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April 4th, 2010 (SEE OUR NEW BLOG HERE)

More Studies Elicuidate the Anti Stress Effects of Essential Oils

Despite the image aromatherapy has gotten for itself in the USA, science keeps backing up the practice! While one can easily find information on the medicinal effects of many essential oils through pubmed.gov, it's a little more rare to find articles that discuss effects of only the oils' aromas.

This just released study shows a significant anti-stress effect of Sweet Orange essential oil. We're really fond of Sweet Orange -- it's VERY uplifting, as are the citrus aromas in general. The study confirmed the effect by noting the same anti-stress (termed 'anxiolytic') effect did not occur when Tea Tree was inhaled (though I actually like the smell of Tea Tree too!)

The second study was performed using Bergamot essential oil, similar to Bitter Orange, and one of the most highly regarded anti-stress, anti-depressant essential oils. The study revealed an anti-stress result from adolescents wearing an aromatherapy necklace, spiked with Bergamot.

 

Study 1: Anxiolytic-like effect of sweet orange aroma in Wistar rats.

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Mar 6. Faturi CB, Leite JR, Alves PB, Canton AC, Teixeira-Silva F. Universidade Federal de Sergipe-Departamento de Fisiologia e Departamento de Química, Av. Marechal Rondon, S/N-CEP 49100-000-São Cristóvão/SE-Brazil.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils as an alternative treatment for medical purposes. Despite the lack of sufficient scientific proof, it is considered a holistic complementary therapy employed to enhance comfort and decrease distress. Citrus fragrances have been particularly used by aromatherapists for the treatment of anxiety symptoms. Based on this claim, the present study investigated the effects of Citrus sinensis (sweet orange) essential oil on Wistar, male rats evaluated in the elevated plus-maze followed by the light/dark paradigm. The animals were exposed to the orange aroma (100, 200 or 400mul) for 5min while in a Plexiglas chamber and were then immediately submitted to the behavioural tests.

At all doses, C.sinensis oil demonstrated anxiolytic activity in at least one of the tests and, at the highest dose, it presented significant effects in both animal models, as indicated by increased exploration of the open arms of the elevated plus-maze (time: p=0.004; entries: p=0.044) and of the lit chamber of the light/dark paradigm (time: p=0.030). In order to discard the possibility that this outcome was due to non-specific effects of any odour exposure, the behavioural response to Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil was also evaluated, using the same animal models, but no anxiolytic effects were observed.

These results suggest an acute anxiolytic activity of sweet orange essence, giving some scientific support to its use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.

 

Study 2: The effects of aromatherapy on stress and stress responses in adolescents

J Korean Acad Nurs. 2009 Jun;39(3):357-65. Seo JY. Department of Nursing, Youngnam Foreign Language College, Gyeongsan, Korea. marseo@hanmail.net

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 (using Bergamot 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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Essential Oils Positively Effect Immune Response

Why Disease is Prevalent

Humans have been given an incredible immune system ? able to ward off some of the nastiest of microscopic invaders. Yet, if this defense system is compromised due to an overload of toxins (from the environment, our diet or our stress level), cells tissues become exhausted and susceptible to attack. Since environmental toxins are on the rise and pathogens seemingly on every nook and cranny, it is important to maintain a healthy immune system. If the immune system is compromised, a breech in wellness occurs. This can lead to a vicious cycle of sickness leading to more sickness and eventually disease.

Supporting Our Health by Strenghtening Immune Response

In these modern times, many are familiar with the stress-relieving qualities of essential oils as well as their antimicrobial properties. Such characteristics of essential oils are helpful in supporting a fully functional immune system; stress and microbes are known to weaken its army of defenses. Few are aware that essential oils can actually strengthen the capacity of the immune system directly to fight off foreign invaders.

Essential Oils for Fighting off Disease

When we bang our leg, get a sliver in our hand or cross paths with infectious entities the immune system is recruited and responds with inflammation ? a tool to heal damaged cells and tissue. This initial inflammatory response is vital to restoring the injured area, yet prolonged inflammation can lead to a number of debilitating and often painful diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. Research has established that essential oils have the ability to inhibit detrimental inflammatory processes that contribute to disease. Scientists are now investigating the actually mechanisms by which essential oils can enhance the immune system directly.

