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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swine Flu Prevention with Essential Oils?

In not so many words, some of our customers have been asking how they can use aromatic botaincal medicine (otherwise known as essential oils) to help 'prevent' illness and infection from swine, bird, and various other forms of the 'flu'. Folks have been humbly cautious about making a big deal of the issue, while kindly and fairly seeking our advice in the use of essential oils as a tool to help prevent the transmission of viral illnesses.

We would like to offer our opinion, and we would like everyone to know that it is just that, a collective opinion from persons with some experience with essential oils and herbal medicine -- yet none directly with the prevention and treatment of swine flu specifically as there is no none 'treatment'. It is combined wisdom of practitioners, users and others involved in the essential oil and natural medicine industry, with a significant background in herbal and botanicals, and natural medicine in general. We cannot say that essential oils will prevent and/or cure this illness. These are simply the oils we would choose, and the ways we would use them ourselves, along with other dietary, lifestyle and nutrient/herbal factors that we personally might employ.

Research Supports Essential Oils as Anti-Viral Agents

Our recommendations regarding oils specifically have two primary foundations: there is a large body of evidence that can be searched at www.pubmed.gov, making available peer-reviewed scientific abstracts regarding the anti-viral AND immune system modulating effects of essential oils. We have seen much of the data, and have abstracted it for human use (much of the research has been done on a variety of viral cultures, for example, not specifically on human beings with swine flu). This has been done as best we can with our combined level of education and collective of knowledge. The second foundation is from two persons with advanced naturopathic degrees with the company, both as an owner and as staff, and an environmental eco-scientist who affords the science-based perspective. Again, this is not meant as medical advice to prevent, treat or cure any disease. This is simply what we ourselves will do with the oils and other plant medicines available to us to maintain our own health at the highest and most vibrant levels possible in the face of the possibility of exposure to the influenza virus.

Antiviral and Immunostimulant Activity of Essential Oils

We'll begin with the two features of essential oils that we would consider helpful in this situation. Aromatic plants have an extensive history or both anecdotal (traditional) use AND empirical scientific data support the concept that essential oils can both boost immune system function, and directly destroy certain viruses. Some essential oils are considered very potent immunnostimulants (remember these components are considered the immune system of the plants themselves)-- we would personally consider the use of Frankincense, Melissa, Lavender, Thyme, Eucalyptus Radiata, Tea tree, and Melaleuca ericifolia (also known as Rosalina). A few other oils, while likely also having some effect on immune system action, are often called for traditionally to treat viral illnesses with the idea of direct eradication of the virus. The ones we would personally consider are Bay Laurel and Ravensara. There are certainly other oils that are used to support immune system function and as anti-virals -- this list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to include the oils we see as helpful to ourselves if we were presented with the need for prevention of infection from swine flu (or avian flu, or really any pandemic influenza for that matter).

How We Use The Oils For This Purpose

There are two primary methods with which we would use these oils -- using a nebulizing diffuser, as well as topical application. On occasion, we may ingest 1-3 drops of oil at a time, up to 4 times daily (more on this in a minute). THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS to impart protection of the oils, we believe, is through the use of the diffuser. It must be a nebulizing style, preferably one that does not mix the oil with water (although these are appropriate where children will be around the devices, for their lower concentrations of the oils are appropriate for the young ones). A nebulizer is a devise which makes a fine mist of esssential oils (pure oils, singly or blended, without a carrier oil). In the office, we diffuse the Super Immune blend using a professional cold-air nebulizer. The mist this makes is so fine that the oils evaporate completely upon leaving the diffuser. This diffuser style provides the highest concentrations of essential oils in the air, significant enough to both eradicate pathogens and boost immune function. Warming oil diffusers and candle diffusers are helpful but not as effective for this are this use.

