Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Power of Plants

If you only buy one essential oil, lavender is a good all-rounder to start with.
I've been doing some research on essential oils recently, and they have some pretty astonishing properties.They've been used in medicine for literally thousands of years (which helps to explain how people survived before modern medicine had been developed).

We all know that you can't believe everything you read on the internet (which is why I sometimes feel like a ninja, travelling into dark corners of the internet and setting people straight on the fact that actually, KFC commercials DO mention the word "chicken," and a 5-second Google would have told you that). However, there is scientific proof of the effectiveness of essential oils, as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can treat everything from depression and ADHD, to skin problems and serious diseases.

(I know some of the testimonies listed on the linked websites sound like the kind of glowing endorsements companies pay for, but like ghost stories, there are way too many of them, with way too much diversity, for us to ignore completely.)

Essential oils can be used as an effective weapon against hospital "superbugs" such as MRSA and E.Coli. Man-made antibiotics struggle to combat germs, as bacteria will always eventually build up resistance to a synthetic medicine. It's much harder – if not impossible – for them to become immune to something as naturally complex as an essential oil. 

You might notice that the BBC link is dated 2004. There is a similar report from 2007. And another in 2008. And one in 2010. You get the picture. The use of oils in hospitals is definitely on the increase, although the fact that "super bugs" are still life threatening in 2013 is a sobering reflection on how long it takes for "new" (or incredibly ancient) ideas to catch on. 

No matter how well essential oils clean wounds, aid healing, and kill germs, they are never going to be part of conventional (allopathic) medicine.

They make good household cleaners too. Just sayin'.
This is the portion of my blog where I put on my tin foil hat and tie-dyed t-shirt, grab a beer and hang around outside my trailer with a bandana-wearing dog, to yell "They don't want you to know about this, but..."

Nobody can make money from essential oils, because you can't patent plants.

Lack of cash flow means fewer scientific trials (scientists need funding before they spend weeks or months testing out a theory). And without providing evidence from scientific trials, the people saying "Helichrysum cured my cat's kidney disease!" sound like total nutters.

Ergo, no mainstream essential oil-based courses of treatment are likely to be forthcoming.

There is also the "aromatherapy" association to discredit the "powerfully medicinal" aspect of the oils. It's hard to take something seriously when mentioning it makes people think of massages with plinky-plonky new age music and wafting scents, facials, and "girly" stuff.  

Be cynical if you wish but with drug-resistant strains of diseases on the increase, I'll be stocking up on nature's medicine. 

If you do fancy trying out some plant power – be safe! If you have any existing medical conditions, check with your doctor before you start huffing anything too potent. Avoid oils if you're already on medication, you're pregnant, or you're a small child or a dog. (I know there are dogs reading this right now. Nobody knows who you are on the internet.) Essential oils are among those rare substances which can bypass the blood-brain barrier (this ability to reach your brain is what  enables them to affect your moods as well as your body).

Anybody can start selling essential oils – there isn't a regulatory body to monitor the quality. So how do you know if you're getting the good stuff? Clues can be found in label – anything called "aromatherapy / fragrance / perfume oil" is a no-go. Any vendor who claims their oils are "therapeutic grade" is being shady – it's a made-up term which means nothing because there is no official grading system. Oils should be stored in dark glass bottles – clear or plastic containers will compromise their power.

99% of oils need to be diluted before being applied to skin, and most citrus oils are photo-toxic, so avoid using them on your skin before going out int the sunshine (or you could end up with burns or hyper-pigmentation).

Oils are also fun to use as a cheap alternative to recreational drugs. Sniffing peppermint keeps me going when I have no energy, lavender has an incredibly relaxing effect (as I discovered when I used it as an antiseptic on a cut and my body felt as if it was slowly and pleasantly transforming into rubbery lead). I also bought a little bottle of Clary sage oil when I read that it can be used to encourage lucid dreaming. No dream-flying or lottery-winning yet, but I have found my dreams get extra vivid (and entertaining) when I sniff the oil before bed. My favourite involved a little Jack Russell dog who would put his paw on my arm and shake his head when I was applying too much of my purple lipstick. I love my weird subconscious brain. 

ETA: I also used peppermint oil when I had been on my feet for a ridiculous number of hours at work. (My heels felt as if they'd been repeatedly punched and I was being forced to walk on the bruises.) I rubbed peppermint oil (mixed with a little dilutant olive oil) into my tootsies and was ASTOUNDED at the instantaneous healing – my feet literally stopped hurting within about thirty seconds. The effect didn't last for the entire day, but it took the edge off for several hours. Yay essential oils!


  1. "No matter how well essential oils clean wounds, aid healing, and kill germs, they are never going to be part of conventional (allopathic) medicine." - essential oils along with other herbal and plant remedies are already and have been a part of allopathic medicine since it started. Most drugs are just synthetic versions of compounds found in plants. The unfortunate thing is that we have forgotten this and continue to feed the hungry, greedy, over-priced machine that is the pharma industry. It was Hippocrates who said "Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food"!

  2. Yes - maybe if more people realised this there would be less opportunity for greedy people to make money by taking something natural and tweaking it enough to slap a trademark on it!