Essential Oils: What, Why & Where

There’s a lot of buzz around Essential Oils these days.  It seems everyone you talk to has an opinion around their effectiveness and use.

So WHAT are essential oils?  Briefly — Essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds found in all kinds of plant materials.  It’s what you smell when you inhale the fragrance of a rose or lavender blossom, or the woody musk of an Arborvitae tree. They are extracted from the plant material using a number of different methods, but the most popular these days are steam distillation and expression or cold pressed.

With steam distillation, heated steam passes through the plant material with gentle pressure which causes the essential oil  to be released from microscopic protective sacs.  This vapor flows through a condenser and cools, leaving a layer of oil and a layer of water.  The essential oil rises to the top and is separated from the hydrosol (floral water) and collected.  Cold pressed is when they apply pressure without heat — citrus oils are extracted this way as the oils come from the rind of the fruit.  Still with me?

There are a lot of very big words that describe the chemical components of each oil — words like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes, and esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides.  Have your eyes glazed over yet?   Mine did about this point.  And while I decided that there would be a time that I would learn in depth all about these properties, when I first started out I really wanted to know if and how they could help me.

So WHY should I investigate this alternative choice? Having spent a lot of years with arthritis, I really wanted to get away from all of the side effects of the NSAIDS I was having to take and find a different solution for my inflammation and pain.  I found that all these pharmaceuticals were harming my body more than helping them, and in fact, I was starting to exhibit symptoms that were worrisome.  Inevitably, I was prescribed more pharmaceuticals to combat the side-effects of the NSAIDs — so drugs for drugs and more drugs to combat those drugs.

About the same time, my wonderful massage therapist started asking me each session if she could use Essential Oils during my massages. She chose oils that would help reduce inflammation and soothe sore supporting muscles.

I am an analyzer so off to the internet I went to find out all I could about what oils she was choosing and what other oils could support my arthritis.  I talked to everyone I could find who was already on this path.  And . . . wow . . . did I find information.  Research, discussion and following of facts. The results I received from her ministrations and the results I was getting from my own “experiments” with oils not only filled me with hope, but eventually, I weaned myself off the NSAIDS and other supporting pharmaceuticals and am pleased to be supporting my arthritis with my oils.

So HOW am I using these oils to help?  The fastest way to feel the effects of an Essential Oil is by inhaling the “fragrance” of the oil.  You can do this by direct inhalation; direct from the bottle, from the palms of your hands, from a diffuser bracelet or necklace or a diffuser. (We will talk about diffusing in another post).  But either way, inhaling the scent is a great way to uplift your mood, relieve stress, support hormonal balancing, relieve nasal congestion and nausea — and more.

I also use Essential Oils topically, right on the area of concern.  For instance, I have trouble with my knees so I will layer on (rub in) two or three different oils or blends that support reducing inflammation and pain.  Some of these blends will already be diluted with a carrier oil and some I will add a carrier oil to.  Lots to talk about with  carrier oils — stay tuned for this discussion!!

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Western Medicine and Holistic Therapies can and should work hand in hand.  If you break your arm, get yourself off to emergency!!

Essential Oils are very powerful. Do your research, use oils that you can confirm are pure and have the best quality . . . and experiment!  Treated with respect, following safe usage guides and listening to my body, I have an alternative way to support my wellness goals.

 

 

Stress

I love this:
“Stress within your comfort zone can help you perform under pressure, motivate you to do your best, even keep you safe when danger looms. But when stress becomes overwhelming, it can damage your mood and relationships, and lead to a host of serious mental and physical health problems. The trouble is that modern life is so full of frustrations, deadlines, and demands that many of us don’t even realize how stressed we are. By recognizing the symptoms and causes of stress, you can take the first steps to reducing its harmful effects and improving your quality of life.”
Reference: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-causes-and-effects.htm 

It’s that time of the year when we seem to be the most stressed. We’re gearing up for school and all that goes hand in hand with it, perhaps we’ve also just gone back to work after a lazy summer vacation, and then we’ll have Thanksgiving, Halloween and before you know it Christmas. I think this time of the year is THE most stressful.

What do you do to manage your stress??

