Koobies, colds and flu vs essential oils

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I swear I spend half my time trying to make it as an aromatherapist convincing people not to buy essential oils. Don’t drink it, don’t buy the kit, not while you are pregnant, just get a few, not on your little one, just try a sample, FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY that little brown bottle is a concentrate – please dilute it, you’ll use less….. I am the worst salesperson EVER!

I get requests from people to “cure” certain ailments with oils all the time. From my trained vantage, there really are very few things that one could claim that oils cured {hiccups aside}. They help. They comfort. They are another tool in the box.

Another question I get especially during the fall koobie exchange in the classroom [which normally ends in:  puking, sniffles and coughs] is how to boost one’s immune system. SHORT ANSWER: Unfortunately, oils don’t boost the immune system. LONG ANSWER: I hate to break it to you – from my highly qualified experience in domestic medicine {mom} and past in health education ~ not much does. Vitamins, herbs, kombucha, bone broth etc. do not actually “boost” the immune system. They can be used to address deficiencies but not hedge wellness bets.  It might be semantics or lack of adequate vocabulary to explain what goes on, but boosting is not it. My sources for this assertion come from sitting in too many doctor’s offices, knowing the immune system better than this history lover should and having a black-belt in cutting through the crap research.

Logic teachers every year give the example of Linus Pauling and Vitamin C as one of the greatest public logical fallacies of all time. The fallacy of the Appeal to Authority is when a person with a certain level of power, experience, or education is used as an authority in an area separate from their expertise or field. Linus Pauling PhD claimed that megadoses of Vitamin C prevented and cured various ailments from cancer to the common cold – a virus. To this day, there is no cure for a virus (think HIV/AIDS)– only behavioral changes that can prevent it or that can be used to create a body that that is ready (not boosted) to fight it.  Linus Pauling received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for identifying the double helix, DNA. Clearly he knew his science and the human body. He, however, was not a specialist on vitamins, disease, nor the healing arts. His vitamin c claims have been refuted over and over. Having said that, I confess that I have vitamin c lozenges for comfort of a tickly throat in my pantry.

The immune system is supposed to learn. Every time one has an illness, it should learn how to fight it better(unless you have an immunodeficiency, like me – I am IgG deficient). Vaccines are theoretically like Cliff Notes for the body they teach the body without reading the book. {I just made this analogy up – so just go with me on this one} Immunglobin blood tests are like transcripts, they tell what has been tested and what perhaps has been learned. IgA is where autoimmunity lies, IgG and IgM show active and previous fights and IgE allergies. Oils and supplements don’t teach the immune system – their marks are not in our immunoglobin.

The immune system is just that, a system. It is like a machine that needs to be well oiled to work well. It does not need super fuel to work well (did you see the recent consumer education reports on not using Super or Premium grade fuel in your car unless it says to do so – waste of money?), it needs to be maintained according to Manufacturer directions. If one is deficient in certain vitamins, supplementation can help. But you can’t fill a 14 gallon gas tank with 15 gallons of gas. It will leak over and cause environmental issues. {Just made this comparison up too – again roll with me}. Like oils and everything we take in, supplements are filtered through our organs – and too much in a body already replete with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals will burden the liver and kidneys and perhaps be a large investment flushed down the toilet (yellow pee – mea culpa).

I can tell you, you really don’t want a “Super” immune system, anyways. At a lecture by the top lupus researchers at the University of Washington, they described autoimmunity not as a weak immune system but a super one, out of control – like a super hero who doesn’t know how to control their powers yet (Pixar’s Mr. Incredible trying to fit in). Rather than boost the system, they need it tamed or suppressed. Most autoimmune disease focus on one system or organ, but lupus attacks them all. With that as a reference to boost the system might not even be the right way to proceed for fighting the ever-present germ and virus exchange.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-remedies. I am far from it – just trying to give language to their place in wellness. I make bone broth, use ferments, and I do take supplements for the areas where blood tests or analysis has said I need them. I am deficient in iron, D and B (often related to that crazy lupus I battle) and am on a gluten-free diet because I have celiac disease and it is the prescribed course of treatment.  When asked how to use these tools, I am trying to use my background in education to put together other’s knowledge and educate my consumer base asking this important question, trying to wrap their minds around how these fangled hyped up darlings of the health set work.

