Thursday, January 27, 2011

6 Tips for Selecting Essential Oils for Clinical Use

Just like wine, a number of factors affect the quality of an essential oil, including:
  • Where the plant was grown.
  • What part of the plant was used.
  • How it was grown.
  • What the climate was like.
  • How it was harvested.
  • When it was harvested.
  • How it was produced.
  • How it was stored following production.
The quality of the finished product may be compromised if any one of these steps is not carried out optimally for that particular plant. So, how can we ensure that the essential oils we buy are of a quality suitable for clinical aromatherapy?

1. Know your supplier. Start by developing a relationship with a supplier you can trust. Try to deal with suppliers either who distill their own material or who deal directly with reputable distillers. Suppliers usually will provide a small sample of the oil for you to check before purchasing larger quantities.

2. Use the Latin names. Order by the Latin name, and always check labels for the correct botanical name.

3. Perform your own tests. Make sure the oil is pure and not extended or diluted by using the organoleptic testing techniques we have learned so far. Educate your olfactory senses: Smell, taste, feel, and look at oils from many different samples and sources to gain experience.

4. Do not rely on price as an indicator of quality. Be aware that a higher price does not necessarily mean a higher quality. It is important to check all oils thoroughly regardless of the price. Note that a price that is very low comparatively may indicate that an oil is not as labeled, is diluted in a base oil, or is otherwise adulterated. Many expensive oils, such as rose and neroli, are sold diluted in a base oil such as sweet almond.

5. Gas chromatographs. Gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (MS), and similar additive-revealing techniques can analyze oils. This can be particularly helpful when purchasing large quantities. However, chemical analysis does not always reveal the presence of adulterants and an experienced technician must carry out the analysis of the MS. In addition, a GC must be conducted for each batch, so the cost can be very prohibitive for small distillers. A GC is not always a guarantee of quality. One test does not replace another. It is best to use all available tests in combination.

6. Organoleptic testing is still the ultimate test. Build your experience. The very best way to gain experience and familiarity with pure essential oils is to sample as many pure oils and synthetic oils as possible and document the differences.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Essential Oils for Winter

As winter unfolds its many surprises--cold temperatures and short, gray days among them--it's a great time to enjoy adding warming and uplifting essential oils into your seasonal blends. Warming essential oils like cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum and ginger Zingiber officinale have fresh, spicy aromas that blend well with citrus oils like grapefruit. Citrus oils are pleasant to use during the winter season because their fresh, uplifting scents can help support healthy emotional well-being.

Air Purification Formula with Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • Clove Syzygium aromaticum oil: 3-drops
  • Cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum oil: 3-drops
  • Lavender Lavandula angustifolia oil: 3-drops
  • Peppermint Mentha piperita oil: 3-drops
  • Pine Pinus sylvestris oil: 3-drops
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis oil: 3-drops
  • Thyme Thymus vulgaris oil: 3-drops
  • Water (distilled): ½-oz
  • Alcohol: ½-oz
Directions: Mix the essential oils with the distilled water and ethyl alcohol in a 1-oz amber bottle. Place in a pump-action atomizer or blend 5-10-drops of each of the oils, and place in a vaporizer.

More information about cinnamon, ginger, and grapefruit essential oils to come!

*This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, heal, or prevent disease. You should always consult with your primary care physician, a naturopathic doctor, or a Registered Aromatherapist before making any significant changes in your health and wellness routine.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Essential Oil of Vitex May Ease Symptoms of PMS and Menopause

Vitex Vitex agnus-castus, also called chaste tree and monk's pepper, is from the family Verbenaceae. A perennial, deciduous shrub, vitex grows to about 6-18 feet high and can spread to about 15 feet. The leaves are dark green, the flowers are small and lilac, and the berries are red- black with a spicy, aromatic flavor and aroma.

Historically, vitex is said to have been chewed by monks to help preserve their celibacy. There are also reports mentioning its use in Greek rituals, as well as the practice of carrying twigs for protection against dangers and to signify chastity.

Vitex essential oil is a pale to dark-yellow color and has a strong aroma, but is not traditionally used in perfumery. The fruit, or berries, are used to produce the oil, which includes the active constituents limonene, 1,8-cineol, pinene, carophyllene, and sabinene.

Therapeutically, vitex essential oil is thought to have hormonal effects, such as support for the relief of common menopausal symptoms[1] and PMS[2], and may also have antibacterial and antifungal effects.

To learn more about vitex, read the full-text article "Essential Oil of Vitex May Ease Symptoms of PMS and Menopause," which originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of the ACHS Reporter HERE.

1 Lucks, B. (2003). Vitex agnus castus essential oil and menopausal balance: a research update. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery Vol 9, Issue 3 148-154.
2. (2009). The premenstrual syndrome: effectiveness of Vitex agnus castus. Med Monatsschr Pharm. May; 32(5): 186-91.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Compresses an Effective Way to Use Essential Oils

Did you know compresses are a very effective way to use essential oils?

Typically made from gauze or a similar soft material, a compress can be applied with pressure to specific parts of the body to help control hemorrhage, help relieve pain-related symptoms, or support the body's natural defenses against infection. For example, cold compresses are traditionally used with sprains, localized swelling, blisters, insect bites, stings, bruises, and headaches; hot compresses are traditionally used with abscesses, boils, cystitis, and dysmenorrhea.

A simple method for using essential oils with compresses is to:
  • Add 6 drops of essential oil to 9 oz of water. (Use ice water for cold compresses and boiling water for hot ones.) First pour the water into a bowl, and then add the oil.
  • Saturate a clean piece of unbleached muslin (or similar cloth, such as clean cotton) in the mixture, wring out, and apply.
For use with a cold compress, here are some example essential oils you may want to investigate further:
  • With sprains: Peppermint, chamomile, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, pine, rose, and rosemary
  • With bruises: Eucalyptus, geranium, ginger, lavender, and peppermint
  • With localized swelling: Ginger, rose, and rosemary
For use with hot compresses, here are some example essential oils you may want to investigate further:
  • With abscesses and boils: Bergamot, eucalyptus, rose, manuka, and tea tree Australia
  • With menstrual pain: Chamomile, clary sage, lavender, peppermint, rose, and rosemary
For more information about using essential oils with compresses, download our free ACHS holistic health Wellness Guide HERE. In the guide, you'll also find several pages of information about using aromatherapy essential oils in the home and as a tool to support optimal health and wellness.

* This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, heal, or prescribe. A primary care physician, naturopathic physician, or Registered Aromatherapist should be consulted before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.