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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cold Care and Your Immune System - The Aromatherapy Synergy

Getting sick is just no fun, but with our fast-paced lifestyles, sometimes it's difficult to keep our stress levels low and our immune system strong. Enter Aromatherapy - Essential oils so commonly used as natural perfumes and mood-lifters can have a have a powerfully-supportive effect on the immune system. In fact, the medical aromatherapy literature makes the point that the most promising use of essential oils in terms of natural health care is in cases of infectious illness. Not only will they help combat illness once it sets in, but therapeutic grade oils can also fortify the immune system to make you more resistant to illness in the first place.

For a brief review, essential oils are the pure aromatic compounds naturally extracted from herbs, trees, roots and flowers. They are the chemicals that give plants their smell; the luscious aroma of Jasmine or the sharp scent of Wintergreen. Plants make these chemicals as defense from invaders such as bacteria, fungus, viruses and insects. Each plant's oil has a unique composition, hence there are thousands of variations of essential oils, each with it's own chemical profile. Because of their chemical structure, essential oils are easily absorbed into the human body, passing through cell membranes, then further on into the bloodstream. Essential oils can protect us from microbes and viruses in different ways: by clearing the air around us naturally, by fortifying our immune system, and by destroying microbial invaders once in our bodies.

Get a little nervous when friends or co-workers have a sneezing or coughing fit? Here's an excellent defense tactic - diffuse one or more of the powerful yet pleasant smelling antimicrobial oils into your space. 'Narrow Leaf' Eucalyptus (or Eucalyptus Radiata) is a very popular variety for this - it has been referred to as an 'aromatherapists designer oil' because of its broad range of immune-supportive effects and its pleasant aroma. Other oils used with a little softer scent are Green Myrtle and Ravensara - all these oils may be blended to your 'taste'. A very pleasing yet powerful blend can be made using three parts clove bud essential oil, five parts lemon essential oil, one and one-half parts Eucalyptus Radiata, one and one-half parts Rosemary Cineol essential oil and two parts Cinnamon Bark essential oil. For immune-supportive purposes, a high-quality cold-air nebulizing diffuser is best, as it will make a fine mist of the oils which will disperse within a space at a relatively high concentration.

The next step is strengthening your body's own immune defense. Aromatherapy oils have been noted to prevent viruses from actually penetrating our cell walls, keeping bacterial levels in check, and cleansing toxins from our bodies. Two very important immune boosting oils are Niaouli and Bay Laurel leaf. Niaouli is a powerful overall fortifier of the immune system; apply 10-20 drops over the body immediately after a shower for best absorption. This is particularly recommended during the 'cold and flu season' to stimulate the body's natural defense mechanisms. Laurel is of particular support to the lymph system; a few drops can be applied to the nodes at the neck for relief of swollen glands in many cases. Using a few drops on the solar plexus in the same manner as Niaouli described above once or twice a week will also provide general immune system support. These methods in combination may provide significant protection when you're feeling susceptible to illness, or those around you are getting ill and you'd be more than happy to avoid it!

While prevention is the best medicine, some relief can be had if you've already contracted a cold or flu. At the very first signs, application of ten to twenty drops to the skin of both Eucalyptus Radiata and Laurel to the skin after shower. Eucalyptus can be applied to the chest and back; Laurel can be applied directly to the lymph nodes of the neck. Orally ingesting one drop of Bay Laurel once or twice a day at the first sign of sore throat is also indicated (be sure of the quality of your essential oil source!); this may have a dramatic effect reducing further symptoms. Green Myrtle, with it's medicinal actions but sweeter aroma, can be used in cases of bronchial infection where Eucalyptus may be found to strong. Ravensara used in the same manner is called for in cases of colds and flu - it can be a stronger antiviral than the above mentioned oils, and has a pleasing aroma. If the skin is sensitive to these oils, they can be diluted down to 5% in a carrier oil, or inhaled directly from a nebulizer. As with all aromatherapy use, listen to what your body is telling you. If an oil seems offensive, don't use it! This is your natural indicator that you may be sensitive to the oil, or it's simply not the right one for your condition. And of course, consult a health professional if your symptoms continue to worsen.

To create a natural wellness medicine chest for cold and flu care, keep Eucalyptus Radiata (Narrow Leaf) or Globulus (Blue Gum), Green Myrtle, Ravensara Aromatica, Rosemary Verbenone and Thyme essential oils on hand. The Eucalyptus, Myrtle and Ravensara will support bronchial conditions through topical application or inhalation; inhalation of Rosemary and/or Thyme can be of help with head colds and sinus infections - they can be inhaled directly from a diffuser. Other methods of use can be appropriate if directed by a health professional. These are all very powerful oils and should be used with respect.

