January 9, 2018

Which Oils Work Best and Why: A 3-Step Plan for Choosing the Right Essential Oils to Enhance Your Treatment Plan

This week, we continue our series with Lane Therrell, who shares with us a step by step process for choosing the right essential oils to treat various symptoms, such as lack of sleep, anxiety, and depressions.

Are you ready to try integrating essential oils (EOs) into your trauma treatment plan? If so, your next question is likely to be something along the lines of: Which EOs work best and why? The answer involves much more than a list, and requires individual customization. With that in mind, I tend to give a standard answer when I’m asked about which oils are best for integrating with trauma treatments: ”It depends.”

Many factors are involved in choosing the best EO. Your choice depends, among other things, on the type of trauma you’ve experienced, the symptoms you’re experiencing, how well your current treatment plan is working, what you hope to accomplish by adding EOs to your treatment plan, the method of EO application, the EOs that are available to you for use, and more.

It’s also true that choosing the “best EO” means choosing the EO that’s right for you.  One recommended EO may not be the only effective EO for your particular set of circumstances. Or, the typical EO most commonly regarded as effective for your circumstances may not work for you at all, or it may have an effect other than what you intend.  Furthermore, the right EO for you may not be the same EO your friend used successfully in a similar situation.

Choosing the right oils for enhancing your trauma treatments matters because the oils are powerful, and not every oil works the same way. Some will help you more than others and you don’t know if or how it will help you until you try. When you’re choosing which tool to use around the house, you don’t use a hammer when you really need a drill. The same principle applies when you plug into EOs. They each have different effects and different best use practices.
Set yourself up for maximum success by choosing the oils that have a use profile that matches the outcome you want to achieve. Ultimately, the act of deciding which EO to use is all about you taking ownership of your health. As such, it becomes a part of your overall healing and recovery process.

There are many different single EOs and a seemingly endless array of blends, or mixtures of EOs, available. There are many hundreds, in fact, even within the product line of any particular brand or manufacturer. So, how do you know which bottle to choose? It can seem overwhelming and complex, but the point of this article is to show you how to simplify the process.

By asking key questions to clarify your needs and treatment goals, knowing where to go to get reliable information on EOs and how to identify a safe, high quality EO supplier, and by being willing to track your experiences, you’ll be able to master the art of choosing the right EO in no time. At the end of the article, I’ll apply the 3-step process in some specific examples tied to some common treatment outcome goals.

Key Questions

These key questions are designed to assess your overall holistic balance and get a sense of how well your current treatment plan is working. Adding an EO into your plan won’t help at all if the rest of your plan is not aligned with your best health interests. Honest answers to these questions and others like them can help you reinforce the bridge you are building from where you are in your recovery process to where you want to be.

-What symptoms are you experiencing that you would like to shift?
-What have you tried so far?
-How well is it working?
-What is your desired outcome?
-What does a successful change look like?
-How do you think EOs can help?

These questions can lead to others, and all avenues are worth exploring. If these questions are difficult for you to answer on your own, consider seeking the help of your coach, counselor, therapist or other trusted expert.

Reliable EO Information and Quality EO Sources

It is important to know where to go to get reliable information on essential oils. There tends to be a lot of marketing hype and a lack of specifics on the internet these days, because the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits marketers from making claims about the effects of essential oils. (That’s why I have to include a disclaimer every time I write an article about EOs).

This creates a bit of a quandary because responsible use of EOs requires knowledge of the effects of EOs. There is a large body of time-tested and science-based literature on these topics. You can tap into this via reliable sources (see links below).

Citrus essential oils are produced by cold-pressing the rinds of the fruits.
The fruits must be grown pesticide-free to ensure product purity.
Meanwhile, EOs have been popularized via brand marketing so many usage guides for EOs are brand specific. Brand-specific information can be reliable information to use if you trust the brand’s sourcing and processing methods.

One important indicator of a quality EO is that the Latin name of the plant from which the oil is extracted is indicated on the product label. The Latin name is relevant whether the bottle contains a single EO or a blend of EOs. When shopping for EOs, avoid products that do not include the Latin name.

The manufacturer’s production standards for the oil are as important as the Latin name of the plant on the label. You want to make sure the oil is as pure and undiluted, or un-adulterated, as possible. Cheaper is not better when it comes to EOs. That’s because the less expensive an EO is, the more likely it is to have been adulterated in some way. The details of this topic go beyond the scope of this article, but we’ll address it in the future.

Tracking Your Results

Any nurse will tell you to track your results when you’re making a health improvement. Whether you’re tracking blood pressure or blood sugar, or something else entirely, your tracking documentation gives you a reference point and an indicator of trends over time. This helps you determine effectiveness when you’re trying something new, and allows you to see the results over time in visual form if you choose. The type of chart or document you use to track your results will vary depending on your personal preferences and your individual plan. The bottom line is write down what you’re doing so you’ll know what’s happening and can adjust your plan in the future for best results.

Putting It All Together: Nurse Lane’s 3-Step Process for Choosing Essential Oils

I advise my clients to follow these three steps in the order presented, and I recommended that you don’t skip a step. These steps work any time you’re choosing an EO for personal use, not just for enhancing your trauma recovery work.

First, use your key questions to evaluate your treatment plan and articulate what you hope to accomplish by adding an EO. Second, determine which oils are most appropriate and available from a reliable source. Third, try the EO and document how it works for you.

#1: Define the current problem and desired outcome. Ask the key questions, including: What aspect of your existing treatment plan would you like to improve? What do you hope the addition of an EO will do?