Melaleuca Eseential Oil Helps Out

At the Laboratoire de Botanique in France (2006) researchers were able to identify that Melaleuca alternifolia was able to regulate the amount of inflammatory-causing secretions found in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). In so doing, natural anti-inflammatory agents, known as cytokines, were still able to be created and thus boosting the body's ability to protect and restore itself. This in itself is quite a finding, especially for individuals suffering from conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

Inducing Natural Killer Cells

In our magnificently crafted bodies, we have what is called natural killer cells, or NKs. Their job is to kill viruses and diseased cells such as cancer cells. At Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan (2006), scientists found that phytoncides (essential oils from wood) increased NK activity and restored activity when cell lines were damaged (purposely induced). Researchers proposed that the reason for this effect is that phytoncides induce immune cells that destroy unwanted cells and microbes - perforin, granzyme A, and granulysin respectively.

Ginger Essential Oil Controls Immune Response

At Zhejiang University Medical School in China (2006), scientists looked at the ability of ginger essential oil to regulate immune system functions. Using mice (bless them for their sacrifice), these researchers were able to identify that ginger essential oil can exert suppression of T lymphocytes (a component of the cell-mediated immune response) in cases where such a response is actually harmful to the body, such as with chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases (like Crohn's disease).

Concluding Thoughts

The level of complexity of our immune system is astounding. This collective network composed of organs, cells and proteins seeks to protect the body from bacteria, parasites, funguses and viruses, as well growth of tumor cells. Those designated with such a task need to remain healthy and fully capable. When the well-being of this system is compromised, recent research suggests that essential oils are capable of stimulating the immune response or redirect its energies when necessary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aromatherapy Get's More Validation by Scientific Inquiry Every Day

Aromatherapy Use in History

The use of infused aromatic plant oils as a means to restore as well as maintain wellness has been used for centuries. Coined as the term "aromatherapy" since the 1900s, this therapeutic medicinal practice of using essential oil continues to be used for both physical and emotional needs. Aromatherapy is fast becoming a noted and requested therapy in many parts of the world.

Application of Aromatherapy

The approach to realign the body is mostly through inhalation, direct contact absorption and to a lesser degree ingestion of the essential oil either as a dilute or for some mild oils undiluted. With inhalation, the oils are thought to penetrate the bloodstream via lungs to activate the limbic system and emotional centers of the brain. When applied to the skin (usually in a carrier oil), they activate thermal receptors and kill pathogens (such as bacteria and fungi). If taken orally, essential oils are thought to activate the immune system.

Confirmation in Modern Science

In western culture, validation of medical therapies comes through empirical research. Rising popularity of aromatherapy with main-stream society has prompted researchers to take a closer look at this ancient therapy. Although still largely unproven by a wide breadth of research, preliminary studies, both in vitro and clinical, show positive effects using this medicinal therapy.

Cancer: Aromatherapy is used as mainly a supportive care for people with cancer, specifically for increased sense of well-being and to offset nausea associated with standard cancer treatments. According to the National Cancer Institute, few peer-reviewed studies show a significant difference helping patients with cancer despite an increase in its use by patients. Reviewed studies call for more in-depth research to be conducted.

Immune Booster: At the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, Italy (2008), researchers looked at the influence of eucalyptus essential oil on the monocytic/macrophagic system - one of the primary defenses of the immune system against pathogen attacks. Results indicated that eucalyptus is able to stimulate a cell-mediated immune response, prompting the possibility of developing a new group of immuno-regulatory agents.

Anxiety: Laboratory results (using animals) indicate statistically significant differences when aromatherapy was applied. Clinical trials are few. Yet, one joint review by the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria, United Kingdom (2006), looked at the pharmacology of essential oils and found evidence that essential oils exert measurable psychological effects in humans. Researchers concluded that aromatherapy provides a potentially effective treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders, especially since the side effects are minimal (if non-existent) compared to conventional psychotropic drugs.

Pathogens: Due to rising concern over antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, much investigative work has been done on the efficacy of essential oils to counter these mutating microbes. Most published studies have found that topical applications of essential oils have significant antimicrobial activity.

