Essential Oil Usage in Perspective
The more we use essential oils, the more we want to learn about them, and it may help to be aware that there are what is sometimes referred to as different "schools of thought" or perspectives regarding their usage. In your quest to learn more about the use of essential oils, you'll find it helpful to understand the perspective the author generally ascribes to and the reasons behind their perspective.
It is noted by some that in aromatherapy there are basically three general viewpoints for the use of essential oils. They claim that the German perspective is said to emphasize inhalation as the best way to receive the benefits of essential oils. Inhalation puts oil molecules directly into the bloodstream through the lungs, as well as directly into the brain through the olfactory nerves which connect to the central brain through the limbic system. Using our sense of smell when diffusing essential oils into the air can be a powerful way to bring God's healing molecules into our lungs and promote relaxation through the numerous properties of essential oils. Inhalation is one of the safest ways to benefit from essential oils, but it is certainly not exclusively a German tradition, as it is a practice found in every culture that uses essential oils.
The British/English perspective is noted by Jane Buckle RN, PhD to "focus on using diluted essential oils up to 5% applied to the skin in a massage. Essential oils are used mainly for relaxation, stress management and sometimes for upper respiratory-tract infections. There are no reports of toxic effects from using essential oils in this way."1 They acknowledge that there are occasions where one might choose to use an essential oil undiluted such as Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) or Lavender (Lavendula angustifulia), and they discourage taking essential oils orally without appropriate education to avoid the potential risks involved. This is a traditional and conservative perspective. They acknowledge that some of their conclusions about safety issues may point to testing done on animals and research where a single component of an essential oil has been isolated in a laboratory, and they understand that this may present an imbalanced view because this type of testing disregards the fact that the whole, unaltered essential oil with all the components may behave differently since God designed the complete set of components to quench, support and promote each other to work together in a balance that cannot be duplicated in a laboratory. While understanding this helps bring balance to the cautions, they nevertheless see the value of following safety guidelines that minimize potential risks of harm as they optimize the benefits.
We've learned from French doctors about the use of essential oils as a valid form of treating health issues of all kinds. They believe that high-quality essential oils can be taken orally, applied topically (some undiluted) and used rectally and vaginally (diluted). The oils that absolutely require dilution are diluted, and the ones that are not suitable for internal use are not used in this manner.
Dr. Daniel Penoel, a native Frenchman and medical doctor, uses essential oils in the treatment of his patients. He claimed, "In my country, we've given millions and millions of clinical treatments with essential oils." It is from this medical application that the term "Aromatic Medicine" was coined. Penoel referred to the "English style aromatherapy" as "relaxed aromatherapy." He writes: "In ESA, essential oils are not slightly diluted, but significantly diluted in the vegetable oil." He asks: "What happens when we use [essential oils] without diluting them? With many current essential oils, nothing dangerous or serious will happen!" He goes on to say: "In medical aromatherapy, and especially within the framework of urgent or intensive treatment, the objective is to get the essential oil to penetrate with its concentrated material energy (aromatic molecules) into the body. Not only do we want to achieve this penetration of matter, but we seek ways to facilitate and accelerate the speed of the penetration. While recognizing the extreme importance of massage and its irreplaceable value in all its aspects, the medical aromatherapist uses all three interfaces to get the aromatic ingredient in concentrated form in urgent combat with infection from bacteria, viruses and fungi. As soon as essential oil is mixed with vegetable oils, transcutaneous transfer (absorption through the skin) will be slowed. This is the exact opposite of medical aromatherapy's goal to create high-speed penetration."2 Kurt Schnaubelt Ph.D. notes that "French aromatherapy literature contains many references to using oils internally." He goes on to note that "generally 1 drop is always enough when ingesting essential oils."3
Jane Buckle, RN, PhD writes: "Some aromatherapists (including myself) are trained in both external and internal methods of aromatherapy." She notes that: "The French approach to aromatherapy may use several milliliters of undiluted essential oil on the skin at a time, sometimes several times a day. Physicians may also give patients gelatin capsules (each containing three or four drops of essential oils diluted in a carrier oil or gel) to be taken orally three or four times a day. Essential oils given in this way are used to treat infection or chronic conditions and are rarely used for relaxation. There is more chance of toxicity from the oral route, although there have been virtually no cases recorded. The majority of French physicians who use essential oils in this way are working alongside bacteriologists and pharmacists, and are well aware of toxicity issues. A potential toxicity hazard could occur when untrained people use essential oils orally and ingest too much."