That damn chair

As most of you know, I avoid OTC’s like the plague preferring to manage my health issues with essential oils, but sometimes you do have to try other options when the pain is so bad it makes you see stars and want to throw up.  It all started, we think, from yoga (which is another blog post) but the end result was that the next day about mid-day, my back started to twinge slightly especially when I put more weight on the left side. The day after that, waking up at 5:30 to get prepped for a Sunday morning server maintenance task, I could barely roll out of bed.  And literally roll, I couldn’t sit up from a prone position to save my life.  So roll I did, got my feet on the floor and attempted to stand.  I gingerly hobbled to the stairs and discovered I couldn’t get down them.  No way, no how. So now I’m standing there absolutely trapped and remembered that I did have a computer on this floor.  In I went and sat down and went to work.   Now I’m sitting on a rolling chair and after a little bit – I realized that I couldn’t stand up.  So not only am I trapped upstairs but I’m trapped in this chair.  Every time I tried to straighten or move the waves of pain would whiten my vision, cause tears, hyperventilation and excruciating pain like I’ve never felt before.

But believe it or not, this isn’t about the pain.  It’s about being trapped in that damn chair.  I started to realize that I was helpless upstairs. And you know all about my control and independence issues.  I couldn’t run downstairs and make tea or breakfast or even get a glass of water.  And the next horrified thought was about the bathroom — how on earth was I going to get there and do my business — because we all know that has to happen.  So how to get out of that damn chair.  Hubby happened to find a bottle of extra strength back pain muscle relaxants in the cupboard – strangely it hadn’t even been opened but it also hadn’t expired yet so we opened it up and I tossed back a couple.  Poor hubby was running up and down those stairs tending to me and helping me.  20 minutes later I was loopy, dizzy and nauseous — and the back pain?

Still there.  Dammit.

So no more of those until maintenance was done – because I still had to finish that – and it was a 4 hour job.  Hubby gently reminded me that I was on wheels, so we gingerly wheeled into the bathroom where the next production was getting me out of that chair, pants down and onto the other throne.  I realized that if I supported my body with my arms I could feel the pain start, and if I was motionless it wouldn’t go full blown but recede until I could move again.  When I was done, the reverse had to happen until I got back into that damn chair. I silently congratulated myself on all those weights and fitness things I’ve been doing – I’ve got pretty good upper body strength and boy did that help.  Especially holding myself suspended while I waited for the pain to recede and then I could move again.  So as the morning wore on, the maintenance was done, hubby made me breakfast and brought it up and I took more of those muscle relaxants. And then a couple more.  About 10ish I thought perhaps I could get on the bed and if I could sleep off the dizziness of the OTC’s I would relax enough for the pain to stop.  No such luck, I got half way on the bed with my head, shoulders and stomach and there I laid — stuck.  After tears and some adult language hubby (threatening ambulance) helped me back into the chair. That damned chair.  So I started thinking about how my life would be different if I was living it from a wheelchair.  Obviously the stairs would be a big issue (we have 4 levels) and reaching for things would definitely be a challenge.  As the morning wore on the pain became more manageable (along with a lot of Deep Blue and muscle relaxants) and we decided to try and get down the stairs.  There are about 10 — so picture this: facing the wall and railing, hubby just below me – putting all my weight on his arms on my lower side and hanging on for dear life with my right hand and arm – I slowly and gingerly inched my left foot lower to the stair.  holding my self ramrod straight so my core didn’t fire and bending my knee (you know about my knee and bending right?) time seemed to stand still as we inched down the stairs.  I can’t even tell you how long it took – but it seemed like hours.  We hit the bottom with me trembling, sweating and dizzy.  Around the corner, two more stairs and onto the couch I went.  Here I stayed for a week.

And that dammed chair?  It came downstairs right away so I could make it around the lower floor – mostly to the biffy — hubby tending to the other needs he was able to.  I was never so glad as the week wore on to be able to stand up and shuffle (bent over) to where I needed to go.  I came to realize that a chair is not where I want to spend my life and the way I’m going with my knee, I could very well be there.

So this is about the chair — and my knees — and doing what I need to do, pushing through the fear, and taking care of business — first step? Surgeon . . .