Concluding Thoughts

Recent science studies indicate that aromatherapy is effective for conditions such as anxiety, depression and boosting cellular immune functions. In many of the studies reviewed, scientists are suggesting further research (rather than dismissing) for possible uses of essential oils as an alternative or complement to conventional medical practices. What has been used for centuries might soon find its place amongst hospitals and medical offices world-wide. The evolution of plant phytochemicals over millennia has served in the preservation of their species. It is likely that such chemicals will be soon sought after on a larger scale for human survival as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest Research Validates Bergamot's Anti-Stress Effects

Bergamot Fruit
This is a very interesting study validating aromatherapy's aroma-therapeutic action. It gets directly to the heart of the matter, the brain, as its in the brain that a response occurs from smelling an scent. Our smell sense is the only one with the direct connection to the brain, while all the others have their signal travel through something to get there. And the smell sense is wired right to our most primitive centers, the ones that control emotions, among other things.

Scientists in Italy have elucidated the way bergamot oil lowers stress-induced anxiety and affects mild depression. They go on to note that there is firing of brain cells in such a way that the essential oil "is able to interfere with normal synaptic plasticity". This process occurs in the area of long-term memory formation. That means that it interferes with the process of making a neural connection stronger when repeatedly expose to stress.

For example, think about feeling a familiar stress over and over. It doesn't get easier to take, in-fact that stress becomes unbearable (this is different than a good stress, like exercise). That's because the neural-pathway has been made stronger and stronger, so the same stress seems more intense. Bergamot essential oil makes it so that strengthening of the pathway doesn't occur, or is lessened anyway.

Bergamot essential oil is used for it's anti-stress effects, as well as it's ability to lessen the perceived intensity of pain. And the researchers note that because the mechanism is understood, bergamot it should be used in complementary medicine, alongside conventional medical techniques. Making the statement about complementary medicine gets one thinking about the rest of aromatherapy. Anytime on is using an oil's aroma for a desired emotional or psychological response is probably eliciting some change in the neurochemistry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chamomile Essential Oils: Truly Soothing Therapeutics

Depending on what part of the country you live in you may or may not be familiar with chamomile and its characteristics. If you have been in cultivated fields or along roadsides in moderate climates that you probably recall this fragrant daisy-like plant regarded as one of the gentlest essential oils available. Chamomile refers to two different plants with similar yet varying characteristics ? German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) which is the more popular and Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). These true chamomiles are botanically placed in the Asteraceae family and used to treat similar human conditions, yet their life cycles and size are quite different. German chamomile grows low to the ground and is an annual herb with flowers on single stems. Roman chamomile however grows to about 36 centimeters above the ground, is a perennial species and has branched flower stems.

Chamomile FlowersThe active ingredients of both chamomiles set them apart from one another. German chamomile has been found to possess sesquiterpenes (chamazulene) and sesquiterpenols (alpha-bisabolol), the strength of which is hard to find in any other oils. These two molecular components are mainly responsible for Maticaria?s strong anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties. The chemical profile of Roman chamomile is rather different in nature, containing nearly 80% esters, an amount rarely found in essential oils. These esters provide Anthemis with its noted soothing effects, ability to relieve spasms and cramps and to some extent anti-inflammatory properties. It is well regarded in essential oil circles that Roman chamomile, even in very small concentrations whether alone or in combinations with other oils has a soothing effect.

The essential oil distillates as well as their fragrance of these true chamomiles are distinguishable. German chamomile is characterized by its dark blue/green color and viscous consistency and has a strong, sweetish warm herbaceous aroma. Roman chamomile however is pale-yellow in color and more liquid in nature with a softer scent than Matricaria, having a tea-leaf odor with an infusion of fresh apple. Anthemis is suggested as an oil of choice if using for an aromatic. For other uses, German chamomile has had a wider breadth of research and is more commonly used.

Historical Uses

German Chamomile Essential OilSince antiquity, chamomile has been used to calm frayed nerves, to treat various digestive disorders, to relieve muscle spasms, and to treat a range of skin conditions and mild infections. Chamomile in general is regarded as one of the gentlest of essential oils and safe to administer to children. Because of their varying chemical compositions, these two species of chamomile have certain shared treatment capabilities and ones that stand out between them.

German chamomile flowers are extensively used in teas and its oil used widely in cosmetics. Depending on the developmental stage of the plant, the quantity of alpha-bisabolol will differ reaching a maximum at full bloom. Together with chamazulene, these active ingredients provide an excellent topical anti-inflammatory. The cooling, harmonizing effects of German Chamomile make it effective against nervous tensions, migraine and all kinds of stress related disturbances.

