Thursday, July 29, 2010

Treating Arthritis Symptoms With Aromatherapy by: Buffy Hall, RN

Did you know that the word “arthritis” actually refers to over 100 different diseases affecting areas in and around joints of the body? Actually, arthritis also can also affect other parts of the body besides the joints. The skin, liver, heart and kidneys are all vulnerable to certain types of arthritis. It causes pain, loss of movement and joint swelling.

I have a intense and personal interest in this subject since I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis twenty two years ago. But to be honest, I consider myself far luckier than many arthritis sufferers. I am fairly mobile and reasonably energetic, have minimal joint deformity and swelling, and most days I experience no real pain at all. It is mostly due to a combination of my medication regimen and my aromatherapy, that I am in such good shape for someone with a chronic illness.

I haven’t always been this stable though. I’ve had several periods in my life where I was largely disabled. The RA led to the onset of fibromyalgia and I was forced to leave a career in nursing at age 33 because of the constant pain. The more I worked, the worse it got until it was finally impossible for me to work the long hours anymore.

Instead I made a choice to concentrate my energy levels on being a stay at home mom to my two small children. I quit work, the daily stress level dramatically lowered and I got better. Today my son and daughter are 17 and 20 and a triumph of what was the best decision that I ever made. You WAHMs and WAHDs know what I mean.

As an arthritic, I am not unique. I share the daily "What body part isn't working well today" experience with over 66 million people nationwide.

According to Arthritis Today magazine:

*In 2005, 1 in 3 adults and 300,000 children are affected by arthritis
*Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems
and the nation’s leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15
*More than 7 million Americans need help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing and walking
*Arthritis results in 39 million physician visits,half million hospitalizations and costs the US economy more than $86.2 billion a year!
*Half of Americans with arthritis don’t think anything can be done to help them

Common Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis - a degenerative joint disease that is the most prevalent form of arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis - an autoimmune disease that is one of the most serious and disabling types, affecting mostly women.

Juvenile Arthritis - a general term for all types of arthritis, including rheumatoid and lupus, that occur in children.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus) - a serious disorder that can inflame and damage joints and other connective tissues.

Fibromyalgia - in which widespread pain affects the muscles and attachments to the bone, causes extreme fatigue and sleep problems.

Aromatherapy is a natural holistic approach to health and wellness using plant derived scents that I use daily as a way to control the stresses in my life. All forms of arthritis are exacerbated or worsened by stress. Controlling that aspect of my life, even just a little, has made a world of difference in my overall condition.

The traditional method of healing called aromatherapy is finally beginning to be considered a science and is gaining ground among doctors willing to combine conventional medicine with alternative therapies. This current switch among health professionals is called “integrative medicine”. It is a move away from the traditional approach that focuses only on the disease and prescription drugs to an approach that looks more at the individual who has the disease, and gives them a more active role in their treatment. This integrative approach has proved to be a virtual lifesaver for me and one that I strongly encourage other arthritis sufferers to try.

Some of the most effective essential oils for treatment of arthritis symptoms are Lavender, Juniper, Thyme, Rosemary, Benzoe, Eucalyptus, Chamomile, Peppermint, Camphor, Ginger, Black Pepper and Lemon.

For the best relief from arthritis symptoms you can add the essential oils to the bath, massage them into your skin, or apply them in a compress. For application directly to the skin however, essential oils should be blended with a carrier oil like almond, jojoba, apricot or even coconut oil to avoid skin irritation. You can also use aloe vera gel mixed with witch hazel for a clean, nonsticky absorbable rub.

Aromatherapy is a natural, safe and economical option to deal with the pain, stiffness, stress, anxiety and depression that often goes hand in hand with an arthritis diagnosis. The best thing of all though, is that aromatherapy has no negative side effects as so many of the conventional treatments and medications do. It is also an excellent way to improve your general outlook, your attitude and the quality of your life.

When you have arthritis, it can be a struggle to maintain your independence in your daily activities. With aromatherapy you have powerful tools to use for that purpose.

