Monthly Archives: May 2016

the big, burning question, answered (sort of), part i of iii

I am sharing this blog piece written by a dear friend who is always aver so eloquent in expressing her point of view (often shared by myself and so many others in the aromatic community). I highly encourage anyone engaged in buying essential oils to read this. (PS…there’s no brand bashing)

Of all of the questions I’m asked as an aromatherapist, the question about “which brand” of essential oils I recommend is BY FAR the most commonly posed — it’s also one of the most problematic and troublesome questions to answer. It’s especially precarious to provide a pat answer on a blog….

For me to really address this question meaningfully takes a lot of energy, honesty, and context, especially as I find it impossible to answer in short fashion. So I’ll be “answering” this question in three parts.

My “big picture” has to be in place for you to understand and appreciate my response, not least because my thinking challenges the context of the question itself.

So, rather than answer the question by naming a company, I’m going to walk you through how I address this question in the context of my workshops–and that’s going to take more than one post. My response will come in three parts: my perspective on…

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Cancer and Essential Oils

Frankincense resinCancer is a concern that affects millions of people around the world. With such a prominent disease there are a lot of researchers working diligently to develop treatments. A treatment that has been gaining a lot of traction in the most recent years involves the use of essential oils; more specifically, the use of Frankincense (Boswellia Carterii) essential oil. Despite the links to Frankincense essential oil and the treatment of cancer, it is not a miracle cure. In world where news sources are posting misleading articles it is important to discern what is good research to determine what benefits Frankincense actually possesses.

Frankincense resin  

It is important to understand how and why Frankincense is being linked as a cancer treatment. This essential oil is produced from the Boswellia trees found in India and Africa. The cancer treating chemical in Frankincense is boswellic acid which has anti-neoplastic properties. Anti-neoplastic properties have the ability to prevent or inhibit the development of a tumor. This information is where most claims regarding Frankincense being a cure for cancer are derived. However it is important to know that Frankincense oil does not actually contain boswellic acid, as the molecule is too heavy to be volatile (Tisserand, 2016) and therefore does not come out in the distillation process. Boswellic acid can be found in Frankincense resin because the molecular weight can be supported. So far there is limited research involving Frankincense resin and cancer. While some of the results are promising there isn’t enough to conclude the resin as a treatment.

Good research              

When it comes to Frankincense research most studies are done in vitro. In vitro studies are studies conducted outside the body’s biological context in single case. This type of research isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means the research is a long way away from being a treatment. Researchers Mark Barton Frank, Qing Yang and their colleagues did a study testing Frankincense oil.This study involved a range of concentration of Frankincense oil in which the oil was able to distinguish cancerous cells from normal bladder cells (Frank and Yang, 2009). Frankincense oil was able to induce bladder cancer cell death via multiple pathways activated by the oil. The important thing to note about this study is that it states that this isn’t a cure for cancer and more research is needed. Overall the study provided good evidence that could suggest future treatments involving Frankincense.

This research article makes no claims. As stated before, Frankincense oil contains no boswellic acid, but the resin does. This study tested the oil and had results regarding cancer cell death. The researchers further explain that this study is in vitro in an attempt to explain the benefits of Frankincense oil however in vitro testing (in a petri dish) does not necessarily translate to the same or similar effect in the human body. Acknowledging that Frankincense resin has anti-tumor properties allows for further research with the oil to determine if the oil has these similar properties. A follow-up study can be done to see if the resin has a greater effect on bladder cancer cells than the oil. While this research is well done, the final results show some promise but further research needs to be done to prove Frankincense oil as a treatment.

False claims      

In the last couple of months, there has been an article floating around on various Aromatherapy groups making false claims regarding Frankincense oil. Most of the people in the (facebook) Aromatherapy groups were debating the accuracy and credibility of the article. This article made outrageous statements with regard to breast cancer. It stated that topical treatment of Frankincense oil can cure cancer, as it claimed to have cured the author’s own cancer. This is a single claim by one person and one that has not been validated by credible source. It could be true that this author had their cancer cured, but that doesn’t mean that it was cured by Frankincense oil nor does it guarantee it will work for everyone. This claim also doesn’t include any other methods or treatments the author was receiving that could have contributed to their cure. It is also important to note that since doing research and writing this blog post the article has been taken down. There are no current records of this article, and the group posts have been deleted.

