Any basic care kit in a WTSHTF scenario
would be lacking if it did not include several essential oils. Aromatherapy
has been used since ancient times for
medical and religious purposes; its proponents have included Galen (personal
physician to Marcus Aurelius), Avicenna (an Arab physician at the turn of
the first millennium) and Rene Gattefosse (the father of modern aromatherapy).
Essential oils are mentioned in Chinese medical texts dating back over 4,000
they were utilized by the Egyptians to embalm their dead. When the Black
Death (bubonic plague) ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages, aromatherapists
were largely unaffected (probably due to the fact that certain essential
oils repel rodents, which carry the fleas which transmit the disease). Hence,
in any situation where traditional medical care is severely limited, essential
oils serve a valuable purpose. There are several important factors to consider
when using essential oils:
1. One must know the botanical names of the plants associated with such oils. If one sees a bottle of “marjoram,” is it sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana), a sedative, or wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare), a stimulant also known as oregano, which is considered too toxic for human use? If one wishes to obtain chamomile and buys Ormemis multicaulis, he is really purchasing Ormenis oil, which is not a true chamomile. Therefore, knowledge of scientific botanical names is an absolute necessity.
2. Never take essential oils internally-some are toxic in very small doses (eucalyptus has caused fatalities in doses less than a teaspoonful). Given orally, they will cause severe damage to the mucous membrane of the GI tract. They are also not as effective orally as they are topically—gastric acids & digestive enzymes alter their molecular structure.
3. Less is more with essential oils; a few drops is all that is necessary to produce a desired effect; in addition, they are synergistic when mixed together (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). For example, the anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile are increased when combined with lavender.
4. Buy essential oils from a reputable manufacturer such as Aroma Vera, Aura Cacia, Radiant Garden, or Original Swiss Aromatics. Vitacost (www.vitacost.com) offers high quality essential oils at bargain prices.
5. Essential Oils do not come with an expiration date; Citrus oils (orange, lemon, lime, etc.) tend to degrade most quickly (six month shelf life); the typical shelf life of essential oils is about two years. However, some essential oils, such as rose, jasmine, or eucalyptus globulus, become more potent with age.
6. Store essential oils in dark glass bottles; they degrade plastic.
7. If buying as essential oil from a store, place a drop of it on tissue paper. They are volatile. If an oily streak remains after a couple of minutes, the oil has been diluted with a carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil or grape seed oil).
8. As a rule, one should not apply essential oils undiluted to the skin; severe skin rashes or phototoxic reactions (exaggerated sunburn) may occur.
9. Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before topical use. A good rule of thumb is 2-5 drops of essential oil in 5 ml (1 teaspoonful) of carrier oil. Good examples of carrier oils include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, or even corn oil.
10. For children, use a dosage of 1-2 drops of essential oil per 5ml carrier oil. Good essential oils for children include tangerine, lavender, chamomile, and spearmint.
11. Some essential oils must not be used during pregnancy. These include birch, sweet marjoram, myrrh, thyme, and rosemary.
12. Never get essential oils in your eyes; if this happens, first dilute the essential oil with milk or vegetable oil, then flood the eye with water. Using water first will simply intensify the burning sensation.
13. Be careful with essential oils around a heat source-there is a risk of accidental fire.
14. Never buy essential oils from a supplier who charges the same or similar amounts for all of them—these oils vary widely in price. Jasmine costs roughly 100 times as much as grapefruit! Buyer beware!Here is my list of essential oils that are good to have in a survival situation.
1. Lavender (Lavandula vera, L. officinalis, L. angustifolia, and others): if you are going to have only one essential oil in your kit, make it this one. It is one of the few essential oils active against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is touted by Patricia Davis (a British expert on aromatherapy) as being the “supreme choice for insomnia.” This oil is very useful for treating burns as it promotes rapid healing and helps prevent scarring. Lavender also serves to relieve muscular pain, treat acne, and repel insects. Very few people have allergic reactions to lavender, and this oil can be applied directly to the skin.
2. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): some sources state that tea tree may be applied undiluted to the skin. Like lavender, it is also active against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is a powerful immuno-stimulant, and is especially useful for topical fungal infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. It can be applied to cold sores and blisters caused by shingles or chicken pox. This essential oil is so useful for medicinal purposes, that during WWII, Australian producers were exempt from military service until enough had been accumulated.
3. Peppermint (Mentha piperata): described as cephalic (stimulates the brain and clear thinking); vermin hate the smell of mints in general—this oil can be used to deter mice, rats, and insects. It is probably most famous for promoting digestive health. In children, spearmint is a gentle substitute for peppermint. In extreme cases (I say this with the utmost caution!) it can be used undiluted on the skin to relieve severe sinus congestion; however one does risk skin irritation (possibly severe). I have used this on myself numerous times directly on the skin of the face without any side effects, and it has relieved my congestion. This was recommended to me by a naturopathic physician (my boss at the massage school where I am a science instructor) who stated that patients were able to cancel sinus surgery after using this treatment. Be prepared for a unique sensory experience lasting about 30 minutes (burning, tingling, and tearing); I could actually feel a “popping” sensation within my sinuses as they began to open.
4. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates): this inexpensive essential oil is valuable as an insect deterrent. Do not apply to skin which will be exposed to sunlight, as a photosensitivity reaction may develop. It has a soothing effect on headaches, but must first be diluted (do not use more than 3 drops in a carrier oil at one time). This stimulating oil has been used in traditional Indian medicine for centuries to reduce fevers and treat infectious disease. It is also helpful for excessive sweating.
5. Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha, C. molmol): an outstanding essential oil for the prevention and treatment of gum disease. I have been using it for years (1 drop in a teaspoonful of mouth wash and mixed with a glass of warm water) to prevent gingivitis. This oil must not be used during pregnancy. Unfortunately, due to the unrest in the Sudan, this oil has become even more expensive in recent years. The best price I could find was $25 for 15ml (one tablespoonful) at Vitacost.com. This may sound pricey, but consider that a 15ml bottle contains about 300 drops of essential oil; this oil has a thick resinous consistency and a bottle lasts me about a year.
6. Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata): only the oil distilled from the sun dried buds, not the leaves, should be used. This pale yellow essential oil is famous as a treatment for toothache, but can also be used for digestive problems, muscle soreness, scabies, and respiratory infections. It should not be used in pregnancy and must be diluted before being applied to the skin. This oil has been used to sterilize surgical instruments.
7. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla- German chamomile; Anthemis noblis- Roman chamomile): these oils are soothing, calming, and anti-inflammatory. Their properties often overlap with those of lavender. These are gentile oils are suitable for use in children. They are especially valuable for treating skin conditions. NOTE: Artemisia arborescens is often sold as "blue chamomile", but is in fact a type of mugwort-- It should never be used during pregnancy!
8. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, E.radiata, etc.): E. globulus is more commonly used and its potency increases with age, but E. radiata is less likely to irritate the skin. These are famous antibacterial and antiviral agents; however they can also be used to combat muscle soreness, deter mosquitoes, and relieve headaches. E. globulus should not be used in children under 12.
Worwood, Susan & Worwood, Valerie Ann. Essential Aromatherapy, Novato, Calif., New World Library, 2003
Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. San Rafael, Calif., New World Library, 1991
Davis, Patricia. An A-Z Aromatherapy, Essex, England, C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd., 1988
Feller, Robin. Practical Aromatherapy, New York, Berkeley Books, 1997
Lawless, Julia. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Rockport, Mass., Element Books Ltd., 1995