Chapter 9: More Functions of Essential Oils
- How Are Essential Oils Produced
- Must Have Essential Oils to Support Better Sleep Habits
- Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue
- Using Essential Oils for Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism
- What You Need to Know about Essential Oils and Cancer
How Are Essential Oils Produced?
Essential oils are so named because they are derived from the “essence” of plant material. The resulting oil can be applied topically to plants, animals and people for a number of benefits. Through ingestion and breathing in the aroma of essential oils, humans can also impact their mental and physical states of being in a positive manner.
While many use essential oils around the world, not everyone understands how they are manufactured. What is the process that gets these natural healing oils from leaves, roots, stalks and other plant and tree parts? The following are a few of the more common ways essential oil makes it from nature to your diffuser.
This is the most common method for extracting essential oils from plant products. When subjected to steam in a controlled environment, a plant’s volatile compounds are vaporized, condensed and then collected. Since steam temperatures of between 140 and 212°F are used, this process may result in lower quality oil than some other production methods.
Extraction with Solvents
Food-grade solvents are used in this process to get essential oils out of plant material. This method is often used when tender plant material would be damaged using the steam distillation process. Trees and plants that have sap or resin yield essential oils more satisfactorily with this process than with others. The solvents which isolate the essential oil from its plant material include ethanol and hexane.
CO2 Extraction Process
The CO2 extraction process yields essential oils that are perfect for aromatherapy applications, as well as for use in natural perfumes. While the steam distillation process is the most common because it is a simple, low-cost way to create essential oils, the CO2 production process creates higher-quality oils. This is because the virality and essence of the plant material is not damaged by the heat of steam.
Essential oils derived this way are much closer in molecular construction to the plant material used, since high temperatures do not alter that molecular makeup. Oils obtained this way are generally thicker in consistency than other oils, and usually give off more of the natural aroma of the plant used.
This is the way olive oil is made. Straightforward and simple, expression simply involves providing direct pressure to plant material like flesh, skins and seeds. This is often used as the preferred method for producing citrus essential oils.
You may see these oils labeled “infused oils”. Using carrier oils to pull therapeutic healing properties from plant material, the maceration process results in more of the essence of a plant captured than any of the distilled processes. Using maceration to produce essential oils works best when the plant material is as dry as it can be. The plant products used are crushed or ground into a course powder before carrier oil is added to extract the resulting essential oil.
This method is not commonly used, but it bears mentioning because it is one of the most ancient procedures used to create essential oils. Vegetable fat or animal fat is used in either a hot or cold process, and that fat gets infused with the essence of the plant material.
There are many ways to pull the healing properties out of plant material. As you just discovered, some processes are cleaner than others, and result in a higher quality oil. In every case, no matter how the essential oils are created, you benefit from a product that offers natural healing benefits through either a topical, ingestion or aromatic application.
Must Have Essential Oils to Support Better Sleep Habits
Have you ever encountered an aroma like peppermint or grapefruit that seemed to wake up your senses and focus your mind? Citrus fruits often have invigorating, awakening properties that are good for using in the morning if you need to wake up, rather than reaching for a sugar-packed, cream-filled, unhealthy cup of coffee.
On the other side of the sleep equation, there are essential oils which promote healthy sleep patterns. They naturally cause a response by your brain that leads to the release of chemicals that make you fall to sleep quicker, and stay asleep during the night. Start using the following essential oils if you suffer from unhealthy sleep patterns and habits.
Cedarwood Essential Oil
You could probably buy cedarwood by the gallon rather than the traditional 10 mL container that houses many essential oils. This is because cedarwood is extremely affordable, when compared to other common and popular oils. Usually priced somewhere around 4 cents per drop, this may be the most inexpensive sleep-promoter you ever use. Cedarwood oil promotes pineal gland health, which is important for the production of melatonin, a chemical known as the sleep hormone.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender has been used as a perfume base for centuries. Since the beginning of ancient Indian ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal practices, lavender has proven one of the most versatile brain and body health-boosters. If you have ever walked through a field of lavender or used lavender-scented cosmetics and cleaning products, you understand the calming, soothing effect this essential oil has. It can be used in an aromatherapy application as a safe sleep-promoter for children and adults of all ages.
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
The phrase ylang ylang means “flower of flowers”, and the smell of this aromatic essential oil derived from flowers may not be foreign to you. It is hard to pinpoint the origins of ylang ylang flowers in marriage ceremonies, but this is the flower that traditionally is thrown under the feet of newlywed couples. This flower yields a peace-restorative oil which balances female and male energy forces, calms the mind and is perfect for promoting sleep.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense is famously known for multiple biblical references, and has been used by ancient cultures for a number of health benefits. Sometimes stress, pent-up emotions and disruptive thoughts can interfere with your ability to go to sleep, and to stay asleep.