Duration of Diffusing Oils

Oils should be diffused in regular intervals throughout the day (with reduced activity and contact through the night, diffusion is then optional). This interval can be very short -- on the order of 5 minutes every hour. One should never feel overwhelmed with the aroma, or that the aroma is unpleasant. That's one's body telling them they've had enough. In this case, first reduce the output and/or duration of diffusion. If necessary, try to evaluate whether there's one oil in your formula (if using a blend) that may be causing the overwhelmed sensation (too much Melissa can be overpowering, just as to much Jasmine can be 'heady'). Again this method provides both the potential to disinfect the air AND boost our immune system at the same time.

Topical Application and Sprays

Sometimes diffusing oils is not always practical -- if one is traveling, topical application or a small spray bottle can be used. A 10% concentration of a mixture of the oils mentioned here, diluted in Virgin Coconut Oil (virgin coconut oil has been noted to have antiviral properties itself) can be massaged into the feet -- a highly receptive area of the body for essential oils -- and into the lymph nodes: on the throat, in the armpits, in the groin area (careful to limit contact with sensitive body parts) and on the sternum (the chest bone). The skin may be most receptive after a warm shower. This topical application allows the oils to penetrate to regions of the body responsible for immune defense. A concentration of 10% can be figured by adding 3 milliliters (about 80 drops) of essential oil to your base oil.
A small misting bottle can easily be made by adding a 10% concentration of essential oils to pure spring water. The oils and water will naturally separate, though a simple 'good shake' of the bottle before spraying mixes them enough. If this is done in a 1oz bottle, the blend is easily portable, and small enough to take with you in any travel situation. One can mist their environment, their clothes and body -- just keeping the spray away from the face. Like diffusing, topical application or misting should be done frequently, as the essential oils are rapidly metabolized. Small, frequent applications (3 times a day or more) may be best.

In addition to diffusing the essential oils, we suggest you use the essential oils as a natural cleaner for your counters, door and phone handles, and other high use areas. We will post some natural cleaning formulas on our site and there are various companies that use essential oils in their cleaning products including Seventh Generation, Sun and Earth, and other eco-minded companies. Some recommendations include Lavender, Lemon, Lemon Verbana, Pine, Rosemary, and Lemon Tea Tree.

Essential Oils As Part Of An Overall Immunity Program

Its important to keep in mind that there is likely no single addition to one's daily routine that will provide complete protection from any illness, be it swine flu or any other cotangent. Wellness is always a balance of how we manifest our lives in alignment with nature. The immune system is related to the water element and the emotional body. Flower essences are known to support emotional health and lessen stress; Five Flower Formula is an excellent all-around choice. Make sure that you are drinking adequate amounts of pure water. We like the formula .5 x body weight = ounces of water per day. (Move to this amount over time.) Take good care of your emotions - you are worth it! LOVE yourself. FORGIVE yourself and others. Keep opening to the beauty and love that is your birthright. Smile, laugh, skip, dance, and play more. Humor and love are two of the best medicines available. As always, a good 'live-it' (notice 'diet' is a four letter word!) including substantial amounts of organic fruits and vegetables is an important foundation to having a fabulously strong immune system.

Adequate exercise on a daily basis can help to move the blood and lymph, clearing out stagnant energy making way for a healthier more vibrant mind and body. Stress-reduction and mindfulness techniques such as yoga, meditation, and prayer are also important. Natural sunlight every day can help to bring you in balance with the rhythms of nature. Therapeutic touch such as massage and acupuncture are both very good for de-stressing as well as the health of the circulatory and immune systems.

There may also be other nutriceuticals (vitamins, etc), Superfoods, and herbs that can match one's personal needs. We are fans of Camu Camu (a rainforest fruit high in natural vitamin C and bioflavinoids), 'Green' supplements including blue-green algaes, chlorella, and spirulina (we prefer The Synergy Company's 'Pure Synergy' as well as David Wolfe's 'The Sun is Shining') and food-based enzymes, and multivitamins. In addition to bringing in more 'superfoods' (to help nourish us from the inside out) it is very important to get adequate amounts of rest. Deep sleep is the time when the body has the opportunity to repair and rejuvenate itself. Lavender and Chamomile essential oils can help with rest. Add a few drops to your pillow or warm bath in the evening before retiring and rest deeply and soundly. If your mind is busy at the end of the day and you have difficulty resting you can also use warm sesame oil on either your feet or gently rubbed into your hair to help calm the nervous system. If you are unsure of how to incorporate these in your lifestyle, check with a naturopathic physician, wellness coach, or herbalist for recommendations. Can essential oils be used for swine flu prevention? In our opinions, the scientific data and the historical use of these plant medicines can play a roll for many people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Essential Oils - Nature's Strongest Anti-Virals

