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THE SCIENTIFIC BENEFITS OF ESSENTIAL OILS

We start and end each yoga class at Uplift Strength & Spirit with essential oils. A quick dab to the wrist of eucalyptus, sweet orange, or grapefruit before opening meditation and then a luxurious spritz of rose once everyone is situated for savasana. The smell itself is pleasant enough to merit our habitual application of these oils, but their benefits extend much further. These varied scents have the power to increase energy levels and deepen relaxation. Often touted as “new age-y” by skeptics who do not realize the practice goes back thousands of years, essential oils are having a resurgence in use, appreciation and fortunately, published research on their rich physical, mental and psychological benefits.

Essential oils are aromatic and volatile liquids extracted from plant material, such as flowers, roots, bark, leaves, seeds, peel. fruits, and wood. They are important for the plant’s defenses and have been proven to posses antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties. Historically, essential oils were first noted 60,000 years ago when concentrated deposits of yarrow, knapweed, grape hyacinth and other plants were found in a burial site of a Neanderthal skeleton in present day Iraq.

Looking back through history, essential oil application can be found all across the world in places like Syria, Egypt, China, France, India, Tibet, Greece and North America with Native Americans frequently using plant based medicines. Although many years have passed since the construction of the Great Pyramid in Egypt where pharaohs were buried with alabaster jars of frankincense and myrrh, essential oils and plant based medicines remain relevant today due to the immense power of our olfactory system. Don’t believe in the influence of smell? The British Parliament passed a law in 1770 to protect men from “perfumed women” who might trick them into matrimony using the “witchcraft of scent [to] manipulate their mind.” (Bonus points to anyone who can find if this law is still in existence or not.)

There are three main methods to using essential oils.

Inhalation- Use a diffuser, steaming hot water, homemade sprays or simply smell the essential oil straight to stimulate the receptors in the nasal cavity. From there, the essential oil works all the way through the body and eventually through the blood-brain barrier. This approach is best for general usage.

Topical Application- Apply the essential oil directly to the skin, often diluted with another substance like coconut, almond or olive oil. This approach is best when targeting a specific area of the body. It also allows for slower absorption and longer effects.

Ingestion- Consumed with food, beverage or through capsules, this method is perhaps the least common. If you are going to ingest essential oils, only use the best quality oils and consider taking them with a meal that has some fat in it so that they are more easily dispersed during digestion.

Thankfully due to modern distillation, it is easy to incorporate this ancient practice into your daily life and begin to experience increased health and well-being.  Below you will find Uplift Strength & Spirit’s favorite essential oils, their researched benefits and ways you can use them.

Blue Spruce Oil and Balsam Fir Oil

  • Can support optimal testosterone and growth hormone levels. Dr. John Berardi, a highly-regarded exercise physiologist and nutrient biochemist, used blue spruce oil and balsam fir oil to support his testosterone and growth hormone levels. He did so by ingesting 4 drops of blue spruce oil and 4 drops of balsam fir oil with breakfast and dinner for 8 weeks. He noticed a 26% increase of total testosterone compared to his baseline measurements. [1]
  • Can fight infection and promote wound healing. Steam extraction from twigs and needles of spruce and fir trees revealed antibacterial properties. [2] A study testing Turkish folklore that fir trees promote faster healing times was conducted. Results showed that that Cedrus libani and Abies cilicica subsp. cilicica display remarkable wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities. [3]

Use At Home

  • For tired muscles and sore joints, combine 5 drops of Spruce with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Massage the affected area twice a day.
  • Add 5-10 drops to a bath for muscle and joint pain alleviation.
  • If you are interested in increasing your testosterone level, you can try a similar supplement routine as Dr. Berardi by ingesting 4 drops of balsam fir and 4 drops of blue spruce oil in capsules with breakfast and dinner. Be sure to measure your levels before and after.

