A very common ailment to hit the population is chest congestion. It starts with mucus buildup in the trachea and it also builds up in the respiratory tract. It causes heaviness in the chest and if left untreated it will cause a respiratory infection.
Essential oils have long been used to treat various health complaints and their symptoms, and there’s growing evidence to support their effectiveness.
An essential oil is the pure essence of a plant. It’s extracted from the leaves, bark, stem, root, or flowers of a plant by a distillation process. The oil plays an important role within a plant, and it can bring us many health benefits too.
Insects have pollinated flowers for hundreds of millions of years. Insects are attracted to plants for their aroma, their colour, or their structure. Scent is the biggest attractor though, and because the oil gives plants their unique scent, it attracts insects and aids pollination.
They help plants win their evolutionary ‘competition’
Oils in plants help them to release chemicals that prevent competing plants or vegetation from growing around them. Plants will compete for soil nutrients and the ideal position to get light from the sun. It’s survival of the fittest as it so often is in nature.
They help to protect them from insects and other animals
Plants need to protect themselves from predators, just like animals do. Plants use chemical compounds to deter insects and other animals from coming too close. Many of these chemicals are natural insect repellents. The oils are useful in helping the plants to survive in a harsh environment, which ensures their survival as a species.
To protect the plant from other organisms that may harm it
Plants release chemicals and other resins which have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This helps to kill off any organisms which may threaten the plant’s survival. The oils do a similar job, and many oils have antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
How do you use an essential oil?
You can use essential oil as a:
You can dilute it with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. It is better to dilute oils as they are very concentrated and can cause sensitivity if applied neat to the skin. Essential oils are easily absorbed into the skin and provide systemic or local benefits. They can be used in aromatherapy massage to ease stress and anxiety, treat headaches and migraines, to treat insomnia, pain, and muscle tension, and to boost immunity.
Facial cream, body lotion, or oil
You can add essential oils to your favourite face creams or body lotion to create a skin treatment with plenty of health benefits. Some oils can reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks, reduce the signs of ageing, improve skin tone and texture, and hydrate the skin. Many can also benefit people who suffer from acne as they have antibacterial properties.
An addition to your bath
Add some essential oil to your bath and stir well to disperse the oil. Be careful to rinse the bath afterwards though, as the oils can make your bath very slippery. Adding oil to your bath can help to reduce stress, get rid of muscle aches, reduce fatigue, boost circulation, and detox the body.
They can be used in steam inhalation
Place 3-7 drops of essential oil into some boiling water. Beneficial oils to use in steam inhalation are eucalyptus, lemon, and tea tree oil. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the vapour. Keep your eyes closed. This method is great for treating congestion from colds and flu, and boosting respiratory function.
You can use them as a spray
Mix 10-15 drops of essential oil with water and add it to a spray bottle. The spray makes a good room freshener and body spray. They can also make excellent cleansers for household surfaces.
They can be added to a diffuser
The oil can be added to a diffuser to be dispersed through a room to reduce stress and anxiety, boost mood, and to promote a good sleep.
They can be directly inhaled
You can add some oil to a handkerchief or a cotton wool ball and directly inhale it or you can apply some to the palms of your hands and do the same. This can be used for respiratory and sinus problems, and to produce effects on the nervous system, for calming or relaxing you, for example. You can also inhale an oil straight from the bottle. Inhalation is very effective for affecting the mood, as the smell receptors in the nose are linked with a part of the brain which governs emotion. This is why aromatherapy can be very effective for altering your state of mind.
Essential oil safety
Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
Be careful with some oils, especially citrus-based ones, as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Do not sunbathe for 24 hours after you apply these oils.
Avoid prolonged use of the same types of essential oils, as sensitivity can develop unexpectedly.
Always dilute an oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or coconut oil before using it on your skin.
Always do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm, to test for sensitivity.
Always follow the instructions on usage and suggested doses. Natural does not always mean safe.
Always seek advice before using an oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This also applies if you are taking any medication or if you have an existing medical condition.
Keep oils away from the eyes and ears, and any areas of sensitive or inflamed skin.
The female hormonal system
Another use for essential oils is balancing the hormones, and you will know how hormonal changes can affect your health, especially if you’re a woman.
The female hormonal system is very sensitive to stress, whether this is caused by eating the wrong type of foods, being under stress, not getting enough sleep, or natural hormonal fluctuations.
