Monday, July 25, 2011
Detoxifying with Essential Oils
by Tracey TieF, Certified Natural Health Practitioner, Technical Consultant New Directions Aromatics
Open an alternative health magazine, read the signs in the windows of a spa or health food store, check out the website of your local health practice - chances are you'll see "Detoxifying" treatments offered -from foot baths, to FAR infrared saunas, to cleansing diets and aromatherapy massage. Every culture features traditional practices that help our human bodies detoxify - sweat lodges and saunas, cleansing fasts and herbal teas, hot springs and mud baths.
These traditions accelerate the ways our bodies already work to detoxify. We continuously eliminate toxins through our digestive, urinary, integumentary (skin), circulatory, respiratory, and lymphatic systems. Traditional detoxification treatments are designed to enhance these built-in mechanisms. And it seems that human beings have always sought out and devised ways to cleanse the body of unwanted by products of foods, especially cooked and smoked foods, the remnants of stress and fatigue, occasional encounters with natural toxins (forest fires? volcanic eruptions? radioactive meteorites?) and sporadic bouts of deliberate intoxication (fermented beverages, kava kava, yohimbe, peyote, marijuana, etc.).
Human bodies are designed to process toxins that are naturally occurring, but since the 20th century, we have been increasingly bombarded with new toxins from denatured foods and drinks, regular use of intoxicants such as alcohol and marijuana, pesticides, cigarettes and herbicides, petroleum by-products, air and water pollutants. Fatigue, constipation, gas, bad breath, low immunity, hormone imbalances, menstrual, menopausal and fertility problems, skin problems, poor circulation, mood swings, depression, frequent infections and mucus build-up can signal that the body needs extra help to detoxify.
Like herbs, essential oils can be potent plant helpers in the detoxification process. Traditions correctly identify detoxifying plants and quite a few appear regularly in our diets and folk remedies such as lemon, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, ginger, bitter greens and hot peppers. Detoxifying foods are eaten in their whole 'plant' form, but we must never ingest an essential oil unless prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner. For example, you might take a tablespoon of lemon juice in warm water each morning to help the liver detoxify, but it is neither necessary nor advisable to use a few drops of the essential oil Citrus limonum instead.
The foundation of any detoxification program is drinking filtered water (never plastic bottled!) and herbal teas - 3 litres a day is what I recommend to my clients. Drink enough water so that your urine is clear or barely colored so that you know your kidneys are not being forced to recycle your urine in order to maintain your blood pressure. Be sure to eat a variety of green, raw and naturally fermented foods each day.
The body eliminates up to 1 pound of waste products every day through the skin. It makes good sense to keep the skin open and able to release waste products efficiently. Perspiring has many functions, chief among them the elimination of waste, so it also makes sense to exercise daily, use deodorants instead of antiperspirants and enjoy sauna and steam baths whenever you can. In fact, the body relies on simple exercise like walking half an hour a day in order to circulate lymph in the lower half of the body. Brushing the skin of the whole body towards the heart from bottom to top is a simple practice that removes dead skin cells and increases lymphatic circulation. I prefer using a salt or sugar scrub in the same way, then soaking in a nice bath in the dissolved scrub.
Basic Sugar Scrub Recipe
2 cups Sea Salt (finely ground Dead Sea salt Maris sal is best) and/or
Sugar (fair traded evaporated cane juice is best)
3 teaspoons raw honey
Oils: 3-6 tablespoons of oil such as castor oil (Ricinus communis), grapeseed (Vitis viniferis) or almond oil (Prunus dulcis)
Vegetable Glycerine (glycerine) or more honey if you want a more fluid scrub
Color: use 1 tsp. of clay, or alkanet root (Alkanna tinctoria) for red, carrot root infused oil (Daucus carota) for orange etc.
Scent: add up to 10 drops of essential oil (NOT fragrance oil) per cup of dry material.
Mix the oils and honey into the sea salts or sugar.
Wet your body. Stand up in the bath and take a handful of the salt mixture at a time and scrub your entire body, using circles up and into your lymph nodes at the back of thighs, the groin, the armpits, the neck, with all motions towards the heart. Let the mixture fall into the tub.
Soak for 20 minutes to refresh and rejuvenate, longer to relax.
Eastern traditions hold that toxins are effectively eliminated through the feet, so try regular foot baths with favourite essential oils. Finally, a good 20 minute soak in a hot bath allows your body to sweat out waste products while you relax. Add fresh, homemade bath salts to increase detoxification and relaxation.
Basic Bath Salts Recipe
½ or 1 cup of Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate) and/or
¼, ½ or 1 cup of coarse sea salt (Maris sal) and/or
¼, ½ or 1 cup of baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) and/or
Optional: ¼ - ½ cup each of (organically grown/non GMO) corn starch (Zea mays)
and citric acid for fizzing effect
Optional: up to ½ cup of oatmeal (Avena sativa)
to soothe dry, irritated skin or rashes.
Color: use 1 tsp of clay, or alkanet root (Alkanna tinctoria) for red, carrot root infused oil (Daucus carota) for orange etc.
Flowers: add up to ½ cup of chamomile typically (Anthemis nobilis), lavender (Lavandula officinalis syn, angustifolia) rose (Rosa damascena), malva (Malva sylvestris) or calendula petals (Calendula officinalis)
Scent: add up to 10 drops of essential oil (NOT fragrance oil) per cup of dry material.
Choose how much of each, and which, ingredients you want to use.
Blend all ingredients one at a time starting with the largest quantity.