When selecting natural medicines within your own self-treatment program, do as much research and gather as much professional advice as possible to precisely apply these botanicals. A 'shotgun' approach will not likely have as dramatic an effect, and can be dangerous with improper use of certain varieties of essential oils. There are several books available for the aromatherapy practitioner with protocols translated from the European aromatherapy literature, and the number of naturopathic doctors with such knowledge is growing. With the right knowledge, using therapeutic grade essential oils to support your immune system and overall health can be very rewarding, and even fun!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lime Essential Oil

The lime tree is native to India. The Moors first introduced it to Europe. Then, in the sixteenth century, the Spanish explorers travelled across the Atlantic Ocean, bringing the lime tree to North America. The main reason the lime was brought on the boats was to help prevent scurvy, which we all know is a disease brought on by a serious deficiency in vitamin C.

The lime tree is a member of the Rutaceae family. The essential oil from the lime has a sweet, tangy scent. It is also used now medicinally to help enhance the nervous system. The oil also has antiseptic properties.

The therapeutic properties of lime pure essential oil are refreshing and uplifting. The main constituents in lime essential oil are limonene, bergapten, citral, camphene, and linalool. All of these substances are antiseptic and astringent. This allows lime essential oil to help with many conditions.

One of the external uses of lime pure essential oil is to help clear up pimples. All you need to do is take a cotton ball or cotton tip, and apply a mixture of one drop of lime essential oil and two tablespoons of witch hazel to the affected area. This mixture helps to preserve the protective layer of oil on the skin and will also help minimize scarring.

Another condition lime oil is know to assist with is opening up your bronchial tubes and helping with your breathing. Since lime essential oils is disinfecting and cleansing, it is an excellent addition to your bath, shower, or sauna. Just mix two drops each of lime oil, pine oil, and rosemary oil. Then add these to the water. It is this mixture of oils, which will help make the bronchial tubes stronger and fortified, opening them up and making it easier to breath. You can also use this same blend in a diffuser.

Lime pure essential oil is an excellent method of self-care and well-being. Aromatherapy is more than just breathing in scents. It is about achieving the perfect balance and harmony in ones life and it is the combination of certain scents, or oils, which help achieve this. Blend 2 ounces of sunflower oil, 5 drops of lime pure essential oil, and 3 drops of orange pure essential oil, and then use this as a massage applied daily. This blend of oils will help improve the circulation and also help to keep your skin moisturized in the process. Lime oil can also be used to help relieve and cure a sore throat. Mix 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar, and 1 drop of lime oil in a glass of warm water and gargle with this mixture twice daily. Most essential oils are not meant to be taken internally, but there are a few of them where it is feasible. Lime oil is one of them. Really, lime oil is even added to soft drinks.

Safety Conditions

Lime is from the citrus family. It contains furo-coumarin, which makes it photosensitive. If you decide to use this on your skin, make sure not to go out in direct sunlight for at least 6 hours (some say 3 hours is long enough, but I recommend 6 hours). This will prevent the brownish spots from appearing on your skin.

As you can see, lime pure essential oil is an excellent antiseptic oil. It has been used for many conditions, from breathing, to acne, and just for self-care and well-being. With its pleasantly citrus scent, it is a must for everyday well-being.

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Author: Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Aromatherapy

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Caring for Your Adrenal Glands with Aromatherapy, Flower Essences and More

Adrenal fatigue. You've probably heard the term, and may feel like it's something happening to you. Suffering from burnout, or a lengthy bout of exhaustion you can't seem to pull out of, but no obvious symptoms? Here's a little primer on these very important glands and how to treat them right.

The adrenals are small glands sitting above each of your kidneys. The adrenals release cortisol and adrenaline in response to stressful situations or environmental conditions, and control the release of many other important hormones in the body. Their primary function is to prime the system is to give you the energy you need when your circumstances demand it. The trouble is, many of us create this demand almost all our waking hours!

An estimated 75% of individuals suffer from adrenal fatigue ? the inability of the adrenals to keep up with demand ? at some time or another. This occurs when the glands can no longer keep up with the pace of outputting stress hormones, or when they no longer respond to repeated demands that they've heard too many times before. Signs and symptoms may include severe fatigue, lightheadedness upon standing, depression and irritability, lack of sex drive, exhaustion and general malaise. This is often associated with intense or prolonged stress, life crisis, trauma, and chronic illness. Other factors include improper diet, substance abuse, and too little or irregular sleep.

