What is “galvanic skin response”?

Galvanic skin response (GSR) is the term I have found in the promotional material of some popular devices that are supposed to be able to scan your body and then with complex algorithms, determine which essential oils and/or supplements are best for you. GSR is an older term for what is today more commonly called electrodermal activity or EDA. These devices are hugely popular, very expensive, and trusted by millions.

Years ago I got caught up in this technology. I could put my hand on a device and in less than two minutes I would get the scan results. With those results I had a window to my body and soul. This was due to using a desk reference to decipher the results. Was I “toxic”? If an essential oil or product thought to help with that was listed, well, I must need detoxed. Was I angry? If some oil blends with emotional names popped up, I must need them to “release” this emotion.

I had some very intriguing and unexplainable scans. One woman had a brain tumor and what do you know, an oil came up on the scan that was supposed to support the brain. Another time an “emotional” oil blend appeared. I asked the person a question about it and they burst into tears saying, “How could it know that?”

That’s what I wanted to know. More and more I began to question this magic tool that knew so much.

EDA can be boiled down to the activity of the sweat glands on the skin. These are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. I emailed the company that I had the device with for more explanation. They gave me none, but just said that it measured the galvanic skin response. How could this specifically tell me what was going on in my body? How could a particular oil or supplement be recommended based on minute changes in the sweat of my hands? They could not or would not answer.

I canceled my account and threw away my $800 device as fast as I could.

This article goes into more detail about the history of such devices. They are numerous and most have already been exposed as pseudoscience and quackery. It compares the devices to “magic 8 balls.” Some energy healing websites believe that they measure “energy, use quantum physics, or intuition and the subconscious.” There is no possible way to verify that. All that is left are testimonials. I heard that one woman was told after a scan that she was completely toxic. I would ask you, what is she to do with that information? Supposedly, use all the recommended products.

There is a lot of pseudoscience in alternative medicine, aromatherapy included. In my opinion, whether a specific wellness strategy, diet, plant or whatever comes from the East or West, is ancient or modern, it is either medicine or nonmedicine, science or psdeudoscience. It is up to the consumer to research those who advocate it and those who oppose it. The truth will be borne out if one is not afraid to research.

I do believe that there are things that “work” that are not rooted in real science. In my experience I have seen the paranormal. I have seen pseudoscience be effective, but I now question the source of the effectiveness. I have personally stopped doing all of those techniques and have thrown away the tools. Most of the time, the “healing” was temporary or one malady was exchanged for another. In my opinion and conviction, these devices are like expensive Ouija boards, giving advice that is neither accurate nor profitable for body or soul.

What is clinical aromatherapy?

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Aromatherapy is the use of the aromatic essence of a plant. We think of little brown bottles of fragrant oil. Some smell pleasant and others frankly don’t! To produce most authentic and pure oils, large amounts of plant material are put into enormous vats and steam coming up through the plant material later condenses into essential oil and water. The oil that floats on top has the fat-soluble plant compounds and the water underneath contains the water-soluble plant molecules. Both are useful in aromatherapy. The scent of a pure oil can be reproduced in a laboratory, but the true plant chemistry cannot be reproduced synthetically, so a synthetic oil could never affect the mind and body the way a natural oil could.

So what can an essential oil do? There are countless testimonies by people who claim that an oil helped them in a certain way. A clinical aromatherapist studies the research done on the chemistry of the essential oil components and how those components affect the mind and body. A clinical aromatherapist creates blends and products that have essential oils in them like massage oils, cleansers, salves, and lotions to help their client achieve their wellness goals. Essential oils have been scientifically found to affect even the nervous system, which means that the brain and heart can be excited or calmed. Because of this and other reasons, such as potential drug interactions and overdosing, care should be used with all essential oils when they are employed beyond making a room smell nice or cleaning the home.

Spirituality at your local doctor’s office?

