Essential oils are everywhere these days. This is due in part to the meteoric spread of two companies: Young Living and DoTerra. These two heavy-hitters in the industry are both multi-level marketing companies whose oils can be bought, sold and marketed by anyone who signs up. Other high-profile health figures like Dr. Joshua Axe and Dr. Joseph Mercola have published several pieces recently on the benefits of essential oils, bringing them into the conversation of more health-conscious people – so much so that essential oil sales in the U.S. have boomed over the last few years to nearly half a billion dollars annually.
What are essential oils?
Essential Oils are the natural aromatic compounds extracted from the seeds, bark, stems, roots and flowers of plants – often called the “lifeblood” of the plant. Extraction is primarily performed by steam distillation but other processes include cold pressing (or expression) which is mainly used for citrus oils, resin tapping which is used for oils that come from tree saps like frankincense and copaiba, and absolute oil extraction (also called solvent extraction)* which used for extremely delicate plants like jasmine and neroli. Pure essential oils should never contain fillers or artificial ingredients that dilute their active qualities.
A quick note about “organic” essential oils: the amount of a biocide (the collective name for a number of pesticides) absorbed from essential oils is negligible compared to the amount ingested in non-organic foods. Additionally, the molecules of any water-soluble biocides are too large to survive the distillation process which forces the smallest molecules into a steam and then distills them as a liquid. While there is some evidence that essential oils from organically grown plants are of better quality than those from non-organic plants, there has been too little research to make any definitive statements.1,**
The use of plants has been linked to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of humans since the beginning of time, and while essential oils are incredibly fragrant, they also have both medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Essential oils are often used as natural, drugless alternatives in holistic health care practices. Their unique chemistry allows them to be used either aromatically or topically, and some can be used as dietary aids to promote vitality and well being.
While the increased use of pharmaceuticals in the US has helped many people live fuller and longer lives, there is growing concern about the number of medications that people take, dependencies on them, and most alarming, the serious side effects that accompany many of these drugs.
- Approximately half of Americans have at least one diagnosed chronic condition and a quarter have multiple chronic conditions2
- In 2010 nearly 60% of drug overdose deaths involved pharmaceutical drugs3
- Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. has risen nearly 6-fold since 1990, reflecting substantial increases in the treatment of chronic conditions4
- 15% of U.S. adults ages 20+ and 40% of U.S. adults 65+ take 5 medications or more5,6
- Adverse drug reactions cause an estimated 100,000 deaths each year which is ten times the death toll from illegal drugs7
- Adverse drug reactions are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in health care8
Drugless therapy is exactly what it sounds like – therapeutic treatments without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Modalities include lifestyle modification, diet and food pattern alterations, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, reiki, chiropractic, and exercise therapy. The whole idea around drugless therapy is to help the body heal itself.
“The human body has an incredible capacity for survival and healing,” says Dr. Loomis. “Unfortunately, western medicine is more inclined to introduce synthetic substances to kill off harmful bacteria which also have the potential to damage healthy cells and tissue in the process.”
Essential oils as a form of drugless therapy
Essential oils are similar to herbal and folk medicines, the first true drugs, but they are 100 to 10,000 times more concentrated. Unlike prescription drugs, essential oils very rarely generate any negative side effects. A growing body of research has found that most viruses, fungi and bacteria cannot live in the presence of most essential oils, particularly those high in chemical compounds like phenols, carvacrol, thymol and terpenes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who regularly use essential oils are less likely to contract infectious diseases and those who do, tend to recover faster than those who use antibiotics.
Here’s a great infographic that explains how essential oils can be used to combat antibiotic-resistance.
Chiropractic and essential oils
It’s important for patients to feel at ease when being adjusted. Not only does this help to relax the patient’s muscle tissue, but it also makes the adjustment easier and lessens any residual soreness and tenderness post manipulation.
Therapeutic grade essential oils can help with relaxation as well as speed healing. The application of certain oils or blends of oils can increase circulation, decrease soreness and discomfort, and calm and relax muscle tissue. Their unique chemical structure allows them to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream when applied topically and travel throughout the body within minutes. They are a perfect addition to any chiropractic practice, and there’s the added benefit of the aromatic effects, which are just as powerful.
Essential oils and oil blends we love
At Carney Chiropractic Center, we use the Young Living brand of essential oils. This is because we are convinced of their leadership and pioneering in the industry along with their rigorous quality and purity standards for their oils. Many essential oils on the market are adulterated, diluted, or only perfume grade and not suitable for any kind of therapeutic use. On the other hand, Young Living oils are so pure that they have a line labeled safe enough for internal usage.
Another thing that sets Young Living apart from many other essential oil companies is that they offer approximately 130 oils and oil blends and a growing collection of essential oil products – everything from pantry items to hair and skin care products to cleaning staples.
Dr. Loomis uses these oils and oil products on different patients at various times, depending on their physical needs or state of relaxation:
Aroma SiezTM – This proprietary blend combines the soothing and relaxing properties of lavender and peppermint along with several other oils. We use it for those with severe spasms or extremely tight muscles that are causing pain.
Relieve ItTM – This is another proprietary blend that is mainly used for those with chronic or nerve pain in conjunction with their treatment. This blend contains a combination of spruce, black pepper, hyssop and peppermint.
Panaway® – We use this popular blend to help reduce pain and inflammation for those who have sustained sport injuries. It contains wintergreen, helichrysum, clove, and peppermint.
We also use the Ortho Sport and Ortho Ease massage oil blends on most patients (unless requested otherwise). These are both powerful and soothing massage oils that can help patients relax and hold their adjustments longer.
If you want to learn more about essential oils or sample some for your own use, please contact us. We are happy to schedule an “oil appointment” instead of an adjustment if you’d like to learn more. We also host monthly classes about essential oils as a way of introducing people to them and providing education on how to use them. You can also like us on facebook to receive notifications about upcoming essential oil events. If you’re ready to start using essential oils right way, you can get your starter kit here which includes 11 5ml bottles of the most popular oils and a home diffuser of your choice.
*Per Dr. Robert Tisserand, a renowned expert in the field of essential oils: “Most of the solvent used for extraction is recovered and reused, but traces do remain, at about 1 to 10 parts per million. Some people prefer not to use absolutes because of the solvents present in them, but these amounts are completely nontoxic, being several hundred times below minimal toxic levels.”1
**Response from Young Living customer service on the question of organic: “To provide organic products to our members is very important and we strive to use organic matter in all the steps from growing, processing, to selling. We do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on our farms. Young Living cannot place the word ‘organic’ on our labels because we occasionally import some oils from different countries and most of these countries do not have organic standards that match the US standards. This is the reason why we cannot certify them as organic. Rest assured, though, that Young Living will not accept oils or plants that do not meet our strict standards.”
Sources and References
- Annals of Family Medicine, September/October 2012, vol. 10 no. 5 452-460 (article found here: http://www.annfammed.org/content/10/5/452.full#cited-by)
- Kantor ED, Rehm CD, Haas JS, Chan AT, Giovannucci EL. Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in the United States From 1999-2012. JAMA. 2015;314(17):1818-1830. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.13766
- Essential Oils Pocket Reference. Orem, UT: Life Science, 2014. Print.