Tag Archives: medicine

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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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.


BASIC ENERGETICS

(Yogin with six chakras, India, Punjab Hills, Kangra, late 1700s National Museum.)

We are more than just physical matter; as the proverbial iceberg, there is even more of us “under the surface”, or surrounding our physical bodies as it were; this is what I call the energetics. The physical body is energy as well, only more dense. We have an energetic intelligence which we call intuition and also an energetic memory. Without knowing it, often without believing it, we constantly use and live through our energetic selves.

Let’s start from the beginning : All physical matter is made out of atoms, atoms are energy; There is a dense central nucleus that contains positively charged protons and electronically charged neutrons. Around the nucleus there is a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The mass of an atom is miniscule and 99.9% is made up of space. Atoms lack a well-defined outer boundary, so their dimensions are usually described in terms of an atomic radius. (Atoms form about 4% of the total energy density of the observable universe, with an average density of about 0.25 atoms/m3. Just to give you an idea of the space…

Since all materia is made of atoms it is safe to say that 99.9% of that what we perceive to be matter is space and that the boundaries we believe to be defined are actually atomic radius = energy. So this is what our bodies are made of; tiny specs of materia in a vast space with undefined boundaries. Now we’re talking!

 

All native healing traditions use the concept of energetics; from native tribes all over the world to the more known Ayur Vedic traditions and homeopathy. From widely different cultures, we see the recurrent form of chakra’s and auras, the “basic blueprint” of human energetics. More about chakra’s and aura in following posts.

 

 

(picture from: /www.vtaide.com/png/atom.htm)

DERMATITIS

(picture from: www.medical-look.com/Skin_diseases/)

Many people suffer from dermatitis (eczema) on small or large areas of their bodies,very often on the hands and arms.  (You can read more about dermatitis here.) One type of dermatitis, contact dermatitis, is a reaction to a substance which the body part is in contact with for a prolonged time. This can be brought on by most any substance that can be an irritant to the skin, even essential oils – especially in high doses. Over the years, two of my aromatherapy pupils have developed contact dermatitis to essential oils after 2-4 years of exposure and this condition seems to be irreversible. I am not saying stop using the oils, just be aware of the fact that they are strong substances and need to be used with care.

The skin-cells have a life-span of about 28 days. They are “born” in the lowest level of the skin, epidermis, at which point they are round and plump, filled with fluid. On their journey up towards the surface they get flatter and drier, depositing the protein keratin which  cements the cells together and creates the upper, protective layer of skin, epidermis. When this “journey” is out of balance, it will show as skin-problems – dermatitis.

The most used substance to deal with dermatitis is cortisone which is a steroid hormone. By suppressing the immune system, cortisone reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. It is extremely effective but it only suppresses, it doesn’t heal. Once you stop using cortisone the problem re-occurs. Over time cortisone causes the skin to become very dry.

ALTERNATIVES: (always see a therapist if your problems are serious or get worse. Don’t use essential oils if you are not sure that they won’t irritate your skin.)

  • Castor oil (ricinus officinalis) A client of mine, a builder, told me that he always had problems with hardened skin and deep cracks on his hands. Then they started keeping the bolts for the scaffolding in jars of castor oil so they would not rust. Since then his hands were much better. I started using castor oil on cracked, dry skin with great results. Very heavy texture, needs to be blended.
  • Shea butter (butyrospermum parkii), Shea butter oil. Anti-inflammatory & protective
  • Coconut oil (cocos nucifera) more a butter, solid in room-temp, melts on skin.  Protective film on skin, softening
  • Macerations (herbal infused oils) such as Marigold (calendula officinalis), St Johns Wort (hypericum perforatum)
  • Jojoba-oil (simmondsia chinensis) resembles the skins sebum and helps protect the skin.
  • Bees wax (cera alba) Protection, creates a protective film.
  • Cocoa butter (theobroma cacao) Solid in room-temp. melts on skin. Softening & calming.
  • Vegetable oils with anti-inflammatory properties; Andiroba oil (carapa guianensis), Argan oil (argana spinosa), Borage oil (borago officinalis), Cashew nut oil (anacardium occidentale), Evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis), Kukui nut oil (aleurites moluccana), Olive oil (olea europaea).
  • Vegetable oils with calming properties that can be used as bases for blending: Apricot kernel oil (prunus armeniaca), Peach kernel oil (prunus persica), Sunflower oil (helianthus annuus), Walnut oil (juglans regia)
  • Essential oils; Lavender (lavandula augustifolia), Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla), Yarrow (achillea millefolium).

