Monthly Archives: March 2012

Essential oils as medicines

This is the editorial comment in Medicinal & Aromatic Plants, Vol. 1 issue 1 2012. The editor is Paul Schnitzler,  Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Heidelberg Medical School, Germany.

“Plants produce primary and secondary metabolites, which have been exploited by humans for many different beneficial purposes. Many secondary plant metabolites, e.g. terpenes, terpenoids, alkaloids and phenolic compounds have been well characterized. Essential oils are considered the chemical weapons of plants, as their compounds may deter insects or protect plants against bacterial and fungal infections. They also act as plant pheromones to attract insects. In traditional medicine, lots of plant products have been widely used for the treatment of neurologic diseases, cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases and plants represent an abundant source of new bioactive secondary metabolites.

According to the Communicable Diseases Centre in the US, about one third of prescribed antibiotics were inappropriate thus stating an overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Essential oils are also highly active against multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the so-called hospital super bugs, as well as more common and well-known infections like herpes labialis. In addition to antibacterial and antiviral effects, essential oils have been shown to possess many useful pharmacological properties, often being more effective than conventional drugs and revealing fewer side effects.

Oregano oil gland

Although the number of published papers on anti-infective properties of medicinal plants is increasing during the last years, most of these papers seem to somehow disappear and do not attract physicians and pharmacologists. On the other side, there is often lack of finance to continue research to the clinical trial level. This area is largely dominated by pharmaceutical companies, who can afford costly clinical trials. It also seems that natural and complementary therapies are pushed aside by pharmaceutical companies.

Although there is no shortage of research on the antimicrobial effects of medicinal and aromatic plants, it is somehow ignored in industrialized countries. Prescribed drugs are more convenient for patients and physicians, although natural products might offer an alternative in treatment of many different diseases. In resource-limited countries, conventional medications are often not affordable or not available and consequently natural products are the medication of choice.

Our goal is to provide scientific results that can be reproduced by others, thus standardized plant products are required. If more standardized and only high quality natural products are used in basic research as well as in clinical trials, the critics might be convinced and acceptance of medicinal plant products might be increased. Investigators are also encouraged to explore the potential of phytopreparations in combination with synthetic drugs in order to enhance pharmacological actions. High quality plant products and more clinical trials are urgently needed to establish rational phytotherapy.”

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TIME FOR HEALING and we’re a lot stronger than we think

Healing takes time, yes but we don’t allow for time. We try to cut time with the help of different interventions such as medication, operation, pain-killers…Anything to speed up the process, preferably without pain. We believe ourselves to be weak and fragile, susceptible to any disease or accident. If this were the case we, as a species, wouldn’t even exist today. If we were as weak as we make ourselves out to be, we would have been extinct ages ago!

Our bodies have amazing built-in healing properties if we allow it and more often than not, the interventions we do are wasted. By taking away pain we lose contact with the body, thus overriding the signals and put more negative pressure on it. But of course, without the pain we are right back in circulation…For a while. The same goes for some surgery; it momentary fixes the problem but over time it might worsen and even become a hindrance, creating pain and stiffness.

Take the common cold; the normal run of a cold is usually 3-5 days with fever, aches and pains, runny nose, aching throat, head-aches and tiredness. All of these symptoms are because your body is doing its job. We are supposed to sleep, sneeze and sleep again. When it’s over, it’s over. There are a plethora of medication for colds designed to take away the fever, pain and what-have-you. Oftentimes you even get antibiotics, which is like killing a fly with a bazooka or even wasted if your cold is viral. But sure, within a day or so you’re up and running…For a while and then you find yourself battling the same original cold during the coming months, never really in shape, always a bit sick and weak. You can’t over-rule your body and expect it to function properly.

The more medication and intervention you use, you weaken your body’s own defense-system, it just stops working and you end up getting sick for any little thing, or even worse; you are never perfectly healthy. At the time when I had 3 children under the age of 5, I blessed the times they had a cold – all of them at the same time. With a normal fever that made them sleep A LOT, they healed quickly without really having to deal with the down-side of aches and pains. I checked them regularly and enjoyed the peace 🙂 They are, today, all healthy individuals with strong immune-systems, just they way it should be.