Stress of any kind can cause a rise in the stress hormone cortisol in your body. This causes drops in oestrogen and progesterone, which are the 2 main female sex hormones. This causes a range of symptoms such as irritability, anxiousness, PMS, menopausal symptoms that interfere with day to day life, heavy periods, irregular cycles, inability to lose weight, breast tenderness, hair loss, fatigue, insomnia, hypothyroidism, and a reduced sex drive
The low down on female hormones
Hormones are chemicals that are made in small organs called glands. Hormones travel around in the blood, and they regulate the function of organs and other bodily structures.
The hormones that govern many of the changes and important functions in the female body are oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These are made in a woman’s ovaries.
The sex glands develop when a foetus is in the womb. They are inactive during childhood but they become active during puberty. After this, the ovaries release an egg each month, as part of the menstrual cycle.
During puberty, oestrogen builds up the uterine lining, stimulates breast tissue, and thickens the vaginal wall. It also affects plays a part in keeping bones strong, and protects the cardiovascular system.
Progesterone, which is during the second half of the menstrual cycle, prepares the uterine lining for an egg to implant in case of pregnancy, and testosterone stimulates sexual desire, boosts energy, and develops muscle mass.
The balance of hormones in your body is what is important, and this is affected by many factors. The pituitary gland, at the base of your brain, and your ovaries determine changes in the levels of hormones usually, but stress, weight changes, and medications can all cause temporary changes to your hormone levels.
The menopause brings with it permanent changes to hormone levels in the body. The ovaries stop producing eggs, and they stop producing hormones. This gradual decline happens over a number of years, and by their late 30’s women tend to produce less progesterone, and oestrogen levels start to decline. The lack of oestrogen brings about most of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menopause. Fluctuating and falling oestrogen levels disrupt your body’s internal temperature regulation, which causes hot flashes. The falling oestrogen levels also cause sleep problems and changes in the vagina and other pelvic organs.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of the menopause. Not all women experience them but most do. They present as a feeling of heat which appears suddenly and spreads throughout the body. You can also experience sweating and redness of the skin. The flashes range from mild to severe, and vary in frequency from occasional to 20 flashes per day. They can be embarrassing and can have a significant effect on daily life. The flashes can carry on for up to a few years after you have your last menstrual period.
What triggers a hot flash?
Hot flashes can occur without warning, but there are some well-known triggers, including stress, eating spicy foods, and drinking alcohol or coffee.
Treatments for hot flashes
They may be an embarrassing nuisance, but there are some treatments that can help to tackle hot flashes.
One of the most effective treatments for hot flashes, though controversial, is HRT or hormone replacement therapy. HRT replaces the hormones that the body stops producing during the menopause. Most of the uncomfortable symptoms that a woman experiences, including hot flashes, are due to falling oestrogen levels. So, one aim of using HRT is to supplement a woman’s body with oestrogen, to reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms.
Here are the usual oestrogen treatments that are given to women:
Most women on HRT take oestrogen in pill form. They are convenient and inexpensive. Some women can experience side effects such as spotting and headaches.
Oestrogen is also available in patch form. Patches release oestrogen more steadily into the bloodstream, so side effects are less pronounced.
Oestrogen vaginal creams
These can help to counter vaginal dryness, and the amount of oestrogen absorbed by this method of application is much less than the amount absorbed with traditional HRT.
A blood pressure medication called clonidine can reduce the severity and the frequency of hot flashes in some women. It works by suppressing hormone surges in the brain. Common side effects include dry mouth and fatigue. Another similar blood pressure medication, propranolol, is sometimes prescribed for menopausal women. It’s a beta-blocker which controls the dilation of the blood vessels that can cause hot flashes.
Antidepressants such as fluoxetine that raise serotonin levels can reduce hot flashes and irritability.
Complementary therapies for hot flashes
There is some evidence to suggest that supplementation with soy, black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose oil might help. Acupuncture also has some supporting evidence, though studies are small. Always tell your doctor before commencing any alternative therapy, as they can interact badly with some medications or cause damage in the long term.
Self-help for hot flashes
Try these tips to reduce hot flashes:
Cut out coffee and tea, and stop smoking
Keep the room cool, use a fan if you need to
If you feel like you might be getting a flash, spray your face with a cool water spray or use a cold gel pack
Wear loose layers of light cotton or linen clothes so you can easily take some clothes off if you overheat
Have layers of sheets on the bed rather than a duvet so you can remove them as you need to if flashes bother you at night
cut down on alcohol
Sip cold or iced drinks
Have a lukewarm shower or bath instead of a hot one
The best essential oils for hot flashes
The oils themselves do not contain hormones but they have properties that stimulate hormone production and balance. Many oils act like phytoestrogens in the body, which means that they balance oestrogen levels; ideal for women who suffer from problems like hot flashes.