If this author did cure her breast cancer that is a wonderful thing and nothing should take that away from her. The problem is suggesting that it can cure all breast cancer and it puts light on the Aromatherapy industry. Making these claims without any research can give people false hope that their cancer can be cured. The article then goes into detail making more individual cases of Frankincense curing cancer, which is nothing more than shared testimonials that have not been evaluated and validated. There is no definitive research available on the oil or resin that suggest Frankincense can cure any form of cancer. Research is being done to determine the connection between the oil or resin and treatment.

For a fun look at the reality of scientific research check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Rnq1NpHdmw

References  

Frank M B, Yang Q, Osban J, Azzarello J T, Saban M R, Saban R, Ashley R A, Welter J C, Fung K-M, Lin H-K. (2009). Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complement Altern Med. 9 (6). Published online. Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664784/. Last accessed 8 March 2016.

Tisserand R. (2016). Frankincense Oil and Cancer in Perspective.  Available: http://tisserandinstitute.org

Additional resources/reading

http://tisserandinstitute.org/frankincense-oil-and-cancer-in-perspective/

http://roberttisserand.com/2015/03/frankincense-essential-oil-and-cancer/

http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=15052

 

http://tisserandinstitute.org/citrus-oils-and-breast-health/

by Bryant Hernandez, Graduate in Integrative Health Technologies

Improving the Immune System

Essential oil.fruitveg.supplmntSix essential oils for boosting immunity  

Spring is here and that means so are stuffy noses and annoying coughs. With seasonal changes we are more susceptible to becoming ill. A good way to avoid being under the weather is to keep the immune system strong. The immune system is the line of the defense for the body and is what keeps us healthy. There are many ways to boost immunity from essential oils to minimal exercise. Keeping the immune system healthy isn’t a one time job, it takes work and requires different methods to keep it in top shape. Great ways to boost your immunity include essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins.

Essential oils  

Using essential oils to boost immunity is an excellent way to ensure you stay healthy through seasonal changes. These essential oils are some that have great immunity properties; Spearmint, Balsam Copaiba, Sweet Orange, Rosalina, Clary Sage, and Tea Tree. Of course there are more oils that can improve immune system but these six oils have specific properties which are for the immune system.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

This essential oil has a great scent but also contains the chemical carvone. Carvone is part of the ketone functional group and possesses antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Carvone is abundant (62.85%) in Spearmint. Using a little Spearmint (1 drop per 5 ml) in a massage oil or 3-4 drops in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per day is a great way to boost the immune system as it helps to loosen and expel mucous and cool and reduce fever.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera langsdorfii Desf., Copaifera officinalis)

Copaiba Balsam is rich in β-caryophyllene (65.7%), a chemical with biological activity that helps improve immunity. β -Caryophyllene is part of the sesquiterpene functional group and can be useful immunostimulant as well as having antiviral properties. It is also used to relieve general aches and pains that accompany illness. It can be used in massage oil and diffuser blends and pair well aromatically with Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood, and Jasmine.

Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) 

When it comes to boosting immunity d-limonene, a monoterpene gets the job done. Sweet Orange essential oil is rich in d-limonene (96%) containing more than Lemon essential oil (65%).  Limonene-rich oils are an excellent general tonic for the immune system. They are also wonderful decongestants, are antibacterial and effective antioxidants making very efficient for boosting immunity. The aroma of limonene-rich oils is bright and pleasant and can add a little sunshine to the otherwise gray outlook that comes with illness.

Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)

Rosalina is in the Melaleuca family and is also known as Lavender Tea Tree. Rosalina is rich in linalool (35-55%), a monoterpenol. Linalool is commonly found in Lavender in smaller amounts (approximately 37%). Linalool is wonderful in combating airborne microbes making it a useful addition to air mists/spray and for blends used in vaporizers and diffusers. Linalool also helps to relax the nervous system encouraging much needed rest. Consider blending the pleasant-smelling Rosalina with Lavender, Lemon, and Tea Tree. Blending these oils and using in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per dayis an excellent way to boost the immune system.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclerea)

Rich in linalyl acetate (50-75%), an ester, Clary sage essential oil is great for balancing the body and allowing it to function properly. The bioactive properties of linalyl actate include, but are not limited to, reducing pain and inflammation, fighting bacteria, relaxing the nervous system and stimulating the immune system. This essential oil is also nice for improving mood by lifting the spirits. Clary Sage blends well with Lavender, Cedarwood, and Bergamot.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Tea Tree essential oil contains terpinen-4-ol (30-80%), a monoterpenol that is highly antibacterial and antiviral. Terpenin-4-ol also helps to boost white blood cells, hence improving immunity making Tea Tree essential oil a “must have” in the medicine cabinet. Use the oil during seasonal changes in a diffuser or environmental spray mist.

Essential oils aren’t the only way to help the body to help itself improve immunity. Another great way to improve the immune system is through the use of herbs.

Herbs

We have been using herbs to improve immunity for centuries. Plants are one of the oldest and purest ways to improve the body. Two herbs that can improve the immune system are Ginseng and Echinacea.

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) 

Ginseng root is known for its immune building properties. Extracts from the stems, leaves and mostly the root have shown to maintain homeostasis of the immune system. The root of the herb also increases resistance to illness and microbial infections. The way Ginseng does this is by boosting the immune system functions. Macrophage activity increases when Ginseng is consumed. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that will consume foreign substances. Increasing macrophage activity will put the body on alert allowing it to combat foreign substances more efficiently. Ginseng can be consumed in many forms, pills, powder, and tea. When buying Ginseng products it is important to note what parts of the plant are being used and what percentage of the product is actually Ginseng. Looking for a product label to ensure that the whole plant is used. If the whole herb isn’t being used then the benefits of Ginseng may not be as effective.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs, especially in the United States. Echinacea, when used preventatively is great for reducing cold symptoms. The herb itself is great for boosting immunity, as it contains chemicals derived from the root; such as polysaccharides, flavonoids, chicoric acid, polyacetylenes and alkylamides. The root contains high levels of volatile oils which are odorous compounds. An example would be isobutylamide, an alklymide that provides taste and smell of Echinacea. As for the plant portion it has polysaccharides which set off activity in the immune system. Polysaccharides release TNF (tumournecrosis factor) which will increase the levels of macrophage interlekin-1 and interferon beta-2. Alkylamide and chicoric acid will also boost immunity by stimulating phagocytosis. The chemicals in Echinacea stimulate phagocyte activity improving the body’s health and wellness.

These are just two of many herbs that improve immunity, however they are the two that are most readily available.

Food and vitamins

Incorporating certain foods and vitamins into the diet is another way to increase immunity. Great foods to introduce into the diet would be garlic, red bell peppers, broccoli, and ginger. Garlic helps increase immunity by having sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. Allicin is a organosulfer compound that has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral activity. Red bell peppers are high on vitamin C and is a great source of beta-carotene. Vitamin C maintains skin health and prevents colds, while beta-carotene helps maintain proper eye health. Broccoli is a great food with vitamins A, C and E. This vegetable is also loaded with antioxidants which helps prevent certain types of cell damage. Finally ginger has similar effects as it contains vitamin C. In addition, ginger has the added benefit of helping the body to reduce cholesterol. This plant contains many vitamins and minerals such as; thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, and magnesium. The combination of these vitamins and minerals allows the body to reduce cholesterol and maintain a balanced immune system.

Vitamins provide a great impact when comes to supporting the immune system. The foods listed above have the necessary vitamins to help boost the immune system, but they can also be consumed in pill form as well. Some of the best vitamins for boosting immunity are vitamin A, C, E and B12.

Using a combination of essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins can be a very effective way way to improve immunity. Keeping a strong immune system is a year long task and requires many different ways to keep it healthy.

By Bryant Hernandez, Student Health Administration