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  • How to Stay Healthy in Cold & Flu Season With Aromatherapy

    Not getting sick

    I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years using essential oils to enhance my health, help me fight stress, and to stave off the colds and flu that make the rounds of every school and workplace. I’ve tried several oils, methods of delivery, and oil combinations. Sometimes I was able to stay healthy and sometimes I got sick. And by sick, I mean I-can-barely-move-without-pain-or-exhaustion sick. So what went right and what went wrong?

    Physical Application vs diffusing

    When I first began using essential oils, I was as gung ho as any excited newbie. I pulled out my oil burner at the first hint of a sniffle or sore throat. I diffused sooooo much tea tree oil, that I seriously considered buying a 30ml bottle. (In case you don’t know, the “standard” essential oil sizes are 5ml and 15ml.) I definitely got fewer colds and flus than I did before I used essential oils. Then I learned about other oils, and began trying them in combination with the tea tree. This meant cleaning the burner a lot more often than I had before. At my newbie level of excitement, this wasn’t a much of a problem.

    After a while, the honeymoon phase ended and real life kicked itself into full gear. Keeping a close eye on the burner so it didn’t go dry was a hassle. Making sure I didn’t fall asleep while the candle was still burning was tiring. Scrubbing the burner between blends became a chore. I couldn’t find the next oil(s) I wanted to use. I didn’t have the time, energy, or money to run to the store to buy more tea lights. Again. My god, I went through a lot of tea lights.

    So I did what anyone would do. I got lazy and tried a bunch of short cuts. Yeah, that went about as well as you might expect. *Cough Sneeze Sniffle*

    Then I learned about safely applying oils to your body. If I started to get sick, I’d pull out my essential oils, dilute them with a carrier oil or lotion and rub them wherever my symptoms were. What I found was that sometimes this worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Most often, when I only applied oils to the area where I felt a symptom, I ended up chasing the symptom around my body. Sore throats turned to stuffy noses, which turned to chest congestion, etc. At the end of the chase, the illness often ended up lodging itself somewhere else. One time, the only places I hadn’t put any essential oils were in my ears and up my nose and I ended up with a set of raging ear and sinus infections that landed me in the ER for migraine level pain in my head. Trust me, ain’t no one got time for that.

    Lesson Learned

    So after all my experiments, here’s what I’ve learned:

    • Essential oils are NOT miracles. They have limitations, just like every thing else. Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re going to get sick. There. I said it. Now let’s move on.
    • If you’ve worn your body down by not eating right or getting enough sleep, essential oils will not magically keep you from getting sick, no matter which oils or how much of each you use.
    • If you wait until you’re good and sick, essential oils will not magically make you better in just a day or two.
    • Quality oils give you better results than cheap oils. Notice I said quality oils, not expensive. That said, brands that are priced far below usual market prices tend to be cheap in every sense of the word.
    • Older oils lose some or all of their therapeutic effects. When you open a bottle, it’s best to write the date on the label so you have it for reference later, if needed.
    • In order to afford quality oils, and to keep them from losing their therapeutic value, it’s ok to buy smaller bottles. In fact, it’s preferred.
    • Speaking of therapeutic, there is no such thing as therapeutic grade. Seriously. It’s a marketing term. Nothing more, nothing less. Many companies who use this descriptor have fine quality oils, but the term itself is meaningless because any pure essential oil is therapeutic.
    • Diffusing oils is the best way to keep the first sign of a cold from getting any worse. It’s also the best means of preventing illness. It’s not, however, a guarantee you won’t get sick.
    • A nebulizer works better than an oil burner, but an oil burner still works just fine.
    • It’s much easier to clean an oil burner by wiping it out with alcohol than by scrubbing with soap and water.
    • If you miss the subtle signs that you’re coming down with something and wake up sick, you’ll probably want to diffuse oils as well as apply them to your body.
    • Don’t abandon your usual remedies just because you’re using essential oils.
    • The extra work of maintaining and cleaning the diffuser and keeping myself stocked in tea lights is totally worth the effort.

    If you’re unsure which oils to use, find a good reference book (check out last week’s blog post for my top suggestions) or consult a professional aromatherapist.

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