Add as bookmark

Diverse Clinical Applications of Essential Oils

by Valerie Jenner(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 54 - July 2000

As many therapists will be aware, there is an on-going debate about the quality, purity and safety of products that are used in aromatherapy treatments. The issue is further muddied by the uses to which essential oils can be pu The weekend of 5/6th February 2000 in Hull saw a small gathering of invited Natural Therapy workers. The group, from all over the UK, had come to see a presentation at Barbara Payne's College of Aromatherapy by Dr Dominique Baudoux to those who had been taking part in trial tests of the essential oil products from his French company Pranarom. Over the two days, the chemical nature and uses of the oils, hydrosols, frictions, capsules and other products were explained in great depth to an audience composed of highly skilled professionals.

Use of Essential Oils in the UK and Europe

As many therapists will be aware, there is an on-going debate about the quality, purity and safety of products that are used in aromatherapy treatments. The issue is further muddied by the uses to which essential oils can be put and the code of practice which does not allow oils to be administered by mouth. To many aromatherapists the latter point is a non-starter, as many college courses will gloss over this as 'something we don't do' or 'the jury is still out on this one' – which in the UK it undoubtedly is. This is 'something we don't do' because there is a difference between aromatology (with its roots in phytotherapy) as practised on the Continent, and aromatherapy as practised in the UK.

In France, essential oils are prescribed by doctors for a range of conditions and applied topically and/or used in compresses, inhalations, pessaries, suppositories and capsules; in fact, only doctors can make a diagnosis and give a prescription. There is an understanding of the chemical nature and therapeutic uses of the oils themselves. In the UK, we really use a separate therapy, massage – with dilute, aromatic oils and, adhering to the code of practice, can only make recommendations. Many therapists, some working in mainstream medicine, often report excellent results with the massage techniques they use. Oils, in diffusers, on tissues, in creams, compresses, in warm baths, gargles, and topically under certain conditions (many oils are contra-indicated for use directly on the skin) often makes up the sum total of safe ways that oils can be used here.

The training undertaken by British aromatherapists means that they may not be aware of the variety of ways that oils and associated products are being used on the Continent and by those with an interest in aromatology.

We do seem now to be moving in the right direction through the unstinting work of the Aromatherapy Organisations Council (AOC)[1] and the increasing willingness of the Government to listen to the 'alternative' approach to good health; the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords has set up a sub-committee to examine the education and regulation of complementary and alternative medicine as well as the possible provision of complementary medicine on the NHS.

Diffusers and essential oil burners can be used to reduce odours and kill air-borne bacteria.

Diffusers and essential oil burners can be used to reduce odours and kill air-borne bacteria.


Purity and Safety of Essential Oils

The debate about the quality, purity and safety of the products used in aromatherapy was mentioned earlier in the article. To gain the trust of the public and to prove the therapeutic value of the oils used, it is of paramount importance that their general excellence can be demonstrated and a copper-bottomed assurance of quality offered.

• Nearly 300 essential oils are available to professionals, all chemotyped and meeting the most stringent quality requirements. Pierre Franchomme developed the research to identify chemotypes and this information has cut down the frequency of therapeutic errors as each chemotype possesses distinct therapeutic qualities. Rosemary, for example, grows in the Mediterranean. The chemotypes found in Morocco, Spain and France will synthesize a different essence as the soil, sun, altitude and surrounding flora will all influence the eventual chemotype

• They are steam-distilled slowly under low pressure with distillation time being respected to extract all the chemical molecules. Because of cost and the scarcity of some oils, unscrupulous manufacturers can be willing to cut corners.

• The oils are 100% natural, organically grown, from certified biological or wild plants and are 100% authentic because they are not adulterated by synthetic agents or mixed with other essential oils.[2]

This quality control is strictly applied over the entire product range from the essential oil complexes, hydrosols, frictions, vegetable oils and capsules through to a comprehensive skin care and beauty range. (Very young children can take the capsules as soon as they can swallow, with meals and a cold drink and the capsules can also be split.)

