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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Essential Oil Composition Affected by Plant Growing Conditions

Research published in April 2009 delved into the relationship between the chemistry of essential oils and the growing conditions of the plants from which they were distilled. We had just made a post regarding the chemistry of Helichrysum essential oil, and how the oil distilled from plants grown on the French island of Corsica have the most healing chemical profile.

This research was done on Helichrysum italicum specifically, using 48 plants grown in different locations and harvested at different times. The researchers evaluated the levels of 28 natural chemical constituents in the essential oil, and how these varied with changes in growing conditions. The results seem to indicate that soil chemistry was the most affecting factor in determining the essential oil constituent profile.

Helichrysum grown on the island of Corsica has long been considered the most healing of all Helichrysum varieties. We HAVE seen exceptional quality oil produced in the United States using genetics of the Corsican plants -- and it is likely that the soil these plants were grown in was very similar to that found in the moist Mediterranean regions. The Corsican oil contains the the highest levels of Neryl Acetate, the anti-spasmodic component of the oil. On a more esoteric level, this is the 'water' element coming through in the oil, which supports the musculature becoming more fluid.

Partitioning the relative contributions of inorganic plant composition and soil characteristics to the quality of Helichrysum italicum subsp. italicum (Roth) G. Don fil. essential oil.

Bianchini A, Santoni F, Paolini J, Bernardini AF, Mouillot D, Costa J.CNRS UMR-6134 SPE, Université de Corse, Laboratoire Chimie des Produits Naturels, Corti.

Composition of Helichrysum italicum subsp. italicum essential oil showed chemical variability according to vegetation cycle, environment, and geographic origins. In the present work, 48 individuals of this plant at different development stages and the corresponding root soils were sampled: i) 28 volatile components were identified and measured in essential oil by using GC and GC/MS; ii) ten elements from plants and soils have been estimated using colorimetry in continuous flux, flame atomic absorption spectrometry, or emission spectrometry (FAAS/FAES); iii) texture and acidity (real and potential) of soil samples were also reported. Relationships between the essential-oil composition, the inorganic plant composition, and the soil characteristics (inorganic composition, texture, and acidity) have been established using multivariate analysis such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and partial Redundancy Analysis (RDA). This study demonstrates a high level of intraspecific differences in oil composition due to environmental factors and, more particularly, soil characteristics.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Essential Oils as Antibiotics: Research Updates

French researchers at the Antibiology Laboratory, CHU Hospital Nord, Saint-Etienne, have just published data on the antibacterial action of several essential oils against a variety of microbe strains. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the potential of essential oils in treatment of nosocomial infections -- those that tend to occurr in hospitals that are secondary to the patient's original ailment or condition.

Published in the 'Letters of Applied Microbiology', the study concluded the strongest antibacterial oils are those from cinnamon bark and oregano. These have always been considered the most broad-spectrum antibactierial essential oils, with the lowest MIC, or 'minimum inhibitory concentration' required to eradictate the bacterial strain being tested. Aromatherapists sometimes consider using these oils 'the shotgun approach', being a little strong for most people to use without very strict guidelines or naturopathic support.

The best choices for antibacterial use of essential oils is the targeted use of the most appropriate oil for the bacteria involved. Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt in Advanced Aromatherapy offers an excellent chart of the effects of a great many essential oils on certain bacteria. Also of interest is the use of broad spectrum antibacterial blends (such as Purify). While their are no data yet to support their use, they are more than likely the better route for fortifying the immune system to defend against bacterial invaders. The addition of oils like Eucalyptus and Rosemary, while NOT strong antibiotics when tested in the laboratory, are very important as they HAVE been shown to directly enhance the workings of immune system cells.

Study: Comparison of bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity of 13 essential oils against strains with varying sensitivity to antibiotics.

Mayaud L, Carricajo A, Zhiri A, Aubert G.Antibiology Laboratory, CHU Hospital Nord, Saint-Etienne, France.

AIMS: To compare the bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity of 13 chemotyped essential oils (EO) on 65 bacteria with varying sensitivity to antibiotics. METHODS AND RESULTS: Fifty-five bacterial strains were tested with two methods used for evaluation of antimicrobial activity (CLSI recommendations): the agar dilution method and the time-killing curve method. EO containing aldehydes (Cinnamomum verum bark and Cymbopogon citratus), phenols (Origanum compactum, Trachyspermum ammi, Thymus satureioides, Eugenia caryophyllus and Cinnamomum verum leaf) showed the highest antimicrobial activity with minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) <2%> or = 10% (v/v). Against P. aeruginosa, only C. verum bark and O. compactum presented MIC < or =2% (v/v). Cinnamomum verum bark, O. compactum, T. satureioides, C. verum leaf and M. alternifolia were bactericidal against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli at concentrations ranging from to 0.31% to 10% (v/v) after 1 h of contact. Cinnamomum verum bark and O. compactum were bactericidal against P. aeruginosa within 5 min at concentrations <2% (v/v). CONCLUSIONS: Cinnamomum verum bark had the highest antimicrobial activity, particularly against resistant strains. Significance AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: Bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity of EO on nosocomial antibiotic-resistant strains.

The Chemistry of Helichrysum Essential Oil

Helichrysum is one of our favorite essential oils, as it has such immediate, profound pain relieving and healing effects for most folks who use it. The particular species of Helichrysum italicum, also known as Everlasting or Immortelle, is the most broadly therapeutic of the 500 Helichrysum species -- and the sub species (spp) of serotinum is considered particularly special. The reason has to do with the chemistry of the oil, and here we'll have a look at the special natural chemistry of the Helichrysum italicum species.

Inflammation Reduction

Helichrysum has the properties of being anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and regenerative all in the same oil. The anti-inflammatory effects can be attributed to the curcumenes present in the oil. Curcumenes have recently been very prominent in the field of natural nutrition, as the extract of the spice Tumeric, called 'curcumin' has become popular as an anti-inflammatory supplement. The supplement is considered helpful not only for joint inflammation and pain, but as an all-around anti-aging supplement as well. Many Helichrysum italicum species contain a significant quantity of 'gamma' curcumene, providing an excellent anti-inflammatory effect.

Anti-Spasmodic / Muscle Relaxant

The first place where the 'serotinum' sub species shines is in the area of relieving tight muscles. Much back and neck pain, for example, is the result of the muscles being chronically cramped. Helicrysum contains a natural chemical called 'neryl acetate' which acts to relax these cramped muscles. Many Helichryum italicum essential oils contain in the range of 5% to 15% neryl acetate. The essential oil of the serotinum sub species contains in the range of 25% to 50% neryl acetate, with any amount over 30% being considered a very high-quality oil.

The serotinum sub species is found almost exclusively to be grown on the French island of Corsica. There's something about the soft coastal air that produces some of the finest Helichrysum plants in the world. There have been producers of this sub species in the United States, though the total quantities of essential oil produced have been relatively small. Helichrysum italicum is also grown in Italy, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia and elsewhere in South-Eastern Europe. These locations produce excellent oils, though they do not have the same balance of neryl acetate, and the regenerative constituents explained next...

The third unique aspect of the essential oil is due to the regenerative nature of the 'di-ketones' found almost exclusively in Helichrysum. The di-ketones are thought to signal tissues of the body to regenerate, and Helichrysum italicum is included in many formulas for wound healing and scar reduction. The di-ketone level is especially high again in the serotinum sub species grown on the island of Corsica. Levels of these di-ketones can exceed 11% of the total makeup of the essential oil.

Helichrysum essential oil is considered exceptionally safe, being one of the only oils indicated for topical application at 100% strength for acute conditions. It is also considered important aromatically, having an uplifting, emotionally-stabilizing effect. Interestingly, Helichrysum oil does not have a wonderful aroma when first distilled, and needs to 'air-out' for some time after distillation to evolve into a wonderful aromatic. The change in aroma does not have an effect on the physically-healing properties of the oil -- but at first, some folks find the aroma not all that interesting, then once it has aged, it can be very deeply complex and pleasant.

Monday, July 20, 2009

AntiViral Essential Oil Review

'Anti-viral essential oils' is a popular subject on the web. Here's a quick look at the most highly recommended antiviral essential oils used in aroma-medicine:

Hyssop - Hyssop essential oil is unique in its chemical makeup, a feature which gives it a very broad range of effects. Hyssop contains 7 of the 9 major chemical classes found in essential oils. The Hyssop officinalis decumbens variety is considered safe but very effective (other Hyssop chemotypes are high in certain ketones which should generally be avoided). Its camphorus, herbaceous aroma is somewhat medicinal, but not unpleasant. An excellent choice for diffuser use, or diluted and massaged into lymph nodes or above and below the balls of the feet.

Ravensara - similar to Eucalyptus with a high Cineol content (indicated for respiratory conditions) though much more chemically complex. Battagila says in the Complete Book of Aromatherapy: "Its tolerability and strong antiviral action make it the oil of choice for the treatment of influenza."

Melissa - this herb has a wide variety of effects. It yields a small amount of precious essential oil, one of aromatherapy's favorites. The essential oil has been studied significantly for treatment of HSV-1 and 2, with statements being made by German researchers that use of the oil can cause complete remission of Herpes Simplex. It seems to have a wonderful effect on the immune system, contributing not only by actually eradicating certain viruses, but in a more holistic way as well. Only very low concentrations of the oil are necessary for use - some say dilutions as low as 1:100 will be completely effective.

Thyme c.t. Linalool - Thyme has long been used to treat infectious illness, and is indicated for treatment of Influenza, and flu-like symptoms. Thyme c.t. linalool contains Thymol and Carvacrol - the same constituents found in the heavy-hitter Oregano oil, with of course 'linalool', the sweeter component of the oil. Linalool itself has been shown to have anti-viral action.

Sweet Basil - The oil from Ocimum basilicum herb has been used medicinally for centuries. Several of the compounds in Basil have been positively studied for anti-viral activity, including ursolic acid. apigenin and linalool. Sweet Basil is a wonderful aromatic, and is listed on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list from the FDA as being safe to ingest in small amounts. We would consider this to be one or two drops at a time, a few times per day.

Bay Laurel - Bay Laurel, also known as Laurel Leaf or Laurus Nobilis was the subject of an Italian study in 2008 which noted 'intesting activity against SARS-CoV, the virus known to cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Many of the components of Bay Laurel are found in other herb/spice oils such as Rosemary. Bay Laurel is also on the GRAS list, safe for ingestion in small amounts. As with other oils mentioned here, it can be diffused to disinfect the air in your living or office space.

This is only a short list of essential oils considered to have antiviral properties. Many studies have focused on the Herpes Simplex virus, as the efficacy of treatments is easy to evaluate. However, an in-depth look at the research abstracts available through Pub Med can give you a more complete look at up to date scientific data. A search for 'essential oil virus' currently yields 90 results. Also, as it is typically difficult for one to precisely determine the type of virus one may be attempting to eradicate, or prevent infection from, a blend of antiviral oils is often advised. Mixing oils listed here, and listed elsewhere on the web, is fun to do, and can result in a wonderful diffuser blend, or a mixture for other more intensive applications.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Are The Best Carrier Oils for Your Formulas?

We're often asked which are the 'best' carrier oil. The answer of course completely depends on the application. There are a few very profoundly therapeutic carriers for healing the skin, and here we'll have a look at the four most important, along with how to use them and what their therapeutic effects might be.