ARTEMISIA HERBA ALBA, white wormwood

There are many different species of Artemisia (200-400), the most commonly known are Mugwort, Sagebrush, Wormwood, Tarragon. Most artemisia-species are high in ketones, which are neurotoxic and should not be used in aromatherapy at all, so make sure that you have the right one; Always check the latin name.
Artemisias belong to the family Asteraceae, as does chamomile, tansy and other plants. The most renown artemisia is Mugwort (A. absinthium) which was used to make the alcoholic beverage “Absinthe”. Due to absinthe’s content of  thujone (a neurotoxic) it was prohibited in the early 1900’s.

White wormwood (Artemisia herba alba).  Shih in Arab,  Armoise blanche in French, la’anah in Old Testament Hebrew. It is also known as desert wormwood. The name Artemisia comes fron the Greek Artemis, the goddess of hunting and the moon.

W. Wormwood is a low-growing shrub (20-40 cm) as opposed to its northern cousins that can grow to a height of 1-2 m. They are dry-land plants found in the desert-like vegetation in Central Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Asia. The leaves are strongly aromatic, hairy and have a greyish tinge, the flowers are small and yellow. It’s taste is extremely bitter. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation. The scent is gorgeous; sweet, herbaceous with a bitter tinge on the end-note. It is strong and predominant in blends.

As the name Wormwood indicates, it has traditionally been used as a remedy for intestinal parasites. The plant is a digestive stimulant and used for its antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. The essential oil has slightly antibacterial properties. One of the chemical constituents of the EO is 1.8-cineole which would make it useful for respiratory problems. It is also believed to help regulate menstrual cycles.

Personal experience: I don’t use White Wormwood for specific physical conditions but have found it very useful on a vibrational and emotional level. I use it when there is inner nervousness; in low doses it is emotionally calming yet clarifying, bringing balance to the whole being. I use it mostly on women and call it the “witch-oil”. It empowers women and help with calming inner turbulence. I believe this is how it can regulate menstrual cycles. It is deeply warming and strengthening, enhancing dreams and visualizations. I find it a truly magical oil when used in small doses. For physical conditions I would rather use the plant.

Safety: White wormwood is high in ketones (thujone) so it should be used with care. In high doses it can give head-ache, dizziness and nausea. I use max. 1-2 drops for a whole-body massage. For a room-scent 1 drop can be enough, depending on the size of the room. Do not use for children or during pregnancy.


There is a Right Place for everybody

I am Swedish, my papers say so and my parents are Swedish. I was born in Japan and lived there until I was seven years old when we moved to Sweden. I felt Japanese and considered Japan my home. My “mother” was my Japanese nanny whom I loved dearly , she was my “safe place”. Sweden was not a nice place for me to come to, I was treated like an unwanted immigrant and I kept waiting to “go home” (to Japan). Finally, at 11 years of age I realized that this would never happen and was thrown into despair. Life was unkind to me in Sweden, I was too different and just couldn’t fit in no matter how hard I tried.

As a young adult I traveled around Europe and felt much more at ease in other countries than “my own” and I “became” European. I lived my life in Sweden feeling constantly unsafe, as if bad things could happen at any time, I just didn’t feel comfortable. But I got on with my life. After 30 years in Sweden I finally went back to Japan for a visit and though I felt at home in my heart I realized that I did not belong there anymore, nor did I “belong” in Sweden.

Then life changed, as it does, dramatically and I chose to leave Sweden for good. With a little van I moved my entire life to Luxembourg (why and how is a whole different story). It was not very planned and the first years were extremely difficult, still I felt safe and happy here – as if the country embraced me in welcome and I felt happy even in my scariest and most insecure moments. I have now lived here 7 years and every day I thank myself for taking this step, every day I feel love and gratitude toward my new country. I don’t know if I will stay here always, I might find somewhere else I want to go, but I know for a fact that I will never return to Sweden (except for wonderful visits).

I have been judged and criticized for not liking Sweden by other Swedes, apparently you must love your country…These people will not give me the time of day, they consider me a traitor of the worst order. They also are not fond of immigrants. Lots of people love Sweden, and lots of people choose it as “their” country, living happy lives there no matter where they originally came from. Papers and genetics don’t define who we are, our personal selves do. Getting stuck on nationality and “MY country” is dangerous, this is what make people go to war. Nationalism was the cornerstone of Hitler’s political agenda and people bought it, lock stock and barrel.

Moral? There is a “right place” for everybody. Me and Sweden are just not compatible, it doesn’t make Sweden a bad place or me a bad person. I am compatible with Luxembourg. I have African, Turkish, Serbian, Indian friends in Sweden who are totally compatible with the country. Good for them. If you are lucky enough to find your right place, embrace it and stay in Peace.