A – Z of Herbal Remedies

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Essential Oils, Essential herbal Oils

Essential Oils, Essential  Herbal Oils

An Essential Oil is a concentrated natural liquid typically obtained by distillation, expression or extraction and having the characteristic odour of the plant or other source from which it originated.

Essential Oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea or simply as the ‘oil of the plant’ from which they were extracted, i.e., such as Lavender Oil.  Essential Oils are used in cosmetics, perfumes, flavourings, herbal medicines and aromatherapy. Although called ‘oils’ they are more like water as they evaporate or volatilize (change or cause to change from a solid or liquid to a vapour). The oils in plants do not evaporate.

An Essential Oil is ‘essential’ only in the sense that it must contain the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it originated. The term ‘essential’ does not mean that the oil is indispensable or medically or nutritionally a necessity.

The three most common methods of producing essential oils are: Distillation, Expression and Extraction.
Distillation: Most essential oils are distilled in a single process using professional distillation equipment and technology.
Expression: Citrus peel ‘Essential oils’ are mechanically expressed or cold-pressed out of the citrus peels using hydraulic machines or manual labour.
Extraction: This method uses a number of solvents and processes to extract the oils from the plants.

Claimed health benefits of Essential Oil
Adding essential oils to your herbal medicine cupboard can help you with a vast range of illnesses and conditions – each essential oil is different, so research the benefits of an essential oil for a specific remedy before using it.

A search across the internet reveals a range of claimed health benefits for essential oils that include: colds and flu symptoms, relaxes your body and mind, soothes aching muscles, healing skin conditions, creates relaxing baths, pain relief, treat burns, cuts and scrapes, help with insomnia, promotes digestion, bronchitis, heart strokes, relieves flatulence, purifies the blood, increases urination, eases breathing, clears congestion, relieves stress disorders, uplifts mood, increases libido, promotes sexual arousal, lowers blood pressure, reduces and relieves spasms, boosts the immune system, kills intestinal worms, reduces body odour, moderates menstrual cycle, reduces fever, helps stop hair loss, reduces nervous disorders, clears chest infections, heals scars, protects wounds from becoming septic, inhibits bacterial and fungal growth, clears the bowels, opens obstructed menses, tightens gums and muscles, increases memory, removes uric acid, soothes headaches, rheumatism, respiratory problems, indigestion, asthma, relieves constipation, expels phlegm and catarrh, urinary tract infections, skin care and aging, widens and relaxes blood vessels, treats dandruff, fights infections, counters venomous bites, heals scars, increases sweating, eases the delivery of babies and labour pains, reduce depression, dental care, toothaches and cavities, earaches, nausea, repelling insects, improves stomach health, breastfeeding, birth control, bad breath, loose stools and diarrhea, neutralizes free radicals, increase breast milk, kills germs, increases appetite, induce numbness.

The list of health benefits above is impressive, however, few scientific research studies have been carried out or approved to justify all these claims. Most essential oils are very potent and their individual benefits are variable, and they can cause side-effects if not used properly internally and externally. It is always advised to consult a medical professional or practicing herbalist before using Essential Oils.

There can be side-effects using Essential Oils
As with all herbal remedies and essential oils there are positive and negative effects. An herbal remedy that increases libido for some users can increase impotency in others. So use common sense before applying essential oils as a remedy.

Essential oils are very potent and must be safely diluted with a carrier oil (any vegetable oil), before using topically. In most cases, Essential Oils should not be used UNDILUTED on the skin. As an example of their potency, one drop of essential peppermint oil is equivalent to 25-28 cups of peppermint tea.

Using essential oils when pregnant or breastfeeding, or when taking prescribed medications should only take place in consultation with your midwife, doctor or professional herbalist. There are many essential oils that are considered ‘not safe’ during pregnancy.

Essential oils should never be given internally to babies or children or used undiluted on the skin. If diluting an essential oil for children, double the recommended adult dilution quota. Always do a skin test with the essential oil being used.

Essential Oils like peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus and wintergreen should not be used on young children or babies. These oils contain menthol and this can slow down breathing, or even stop it completely in very young children or those with respiratory problems.

The possible allergic reactions and interaction of essential oils with prescribed pharmaceutical drugs is a reality. Both are complex chemicals and it makes good sense to discuss which essential oil you plan to use with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Allergic reactions affect a small proportion of people who use essential oils. Irritation is characterized by the rapid onset of redness and pain in the area exposed to the essential oil. Do not continue to use this brand of essential oil, it may have been adulterated with chemicals during the production process, or chemically changed by over-exposure over time, to heat or light.

Essential oils should never be stored in plastic containers. They must be stored in airtight, dark glass containers in a cool, dark place.

Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are diluted by adding them to carrier oil (almond or apricot oil) – for a two ounce bottle of carrier oil add about 25-drops of an essential oil. The shelf life of diluted oil is 2-3 months maximum.

Generally do not eat or drink essential oils. Using essential oils internally should only take place under the supervision of a medical doctor or professional herbalist.

When using essential oils it is important to know the recommended dosage and to ensure the amount administered is correct. Check the purity of the essential oil and read the product labels, even check with the retailer or manufacturer for more product information. The application method must be safe, be sure to clarify the recommended application method and specified concentration of the essential oil and its intended use.

Always seek the advice of your doctor before taking herbal remedies


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