Therapeutic Application of Essential Oils

The uses of various oils and the ever-increasing acceptance of their use within commerce, industry and the medical profession were areas covered over the weekend. Within the medical arena, it seems clear that oils are going to become more important in the treatment of viruses, cancer and parasites. Case studies indicate that a number of diseases and illnesses could respond well to a combination of topical application, capsules and pessaries or suppositories.

The assembled therapists heard of a naturopath in Canada who played an important part in the eventual recovery of a little boy from viral cancer. Eighteen months earlier ten children were given the same diagnosis at the same hospital in Montreal and all followed treatment based on chemotherapy and antibiotics. One father, watching his son's weight fall drastically, felt he had nothing to lose by taking his son to a naturopath. This was obviously resisted by the doctor in charge who eventually agreed on condition that the child remained in hospital. Treatment began which included large quantities of essential oils. After six months the boy went home – the only survivor of the ten children.[3]

Melaleuca alternifolia (tea-tree) applied along the spine after surgery seems to help the body come back to health. On a less urgent note, Lavandula latifolia, applied topically, is very good for wasp stings and 8-10 drops may be put on at frequent intervals until the site returns to normal. An easy way to administer an oil is on sugar cube where it will be absorbed through the veins under the tongue.

A typical dosage will be three drops per cube. In the case of Mentha piperita, eight drops may be taken on a sugar cube under the tongue to 'blast' the symptoms of a suspected bout of flu or sickness. This oil is a marvellous digestive and olfactive tonic: it stimulates the secretion of bile and is good for the liver. Travel sickness also responds to the sugar cube treatment (it should be noted that peppermint is contra-indicated for pregnancy, nursing mothers and young children).

Topically used, Melaleuca quinquenervia (niaouli) has proved beneficial in preventing radio-therapy burns; six drops can be put on the site of the treatment and will not interfere with the radiotherapy itself. Niaouli also works well on streptococci and MRSA (albeit via a different interface). Similarly, migraine (if no hypertension is present) will respond to peppermint oil being rubbed on the forehead and neck.

Antiviral and Antibacterial Propertiesof Essential Oils

We are all aware now that antibiotics, though destroying pathogens and other germs, can depress our immune systems: we are, it seems, developing resistance to them. The greatest strength of essential oils is that they can rapidly defeat all forms of infection. Most infections can be neutralized without difficulty and can be controlled in 12 to 24 hours (under certain conditions). Antibiotics are composed of a single molecule, while essential oils may contain up to 450 different molecules (many as yet unidentified) making resistance improbable. As most readers will be aware, there is increasing concern about the number of people being infected by potentially fatal bugs in hospital. According to a report by the National Audit Office (February 2000) 100,000 people fall ill and as many as 5,000 people a year may be dying as a result of HAIs (hospital acquired infections). In extreme cases, antibiotic resistant superbugs like MRSA can spread through hospitals.

The causes are often complex and there is no 'quick fix'; however, the group was told that hospitals in Japan were well advanced in their use of anti-viral, anti-bacterial essential oils via the air-conditioning systems. It would seem that there is great potential for this approach in the UK.

(Cinnamomum verum has been proved useful where nursing homes have MRSA.)[3]

Essential Oil Capsules in Europe

Essential oil capsules are familiar products in the pharmacies of the Continent. In Britain, aromatologists are trained to make their own capsules. This Belgian company produces four single oil capsules; a new range of capsules in easy-to-use blister packs with easy instructions and product liability insurance is now available in the UK:

Mandarin helps relaxation, achieves calm and aids sleep;

Basil helps digestion and relaxes muscular pains;

Dragon makes breathing easier when there is pollen and dust;

Oregano for internal and external aggressions while boosting the body's natural defences.

Immunessence, Digestarom and Travel Caps are synergistic blends and fairly self explanatory, while Dolarom is said to ease spasm (due to digestive and urinary problems). Therapists have found the latter very successful for painful menstruation.