These perspectives show how versatile and powerful essential oils can be. We see that quality essential oils have healing properties, and when used within safe parameters they are effective by inhalation, topically and some for ingestion if/when the need calls for it.
Here's a little fictional scenario to convey a point. (I was not literally born in France, but this is the "story" of my journey using essential oils.)
I was born in France where all I knew for several years was the French language and culture. I generally used all the oils right out of the bottle. If it was a *hot* oil, I applied it to the bottoms of my feet both for convenience and to spare my skin. For pain, I applied the oils directly out of the bottle onto my aching joints. I felt comfortable in France. As I grew, my world broadened, and I discovered England. The British tongue was curious to me, so I listened more and more to their language and adopted some of their ways. I also visited Germany where they were especially fond of inhaling essential oils, and there I learned the value of their culture as well.
At this point in my journey, I have studied French, English and German and have an appreciation for each culture and found that these so-called "schools" are beautifully integrated and not as distinct as I'd been led to believe before I ventured out of "France." Each of these differening methodologies have a place in the therapeutic discipline we call aromatherapy, and these God-given oils can be used and appreciated in many ways without the harm that pharmaceuticals cause.
Job 12:8 implies that we can learn the nature of essential oils through relationship. George Washington Carver (1864-1943) wrote that God spoke to him through creation and led him to discover many uses for peanuts: peanut butter, peanut oil, pigments, flour, plastic. Carver said, "God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless."
Why is this Important?
Those new to using essential oils can become confused if they lack an understanding of the different viewpoints presented in aromatherapy material online or in literature. While we see above that Dr. Penoel notes there are occasions for a more aggressive use of essential oils, for daily use, the oils have traditionally been used for centuries with carriers, as this lessens safety concerns. Jane Buckle writes: "Clearly there is a need and a place for both approaches, and perhaps a compromise that uses both could be the best for both worlds. However, each approach needs to take into consideration the experience, training and expectations of the person giving the essential oils." Ron Guba notes that "this 'French' approach often utilizes comparatively high doses of essential oils both topically and internally, to realize dose-dependent pharmacological effects. This discipline relies on a greater understanding of the chemical structure and the pharmacological/toxicological effects of essential oils, to suggest safe dosage levels and contra-indications for use."4
For those of us "born in France," I think we'll find that these powerful molecules are very effective with traditional dilution, and we can hold an appreciation for the knowledge and experience of the various aromatherapists and their perspectives and seek wisdom for an appropriate balance in essential oil usage.
Aromatherapy books I refer to:
Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
The Animal Desk Reference: Essential Oils for Animals by Melissa Shelton D.V.M.
Aromatherapy A-Z by Patricia Davis
Aromatherapy for Health Professionals by Shirley and Leon Price
Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child by Valerie Worwood
The Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger (valuable for the chemistry of essential oils and the body systems they impact)
The Chemistry of Essential Oils by David Stewart PhD., D.N.M.
The Chemistry of Essential Oils by David Williams
Clinical Aromatherapy by Jane Buckle
The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Worwood
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia (my favorite reference for information about single oils)
Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless
Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (second edition)
The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless
Medical Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
Natural Home Health Care Using Essential Oils by Daniel Pénoël, M.D., Rose-Marie Pénoël
Practice of Aromatherapy by Jean Valnet, M.D.
Reference Guide for Essential Oils compiled by Connie and Alan Higley
1 Buckle, Jane, Clinical Aromatherapy, 2nd Edition 2003, p. 77.
2 Penoel, Daniel and Rose, Natural Home Health Care Using Essential Oils, 1998, page 153.
3 Schnaubelt, Kurt, The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, 2111, page 133.
4 Guba, Ron, Toxicity Myths - the Actual Risks of Essential Oil Use