Bottle: ideally, bath salts should be kept in a sealed glass jar away from light.
Pour 1 cup of bath salts into the running water per bath and swish until dissolved. If more bath salts are desired, add up to 2 more cups of plain sea salt or Epsom salts.
You can even feed your Epsom salts (not sea salt!) grey-water to your plants, vegetables, and lawn for greener grass and big, healthy vegetables.
CAUTION: Omit the Epsom salts if you have high blood pressure or a heart or kidney condition.
Specific essential oils are used by holistic aromatherapists as powerful agents to assist the body in ridding itself of toxins. Essential oils are not simply scents. They are chemically complex with constituents that have a direct effect on the body, mind, and spirit. If you are lucky enough, you can receive regular massage through an aromatherapist, massage therapist, or exchange massage with a friend as part of a detoxification regimen. Start with weekly massages then maintain your inner and outer bliss with monthly massage.
Detoxifying Massage Oil:
~ 5% essential oils ~
ADD: 30 drops of essential oil, choosing from:
Citrus: tangerine (Citrus reticulata blanco var tangerine), lemon (Citrus limonum)*, lime (Citrus aurantifolia swingle)*, grapefruit (Citrus racemosa), orange (Citrus sinensis), juniper berry (Juniperus communis), cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
TO: 2 Tbsp. (30 mL or 1 oz.) good quality vegetable oil, such as: almond (Prunus dulcis), grape seed (Vitis vinifera) sesame (Sesamum indicum), hemp (Cannabis sativa)
Mix in a glass bottle and use ASAP.
Select essential oils that you enjoy, and that detoxify the systems of the body that you need to work on most urgently. Since the focus on detoxification is not about creating a pleasant fragrance, feel free to combine essences without regard to conventional advice (such as, "basil Ocimum basilicum blends well with lemon Citrus limonum", etc.). Change the essences in the blend every two weeks in order to maintain effectiveness and prevent sensitization.
(a few) Detoxifying Essential Oils
Because essential oils work on many levels, as physical toxins are removed; negative thoughts and emotions are also released.
A note about citrus essential oils: All are detoxifying, but as a rule, none should be worn on the skin in daylight because they may be sun sensitizing.
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is diuretic, acting to tone the blood and lymphatic vessels, and decongest the lymph.
Lemon (Citrus limonum)* stimulates white blood cells to defend the body against infection and is effective against viruses like the flu. Detoxifies through the blood and liver.
Grapefruit (Citrus racemosa) is diuretic, anti-fungal and speeds up lymphatic circulation and the elimination of toxins. Detoxifies through the skin, urinary tract, liver, gall bladder and lymphatic system.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce) is diuretic and aids digestion and elimination. Detoxifies through the skin, kidneys and the digestive tract.
Fir Balsam (Abies balsamia) is antiseptic, anti-cancer and detoxifies through the adrenal glands.
Juniper berry (Juniperus communis) is anti-viral, diuretic, and can help reduce cellulite by eliminating toxins from fatty tissues and expel uric acid from the system. Detoxifies through the kidneys, skin and urinary tract.
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) cleanses the digestive system at a cellular level. Detoxifies through the nervous and digestive systems.
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is known by tradition to act on the glands todetoxify skin and strengthen the immune system through its profound stress relieving properties.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is powerful against infections and their toxic residues, but never use it in a bath or directly on mucous membranes. Detoxifies through the respiratory and digestive systems.
Rose (Rosa damascena) is gentle and so relaxing that it is said to balance hormones and stimulate the immune system solely through its action against stress and its by-products.
Rose Geranium (Pelargonium odorantissium or graveolens) enhances circulation, balances hormones especially in menopause, and fights yeast while protecting helpful bacteria. Detoxifies by toning the liver, pancreas and spleen.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) increases circulation. Detoxifies the respiratory system and clears mucous.
Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is powerfully relaxing, and detoxifies through the nervous and digestive systems.
Most importantly, take the opportunity of a self-directed detoxification program in order to thoroughly enjoy yourself - the taste of clean water, the textures and colours of fresh foods, the satisfaction of moving the body and the sensory delights of homemade essential oil treatments. When it comes to eliminating toxins, the rule is: Reduce, Relax, Refresh and Relish!
Recommended Reading and Sources:
Aroma Web online www.aromaweb.com
Gray, Bev, Aromatherapy Detox with Essential Oils by Bev Gray Source: alive #269, March 2005 www.alive.com
Price, Shirley, Practical Aromatherapy: how to use essential oils to restore health and vitality. Thorsons, 1983.
Benham, Jan, The Creamy Craft of Cosmetic Making with essential oils and their friends, The Aroma Shoppe, 1996.
Benham, Jan,The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible,
The Aroma Shoppe, 2004.
Tracey TieF is a Certified Natural Health Practitioner who operates Anarres Natural Health in downtown Toronto, Ontario. She carries on a family tradition in the healing arts and has an extensive background in physical therapies and the healing arts. Tracey qualified as a Registered Aromatherapy Health Practitioner and Certified Reflexology Health Practitioner through The School of Holistic Studies, Institute of Aromatherapy. Tracey has a passion and mission for teaching people how to take care of themselves and make their own healthy products! Tracey can be reached at email@example.com or through her website at www.anarreshealth.ca
*Editor's Safety Note: These essential oils cause a photosensitive reaction when used, diluted or neat, on the skin. Distilled lemon and lime, and bergaptene free bergamot, can be used without contraindication.
Would you like to contribute an article for a future NAHA E-Newsletter? Click here to download the Writers Guidelines.