The body of scientific evidence regarding the potency of plant medicines against a great variety of viruses is growing. And with the concern of viral illness in the headlines, now is the time to investigate all the ways you can protect your health and the health of your family. Essential oils from many plant families have now been demonstrated to have antiviral properties in laboratory research across the globe. These essential oils are readily available at health food stores -- though the most consistent high grade therapeutic quality may be from internet sources. Using essential oils for immune system support is a tried-and-true application of these powerful natural medicines. In fact, most medical aromatherapists consider the most important use of essential oils in medical applications will be for the prevention and treatment of infectious illness (see Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt's 'Medical Aromatherapy').

The Data Is In: Immunostimulants and Direct Anti-Viral Action of Essential Oils

For the treatment and prevention of infectious illness, essential oils are used for two purposes: the general strengthening of the immune system and the direct eradication of viruses. A great many peer-reviewed research papers have been produces showing the efficacy of essential oils for both purposes. Using the database of the National Institute of Health (www.pubmed.gov) one can review the data by searching for terms such as 'essential oil virus' (currently producing 93 results) or 'essential oil immune' (producing 143 results) and the like. Essential oils have been shown to actually increase the power of lymphocytes (the immune system's troops, so to speak), making them better able to eliminate foreign invaders in the body (viruses, bacteria, and the like). Oils can also increase the speed at which the immune system produces antibodies to eliminate an infection. Using one or more oils topically (they are easily absorbed through the skin) or in a diffuser on a daily basis can support this effect (more on which oils to use in a minute).

Perhaps even more exciting is the number of research papers showing the direct effect of essential oils in actually killing viruses. To those in the natural medicine field, this is not so astounding -- essential oils work as part of a plant's immune system, and plants need to defend themselves from viruses as well. And the viruses which infect plants are not all that different from the viruses that infect humans -- their envelopes and other structures are fairly similar (though with different transmission strategies), such that the mechanisms of killing the viruses will still be useful for human use. The same oils that are effective against SARS and HSV should show some, if not all of the same activity against H1N1 (also known as Swine Flu) and H5N1 (Avian influenza). At the same time, essential oils are relatively non-toxic for humans, allowing for regular use as both preventative and healing agents. In fact, when studying the anti-viral effects of essential oils, researchers found that normal cells seemed to acquire a special resistance to viral penetration, though the mechanism for this effect is not yet known.

Choosing the Right Oils for the Strongest Immunity

For these applications, essential oils can be characterized by the desired effect. Certain oils are considered especially effective as immunostimulants -- when looking for any sort of support of the immune system, it is always crucial to take into account the vitality of one's overall health. Obviously a person in poor health, or even in a very poor emotional state, will be more susceptible to infection than those in tip-top health. Those individuals reporting lower levels of stress will also have the best immune system function. In this regard, Frankincense essential oil, particularly Boswellia carteri species produced by carbon dioxide extraction, is considered one of the most highly effective oils.

Other oils to consider to bolster one's overall vitality (with a stronger immune system as a result) are Bergamot (highly regarded as an anti-depressant), Rosemary (for assisting detoxification, therby lessening the load on the immune system), and Lavender (an anti-stress agent, as well as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial). These oils can be used via any classic aromatherapy method -- topical massage on the feet surprisingly may be the most effective, as the feet are highly receptive both energetically and biochemically to essential oils. Diffusing these oils, again singly or in combination in a nebulizing diffuser (which makes a fine, easliy evaporated mist of the oils in the air) is a simple way of protecting your entire household (the directly anti-vial oils can be used in this way as well).

