January 14, 2013

The Power of Herbal Remedies. ~ Jill Zekanis

These remedies adapt to changes in the environment, unlike their synthetic alternatives. The ability to adapt is useful, especially with the overuse of antibiotics.

In the United States, aromatherapy is a hip, groovy, and ecological “new” way of healing. However, the use of essential oils is ancient and really not anything new. Our grandmothers used these and other plant materials for healing before the advent of pharmaceuticals. In fact, some of the synthetic pharmaceuticals such as Digitalis were made knowing the chemical constituents of healing plants and replicating them for mass consumption.

I believe in herbal remedies for myself. Mother Earth knows and allows for change in these plants from year to year. These remedies adapt to changes in the environment, unlike their synthetic alternatives. The ability to adapt is useful, especially with the overuse of antibiotics.

There is a science in the art of using plants and herbs for healing. Plants and their derivatives, such as essential oils, have chemical constituents that give them their characteristic elements of healing, sort of like signature codes. Some parts of plants are the most beneficial: the root, the leaves, the flowers and/or the resin, depending on the plant.

There can be side effects and it is best to really know about the healing plants or oils before using them.

I have found that not all sources of plant material and essential oils are alike. It is important for me to know the botanical name, the region the plants are grown in, the part of the plant that is available, and the chemical constituents. The more detailed information I receive, the more I trust the product. I typically don’t buy oils retail or from MLMs, as there tends to be little data available.

I also believe that just “being” with certain trees, plants and flowers can be beneficial.

Here are my top 10 favorite essential oils in my medicine kit. I have included the botanical names, part of the plant rendered, my experiences and what I have researched.

1. Lavender,Lavandula angustifolia—flower tops make the essential oil. I have found it useful for wounds, cuts and  to help relax and calm. It is also reported to have antiseptic and antiviral properties. There are a number of types of lavender and the botanical name helps discern the healing properties because not all lavender is alike.

2. Eucalyptus, eucalyptus globulus—leaves and mature branches make the oil. From my experience, it is good for head and chest congestion. It can be used in cough medicine because it is an expectorant. This type of eucalyptus has antiviral and antibacterial action.

3. Frankincense, boswellia carterii—the trunk of the tree is used and also the resin produced. In my experience, this oil can be used to enhance tranquility and well-being. Other properties include use as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent.

4. Sandalwood, santalum album—the “heartwood” of the tree trunk is harvested to produce the resiny oil. This is one of my absolute favorites  because of the fragrance and how it makes me feel. This oil helps me to ground, balance and calm myself. Like the above oils, it has  antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

5. Grapefruit, citrus paradisii—the oil is derived from the peel or the “zest” of the fruit. I find it uplifting. The oil is known to relieve anxiety and depression (not deep depression). Surprisingly, it also can be a lymphatic and digestive stimulant. I use this sometimes with frankincense because I like the combination.

6. Everlasting, helichrysum italicum—flowers are used to make the oil. This one is terrific for wound healing, burns, cuts and skin conditions. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

7. Rosemary, rosmarinus officinalis—the oil is extracted from the leaves and the flower tops. My mantra is “use rosemary to remember”. A while back, when I took my massage exam, there was a woman who said this to me, and handed me the oil. It is a stimulant of sorts. But, that aside, I have found this helpful for head and chest congestion and it can be used in a cough medicine. It is also reputed to be antiviral.

8. Ravensara, ravensara aromatica—the leaves are the source of the essential oil. A gal in my aromatherapy class swore by this oil for any kind of typical immune reactions such as flu or cold symptoms. The oil is known to possess antibacterial, and antiviral properties and acts as an immune stimulant.

9. Bergamot, citrus aurantium—essential oil is produced from the peel of the fruit, like the grapefruit. I like the aroma of this one and it helps me feel lighter. It is helpful for anxiety, depression (similar to grapefruit) and nervous tension. It is also antiseptic. Caveat, you ought not go out in the sun after applying this as there is the chance for phototoxicity. That is, your skin is more sensitive to the sun and you can burn or have a reaction. Living in Oregon, I rarely worry about this.

10. Tea tree, melaleuca alternifolia—the leaves produce this powerful oil. I have used this for years for everything under the sun. Besides lavender, this is another of my go to oils. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral and an immune stimulant. I once saw a patient when I was doing at home care that had a toe ulcer. Her son started to become more involved and began using this oil. The results were remarkable, and needless to say, I learned something.

There are a variety of healing elements in nature. Part of the art, is being open to the experience of each plant, blending the elements and finding what it is that will work for you. I believe it is important, as in any means of healing, to learn the form first. Do research, find guides and use mother natures gifts only with knowledge, permission and gratitude.


Jill Zekanis, writer, artist, RN by trade, hospice evangelist and advocate of self-determination in health, life and death. A lover of nature and life. A student of self-expression, gratitude and yoga, who lives in Portland, Oregon. [email protected]



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