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All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. ~ 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Integrative is such a buzzword now. What does it really mean? It is basically an integration of Eastern and Western medicine. As Eastern spirituality and its focus on the inner self becomes more popular, Western practitioners are adding this spiritual dimension to their lineup. It is marketed as wellness for mind, body, and spirit or emotions all in one place. Sometimes it is described as conventional plus alternative, or holistic. It is inclusive of just about any technique or method that can be described as “healing.” In any case, it is changing the face of health care as we know it.

Is this a good thing? Recently, there was an announcement that the VA would consider alternative therapies as options. This opens the door for therapies such as yoga and reiki, aromatherapy, energy work, acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, meditation and many others for veterans to choose from. All this is already available to the general public, but usually not covered by insurance.

As an aromatherapist you may think I would applaud this and every integrative medical practice, but I don’t. Recently, I have realized the importance of discerning the belief system underlying different techniques and methods of care for emotions and the spirit. I have taken a very close look at alternative medicine and its varied philosophical, historic, and religious roots.

If the spirit of a person matters, this matters. If a technique used on me in a doctor’s office is derived from shamanism, I want to know. If the originators of a technique describe its beginning as coming from an ascended master or spirit guide, I want to know. If there is no reliable scientific evidence of the technique being effective, I want to know.

As a Christian, my spiritual health is between me and Jesus. Scripture, prayer, and the support of my brothers and sisters in Christ are sufficient for my mental and spiritual needs, which is what the verse above describes. Beyond that, pastoral counseling is my personal first choice for the care of my soul. One-stop-shopping at an integrative care center offering spiritual-based approaches is something that one should research carefully before using.

Your soul matters. If you have questions, I would be happy to answer them from my personal experience in this area. I am a Christian Licensed Spiritual Health Coach, which means I simply help a person find how Jesus is the answer through scripture. Because He is. Not alternative therapies and techniques. Not even essential oils. Just Jesus for the care of your soul.



True aromatherapy

daiga-ellaby-154935-unsplashWhat is aromatherapy?

I looked up the Greek word “therapy” in Strong’s Greek Concordance of the Bible and this is what I found:

Original Word: θεραπεία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: therapeia
Phonetic Spelling: (ther-ap-i’-ah)
Definition: attention, medical service
Usage: care, attention, especially medical attention (treatment); hence almost: healing; meton: those who render service.

Because essential oils are not medicine and are not recognized as a cure for anything per the current medical system, let’s focus on the words “care” and “attention.”

As an aromatherapist, I help you care for yourself and give attention to what you would like to address through the use of aromatics, or essential oils. The verb form of this word, therapeuo, is translated “to heal” in most cases in the Bible. It is the most frequently used word meaning “to heal.” But like the noun form, it can also mean to take care of someone or serve them so they get better over time. It is a service rendered from one person to another. For example, this is what I think of when someone tells me they are going to physical therapy. They aren’t expecting to walk in with something amiss and walk out feeling 100% better the first session. And so it is with aromatherapy…

Another comparison is eating healthy. One piece of broccoli is not going to change your life, but consistently eating healthy meals just might. Unlike what you may have heard, essential oils are not a cure-all. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that they are all you need.

There is a lot of pseudo-science out there that is trying to make essential oils into something they are not. There is zero hard science that oils will raise your vibration (this is from the ancient theory of vitalism), that oils have intelligence (they are not sentient, cannot think, nor do they contain a god consciousness), or that they are the “life blood” of a plant (they are a secondary metabolite of the plant, not a primary metabolite necessary for life).

So that is a quick answer of what essential oils are not and cannot do, but a quick search of the actual research being done on essential oils will reveal that they certainly do have much to offer. Check out Pubmed.com and type in any essential oil in the search box. Up pops the research! Some of it is fascinating. Unfortunately, it is not in the best financial interests of the drug companies to fund it like they do other things, because you cannot patent nature. However, almost 3/4 of medicine today is the result of testing plants and their chemical constituents! Plants are important.