The Anti-Viral Essential Oils: Melissa Officinalis

The collection of scientifically validated research of the ability of essential oils to act directly against viruses has exploded in the last several years, with more interest in this field growing dramatically in 2009. Many oils have shown to be effective not only in petri dishes, but in living subjects as well. Melissa, also known as 'Lemon Balm' is an essential oil distilled from an herb with a long history of use in natural medicine. It is one of the only oils thought to be able to completely eradicate the Herpes Simplex virus in humans, and prevents the virus from transmitting from cell to cell. While somewhat costly (if the oil is found at a price that seems to good to be true, it is more than likely not 'true' Melissa), the oil is only needed in very small amounts to be effective (Dr Schnaubelt, in 'Advanced Aromatherapy' consideres a 1:100 dilution to still retain the efficacy of the pure oil). Melissa is safe for human ingestion and direct topical application.

Melaleuca Alternifolia: All Purpose Tea Tree

Tea Tree, because we've all been using for so long, slips our mind when considering oils for more 'serious' applications. Yet the naturally occurring terpines in Tea Tree are among the most potent anti-viral constituents found in essential oils. Yet not all of us are very fond of Tea Tree's aroma; what's important to know that Tea Tree actually has a wonderful 'nutmeggy' aroma when it's fresh ? and Tea Tree happens to be one of the essential oils that is better tolerated when it's fresh (if the smell is unpleasant, it's likely old or not of good quality). The research backing the antiviral action is probably more comprehensive than any other essential oil. While aromatherapists do not consider Tea Tree the first line of defense for influenza, it could certainly be a helpful component in blends with other appropriate oils for this purpose.

Essential Oils Specific for Influenza

A great many other oils are recommended by medical aromatherapists for infectious illness which may be transmitted through airborne contact. Bay Laurel (also known as Laurel Leaf or Laurus Nobilis) is mentioned by researchers as particularly effective in eradication of the virus causing SARS, and should certainly be included in any anti-viral formulas. Eucalyptus Radiata (also known as Narrow Leaf Eucalyptus) has been called the 'Aromatherapist's Designer Oil' for its pleasant aroma AND its immune supportive and anti-viral action. Ravensara aromatica (not to be confused with Ravenstara) is used for bronchial infections. Hyssop is another oil thought to have potent anti-viral activity; it naturally contains a very broad array of natural constituents which creates this potency. Finally, the essential oils from Thyme and Oregano herbs are strongly antimicrobial, and are often called for in immune and cold care recipes. These oils are very strong, and should be used with caution ? only used in small amounts in diffuser blends of very diluted (to less than 5%) in topical formulas.

Putting It All Together

Making your own formulas for home use, whether in a diffuser or for topical application is exceptionally easy to do. Don't be wary of mixing your own ? once you do it, you'll find it fun and educating, likely even giving you more personal ownership and understanding of the use of oils. For diffuser use, an example formula may be equal parts of Bay Laurel, Eucalyptus Radiata, Tea Tree, Hyssop decumbens, and Ravensara. If you find any of the aromas overwhelming, just reduce the portion of the blend of that oil. So you could just pipette 1 milliter of each oil into a seperate bottle, then use this formula in a nebulizing diffuser. The same formula can be mixed for topical application by blending 1 part of this recipe into 9 parts of a carrier oil (such as gently melted virgin Coconut oil ? which is considered to have antiviral properties itself) and used as a daily foot massage. Melissa oil can be included if you wish to enhance the formula. Rubbing this blend into the areas of the body where the lymph nodes are close to the surface is also recommended: the sternum, armpits and neck are receptive areas. If you choose to use the blend in a diffuser, remember that the carrier oil should then NOT be used (it will not evaporate properly!). All these oils are included in our Super Immune blend, in a full-strength recipe. See http://www.anandaapothecary.com/essential-oil-blends.html

The same essential oils can be mixed in a small spray bottle for traveling. Again, a 1:10 dilution in water, mixed in a 1 ounce bottle with a spray cap, vigorously shaken, can be taken along on a plane. You can mist yourself and your environment using this, and even your hotel room and rental car can be 'treated' with your mixture. A final note on blending and use ? as essential oils are highly concentrated, be sure to keep them away from the eyes, and out of the hands of younger children (please consult a practitioner if you intend to use these formulas with the young ones; while the recipes are appropriate, the concentration of essential oil should be significantly lower for children under 12. In no case should the oils be used with infants).

