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.


Plant communication with essential oils

caterpillar and wasp
When eaten by caterpillars, some plants can emit chemicals that signal the help of special wasps. Once called, a wasp lays its egg inside a caterpillar.

Plants have neither arms, legs, nor voices with which to communicate with the world, but they do communicate with their environment. Their appearance communicates and they speak through essential oils to talk to other plants, insects, and animals. They respond to their world too. Essential oils are the plant’s primary method of communication. This is my most favorite characteristic of plants.

I cannot remember where I heard the following story to give due credit: Fir trees respond to dryness by releasing more monoterpene-rich essential oils. These are the tiniest of molecules which become a cloud rising up into the atmosphere “seeding” the clouds to encourage rainfall. In fact, the Appalachian Mountains have a very visible haze of monoterpenes, giving them their distinctive blue color. You smell it as you walk through the woods!

I love the idea of the essential oils being the voice of the plant. To encourage a visit, the plants says, “Come here!” with oils that attract pollinators.  They can also call to predators to come and eat something that is eating it. There is a wasp that is attracted to a molecule that a plant gives off when it is being attacked by a caterpillar. The plant can even sense if there are caterpillar eggs sitting on it’s leaf. The wasp “bodyguard” comes and takes care of the caterpillar and/or eggs.

An example of saying, “Go away!” is allelopathy, which is the plant giving off chemicals (essential oils) to discourage other plants from growing near them. Black walnut is an example. It does not like other black walnuts nearby! The compounds in oils that keep the plant protected from unfavorable insects are very well known. This is why so many people burn citronella-infused candles outside on the patio.

As humans we can move away from danger or shout. Plants can do neither, but they defend themselves with essential oils. Sesquiterpenes are rock stars of plant protection. These are heavier molecules. Think of them as heavy hitters. Biological threats like fungus, bacteria, and other microbials must get past the plants’s essential oil defense.

Plants undergo a lot of stress. One of the purposes of some essential oils is to act on the stressors of a plant, whatever they may be, to reduce its stress. The essential oils may be the plant’s call for help, or an expression of need. At its core, an essential oil is a messenger molecule.

Amazingly, we have scent receptors both inside and outside our bodies – even on our internal organs. Your skin has scent receptors too! Now, why does my elbow need to “smell”? That it doesn’t need to, is the answer, but it can respond to what the oil is communicating. To learn what exactly the essential oils are telling your body takes a little bit of study into the types of compounds in the oils and the different oils themselves (there’s about 300!). I would love to show you great resources for you to support your body’s best health. I can walk with you on this fascinating journey. Contact me for more information and get a coaching session to find what is best for you!