Symptom Management

The Essence of Essential Oils

By Chris Hudspeth

The use of plants as medicine dates back to prehistoric times, used in teas, salves, ointments, oils, and tinctures, to help with ailments and maladies of all kinds. Plant medicine is still commonly used today to assist with different ailments – for example, aloe is used for burns, ginger for stomach issues, and eucalyptus for sinus problems. Certain essential oils can also help alleviate the symptoms of colds, headaches, and sore muscles.
Aside from these medicinal uses, adding essential oils to our daily routine can have a profound effect on our general well-being by tapping into the power of our sense of smell. Think of smelling a rose, or some good food cooking in the kitchen. Smell can bring a shift to our state of mind. Essential oils have the same effect. Whether they are diffused into the air through a diffuser or massaged into our skin, our senses react to help us begin to feel better.
Recently, the use of essential oils from plants such as peppermint, orange, rosemary, and ylang ylang has been growing. They are found in grocery stores, farmers markets, and on TV. Essential oils are used with everything from household cleaning products to shampoos. However, not all essential oils are created equal, so how can we tell the difference in quality?
Getting a high quality essential oil is important. Think about other types of oils we get from plants to use in cooking such as olive oil or coconut oil. These have various grades and qualities, depending on how the oil is extracted and the quality of the plant.
Before ordering or buying essential oils in a store, do a bit of research on the quality of the brand. You may also want to ask someone who uses essential oils what companies they buy from. Don’t be fooled by marketing. Essential oil use is on the rise and many companies have started heavily advertising their products. They speak of the benefit of essential oils, but not their process of extraction or the quality of the plant material. Be mindful of products labeled as “perfume oil,” “fragrance oil,” or “natural identical oil.” Also, make sure oils are in a dark glass bottle and keep them out of the sun and away from heat. Bottom line – the better quality you purchase, the better outcome for you.
Depending on the type of oil you decide on, it likely will require diluting before you can apply it to your skin. One of the most common practices is to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil such as almond oil, aloe vera oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. You can also mix the essential oil with shea butter or water for diffusion. If you have sensitive skin, consider using a lower ratio of essential oil to carrier oil. Doing simple online research can give you examples of ratios to use when blending oil.
Dispersing Aromatherapy
Diffusion, hot water vapors, humidifier, direct inhalation and indirect inhalation are a few ways to have aromatherapy dispersed in your home. Water is used to dilute the essential oil and then heat is added to create steam. In diffusers, a small fan is used to distribute the scent though out the room.
Try using eucalyptus and peppermint in a diffuser when you have a cold. For daily stress, one of the best oils to diffuse is frankincense. It helps calm the mind and promotes deep, even breathing. Diffuse regularly where you spend a lot of time, add to a washcloth and put on the shower floor, or add a few drops to a bath.
Topical Treatments
Oils can also be applied topically. Diluting essential oils with a carrier oil or shea butter is ideal when massaging it into the skin. For a headache, add a little dab around your temples or for sniffles, under your nose. Avoid putting oils on or near sensitive skin, they can cause burning and be very unpleasant.
Blend for chronic stress, anxiety, headaches

(Makes 8 treatments)
4 ounces carrier oil
12 drops jasmine essential oil
12 drops neroli essential oil
Shake well and massage into skin
Common Go-to Oils

Eucalyptus – Breathing
Peppermint – Digestion
Lavender - Sleep
Sweet Orange – Emotional well-being
Frankincense - Stress
Ylang Ylang – Muscle tension
Aromatherapy and MS
Is there any evidence that the use of essential oils can help those with MS? They are certainly not a substitute for disease-modifying therapy. However, they may help with symptom management. Little research has been done specifically in the MS population, but a number of studies in other groups indicate that aromatherapy may help improve sleep quality, decrease pain, and manage stress and anxiety. One study of elderly persons with disabilities indicated that massage with essential oils may improve functioning in activities of daily living.
Essential oils can be effective if used properly. Before beginning using essential oils, do research, speak to a healthcare professional, and purchase the best quality you can afford. Never ingest or use them in food or drink. Also, never apply undiluted essential oils directly on skin.