Essential Oils: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

oil-1205635__340I’m all for natural healing remedies. The Bible addresses them in several places as gifts from God’s creation. I love reading stories of people healing from all sorts of things, including boils by intrepid use of a “cake of figs”. (Isaiah 38:21).

For more than 30 years, I have studied everything I can get my hands on about nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management for good health. I also keep up with what is going on in the fields of “natural medicine”, or the use of food/herbs/plants for healing.

So what about essential oils? I had no clue that the liquid in those little bottles I kept reading about had any real properties for symptom relief.

That is, until I suffered a brain injury caused by a misprescribed medication. Not the doctor’s fault, he didn’t know that a drug he gave me for stomach pain in the ER would affect my brain receptors, neurotransmitters, calcium ion channels, etc.

Nevertheless, I struggled with a variety of mental and physical symptoms for two years. Unless you’ve been through a chronic illness or condition, you have no idea how awful it is to literally have no options. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can take, no one to fix it. You can’t plan out your day because you can’t think beyond the current minute.

That was my daily experience until a friend had me try some essential oils: lavender, vetiver, lime, copaiba and some others. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell that they were making a difference. Thanks, but no thanks. I thought it was all MLM hype.

Another friend sent me a different brand of lavender. Based on my last experiment, I was VERY reluctant to give it a go. But I did, and my life changed that day.

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I won’t go into brand or quality distinctions here. All that mattered to me was that inhaling some of this stuff right from the bottle took some of my symptoms away and got me off of the couch. I called my daughter at college and told her something was working and she immediately started Googling why lavender would impact a chemical brain injury.

Before anyone tells you that there is no scientific evidence for the belief that pure, high-grade essential oils can have therapeutic properties, do your research. While many more studies need to be done, several have already been conducted. I could find dozens on lavender and its chemical constituents alone, including a Frontiers in Pharmacology study published in May 2017 entitled,

Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets

The first thing this study taught me was that each essential oil, whether lavender, tea tree, lemon, peppermint, frankincense or many others, are made up of dozens of naturally occurring chemical constituents, each having a unique impact on the body. These constituents are perfectly combined together to benefit the plant in some way. When the “essence” of that plant is extracted through steam distillation or other method, we get a concentrated “dose” of the properties of the plant.

I also learned that people have been using essential oils around the world for thousands of years for their healing abilities. Why are we behind the times in the U.S.?

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I knew what I needed an oil to do for me, so I read many more studies, some on rats/mice and some on humans. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know that extensive research about these oils was going on across the globe and these studies could be accessed on the internet.

While I don’t claim to be a chemist, physician or pharmacist, I can tell you that I am an expert on ME. Using a combination of essential oils is what allows me to get out of bed, think clearly, leave my house, do work that takes much concentration, exercise, sleep and help care for my family and household–all things I couldn’t do for two years without them. And no, I don’t believe I started to spontaneously heal because when I don’t use the oils I feel like hell.

I use essential oils topically, aromatically and a couple internally. I’ve researched many popular thought leaders on the subject of sourcing, quality, safety and have come up with my own regimen.

So in my opinion–yes, essential oils are worth the hype that you are hearing about them.

But you have to understand that no one is an expert in essential oils. Many will tell you to be overly cautious in their use, others will tell you to use them with abandon, even if you take medication. Just be careful to do your own research on which EOs may benefit you.

That’s what I did. Then I spoke with my physician and a pharmacist friend. Both listened to the studies I presented and said that they made sense, even though they didn’t have great familiarity with the subject.

Don’t let an overly enthusiastic EO salesperson turn you away from trying these products. We all have that one girlfriend or family member who joined an MLM and gives advice with very little knowledge. Not to say that all of the oils produced by these companies are bad (I’ve found quite the contrary), just do your homework.

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Study for yourself. Listen to other people’s stories. Don’t give up trying because one oil may not help you, but another oil will (for instance, I can’t stand bergamot and others swear by it for brain healing). We all have different bodies so don’t think because salesperson Suzy says that Ylang Ylang won’t work for your needs means that you should believe it.

Try one at a time. Learn how to use them. Take good notes about your body’s response to an oil. Then build a regimen.