This function is extremely important in emergency situations - poorly functioning, overtaxed adrenal glands can lessen your ability to deal effectively with crisis situations. Another aspect of healthy adrenals is the ability to endure long periods of physical and mental exertion during work or exercise, and similarly, the day to day responsibilities of parenting! It is your adrenal glands job to react to stress in a balanced manner so that one's response is appropriate to the situation.

The adrenal glands signal the storage, release and utilization of carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, and influence the distribution of fat on the body. Their output is involved in blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular function, digestive function, and in controlling blood pressure. The adrenals are further involved by playing a part in sexual interest and response ? so poorly functioning adrenals can really put a damper on things by increasing fat storage on your belly while making you disinterested in the whole process altogether!

Here are a few simple steps to supporting adrenal gland health. Many of these will support your overall wellbeing as well, relieving your body of undue stress, and in turn allowing your adrenals to replenish their stores. First, get an adequate intake of pure, clean water. You needn't drown yourself with it, but always having a bottle around to sip on can really make a difference. So many body processes require adequate amounts of water ? and this is likely more than you think. Further, natural aging and other factors can desensitize your thirst sense, so again, you'll likely feel better drinking more often than when you only feel thirsty.

Next, and perhaps most difficult for some of us is slowing down the pace of each day, if only for a few moments. It's quite useful to take a couple of 10 minute breaks where you just let your mind go. If thoughts come up about all your worries and your to do list, let them go. Breathe deeply and relax. Get to a point where you feel you've made a change in your mindset, even if only for a little while ? this state will naturally flow in your life for at least a little while once you resume your normal activities, and will have a dramatic effect on your adrenals and nervous system. Incorporating regular moderate exercise is extremely helpful as well, making the body much more capable of dealing with stress. For an added bonus, combine these two and real be present when you're exercising, relaxing your mind while invigorating your body.

Dietary choices are crucial to proper adrenal gland function. You've heard it before, but I'll say it again! Reduce your sugar intake ? sugar is a poison to the system, inducing stress whenever eaten. Cut out stimulants to the best of your ability. If you have a caffeine addiction, take it moment to moment, Do you really need that next cup? Will it make you feel better? Often after the first one or two in the morning, the answer is no. And cutting them out all together will give you more energy than you thought possible in a week to 10 days.

For a soothing, regenerating treatment, take an Epsom salt bath pull out fatigue and acidity from body. Again, let your mind go and release the worries of the day, and try to incorporate this into your regular routine. Consider adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bath and allow the aroma to help you relax and refresh. A favorite essential oil bath blend: 4 drops Lavender essential oil, 1 drop Rose essential oil. These oils are well known for their uplifting and relaxing qualities. Other aromatherapy bath salt blends are available for this purpose ? just make sure they use all natural ingredients, as synthetic aromatics can actually cause more stress!

You may also use an essential oil blend that is said to replenish the adrenal glands without stimulation. Mix one ounce hazelnut oil plus 50 drops each of Black Spruce and Pine essential oils. For a gentle lift, reduce the Black Spruce and Pine to 30 drops each, and add 20 drops each of Cedarwood and Peppermint. Apply twice a day to the lower back for a week or two to help support glandular function ? and you'll smell great too!

Flower essences offer a range of choices depending on your personal situation for supporting stress reduction. Three important essences are Aloe Vera, Lavender, and Impatiens. Aloe is known as a cooling plant, used for burns and support of the digestive system. As a flower essence, it can ease the troubles of 'burn out' from your overtaxing routine. Lavender flower essence, like the essential oil, can bring a sense of calm. Finally, Impatiens works wonders for those who always feel things aren't happening fast enough, a cycle which continually produces more stress, and more stress on the adrenals to keep up. Click on any of the essence names to read more.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do what you can to improve your sleep routine. Getting to bed before 10pm is crucial ? the hours between 10 and 12 are thought to be extremely important in rejuvenation. Try finishing your last meal as early as possible in the evening to get better rest, so the body is not spending as much effort digesting your dinner as it is replenishing all your other vital resources. Herbal sleep formulas are effective for many people, and are non-habit forming as some prescription medicines can be. Also, studies have shown that the aroma of certain essential oils in the room can have a dramatic effect on sleep quality ? an easy way to experiment is to sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on your comforter before retiring (be sparing, too much can actually be stimulating!)

While the steps addressing lifestyle changes may seem difficult, if you've been suffering from adrenal fatigue, they're certainly worth making an effort at. Properly functioning adrenals are a must for getting the most out of life, and supporting them is essential in any natural health, wellness and fitness program.


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