'Carrier oils' are so-called in aromatherapy as they are used to 'carry' the essential oils into (or onto) the skin. Most essential oils work best for skin care and healing in very low dilutions -- on the order of 1-3% of the overall concentration of the formula you're producing. The essential oils for skin care, when not being used for anti-fungal or anti-bacterial action, work as chemical signalers, instructing processes in the tissues like regeneration or increased metabolism. The carriers will generally supply nutrients, in the form of vitamins and essential fats, which complement the activity of the essential oils.

The most important commonly used carrier oils for skin care are: Rosehip seed, Evening Primrose, Tamanu (also called Callophyllum) and Coconut oil. There are a few 'rare' carriers with excellent properties, though due to their cost, limited availability and specialty applications, we'll focus on the highly effective, therapeutic carriers.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip seed became very popular in the 1980's when it was the subject of numerous studies involving skin care in university settings in Chilie (the world's largest producer of the oil). It is especially helpful for aging skin, sun damaged skin, and skin healing in general. It can be used at 100% of a carrier base formula, or even used by itself. Typically, it is included as some portion of the base of a recipe, in the range of 10-25%. The oil does have a somewhat dry, herbaceous aroma. The following notes are from these studies, quoted from

"APPLICATION ON AGED SKIN: Changes produced on skin by the action of the sun, i.e., photoaging are very common in all countries of warm climate. Exposure to sun causes important morphological changes in skin. Dermatoheliosis appears in different ways and varying intensity ranging from surface wrinkles, active keratosis and variation in the distribution of the melanin granules.

For this test volunteers were selected among people who usually spend the 3 months of summer in resorts by the sea or who go to the beach every day. The tests were carried out on 20 women aged between 25 and 35 who were controlled and assessed during the summer of 1988. The most frequently noted cutaneous signs were surface wrinkles, brown spots, eyelids and, in some cases, only an intense tan. All applied rose hip oil on the face during four months (May to August, Autumn 1988).

Observations were made every eight days. Significant changes were noted starting on the third week. Firstly, surface wrinkles started to disappear, spots started to fade until, at the end of the fourth month, the disappearance was complete. Skin presented a smooth and fresh aspect and the spots had almost disappeared.

APPLICATION ON SURGICAL SCARS: For this test we used scars that had equal features. Ten women, aged between 45 and 68, were selected who had suffered unilateral or bilateral mastectomy.Applications of rose hip oil were made, starting on the day when the surgical stitches were removed. After washing the area with tepid water and soap and careful drying, the oil was applied by soft massage. After three months of applying twice daily (morning and evening) it was noted that the scars were less apparent, without lumps and that skin elasticity had improved and the colour of the area had improved significantly.
We carried out these observations until four months after the operations and the treating doctors indicated that the skin conditions were improving considerably, allowing implantation of prosthesis or plastic surgery in far better conditions than with patients who had not been treated.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose oil is noted as exceptionally high in essential fatty acids. These are unsaturated fats called 'essential' as they cannot be made by the body from other nutrients. Evening Primrose has been the subject of numerous studies regarding eczema and dermatitis, and has by itself been able to support significant improvements in these conditions. The essential fatty acids are well-known anti-inflammatory agents, having this action on the skin, and systemically when the oil is ingested.

The oil has been noted in scientific reviews as improving childhood eczema both topically applied and when ingested (though Hemp oil would be a better choice to achieve the same nutritive result). Like Rosehip Seed, Evening primrose can be used as 100% of the base formula, though is more often included at about 20% of the base recipe. Search Pub Med for more about Evening Primrose oil research.

Tamanu Nut Oil

Tamanu is a relatively obscure oil pressed from the nut of a tropical tree in Southeast Asia. It has a long history in the aroma-medicine literature, however. It is considered especially healing, nutritive and anti-inflammatory. It is mentioned in Kurt Schnaubelt's 'Advanced Aromatherapy': "People on the coasts of the Indian Ocean use calophyllum oil as a panacea". It is thought to help detoxify the skin by supporting the immune system on a cellular level. It is an excellent addition to any wound healing formula, in a 10-25% concentration. The oil is also called for in care of herpes lesions and fever blisters (often mixed with Ravensara, Hyssop, or Melissa essential oils).

Tamanu is included specifically in Dr. Schnaubelt's 'Weeping Eczema' recipe: 1ml Thyme Thujanol, 1ml Eucalyptus Citradora, 10ml Tamanu, and 30ml Rosehip seed oil.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been a major component of healing programs around the world for much of history. For some time, due to its saturated nature, it was considered unhealthy -- yet nothing could be further from the truth. It is now considered an exceptionally healthy oil, eaten for cooking and taken alone as a supplement.

Coconut is exceptionally nutritive to the skin. It is moisturizing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, and may even help one's hair grow! Really, it can be added to nearly every skin care formula with beneficial effects. Because coconut is solid at room temperature, it should be warmed until fluid, then added to other base oils for a complete formula (though it certainly could be used at 100% of the base). Virgin coconut oil is the most nutritive variety, and should have a pleasant, soft aroma, indicating a fresh, high quality oil.

There are of course a great many other carrier oils -- we do highly recommend these four for all your aromatherapy skin care recipes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cooking with Essential Oils and the Bounty of Summer Gardens

Our summer gardens are officially in full bloom! Lettuces and leafy greens have already pushed through the spring soil, and now precious tomatoes and peppers are beginning to swell with the sweetness of the sun. Maybe last year you took a chance on cantaloupes, and this year you?re trying your hand at growing an herb garden that can be dried and used through the cold winter months. Whatever the contents of your backyard garden or patio pots, the bounty of the warm months inspires us all to eat well and connect with the earth, the true source of our well-being.

For much of the year, our produce is trucked in from far-flung farmlands. Once summer arrives, though, everyone gets the opportunity to claim their birthright as gardeners and cultivators of their own food. What?s best, local summer harvests allow us to experiment with simple, nutritious meals. With very little effort, a meal of fresh vegetables and summer fruits can become a decadent feast. And if your simple cuisine asks for a hint of the exotic, you can harvest a bouquet of flavors from the most unlikely of places: your aromatherapy medicine chest.

