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Friday, May 29, 2009

Essential Oils Reviewed for Greater Use in Hospitals

Many studies and reviews of therapeutic essential oils on Pub Med are showing an inclination toward essential oil use by mainstream medicine. Bacterial infections such as MRSA (where the condition is life threatening, and the bacteria resistant to antibitotics) are propting investigation into alternative therapties.

This study just released is more a review of the potential of essential oils for use in these cases -- other studies (many referenced on this blog) show efficacy of essential oils like Tea Tree and Geranium against specific bacterial and fungal infections. The essential oils virtually always work at least as well as the pharmaceutical preparations.

Study: The battle against multi-resistant strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to fight hospital-acquired infections.

Warnke PH, Becker ST, Podschun R, Sivananthan S, Springer IN, Russo PA, Wiltfang J, Fickenscher H, Sherry E.

Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of Kiel, Germany; Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant bacteria continue to be major health concerns worldwide. Particularly problematic is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and its ability to cause severe soft tissue, bone or implant infections. First used by the Australian Aborigines, Tea tree oil and Eucalyptus oil (and several other essential oils) have each demonstrated promising efficacy against several bacteria and have been used clinically against multi-resistant strains.

Several common and hospital-acquired bacterial and yeast isolates (6 Staphylococcus strains including MRSA, 4 Streptococcus strains and 3 Candida strains including Candida krusei) were tested for their susceptibility for Eucalyptus, Tea tree, Thyme white, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Clove Bud, Sandalwood, Peppermint, Kunzea and Sage oil with the agar diffusion test. Olive oil, Paraffin oil, Ethanol (70%), Povidone iodine, Chlorhexidine and hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) served as controls.

Large prevailing effective zones of inhibition (ed. note - meaning bacteria could not grown in the presence of the essential oil) were observed for Thyme white, Lemon, Lemongrass and Cinnamon oil. The other oils also showed considerable efficacy. Remarkably, almost all tested oils demonstrated efficacy against hospital-acquired isolates and reference strains, whereas Olive and Paraffin oil from the control group produced no inhibition. As proven in vitro, essential oils represent a cheap and effective antiseptic topical treatment option even for antibiotic-resistant strains as MRSA and antimycotic-resistant Candida species.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Using Essential Oils for Hair Growth

Therapeutic grade essential oils hold the promise for a great many people of stimulating the growth of bountiful healthy hair. Whether one is regrowing hair after hair loss, preventing the loss of hair, or just looking to make their hair more beautiful and lustrous than ever, essential oils and the carrier oils that comprise therapeutic aromatherapy formulas are very much worth investigating. While the factors affecting one's personal hair growth are very complex, including such things as nutrition, age, hormone balance and lifestyle factors, a customized aromatherapy formula using authentic pure essential oils and properly made base oils can have a dramatic affect. Here's a look at how you can create and use your own recipe made specifically for your scalp and hair type.

The oils used for hair growth are also those used for skin care in general -- the health of the follicles is of course closely related to the health of the scalp and skin. Essential oils for your most effective, custom recipe can be selected from one of four general categories. These are: stimulating (increasing cellular metabolism and/or new cell generation), nutritive (offering vitamins, other co-factors and essential fats necessary for healthy follicle function), balancing (returns over-oily or over-dry skin to a balanced state, balances over- or under-active hormones at a cellular level, and/or reduces excess inflammation from any number or sources), and immune-supportive (heal scalp/skin infections that may inhibit optimal hair growth).

Creating the most effective recipe for yourself is really easy to do. The essential oils can be thought of as the 'active ingredients' in your formula. Simply choose one or more of these to include, and add these in small amounts to your base formulation. The 'base' of any therapeutic aromatherapy formula is made of carrier oils similar to Olive oil. The base oils for hair growth stimulation will be selected from base oils known to have therapeutic effects for the skin and scalp. The essential oils will be added in what seems to be very, very small amounts, but this is one of the great things about therapeutic aromatherapy: it actually works best with the smallest portions of essential oils. The essential oils are very, very potent plant medicine -- and it's easy to use too much of a good thing. The essential oils work in a very different means than most conventional medicines in that they signal cell activity, rather than force it to change. By using them, you're like a conductor conducting an orchestra of biology -- just a flick of your wand is all it takes to make dramatic changes in scalp and follicle activity.