Frankincense essential oil effectively balances your emotions and soothes mental strife. It additionally supports your natural ability to heal, so if some disease, injury or ailment is keeping you from sleeping, frankincense is the perfect natural answer.
Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
Your grandmother and great-grandmother may have used Roman chamomile essential oil for calming excited children. This is another one of those oils that has been used for countless years as a calming agent for upset emotions, feelings of anxiety and stress, and it also makes an excellent before-bedtime essential oil.
It can be used topically or aromatically to deliver sleep-promoting properties, and it doesn’t overpower your senses with its light, simple, floral aroma. A couple of drops on your pillowcase or 5 to 10 drops in your diffuser is all you need to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue
Essential oils have been used for just about as long as humans have lived in organized societies. Since human civilization began in the Eastern world, the history of using natural oils to assist with the healing process is thousands of years old in places like Asia and India. The ancient Egyptians used essential oils in their mummification and burial processes, cultural ceremonies, and in their medicinal practices.
A wide variety of health problems can benefit from essential oils, including adrenal fatigue. Here are a few of the essential oils used to provide relief from adrenal fatigue symptoms, such as lightheadedness and unexplained weight loss. With adrenal fatigue, you may also suffer salt and sugar cravings, a frequent lack of energy and unhealthy sleep patterns, as well as stress, which is one of the most notable symptoms and causes of adrenal health problems.
- Chamomile – Extracts from the chamomile plant are used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. This is because chamomile provides a calming sensation. Make sure you are getting the right type of chamomile to help restore and maintain balance if you are trying to provide relief from adrenal fatigue. Roman chamomile helps with hostility, anxiety and stress, which frequently accompany adrenal fatigue, and German chamomile is better for skin conditions.
- Frankincense – Frankincense is an essential oil which has been used since ancient times, often as a sedative. Because of its comforting aromatic properties, this natural oil can help with the stress and anxiety, as well as emotional outbursts and anger, which are often present with adrenal fatigue.
- Lavender – Lavender is used extensively in perfumes, colognes and cosmetics. You can also find it in soaps, lotions and other personal care products, and any aromatherapist will tell you this is one of the most versatile essential oils. It is actually known as the “universal oil” because it provides so many mental and physical benefits. It can assist in providing relief from stress and restlessness, and will also help you you get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Rosemary – This versatile oil can help you maintain balance if you have problems with digestion, blood circulation, dandruff and physical pain. It is also an excellent disinfectant and reliever of stress. A study in 2007 showed rosemary helps decrease levels of cortisol, known as “the stress hormone”.
Additionally, too much cortisol can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure, weight gain and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and sleep problems.
- Lemon balm – This essential oil has helped people maintain physical and mental balance for centuries. Its use as a natural medicine can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Anxiety and stress are two symptoms and possible causes of adrenal fatigue. Like the other essential oils on this list, lemon balm is an excellent stress reliever.
One French study conducted by a company that specializes in extracting chemicals and minerals from plants showed an impressive 72% decrease in stress and anxiety after an application of lemon balm for 15 days.
- Vanilla – Vanilla is a well-known cooking ingredient, and for many, the smell of the vanilla fragrance is calming and peaceful. Research reported by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center showed MRI patients experienced less anxiety after breathing the vanilla scent.
Using Essential Oils for Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism
If you have an abnormally low heart rate, you don’t want to do anything to slow that rate further. On the flipside of the coin, an abnormally high heart rate can be the sign of an impending cardiovascular problem. So you try to avoid things that elevate your heart rate. The same idea applies to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. One of these conditions means you do not manufacture enough of the thyroid hormone, and the other is the name for an overactive thyroid.
What is Hypothyroidism, and What Essential Oils Help with This Condition?
Most of the time you see the prefix hypo, especially in medicine and science, this refers to the slowing down or the lower than normal activity of a process. Where hypothyroidism is concerned, an underactive thyroid is present.
Your thyroid is a small but important gland. It helps regulate a healthy heartbeat, supports a strong metabolism and promotes the burning of calories to release energy when healthy. In hypothyroidism, many of your important body processes slowdown, which can lead to cardiovascular, metabolism and energy problems.
This is due to inflammation of your thyroid gland. One of the most common conditions associated with hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This immune disorder, and other hypothyroid conditions, have shown a positive response to the following essential oils.
- Spearmint – Have you ever chewed any spearmint flavored gum? Spearmint provides a sharp, invigorating boost because of the way your brain’s receptors respond to this aroma. Spearmint essential oil can be applied topically with some type of carrier oil to the base of the neck, near where your thyroid gland is located. Alternately you can breathe in this healing aroma, which has shown hope for maintaining a healthy thyroid.
