Essential Oils- Some of My Favorites

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Essential oils can be a powerful health tool, and they are known for their subtle and gentle effects.  I love essential oils and have used the extensively in my life and in my clinical practice, but I do not proclaim myself as an expert in essential oils.  Many of my colleagues and teachers are more knowledgeable than I am in this area.   That being said, here are some of my favorites!

Notes:

*This information is from my personal experience and from my education in naturopathic medical school.  I don’t have any references for this material, it is mostly been verbally passed down from the experts.

*Essential oils are generally safe to try for people of all ages and most health concerns, but it is best to speak with a holistic medical provider before using.

* If you know that you have an allergy to any of these plants, then DO NOT use the essential oil.

*Also, essential oils are generally safe when used externally, and most should be diluted before applying to the skin (best diluents include almond oil, jojoba oil, your lotion/moisturizer, olive oil). With very limited exceptions, it is usually not recommended to take essential oils internally unless properly diluted.

Lavender- the good-for-everything oil.  Great for mental health, helps with nervousness, anxiety and depression.  It can either bring up the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) or bring down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), it is very balancing.  Apply it to the inner wrist or bottom of the feet for relief.  Can be applied directly to minor skin burns, as it helps decrease the sensation of pain and heat and can prevent blistering.  It can relieve migraines when combined with peppermint.

German Chamomile- great for bug bites, skin injuries like scrapes/rugburn, hives and eczema.  It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it is great for any skin condition with redness.  Mix with calendula oil for a powerful healing oil, or mix a few drops into your moisturizer.

Tea Tree- a potent antimicrobial.  This works well for skin and nail fungus, but can be too strong for the skin if not diluted.  This is a great addition to liquid hand soap or shampoo.  It can also be used in a diffuser to clean the air in a room, although some people do not enjoy the smell of this oil.  Interestingly, manuka honey is honey from bees pollinating the tea tree, and has many healing properties.

Peppermint- Great digestion tonic, helps to stimulates digestion by increasing saliva and bile production. It can also relieve gas and nausea. For these uses one drop followed by a glass of water is sufficient.  Topically it is good for hot flashes because it gives the skin a cool sensation. This is also great in a diffuser to clean the air in a room.  Almost everyone likes this smell.

Eucalyptus- This is great for respiratory infections and allergies.  It has antiviral activity, and is cooling to swollen, irritated tissues.  Add a few drops to a pot of hot water to breathe in the steam when you’re sick.  You can also apply one drop to the bottom of your nose when allergy season hits to keep your sinuses clear.

Rose Geranium- Great for women’s health conditions.  You can rub a few drops on your lower abdomen for menstrual cramps.  It may be able to balance the female hormones if used regularly, and it is one of those “feel good” smells which may be related to increasing the parasympathetic nervous system.  Good for those who crave sugar during their menses.

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

How to get better sleep

Sleep is the arguably the most important part of the day, and it is also a huge struggle for so many people.  It has been shown that during sleep our bodies take time to repair damaged tissues and combat inflammation, as well as have a much needed break from digesting new food.  Without proper sleep, your body won’t have proper time to heal and repair.  People suffering with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, alzheimer’s, diabetes and other conditions would benefit greatly from this optimal time of healing.  It is also essential for athletes, whose activities could cause minor injuries or aches and pains.  It is in your best interest to do all that you can to control your sleep cycle.  Feeling rested with energy is such a fabulous way to start the day!

Here are some tips for how to get that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug, fulfilling sleep:

–   Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  This is optimal, and occasionally unattainable.  Do your best.

–   Sleep in a completely dark room (no cracks under the door, no glowing alarm clock, use light-blocking curtains)

–   Save the bedroom for sleeping and intimate activities only (no working or homework). On that note, do your best to make your room a sanctuary for sleep.  Make it clutter free, relaxing colors and sounds, comfortable temperature, etc.

–   No use of glowing electronics for 1 hour before bed (phone, tv, tablet, computer). The blue light stimulates your pineal gland, which tricks your body into thinking that it is not nighttime.

–   No eating within an hour of bedtime, and no caffeine after 12pm.  As stated above, sleep is  a time of digestive rest.  Unless you have a medical condition that requires otherwise, try to go to bed with a slight sensation of hunger (*weight loss tip!).

–   Avoid the excessive alcohol intake, especially before bedtime.  Alcohol raises your cortisol, which will keep you up at night.  If you do fall asleep, it will be less restful than if you didn’t have alcohol in your system.

–   Exercise or get some vigorous movement going within an hour of waking in the morning.  This gets your cortisol pumping, which is what should spike in the morning to get you out of bed.  By having a regular morning workout routine, you will encourage the cortisol burst to occur on its own before you even get up.  (*also a weight loss tip!)

–   If you cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed and read or do something relaxing for 30 minutes (don’t turn on the TV or computer!). Then try again.

If these tips do not help set your circadian rhythm within a few weeks, you may need a little help from our botanical, nutritional or pharmaceutical friends.  Commonly recommended supplements include melatonin, phosphatidyserine, chamomile, valerian, passionflower, kava kava, and hops.  These are all great and have their roles, but chronic use of some of these could have side effects.  Please consult a physician if you need help with choosing a sleep aid and the proper dosages.  Also, if you have an opposite sleep schedule (working nights and sleeping days), you are also a special situation and should seek a physician’s advice.  Did you know that working a swing/graveyard shift puts you at greater risk of many diseases?  It’s best to only work these hours for a limited time if possible.

Please contact me with any questions or comments. Happy sleeping!