By Laurie Chance Smith
Web Exclusive - June 27, 2008
My five-year-old son Joshua was crying inconsolably, his look-mom-no-hands bike ride interrupted by a jolting wasp sting. Slinging Joshua onto my hip, I headed to the medicine cabinet and grabbed a blended bottle of lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) massage oil. With one drop of this miracle-working oil on the sting, Joshua's tear-streaked face transformed. Not only did the lavender's analgesic qualities deaden the pain on his arm, its spring-blossom smell calmed his anxiety.
Aromatherapy is a form of natural healing that Valerie Gennari Cooksley, author of Aromatherapy: A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils, calls "the study of scent". For aromatherapy, essential oils like lavender are distilled from plant materials, such as leaves and flowers.
Aromatherapy's plant essences contain powerful healing elements that can be used safely and effectively at home for everyday needs. In Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child, Valerie Worwood agrees, "Every parent has been in the position of having a sick child to care for with no available help. It's a horrible feeling. With aromatherapy, however, you're not helpless; there's something you can do—something that's been shown to work through long-term use, and through a great deal of scientific research."
Not only effective for life's daily emergencies, "regular use of essential oils—in baths, inhalations, vaporizers and compresses—can be a wonderful method of preventative medicine to help children avoid colds and other infectious diseases," says aromatherapist Nicola McGill. Essential oils stimulate the immune system, encouraging the body toward a natural state of strength and health. Naturally in tune with their senses, children often respond quickly and positively to the healing effects aromatherapy offers.
To utilize the healing benefits of aromatherapy, locate 100 percent pure essential oils. Before using them, perform a patch test to check for skin sensitivities by placing one drop of the oil on your child's wrist, and wait an hour. If irritation develops, do not use the oil.
"Lavender and chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) are the most valuable oils for children," says McGill. To blend massage oil for a child who is run-down, not sleeping, or over-excited, mix five to seven drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil in one ounce of jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) oil or unscented lotion. Massage your child wherever they feel tension; neck and shoulders are a great place to start.
Lavender, Roman chamomile, spearmint (Mentha spicata), and tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oils are effective aids for digestive disorders. If your child has an upset stomach, dab one drop of lavender or Roman chamomile massage oil behind each ear. Either of these aromas will help ease nausea.
At the same time, massage the feet with lavender, chamomile, or tea tree oil blended with jojoba or lotion. "You can relax all parts of the body by massaging the feet," says McGill. Also add two drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of warm water. It's strong, medicinal scent helps disinfect the sick room. Tea tree has a range of antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is particularly effective in treating digestive viruses.
The candy-flavored scent of spearmint is an agreeable aroma to diffuse for young children with stomach upset. Simply add two drops of spearmint to a vaporizer. Footbaths can also soothe nausea. To a bowl of warm water, add two drops of tea tree, spearmint, lavender, or chamomile. Ease the feet in and play soothing music to help your child relax.
Colds and Coughs
Along with tea tree, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) essential oil is effective at treating cold and flu symptoms. Eucalyptus is a familiar smell due to its presence in many over-thecounter chest rubs. For aromatherapeutic inhalation, add two drops of eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil to a bowl of warm water. Stay near your child as they lean over the bowl to breathe the healing vapors. McGill advises parents to limit the time of inhalation to a few seconds at a time—this will allow the child to become accustomed to the steam and oil combination.
For additional benefits, blend five drops (combined) of eucalyptus, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essentials oils in one ounce of lotion. Massage over the neck and chest twice daily. Aside from its healing benefits, geranium's rosy scent is relaxing and uplifting. Rosemary is an especially effective treatment in the beginning stages of a cold or cough, says Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D. in Advanced Aromatherapy.
From Hiccups to Nosebleeds
Utilize chamomile's fruity, herbal scent to ease hiccups. Rub chamomile, blended in jojoba, on your palms, hold to the child's nose for inhalation, then massage the chest and stomach with the blended oils. Aromatherapist Jeanne Rose suggests lavender's quintessential calming scent as an alternative.
A lavender compress can bring aid for nosebleeds. Fill a bowl with warm water, add two drops of lavender, dip a soft cloth into the lavender water and wring out. Lay the cloth across the nose, keeping it away from the eyes. Aside from the healing aspects of the lavender oil, the scent will help calm your child during these scary episodes, says Maggie Tisserand in Aromatherapy for Women.
Rest and Rejuvenation for Children and Mothers
Bath time becomes a breeze with aromatherapy's calming aid. McGill suggests blending up to four drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil in a teaspoon of milk or vegetable oil. Run all the bathwater, then add the blended oils and swish the water with your hand before the child climbs in. An alternative bath recipe includes two drops lavender and two drops mandarin (Citrus reticulata) for a floral, citrus smell, says Cooksley.
To encourage sound sleep, add two or three drops of lavender essential oil to the child's vaporizer at bedtime. With lavender's soothing scent drifting from your child's room, carve some time to indulge yourself.
Rose (Rosa damascena) is known as the queen of flower; its essential oil is a reputed hormone-regulator at any stage of a woman's life. Rose relieves stress, headaches, and insomnia, and according to Cooksley, is "balancing and rejuvenating to [the] skin."
The sweet, clean scent of frankincense (Boswellia carteri) has been used since ancient Egypt to purify sacred space. Frankincense essential oil is meditative, benefiting anxiety and tension. The inhalation of frankincense also opens the lungs and encourages deep breathing. Add six to eight drops of lavender, rose, or frankincense to a warm bath to help dissolve the day's stress and pave the way toward peaceful sleep.
Natural Hand Sanitizer
Fill a clean four-ounce spray bottle with water. Add ten drops lavender and five drops tea tree; then shake to blend. Keep this antiseptic spray in the car to clean hands quickly.
Mother's Luxurious Cream
To a four-ounce bottle of unscented cream, add five drops rose and two drops frankincense. Blend and apply to face daily to help retain the skin's healthy glow and slow the appearance of wrinkles.
Bibliography of Sources
Cooksley, Valerie Gennari. Aromatherapy: A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996.
McGill, Nicola. www.nicolamcgillaromatherapy.com Email and Telephone Interviews, March 25, 2008.
Rose, Jeanne. Electronic Mail Interview, April 30, 2007.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, CA: Frog, Ltd., 1999.
Rose, Jeanne and Susan Earle, Eds. The World of Aromatherapy. Berkeley, CA: Frog Limited, 1996.
Schnaubelt, Kurt. Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1995.
Schnaubelt, Kurt. Medical Aromatherapy: Healing with Essential Oils. Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd. Books, 1999.
Tisserand, Maggie. Aromatherapy for Women. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1985.
Tisserand, Robert B. The Art of Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1977.
Worwood, Valerie. Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2000.
Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1991.