If you would like further assistance, please email us at custserv@anandaapothecary.com.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Essential Oils Studied as Protective Agents for Neurolgical Disorders

Several recent studies have focused on the potential of essential oils to act as protectants to neurological disorders. Some of these studies have focused specifically on the anti-oxidant effects of essential oils, where oxidation (the destruction or alteration of biological molecules by other potentially damaging molecules containing certain forms of oxygen) plays a role. Other studies have shown that essential oils can keep the mind sharp by preventing the breakdown of Acetylcholine - the primary neurotransmitter involved in the processing of information in the brain.

Essential oils can be used in a number of ways to mimic these studies. Diffusing essential oils has been noted by some researchers to improve test scores in a variety of situations -- this effect can potentially be related to the acetylcholine-enhancing properties of the oils. This is the simple diffusion of the oils in the air to the point where their aroma is recognized but not overwhelming. Other studies imply that some oils can be used internally -- ie. ingested in small amounts. This of course should only be done with a thorough understanding of the correct dosages (which are VERY small).

Here are two studies that investigate the use of essential oils as antioxidants, and their protective effects on neurons. Other studies involving the acetylcholine neurotransmitter can be found here.

Study: Protective Effects of the Essential Oil of Salvia fruticosa (Greek Sage) and Its Constituents on Astrocytic Susceptibility to Hydrogen Peroxide-Induced Cell Death.

Elmann A, Mordechay S, Rindner M, Larkov O, Elkabetz M, Ravid U. Department of Food Science, Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel

Oxidative stress has been implicated in pathologic processes associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Astrocytes, the most abundant glial cell type in the brain, protect neurons from reactive oxygen species (ROS), and any damage to them will affect neuronal survival. This study compares the ability of essential oils prepared from different herbs and spices to protect cultured primary brain astrocytes from H2O2-induced death. The results show that the essential oil of Salvia fruticosa (Sf) among the tested essential oils demonstrated remarkable protective activity. The protective effect of Sf could be attributed to alpha-humulene and alpha-pinene. Following incubation, alpha-humulene and trans-beta-caryophyllene could be found in the cytosol of astrocytes. It is proposed that Sf, by attenuating H2O2-induced cell death, might be used as a functional food or may be offered as a means of therapy in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Study: Neuroprotective efficacy and therapeutic window of curcuma oil: in rat embolic stroke model.

Dohare P, Garg P, Sharma U, Jagannathan NR, Ray M. Division of Pharmacology, Central Drug Research Institute, PO Box no 173, Chattar Manzil Palace, Lucknow, UP, 226001, India . preetidohare13@gmail.com

BACKGROUND: Among the naturally occurring compounds, turmeric from the dried rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa has long been used extensively as a condiment and a household remedy all over Southeast Asia. Turmeric contains essential oil, yellow pigments (curcuminoids), starch and oleoresin. The present study was designed for investigating the neuroprotective efficacy and the time window for effective therapeutic use of Curcuma oil (C. oil - ed. note: Curcuma or Turmeric essential oil). METHOD: In the present study, the effect of post ischemic treatment of C.oil after ischemia induced by occlusion of the middle cerebral artery in the rat was observed. C.oil (500 mg/kg body wt) was given 4 hrs post ischemia. The significant effect on lesion size as visualized by using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and neuroscore was still evident when treatment was started 4 hours after insult. Animals were assessed for behavioral deficit scores after 5 and 24 hours of ischemia. Subsequently, the rats were sacrificed for evaluation of infarct and edema volumes and other parameters. RESULTS: C.oil ameliorated the ischemia induced neurological functional deficits and the infarct and edema volumes measured after 5 and 24 hrs of ischemia. After 24 hrs, immunohistochemical and Western blot analysis demonstrated that the expression of iNOS, cytochrome c and Bax/Bcl-2 were altered after the insult, and antagonized by treatment with C.oil. C.oil significantly reduced nitrosative stress, tended to correct the decreased mitochondrial membrane potential, and also affected caspase-3 activation finally apoptosis. CONCLUSION: Here we demonstrated that iNOS-derived NO produced during ischemic injury was crucial for the up-regulation of ischemic injury targets. C.oil down-regulates these targets this coincided with an increased survival rate of neurons.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DEET Condemmed - Essential Oils Effective as Insect Repellents