Roman chamomile has been used medicinally in the Mediterranean region for over 2000 years and continues to be a popular remedy. For centuries, parents have used this species to assist in calming crying children and relieving the pain of teething. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognizes this herb for the treatment of dyspepsia (indigestion), nausea, anorexia, vomiting in pregnancy and dysmenorrhoea. It is also known to helps relieve cramps, spasms, and can assist in mild shock. Topically, Roman chamomile is known to soothe sensitive skin and overall used as a calming agent, specifically to alleviate anxiety and stress.Interestingly, studies indicate that the white headed variety of essential oil may have more potency as a sedative that the yellow-headed variety.

Recent Studies Using Chamomile

According to the University of Maryland website (www.umm.edu), studies have identified chamomile as possessing antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties as well as antispasmodic (relax contracted muscles, especially in the intestine) properties.Over the years, researchers have been investigating chamomile for its medicinal applications. In the last five years alone researchers have found chamomile to be an effective virucidal agent, an effective partner with antihistamine drugs and as a nerve tonic for young men diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD).

When I was in college, viruses were quite the unresolved topic of discussion -- are they alive or dead? And, why are they so bizarre in shape and character?Although this paper does not address such questions, it does investigate the effectiveness of chamomile as a virucidal agent. Viruses are often the cause of sexually transmitted diseases. Genital herpes is known to be a chronic, persistent infection that continues to spread and transmit disease through the population. In the Department of Virology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany (Phytomedicine 2008 Jan; 15(1-2): 71-8) scientists screened for inhibitory effects of chamomile against herpes simples virus type 2 (HSV-2). This study found that chamomile exhibited a high selectivity index for inhibiting HSV-2 in vitro and thus conclude that chamomile is a promising topical treatment for herpes genitalis.

Antihistamines are always a topic of discussion, especially in the spring. Conventional treatment for histamine reactions such as rashes, itchy skin and sneezing is usually with topical or oral pharmaceutical drugs. Such drugs sometimes have side effects and are not always effective. A study done by Nigata University, Japan (Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2005 Oct 3; 101(1-3): 208-12) found that German chamomile was able to assist with effectiveness of antihistamine drugs in mice. What impressed the researchers was that administration of the antihistamine alone could not resolve puritus (itchy irritation) but when combined with chamomile essential oil the antihistamine effectiveness was greatly enhanced. One could thus conclude that chamomile is a safe and even necessary herbal remedy for those that suffer from allergies and wish to increase the effectiveness of medications specified for their known allergens.

It is common to read or hear about schools reporting a rising number of students being diagnosed with ADHD. Statistics published by the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), state that 3%-7% of school-aged children suffer from ADHD, which rates being possibly higher in certain communities. Boys are also more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.A very recent study (Phytomedicine 2009 Apr; 16(4): 284-6) examined the effects of chamomile on behaviors of boys ages 14-16 that were clinically diagnosed with ADHD. noted that the subjects exhibited a reduction in behaviors associated with ADHD such as hyperactivity and distraction. Since chamomile is regarded as a gentle and safe botanical medicine, it is apparent that chamomile would be a first consideration when treating children with ADHD.

Concluding Thoughts

Chemically, German and Roman chamomile are quite different, yet their gifts of service to support health and healing are centuries old. Matricaria recutita, or German chamomile, is more popular and more researched of the two, having exceptional anti-inflammatory capabilities. Anthemis nobilis, or Roman chamomile, is softer in fragrance and well regarded for its sedative properties, particularly known for alleviating anxiety and stress. These true chamomiles have been welcomed by parents throughout the ages for their gentleness and assistance in alleviating pain associated with teething infants. Recent medical research has found remarkable qualities of chamomile as a virucide, an enhancer of antihistamine drug effectiveness as well as reducing unwanted behaviors in teenage boys associated with attention-deficit disorder (ADHD). It can be safely concluded that chamomile is an excellent botanical medicine suitable for all members of the family.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Research Shows Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Essential Oils

For much of mankind's history, people have used herbal treatments to reduce pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. The bark of the Willow tree has given us 'the wonder drug' for pain reduction, which actually occurs due to a reduction of inflammation. Now, many professional therapists lay-practitioners are turning to essential oils for inflammation reduction and pain relief. Essential oils provide a very simple means of reaping the anti-inflammatory, analgesic potential of natural medicine, as all one need do is put a few drops of essential oil into a base oil and massage in for quick, sometimes long-lasting relief.

