This article on essential oils is part of a new series on alternative medicines and remedies that are used as a treatment or as a preventive measure against illness, to boost the immune system or as a complementary medicine. These alternative medicines are available in Europe but are also available in most countries and probably where you live too. There will be links on where to buy these products at the end of the article. For most of these links, I have no commercial ties to these soft medicines and receive no benefit from my suggestions. As with any articles I write, my disclaimer: please do not accept my health advice as a substitute for seeking medical treatment.
Take a Deep Breath: This is the First Step in Using Essential Oils
Aromatherapy. Just saying the word out loud is therapeutic. Come on, say it, aromatherapy. In French it is even sexier, “l’aromathérapie.”
Do you really know what aromatherapy is about? You might be surprised on how some countries, such as in France, use this therapy as a complementary way to support a healthy body. For you, aromatherapy might mean opening a small body of lavender oil and breathing in, but aromatherapy is much more than this.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy that stimulates the brain’s olfactory system (the area of the brain that recognizes scent and controls smelling) to release chemicals helping the person feel relaxed or stimulated depending on the essential oil used.
The distillation process in essential oil production is different from herbal products and so the smell of the oils are stronger and induce a stronger reaction than with other herbs.
But breathing in the smell of essential oils is only one of the ways to use aromatherapy for boosting immune and general health. Aromatherapists state that the essential oils have an immediate pharmacological effect and there is a physiological connection between the reaction of a human body and the oils. The proof of the essential oil’s medicinal effect is not scientifically proven, but what is clear is that aromatherapy does provoke a well-being feeling when it is used correctly, whether it is the smell or how it is used, such as with a deep massage.
Aromatherapy is a recognized complementary medicine in France
In some countries, particularly in France, the use of essential oils as a medicinal therapy is a supported practice integrated into the medical system. Some essential oils in France can only be procured at the pharmacy via prescription. French trained health professionals use an aromatogram to decide which essential oil to use. Essential oils are used for their antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal or antibacterial properties. But they can also be used to help with stress, to stay calm or to wake up the senses when needed.
In France a general practitioner (GP), specialists, or midwife who has done a training in aromatherapy is allowed to give advice on what essential oils to use. There are also aromathérapeutes (aromatherapists) who have graduated from a university course and completed a training in aromatherapy.
What are the other ways to use essential oils besides breathing their smell?
Essential oils can be used as a therapy in four ways: through smell, contact on the skin, ingestion by mouth, or as a distiller in the air to kill microbes and viruses.
Are there general guidelines in using essential oils?
Essential oils are strong! Unless indicated by a qualified health professional, essential oils should be diffused with a carrier oil such as almond oil and never be put directly on the skin, or in the mouth or breathed in at close range. (I have seen articles on the internet on putting essential oil drops in the mouth or direct on the skin. This is a practice to be avoided.)
Precautions with using essential oils
Direct from the back on my box of essential oils:
- Do not go over the daily recommended dose
- Take as a complement with a balanced diet
- Keep away from children
- Do not use in children less than 7 years old unless allowed by health professional
- Do not use in pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with history of epileptic fits and those allergic to essential oils.
- Never take by mouth alone and never take more than 2 drops at a time
Never use essential oils while pregnant or breastfeeding unless okay by your medical professional.
Can children use aromatherapy?
Children can use aromatherapy with an okay from a doctor. My advice is never to use essential oils on a baby, use with extreme caution for children less than 3 years old and with children older than 3 years old, (with an okay from your specialist), essential oils may work well if the oil is largely diffused in another base, such as putting two drops in a large bath water.
Never use undiluted essential oils (straight drops from a bottle) on a child’s skin, by mouth or breathing.
What are my favorite essential oils for boosting the immune system?
I am not a specialist in aromatherapy, but there are a few essential oils that we have on hand and use during the winter season.
- Lavender: Great for stress, helps sleep and keeps you relaxed. Take a big bath diffused with a few drops of lavender oil.
- Thyme: One drop in a big bowl of very hot water and breathed in at close proximity helps with a cold to clear nasal passages and to boost immune system (or to use in a vaporizer).
- Camphor: We use it as a spray to kill germs during cold and flu season and to breathe in as an inhaler to boost immune system.
- Eucalyptus: Used as a few drops in a vaporizer or mixed in with another oil and applied on skin to help calm lower respiratory infections.
Using aromatherapy as a complement to other medicinal therapies
If you are not in one of the risk groups: pregnant, breastfeeding, infant, young child, allergic to essential oils, you can use aromatherapy, either with the guidance of a health professional or someone trained in essential oils. It is a natural product, and although scientific studies are inconclusive on the documented benefits of aromatherapy, I believe this alternative medicine has benefits on our health.
Probably the main benefit of aromatherapy is the link of smell and relaxation. Have you ever had an aromatherapy massage? Just a moment of detente is enough to decrease our stress level and boost our immune system.
The effect of stress on our health is underestimated and aromatherapy can help us relax, decrease stress and this keeps us healthy.
I do use aromatherapy for other reasons besides immune health, decreasing stress and help with colds and congestion. If you don’t know how wonderful tea tree essential oils can work on lice, please read this article published on the blog. This works! “So Your Kids Have Lice and Warts?”)
Where can I get more information or buy essential oils?
I would recommend reading up on aromatherapy and consulting with a health professional trained in this field. Here are some articles that will help you get started, and some links to books and products.
Do you have a story to tell about your experience with using essential oils or just reached the end and want to read more? Please subscribe to BrightonYourHealth’s monthly newsletter and article updates to get the latest European health news, French recipes and Italian cuisine straight into your email inbox. By joining, you will receive your own 13 page copy of “How to Eat Like The French Without A Food Snob Attitude.” And you will get a jump start on your health!
Thank you for your support and grateful to you for sharing this article with those who interested.