Eucalyptus

  • Can therapeutically benefit inflammatory airway diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [4]
  • Can improve lung function and health status (severity of sore throat, hoarseness, and cough). [5]
  • Can protect against infection. Research shows that eucalyptus demonstrates antimicrobial activity against the Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidenidis, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and the yeast, Candida albicans. [6]

Use at Home

  • Dilute 5 drops of eucalyptus oil into a mug or wide bowl with boiling hot water (distilled water is even better). Lean over the bowl and inhale deeply for ten rounds of breath, pausing for one minute between sets. To increase the intensity, you can create your own mini sauna by hanging a towel over your head as you lean over the bowl to create an enclosed space.
  • Create a home salve by mixing ½ cup of coconut oil and 30 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Store iin a glass jar away from light. Use to promote healing with burns, cuts, bug bites and other skin afflictions.

Lavender

  • Can improve sleep. [7] Inhaling lavender before or during early stages of sleep has been shown to enhance deep sleep, improve sleep quality, and make you more likely to feel refreshed when waking.
  • Can improve relaxation and sense of calm. [1] Inhaling lavender has been correlated with lower autonomic nervous system arousal (i.e. the stress response), including lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature. Inhaling lavender has been shown to lower cortisol levels; and/or can stimulate alpha wave brain activity (which tends to happen when our brain is “idling” — daydreaming or meditating). Inhaling lavender can reduce levels of anxiety.
  • Can decrease pain. In a study involving women who had Caesarean sections, those given lavendar aromatherapy showed a significantly lower level of perceived pain at four, eight and 12 hours post-operation. [8]
  • Can improve focus. Lavender aromatherapy helped to enhance attention during a long-term task. [1]

Use At Home

  • Place 3-5 drops of lavender essential oil in filtered water in a diffuser and put the diffuser on before falling asleep. I do this and honestly sleep like a log.
  • Create a lavender spray to use on your pillows and sheets before bed. Get a small spray bottle, glass or plastic. Check the travel aisle at your local pharmacy for refillable bottles. Assuming you have an 8 oz bottle, add 1 oz vodka, or 1 oz 90% isopropyl alcohol, or 2-3 pinches of Epsom salt to the bottle. These ingredients help to mix the oil in the water and the alcohol will preserve the longevity of your mixture. Add 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil. Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water. Close the bottle and shake well. Store the bottle in a dark place. Shake and spray whenever you need to relax a bit or relieve tension.

Citrus

  • Can calm you and improve mood. Oil of bergamot can calm the nervous system, decrease negative emotions and relieve fatigue. [9]
  • Can energize the body for movement. Smelling grapefruit oil resulted in 1.5 to 2.5-fold increase in relative sympathetic activity when compared to smelling the odorless placebo. [10]
  • Can increase concentration and creativity. Citrus oils increase sympathetic activity and was shown to stimulate the hippocampus and cerebral cortex in an animal study. [11]
  • Can serve as a disinfectant due to antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. [12] [13]
  • Can help to fight acne. One study had a group of people use a topical gel with Citrus sinensis (orange essential oil) daily for 8 weeks. Participants reported an improvement of the acne condition, which ranged between 43% and 75% clearance of lesions. [14]

Use At Home

  • Create a natural, effective home cleaner and improve your mood while cleaning! Add 40 drops of lemon essential oil to a 12 oz spray bottle. Add 1 oz white vinegar and fill the rest with distilled water. Use the spray bottle to disinfect countertops and clean bathroom surfaces.
  • Use a diffuser with 3-5 drops of lemon essential oil to create an uplifting environment and decrease negative emotions.

Peppermint  

  • Can improve athletic performance. [1] [15] In studies, one drop of peppermint on the tongue, or in mineral water before performance was associated with: improved grip strength, vertical jump, and standing long jump, visual and auditory reaction time, and heart rate variability both five minutes and 60 minutes after use. Lung capacity and blood lactate improved after 10 days of daily ingestion. Carbohydrate metabolism increased, suggesting an increase in energy production in muscle tissue. Heart rate during exercise also improved. Inhalation of peppermint decreased quarter-mile run time and increased push-up performance and grip strength.
  • Can stimulate hair growth. In an animal study, peppermint was shown to significantly stimulate hair growth. [1]
  • Can relieve upset stomach. Decreases the severity, duration and frequency of pain in abdominal pain-related functional GI disorders. [16]

Use At Home

  • Add 1 drop to 16 oz of water before an athletic performance to increase alertness and strength.
  • Add 1 drop to a pot of boiling water for a peppermint tea. Drink to settle stomach and relieve nausea.
  • Add 2 drops to a teaspoon of coconut oil and use to massage hands, low back or other areas of the body that feel tired.

