What are Essential Oils, Anyway?

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Essential oils are for the gullible, for those who don't understand how the body works, or how science works for that mattersnake oil sales for the new age. Years ago, these thoughts ran through my head as I contemplated treating my sinus issues with essential oils. As a former pharmaceutical rep, I was trained to understand the science behind how certain medications work and why. I believed natural remedies were inconsequential without hardcore data (and lots of it!) to back up any claims. Anecdotal evidence wasn't going to cut it for me. So, how did I end up using the oils on a daily basis?

They worked for me, plain and simple.

After having my son, I was hit with recurring sinus issues. I didn't want to take medication because I was breastfeeding. I had read an article that suggested adding Tea Tree and Rosemary essential oils to a Neti pot rinse. I added 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade oils to my usual Neti rinse and the results were great. I was able to breathe and I didn't have to worry about a potential reduction to my milk supply. Since then I have used essential oils for ear pain, acne, muscle aches, sleep issues and mood fluctuations.

Essential oils have been used throughout history to address health issues. When I first heard about them I assumed they were simply used to make perfume and cosmetics. I had no idea that they had any use beyond that.

What are these ancient oils all about?

Essential oils are aromatic liquids that are harvested from plants, usually through steam distillation. They are incredibly concentrateda little goes a long way. These oils have traditionally been used topically, aromatically via a diffuser or by smelling directly from the bottle and, in some cases, ingested. I use my essential oils all three ways for anything from cough to headache to insomnia.

Most people are initially entranced by the smell of the oils. I've discarded all candles and air fresheners. Happily, I no longer use chemicals to freshen the air in our home. When I put a few drops of orange oil or bergamot in my diffuser, my mood is lifted. It is believed that the reason essential oils have this affect on mood is because breathing them in triggers the part of the brain that controls memory, heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure, in turn, providing potential psychological and physiological effects. To me, it is incredibly important to purchase 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade oils.

Does all of this mean that I now reject pharmaceuticals? Have I shunned traditional medicine for these little bottles of oil? Absolutely, 100 percent no! When my kids are sick, we go to the doctor. But if I take them to the doctor for an ear infection and they are sent home for a couple of days to "wait and see" if they need an antibiotic, I have oils that offer some relief.

I firmly believe in the power of medicine and I don't see that changing, but essential oils can fit into my family's life as an alternative for when we can'tor don't want touse traditional pharmaceuticals, and that's empowering.

Written by Mandy Erway, who is not a physician, but is referred to by her friends as their resident essential oils guru.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Erway.



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