By Kat Farber, LMT, BCMT
Aromatherapy (use of essential oils) can be a helpful, safe, and enjoyable method of practicing self-care for pain, as well as other conditions. But before you reach for an essential oil, there are some important things you should know to be safe, how to select the right oil for your concern, and where to find reliable information when you have questions.
In using essential oils, it is important to first acknowledge an important misconception; just because something is “natural” does not immediately indicate that it is safe. There are several considerations and risks to be aware of prior to using essential oils on yourself, family members, or others.
Finding and Using Essential Oils
To remain unbiased, I will not be recommending a particular brand. Contrary to some marketing messages, there are many companies that provide high quality essential oils. When looking for essential oils to buy, a small amount of internet research will be helpful.
Keep in mind, marketing tactics such as labeling essential oils “certified” or “therapeutic grade” are just that; marketing tactics. There is no independent professional organization that certifies or grades essential oils; or creates a standard for what these terms mean. The FDA does approve some essential oils as “food grade.” They do not approve the products of individual companies, and food grade does not indicate it is safe to use on a daily or regular basis. It does not mean the essential oil would be unsafe, either. The FDA does not regulate essential oils as supplements; nor does any other independent organization.
Many smaller companies will have explanations of their quality control on their websites, and they welcome questions freely. Ask a couple of simple questions. If they are upfront and willing to disclose their process, you are likely in the right place. Comparing a few will begin to give you an idea of what to look for, as well as picking up a couple of books on the topic.
When choosing an oil, it is also key to know the botanical name of the oil you are looking for and what you are purchasing. Lavender, for instance, is a very common essential oil and works for several therapeutic reasons. It’s important to know, there are over 70 varieties of lavender available and four very common ones: Lavandula angustifolia, Lavendula latifolia, Lavandula officinalis, and Lavadin. Each has slightly different therapeutic effects.
Essential Oils for Assisting Pain Issues
Essential oils are often categorized in groups designated by their major chemical constituents. The constituents monoterpene and sesquiterpenes are known to have an analgesic (pain relief) effect. (De Sousa, 2011) Essential oils with combinations of these and other constituents allow them to be effective in assisting various types of pain. Some of which are listed below.
Muscle Aches and Pains
Essential oils are not a replacement for medical care. For specific conditions and if you are currently on medications, please seek advisement from your healthcare provider.
For further study, or to purchase a reference book, please see the Reference list below. If you are interested in continued professional education in Aromatherapy, please visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website for vetted educational programs at www.NAHA.org.
About the Author: Kat Farber, LMT, BCMT
Kat Farber, LMT, BCMT, a certified aromatherapist, has a clinical massage private practice in Memphis, TN focusing oncology massage, auto-immune disorders, and pain management. Please feel free to contact her with any questions. Her website is www.SailleHealingPath.com.
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