Rose

  • Can inhibit stress and aid relaxation. Compared to placebo, rose oil caused significant decreases of breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and systolic blood pressure, which indicate a decrease of autonomic arousal. At the emotional level, subjects in the rose oil group rated themselves as more calm, more relaxed and less alert than subjects in the control group. [17] [18]
  • Can alleviate pain. In a study involving patients with extreme menstrual cramps, patients reported a decrease in pain at the 10 and 30 minute mark after receving rose aromatherapy. [19] Another study showed that topical use of rose essential oil relieved lower back pain of pregnant woman significantly over a 4 week period compared to women who did not use use the essential oil. [20]
  • Can reduce inflammation within the body. An animal study using rose geranium essential oil showed potent anti-inflammatory activity by topical treatment when treating a paw edema. [21] Another animal study demonstrated relief of alimentary inflammatory conditions with the use of Rosa damascena extracts. [22]
  • Can reduce toxicity in the body. The natural antioxidant properties in rose were found to help decrease the amount of toxicity in patients reliant on Levodopa in their treatment of Parkinson’s disease. [23]

Use At Home

  • Treat yourself to the ultimate relaxing bath. Add 6-10 drops into the tub and linger as the stress melts away.
  • Use a cold or hot rose compress to relieve pain.  Add 5-6 drops to the cold or hot water that you dip your towel or compress in. Let soak for a few minutes and then place the compress on sore knees, lower back, or anywhere else your body needs it. Leave on for 10-15 minutes or until the compress loses its ideal temperature.

To continue reading more about essential oils, check out the references used to inform this blog post. I’d love to know how you use essential oils so please reach out to us on social media @upliftstrength

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This content was created based on personal experience and research on proper usage, dosage and methods. This advice is not meant to take the place of any medical advice.

