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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quick Tips to Learn About Diffusing Essential Oils

Diffusion of an essential oil means to distribute the oil in the air around you. Essential oils easily evaporate ~ more easily than water ~ so this is a pretty straightforward thing to do. At the same time, there are ways to get even more essential oil in the air, at a higher concentration than, say, if you just let a bottle sit open on a table. This is where an aromatherapy diffuser comes it. The diffuser evaporates the essential oil faster, using one of many possible methods (more on that in a moment). And why would you want to evaporate the oil faster? If you just left a bottle sitting open, you and your family would occasionally smell the aroma coming from the bottle; if you'd like your whole room or house to be filled with that aroma, you'd use a diffuser.

The least expensive diffusers work very well for bringing aroma into the air. They often use heat to evaporate essential oil ~ others use a small fan ~ and both these types often have a small replaceable pad onto which a few drops of essential oil are placed. These diffusers have the advantage of low cost and ease-of-use, though they generally are only for small spaces, like a single bedroom or small office. More advanced diffusers, called ultrasonic diffuser, are like small ultrasonic humidification units, built to diffuse essential oil along with a mist of air. They are well-liked, particularly in dry environments ~ the ultrasonic diffusers are also made to fill a somewhat larger space with aroma.

There are other simple, inexpensive 'low-tech' methods of diffusing essential oils. These are as simple as candle warmers ~ where a candle gently evaporates a few drops of essential oil floating on a small bowl of water above a tea-light candle (don't forget the water! So many people report these devices burn their oils, but they've put them just over the heat!). A Reed Diffuser is also common, which evaporates aromatic oils through bamboo reeds and slowly into the air. Though they do most often use a synthetic dispersion agent called DPG or dipropylene glycol, which most aromatherapists will not recommend using, as at some point the diffusion process requires one breathing in its vapors.

The most advanced aromatherapy diffusers produce a fine, concentrated mist of pure essential oil, without water or heat. (Our favorite on the planet is the Florihana professional model we have here). In medicinal aromatherapy practices, therapists will sometimes have their clients actually breathe the visible vapor of an oil or oil blend to help them get well. In Europe, one can find an apparatus that looks like an oxygen tent, though instead allows the patient to breathe in oils that are considered highly anti-viral or anti-bacterial. This employs what is called a "nebulizing diffuser" (this is not the same as an "ultrasonic nebulizer" in that no water is used). The nebulizing diffusers are wonderful in that they can be used in both small spaces, just for aromatic needs, or for larger areas where a high concentration of essential oils are desired in the air. At the same time, they can take a little more attending to ~ needing the occasional cleaning ~ and typically use precision glass pieces to make the fine mist of essential oil evaporate properly. Even so, the best of these available today are small, quiet, nice looking and easy to maintain.

The essential oil one can diffuse vary as much as the diffusers themselves. If you're just wanting to make your space smell wonderful, choose a few of your favorite aromas and just go for it! Use small amounts at first to conserve your oils, while you get an idea of how much essential oil diffusing for so long suits your tastes. Some people are more sensitive than others, so take your friends and family into consideration as well. Note that children generally need much less oil to notice and have a response to, so lower your starting volume for the younger ones of your family. Blending oils from the same family is easy to do, and generally results in a very fun scent. To simply bring great cheer to a room, woods and needle oils work especially well, as their scents are broadly loved. Balsam Fir, Pine, Spruce, Black Spruce and Juniper Berry go very well together; the Citrus oils also combine well ~ you can blend virtually any combination of Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Tangerine and Mandarin and make a very uplifting combination. If you like floral aromas, you can try blending your favorites of those as well, though they take a little more close attention to the ratios of each oil so that one does not overwhelm another. When you start, it's not a bad idea to take notes about how many drops of each oil you've used and adjust them to make your favorite combination the next time. There are many pre-made diffuser blends of pure essential oils available as well, so consider giving them a try.

Finally, if you're wanting to diffuse with specific therapeutic purposes in mind, you might want find some recipes from Aromatherapists created with your needs in mind. Lavender diffused during the course of the night (in very small amounts) can significantly improve sleep ~ this would be considered a therapeutic application. To improve mental clarity, Rosemary has shown positive results in many studies, and is a lovely stimulating aroma. To support the immune system, some therapists recommend a blend of Rosemary, Thyme Linalool, Hyssop and Melissa. You can pick and choose among the immune supportive oils that sound best for your needs ~ and the essential oils from herbs also seem to easily blend well together to create a fun and healing combination.

So there is a primer on diffusing essential oils. To recap, first pick the diffuser style that will suit your needs, whether you'll just like to smell the aromas in a smaller space, or diffuse significant quantities for health reasons. Next, you can blend one oil at a time (diffusers usually do not require one to clean them between oils, nor are the therapeutic effects significantly altered by this), by a pre-blended formula, or create your own diffuser mixture. Just be sure not to include any fixed or carrier oils for diffuser use (many massage formulas can be converted to diffuser use simply by removing the carrier oil). Start slowly, remembering that you'll generally need less oil than you think to produce the effect you need.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Using Essential Oils to Care for Colds and Flu

It's a tough time of year as the seasons change again ~ we see many folks getting symptoms of colds and flu: runny noses, coughs, sore throats and body aches. Our staff has had great success using therapeutic grade essential oils themselves, and sharing them with others whom have avoided getting sick, or finally kicked their long-term illness.

