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Natural Awakenings Tucson

The Science and Magic of Essential Oils

Nov 03, 2019 11:43AM ● By Danielle Dvorak
In the Temple of Isis in Egypt, a sacred room portrays a ritual utilizing essential oils, called “Cleansing the Flesh and Blood of Evil Deities”. The ancient Egyptians believed a soul could not move on to its afterlife if it held emotional baggage. King Tut’s tomb contained enough alabaster jars to hold 350 liters of essential oil and grave robbers chose to steal the oils first instead of all the other treasures. Since that time, essential oil usage to effect emotions had been relatively unknown until recently.

In 1989, scientists discovered that the amygdala gland, within the limbic system of the brain, plays a major role in storing and releasing emotions and trauma. It is therefore referred to as the “seat of our emotions”. The amygdala gland is the gatekeeper through which all sensory data to the brain are processed. The sensory data goes directly to the amygdala gland, where it is determined if this data needs to be sent to the adrenal glands first (for fight or flight) or on to the brain for further processing. It essentially processes knowledge about stimuli and situations that are of special importance to our survival.

The amygdala is programmed to react without benefit of input from the thinking part of the brain. Thus, when we experience a traumatic situation, fear or any other unpleasant circumstances, it is recorded in the amygdala first and then sent to the rest of the body (i.e. adrenal glands or thinking brain) to be processed.

Certain smells, like bread baking or a particular perfume, can take us right to a memory and the feelings associated with it. Scents access the limbic system, and thus the amygdala, like a key in a lock, which is the seat of our emotions.

Sesquiterpenes, found in high levels in essential oils such as Frankincense and Sandalwood, help to increase the oxygen in the limbic system of the brain, which in turn “unlocks” the DNA and allows emotional baggage to be released from cellular memory. Emotions have been found to be encoded within the DNA of our cells and passed on from generation to generation. Research has proven that emotional behavior patterns can be “locked” within families. Organ transplant recipients repeatedly have reported strange memories and desires, which further substantiates that emotions are stored in the physical body and encoded in the DNA of the cells.

More recently, studies at New York University proved that the amygdala gland (the gland in the limbic system of the brain that stores and releases trauma in the body) does not respond to sound or sight or touch, but only releases trauma through the sense of smell. Sounds like magic.

As participants in Biosphere 1, we are intrinsically connected to all plant life and it is connected to us. Research shows that plants actually manufacture chemical compounds that have a wide variety of healthful uses in human beings. How fun is that? And, a large percentage of the pharmaceuticals of today have been based on plants and their essential oils that have similar “healing” qualities. An example of this is Valium, which is synthesized artificially, but chemically similar to and based on Valerian. Both are muscle relaxers that also calm the nervous system.

Most essential oils are made by distilling (reducing down and concentrating) plant material and drawing out just the natural oils. Not to be confused with fatty oils, such as olive, almond and jojoba, essential oils are considered “volatile oils” and are a completely different category than fatty oils. Examples of essential oils that are true steam-distilled products include those from trees (Balsam, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Spruce), Lavender, Geranium, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli and Lemongrass.

The process of steam distilling essential oils is complex and often a combination of art and science. Different plant materials require different distillation temperatures and times, and sometimes quite a bit of finesse to create a high quality product. Other considerations in creating essential oils include: how the plant was grown (wild, organic, non-organic); how the plant has been harvested, stored and transported; how fastidious the distillation facility was in the manufacturing process, thus avoiding cross-contamination and pollutants; and how the final product has been bottled or contained, stored and again transported.

At each one of these steps along the way, it’s possible for the potential quality of an essential oil to be compromised. In addition, the original plant material may have been full of pesticides and herbicides, making the final product less than desirable right from the start. When buying essential oils, the rule of thumb is to know that a cheap product means a “dirty” product and an expensive oil usually means it’s clean and of a high quality.

Other methods of obtaining essential oils from plants include solvent extraction and cold pressing.

Solvent extraction is ideally done with a naturally-occurring solvent such as CO2 (carbon dioxide). However, more inexpensive extractions are often done with synthetically-produced solvents such as acetone and hexane. The oils resulting from solvent extraction are usually referred to as “Absolutes”. Examples of essential oils that are technically Absolutes include Rose, Jasmine, Neroli, Vanilla and Frangipani. An Absolute that is not expensive was likely produced with one of these toxic solvents.

Essential oils that are cold pressed or “expressed” primarily include the citrus family—lemon, lime, grapefruit or tangerine. The peels are pressed or squeezed/expressed to extract the oils and, just like with olive or other fatty cooking oils, cold pressed, non-solvent extraction is best. Sometimes solvents or heat are added to the pressing process to get more final product. Again, a red flag is an oil that is inexpensive in comparison to others of its type.

Danielle Dvorak has used essential oils in her daily life since the 1970s. After over 30 years, and distributing for a couple of essential oil companies, she decided to become a Certified Aromatherapist in 2010. She sells her own line of essential oils, HeartScents, which are all of very high, therapeutic-grade quality. Connect at 847-323-9188 or [email protected]. See ad, page 35.

Essential Oils Know-How

Thinking about trying essential oils? Whether new to oils or a longtime fan, these are some key tips for using essential oils safely and effectively.

• Before experimenting with an essential oil, become familiar with its properties, dose and precautions (via the internet). When still not sure about a condition or an oil, consult a knowledgeable specialist.
• Essential oils are very concentrated. Dilute all essential oils before applying to the skin, either in a fatty oil, lotion or cream.
• Do not use essential oils internally. If you must, then exercise extreme caution.
• Skin reactions to essential oils can take three forms: irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity. The citrus oils will cause phototoxicity, meaning that sunlight can activate a bad reaction on the skin, so never put an undiluted citrus oil on skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight within 24 hours.
• Avoid contact with eyes and mucus membranes. If an essential oil gets into the eye, do not rub it. Saturate a cotton ball with vegetable oil and wipe over the area affected. In severe instances, flood the eye area with lukewarm water for 15 minutes.
• Avoid prolonged exposure without good ventilation.
• Use essential oils cautiously with infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly or those with serious health problems. Diffusing is best.
• Store essential oils and carrier oils properly to avoid degradation and rancidity. Air, heat and light degrade essential oils. Store essential oils in a cool, dark room and always keep tightly sealed so they don’t evaporate.

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