You already know that when using essential oils, it is always important to find therapeutic-grade oils. Because oils are concentrated substances, distilled from mass quantities of plant matter, you want to find the highest quality oil you can. While this makes sense when you think of essential oils being absorbed into the body through the skin, always sticking with therapeutic-grade oils has an added benefit: these powerful oils can easily be incorporated in cooking, too. Never thought of it that way before? Scent has a stronger influence on our perception of flavor than our taste buds do! With that in mind, here are a few simple ways the repertoire of essential oils can add a splash of flavor to your simple summer menu.

First and foremost, let?s address the issue of food safety. Essential oils are, obviously, plant-derived substances. While you may not want to eat a hunk of frankincense resin straight from the tree, frankincense is still a naturally occurring substance. It is not poisonous in small quantities, but it may make you want to brush your teeth immediately. Many essential oils are expressly dangerous for internal consumption, such as wintergreen and birch, but other oils can be used in small quantities for internal health as well as for cooking. In fact, the FDA has qualified many of the common essential oils as GRAS, Generally Recognized as Safe, substances. This means that, although they are not categorized as food additives, they can be consumed without apparent side-effects. When considering which oils to cook with, this is a good rule of thumb: essential oils of citruses, spices and other commonly-eaten foods are probably going to make excellent additions to your cuisine. Just be cautious when using essential oils that are known to irritate mucous membranes, such as cinnamon, oregano and peppermint.

Now that you have the beginnings of a delicious summer harvest, take a moment to consider how essential oils might enhance the bounty. Citrus oils, like lemon and grapefruit, mix well with olive oil for salad dressings. Just add a couple of drops to two tablespoons of oil to zest up a summer salad. Lime essential oil can be blended with avocado for guacamole, and mandarin orange oil makes a great addition to spinach salad. And don?t forget beverages! Citrus oils give juices and bubbly waters a great twist. Using equal parts lemon, lime and grapefruit, club soda becomes a refreshing citrus drink without the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in soda. Just remember, as with all essential oils, less is more. This rule applies to cooking, too, so use a light hand when sprinkling in these potent flavors.

What about the bevy of essential oils derived from well-loved cooking spices? Sweet marjoram, basil, ginger, thyme, oregano and bay can all be used to enhance food. Try blending sweet basil oil in with a tomato-mozzarella-Italian parsley pasta, or put a drop of ginger oil in your summer bok choy and carrot stir fry. Like your coffee with cardamom, Arabian-style? One drop of this oil transforms regular coffee into a delectable treat (hint: try this drink iced!). Cooking spice essential oils tend to be surprisingly strong, so again, don?t be lavish with them. Too much oregano or thyme oil will definitely ruin an otherwise balanced dish, so be careful. It?s also usually a good idea to wait to throw the oils in until the food is nearly done cooking, thereby reducing the chance of evaporation before you?re able to enjoy your creation.

Essential oils can also be used when making sweets. Vanilla and cacao essential oils infuse foods with their distinctly delicious flavors without the addition of refined sugar. And, different from extracts, essential oils do not contain alcohol, the substance used to distill food flavorings out of plant matter. For many, a couple of drops of vanilla bean essential oil in a cookie recipe tastes better than the sugary, chemical concoctions we find in commercially-made desserts. The same goes for cacao. Think baking chocolate! Dark, bitter yet definitely ?chocolate.? Lucky for us, the chemical constituents of chocolate that make us feel happy are best found in the darkest cacao. Toss a couple of drops of cacao essential oil in your yogurt and experience the elation of a chocolate high without the guilt!

Summer eating is something we look forward to all year. Whether it?s the promise of picnics with friends or simple feasts for two after a long day?s work, the bounty of the season makes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables easy. The addition of essential oils, an equally simple flourish, adds variety to dressings, sauces and beverages and extends our menu without necessitating a last-minute trip to the store. The next time you find yourself with unexpected houseguests and nothing fancy for them to drink, don?t despair: take fresh water over ice and a top it with a drop of orange essential oil. Now you?re savoring the ease of summer!

-- By Norah Charles, for The Ananda Apothecary

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Essential Oils Studied for Treatment of Alzheimer's

Many of the current memory enhancing/anti-dementia drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease strengthen the actions of the acetylcholine system by inhibiting cholinesterase, the enzyme which breaks down acetylchoilne in the body. This improves the stores and availability of this neurotransmitter, resulting in improved mental cognition.

Several essential oils thought to sharpen the mind have have shown the same action -- inhibition of cholinesterase. These include Lemon and Rosemary essential oils, the top two oils tested for improving study skills and test taking ability. Spanish Sage has also been the subject of many laboratory studies, and even a clinical trial, with successful results. Spanish Sage shares primary chemical constituents with many other oils, including Rosemary (the natural chemical 1,8-cineol is predominant in both oils). Don't get too hung up on the specific species on the studies, as again, many bright-scented essential oils appear to have these effects.

Interestingly, none of the individual constituents seemed to be as potent in preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine as the whole natural oil. Aromatherapists know well that the complete oils will virtually always have a more therapeutic effect than any single compound produced in the laboratory.

To replicate this effect of essential oil yourself, simply use one or more of these oils -- or another oil with a 'bright' aroma that you enjoy -- in a nebulizing diffuser. Be sure not to over-do it, just get enough of the aroma so its uplifting and pleasing, never overwhelming. A timer system is a good idea, running the diffuser only a few minutes every hour helps preserve oils and enhance their effects. Here are the studies involving Sage -- you can find studies involving Lemon and Rosemary elsewhere on our blog, or search Pub Med:

In vitro Biological Activity of Salvia leriifolia Benth Essential Oil Relevant to the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease.

