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphlococcus aureus haemolyticus, Neisseria catarrhalis, Streptococcus haemolyticus, Proteus vulgaris, Hemophilus influenza, Haemophilus pertussis, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli-Aerobacter group, various Corynnebacteria, and Listeria) and stated the large spectrum of this inhibitory action is as broad as or even greater than that of wide-spectrum antibiotics.
1995: Deininger et al. Demonstrated the broad spectrum of antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal activity of essential oils and their components as well as effectiveness for upper respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urogenital systems and for nervousness and arterial conditions. They also showed KMG has sedative and spasmolytic properties.
Included were many different bacterial species, aflatoxin forming fungi, quantitative proof of the antiviral effectiveness of different essential oil constituents with special attention to their cell toxic effects on human cells. Antiviral effects were shown against herpes and adenoviruses with a broad spectrum of activity. Showed oils including Klosterfrau mellisengeist terpenes could be shown curatively and preventively in animal experiments after otherwise lethal herpes injections were administered, and induce a significant increase of immunoglobulins.
Early Basic Science Research Showing Essential Oils Have Antimicrobial Effects
1800-2002: Numerous animal and in vitro studies – evidence that all essential oils are antiseptic, some more than others and that many are effective against certain fungi, bacteria and viruses.
1881: Koch demonstrated the bactericidal action of essence of turpentine against anthrax spores.
1887: Chamberland demonstrated bactericidal activity of essences of oregano, cinnamon and clove on bacillus anthracis.
1910: Martindale showed essential oil of oregano is the strongest plant-derived antiseptic known to date, 25 to 76 times more active than phenol on colobacillus.