We'll start with the stimulating essential oils. These essential oils are used in skin and hair care to stimulate cellular metabolism (increasing the oxygen and nutrients used by the cell) or stimulate the growth of new cells. Specifically for hair growth, we'd like to stimulate the activity of the hair follicles and grow more hair, thicker and faster. Two essential oils are used most often for this: Rosemary and Sage. Both of these herbs have a long history in hair care, with teas made from their leaves being used as a stimulating hair rinse for hundreds of years. Of all the Rosemary essential oil varieties available, you should find the specialty-oil for skin and hair: Rosemary c.t. verbenone. The verbenone 'chemotype' has unique molecules in it that tells the scalp cells to speed up their activity and even produce new cells. Rosemary verbenone is the safest and most commonly-used of the stimulating oils (though it should be avoided by expectant mothers, children, and those with nervous system conditions -- check with your doctor if you're unsure about the safety of essential oils for yourself just in case).

The essential oil distilled from common Sage (found as Salvia officinalis, or Dalmation Sage) is considered the most regenerative and stimulating of all the oils used in skin and hair care. It also carries the strongest warnings--while the opinions of professional aromatherapists vary, it's generally agreed that this oil should also not be used when pregnant, or those with any other contra-indicated condition (Lavender, while listed as a balancing oil, is also regenerative and is the safest alternative). At the same time, respected therapists consider it safe when used in correct therapeutic concentrations, which are usually between one-quarter and one-half of one percent of your total blend (this is between one-part per 400 and one-part per 200, or 2 to 4 drops per ounce of base oil).

The oils that provide vitamins and growth co-factors combine perfectly with the stimulating oils. It is important if using oils to stimulate cell-metabolism to offer these same cells the nutrients they need for increasing growth (you might also look into what sorts of foods and nutritional supplements may also be effective for hair growth -- minerals like sulfur and silica, and B-vitamins are examples). The nutritive oils also supply antioxidants to hair follicles, important because some scientists believe it is oxidative damage to the follicle mitochondria (the cell's energy producer) that is the root cause of slowed hair growth. The nutritive essential oils are Sea Buckthorn and Carrot Root -- these are technically 'supercritical' extracts (rather than steam distilled essential oils), made by a low-temperature process that preserves the nutritive qualities. These oils are very safe and can be used at concentrations between one-half and two percent of the total formula.

Next, the balancing essential oils -- balancing oils should make up a part of everyone's blend. Even if you just add a little bit of Lavender, you're hair will be happy! The balancing oils bring about a balance of the scalp's natural oil production, and/or cool the scalp and reduce inflammation (inflammation at the cellular level is directly implicated in hair loss). Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is the premier balancing oil for skin, scalp and hair care, and has many helpful properties -- it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and regenerative all at the same time. If needed to balance scalp oils, Green Myrtle is an excellent choice, also with antibacterial and regenerative properties. Myrtle can reduce excessive oil production (which has been implicated in hair loss and slow hair growth) and can help a flaky, itchy scalp. For women, Clary Sage can be especially balancing, particularly where regular hormone production is the source of hair loss or slow hair growth. Proper estrogen metabolism on the cellular level is critical for beautiful hair, and older women in particular may really benefit from one-half of one percent Clary Sage included in their personal recipes.

For some folks, slow hair growth is due to mild infections of the scalp and follicles. Others, in the case of Alopecia Areata, may even have subtle immune disorders that lead to patchy hair loss. If the scalp is over-oily and irritated, with general thinning or slow hair growth, a gentle antiseptic oil should be included in your formula. This may be as simple as a small amount of Tea Tree, Myrtle or Cedar. Alopecia Areata has been treated specifically with a combination of Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender and Cedar (wood) essential oils in Jojoba and Grapeseed carriers. Each essential oil was effective at approximately one-quarter of one percent concentration.