Loizzo MR, Menichini F, Tundis R, Bonesi M, Conforti F, Nadjafi F, Statti GA, Frega NG, Menichini F. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Calabria.

In this study the chemical composition, cholinesterase inhibitory property and anti-inflammatory activity of S. leriifolia Benth. essential oil was evaluated for the first time. GC and GC-MS analysis revealed the presence of camphor (10.5%), 1,8-cineole (8.6%), camphene (6.2%) and alpha-pinene (4.7%) as main constituents. S. leriifolia oil exhibited a promising antioxidant activity by DPPH assay with an IC(50) 2.26 muL/mL. Interesting cholinesterase inhibitory activity was also found with IC(50) values of 0.32 and 0.29 muL/mL for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrrylcholinesterase (BChE), respectively. Moreover, this oil inhibited LPS-induced NO production with an IC(50) value of 165 mug/mL. The absence of cytotoxicity at 1000 mug/mL was evaluated by MTT assay in 142BR cells.

In-vitro activity of S. lavandulaefolia (Spanish sage) relevant to treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Perry NS, Houghton PJ, Sampson J, Theobald AE, Hart S, Lis-Balchin M, Hoult JR, Evans P, Jenner P, Milligan S, Perry EK.Pharmacognosy Research Laboratories, Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, UK.

Salvia lavandulaefolia Vahl. (Spanish sage) essential oil and individual monoterpenoid constituents have been shown to inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase in-vitro and in-vivo. This activity is relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, since anticholinesterase drugs are currently the only drugs available to treat Alzheimer's disease. Other activities relevant to Alzheimer's disease include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and estrogenic effects. Results of in-vitro tests for these activities are reported here for S. lavandulaefolia extracts, the essential oil and its major constituents. Antioxidant activity (inhibition of bovine brain liposome peroxidation) was found in the EtOH extract of the dried herb (5 mg mL(-1)) and the monoterpenoids (0.1 M) alpha- and beta-pinene and 1,8-cineole. Thujone and geraniol had lower antioxidant effects, while camphor had no antioxidant effects. Possible anti-inflammatory activity (eicosanoid inhibition in rat leucocytes) was found in the EtOH extract (50 microg mL(-1)) and was shown by the monoterpenoids alpha-pinene and geraniol (0.2 mM), but not 1,8-cineole, thujone or camphor. Possible estrogenic activity (via induction of beta-galactosidase activity in yeast cells) was found in the essential oil (0.01 mg mL(-1)) and the monoterpenoid geraniol (0.1-2 mM). 1,8-Cineole, alpha- and beta-pinene and thujone did not exhibit estrogenic activity in this analysis. These results demonstrate that S. lavandulaefolia, its essential oil and some chemical constituents have properties relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and provide further data supporting the value of carrying out clinical studies in patients with Alzheimer's disease using this plant species.

In-vitro inhibition of human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase by salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil and constituent terpenes.

Perry NS, Houghton PJ, Theobald A, Jenner P, Perry EK.Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, UK.

Sage (Salvia spp) is reputed in European herbal encyclopaedias to enhance memory, and current memory-enhancing/anti-dementia drugs are based on enhancing cholinergic activity by inhibiting cholinesterase. In this study the effects of Salvia lavandulaefolia Vahl. (Spanish sage) essential oil and some of its constituent terpenes on human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase were examined in-vitro. The main constituents in the essential oil batch used for analysis of cholinesterase inhibition were camphor (27%), 1,8-cineole (13%), alpha- and beta-pinene (10-15%) and bornyl acetate (10%) with other minor constituents (1% or less) including geraniol, limonene, linalool, terpineol and gamma-terpinene. Using the Ellman spectrophotometric method, kinetic analysis was conducted on the interaction of the essential oil and the main monoterpenoids, camphor, 1,8-cineole and alpha-pinene. IC50 values were obtained for the essential oil, 1,8-cineole and alpha-pinene and were 0.03 microL [corrected] mL(-1), 0.67 mM and 0.63 mM, respectively. Camphor and other compounds tested (geraniol, linalool and gamma-terpinene) were less potent (camphor IC50: >10mM). The essential oil, alpha-pinene, 1,8-cineole and camphor were found to be uncompetitive reversible inhibitors. These findings suggest that if the inhibitory activity of the essential oil is primarily due to the main inhibitory terpenoid constituents identified, there is a major synergistic effect among the constituents. Since no single constituent tested was particularly potent, it remains to be determined whether these in-vitro cholinesterase inhibitory activities are relevant to in-vivo effects of the ingestion of S. lavandulaefolia essential oil on brain acetylcholinesterase activity.

Salvia for dementia therapy: review of pharmacological activity and pilot tolerability clinical trial.

Perry NS, Bollen C, Perry EK, Ballard C.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

S. lavandulaefolia Vahl. (Spanish sage) extracts and constituents have demonstrated anticholinesterase, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, oestrogenic and CNS depressant (sedative) effects all of which are currently relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The essential oil inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) from human brain tissue and bovine erythrocyte and individual monoterpenoid constituents inhibit AChE with varying degrees of potency. In vivo AChE inhibition of select brain (striatal and hippocampal over cortical) AChE was obtained following oral administration of the essential oil to rats. In a study in healthy volunteers essential oil administration produced significant effects on cognition. In a pilot open-label study involving oral administration of the essential oil to patients with AD, a significant increase in diastolic and systolic blood pressure was observed in two patients, however this may have been due primarily to preexisting hypertension and there were no abnormalities in other vital signs or blood samples during the trial period. Although an open label trial is not free from practice effects or rater-caregiver expectations, statistically significant differences between baseline and 6 weeks treatment were a reduction in neuropsychiatric symptoms and an improvement in attention.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Debunking the Debunkers: The Therapeutic Validity of and Essential Oils

Searching for the term 'Aromatherapy' brings up several pages claiming aromatherapy is a fraud of some sort. That essential oil manufacturers and retailers are making 'dubious' claims of the efficacy of essential oils. These folks don't seem to have done their homework, or compared the validity of scientific inquiry to that produced by conventional medicine, which in fact could easily be claimed as 'dubious' using the same criteria. Ok, well actually there are no criteria used, just a few blurbs that present aromatherapy as a soft science, on that should be neglected along with everything else that's every been found under the heading of 'new age'.

