Oiling up for Health
Snap judgments. We’re all guilty of making them. In my case, that includes consigning aromatherapy and essential oils to the fringes of some weird, mystical, New Age land. Yet I knew nothing about them.
Experience changed my mind. It started while I was editing a book this past summer about natural ways to fight colds and flu (a most timely topic as we near the start of winter).
When I got to a chapter about aromatherapy and essential oils, I discovered something about their practical benefits. Like lavender oil balancing nerves and emotions, clary sage oil boosting the mood and diminishing stress, and how jasmine’s uplifting, soothing nature helps with depression.
What really grabbed my attention was a statement about scientific research proving their value: “Studies of brain waves show that scents like lavender increase alpha brain waves, which are associated with relaxation. Scents like jasmine boost beta waves, which are linked to alertness. Aromatherapy works by stimulating a release of neurotransmitters once an essential oil is inhaled.”
The reason for the significance of those three sentences stemmed from the fact I was still dealing with the effects of back pain that surfaced a year before. It got so bad that in October of 2013 I had entered physical therapy.
Nearly four months of therapy, massages, prescriptions for a short-term steroid and muscle relaxers followed. Then a month of visits to a chiropractor and more muscle relaxers. Throughout the winter and into the spring I had taken daily hot baths with two cups of Epsom salts.
Not only was progress excruciatingly slow, a year after the original injury twinges of pain remained. Shortly before working on this chapter my wife had applied a mixture of frankincense (there’s a reason it was the first Christmas present) and two other oils.
Our youngest daughter had created the mixture to help my wife deal with her back pain. Janet rubbed it on my back a couple times randomly, but I thought little about its potential value.
After editing this chapter, though, I thought: Maybe there is something to this. I told Janet, “I want to give this a try. If I’m going to do this, I need to do it every night, and I want to apply it around 9 p.m., before it gets too late and I’m tired and forget about it.”
Within a few days, I felt noticeably better. When I marveled over these results, our daughter said, “You can apply it twice a day; it won’t hurt anything.” So, I added a morning application to my routine.
Three months after initiating this daily oil habit, I feel so much better that sometimes I don’t remember the evening ritual. Yet if I skip the morning, the pain is noticeable—like on Election Day last week. After walking to our nearby polling place, I insisted Janet put oil my back when we returned to ease the tightness.
Lest I sound like a (pardon the pun) snake oil salesman, I would caution that these oils aren’t a cure all and must be used with care.
Yet, this experience has shown that I still have much to learn, and keeping an open mind may indeed help me wind up feeling better.