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Essential oils used to be relegated to the realm of hippies and new age bookstores. Now they are everywhere, and oddly enough it is because they are everywhere that they are starting to get a bad rap. Before, your essential oil exposure came from your free-thinking aunt who wore caftans and turquoise rings and carried essential oils with her, but now they pop up on websites, your Facebook feed, and they are being touted as cure-alls. Classes are being offered for using essential oils during pregnancy, to heal your thyroid, to fight the plague, and often the people teaching the classes have very little training in these potent and sometimes volatile oils. It’s no wonder that most of you are skeptical.
There is science behind essential oils. The first person to teach me about the medical uses of essential oils, Amanda Lattin of Terracina Aromatics & Herbals in Portland, has a degree in chemistry and uses that background to cultivate a deep understanding of the basic elemental benefits of essential oils. Still skeptical? The medical research surrounding essential oils is in its infancy, but some promising studies have been done. I don’t think essential oils are cure-alls, and I mostly use them in my practice for their relaxation properties, but there are a few essential oils that I always have stocked in my medicine cabinet, and you should, too.
From the land of Australia, tea tree oil is kind of as close to a cure-all as you can get. Most of you have had a friend or colleague suggest tea tree oil as a way to deal with a problem you complained about, and if you tried it it likely worked. Tea tree oil is even lauded by survivalists as a must-have in case first aid medicines are no longer available. At the very least, this oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which are the root of many of its benefits. Some of the best researched uses are for the treatment of athlete’s foot or nail fungus, acne, to relieve the itchiness of bites and rashes, and as an antiseptic on cuts. Truly this oil is helpful for so many reasons that many people pack it in first aid kits for backpacking trips. It is also one of the only oils that is recommended as being safe to use directly on the skin.
First of all, it smells great. Beyond that, there is a host reasons to keep peppermint oil close at hand. It can be almost a miracle cure for people who suffer from headaches and can even relieve migraines. If you suffer from headaches, you can try rubbing peppermint oil on your temples or the base of your neck at the onset of a headache for relief. For some women just smelling it can help relieve nausea during pregnancy. Research has shown some promise for the use of peppermint oil in cases of IBS, as one of the components helps to relax muscle spasms in the colon. It is also a great oil to smell or use in a steam inhalation if you have plugged sinuses from a cold or sinus infection. You can also add the oil to baked goods for a great kick of peppermint flavor.
This essential oil is a powerhouse when it comes to colds and sinus congestion, and again comes to you by way of the Aussies. It is a natural at unblocking clogged sinuses, and can be used for steam inhalation, in a humidifier in your child’s bedroom at night, or you canadd a drop or two to your neti pot to help treat a sinus infection. There is some preliminary evidence that it may be an effective analgesic for arthritic pain and muscle pain associated with overuse. One of the best folk uses of eucalyptus oil is as a treatment for mental fatigue — simply smell the oil, and feel more alert.
Best known for its calming and sleep-inducing aroma, lavender oil’s benefits reach far beyond the realm of relaxation. One of the best first aid uses of lavender oil is for burns. A mild burn can benefit from a few drops of lavender essential oil to reduce pain and swelling. Because of its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, lavender can be a great way to treat minor cuts and scrapes, acne, and some people even swear by it for treating their eczema. It tends to be fairly gentle, too, whereas some essential oils are more reactive, so it is another favorite for application to the skin. Rub some on your temples or smell to help mellow acute anxiety. You can also add lavender oil to a bath to help quiet a busy mind in preparation for sleep.
Contact My Kids Clubhouse if you are interested in learning more about essential oils.