How about we all agree on this? That SOME of aromatherapy is in-fact a 'soft science'? That SOME people may feel more relaxed when inhaling Lavender, for example, and some will not? Aromatherapists will not disagree on this point -- they will however put up a defense when the medical applications of essential oils are thrown out with the soft side of 'aroma' therapy. Science IS BACKING UP many of aromatherapy's claims with valid data, even on the 'soft-science' of the practice. Here's a look at the science behind aromatherapy, the holes in arguments of the popular debunkers, and why aroma-medicine has it's place in today's medical practices.

Aromatherapy really suffers from an image problem. Most people hear the word, and believe it has really to do with 'the smell of things' rather than with 'things that smell'. Its a small but very important distinction. Aromatherapy is really the complete branch of medicine that uses the chemically-volatile (easily evaporated) constituents of plants for treatment of a wide variety of ailments. IT DOES NOT only have to do with the effects these plant chemicals have on people that smell them. Virtually every professional aromatherapist will tell you that the great medicinal promise of aromatherapy does not reside in their pleasing aromas, but rather in their abilities to successfully treat a wide range of infectious illnesses (like MRSA, the 'Superbug'), their action as chemotherapy agents, anti-inflammatory agents, wound-healing agents, and other 'hard' medical applications.

A quick look at the research available on Pub Med, a database of thousands of peer-reviewed life-science and medical journals freely available on-line reveals thousands of citations of research performed using essential oils. Yes, there are in fact some studies that did not result in convincing evidence that hand massages with lavender cream didn't make people feel better than hand massages with unscented lotion. But there is studies that show people sleep better after lavender inhalation. And there's a study that show stress makers of the immune system remained unchanged after inhaling linalool (an isolated constituent of Lavender), but there's also 15 studies (upon last count) showing positive significant results if one searches for 'lavender' and 'axiolytic' (the technical term for stress reducer). The results for 'acetaminophen' and 'pain' MAY be as strong; those for 'minoxidil' and 'hair' are almost certainly not.

So aromatherapists will even cede that there's mix results. While the naysayers use this data to say "aromatherapy doesn't work", the reasonable statement seems to be: "everyone's different. Some people respond and some don't. It may be that they would respond to a different aromatic, or maybe not at all". From Robert T. Carol of "...I have to conclude that aromatherapy is a mostly a pseudoscientific alternative medical therapy. It is a mixture of folklore, trial and error, anecdote, testimonial, New Age spiritualism and fantasy." Stephen Barrett, M.D. of Quackwatch doesn't really seem to make a point about essential oils, but to just sound disgruntled about the whole idea. Sure, there may be some unsubstantiated claims floating about, but let's play fair. How many deadly drugs have been pulled from the market after drug-manufacturer-paid rigorous scientific investigations claimed them to be "safe and effective"? One chart puts deaths attributed to "properly prescribed and used drugs" between those from alcohol and those from alcohol -- these just above "preventable medical" misshap, and all of these above traffic fatalities. How many died from using essential oils? Can you draw a circle? How about the letter that comes between 'n' and 'p'?

On to the cutting edge of aroma-medicine: The big news is that essential oils, yes very the same used in aromatherapy (this IS the idea we're trying to get across!), are highly effective antibiotics and antivirals. Again, we invite you to search for 'essential oil' and 'mrsa' -- this is the staphylococcus aureus bacteria 'superbug' that has become resistant to commonly available antibiotics (the MR in the name stands for 'methicillin resistant'). You'll find studies showing the efficacy of Tea Tree essential oil in clinical applications, and positive results in the lab using several other oils. And thus far it is thought that these oils have no adverse effects at effective doses.

Then there's the myriad of studies showing essential oils' efficacy in destroying cancers. A recent study in the journal of "Chemico-Biological Interactions" noted that linalool, a common essential oil constituent, completely eradicated a particular liver cancer cell line at very, very small concentrations. Try 'essential oil' and 'cancer' in Pub Med and you'll get results like "Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity"(perhaps this is terminology of "New Age spiritualism" I'm yet unaware of). Another result is "Anticancer activity of an essential oil from Cymbopogon flexuosus" (Lemongrass essential oil) with a conclusion of "Our results indicate that the oil has a promising anticancer activity and causes loss in tumor cell viability by activating the apoptotic process as identified by electron microscopy." The list, of course, goes on (there are in fact 388 results today for this search).

So why are these criticisms of aromatherapy so popular, at least in Google's eyes? Why do some folks like horror flicks and car crashes -- not sure, really. It might have to do with there being a closer relationship between 'aromatherapy' and 'Glade Plug-in Air Freshener (TM)' in many people's minds than there is between 'aromatherapy' 'frankincense' and 'tumor cell specific cytotoxicity'. One reality is that there's a lot more money pushing the Glad Plug-In concept. Because essential oils cannot be patented as medicines, the amount of money to be made by Really Big Business is negligible. So it's up to small natural health companies, individual practitioners, and the wonderful education and research facilities doing the technical work to get the word out. And particularly to rock the boat a bit when so-called authorities make truly dubious claims about the dubious nature of aromatherapy. Plant medicine has kept human beings alive for millennia -- essential oils are just very active molecules produced by plants, and aromatherapy is so-called as it deals with the therapeutic applications of these aromatic molecules. Aroma-therapy. Get the word out!