#2: Investigate the possible options: Which oils are known to support your desired outcome? Which resources are you using, and do they all say the same thing or something different? What are the recommended methods of use for that oil? Where can you obtain a high-quality amount of this oil?

#3: Try and track: Try the EO, according to the options you identified in Step 2, and keep a record of how/whether it works for you.

If you have any doubts or questions, consult a trained aromatherapy professional or other trusted expert.

3 Scenario Examples Following The 3 Steps

Here is a walk-through of the steps described above for deciding which EO to use for some different treatment outcomes. The scenarios are hypothetical, but they address symptoms or situations you may have experienced if you are in the trauma recovery process.  Remember this is a plan for deciding which EO to use to enhance your existing treatments. It is assumed here that the EOs are part of an existing plan, as they are not meant to substitute for the plan itself, only to enhance the other things you are already doing.

Scenario 1: Adios, Anxiety

Define existing problem and desired outcome: Suppose you’ve been struggling with anxiety attacks and the desired outcome is you’d like to have fewer, and perhaps less intense, anxiety attacks. You see a therapist regularly, and you also have a coach. You don’t like taking medication, and only use it during emergencies. You’ve been working on using anchoring techniques and you want to see if essential oils can support you and strengthen your anchoring techniques in between your regularly scheduled therapy sessions.

Lavender essential oil is very popular in
part because it has numerous uses.
Investigate the possible options: Your resources reveal that frankincense (Boswellia carteriI) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils may support the connecting, calming, and soothing effects you’re looking for. You can inhale them or apply them topically. You can use them separately or blended together.

Try and track: You decide to try integrating frankincense into your daily life by applying it to the bottoms of your feet first thing each morning and before bed. You also decide to try inhaling frankincense and lavender as needed, whenever you feel the onset of an anxiety attack is imminent, throughout the day. You try them separately at first and then together. You also decide to establish a blend of the two oils as an anchor to access memories of a calm/relaxed state.  You track the effects of this plan by keeping notes on the frequency and intensity of your episodes with and without the oils, and the effects due to using the oils separately or together. You also note your feelings before and after using the oils, possibly your blood pressure, your respiration rate. What might you try next?

Scenario 2: Banishing the Blues

Define existing problem and desired outcome: Let’s say you’ve been feeling down-and-out a little more often than you’d like. You’ve been to counselling and therapy, and you’ve even tried medication, but you’re still feeling isolated and joyless, just going through the motions of your day. It’s difficult to get started in the mornings, and you’d like to feel more connected, joyful, and present as you go about your day.

Investigate possible options: Your EO reference materials indicate that citrus oils, such as those extracted from the rinds of lemon (Citrus limon), orange (Citrus aurantium dulcis), lime (Citrus aurantifolia), and bergamot (Citrus aurantium bergamia), can lift your mood. Clinical research studies have even been conducted on this, and you decide to try diffusing and inhaling a variety of different citrus oils, both separately and combined.

Try and track: You decide to try diffusing orange oil in your car on the way to and from work. You try keeping a cotton ball, saturated with a few drops of lime oil applied, tucked in your pocket throughout the day. You also try diffusing or spritzing lemon oil in your office during the day.  You keep track of your moods/feelings before and after diffusing/inhaling the oils, and you compare this to your moods/feelings on days when you were not exposed to the oils at all. How significant is the effect of the oils, if any? If you experience a shift in mood or thought pattern, how long does the effect last? What are your next steps?

Scenario 3: Getting Restful Sleep

Define problem and outcome: Things have been going pretty well for you in your recovery effort. Your main complaint is getting restful sleep. You’ve discussed this with your healthcare providers and they’ve advised you about having better sleep habits. You’ve been working on keeping a set bedtime and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and device free, but you’re still not feeling fully rested when you wake up, even when you get in a full 8 hours. You’d like to wake feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Investigate possible options: Your EO reference materials suggest that a good quality lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) can have a relaxing, even soporific, effect.

Try and track: You try dropping a few drops of lavender on your pillowcase at bedtime and massage your feet with lavender before retiring.  Record your results. What else might you try? For next steps, you may decide to diffuse lavender in the bedroom at bedtime, or take a relaxing warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender before bed.

Exploring EOs Puts You In Charge

Of course, results will vary, but if you decide to explore essential oils, and apply this 3-step process to your personal situation, you’ll discover the oils that work best for you. Much of the value of using EOs in your treatment plan and daily life is that they put you in charge—they allow you to make choices and assess the effectiveness on your own. Because EOs are generally safe, effective, and pleasant when guidelines are followed, you’re likely to experience significant and lasting benefits from your efforts.

While many treatments can be augmented by integrating EOs into them, the oils can be powerful catalysts of emotional releases, and may also cause physical reactions, so you need to be ready, willing and able to handle these effects. If you are ever in doubt, consult with a licensed aromatherapist or other qualified expert. We’ll talk more about examples and using EOs safely in future articles.

Questions for Comment:

What has been your experience in choosing EOs in the past? How might this 3-step process change the way you choose EOs in the future?

Lane Therrell is a family nurse practitioner, health empowerment coach, trauma survivor, and self-described EO aficionado. She uses EOs as tools in her health coaching programs whenever appropriate and leads an EO study group (starting in February 2018) for those who want to learn more details about how EOs work. Lane is a distributor for a popular EO brand, and is dedicated to sharing basic EO use and safety knowledge with anyone. Connect with Lane at www.BestHealthInterest.com

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