Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Skeptic's Experiments with Essential Oils

First let me say that the only reason I started experimenting with essential oils is because a couple people who I respect and whose opinions I value highly recommended them. Usually what happens when someone recommends a homeopathic remedy is that I take it with a grain of salt, remembering the family member that almost died after turning down modern medicine in favor of natural cures.

But lately I've had an interest in maintaining wellness, looking into organic food over conventional farmed produce, trying to convince myself that its not too much work to cook at home, and generally get us into some semblance of better health. My chronic headaches were really the tipping point that started me down the essential oil route. I am ready to try anything to get rid of these dumb things.

After working with essential oils for about a month and a half, I still don't believe that they are the Fountain of Eternal Youth and Wellness but am convinced that they are a valid alternative to many of their conventional counterparts.

What did I learn?


There is no magic elixir that will solve all your ailments.

If you have a medical issue, do not think that essential oils will fix you right up. I am comfortable using these in conjunction with a doctor's advice and modern medical treatment but would not rely on them to cure cancer. Maybe they can, but the science hasn't caught up with that yet and I'm not gambling my life on a maybe.

Also, unlike with over the counter medicines, your symptoms may not disappear with the first application or treatment. I've had success with using essential oils to treat my headaches but it isn't necessarily the instant fix I've come to expect with my OTC painkillers - it could take several applications over the course of a few hours.

Would I rather use an essential oil than meds? Yeah, probably.  Unless my head REALLY hurts. Then I'm still grabbing my Excedrin, because I know it works and it works in about 20 minutes. But when distilled properly, there is no toxic junk in essential oils, which makes them a better overall health choice.


Yes, it is more expensive to buy high quality essential oils but it does make a difference. I had previously picked up an inexpensive peppermint and lavender and while they smelled nice, they didn't do what I expected and I was very disappointed and ready to write off the whole thing as a crack-pot placebo belief rather than something with scientific evidence backing it up. Purchasing a high quality essential oil does matter, so if you are interested is using them, spend the extra money and do it right the first time.  I now use Young Living brand and am pretty happy with them, although I've heard that DoTerra is also a good brand to purchase.

 and do it better than Lysol or Febreeze.

This little bottle of Thieves Cleaner is my new best friend. It has oils in it that have antimicrobial properties but it is safe to use around food. That means if I spray my kitchen counters with it, I don't have to later worry about contaminating my food. Plus, it degreases better than anything else I've ever tried. My stove had never looked cleaner with the minimal effort I can put in. I'm only a couple hours of free time away from junking all my store bought cleaners - I'm still waiting to try a lemon oil/baking soda mix to replace abrasive cleansers.  Oh and on the plus side, my house smells like cloves and cinnamon when I'm done, instead of a bleachy-chemical smell.

Febreeze and other air fresheners may get the job done but I like my oils better for scents and deodorizing. You won't have to deal with all the chemicals found in commercial air fresheners or soot or fire risk from a candle. I had a candle break on me once. I left it burning too long and the glass cracked, spilling hot wax all over my fireplace. Not exactly safe. The essential oils I use to replace air fresheners have the benefit of being antimicrobial, kill airborne mold spores, and smell way better.


My house smells better, sure, but a lot of the properties of EOs seem to translate well when airborne. I really like using what my friends call an "Allergy Bomb" - lavender, peppermint, and lemon to help combat allergens and allergy attacks. (The allergy bomb can also be taken in a capsule.) I sincerely believe that diffusing this every couple of days have alleviated a lot of the severity of my husband's seasonal allergy attacks. There is still much of the fall allergy season left to get through, so time will tell.

There are also specific blends that are supposed to be good for congestion and upset stomachs and I have had at least as good of a success rate with these as traditional cold medicines and antacids. I HATE chalky Tums. Like really hate them and more often than not would rather have an upset stomach. So no more chalky nasty stuff.


They are very concentrated and can irritate the skin, produce allergic reactions, and some should not be taken internally (example: Wintergreen). Just because its natural doesn't mean it is harmless. Poison ivy is natural.

This is another one of those areas where quality matters. For example, I'd always heard that you should never take lavender internally, but Young Living Lavender Essential Oil is safe to ingest. There is a lot of documentation and several good books out there about how to use them safely.


Overall, a cautious thumbs up.

My headaches are better. Its important to note that I'm also making periodic visits to the chiropractor, so it is not possible to credit the essential oils completely. But I have had es help with pain relief, congestion, upset stomach, and stress. I think that I'm a calmer, less witchy mess since I've been using them. I'm going to look into a couple oils and blends that are supposed to help with focus and memory, because I'm easily distracted and have a hard time settling down to work on any one thing.

My husband likes the Stress-Away blend. I had him try it after a few rough days at work and he requested it in a roller ball vial so he can carry it with him.

So far, its been worth the money I've put into it and I am planning on continuing to learn about and experiment with essential oils.

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