Essential Oils 'Generally Recognized as Safe' for Ingestion by the FDA

We get the question all the time: "Is it safe to ingest essential oils". There is a pervasive attitude in America that they are not, while in much of the rest of the world, they are even prescribed by health professionals to be taken this way. What seems to be happening is that authors are so afraid of repercussions if someone eats essential oils following their guidelines and hurts themselves. In major health food stores, you'll find both Oregano and Peppermint essential oils are currently offered in capsule form to treat digestive illnesses, which presents an obvious contradiction to the idea that one should never eat essential oils (and oddly enough, these are two oils that are nearer to the 'potentially unsafe' end of the spectrum).

While we are not advocating ANY essential oil ingestion protocol here, we would like to clear up the confusion regarding essential oil ingestion. Truthfully, MOST essential oils commonly used in aromatherapy are in fact safe to eat in very small amounts. This is on the order of 1-8 drops per day, depending on the oil and one's condition. We are not saying its a good idea to start dosing yourself internally with essential oils, but if you feel this may improve your health, FIND A QUALIFIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL to help you determine a program for you.

Below is a list of essential oils listed by the FDA as 'GRAS' or 'Generally Recognized as Safe'. This is the complete and current listing. This does not imply that they can be consumed without regard to quantity. The FDA GRAS list for essential oils actually notes that these oils are safe when consumed in commonly used quantities. Again, this is on the order of only a very few drops at a time. The FDA specifically notes that the list does not mean that the oils have been acknowledged as helpful as dietary supplements, only that they are considered safe for consumtion in historic/commonly-used amounts.

Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates) that are generally recognized as safe for their intended use, within the meaning of section 409 of the Act, are as follows:
Common nameBotanical name of plant source
AlfalfaMedicago sativa L.
AllspicePimenta officinalis Lindl.
Almond, bitter (free from prussic acid)Prunus amygdalus Batsch, Prunus armeniaca L., or Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.
Ambrette (seed)Hibiscus moschatus Moench.
Angelica rootAngelica archangelica L.
Angelica seed Do.
Angelica stem Do.
Angostura (cusparia bark)Galipea officinalis Hancock.
AnisePimpinella anisum L.
AsafetidaFerula assa-foetida L. and related spp. of Ferula.
Balm (lemon balm)Melissa officinalis L.
Balsam of PeruMyroxylon pereirae Klotzsch.
BasilOcimum basilicum L.
Bay leavesLaurus nobilis L.
Bay (myrcia oil)Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore.
Bergamot (bergamot orange)Citrus aurantium L. subsp. bergamia Wright et Arn.
Bitter almond (free from prussic acid)Prunus amygdalus Batsch, Prunus armeniaca L., or Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.
Bois de roseAniba rosaeodora Ducke.
CacaoTheobroma cacao L.
Camomile (chamomile) flowers, HungarianMatricaria chamomilla L.
Camomile (chamomile) flowers, Roman or EnglishAnthemis nobilis L.
CanangaCananga odorata Hook. f. and Thoms.
CapsicumCapsicum frutescens L. and Capsicum annuum L.
CarawayCarum carvi L.
Cardamom seed (cardamon)Elettaria cardamomum Maton.
Carob beanCeratonia siliqua L.
CarrotDaucus carota L.
Cascarilla barkCroton eluteria Benn.
Cassia bark, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cassia bark, Padang or BataviaCinnamomum burmanni Blume.
Cassia bark, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
Celery seedApium graveolens L.
Cherry, wild, barkPrunus serotina Ehrh.
ChervilAnthriscus cerefolium (L.) Hoffm.
ChicoryCichorium intybus L.
Cinnamon bark, CeylonCinnamomum zeylanicum Nees.
Cinnamon bark, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cinnamon bark, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
Cinnamon leaf, CeylonCinnamomum zeylanicum Nees.
Cinnamon leaf, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cinnamon leaf, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
CitronellaCymbopogon nardus Rendle.
Citrus peelsCitrus spp.
Clary (clary sage)Salvia sclarea L.
CloverTrifolium spp.
Coca (decocainized)Erythroxylum coca Lam. and other spp. of Erythroxylum.
CoffeeCoffea spp.
Cola nutCola acuminata Schott and Endl., and other spp. of Cola.
CorianderCoriandrum sativum L.
Cumin (cummin)Cuminum cyminum L.
Curacao orange peel (orange, bitter peel)Citrus aurantium L.
Cusparia barkGalipea officinalis Hancock.
DandelionTaraxacum officinale Weber and T. laevigatum DC.
Dandelion root Do.
Dog grass (quackgrass, triticum)Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.
Elder flowersSambucus canadensis L. and S. nigra I.
Estragole (esdragol, esdragon, tarragon)Artemisia dracunculus L.
Estragon (tarragon) Do.
Fennel, sweetFoeniculum vulgare Mill.
FenugreekTrigonella foenum-graecum L.
Galanga (galangal)Alpinia officinarum Hance.
GeraniumPelargonium spp.
Geranium, East IndianCymbopogon martini Stapf.
Geranium, rosePelargonium graveolens L'Her.
GingerZingiber officinale Rosc.
GrapefruitCitrus paradisi Macf.
GuavaPsidium spp.
Hickory barkCarya spp.
Horehound (hoarhound)Marrubium vulgare L.
HopsHumulus lupulus L.
HorsemintMonarda punctata L.
HyssopHyssopus officinalis L.
ImmortelleHelichrysum augustifolium DC.
JasmineJasminum officinale L. and other spp. of Jasminum.
Juniper (berries)Juniperus communis L.
Kola nutCola acuminata Schott and Endl., and other spp. of Cola.
Laurel berriesLaurus nobilis L.
Laurel leavesLaurus spp.
LavenderLavandula officinalis Chaix.
Lavender, spikeLavandula latifolia Vill.
LavandinHybrids between Lavandula officinalis Chaix and Lavandula latifolin Vill.
LemonCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
Lemon balm (see balm)
Lemon grassCymbopogon citratus DC. and Cymbopogon lexuosus Stapf.
Lemon peelCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
LimeCitrus aurantifolia Swingle.
Linden flowersTilia spp.
Locust beanCeratonia siliqua L,
LupulinHumulus lupulus L.
MaceMyristica fragrans Houtt.
MandarinCitrus reticulata Blanco.
Marjoram, sweetMajorana hortensis Moench.
MatéIlex paraguariensis St. Hil.
Melissa (see balm)
MentholMentha spp.
Menthyl acetate Do.
Molasses (extract)Saccarum officinarum L.
MustardBrassica spp.
NaringinCitrus paradisi Macf.
Neroli, bigaradeCitrus aurantium L.
NutmegMyristica fragrans Houtt.
OnionAllium cepa L.
Orange, bitter, flowersCitrus aurantium L.
Orange, bitter, peel Do.
Orange leafCitrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck.
Orange, sweet Do.
Orange, sweet, flowers Do.
Orange, sweet, peel Do.
OriganumOriganum spp.
PalmarosaCymbopogon martini Stapf.
PaprikaCapsicum annuum L.
ParsleyPetroselinum crispum (Mill.) Mansf.
Pepper, blackPiper nigrum L.
Pepper, white Do.
PeppermintMentha piperita L.
Peruvian balsamMyroxylon pereirae Klotzsch.
PetitgrainCitrus aurantium L.
Petitgrain lemonCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
Petitgrain mandarin or tangerineCitrus reticulata Blanco.
PimentaPimenta officinalis Lindl.
Pimenta leafPimenta officinalis Lindl.
Pipsissewa leavesChimaphila umbellata Nutt.
PomegranatePunica granatum L.
Prickly ash barkXanthoxylum (or Zanthoxylum) Americanum Mill. or Xanthoxylum clava-herculis L.
Rose absoluteRosa alba L., Rosa centifolia L., Rosa damascena Mill., Rosa gallica L., and vars. of these spp.
Rose (otto of roses, attar of roses) Do.
Rose buds Do.
Rose flowers Do.
Rose fruit (hips) Do.
Rose geraniumPelargonium graveolens L'Her.
Rose leavesRosa spp.
RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis L.
SaffronCrocus sativus L.
SageSalvia officinalis L.
Sage, GreekSalvia triloba L.
Sage, SpanishSalvia lavandulaefolia Vahl.
St. John's breadCeratonia siliqua L.
Savory, summerSatureia hortensis L.
Savory, winterSatureia montana L.
Schinus molleSchinus molle L.
Sloe berries (blackthorn berries)Prunus spinosa L.
SpearmintMentha spicata L.
Spike lavenderLavandula latifolia Vill.
TamarindTamarindus indica L.
TangerineCitrus reticulata Blanco.
TarragonArtemisia dracunculus L.
TeaThea sinensis L.
ThymeThymus vulgaris L. and Thymus zygis var. gracilis Boiss.
Thyme, white Do.
Thyme, wild or creepingThymus serpyllum L.
Triticum (see dog grass)
TuberosePolianthes tuberosa L.
TurmericCurcuma longa L.
VanillaVanilla planifolia Andr. or Vanilla tahitensis J. W. Moore.
Violet flowersViola odorata L.
Violet leaves Do.
Violet leaves absolute Do.
Wild cherry barkPrunus serotina Ehrh.
Ylang-ylangCananga odorata Hook. f. and Thoms.
Zedoary barkCurcuma zedoaria Rosc.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Study Confirms Aromatherapy Stress Reduction in Adolecents

