When I was a teenager, it seemed like I was constantly catching every virus that made a passing glance in my direction. Not only viruses, but then while the virus had me down, it would always develop into something worse. When I caught a cold, I would end up with strep throat or bronchitis. When I had the flu, I often caught something else at the same time. Over the counter cold and flu remedies sometimes helped a little for a short time, but usually not much, not for long, and often gave me some new nastiness to suffer. Eventually I would be given antibiotics for the bacterial infections that invariably lead to horrible yeast infections (seriously, I’d rather combat the flu). I’d get over the virus and the infections, finally begin to feel normal again, usually just in time to catch the next bug or a mutated version of what I just combatted. Essential oils finally (finally!) broke that cycle for me!
I was fifteen or sixteen. I’d had a nagging cold (stuffiness, sinus pain, chronic cough, the usual) that just wouldn’t go away when my aunt came for a visit. She wanted to go shopping. I remember feeling crummy and just wanted to crawl back into bed, but I also wanted to visit with her so I was trying to tough it out. I remember we went to a health food store and she stuck a bottle of Rosemary and a bottle of Eucalyptus in my hands. “What’s this for?” She insisted it would help me feel better. I was skeptical, partly because I felt so crummy, partly because all the usual stuff hardly made me feel any better even when it did help me get over infections. Why would this be any different?
She took me home, heated up a bowl of water, put a drop of each Rosemary and Eucalyptus essential oils in the water, then insisted I hold my face over the bowl with a towel on my head to help hold in the steam. I remember just holding my face down like that caused even more sinus pain and I complained. “Just hold it there”, she insisted. The steam was so strong there was a slight prickly sensation, my throat was so raw it hurt to breathe, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all. But, within a few minutes, my sinuses suddenly began to clear – I could breathe! Then the drainage got really gross, but I was so glad to finally breathe without raking glass across my poor throat, the gross drainage was a minor annoyance.
After that day, I felt like I finally had a fighting chance against the conspiracy of all those microorganisms that were out to get me! I still caught viruses but there was a longer time span between illnesses and I didn’t always develop a bacterial infection too. I’d actually go whole weeks at a time feeling normal!
I also suffered from frequent migraines in my teens, and the doctors had literally put me through everything they could think of (testing, diet, medications) to help me deal with them. Nothing worked for me, nothing seemed to make any difference, and I discovered I was often hypersensitive to side-effects (possible side-effects known to affect 1/1000? I was often that 1). Excedrin (a mix of acetaminophen, caffeine and aspirin) was the only med I found that could dampen the head pain, though it came with its own joy of a painful stomach. Then if the migraine was already in full swing, I couldn’t keep the pills down anyway. Eventually it dawned on me to try EOs for my headaches!
My resources suggested a blend of Lavender and Peppermint essential oils could help headaches. I put a couple drops of each into a couple of tablespoons of carrier oil to sniff and/or apply when needed. Success! This blend helped me fight off an oncoming migraine or, if it had already begun, shorten the time and lessen the severity. (By my twenties, migraines were much less often a problem for me. I suspected the EOs might’ve had something to do with it, but doctors attributed the lessening to my age.)
Within a few years, I’d accumulated a small collection of fairly common essential oils and some reference materials. At first I only learned about essential oils that would help me with my particular problems because, of course, that’s what concerned me. At some point I began to make my own soaps with essential oils good for skin conditions. When another family member discovered an allergy to -paraben additives found in everything, lotions to soaps, I began to make homemade lotions and salves too. I got lots of compliments because these things smelled great and they worked! My sore muscle salve really relaxes overworked muscles so they can go at it again the next day. My healing salve works wonders on diaper rash, bug bites/stings, and hot spots on the dogs. My skin toner finally got my acne under control. (I could go on here, but you get the picture.)
Oddly, my education on essential oils pretty much stalled there. I still used them, of course, and looked up recipes to try in my reference books, but I stopped investigating what other problems essential oils could be used to treat beyond the few common ailments…
…until the Essential Oils Revolution Summit last week!