- Peppermint – Like spearmint, the peppermint essential oil provides mental clarity and awareness. This mint used for thousands of years in cooking and medicine additionally gives your thyroid production a boost.
- Rose Geranium – The anti-inflammatory and fungus-fighting benefits of rose geranium oil have been significantly studied and documented. The inflammation which leads to an underactive thyroid gland responds favorably to rose geranium essential oil, either inhaled or applied topically.
Hyperthyroidism and Essential Oils
Hyperthyroidism is the polar opposite of hypothyroidism. This condition exists when your thyroid gland manufactures too much hormones. An unhealthy excess of thyroxine is developed, often the cause of a weakened immune system.
This can cause feelings of tiredness and weakness, extreme sensitivity to heat, unknown weight loss, mood swings, an irregular heartbeat, sleep problems and hair and skin issues. The following essential oils have been used to help achieve and maintain a healthy thyroid, thereby offering relief from hyperthyroidism.
- Wintergreen – This essential oil delivers an aroma that naturally leads to less stress and tension. It can help maintain emotional balance, which is sometimes a concern with hyperthyroidism.
- Frankincense – For its sedating, calming properties, frankincense essential oil is perfect for supporting mental and emotional balance. Frankincense also helps by boosting your immune system, which means that a regular aromatherapy practice with frankincense could keep your immune system strong enough so that you prevent hyperthyroidism from becoming a problem. Additionally, it can aid in returning your immunity to the healthy level that existed before you developed an overactive thyroid.
- Lemongrass – This grassy essential oil positively affects your entire nervous system. It has sedative powers like frankincense, and helps strengthen and activate nerve cells important for a healthy thyroid. Insomnia is often a problem with hyperthyroidism, and one of many healing benefits associated with lemongrass is sleep promotion.
What You Need to Know about Essential Oils and Cancer
We didn’t always have modern medicine, hospitals and scientific advancements to promote physical and mental health. Thousands of years ago humans had to turn to nature to provide relief from illness and disease. It was noted in ancient civilizations that certain natural components, like essential oils, could not only help return and balance damaged physiological symptoms, but that these same natural healers could additionally keep those problems from developing as well.
Today, there are unfortunate health conditions that seem to be byproducts of modern times. Because of environmental hazards which did not exist centuries ago, as well as unhealthy food manufacturing processes and lifestyle choices, some modern day humans encounter dangerous and deadly illness and disease which simply didn’t exist for ancient man.
One of these issues is cancer, and even though it is definitely a product of modern living, some cancers show a positive response to the application of the ancient practice of using aromatherapy and essential oils to support health and well-being.
This assertion is backed up by the many personal testimonials cancer sufferers have given for essential oils as instrumental in providing relief from cancer symptoms.
What Is the Research Regarding Cancel and Essential Oils?
Billions of dollars have been spent on cancer research. Cancer has not been cured, and we only know how to treat it with traditional methods to provide relief from symptoms. In some cases, especially when cancer is caught early, remission is experienced. This means the harmful symptoms of cancer reduce or disappear entirely. However, the underlying cancer is still present in the human body and could cause problems in the future.
Some of that research just mentioned has been performed to see if aromatherapy could act as a complementary way of providing support for cancer sufferers. There is some evidence which suggests certain essential oils boosts cellular growth, which is essential in fighting cancer, as cancer damages and kills cells.
Modern Medicine Is Accepting Aromatherapy as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Balancing and Supporting Health
In many hospitals in the United States, the United Kingdom and other modern nations, aromatherapy is widely used to improve the patient experience. Stress and anxiety are two emotions which commonly accompany cancer, and one of the most researched and documented properties of aromatherapy is relief from stress and anxiety.
While there have been no large studies with thousands or tens of thousands of human participants that prove essential oil can foil cancer, there is no end to the number of individuals which claim aromatherapy has improved their condition, and in sometimes led to remission of symptoms.
If you or a loved one has cancer of any kind, understand that essential oils can be used as a complementary method to provide support in the healing process. A combination of traditional and nontraditional, alternative methods, such as aromatherapy, has proven successful for some cancer survivors and patients to provide a better quality of life than traditional treatment alone.
Noninvasive and Inexpensive
Considering the fact that aromatherapy is extremely affordable and noninvasive, it makes sense for some cancer patients to attempt to improve their quality of life with this natural health supporter. Even if stress relief is the only proven benefit of aromatherapy for cancer sufferers, the boost in emotional and mental health during the recovery process is certainly welcome.