Printer Friendly

The therapeutic qualities of essential oils.

How many times have you heard, or read, the words "essential oils" and have immediately thought of aromatherapy --just smelling a few nice smells? Did you know that essential oils are mankind's first and oldest medicine? Did you know that they were used for medicinal reasons long before the use of herbs was discovered?

Essential oils were crudely extracted for medicinal purposes as far back as ancient Egyptian times. Records have been found that date back to 4500 B.C., describing the use of substances with aromatic properties being used for religious rituals and medical applications.

The Egyptians were the first to discover the potential of fragrance. They created numerous aromatic blends for both personal and ceremonial use in temples and pyramids. When the ancient Ebers Papyrus (870 feet long) was discovered in 1817 and translated, it revealed medicinal formulas and perfume recipes that were used by the alchemists, physicians and high priests. This scroll, dating back to 1500 B.C., included over 800 different formulations of prescriptions and remedies.

Thousands of years before Christ, the ancient Egyptians would collect essential oils in alabaster vessels for use and storage. When King Tut's tomb was opened in 1922, there were 350 liters of oils found in alabaster jars. The liquefied oil was found to be in excellent condition due to plant Waxes that had solidified around the inside of the containers, which indicates pure essential oils have a long shelf life.

Throughout the Old and New Testament there are over 200 references to essential oils. Many essential oils were used for anointing and healing the sick. A few such oils were frankincense, myrrh, galbanum, cinnamon, cassia, rosemary, hyssop and spikenard.

The Bible describes an incident where Moses instructed Aaron to "go quickly into the congregation to make an atonement for them: for there is a wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun." Aaron stood between the dead and the living with an incense offering and the plague was stayed. It is significant that according to the Biblical and Talmudic recipes for incense, three varieties of cinnamon were included. Cinnamon is known to be highly antimicrobial, anti-infectious, antiviral and antibacterial.

In the New. Testament it is recorded that the wise men gave the newborn King, the Christ child, frankincense and myrrh. These essential oils were used only by royalty and were more precious than gold due to their anti-infectious and antibacterial properties.

The Egyptians and Babylonians believed that in order to reach a higher spirituality, they had to be clean and beautiful. They practiced fumigation to disperse oils, purify the air, and provide protection from evil spirits (which we know today as disease).

The ancient Arabian people studied the chemical properties of essential oils. They developed and refined the distillation process. Kings would barter and buy land, gold and slaves with their crudely extracted oils.

The Europeans did not produce any essential oils until the 12th century. During the Medieval plague of the 15th century, a band of thieves robbed the dead and dying without becoming infected with the plague. When captured by the King's men they admitted to using a mixture that contained oils such as clove, cinnamon, rosemary and other essential oils.

Reintroduced in late 19th century

With the burning of the libraries in Alexandria and other places during the Dark Ages, much of the knowledge of essential oils and their uses was lost. Essential oils had a reintroduction into modern medicine during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, Ph.D., a French chemist in a perfume laboratory, was involved in a chemical explosion in July 1910. Dr. Gattefosse was literally aflame, covered in burning substances. After he extinguished the flames, he wrote, "just one rinse with lavender essence stopped the gasification of the tissue." The treatment was followed by profuse sweating and healing began the next day.

Dr. Gattefosse left the perfume industry and began research on the medicinal properties of essential oils. He shared his studies with his colleague and friend, Jean Valnet, a medical doctor practicing in Paris. During World War II in China, Dr. Valnet had exhausted his supply of antibiotics. He began using pure essential oils on battlefield injuries and found he was able to save the lives of many soldiers who might otherwise have died, even with antibiotics.

At this point you might be asking yourself, what is an essential oil and how can it possibly help me?

Essential oils are subtle volatile liquids that are distilled from plants, shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds. They help transport oxygen and nutrients tO the cells of the body. Without sufficient oxygen in the body, nutrients cannot be assimilated. So, through the oxygenation of essential oils on the body, one can maintain better health.

Lifeblood of the plant

Essential oils are the life-blood of the plant; much like our blood is the life-blood of the body. Without the essential oil being present in the plant, it is dead or at best a dried herb.

Essential oils are chemically very complex. They consist of hundreds of different chemical compounds, all of which are necessary for the potential healing of the body. Essential oils are highly concentrated and far more potent than dried herbs, since in the drying process they lose 93-97% of their essential oils.

The similarity of essential oils to a plant and blood to the body goes much deeper. The chemical structure of essential oils is similar to that found in human cells and tissues. There are three major components to both the body and the plants. These are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with two lesser components present in each, nitrogen and sulfur. This makes essential oils compatible with human protein and enables them to be readily identified and accepted by the body.

The molecular structure of essential oils is relatively small, which gives them the ability to easily penetrate cell walls spreading throughout the blood and tissues. When topically applied, essential oils can travel throughout the body in a matter of minutes.