Once the essential oils are selected, they are mixed into a base of carrier oils. The carrier oils are so-called as they help the scalp properly absorb the essential oils. They also provide therapeutic and nutritive properties themselves, so be sure to choose them carefully. Jojoba oil is the all-star of hair care, and has long been used for enhancing luster and softness. Jojoba will work for any skin/scalp type by itself as the base if one is on a limited budget. For more therapeutic activity, Evening Primrose oil is an excellent choice. It has an exceptionally high percentage of essential fatty acids, which both reduce cellular inflammation and provide nutrients for hair growth. It seems to sooth all kinds of irritated scalp conditions, and is recommended in any formula treating hair loss -- can be used at 25-100% of the base. Rosehip seed is highly regenerative, shown to help reduce the appearance of aging. Rosehip should have a profound impact where hair growth is slow or hair is being lost, as similar pharmaceutical preparations have had significant effects -- also highly recommended in cases of hair loss, can be used at up to 50% of the base. Coconut is great to blend with either or both of these oils, as it is cooling, nutritive and light textured. You can use fractionated coconut (easily poured at room temperature) or just warm virgin coconut until it's pourable and mix with other carriers. Sesame is another wonderful choice for those with 'hot heads' -- really where stress may be leading to hair loss or limited growth.

Making and using your own recipe to stimulate growing beautiful hair is really very easy (and yet remarkably therapeutic!)...Start with an empty bottle of between 1 and 8 ounces. Calculate the amount of each essential oil you'd like to use, remembering that the average amount is 1% of each essential oil. This works out to eight drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier, so if you're making a four-ounce bottle, and want to add one-percent Lavender, add 4x8, or 32 drops of Lavender to the bottle. Stimulating oils should be used at 1/2% or less, meaning 4 drops of essential oil per ounce, and nutritive oils can be used at up to 2%. When done adding the essential oils, fill the bottle the rest of the way with your chosen carriers -- the carrier measurement needn't be as precise. If you're making a 50/50 base of Rosehip and Sesame, for example, filling the bottle close to halfway with each is just fine. Once you've inverted or lightly shaken the mixture, it's ready to use: you can apply about an eye-dropper full to your scalp, and massage-in. You can do this before going to bed (though cover your bedding to prevent stains from the oils) or wrap your head in a moist towel for a while to maximize absorption. A light scalp massage with the oils will also increase circulation and absorption by the hair roots, perhaps increasing the efficacy of your blend even further.

This concludes a basic review of the therapeutic use of the best essential oils for hair growth, and how to prepare and use your own personal formula. It's so easy to make your own blend, and finally gives you control over the particular active ingredients in your hair growth products -- plus you can make them using completely natural, and even all-organic essential oils and carrier oils. With regular and consistent use, a well balanced, personal recipe should help the health and vibrancy of your hair in just a short time -- and you'll smell wonderful while doing it, too!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Linalool, A Common Essential Oil Constituent, Shown to Have Anti-Cancer Effects

Much research has been published on the anti-tumorial & anti-cancer effects of essential oils. The research seems to have focused on a few oils with long histories of medicinal use: Frankincense, Myrrh and Lemongrass are examples.

In a study just released in the Journal of Chemico-biological Interactions, researchers at the Amercian University of Beirut focused on a specific natural constituent of many common essential oils: Linalool. Linalool is the 'sweetness' of many oils; Lavender is perhaps the most popular linalool-containing oil, though it is found in many, many species of plants. One of the chemotypes of Thyme essential oil is called c.t. (for 'chemotype) linalool, meaning this particular variety of thyme has a high percentage of the linalool molecule.

In this study, linalool derived from steam distilled Coriander essential oil was found to decrease the viability of the HepG2 cell line, cells of liver cancer used throughout the world for cancer research. Coriander was chosen as the spice is considered to have important medicinal qualities. Linalool inhibited these liver cancer cells from replicating. A concentration of 0.4 micromole inhibited 50% of the cells from replicating, a concentration of 2 micromol inhibited 100% of the cells from replicating, therby destroying the cancer.

Now we don't claim to be University researchers here, but we did take a bit of chemistry in college. It appears this is an exceptionally small amount of linalool -- 1 mole of Linalool is 154 grams. This appears to be .000154 grams of linalool per liter of solution the cell line was bathed in.

Given that most Lavender species produce an essential oil containing between 30 and 40% linalool, this is astounding. 25 drops of Lavender essential oil delivers in somewhere around .3 grams of linalool. This is easily absorbed when topically applied. Some medical aromatherapists consider Lavender safe to ingest in small amounts as well.
This is the freely available abstract:

Study: Linalool decreases HepG2 viability by inhibiting mitochondrial complexes I and II, increasing reactive oxygen species and decreasing ATP and GSH levels.

Usta J, Kreydiyyeh S, Knio K, Barnabe P, Bou-Moughlabay Y, Dagher S.
Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

Coriander is used as an appetizer, a common food seasoning in Mediterranean dishes, and a remedy for many ailments. In this study we tested the biochemical effect of its essential oil components, in particular linalool, its main component. The oil extract was prepared by hydro-distillation of coriander seeds. The various components were identified by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectroscopy.

The effect of the various oil components on the viability of different cell lines (HepG2, Caco2, NIH3t3, MCF7 and Hek293) was examined using MTT assay. Linalool was the most potent and HepG2 cells the most sensitive. A 50% and 100% decrease in the viability of HepG2 was obtained at 0.4muM and 2muM linalool, respectively. Whereas none of the other components exerted a significant effect at concentrations lower than 50muM, myrcene and nerolidol, the structural analogues of linalool, were more potent at 100muM than the other components decreasing HepG2 viability to 26%.

The biochemical effect of linalool on mitochondria isolated from HepG2 showed a concentration-dependent inhibition in complexes I and II activities of the respiratory chain, and a time-dependent decrease in ATP level. In addition, a time-dependent decrease in glutathione (GSH) level and in the reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium was obtained, indicating increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Pretreatment with the antioxidants: N-acetyl cysteine (2mM), Trolox (100muM) and different flavonoids (50muM) was partially protective against the linalool-induced cell death; the most effective response was that of rutin and apigenin which restored 91% of HepG2 viability.

We hereby report a decrease in cell viability of HepG2 cells by linalool and identify the mitochondria as one possible target for its site of action, inhibiting complexes I and II and decreasing ATP. In addition linalool increased ROS generation and decreased GSH level.

We will be looking into this particular study further, and will report more information when available on The Ananda Apothecary website. In the meantime, we'll keep using essential oils like we had been, happy to graced by the possibility of another profound health effect!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Aromatherapy Research: Essential Oils Alter Brainwaves When Inhaled

Digging through the research on the National Institutes of Health website, Pub Med (see can really be fruitful for scientific data on the effects of essential oils. A great many studies have been published over the last ten years validating the use of essential oils in many realms of natural health, from immunity and infectious illness to wound healing and pain relief, to sleep, mood and cognitive effects. Here are a few studies noting measurable changes in brainwaves upon inhalation of aromas.

Now it's not surprising that essential oils elicit changes in brainwaves - really this happens with anything we perceive with our sense organs: touch, sight, hearing, taste OR smell. What's interesting is that the brainwaves are in-fact measurably different depending on the oil inhaled. Further, the brainwave response was also dependent on the time of day and type of action the subjects were performing when inhaling the oils. Some oils seemed appreciated during physical work, some during mental work, some before work and some after.

The first study describes changes in Alpha brainwaves. These waves are associated with a relaxed, steady, perhaps even 'contemplative' state (one website described most of America as 'alpha wave challenged'!) Lavender essential oil produced the most significant, fairly rapid increase in Alpha wave activity.

The second study describes differences between oils which may be considered relaxing, uplifting or mentally stimulating before and after both physical and mental work. Some oils tested produced very statistically significant results: In summary, try Orange before physical work and Cypress after. Try Basil before mental work and Juniper afterward.

Study: Effects of inhalation of essential oils on EEG activity and sensory evaluation.

Masago R, Matsuda T, Kikuchi Y, Miyazaki Y, Iwanaga K, Harada H, Katsuura T. Graduate School of Science and Technology, Chiba University.

