Our experiment with Essential Oils

By most standards, our family would not be considered “granola.” Not even “crunchy” by the most lenient of standards. I cook with sugar…and wheat…and other things that we need not go into right now. But even though I’ve been called crunchy because of promoting natural childbirth and breastfeeding (just give me the chance to talk your ear off about the benefits of those!), my everyday life would be considered to be rather mainstream. So imagine my surprise (as well as my family’s) when I announced that I’d purchased something mysterious and fringy like Essential Oils. (I say that completely tongue-in-cheek) A few friends of mine had posted various articles and testimonials on Facebook about the myriad benefits of essential oils and at first, I’ll admit, I did what any good Facebook friend would do: I ignored them and kept on scrolling. But they just kept coming. And from more people. People I admired and respected and whose judgment I trusted! How could I keep on ignoring and scrolling? I can’t remember when I actually read an article and started learning about what the oils actually claimed, but it happened to coincide with the beginning of my least favorite time of year: cold and flu season. For the past two years, someone–or someones–in our home have been hit with rough winters sickness-wise. We’ve had flu a couple years, ear infections, bronchitis, and other maladies. If you’d like a trip down memory lane, feel free to read about one instance here, or another here, or a third recollection here. Of course, if at all humanly possible, I would love to avoid the sickness that threatened to strike our home at any given time (or after any given stranger’s sneeze). It just so happened that a close friend in our homeschool group also had just recently become a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils. To know that I could place an order without paying for shipping? Even better! It was just the impetus I needed to make the jump finally after all the ignoring and then hemming and hawing.

The bottle isn’t large and the price isn’t small, but compared to doctor visit copays and antibiotics or OTC meds, I was willing to give it a try. After all, essential oils have no side effects, so even if they didn’t work for our family, I would only be out some money. Goodness gracious, I know we’ve lost money on sketchier deals before, so it was worth it.

Can you tell I was pessimistic yet hopeful? Does the hopefulness come out at all in my writing?

While I patiently waited for my order to arrive, I did some reading the different uses for Thieves Oil and was pleasantly surprised. To learn about the basics of Essential Oils, read here. Even the story behind Thieves Oil was interesting, however: supposedly it originated during the years of the Black Plague in Europe. A band of perfumers by day and thieves by night concocted the strong combination which they slathered on themselves before plundering the houses of the sick or the dead. Because they were protected by the oils, they were able to steal without contracting the deadly disease. Isn’t it amazing how people can use their powers for good…or evil? Or in this case, would it be considered survival? In any case, what a fascinating story. I learned that this oil has a reputation as strong as its scent. It is widely used for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal (and, though not as necessary these days, anti-Plague) properties. A study at Weber State University showed that some oils may fight the resistant MRSA, and you can read about their findings here if you’d like. The more I read, the more excited I got to receive my order. If this really worked, might we really escape the harshness of the cold and flu season?

At long last, the order arrived. (It was probably all of three days between the time I ordered and its arrival, but patience had never.) The main ingredients, clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus, so just breaking open the seal released a strong aroma of that combination. Unmistakable is what I would call it. For those already in the “essentials oils fan club,” when I’m donning Thieves, they ask if I’m feeling ok. For those who don’t know about essential oils, they ask me why I smell like pumpkin bread. (and now, six months after starting our journey with this oil, my kids instantly know when I open the bottle)

Right away, I began diffusing it in a pot of boiling water every morning and most nights. I don’t have a diffuser yet, so I just used my small saucepan, brought some water to a boil, and added a few drops of the oil. At first I just diffused it and let the steam do its work around the house. I wondered if it was doing any good, but didn’t really have any way to tell. Then the resident redhead, the one who tends to bring most sickness into the house either by age or fortune, started coughing. Usually, her coughs start harmless enough but progress to ones that come from deep down in her chest. Then she wheezes. More, constant coughing. Naturally, while not happy that she seemed to be getting sick, I thought this might be a good opportunity to put the oils to a more direct test. Not only did I continue to diffuse it a few times a day, but while diffusing I had her “stick her face in it,” as I absent-mindedly directed her, which translated into her standing over the steam and breathing it in for a short while.   Because something was in the house, I instructed everyone to stick their faces in it, in fact.   I had also read that a drop or two applied near the lymph nodes on the neck or a drop rubbed into the soles of the feet could also help in fighting any illness one might be feeling.  It was worth a try, to be sure!  (We had tried rubbing Vicks on our feet for a while when fighting those awful keep-you-up-at-night coughs, so putting something on the feet wasn’t too fringy for me.)

I would say at first the kids (and probably Todd) thought I had finally lost it altogether, and was trying to take them along for the ride.  But when Chloe’s cough never went into her chest, and instead of her getting a fever and nasty congestion, I started to feel even more hopeful.   Could it be?  Or did she just have a mild touch of something that her body easily fought off?

Then one night, I started to feel icky.  You probably know the feeling well:  you feel OK, but within twenty minutes, that body ache quickly spreads all over, from the shoulders to your lower back and back up to your head.  It takes no time at all to go from normal to near death.  Before I went to bed that night, I dabbed a couple drops on my neck and went to sleep.   I am not kidding you, the next morning I woke up and it hadn’t gotten any worse.  In fact, I had forgotten that I was feeling bad for a while (probably until I had my morning coffee, but I digress).   From then on, whenever I felt that “something is coming on” feeling, I did not hesitate to apply Thieves to my neck.   Anytime the kids had a cough or sneezed more than twice in a row, I broke out the Thieves.  In fact, when Hannah complained of a headache one morning, she patiently endured while I rubbed it onto her forehead.   I even managed to get Patrick to put a drop on the roof of his mouth when he later said he had a headache, but I don’t think I will ever get him to do that again!  It is potent, and he carried the taste of cloves and cinnamon for quite some time.   (Personally, I was amused that I even persuaded him to do it once!)

To make a long story short, I have no scientific results from our Winter of 2013 Experiment–merely anecdotal evidence.  But in comparison to 2011 and 2012 when we made regular visits to the kids’ pediatrician, this past winter we had to go only once or twice, and they were not sickness-related issues.   While I had fought a couple sinus infections in the winter of 2012, I had nothing this past winter.  I won’t say that we were illness-free, but it seemed that if I was vigilant about applying it and diffusing it when something began, the sickness never had the chance to get off the ground and spread through the household.   I call that a darn good endorsement, actually.    I am completely sold on essential oils and am in the process of broadening my use and collection for other benefits within my family.

The bottle I originally bought looked tiny and not worth the money we had paid, but it lasted through the longest part of the winter.

In April, I was saddened–and a tad panicked–when I opened the bottle and the bottle was dry.  Thankfully, my friend was just a call away and within a week, we had a new bottle to help us continue on our journey of health.   And while we’re not looking to plunder the sick, it makes living with them a lot more palatable.

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