So how does aromatherapy actually work? I do not diagnose, treat, or prescribe, but I do know what the chemical constituents of essential oils are and how they generally act in a body. You tell me your health goals and I share with you the research and oils that support your goal, so you are educated in what is available. Sometimes there are dozens of options that might do the same thing, but you may not like how they smell! It is important that you like the combination of the 3-5 oils in your blend, so you will be more inclined to use it. Then you choose the vehicle, meaning, would you like a lotion, massage oil, nasal inhaler, diffuser blend, gel, salve or cream? I train you in how to make your blend. You are really in charge, it is just the education and coaching that I provide. This is true aromatherapy. No woo woo. No magic concoctions. Just care over time, giving attentions to your needs like the original Greek meaning of the word. 

Do you need some care and attention? Let’s book a free consultation so you can find out options for true aromatherapy!


Pitfalls of researching essential oils

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A friend of mine was recently using lavender on her son’s legs. She later said she had researched and found out that lavender was hormonally bad for boys. I had to respond that that had been debunked, but how was she to know? Once on the internet, always on the internet. Bad information is abundant.

There are a lot of pitfalls and wrong turns that you can make when researching the use of essential oils. I know, because eleven years ago I started researching to help my own family. I was brand new to oils. I had a one hour consultation with a master herbalist and doctor of naturopathy who had given me guidance in their use along with information about having a healthy lifestyle. I am indebted to her wisdom. Ross, then five years old, was restored to his normal, happy self after using oils and changing other things we did. Then, I struck out on my own to learn more about these amazing oils.

Contradictory information was rampant! Here on one site, someone said using oils internally could kill you. There on another, someone said that they were consuming over 100 drops a day, at times and feeling great. Other sites totally discredited essential oils as “woo woo.” But then I found pubmed.com where there were actual scientific studies on certain oils. How do you use essential oils? Are they safe for children? Can you use them when pregnant? Do they interfere with pharmaceuticals? Where were dependable answers when I needed them?

I was overwhelmed and discouraged. I really wanted to share my love of oils and what they could do, but from what authority could I speak? I did not want to give someone bad information. I thought back to the woman who had helped us in our time of distress with Ross. I wanted to be like her.

Then I found out something else. Not only is the pharmaceutical industry generally against essential oils and doctors in the US are not educated in their use, but plant oils cannot be patented, and therefore there is little money being invested in research, because there is not much return on investment. Over 74% of medicines come from plants, but the active compounds are first discovered in the lab, and then either isolated or synthesized so the “drug” can be created and patented for money. The FDA is adamant that only drugs can cure. Oils are not drugs by any means.

So, the drug companies are not going to have favorable information about essential oils on the internet, but why was there this contradictory stuff? That’s when I found out about the different schools of aromatherapy. The dominant school is the British model, begun by Marguerite Maury, a British massage therapist. She knew the value of therapeutic touch, but added to it very small amounts of essential oils to the massage oil. Since they were so diluted, there really was no worry of adverse skin reactions, or worry about the quality of the oil. This is the dominant school of aromatherapy. Most learning centers and on line certificates in the US are from this school of thought – topical use and strong dilution.

The French model is different. Gattefosse and Valnet were instrumental in bringing aromatherapy to the forefront in the 20th century. Gattefosse was a chemist, Valnet a doctor. Gas gangrene was a major cause of death for soldiers in WWI, after Gattefosse disovered how helpful lavender oil was for his own skin, he worked with other doctors to help wounded soldiers with lavender and other oils. Valnet also worked with soldiers, but also wrote extensively about oils and established the first college of plant-based medicine in 1981. The French had used essential oils internally, topically, and diffused for centuries, but these men brought essential oils into more popular use.

I decided to look for an aromatherapy school to become certified that would endorse the safe use of essential oils from the French point of view, but also include the value of massage oils like the British school. I am now a certified aromatherapist. That took a lot of time and study, but it was worth it.  I highly recommend the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies. They take a balanced approach. I am continuing up the ladder of study as we speak.

Don’t have a bazillion hours to study about oils and research the bias of the web site you are on? Let me do all that work for you! That is the immense value of an aromatherapist. Curious about oils? You have come to the right place to find out your options. Contact me for a free consultation.