Essential Oils- Some of My Favorites

EssentialOils900

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}

Sweeteners: the good, the bad and the ugly

Sugar

 

Let’s talk about sweeteners.  First of all, it deserves mentioning that the average American consumes 60-100 pounds of sugar per year (numbers vary according to the source).  This is a drastic increase over the past 200 years, from approximately 18 pounds per year. Obviously, humans like the taste of sugar.  It doesn’t take much extrapolation to associate the increase in sugar consumption with the increase in obesity and diabetes, among other health problems.  It’s also easy to assume that the increase in available processed foods and drinks have made this easier to attain.

Of course, no sweeteners are good for you in large quantities, but let’s minimize the harm.  I hope you already know that natural sweeteners are the only way to go.  Honey and maple syrup are the best, because they don’t need to be processed to be good.  They are naturally sweet and don’t require chemical modification.  They can be used in almost any recipe that calls for sugar (you may need to adapt the other liquid ingredients).  Other great sweeteners include fruit purees, dates and other dried fruits or juices.

Here’s a breakdown of the bad stuff:

White sugar is a highly processed product from sugar cane.  Brown sugar is just slightly less processed, containing more of the natural molasses.  Molasses is just what comes out of processing sugar cane to make white sugar (molasses actually has some nutritional benefits, unlike white and brown sugar which have miniscule to NO nutrition).  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chemical experiment that is 40-55% fructose (fruit is naturally 0-20% fructose).  It is known to be a major contributor to obesity- do not consume it.  Agave nectar is just as processed and bad for you as high fructose corn syrup.  It actually has more fructose than HFCS, at a whopping 55-90%!  If you own it, throw it away.

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutraSweet, and Equal are chemicals that trick your taste buds into thinking that there is something useful like sugar coming down the tube. Therefore, your body gets all excited for it but then nothing comes of it.  Your gut and liver have to break down these strange chemicals and they don’t know what to do with them.  There have been many studies linking bladder cancer to these sweeteners.  Do NOT use them.

Stevia is a “natural” sweetener, but is rather processed to be in form that is useful.  Have you ever tasted it and noticed the strange aftertaste?  It’s the best out of the other processed sugars, but… Why?  Just use fruit, honey or maple syrup for those times that you want something sweet.

If you have ever tried to completely avoid sugar, you know how hard it is.  It is in products that you would never expect.  Also, taking it away creates a strong desire for it, just like an addiction.  Although it’s not easy to give up, once you do you will realize that you do not need it. You will also notice how excessively sweet everything is! You will be all the better for it.

 

{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}