I wasn’t even aware that they had finally published bona-fide research on the effects and benefits of essential oils. It finally began around 2000, but really, why hadn’t I found these on my own by now? Easy, I’d stopped looking. Whether you’re looking for the scientific research findings, AromaticScience.com, or looking for real-world news articles, GreenMedInfo.com and REALpharmacy.com, there are so many legitimate resource sites now loaded with information and backed up with official research! Not just anecdotal evidence anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, anecdotal evidence is important (it encourages researchers to do their thing), but it’s so easy to just say “yeah, right, sure it worked” and write it off. Or maybe “it may work for you, but that doesn’t mean it will work for me/my condition.” Sometimes that’s true. We are all different, with different problems and different body chemistry. Peppermint may work wonders to ease nausea for some people, but then to some people pure peppermint can actually cause stomach upset. So then what do you do? Experiment. You gotta start somewhere. Just don’t stop searching like I did.
In my post about communication, The Gift of Listening, I mentioned a hip injury that occurred in karate class a few years ago. What I didn’t mention is the fact that now, over four years later, I’m still dealing with hip pain, and after the second surgery in January 2012, I developed Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) – basically when the nerves have been so angry and screaming for so long they can’t shut up. I even had a spinal stimulator implanted this year to block the pain signals from reaching the brain. The stim helps, but I still hurt and my body still reacts to the pain even when my brain isn’t recognizing how much that’s the problem. It’s still not enough – what’s the deal?! I refuse to believe I will be stuck like this for life, but it’s been so long already and my typical day has gone from ‘hop out of bed in the morning and hardly stop until bedtime’ to ‘drag myself from the bed to the couch, maybe by noon, and pretty much stay there until bedtime’.
This is no way to live!
I don’t like strong Rx drugs because even if I can tolerate the horrible side-effects, they take away all I have left – my mind! So I settled into a routine with the so-called ‘mildest’ Rx pain med available plus OTC, taking the absolute max I can “safely” take. I never got full pain relief, but taking the edge off helped keep me sane. This has been going on for years, though, and really can’t continue. How much damage am I doing to my body without even knowing it?
I could kick myself for not considering essential oils! (Seriously, I would kick myself if it were physically possible for me to do so without causing more pain)
While listening to these experts at the Essential Oils Revolution summit speak, I was also taking notes and pulling out various essential oils to play with some new blends. In my present condition, it took several hours to accomplish a few short trips to where I keep my oils and reference books. The blend I was working on initially was for relaxation and inflammation. I had the idea to help my husband who has trouble with restful sleep and shoulder tension since a rotator cuff injury, plus hopefully combat my sleep problems while I was at it. I didn’t even realise it at first, but that first blend of Frankincense, Vetiver, Cedarwood and Lavender made an immediate reduction in my hip pain! I hadn’t actually applied the blend to myself, but in mixing it, I still managed to get a tiny bit on me as well as smelling it. I was so amazed I still can hardly believe it!
When my alarm went off to take my next dose of pain meds, I canceled it quickly to finish the talk I was listening to at the time and promptly forgot about the drugs. About an hour later I realised I still hadn’t taken them and didn’t feel any worse than usual despite the time running out.
Huh, well that’s interesting.
I waited another hour just to see how I would feel – still not too bad. I knew I would need to wean myself off the meds, though, because I’ve taken them for years plus I was afraid that when the pain came back in full force it would be unbearable, but I didn’t want to take the full dose if I really didn’t need it. I opted to cut my dosage down by two pills (out of the nine total I usually take).
It’s been five days so far, and I’ve been able to maintain that reduction without too much trouble. I put that blend in two different containers, one with olive oil that I rub on my hubby at night and one in a lotion base I apply periodically throughout the day. I’m moving around a little more and have some new soreness that is probably as much or more from the unaccustomed movement as from the RSD/source problem. Overall, I’m so impressed and enthusiastic I can hardly contain it! On the surface, or by another’s view, it may not seem like much has changed, but progress is progress no matter how small.
Trust me, when you live with chronic pain, any positive change is huge!
I’m looking forward to the day when I can completely come off these nasty, artificial meds and live a full and active life again. In the meantime, I will continue to rebuild my life, one, tiny, oil drop at a time.