Aromatherapy should be used in addition to proper diet, medications and mild exercise to manage your arthritic condition. There is no magic bullet or cure yet for arthritis but with aromatherapy, there is a way for you to take back some control over your life and health. Aromatherapy is not intended to replace proven medical treatments or a medication regimen.

photo credit: M@rg

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Practical Aromatherapy: Anti-Viral Properties Of Essential Oils By: Misty Rae Cech

Antiviral Activity of Essential Oils

The body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of natural botanicals against a great variety of viruses is growing. Over twenty years ago, German scientists found extracts of more than 100 species of the Lamiaceae family to have antiviral effects. This discovery lead to and increase in the examination of essential oils in Europe for the treatment of viral infections.

Essential oils from many plant families have now been demonstrated to have antiviral properties. Interestingly, different plant families exhibit varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the virus strain. This is due to the particular molecular structures found in each type of oil, which penetrate physical entities to varying degrees (different tissues, cell walls, mucous membranes, etc). The effect on each virus strain depends also on the virus structure (enveloped, non-enveloped, molecular symmetry, etc.)

Certainly, one of the reasons for oils' effectiveness en vivo is their lipophillic character - essential oils are easily absorbed into mammalian tissues, where they may produce the greatest results. In fact, when studying the anti-viral effects of essential oils, researchers found that normal cells seemed to acquire a special resistance to viral penetration, though the mechanism for this effect is not yet known.

Melissa and the Herpes Virus

One of the Lamiaceae plants studied, Melissa (Melissa officinalis - also known as Lemon Balm), was shown particularly efficacious against the herpes virus (HSV). Doctor Dietrich Wabner, a professor at the Technical University of Munich, has even reported that a one-time application of Melissa oil led to a complete remission of HSV lesions. A cream medication for Herpes outbreaks, who's active ingredient is an extract of Melissa, is now sold in Germany under the name Lomaherpan. Use of Melissa essential oil itself may be just as effective - the oil can be applied directly to the lesions (or diluted to 10% in carrier if sensitivity is noted) to speed healing. Further occurrences can be prevented by applying oil to the area when sensations signal an eminent outbreak - repeating this protocol 3 or 4 times has been reported to cause total remission in some individuals.

Other essential oils found effective against the Herpes virus include bergamot, eucalyptus, lemongrass and tea tree. Related to HSV is Herpes Zoster or 'Shingles', another common virus-mediated skin condition. Application of a 50/50 blend of Ravensara essential oil and Tamanu nut oil has been found extremely effective for reducing symptoms by many people.

Antiviral Components of Oils

The list of essential oils exhibiting antiviral effects is extensive: Melissa (as above), tea tree, juniper, eucalyptus, thyme, palmarosa, lavender, rosemary, clove, laurel, cinnamon bark, anise, rose, lemongrass, geranium, neroli, bergamot, clary sage, and dill. The antiviral effect of an essential oil is due to particular components of the oil - some oils will work just as effectively on a particular infection as another, because they contain similar amounts of a certain component. The components of essential oils showing antiviral activity, and the oils in which they can be found, are as follows (from K. Schnaubelt, Ph.D. - Advanced Aromatherapy, p. 36):

Anethol - found in Anise
Alpha-Sabines - found in Tea Tree, Laurel, and other oils
Beta-Caryophyllene - found in Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme Linalool, and other oils
Carvone - found in Dill
Cinnamic aldehyde - found in Cinnamon Bark
Citral - found in Melissa, Lemongrass and other oils
Citronellol - found in Rose and Geranium
Eugenol - found in Clove
Gamma-Terpinene - Found in Juniper, Eucalyptus, Niaouli, Tea Tree and other oils
Linalol - found in Lavender and Neroli
Linalyl acetate - found in Clary Sage, Lavender, Bergamot and other oils

Limited In-Vivo Data

Good studies of application of these essential oils in cases of illness are difficult to come by, as infecting people with viruses in the laboratory to subsequently be treated with aromatics would be a difficult process at best. The oils and components above have mostly shown effectivenessin-vitro, though tests also indicate that the anti-viral effect should occur in-vivo as well. As with Melissa, it has been HSV that has been most thoroughly examined, because of the relative simplicity of doing so. But there is nothing particularly special about the herpes virus, and proper oil/pathogen paring should prove as effective.

