Tag Archives: research

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.”


Massage reducing anxiety and improving alertness

Massage reducing anxiety and improving alertness

There are now a number of research papers demonstrating the beneficial effects of massage therapy in relation to the physiological and psycho-logical aspects of stress (see ALTERNATIVES in healthTM Vol 1;2 and Vol 1:5) and the latest controlled study conducted at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida, USA shows once again that massage therapy has an important role to play in the alleviation of stress and stress-induced illnesses.

In the study two times every week for five weeks, twenty-six adults were given a chair massage and twenty four adults were asked to relax in the massage chair for 15 minutes to be used as controls.

On the first and last days of the study all of the participants were monitored for EEG, before, during and after the sessions. In addition, before and after the sessions they performed math computations, they completed POMS Depression and State Anxiety Scales and they provided a saliva sample for cortisol.

At the beginning of the sessions they completed Life Events, Job Stress and Chronic POMS Depression Scales. The results revealed the following:

1. Frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation;

2. The massage group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting enhanced alertness); while the control group showed increased alpha and beta power;

3. The massage group showed in-creased speed and accuracy on math computations while the control group did not change;

4 Anxiety levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions, although mood state was less depressed following both the massage and control sessions;

5. Salivary cortisol levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions but only on the first day; and

6. At the end of the 5 week period, depression scores were lower for both groups but job stress score were lower only for the massage group.

This small-scale study suggests that massage therapy offers benefits in not just alleviating the physiological effects of anxiety, but also in improving mental alertness.

Field T; lronson G; Scafjdi F; Nawrocki T; Goncalves A; Burman I; Pickens J; Fox N; Schanberg 5; Kuhn C.Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. mi Neurosci (ENGLAND) Sep 1996,86 (3-4) p197-205.