A look at the most recent research gives a long list of abstracts where scientists have validated the inflammation reducing potential of essential oils. The oils used in today's therapies have been carefully distilled to retain their medicinal potency. This means that they can have very complex natural chemical structures, and depending on the plant, a powerful inflammation-reducing action. Some obvious oils are distilled from plants that they themselves have long been used for this purpose -- particularly Ginger and Turmeric. Carbon-dioxide distilations (a new, cold-process method of making essential oils) of both these plants have been included in patented inflammation-reducing formulas. These CO2 distilllations are readily available for any practitioner to employ in their formulas.

Just published in the Journal of Lipid Research are the results of an investigation in Japan confirming the anti-inflammation activity in several essential oils.This supports the selection of many essential oils used in pain relief and anti-inflammation formulas. The oils shown to reduce inflammation through suppression of the COX-2 pro-inflammatory enzyme included herbs, like thyme, clove and fennel; rose; eucalyptus; and even the citrus bergamot. The oils considered to have the strongest anti-inflammation activity used in aromatherapy were not even examined, which can mean that there are naturally a great many compounds found in essential oils that have an anti-inflammatory effect.

The most pronouced inflammation reduction in the study came from the essential oil from Thyme herb. Further, some of the individual natural constituents of the essential oil were examined, and it was discovered that carvacrol had the strongest activity. Carvacrol is found in many essential oils, and is most often considered aromatherapy's most potent anti-bacterial, and has been directly implicated in boosting immune system function in other scientific studies. There seems to be a link between inflammation reduciton, immune system function and longevity (the inflammation reducing power of the essential oils studied was compared to red-wine extract, implicated in potentially extending lifespan). The study did not go so far as to elucidate the actual mechanism of reducing inflammation, but it would not be suprising if this activity were a factor -- carvacrol, as well as thymol -- the other major component of Thyme essential oil -- are well-known antioxidants.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Geranium Essential Oil Offers Many Therapies, Fights 'Superbug'

Historical Insights Into This Very Diverse Plant Genus

Commonly known as geranium, species of Pelargonium are widely cultivated around the world. Of the hundreds of varieties of this perennial shrub, only about a handful are actively cultivated for commercial use. There is an actual botanical genius called Geranium that shares the same family as Pelargonium, known as Geraniaceae. Although they are similar, their uses are quite different. Pelargonium is cultivated and used in perfume and aromatherapy, while Geranium species grow almost anywhere except in water logged soil and sometimes used in the horticulture trade. Physical differences are also apparent with Geranium (commonly known as cranesbill) having symmetrical flowers and Pelargonium having irregular or maculate petals. Gardeners have taken up the practice of distinguishing the two by using their genus names versus their common names.

Although geranium has been used for thousands of years going back to the Greeks and Romans, it was not until the late 17th century that this plant, indigenous to South Africa, was introduced to Europe. Soon after European introduction hybrid cultivars were created and distributed around the world. During the Victorian era, potted rose geranium was often kept in parlors in order to revive the senses. Another Victorian practice was to place geranium leaves in finger bowls at formal dining tables. Today, as in Victorian times, the most widely used Pelargonium species is Pelargonium grave lens, or rose geranium. The essential oil of rose geranium is prized by aroma therapists and cosmologists alike. P. graveolens is used in aromatherapy for its medicinal applications such as an antiseptic, as a haemostatic (stops bleeding), a tonic to regulate the nervous system, a diuretic (to treat edema) and a hormone balancer. In the perfume industry, rose geranium oil is often mixed in or even replaces the more expensive rose petal essential oil. Cosmologists also use this aromatic oil in lotion, soaps, shampoos and creams. One might presume that geranium essential oil comes from the flower alone, yet it is the leaves and branches where the oil glands are found and through a process of steam distillation the oil is extracted. In order to increase the yield of oil during this procedure, processors will often partially dry the plant.

Beginning in the 1880s the much revered French perfume industry established extensive plantations of geranium on Reunion (a small French island located in the Indian Ocean). Geranium oil is also produced in other parts of the world namely China, Egypt, and Morocco. Geranium oils are usually distinguished by its country of origin prefix with the Reunion (known as Bourbon) essential oil regarded as the most significant variety of geranium oil due to its pronounced rosy fragrance as well as potent medicinal qualities.