There are some noted case studies by professional aromatherapists. Of importance in these studies is the oil/symptom relationship. Essential oils from plants of the Myrtaceae family - notably Eucalyptus Radiata and Tea Tree - and Ravensara (also high in Eucalyptol) seem to have helped in cases with respiratory symptoms. For the lower respiratory tract, Hyssop decumbens (from the same plant family as Melissa) has been of interest. Essential oils for such cases may be used either in a diffuser, being taken at regular intervals, or through massage, diluted in a carrier oil.


Because of the difficulty in many cases of illness in determining the exact virus type involved, more specific application cannot be given. Certainly, in cases of HSV, Melissa has been shown effective in a number of studies. For respiratory infections, Eucalyptus and Ravensara have been used with success, and can be safely used as an adjunct to regular medical care. These oils may support one's recovery on a physiologic level - essential oils also play a part in uplifting emotions, which may also speed healing, or at least improve mental outlook during the healing process. For such instances, one may simply find the essential oil or combination that one finds pleasant, calming, and/or uplifting.

PLEASE NOTE: In no cases, however, should self-treatment with essential oils be used in place of professional medical care where signs/symptoms of infectious illness are present.

photo credit: Jorge Barrios, Melburnian

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

5 Little Known Benefits Of Shiatsu Massage By: James Calvin

Shiatsu massage, also known as acupressure, is a point-pressure massage using the fingers. It is designed to help regulate the flow of energy within the body. During a shiatsu massage, thumb, fingers, palms or feet to the body apply pressure. This type of massage helps produce a deep relaxation increases energy levels and brings balance to the body.

The history of shiatsu massage lies within the ancient Chinese. They used the principals of shiatsu in both their medical philosophy and practice. It was developed around 530 B.C. Later, shiatsu massage was exported into Japan, Southeast Asia, and Korea where it was widely practiced. In the 20th century, this therapy was used for treating simple muscular tension and providers were licensed. Shiatsu became popular in the United States, Europe and Australia in the 1970s.

Shiatsu massages last anywhere from forty minutes to one hour. It usually takes place on a padded mat on the floor. This type of massage begins with gentle stretching and manipulation of the skin to allow the stimulation of energy and relax the muscles. Depending on the need of the person receiving the massage, it can be very gentle and calming or used with high pressure, but should never hurt or feel painful. Acupressure massages are usually given using a rapid circular motion with medium pressure. The massages can last from five to fifteen minutes and include techniques such as rubbing, kneading, percussion, and vibration.

Today, shiatsu massages are performed not only for relaxation, but to aid a wide variety of ailments and symptoms. The following are five benefits of shiatsu massage.

Skin: Shiatsu massages, or acupressure, help stimulate circulation in the capillaries of the skin’s soft tissues. The massage also serves to stimulate the secretion of the sebaceous glands and keeps skin moist and smooth. This helps give skin resilience and helps prevent wrinkling. A shiatsu massage will help improve the look and glow of the skin with improved blood circulation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Muscle Pain: Shiatsu and acupressure massages can help alleviate the symptoms caused by arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the body’s tissue and it attacks the linings of the joints. This disease affects one percent of the world’s population. Shiatsu applied to the hands and feet are most effective when suffering from arthritis. Pressure from the massage can also be applied directly to any area affected by Rheumatoid arthritis. Shiatsu can also be used to improve the overall health of muscles throughout the body. Shiatsu helps limber muscles and gives muscles nutrition by improved circulation. It also helps reduce muscular pain.

Migraine Headaches: Migraines are usually caused by a rapid widening and narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain or head, causing irritation and pain. Common symptoms of migraine headaches include nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, weakness, numbness and vision problems. Migraines are thought to be cause by changes in weather, stress, hunger, foods containing nitrates and sometimes caffeine. Shiatsu massages helps aid migraines by relaxing the body and increasing blood flow and circulation throughout the body.

Pregnancy: Shiatsu massages have been used for thousands of years to aid women during monthly cycles to alleviate symptoms such as menstrual cramps and depression. This kind of massage has also been used for years for also for pregnancy as well. Shiatsu has been known to help women in labor and help babies turn in the womb. It can induce labor in women who are overdue and help ease morning sickness and swelling often caused by pregnancy.