Essential oils are the concentrated aromatic compounds of plants. In one respect, they are the signaling mechanisms of the plant world, created by an interaction of plants and the sun. These chemical messengers are distilled into little bottles for us to us to heal ourselves ~ and our bodies respond profoundly to this medicine. A simple scientific study recently showed how Eucalyptus essential oil significantly improved the phagocytotic ability of lyphocytes ~ the white blood cells responsible for ridding the body of foreign invaders. It was not the oil that was eliminating the foreign body, but the oil was changing the white blood cell in such a way that it could do its job more effectively.

Many other studies have shown the anti-viral effect of essential oils ~ this is due to the oils inhibiting viruses from entering the cells. One of the mechanisms proposed for this action is a change of 'membrane potential' of our cells, meaning that the electrical condition they normally reside in has been changed by the presence of the essential oil. And it is very important to note that only a tiny amount of essential oil is needed to create this effect ~ much less than is needed, for example, to eradicate all the bacterial from a petri dish (a common lab test for the anti-microbial action of a particular essential oil).

So what does this all mean for caring for the common cold and flu? It means we can fine tune our immune system with a small amount of essential oil to prevent ourselves from getting sick, and to lessen the duration and intensity of symptoms using essential oils if we've caught a cold. Essential oils penetrate our skin very easiliy, and just a few drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil massaged into our lymph nodes can make a huge difference for many, many people. It's easy to do, can be very rewarding, and one smells really wonderful to boot!

Here are a few ideas of using essential oils for supporting the immune system:

  • Massage 20 drops of Nialouli into the sturnum and under the armpits when stepping out of a hot shower. Doctor Kurt Schnaubelt believes this to be one of the most profound ways to keep the white cells prepared to properly defend the body.
  • Make a blend (only a few milliliters are needed total) of 1 part Melissa, 2 parts Thyme Linalool, 2 parts Hyssop and 2 parts Rosemary Cineol. Add 3 drops of this blend to a teaspoon of carrier and massage into the body as above, or massage the tops of the feet (a very important part of the energy pathways of the body for the respiratory system).
  • Choose 3 essential oils you are drawn to for caring for your immunity and your environment. Blend them in equal amounts (or let your intuition guide you to your own recipe) and diffuse them in your space using a nebulizing diffuser. These diffusers make a high concentration of essential oils in the air ~ enough for your body to absorb and boost immune system efficacy, and likely disinfecting the air around you at the same time.
Application of essential oils is very flexible. Many oils can have similar effects while having different aromas. Choose the oils you are attracted to, and utilize the knowledgebase available on the internet and through health professionals in your area to help them us their healing potential for you and your family.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Essential Oils Lower Test Taking Stress, Again...

Over the years, there have been numerous studies regarding the effects inhaling essential oils either while studying, while test taking, and generally 'in school' ~ as the results are easily measures: test scores, on average, would be different if aromatherapy contributed a significant effect. A study just performed at the Christine E Lynn College of Nursing in Boca Raton, Florida, supports the previous results ~ inhaling essential oils produces measurable effects on test-takers.

This time, the study focused specifically on test-taking anxiety. Ever get stressed out before an important exam? Well here you have it ~ 'the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test taking stress in graduate nursing students'. We expect the tests they'd be taking were not very "light". On the contrary, probably very complex, and meant a lot in their lives.

A similar study produced by the Department of Nursing at Nambu University in Korea, students were given an aroma lamp with Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary and Clary Sage essential oils. Again, the students using aromatherapy reported lower stress regarding their test taking.

THE TAKE HOME POINT: The inhalation of pure essential oil aromas (note that these were not 'fragrance oils', but true essential oils) lowers stress. It can't just be for nursing students who take tests, can it? (This is a bit of a joke we're making, as there are MANY studies showing aromatherapy lowering subjective scores of anxiety and stress in peer-reviewed journals around the world). And these studies seem to indicate the 'casual' incorporation of aromatherapy in one's life can make a difference ~ just smell the oils when you feel like it, and they might just change your mood for the better. And we all know the great effects that can potentially have on one's health! Here are the studies:

The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students.
McCaffrey R, Thomas DJ, Kinzelman AO. Christine E Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA.

Test taking in nursing school can produce stress that affects the ability of students to realize their goals of graduation. In this study, the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test-taking stress in graduate nursing students as evidenced by lower scores on test anxiety measure, personal statements, and pulse rates.

The effect of aroma inhalation method on stress responses of nursing students.

Park MK, Lee ES. Department of Nursing, Nambu University, Gwangsan-gu, Gwangju city, Korea.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to identify the effect of aroma inhalation on stress responses (physical symptoms, levels of anxiety, perceived stresses)of nursing students. METHOD: This study was a quasi-experimental research using a non-equivalent pre-post design and was conducted from June 1 to June 5, 2002. The subjects consisted of 77 junior nursing students who were divided into 39 experimental group members and 38 control group members. A pretest and Post-test were conducted to measure body symptoms, the level of anxiety, and the level of perceived stress. In the experimental group, aromas were given using an aroma lamp, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and Clary-Sage. In the control group, the treatment was not administered. RESULT: As a result of administering aroma inhalation to nursing students, their physical symptoms decreased, their anxiety scores were low, and their perceived stress scores were low, showing that aroma inhalation could be a very effective stress management method. CONCLUSION: Nursing educators should play an important role in contributing to college students' physical and psychological health by helping enhance their recognition of stress management and effectively relieving their stress using essential oils.