A study released in the June 2009 Journal of the Korean Academy of Nursing did a complex study on the effect of inhaled scents and several markers of stress. The markers included stress and anxiety self assessments, blood pressure, pulse rate, cortisol levels, and immune system responses. The study group was made up of high school girls, given aromatherapy pendants to wear. The aromatic used for the experimental group was Bergamot essential oil, whereas the control groups inhaled either plain carrier oil or carrier with added artificial flavoring.

This is one of many studies examining the effects of essential oils on stress levels available through Pub Med. Many studies in laboratories have shown varying amounts of stress reduction, though real-world applications with human beings has produced mixed results (sometime the aromatherapy did no better than placebo). Often, lavender essential oil was used, which in fact we've found only appeals to a portion of the population. Whether this is the reason the studies have been inconclusive, we're not sure, but one of the foundations of this type of aromatherapy practice (as opposed to treatment of infectious illness, for example) is that the 'patient' should like the aroma they're inhaling!

All markers of stress in this particular study were measured as significantly lower other than immune response. This includes cortisol levels, which have been tied to weight gain. We think bergamot essential oil was a wonderful choice, as its scent appeals to so many people, and is considered aromatherapy's most broad-spectrum anti-depressant oil.

STUDY: The effects of aromatherapy on stress and stress responses in adolescents

Seo JY.Department of Nursing, Youngnam Foreign Language College, Gyeongsan, Korea.

PURPOSE: This study was done to examine the effects of aromatherapy on stress and stress responses in adolescents. METHODS: A two-group cross-over design was used for this study. The experimental treatment was aroma essential oil inhalation and the placebo treatment was carrier oil inhalation using a necklace. The sample included 36 female high school students. Fisher's exact test, t-test, and paired t-test using SPSS/WIN program were used to analyze the data. RESULTS: Stress levels were significantly lower when the students received the aroma treatment compared to when they received the placebo treatment. The stress responses except salivary IgA levels were significantly lower when the students received the aroma treatment. CONCLUSION: Aroma inhalation could be a very effective stress management method for high school students. Therefore, it is recommended that this program be used in clinical practice as an effective nursing intervention for high school students.