When working with beeswax, you need to melt it in a bain-marie together with butters or fats such as shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and vegetable oils. Add special vegetable oils last, together with essential oils (if you use them), when the liquid starts to cool. You can see a basic recipe for a balm here.

ALLOPATHIC + ALTERNATIVE = COMPLEMENTARY

In the 11th century doctors in Europe were widely called “leeches” or “barber-surgeons” and their trade consisted mainly of cupping and blood-letting – the universal cure-all. They used herbs, vinegars and wine in treatment, but very little was known about the human body, disease and hygiene. At the time the witch-hunt was on full force and many doctors were afraid to be accused of witch-craft, making them even more restricted in their medicinal practice. The “wise” women and men, who had a deeper knowledge of plants and healing were all too often burned at the stake or drowned for witch-craft, seriously depleting this empirical knowledge. What was left of it moved into the cloisters.

At the same time there existed a school for physicians in Persia where young men were taught religion, physics, medicine, law and philosophy. The great man Avicenna (Abu Ali at-Husain ibn Abdullah ibn Sina) was the leading expert and guru of the time. He developed a medical system that combined his own personal experience with the medical system of the Greek physician Galen (AD 129 – 199/217). The Greeks had done autopsies on human bodies, giving them invaluable knowledge of how the human body works. Due to religion, this practice was forbidden in European and Islamic cultures during the 11th century, and pigs were used as substitutes to learn about the human body.

Via different routes, not least via cloisters and traveling Jews, was spread the ideas of hygiene, nutrition, emotional and vibrational healing. Different schools of thought were born using “humors” and signature medicine. There was a deep understanding of the body as a whole; body/mind/soul, and that without considering all facets of a being, healing could not be successfully achieved.

Fast-forward to ad 2000: Medicine has advanced and developed with the speed of lightening; un-believable medical feats are being performed and there is an extensive knowledge of how the body works. At the same time it is as though the body has been separated from the soul. Many chronically ill people complain of the inhuman treatment of them, they become a machine, something interesting to study.

Medicine is more than just body, for deep and true healing to take place the soul needs to be healed as well. I think it is time to re-instate complementary therapy into the equation. I, as a therapist, do not set broken bones or operate on tumors. But I massage, see and listen to the person behind the disease, I help their souls to heal – or sometimes die – if that is the case. Medical doctors usually don’t have this knowledge, and instead of (in some cases) scoffing it, they should seek to work with it. I have worked with medical doctors who are amazed at the healing powers a person has when they are treated complementary as well. We are both aware of the fact that our “medicines” are entirely different – and that is a good thing.

At last; If it was only about repairing the body; why are people so ill? Why are the surgeries and chemo and radiation and transplants not enough? Why do some people heal and others not? Complementary therapy is not subsidized, making it un-available for many people which is unfair. In UK complementary therapies are offered at hospitals and hospices as part of the program, maybe it is time for other countries to follow suite.

If alternative/complementary therapies got acceptance from society, there would be stricter rules about education and training, making it easy for people to find a true therapist, because Yes, there are a lot of “fakes” around – giving the profession a bad rep.

And people, you are paying for your medical care through taxes, you have a say in what you need: If you want it, demand it.

ALTERNATIVE THERAPY

This is such a huge area to get into. Suffice to say that over the last 15 years alternative / complementary therapy has grown to world-wide acceptance as an aid or means to healing people. Combined with the very impersonal allopathic health-care it can work wonders for many people. It is not about “either or”, it is about “and”. Alongside with aggressive methods to combat disease alternative / complementary therapies can heal a person on many levels. Changing body-parts or aggressively attacking a tumor or virus is not a guarantee for survival or healing. We are so much more than only our bodies; as I have said before – we are intrinsically interconnected body and mind. Healing is needed on all levels.

