Photo Courtesy of Mike Dierken
From over-the-counter to across the meadow: One woman’s experiences with self-education and plant-medication
By Sarah Elizabeth Colburn
The good, the bad, and the temporary fix
I grew up taking Advil and Tylenol for my constant headaches, vicks and Sudafed when I had a cold, tums for a tummy ache, and antibiotics when whatever I had caught turned into something more long lasting. My family did the best they could to take care of me the way they knew how to take care of themselves, and I’m truly grateful to them for that. I survived a few bad cases of infection, viruses, and anxiety attacks/fainting spells.
But did I thrive? No, I wouldn’t say that I thrived healthwise as a child, teenager or young adult. In fact, I was always sleeping off or riding out little bugs I would catch or bouts of anxiety or depression that would inevitably crop up. Headaches and stomachaches are two symptoms of disease that were a pretty consistent experience for me since I was very young, and I always seemed to get the same kinds of sicknesses over and over. Knowing what we as a culture know now about the negative effects and harmful ingredients in many over-the-counter and antibiotic drugs (not to mention the fact that they only mask symptoms temporarily and completely rob your gut of its natural probiotic flora), how could I perpetuate this practice? When I began to take responsibility for my own health as an adult, I had to make a change.
New mama steps up
I give you this background of how I grew up and what I experienced to preface my absolute passion and fervent curiosity of plant medicine. In my mid-twenties, I began researching more natural, alternative, and holistic methods of health care and treatment for different things—namely anxiety, digestive issues, acne, and general UNwellness. When I got pregnant, I knew that it was my chance for a new beginning in how I cared for myself and how I would care for the human I was bringing into this world. I visualized a perfectly developed and thriving child who would reach his full health and wellness potential and maintain it throughout his early years and into adulthood. When he was still in my belly, I saw my son as a physically strong, emotionally stable, mentally expansive bundle of joy. This was my dream as a mama-to-be and I knew it was up to me to make it happen.
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Elizabeth Colburn
Miscellaneous but necessary changes
After some gradual lifestyle and dietary transitions, I started researching herbs and vitamins and alkaline water. I took reishi mushroom supplements during pregnancy to strengthen my fetus’s immune system. I began to only drink and shower in non-fluoridated water. I began reading the labels on EVERY package of food or bottle of household cleaner I bought, and I realized how many neurotoxins I was introducing into my environment unknowingly on a daily basis. I doubled our grocery bill because I insisted on only feeding our 6-month-old new eater (and us for that matter) organic produce and responsibly-raised meat.
While all of these changes have made a tremendous impact on my health and the health of my now two-and-a-half-year-old, nothing has empowered me more than starting to use therapeutic grade essential oils as our plant medicine. Essential oils can be used for everything from treating ringworm to beating a cold to calming a hyper child to cleaning the house.
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils are volatile compounds with hundreds of tiny chemical constituents that make up an extremely concentrated liquid. The oils are extracted from the berries, roots, bark, leaves, stems of trees and plants and rinds of fruits. The plants that produce the essential oil need to be grown in a specific region of the world, in a specific climate, and harvested at just the right time to get their optimum therapeutic value. It is also beneficial for the plant, the world, and your family if the plants are ethically and responsibly-grown and made by a company who has the farmers, the oils, and the oil users’ best interests in mind.
Photo Courtesy of Nina Nelson
How do I use them?
Essential oils can be used in three different ways: aromatically, topically, and internally. When you inhale an essential oil aromatically, your pineal and pituitary gland are stimulated, sending messages of healing, relaxing and calming to every cell in your body. Using oils aromatically is the best way to get the emotional and spiritual benefits of the oils.
Topically, the oils soak into your pores (just like every lotion, soap, makeup or other substance you put on your skin). The difference between essential oils and other cosmetic products is that the chemical constituents of the oils are so small that they soak into your bloodstream quickly and effectively, and there are no synthetic fillers, additives or dangerous chemicals in a certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) essential oil (sidenote: not all essential oils are created equally).
I only recommend the use of essential oils internally if you are using CPTG oils and you are aware of the list of oils that are generally recognized as safe to consume internally. When you take a drop of an essential oil under your tongue, in a glass of water or in a veggie capsule, the oil can quickly travel to where it needs to go in your body. Essential oils are living, bioavailable, and extremely effective and powerful.
My two-and-a-half-year-old, River, has never been to a sick visit with his pediatrician—only well checks. He got ringworm when he was a year and a half and we treated it with melaleuca (tea tree) and lavender oil. The fungus was gone within three weeks. When he has had a fever, we put a drop of peppermint on the bottoms of his feet and three minutes later, I can literally feel his body temperature drop back to normal. When he has had a cough or congestions, we have diffused Breathe (a respiratory blend made of eucalyptus, peppermint, melaleuca, and other essential oils). When mama is going crazy, I use clary sage to balance my hormones, citrus oils to uplift my mood or lavender and ylang ylang to calm me down. I clean my counters, bathroom and floors with a mixture of lemon and a protective blend called OnGuard (cinnamon, rosemary, clove, wild orange, and eucalyptus). No chemical cleaners in our domain. I use the essential oils to compliment my own personal yoga practice and the yoga classes that I teach.
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Elizabeth Colburn
I would like to say that River and I are always “thriving” on a daily basis, but of course we have our ups and downs. Like every family, we get sick and we backtrack on our progress, and we recommit to our commitments and restart our resolutions—but we get back up quickly and are constantly learning and growing. Our immune systems are working for us, not against us, because we are feeding them with substances that promote vital health and longevity. We know that we can take our health into our own hands by making healthy choices as to what we put in our environment and in and on our bodies.
So how did I begin using essential oils? I began with buying a Family Physician Kit from a doTerra Wellness Advocate and diving into the vast plethora of research, stories, and information about essential oils that I could find at the library, the bookstore and online!
Photo Courtesy of Nina Nelson
What are your favorite ways to use essential oils? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and tag #myphilosophie!