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Liquid Gold: The Secret Life of Essential Oils

By Philip D.

February 17, 2011

In my opinion, it's a travesty what Advertising has gone and done with the word Aromatherapy. The powerful chemistry found within a single drop of essential oil -- inhaled from a warm washcloth, a steamer, a carrier oil or right on your wrist -- has such a profound, almost instantaneous and usually beneficial effect inside our bodies and minds; to cheapen it by putting inferior quality imitations into room sprays and Glade Plug-ins and calling it Aromatherapy is a crying shame.

It's possible I am biased because I'm doubtful you've met many people that value their sense of smell like I do. It's rather a long story, but 14 years ago I suffered a 36-foot fall from a third-story window. It resulted in a subdural hematoma, a fractured skull and for the 18 months following, a complete and total loss of my ability to smell. (Lucky for me that's all that I lost because the odds of surviving such a fall, statistically, are less than 50/50) I'd say it took almost two years for me to regain it fully but it is, and probably always will be, one of my most valued possessions.

In the first few days after my fateful HIV test, I was a mess with too much time off for the Christmas Holidays and a very busy head. I was spending an inordinate amount on time the Internet (of course, TheBody.com) and realized I desperately needed a project to refocus my attention. Since I already happened to own dozens of bottles of therapeutic-grade essential oils (they have been carefully distilled to retain the maximum amount of the constituents that have therapeutic effects), I was inspired to research which of them were the best for my immune system.

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I wondered if there was something found in nature that might protect me, when I was forced to endure coughs and sneezes that come with working with those who probably should have stayed home; something that might "hurt" the "bad" stuff and yet might actually help me. In fact, I did. I found 17 of them; and when I'm feeling like I'm coming down with something, I "huff" the blend all night in my ultrasonic diffuser. Most of the time, I'm lucky to ward off what seems to be threatening me

Yes, 17 of them is a lot, but I still strongly believe HIV-positive folks (and their friends) could all benefit from trying a few of them. Here are eight of my favorite essential oils that benefit the immune system, but they all have several other uses as well. I'm not going to tell you where to purchase them but please, please, please get only those marked on the label as therapeutic grade. They are worth the extra price for their superior quality.

Always store them in a cool, dark place, and remember that heating the oils above open flame (or light bulb) greatly minimizes their effects. They work best if you inhale the aroma (with steam, A+++) or apply them topically (wrists or soles of the feet), but they are highly concentrated and some may irritate your skin if used undiluted. Pregnant women should always consult their doctor before using any essential oil.

8. Oregano. Don't laugh. This ultra powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory oil is amazing. Unlike manufactured antibiotics, there is no known tendency for microbes to develop resistance to the effectiveness of oregano. Plus its smell is reminiscent of the warm Mediterranean sun.

7. Thyme. Used since ancient times as a medicinal herb because contains large amounts of thymol which has been extensively documented for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal action and found in many over-the-counter mouthwashes for its purifying properties. As a dietary supplement, it is one of the strongest anti-oxidants known. Mixed with a carrier oil (jojoba is a good one) this is great for young-looking skin and appears to be quite beneficial in overcoming fatigue.

6. Clove. With the highest reading on the ORAC scale (measures anti-oxidant levels) of all essential oils, it's no wonder it's been used as medicine for centuries starting with the Egyptians to numb pain and fight infection. This one's not just really good for your body, it also fosters a sense of comfort and security as well.

5. Cinnamon. Want a great oil to boost your immune system and help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar? Legend has it that during the Bubonic plague, grave robbers also tied rags soaked with it over their noses and mouths to ward off illness. And when it comes to natural anti-bacterials this oil simply kicks ass. Handle this potent one with care because direct contact with the oil, or even inhaling it undiluted from the bottle, may cause irritation to the skin or mucous membranes.

4. Melissa. Okay before I go further, this might have been be number one if it wasn't so damn expensive. In its complexity, power, and gentleness, this oil perfectly illustrates how nature, time and time again, works far more efficiently than one-dimensional synthetic medicines. I love this stuff. Did I mention it's also a natural anti-depressant?

3. Eucalyptus Radiata. (the "softest" of the eucalyptus) When it comes to uplifting and purifying a room this one is superexcellent. This oil and its major constituents possess such toxicity against a wide range of microbes in a laboratory setting, including bacteria and fungi, it is now being enthusiastically studied to test its power on antibiotic-resistant staph (MRSA). Perfect for kids and the elderly. Try spraying some inside a steamy shower and breathing deeply to help relieve respiratory difficulties.

2. Ravensara. Innocent enough fragrance, but don't be fooled. When I mean business, I pull out this bad boy (or girl). Medical science is becoming increasingly interested in this powerhouse anti-viral and what it does inside the human body. In France, it's been extensively studied as an effective anti-viral for the flu, hepatitis, shingles, and mononucleosis. Try it for insomnia as well.

1. Lavender. As predictable as it may seem, there's a very good reason why lavender is found in all sorts of things. It is an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal wonder that can also help you relax. Rest is vital to the immune system and stress is its worst enemy. In human form, Lavender could easily be a Superhero.

Although there are countless books with seemingly endless information on the use of these and other oils, I mainly use "The Essential Oils Desk Reference" from Essential Science Publishing and "The Complete Book Of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" by Valerie Ann Worwood.

In closing, please consider this: The next time you feel illness encroaching, instead of reaching for an over-the-counter, man-made remedy that your body instinctively knows is foreign, why not look to the wisdom of centuries of plant healing to give yourself the extra boost it deserves and immediately recognizes as natural?

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A Positive Spin


Philip D.

Philip D.

After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.


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