Please watch what some people have to say in this movie from Urban Zen Foundation

SMELL YOURSELF WELL

The Independent

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Smell yourself well

If smell improves our mood, could it also be an effective treatment for everything from obesity to sleeping problems? The answer is right under our noses, says Hugh Wilson

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The nose has it: The most underrated human sense could be used to treat a range of complaints, according to research
Getty

The nose has it: The most underrated human sense could be used to treat a range of complaints, according to research

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It’s the too-good-to-be-true weight loss ‘system’ that’s taking America by storm, and its manufacturers hope to launch it here in the next few months. Sensa lets you eat exactly what you want, when you want it, and in the quantities you desire. And it still claims to help you shed around 5lb every month.

It achieves the impossible – its makers say – by making sure the quantities you desire are not very great. Sensa comes as granules that are added to every meal and snack you eat. Put simply, the Sensa “sprinkles” are designed to enhance the sensory experience of eating, stimulating taste and smell to an extent that fools the brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you have. Users have reported the novel experience of happily leaving food untouched on their plates.

Depending on which expert you talk to, taste is between 75 and 90 per cent about smell, and Sensa is not the only new product on the market in the States that claims to exploit the apparent connection between strong smells and smaller appetites. SlimScents are pens filled with fruity or minty smells, sniffed before meals. Aroma Patch is vanilla scented and worn permanently, like a nicotine patch. All boast scientific validity.

A limited number of studies have been done. Dr Alan Hirsch, the scientist behind Sensa, conducted his own research in 2005 on what would later become Sensa granules. The study followed over 1,400 subjects over a six-month period, and recorded an average weight loss of 30.5lb, and a five-point drop in Body Mass Index.

Kimberly Tobman, a spokeswoman for Sensa, says those results have since been duplicated in a smaller study carried out by an independent laboratory.

And last year Dr Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at the Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, conducted a small study which found that subjects who regularly sniffed a peppermint aroma consumed, on average, 1,800 calories fewer over the course of a week than normal.

Raudenbush is not convinced by the miraculous claims of Sensa and others, and suggests we take them “with a grain of salt and cautiousness”. But he does think something is going on.

“From what we have found in other studies, peppermint scent can distract you from painful stimulation,” he says. In one of them, participants held their hands in cold water for prolonged periods. “Participants who were administered peppermint scent held their hand in the water for a longer period of time and rated the pain as less severe.”

He believes that something similar may be at work in the appetite experiments: strong smells are distracting participants from physical discomfort, whether that means pain or hunger.

Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell and taste at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, is more sceptical of the connection between strong scents and weight loss, not least because we tend to get habituated to smells very quickly. But he thinks the idea that scents can distract us from pain or allow us to endure more of it is valid.

“The olfactory (sense of smell) system and pain share some brain networks and it’s thought that the positive consequences of experiencing pleasant or familiar odours offsets pain to a measurable extent,” he says.

In fact, there’s increasing excitement in the scientific community about the power of our sense of smell, and what consequences this may have for psychological and physiological health. Though much of the research is in its infancy, various studies have shown that scents like peppermint, vanilla and coffee may have therapeutic effects.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, for example, researchers at the University of Tokyo found that inhaling Linalool, a natural chemical found in flowers and spices, significantly reduced stress levels in rats. And a study at Tubingen University in Germany showed that vanilla fragrance reduced the startle reflex, making us calmer.

Scientists involved in this research are keen to distance themselves from what many see as the quack principles of aromatherapy – the complimentary therapy that recommends administering pleasant smells for anything from cancer to the common cold – which Professor Jacob calls “nonsense”.

But Jacob and others in the field of olfactory research believe the connection between smell and memory – and the associative power of odour – represents a hugely promising avenue of investigation.

“Using conditioned association we could use smell therapeutically, to treat sleep problems, anxiety, blood pressure, etc; and even clinically, possibly for immune system pathologies, intractable medical conditions, for example lower back pain; and use it for drug rehabilitation,” says Jacob. “Smell, once conditioned, can re-evoke a psychophysiological state. It relies upon the association of smell and memory.”

And, as Professor Jacob suggests, it may be possible to programme smell associations for particular therapeutic tasks. In the most famous study of this kind, healthy male volunteers were injected with insulin every day for four days and their blood sugar fell. At the same time, they were exposed to a smell. On the fifth day they were just given the smell, and their blood sugar still fell.

Such findings hold out the promise of some pretty mind- boggling medical advances, from diabetics with inhalers instead of injections, to insomniacs cured by a smell they associate with sleepiness. We’re not quite there yet, but as Jacob says, “watch this space”.