The purpose of this study was to investigate EEG changes in subjects directly after inhalation of essential oils, and subsequently, to observe any effect on subjective evaluations. EEG and sensory evaluation were assessed in 13 healthy female subjects in four odor conditions. Four odor conditions (including lavender, chamomile, sandalwood and eugenol) were applied respectively for each subject in the experiment. The results were as follows. 1) Four basic factors were extracted from 22 adjective pairs by factor analysis of the sensory evaluation. The first factor was "comfortable feeling", the second "cheerful feeling", the third "natural feeling" and the fourth "feminine feeling". In the score of the first factor (comfortable feeling), the odors in order of high contribution are lavender, eugenol, chamomile and sandalwood. 2) Alpha 1 (8-10 Hz) of EEG at parietal and posterior temporal regions significantly decreased soon after the onset of inhalation of lavender oil. The change after inhalation of sandalwood was not significant. These results showed that alpha 1 activity significantly decreased under odor conditions in which subjects felt comfortable, and showed no significant change under odor conditions in which subjects felt uncomfortable. These results suggest a possible correlation between alpha 1 activity and subjective evaluation.

Study: Alteration of perceived fragrance of essential oils in relation to type of work: a simple screening test for efficacy of aroma.

Sugawara Y, Hino Y, Kawasaki M, Hara C, Tamura K, Sugimoto N, Yamanishi Y, Miyauchi M, Masujima T, Aoki T. Department of Health Science, Hiroshima Prefectural Women's University, Japan.

The perceptional change of fragrance of essential oils is described in relation to type of work, i.e. mental work, physical work and hearing environmental (natural) sounds. The essential oils examined in this study were ylang ylang, orange, geranium, cypress, bergamot, spearmint and juniper. In evaluating change in perception of a given aroma, a sensory test was employed in which the perception of fragrance was assessed by 13 contrasting pairs of adjectives. Scores were recorded after inhaling a fragrance before and after each type of work, and the statistical significance of the change of score for 13 impression descriptors was examined by Student's t-test for each type of work. It was confirmed that inhalation of essential oil caused a different subjective perception of fragrance depending on the type of work. For example, inhalation of cypress after physical work produced a much more favorable impression than before work, in contrast to orange, which produced an unfavorable impression after physical work when compared with that before work. For mental work, inhalation of juniper seemed to create a favorable impression after work, whereas geranium and orange both produced an unfavorable impression then. From these studies, together with those conducted previously with lavender, rosemary, linalool, peppermint, marjoram, cardamom, sandalwood, basil and lime, we thus concluded that the sensory test described here might serve not only as a screening test for efficacy of aroma but also as a categorized table for aroma samples which can act as a reference to each other.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Essential Oil's Anti-Viral Effects

Interest is growing regarding the immune-supportive effects of essential oils, and particularly their antiviral actions. The world's leading aroma-medicine practitioners consider protection from infectious diseases one of aromatherapy's most effective applications.

Many essential oils have demonstrated anti-viral effects, through multiple pathways: By preventing virus replication, through improving the efficiency of our white blood cells, and by changing electrical potential of our cell walls. Many folks have turned to Oregano essential oil as a disinfectant. While this is a potent, broad-spectrum antimicrobial, there may be better choices that are both more gentle and more precise.

Monoterpine alcohols are noted to be the most beneficial and safest of all essential oil components, with strong antiviral effects. Thyme c.t. linalool is our favorite with this naturally constituent for immune support. Hyssop is an important oil due the great diversity in its molecular makeup. Battaglia notes in The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy that Hyssop decumbens is "reputed to have potent antiviral effects" with particular affinity for the respiratory system and diffuser use.

Other highly-regarded oils used for influenza and other viruses that may compromise the respiratory system are Ravensara, Eucalyptus Radiata and Rosemary c.t. Verbenone. These oils can be diffused for gentle exposure to their immune-supportive effects; they can also be applied regularly to lymph nodes. Niaouli is considered a potent immune system stimulant when used in this way.

After a warm shower when the pores are open is an excellent time to do this. Be especially careful for sensitive skin areas ~ diluting your essential oils in a carrier will help them absorb and make the essential oils even easier on your skin.