Geranium Oil May Bring Hope to Hospitals

In the last decade there has been a rise in attention given to antibiotic-resistant microbes, especially ones that cause severe infectious diseases and lead to fatality. On the first day of this new year of 2010, researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway announced to the world that disinfectants can cause bacteria to resist antibiotics. Their study, published in the January 2010 issue of Microbiology, looked at the response of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to increasing levels of disinfectant. (P. aeruginosa is a bacterium that is a known occupant in hospitals, causing a wide range of infections in hospital patients. Standard hospital procedure is to use a surface disinfectant to prevent the spread of bacteria. If bacteria manage to survive and in turn infect patients, then antibiotics are administered.) The researchers found that P. aeruginosa adapted to increasing levels of disinfectant and even developed a resistance to an antibiotic (ciprofloxacin) without being exposed to the drug directly. More specifically, the researchers revealed that the bacteria had created a more efficient means of pumping out the antimicrobial agents (such as disinfectants and antibiotics) through their cell wall and developed a mutation in their DNA to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically. With such findings, the researchers concluded that such bacterial adaptations could be of great harm to hospital patients and advised to reconsider how disinfectants are used in hospital settings.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is wide-spread in soil and water and any surface in contact with soil or water. Yet, it is an opportunistic microbe and will only infect a compromised host or tissues of that host that have been compromised in some way. It is an epitome of an opportunistic host in humans. If a person?s immune system is compromised, it can cause urinary tract infections, respiratory system infections, dermatitis, soft tissue infections, bacteremia, bone and joint infections, gastrointestinal infections and a variety of systemic infections, particularly in patients with severe burns and in cancer and AIDS patients who are immunosuppressed. As seen above, P. aeruginosa can be a serious threat to patients in hospitals, especially patients with cancer, burns and cystic fibrosis. The case fatality rate in these patients is near 50 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall prevalence of P. aeruginosa infections in US hospitals is approximately 4 per 1000 discharges (0.4%). According to one report, the gastrointestinal infection rates among hospitalized patients increases to 20% within 72 hours of admission. With such findings, it is clear that other solutions must be found.

There are an increasing number of studies being published in peer-reviewed journals on the potent antimicrobial properties of essential oils, including geranium. A 2004 study (Burns 2004 Dec; 30(8): 772-7) found that geranium in combination with Citracidal (grapefruit seed extract) had great effectiveness against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and in combination with tea tree was highly effective against methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus. These researchers concluded that essential oils serve as highly useful antimicrobial agents and in treatment of MSRA infection. A more recent study (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2006 Nov 30; 6:39) found that essential oils, including geranium were effective against Staphylococcus aureus, including the ubiquitous bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Further Consideration of Geranium Essential Oils as MedicineGeranium Essential Oil Bottle

For a number of centuries, nations and people groups have been using geranium oil for its various medicinal and therapeutic properties. In the last few decades, there has been an inundation of laboratory derived antimicrobial products for individuals to use and come to rely upon. Yet, current research is pointing to a distinct rise in antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Medical services, especially hospitals are now being encouraged by researchers to restructure their current practices against infection and the spread of disease. With the very recent study from the National University of Ireland documenting that bacteria can survive in increasing amounts of chemical disinfectant, it is clear that other treatments will need to be implemented. Essential oils may just be part of the solution; the research indicating as such is quite promising.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Many Benefits of Frankincense

Historical Significance

In western Judeo-Christian culture, frankincense (otherwise known as olibanum in Arabic) is mainly associated with the Christmas Story of the Three Wise Men (Magi) who journeyed from the East (Arabia) to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. Yet, in other cultures around the world such as the Middle East, China and India, Frankincense has been used reverently for thousands of years for medicinal, religious and ceremonial purposes, as well as to beautify the body.

It was thought that the smoke from burning the resin of frankincense had divine powers and would provide a direct connection to God. Exemplification of its significance is evident with its inclusion in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamen (1341 BC ? 1323 BC) as well as recorded in ancient Chinese medicine books dating back to 500 AD. The distinct Egyptian black eyeliner of seen in ancient Egyptian art was actually ground and charred frankincense resin known as kohl.

