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IMO: Essential Oils

Goodnight Moon butter was thought up as the trend of Essential Oils continues to rise.  I was told by a friend that my sons sleepless nights would be FIXED if I applied Lavender Essential Oil to the soles of his feet.  Now I do love Essential Oils, but this is completely out of control (like every new trend).  Essential Oils can sometimes be dangerous; if ingested, given to infants, misused.  For the most part they are safe, however unfortunately, they are just a small fraction of the healing capabilities of that plant! Wellness Mama has a great post on the risks and proper uses for essential oils, that I encourage all to check out.

If we are going to start dissecting and extracting plants for certain properties (ex: taking the volatile oil out of Rosemary), then we might as well be using commercial beauty products and healing agents.  Take aspirin for example.  Aspirin has been used for centuries, the active component in aspirin is Salicin which is found in our native Black Willow.  Salicin is found in the bark of most willows, and when ingested it turns into the chemical Salicylic Acid which is safe for our stomach (despite the scary name!).  Salicin is a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic (painkiller), however there are other medicinal actions, that cannot be distilled, that prevent the side effects of nausea and rash (for most!).  Store bought aspirin is a combination of chemicals, including synthetic Salicin and a common side effect of aspirin is nausea, stomach ulcers, and digestive pains.  Willow Essential Oil is rare because it can burn the skin and the salicin is near impossible to distill.  Now why would I want to harm myself and my family with synthetic plant properties or a pure extract, when the safe alternative is growing outside of my door?

Instead of using Lavender Essential Oil, I reach to my garden.  My lavender is homegrown, like all of euFLoria’s herbs.  I know it is organic, non-GMO and a lot of love is given to my plants daily.  I know that bees pollinate the buds freely and the soil they grow in is homemade compost, micronutrients, and local sand.  I know that my lavender is the most potent fresh lavender around and instead of squeezing thousands of flower buds for one drop of lavender oil, I use the entire plant that has a medicinal value.  Oh wait, you didn’t know that there are more properties to Lavender than just the volatile oil?  Yes!  And that is the AMAZING part about plant medicine!  There is a myriad of constituents that are medicinal in each plant!!! For example Lavender buds, when distilled, release the aromatic volatile oil that can be used to relieve migrants and headaches and to treat wounds.  Fresh lavender buds in a tea, on the other hand, is used to treat anxiety.  Lavender infused oil can be used on sore muscles.  Lavender leaves and flowers made into a salve, produce a cooling antiseptic.  Lavender tincture from the buds is a definite cure for insomnia!  Dried lavender stems are an amazing incense.  The list goes on!  So if I was given the option of an essential oil or a holistic lavender product (or plant!) I would clearly pick the latter.  Why limit ourselves?!!

Lavendula angustifolia
Lavendula angustifolia

Do you even know where your Essential Oils come from?  About 95% of Essential Oils are grown, harvested and distilled outside of the US.  Now sometimes that can be a good thing!  Other countries have bans on GMO’s and toxic chemicals, while the US does not, so I am not against herbs from other countries.  But if you are unaware of the growing/distillation conditions, then I encourage you to look into it.  Essential Oil industry does NOT have a grading scale, and when you read that it is “pure”, “organic”, “therapeutic grade”, “certified”, that is by the company’s standard.  That is their own little made up grading system.

The actual process of distilling plants for their essential oils often use toxic chemicals such as methylene chloride (linked to cancer) which is most toxic when absorbed through the skin or inhaled.  Even steam distillation has been proven hazardous when evaluated on the 12 principals of the industrial scale.  They are developing a safer approach to steam distillation using supercritical CO2, but that has yet to be used on an industrial scale.  Because there is no grading system in the industry and there is an assumption that all chemicals used to distill a product will not actually get in the final product, distillation companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used during the extraction….. hmmmmm sounds like fracking…….

Again, I am not against Essential Oils.  I am against companies that do not disclose their source and I am against claiming “cures”.  I do add some essential oils to my salves and butters (from a reputable “open book” Florida source) to enhance the aromatic properties of the product, but I value the therapeutic value of the plant more.  I believe that if we were meant to extract properties out of plants, chemistry sets and distillers would be growing next to the plant itself.  We are provided with all we need to survive, and while I do occasionally use traditional medicine, I do not hesitate to look to Mother Earth for treatments.  (*UPDATE*) There is a recently published post about how to incorporate Essential Oils safely into your herbal remedies.  It is a great read, check it out.

My main role as an Herbologist is to use Whole Plant Medicine- that is using the whole plant worth any medicinal value, to treat the whole person.  That means I start at the root of the problem.  What is causing my son to not sleep?  Is he falling asleep but not staying asleep?  When is he sleeping? From raising him I know the answers to what the root cause is.  After I adjust his bed time routine, water intake, time of supper, activity level…now I can supplement this routine with some Goodnight Moon Butter and some calming tea.  The ingredients of the butter soothe, moisturize, and calm his itches and the tea helps with sleep anxiety.  His sleepless nights are no longer a problem.  Is it because I put essential oils on his feet (I guess technically I did through the butter) or is it because I treated the root of this problem, supplementing with plants?  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.


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