The state of the immune system determines what will happen when faced with an immunity situation – attack, illness, intrusion. Genes – I am not even going to try to talk about – are a central factor as to how one deals with issues. Additionally, the lessons learned will tell the body what to do when facing illness (immunoglobbin). The overall maintenance will also determine how it will run, in a competition. How does one maintain the body: proper hygiene, enough sleep, an appropriate diet for your specific body, stress mediation, and using it (exercise). This is how vitamins or oils are perceived to boost the system. They actually help with maintenance when needed. Certain oils can help with koobie control, sleep, easier digestion, handling stress (what to help and what not to do – like smoke or use crack cocaine), comfort ailments, and making exercise less painful. They are bio-individual – due to our immunity stories, genes, and current state – each oil as medicine needs to be tried to see if it works (why else to we have so many choices for painkillers to antidepressants).

So back to the original problem but rephrased? How can essential oils help the immune system? From my slightly educated perspective, they can help by making sure one is in a position to fight a problem and give comfort when attacked. So let’s get specific.

Hygiene: There are so many oils that are antimicrobial. I use them like Lysol and antibacterial soap and gel. Many of the koobies shared in my kids classrooms are airborne, then I will send these in the air too – I diffuse and we breathe it all in! I try to wipe surfaces where exchange might happen. Some oils to help with antimicrobial support: cinnamon, cassia, tea tree, lemon myrtle.

Sleep: I think 7 hours is what is now touted as the average need for adult sleep? 8 was at one point what we shot for. I needed 12 last night. We have those who can’t fall asleep or those who can’t stay asleep. So many oils to help: Vetiver, valerian, spikenard, lavender,  lemon, chamomile, cedarwood, bergamot.

Digestion: A pet peeve of mine is when reading an essential oil thread online where one asks about a complex health issue and is told that only a trained aromatherapist can help them but then the person goes on to suggest a diet to follow without deferring to a dietitian or nutrition nor relying on proper testing. There is no one size fits all diet for sure.Get tested! Refer to a dietitian or nutritionist! But there are some oils that help with different issues: Ginger, peppermint, fennel, dill, cardamom, cumin. (Think ginger ale, Gripe Water (made from dill) or chewing cardamom)

Comfort: Just depends on what is ailing you but for a cough or sore throat think of the synthetic smells of the remedies you might already use like Mentholatum or Vicks. The labs recreate the scents from the chemicals found in rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor.

Stress: Two sides to stress are often fight or flight. If you are fighting and needing to calm down: Chamomile, lavender, spikenard, cedarwood, If you are in flight and hiding and need help getting back up: Any citrus: bergamot lemon, orange, lime as well as rosemary. Sometimes to mitigate stress you just need to go to a happy place > a memory perhaps – if it smells good to you or has a good memory associated with the scent – use it.

Exercise: Injury think Ben Gay – birch, wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, marjoram, helichrysym, lemongrass. I think helichrysum is magical.

In my view, essential oils are notoriously poorly labeled. So to use any of these – get some solid directions like you would for anything you are using with your family. Who should or shouldn’t take it? How much? How often? What are the risks and interactions? {And please don’t drink the stuff!}.

To be transparent, I am not a scientist, dietitian nor medical professional. I did do one of my theses on health education (HIV/AIDS) and worked in the field of health education for years (autoimmunity, celiac disease, and the gluten-free diet). I have taken my exams and completed my case studies to the tune of about 300 hours and have finished my studies but not taken my tests nor done the work on about 600 more in aromatheapy.  It certainly has felt the more I learn the less I know. So as one who likes to educate – Do your homework. I think Facebook and Blogs are great for helping me formulate questions not for answering the, Look these things up on reputable sites > like Linus Pauling Logical Fallacy on Google, or Vitamin C or supplements and liver toxicity on PubMed, and Supplements on Consumer Reports. If you want more info on using oils appropriately talk to formally trained aromatherapist (Pick me, pick me! – Nancy@TheBardsApothecary.com).

http://www.consumerreports.org/conditions-treatments/best-ways-to-boost-your-immune-system/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

http://mostlyscience.com/2013/02/logical-fallacies-and-you-what-you-need-to-know-when-doing-your-own-research/

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/the-vitamin-myth-why-we-think-we-need-supplements/277947/

 

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