One last thing…I am a stickler for quality. I found out the hard way that poor quality oils (that you find at many health food stores) don’t work or can make things worse. Know where your oils are coming from. Are they coming directly from the grower or from an oil broker who sells to a bunch of different companies, some who may add other ingredients to stretch it out (and make it less effective)?

So be encouraged. Know that you have options. Believe the hype that these can be very powerful and effective, but know what you’re using and why.

I wish you the best!!

 

 

 

 

It’s A Small Silly World After All

“Barbara Manatee…you are the one for me…”

I grew up in a cool time.  From the early ’70s on, my siblings and I lived like suburban Huckleberry Finns.  We would fly in and out of the front door, off on adventures that our parents didn’t ask about, or show any concern toward.

We were free to run around the neighborhood with about 40 kids we knew.  Just between our family and the one across the street there were 13 kids!  We had no problem coming up with games, pranks, construction projects, ways to light things on fire.  Typical kid stuff.

It was also a time of fabulous Saturdays.  We would hunker down in front of the TV with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, Quisp or King Vitamin and watch the morning kid’s show lineup.  When I was young, it included Warner Brothers cartoons and Hanna Barbera live-action nonsense (HR Puffinstuff, The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) and Schoolhouse Rock.  The best of all was American Bandstand at noon.  We felt so cool seeing our favorite artists live on television and “voting” during the annual couples dance contest.

Then we’d be out the door until the streetlights came on and we had to go home for the Saturday night bath for church the next day.  Like I said, it was cool, especially because we had Mr. Bubble to look forward to every week.

Mr. Bubble

Fast Forward

Even though I raised my daughter like a total helicopter mom spazz, and every playtime and sport was organized, I still think she had a better childhood than I did. And I don’t regret being really involved in everything.  It was a blast to be her coach, recess mom, field trip mom and Brownie leader (did I mention that I was a helicopter mom?) because life is too short not to act like a big kid.

One of the things that stands out about the difference between her childhood and mine was Veggie Tales.  In case you aren’t familiar, Veggie Tales was an animated series of Bible stories placed in different times and settings, complete with vegetable characters like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato.  The first time I saw one, I thought, “Why in the world wasn’t someone clever enough to tell Bible stories in a hip and hysterical way when I was a kid?”  I felt cheated.

Written by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki (who ended up setting up shop in Wheaton), these shows were so incredibly funny.  Like Bugs Bunny cartoons, they worked for both adults and kids.  My daughter and I watched a handful of them on video on rainy afternoons and were hooked. We especially loved their silly song interludes in between scenes that were so obscure as to be hilarious.  One of their songs “Barbara Manatee”–a love song written to a manatee–became a nickname of sorts for my daughter.  Over a decade later we still call her Anna Manatee.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I use doTERRA essential oils and saw a Facebook listing that caught my eye.  As I looked closer, the seller’s name was Lisa Vischer.  Vischer.  Vischer.  Where do I know that name from?

Junior asparagus

WAIT A MINUTE!  Could she be related to PHIL Vischer?  Like a stalker I clicked on her FB profile and sure enough, she was Phil’s wife!  SHE WAS JUNIOR ASPARAGUS!  For the uninitiated, Junior Asparagus spoke in a little kid’s voice and played part in many of their stories and vignettes and was so adorable. In one of the videos, Junior sings a song, “God is bigger than the boogeyman; He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV…” that we would sing when my daughter was frightened.  Junior and all of her vegetable compadres helped me parent my child!

So again, like a stalker, I sent a PM to Lisa Vischer telling her the above story (without as much drama–I didn’t want her to report me to some local authority).  She sent me the cutest response back, saying that she was happy that their videos were a blessing to our family.  Then she said the cutest thing that I could just hear in her little Junior Asparagus voice:  “Please pass along Jr’s greetings to Anna Manatee”.

I’m such a dork that it was like getting a phone call from the president.  I immediately messaged my daughter at college who thought it was very sweet, but wasn’t as effusive in her excitement as me.  How could she not be excited that I got a message from Junior Asparagus???

I think we clearly know who the more mature adult in this mother/daughter relationship is. That’s okay.  I’m going to go put on a Veggie Tales video this afternoon and listen to french peas speaking in a french accent, and laugh until I cry.