From the Blog Journal of 3 October, 2008
Recently on the dadamo Forum, a few folks have been obsessed with the notion of the oral administration of essential oils. In France, in particular, this is a major modality: Aromamedicine, as practiced by approximately 20% of all MD’s there. While many practitioners in other countries – and increasingly in the US, myself included – do compound such medicines, the marketplace is increasingly filling up with excellent aromamedical supplements, safe for those consumers who do not make their own. The Whole Foods Market near my San Francisco home carries cinnamon caps, oregano caps, peppermint caps, ginger caps and/or syrup, and, in its “antioxidant” dept., a couple of powerful blends by Gaia Herbs and New Planet that may include rosemary, marjoram et al (a superb vehicle for taking antioxidants, btw). And there’ll be plenty more products, I’m sure.
Using essential oils diluted in vegetable oils for medicinal use as ointments and linaments, as well as in bathing media (including salts) is a long accepted method of taking them. They are rapidly absorbed into the skin and beyond. Chest rubs, belly rubs, pelvic rubs are well established practices. Overall massage, complexion products such as moisturizers, masques, cleansers – there are many books to assist the newcomer in the crafting of these – are all options to consider. Various hygiene products (including oral hygiene) often include tea tree oil for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. There are even tea tree oil-saturated tampons for vaginal insertion to treat yeast infection. Tea tree oil douche solutions may also be out there by now.
While “aromatherapy” is usually assumed to be strictly psychoactive or mood-altering, (it certainly is that), note that synthetic fragrances can be liked or disliked, too. The inhalation of PURE and preferably organic essential oils, however, is of decidedly pharmacologic value. Some essential oils, such as rosemary and basil, for instance, are mental stimulants suited to say, offices, while ylang ylang and mandarin are relaxants, excellent for unwinding at day’s end or under stress. The shower gel and bath oil department of your health shop will surely reflect these and other uses.
Aromamedicine offers one particularly exciting and relatively unknown feature amongst its benefits: The oils themselves are diagnostic tools. An uncertain diagnosis can be fine-tuned depending upon the oil favored by the patient when offered various oils – with known properties - for smelling. The gravitation to decidedly estrogenic substances, for instance, can indicate a female hormonal component in the patient’s current state. A patient complaining of chest discomfort of uncertain origin may seem to like decidedly peptic (digestion-assisting) as opposed to, say, cardiotonic or bronchopulmonary-specific oils, thus providing an important clue for the directing of the history. Of course, this facet of aromamedicine can be practiced only by those with broad familiarity with essential oils and their chemistry/characteristics. There is much overlap, too, e.g., a cholagogic essence such as thyme, is also a powerhouse of an antibiotic/antifungal/antiparasitic/antiviral agent, so the sample offered must be carefully chosen to correct for possible confusion, further the differential diagnosis, and be presented systematically to the patient.
For most folks entry into the vast aromatherapeutic universe is via tea tree oil for the instant cure of athlete’s foot, lavender oil for instant relief of kitchen burns or sunburn, peppermint tea to calm gastric distress, or chamomile tea for shaky nerves. I encourage the curious to sniff those tiny tester bottles displayed for that purpose at the health shop and ask the salesperson to direct you to the literature and possible applications of the ones you fancy.