References

  1. Beradi, J., Nikkola, T. “What do the data really say about essential oils?” Precision Nutrition. 2016 Precision Nutrition Inc. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-do-the-data-really-say-about-essential-oils.
  1. Poaty, B., Lahlah, J., Porqueres, F., Bouafif, H. “Composition, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of seven essential oils from the North American boreal forest.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. World J Microbiol Biotechnol. March 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Bouafif%20H%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=25801172.
  2. Tumen, Akkol, EK., Süntar, I., KeleĊŸ, H. “Wound repair and anti-inflammatory potential of essential oils from cones of Pinaceae: preclinical experimental research in animal models.”  National Center for Biotechnology Information. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. July 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21816214
  3. Juergens, U. “Anti-inflammatory properties of the monoterpene 1.8-cineole: current evidence for co-medication in inflammatory airway diseases.”  National Center for Biotechnology Information. Drug Research. May 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24831245
  4. Heinrich, W., Schacher, C., Dethlefsen, U. “Concomitant therapy with Cineole (Eucalyptole) reduces exacerbations in COPD: A placebo-controlled double-blind trial.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Respiratory Research. July 2009. http://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1465-9921-10-69
  5. Poaty, B., Lahlah, J., Porqueres, F. “Antimicrobial Constituents and Effects of Blended Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Patchouli, Pine, and Cajuput Essential Oils.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. World J Microbiol Biotechnol. March 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25801172
  6. Lillehei, A,, Halcón L, Savik, K, Reis, R. “Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26133206
  7. Olapour, A., Behaeen, K., Akhondzadeh, R., Soltani, F., al Sadat Razavi, F., Bekhradi, R. “The Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Blend containing Lavender Essential Oil on Cesarean Postoperative Pain.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine July 2013.. http://doi.org/10.5812/aapm.9570
  8. Watanabe, E., Kuchta, K., Kimura, M., Rauwald, H., W, Kamei, T., Imanishi, J. “Effects of Bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) Essential Oil Aromatherapy on Mood States, Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity, and Salivary Cortisol Levels in 41 Healthy Females.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Forsch Komplementmed. February 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25824404
  9. Shinichiro, H., Keiko, S.,, Yoko, G.. “Effects of Fragrance Inhalation on Sympathetic Activity in Normal Adult.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Japanese Journal of Pharmacology.  November 2002. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12499579 
  10. Rombolà L., Corasaniti M.T., Rotiroti D., Tassorelli C., Sakurada S., Bagetta G., Morrone L.A. “Effects of systemic administration of the essential oil of bergamot (BEO) on gross behaviour and EEG power spectra recorded from the rat hippocampus and cerebral cortex.” Functional Neurology. April 2009. http://www.functionalneurology.com/index.php?PAGE=articolo_dett&id_article=3741&ID_ISSUE=422
  11. Baratta, MT., Dorman, HJD., Deans, SG., “Antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of some commercial essential oils”. Aromati Science. Flavour and Fragance Journal.  January 1998. http://www.aromaticscience.com/antimicrobial-and-antioxidant-properties-of-some-commercial-essential-oils-2/
  12. Warnke, PH., Becker, ST., Podschun, R., “The battle against multi-resistant strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to fight hospital-acquired infections.” Aromatic Science. Journal of Cranio-Maxillo-Facial Surgery. 2009 http://www.aromaticscience.com/the-battle-against-multi-resistant-strains-renaissance-of-antimicrobial-essential-oils-as-a-promising-force-to-fight-hospital-acquired-infections/
  13. Matiz, G., Osorio, M., Camacho, F., Atencia, M., & Herazo, J.. (2012). “Effectiveness of antimicrobial formulations for acne based on orange (Citrus sinensis) and sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L) essential oils.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Biomédica. January 2012.  http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0120-41572012000100014&lng=en&tlng=en. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235794
  14. Meamarbashi, A., Rajabi, A. “The effects of peppermint on exercise performance.” Bio Med Central. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. March 2013. http://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-15
  15. Asgarshirazi, M., Shariat, M., Dalili, H. “Comparison of the Effects of pH-Dependent Peppermint Oil and Synbiotic Lactol (Bacillus coagulans + Fructooligosaccharides) on Childhood Functional Abdominal Pain: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. April 2015. http://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.23844
  16. Hongratanaworakit, T. “Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Natural Product Communications. February 2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=rose+oil+effect+arousal
  17. Fukada, M., Kano, E., Miyoshi, M., Komaki, R., Watanabe, T. “Effect of ‘rose essential oil’ inhalation on stress-induced skin-barrier disruption in rats and humans.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Chemical Senses. May 2012. http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/4/347.long
  18. Uysal, M., Dogru, H., Sapmaz, E., Tas, U., Cakmak, B., Ozsoy, AZ., Sahin, F., Ayan, S., Esen, M. “Investigating the effect of rose essential oil in patients with primary dysmenorrhea.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice. August 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27502800
  19. Shirazi, M., Mohebitabar, S., Bioos, S., Yekaninejad, MS., Rahimi, R., Shahpiri, Z., Malekshahi, F., Nejatbakhsh, F. “The Effect of Topical Rosa damascena (Rose) Oil on Pregnancy-Related Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Journal of Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. June 2016.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27335145
  20. Boukhatem, M., Kameli, A., Ferhat, M., Saidi, F., & Mekarnia, M. “Rose geranium essential oil as a source of new and safe anti-inflammatory drugs.” Libyan Journal Of Medicine. 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ljm.v8i0.22520
  21. Latifi, G., Ghannadi, A., Minaiyan, M. “Anti-inflammatory effect of volatile oil and hydroalcoholic extract of Rosa damascena Mill. on acetic acid-induced colitis in rats.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences. December 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698862/
  22. Galina, N., Yanka, K., Natasha, K., Stanko, S., Antoaneta, Z., Veselina, G. “Protective effect of two essential oils isolated from Rosa damascena Mill. and Lavandula angustifolia Mill, and two classic antioxidants against L-dopa oxidative toxicity induced in healthy mice.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Regulatory Toxicology & Pharmacology. July 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27381452



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