The origin of frankincense is traced back to the Arabian Peninsula. According to Herodotus (5th century BC Greek historian), "Arabia is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia and cinnamon?" At one time, there was an active over-land frankincense trade route that started in the Dhofar region of Oman, went through Yemen and followed the Red Sea coast to reach Jerusalem and Egypt.

The production and trade of frankincense may have lasted for up to 6,000 years, spurring the creation of villages and towns along the route. Caravans of camels transporting frankincense were often targets of raids, since frankincense commanded prices equal to that of gold. It is likely that frankincense grew in areas across the Red Sea, such as Ethiopia and Somalia, but the initiation of the frankincense trade route began with gum resin from Omani trees. Due to raiding, desertification and other religious zealotry, the trade route dried up after about 300AD.

Extracting the Resin

Frankincense is a derived from the plant genus Boswellia, family Burseraceae indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen and Sultanate of Oman), India and the Red Sea region of North-East Africa (Somalia and Eritrea). Incisions, about two inches long, are made in the trunk of the tree which then exudes a milky gum-like substance or resin. This resin, when exposed to air, hardens into droplets or "tears". These tears are allowed to dry for about two weeks before collection and then stored for approximately twelve weeks to harden. The exception is made for production of some essential oil. In this situation, the resin is not allowed to dry but collected as a semi-solid material, yet in most cases the oil is extracted from dried resin.

The method of harvesting, or tapping, of Boswellia varies according to species and the customs of the region. For example, in Somalia tapping usually occurs in two separate periods, each lasting 3-4 months with successive 15-day intervals. The period between harvests depends upon the onset and extent of rains. In India, the collection is done once a year, commencing at the end of October. In Oman, there are ancient rituals pertaining to resin harvest as well as a sense of guardianship for the trees passed down to each generation.

Active Components

There are numerous species and varieties of Boswellia trees; major species being Boswellia serrata found in India, Boswellia carteri in East Africa and China, Boswellia frereana in Somalia, and Boswellia sacra in Arabia. Quality of frankincense resin is based upon colour, purity, aroma and age. In general, it is thought that the more opaque the resin the higher the quality with Omani frankincense regarded as the best in the world. The majority of ultra-superior Omani B. sacra is said to be purchased by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said the ruler of Oman.

Active medicinal ingredients of frankincense have been reported in recent science journals to be sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes, diterpenes and boswellic acids; compound variation differs between species and even among the same species depending upon the climate, geographic origin and harvesting conditions.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses

Compounds of frankincense have been found to exhibit in vitro (outside a living organism, usually in a test tube or Petri dish) antibacterial, antifungal, immunomodualtory (ability to regulate functions of the immune system) and in recent years immunostimulant activity. Studies have also found anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of Boswellia. It is thus apparent that frankincense has a wide range of uses. Selected below are just three traditional applications for treating illness and are currently of interest in medical research.

Injury: Powder of the dried resin of Boswellia is a common ingredient of herbal plasters and pastes to treat wounds. A recent study from Hebrew University, Israel (J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2008 Jul;28(7):1341-52) indicated that Incensole acetate (IA), an isolated from frankincense resin, was shown to reduce neurological damage from head injuries.

Oral Health: The dried resin of Boswellia has been used to support oral health for thousands of years in Middle Eastern areas. It is common for Arabian people to place the resin in their mouths and chew it to strengthen teeth and gums. Known for its antimicrobial properties, it is also used to assist with infection of the teeth and gums.

Asthma: Much like arthritis, asthma is an inflammatory-caused illness. A 2006 paper from the University of Tuebingen, Germany indicates that boswellic acid, an active component of frankincense, has shown to act as an anti-inflammatory agent in preliminary studies. The paper further states that boswellic acid inhibits 5-lipoxygenase as well as cytokines and thus promising for treatment of asthma without the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Conclusion

It is evident that frankincense holds historical and traditional significance. Research indicating the current medicinal value of Boswellia species is growing. Such positive initial results merit further investigation into potential clinical uses; it is now recognized that some of the ancient remedies may result in the creation of novel drugs. Such results also stir a sense of excitement and possibility for those seeking alternative treatments to debilitating and even life-suppressing illnesses. The value of frankincense was recorded as being a gift for the baby Jesus and is now a gift for modern people as well.


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