Medicins Sans Frontiers have been using the capsules and oils for three years. Often Aid workers have to live in difficult, dirty and stressful situations and are exposed to many diseases. The products help to keep their valuable field workers healthy and resistant to foreign bugs e.g. Oregano capsules are used to prevent openness to local infections; six capsules per day will be taken for a week. The oil Ocimum basilicum (exotic basil) as well as being good for digestion, is also proving to be effective for painful periods, and six capsules may be taken daily. It is recommended that the capsules be discontinued for a period of ten days to a week if they are being taken for a long time. Travel Caps may well prove a useful addition to the backpack of a roaming student; one capsule per day acting as a preventative and three/four daily should illness strike.

Essential Oils and Behaviour

There is a great deal of research going on regarding the effectiveness of essential oils on human behaviour. Psycho-olfactive treatments for obsessions and addictions use oils in the air via nebulizers and diffusers to access the limbic system. This is the part of the brain considered to be responsible for releasing chemicals that affect the endocrine system, the nervous system and the psychology of the brain. The limbic system is considered to be the oldest part of the brain and is accessed directly through the olfactory system; therefore as we breathe in the air we can also take in the molecules of essential oils with a direct effect on the chemistry of the brain and its ability to affect our moods.

Companies are increasingly using oils to alter the mood of clients and/or staff. The ability of music to change our moods has been used by the retail trade for some years now (just take note the next time you are in supermarket). To use Japan as an example again – it was noted that when peppermint was used via the air-conditioning system people seemed to be more efficient. Two weeks later lavender was used and staff worked well and seemed relaxed. After this mandarin was used – the results showed that people appeared not to work quite as hard but were nicer to each other!3 One company taking the therapeutic benefits of essential oils very seriously is unsurprisingly Estee Lauder who have commissioned a trial on 100 people using a body spray with anti-stress properties.

Other Applications of Essential Oils

Many people are familiar and comfortable with using diffusers and oil burners to clear the air in their homes of unpleasant aromas and to kill air-borne bacteria. This method with the oil Citrus reticulata (mandarin zest) is very helpful for a child who is having difficulty sleeping, being used 30 minutes before bedtime to promote feelings of relaxation and peacefulness.

Veterinary medicine is an area with which many therapists will be unfamiliar, but even here the benefits of essential oils are being felt. The group heard of a colleague in SW France who had undertaken trials on horses, giving them constructive bronchitis. Conventional drugs were used followed by essential oils. He then videotaped the lungs using an endoscope which provided evidence that essential oils were twice as efficient as many conventional drugs in healing the illness.

Dominique Baudoux believes passionately in the effectiveness of essential oils. The day before he came to Hull from Belgium, his wife was convinced he would not make it because of the onset of flu-type symptoms. Dominique treated himself using large quantities of Ravensara (with the sugar cube method) and certainly did not present any symptoms to his audience. Ravensara is a good expectorant so helps loosen and remove mucus. It is very well tolerated on the skin and can be used for babies when dilute. It will stop infection if used early.

Similarly some time ago, he used Immortelle following an operation to extract wisdom teeth lasting nearly three hours. He had bruising from his neck to his shoulders but no facial bruising where he had rubbed the oil.

The acceptance of the therapeutic uses of oils and associated products is a destination we are slowly moving towards. We may find in the next few years that we adopt a position similar to that of France where oils are administered internally by various means via professionally trained practitioners.


1. Aromatherapy Organisations Council, PO Box 19834, London SE25 6WF. Tel: 020 8251 7912; Fax: 020 8251 7942.
2. Pranarom Directory. Available from Pranarom UK, D'Oyles, 5 Jarratt Street, Kingston Square, Hull HU1 3HB. Tel: 01482 581 776; Fax: 01482 581 774.
3. Dominique Baudoux case notes. Available from Pranarom UK. See reference 2 above.t and the code of practice which does not allow oils to be administered by mouth.


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Valerie Jenner



    Aromatherapy creams & candles. Heal naturally No side effects. Holistic treatments, powerful courses

top of the page