Recent news has confirmed suspicions regarding the health effects of DEET, the world's most commonly used insect repellent. DEET, which is the acronim for the chemical N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide. The chemical has now been implicated in potentially causing damage to the nervous system, and may be particularly harmful to children -- who's developing physiology is more sensitive to chemical toxins.

Essential oils such as Citronella have long been successfully used as insect repellents. Some have been shown significantly more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitos: Catnip essential oil has been noted to be up to 20 times more potent than DEET. Many natural insect repellents employ a blend of essential oils such as Geranium, Cedarwood, Lemon Tea Tree and others. Here are a few studies published by the scientific community confirming the effects of essential oils as mosquito repellents -- your own formulation is particularly easy to make, too. You can simply select the essential oils of your liking, and add them at a fairly strong concentration (7% to 15% total essential oils) to an unscented lotion such as our Jojoba/Coconut cream base.

Study: Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes.

Amer A, Mehlhorn H. Omar Almukhtar University, P.O. Box 919, Elbieda, Libya.

Since ancient times, plant products were used in various aspects. However, their use against pests decreased when chemical products became developed. Recently, concerns increased with respect to public health and environmental security requiring detection of natural products that may be used against insect pests. In this study, 41 plant extracts and 11 oil mixtures were evaluated against the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus), the malaria vector, Anopheles stephensi (Liston), and the filariasis and encephalitis vector, Culex quinquefasciatus (Say) (Diptera: Culicidae) using the skin of human volunteers to find out the protection time and repellency.

The five most effective oils were those of Litsea (Litsea cubeba), Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendron), Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Violet (Viola odorata), and Catnip (Nepeta cataria), which induced a protection time of 8 h at the maximum and a 100% repellency against all three species. This effect needs, however, a peculiar formulation to fix them on the human skin. (Ed. note: this simply means diluting them in a carrier or unscented lotion).

Study: Repellent activity of essential oils: A review.

Nerio LS, Olivero-Verbel J, Stashenko E.Environmental and Computational Chemistry Group, Campus of Zaragocilla, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia; Chromatography Laboratory, Research Center of Excellence, CENIVAM, Industrial University of Santander Carrera 27, Calle 9, Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Currently, the use of synthetic chemicals to control insects and arthropods raises several concerns related to environment and human health. An alternative is to use natural products that possess good efficacy and are environmentally friendly. Among those chemicals, essential oils from plants belonging to several species have been extensively tested to assess their repellent properties as a valuable natural resource. The essential oils whose repellent activities have been demonstrated, as well as the importance of the synergistic effects among their components are the main focus of this review.

Essential oils are volatile mixtures of hydrocarbons with a diversity of functional groups, and their repellent activity has been linked to the presence of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. However, in some cases, these chemicals can work synergistically, improving their effectiveness. In addition, the use of other natural products in the mixture, such as vanillin, could increase the protection time, potentiating the repellent effect of some essential oils. Among the plant families with promising essential oils used as repellents, Cymbopogon spp., Ocimum spp. and Eucalyptus spp. are the most cited. Individual compounds present in these mixtures with high repellent activity include alpha-pinene, limonene, citronellol, citronellal, camphor and thymol. Finally, although from an economical point of view synthetic chemicals are still more frequently used as repellents than essential oils, these natural products have the potential to provide efficient, and safer repellents for humans and the environment.