Circulatory and Digestive System: Shiatsu massages are also found to help aid the circulatory and digestive system. A gently massage helps improve circulation and cellular nutrition throughout the body. A massage also benefits the digestive system allowing food to digest more easily and aids in the elimination of waste products. A shiatsu massage also increases stamina by storing energy reserves and assists in fat metabolism and removal.

Learning basic shiatsu techniques at home is easy with a book or video. It can also reap huge benefits to practice basic techniques at home. When looking for a practitioner experienced with shiatsu, look for one that has at least three years worth of experience. Feeling comfortable with the provider is also important. A session of shiatsu massages generally last from thirty to ninety minutes and can cost anywhere from $20 to $80 for a more experienced practitioner.

photo credit: ABMP

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

What Is The Purpose Of Ayurveda By: Eric Cho

“Life science” is what Ayurveda means in Sanskrit. It is derived from the two words ‘Ayu’ meaning life and ‘Veda’ meaning knowledge or science. Ayurveda is not just a preventive health care system; it is a way of life that found its origins in ancient India 5,000 years ago.

According to this system, health is determined by three biological principles, called ‘Doshas’. The three ‘Doshas’ are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, each controlling movement, metabolism and structure.

The body, mind and spirit is free of disease when the ‘Doshas’ are in equilibrium. Disease strikes when there is an imbalance or disequilibrium in even one of these ‘Doshas’. Balance is the key. Improper diet, pollution, unhealthy habits are just some of the reasons that lead to an imbalance.

Ayurveda emphasizes the use of mind, body and spirit to prevent and fight diseases. Thus it strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual. The main thrust of Ayurveda is to synchronize and coordinate the various bodily functions by identifying the imbalance in the body. The underlying principle is that if the roots are watered well, the plant will flourish. Sleep, diet, internal cleansing and lifestyle are given as much or perhaps more importance than herbs and potions.

Ayurveda places a lot of importance on learning. In this method, treatment is based on the physician’s awareness of the world. Insights are gained by seeing, smelling, tasting and listening. Ayurveda seeks to restore a person’s health by bringing him into equilibrium with his true self. Thus the aims of Ayurveda are:

* To maintain the health of healthy people
* To cure diseases of ill people

Ayurveda is rightly enjoying widespread resurgence all over the world. With healthcare becoming exorbitant and fraught with risks, health-conscious individuals are taking more responsibility for their own health and well-being. People have started realizing that alternative holistic health systems like Ayurveda will help them lead a healthy life and prevent diseases even before they occur.

Ayurveda has offered an interesting theory of disease. Effective digestion is crucial to health, and any problems in the digestive system causes toxins to build up within the body and clog the channels in the body. This weakens the physiology and creates the right conditions for disease and infection. Rejuvenation is possible only through cleansing programs like Panchkarma. These programs are designed to flush toxins from the body.

Ayurveda depends a lot on herbs, roots, grass and other natural products. Ayurveda also pioneered the science of herbal combination – a happy blending of a variety of herbs to produce a medication that offers the dual benefits of synergy and balance. Sometimes, an Ayurvedic formulation may contain over twenty or more spices and herbs. The combination of primary herbs, balancing herbs and supporting herbs expedite the healing process.

The ayurvedic approach is rising in popularity because it is comprehensive and gentle. Instant cures through pill-popping are foreign to Ayurveda. Patience and persistence pays because Ayurveda seeks to correct the source of the problem. For those who can commit themselves to the effort Ayurveda offers effective, cumulative health benefits and can lead to a happy, healthy and joyful life.

photo credit: Jigesh

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The Information Contained Herein Should not be Considered Medical Advice; Nor is it Meant to Treat, Diagnose, Prescribe or Cure Any Disease. Seek the Guidance of a Qualified Health Professional if You Have Concerns or Questions About your Health issues.

About Me

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Southern California, United States
Holistic living, natural remedies have been part of my life since the early 80's. As a natural progression of my passion, I became a certified massage therapist in 2006, a Reiki Master in 2008, and in 2013 an Ayurveda Lifestyle Coach. I am here to promote natural healing, for it is my deep belief that with a little help from our friends and nature, we can all heal ourselves.