Geranium essential oil is extracted from the leaves and stems of the geranium plant. The process used for extraction is steam distillation which helps to preserve the active compounds in its oil. It has haemostatic properties which means that it restricts the blood vessels slightly, which can help to reduce hot flashes.
Use this oil in the daytime as it’s quite stimulating. Dilute it in a suitable carrier oil and apply it to the bottom of your feet. You can also try applying it to your wrists and abdomen after a shower.
Peppermint is one of the best essential oils for hot flashes. It is a colourless oil with a refreshing, but pungent aroma. It can be used both for stimulating and relaxing purposes. It acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means that it reduces blood flow. This is what makes it useful for treating hot flashes, but also for relieving achy and tired legs and feet.
Add 4 drops of the oil to a pint of water and keep it in your refrigerator. Leave it there for a couple of days but shake it well twice a day. Put the mixture in a bottle and soak a cloth in it and apply the mixture directly over the back of your neck and face whenever you experience hot flashes. You can then drink the leftover mixture.
Clary Sage essential oil is effective for use with premenstrual syndrome because it contains natural phytoestrogens that balance oestrogen levels. It also has a relaxing scent and it can also help with menopausal symptoms.
Dilute the oil by adding 15 drops of it to 4 ml of carrier oil. Apply it to the soles of the feet before bed to stop flashes occurring at night.
Lemongrass is very fragrant and refreshing, and it is an excellent choice for reducing hot flashes. It has refreshing and mentally stimulating effects on the mind, while soothing the body. Research has found that lemongrass has a sedating effect on the nervous system. It is also an anti-inflammatory and a vasodilator, which can help to reduce hot flashes.
Simply inhale the oil from a tissue or put it in a diffuser. As with all citrus-based oils, lemongrass can cause sensitivity, so do a patch test first.
Roman chamomile offers many health benefits. The sweet, herby-scented oil is great for your skin and nervous system, and it’s known for its calming effect, which makes it a good choice for reducing hot flashes.
Roman Chamomile oil works very well when mixed with peppermint and clary sage oil. Clary Sage oil balances mood, and peppermint is great for reducing hot flashes. Add 8 drops of each oil to 1 ounce of witch hazel extract and some water in a spray bottle. Spritz it on your skin or around your room to reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
Cypress oil is very effective for hot flashes. It has detoxifying effects on your body and it also helps to reduce cellulite and banishes water retention. Its soothing effects also help maintain emotional and hormonal balance. It has strong cooling properties that make it a good choice for anyone suffering from hot flashes.
You can add cypress essential oil to your bath to get the benefits. Add 6-8 drops to the water and have a relaxing soak. You can make it even more effective by adding a couple of drops of geranium and clary sage oil to your bathwater along with the cypress oil.
Lemon has a refreshing effect on the body and mind. It can soothe indigestion, improve nutrient absorption and relieve constipation. Lemon also boosts energy and it is a potent vasodilator, which helps to reduce hot flashes. Use in the same way a lemongrass, and the same cautions regarding skin sensitivity apply.
Like clary sage, this type of sage is effective for hot flashes. Studies have found that sage reduces both the frequency and intensity of night sweats and hot flashes. Though not completely understood, oestrogenic compounds in the plant are effective at balancing hormones and limiting the hormonal surge that create excess heat in the body, and therefore limit hot flashes.
Like lemon, lime can lift the mood and boost energy. It is also an effective vasodilator so it can reduce hot flashes.
Lavender can reduce the impact that night sweats and hot flashes can have on sleep by promoting good quality sleep. One study has suggested that lavender can improve the quality of sleep by around 60%. If you add poor sleep to the mood swings and fatigue that accompany menopause, you can appreciate the impact that these might have on menopausal women. Sniff it from a handkerchief or put it into a diffuser to get the benefits.
Lilac essential oil has more uses than just smelling good? It is said that it is worth more than just looking pretty on your bathroom counter or emanating a sweet smell from your person? Lilac is not known for being effective for health uses or any other uses for that matter.
The warm dark recess of your belly button is a prime target for bacterial and fungal infections. These infections can strike at any age and are more likely to be a problem if you already suffer from certain health issues or have piercings.
In this article we’ll take a look at the causes of, and risk factors for belly button infections and find out how to treat the problem with simple, proven, natural remedies.
How can essential oils treat headaches? You would think the sweet-smelling aromas of essential oils would give you a headache. But there are some out there that are saying essential oils can treat and relieve headaches even migraines. How this is done at this point remains a mystery.