Documented research has indicated that by diffusing essential oils they can increase the availability of atmospheric oxygen and provide negative ions, which inhibit bacterial growth. This means essential oils could be important for purifying the air and neutralizing odors. Due to the ionization action, essential oils have the ability to break down and render potentially harmful chemicals nontoxic.

Scientists in Europe have studied the ability of essential oils to function as natural chelators, which bind with heavy metals and petrochemicals to remove them from the body.

Some essential oils have the ability to decrease the viscosity or thickness of the blood, which can enhance circulation and immune function. Adequate circulation is vital to good health since it affects the function of every cell and organ, including the brain.

In the human body, essential oils stimulate the secretion of antibodies, neurotransmitters, endorphins, hormones and enzymes. Oils that are considered antiviral contain the constituent limonene. Others, such as lavender, have shown to promote hair growth and increase the rate of wound healing.

Essential oils are composites of hundreds of different chemicals, which gives indication that they can exert many different effects on the body. Clove 0il, for example, can both be antiseptic and anaesthetic when applied topically. But it can also be antitumoral. Lavender oil has been known to help with burns, insect bites, headaches, PMS, insomnia and stress.

It is critical to understand that because of their complexity, essential oils do not disrupt the natural balance or homeostasis of the body. If one constituent by itself is too strong, another may block or counteract it. A major advantage to using therapeutic grade essential oils for medicinal purposes is that they create no toxins within the body, nor can the body build up immunity toward the essential oil. In contrast, synthetic chemicals usually have only one action and that often disrupts the body's natural balance and homeostasis. Synthetic chemicals will also accumulate within the body, which creates high toxic levels, especially in the liver.


Essential oils are different from vegetable oils like olive, peanut, corn, safflower and such. Vegetable oils are greasy and can clog the pores of our skin if we were to apply them topically. Essential oils are not greasy and because of their volatility, they will not clog the pores of the skin.

It is evident that modern science and pharmacology have not yet found permanent solutions for dreaded diseases, new strains of tuberculosis and influenza. In fact, we hear constantly of the new mutations occurring. Essential oils do have an increasingly important role in combating new mutations of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Weber State University, as well as other documented research, has indicated that most viruses, fungi and bacteria cannot exist i the presence of many essential oils. A study on cinnamon bark oil showed a 99.96% kill rate to all known viruses and bacteria (bad), but it does not attack the healthy flora of the body. There are numerous research projects and scientific data, worldwide, documenting the uses and virtues of therapeutic essential oils for medicinal purposes. Much research in the United' States has been conducted at Weber State University in Washington. Other numerous research projects are just starting at Brigham Young University to document the efficacy of therapeutic essential oils.

A growing market

There is a large and growing market for essential oils in the United States, but the word is "buyer (and user) beware." Ninety-five percent of the essential oils sold in the U.S. are not a therapeutic grade and could actually be more harmful if used for therapeutic purposes.

It is important to obtain essential oils for therapeutic use from a reputable company that specializes in this field and tests their oils for the full array of constituents that influence health and healing.

Today there are about 200 types of oils distilled with several thousand chemical constituents and aromatic molecules identified and registered. The quantity, quality and type of these aromatic compounds will vary depending on climate, temperature and distillation factors. Ninety-eight percent of essential oils produced today are for use in the perfume and cosmetic industry. Only about 2% are distilled for therapeutic and medicinal applications.

Oil quality

One of the most reliable indicators of essential oil quality is the AFNOR or ISO certification. This standard is more stringent and differentiates true therapeutic-grade essential oils from similar Grade A essential oils with inferior chemistry.

Botanical chemist, Herve Casabianca, Ph.D., is responsible for writing the AFNOR standard (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) while having worked with different analytical laboratories throughout France. He understood that certain constituents within an essential oil had to occur in certain percentages in order for the oils to be considered therapeutic.

Currently, there is no agency in the United States responsible for certifying that an essential oil is therapeutic grade. The only indication for therapeutic-grade oil is whether it meets ISO (International Standards Organization) or AFNOR standards. Throughout the world there are only a handful of essential oil producers who can meet the AFNOR standards for therapeutic grade essential oils.

Although essential oils have not yet been accepted in the U.S. by the mainstream medical community, there are many practitioners, including chiropractors, naturopaths, psychologists, physical therapists, massage therapists, dentists, D.O.s and a few M.D.s, as well as other practitioners of body-mind healing who are discovering the value of essential oils. Their clients are also learning the beneficial factors of using therapeutic essential oils to help their body create potential healing capabilities from the common cold to chronic illnesses.


Millie Troth and Bob Manery have completed over 230 hours of study with essential oils. They have become educators about the values of therapeutic essential oils and are distributors of Young Living Essential Oils. Contact them at 1-877-535-6092 or <>.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Previous Article:Alternative to disposables for women.
Next Article:Natural remedies for fleas.

Related Articles
Clean air scents: purify yourself and your home with Tacy Apostolik.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters