Most heath-minded mothers-to-be are extremely cautious of what they choose as medicine, first aid, and, of course, personal care and cleaning products during conception, pregnancy, and even beyond. One crucial stumbling point for holistic mothers is the incredible amount of controversy over the use of essential oils which causes many moms to avoiding using them all together.
The reality is that not all essential oils are created equal, and most oils are not safe enough to use when pregnant. The only grade safe and effective enough to inhale, apply topically, and to ingest is authentic therapeutic grade. This means they were planted, harvested, distilled, tested, and bottled with the intention of being used medicinally. Unfortunately, because our country considers oils to be “perfumes” only and does not (yet?) recognize them medicinally, there are no labeling laws for them. Thus, many essential oil companies claim “100% organic/Therapeutic/Wild Crafted/Pure, etc” but truly, they are adultered with additives such as alcohol and other caustic ingredients meant to extend the batch but aren’t required to be listed on the label. In fact, only about 2% of the oils found in the US today are true therapeutic grade!
To make sure you have an authentic therapeutic grade oil, seek out a knowledgeable Aromatherapist, or research the company you are considering to see if they own their own farms, perform on-site and third party testing, and have strict potency and purity standards. Unfortunately for our convenience, most adultered oils are found in health food stores as there is much room for retail mark-up for “junk” oils, so make sure to do thorough research online.
Now, for the fun stuff! How exactly can you use therapeutic essential oils, you ask? Any way you want to – if you have a truly therapeutic grade oil, of course! There are three main ways to use therapeutic grade (“TG” from now on) oils. First, you can diffuse them into the air with an ultra-sonic, cold air diffuser. This nifty machine atomizes the oil molecules along with cold water and propels them into the air without damaging their medicinal constituents. Burning a candle under oil will destroy its therapeutic value and leave you with a smoky, resin-like substance. Ick! Make sure to never heat your oils. Second, you can apply TG oils directly to your skin or the skin of your infant, toddler, or great-grandma! TG oils are pure, and they are generally gentle enough even for sensitive skin. As a cautionary act, dilute a drop of oil to a tablespoon of organic, food-grade vegetable oil when applying to little ones or to sensitive areas. Also, the bottoms of the feet are a great spot to apply a “warm” oil such as peppermint or cinnamon-based oil blends. One thing to note as well is that essential oils do not contain proteins or polypeptides, thus they cannot produce allergic reactions. If skin reddening does occur, simply add vegetable oil to slow down the absorption as the oils will detoxify skin that has been exposed to petrochemicals.
The third most common way to use TG oils is to ingest them. They can be dropped into a vegetable-based capsule and swallowed, dropped in some honey or on some bread, or added to your water, tea, or even your favorite meal! One of my favorite oils to add to my water is grapefruit because it is a gentle detoxifier and it aids in the elimination of fat in the body. Just for the record, two other ways that TG oils can be used, though less common, are vaginally (on organic tampons) and in suppositories (mixed with a carrier oil).
*A few things we do not do: make sure to keep oils out of ears and eyes as they can sting, but will not damage your hearing or sight. Also, citrus oils, like the fruit they come from, tend to ripen our skin in the sun (it will create a dark tan in the spot where it was applied), so do not apply them to exposed areas when you know you will be outside for an extended amount of time. Beyond that, there is much controversy, like I mentioned, about using oils during pregnancy, but it really comes down to oil quality and your personal comfort level. If you are using authentic TG oils with common sense, you will be fine. As Jane Buckle, Ph.D., R.N., states in her book Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Practice, “There are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses due to the normal use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application. There are no records of a few drops of essential oils taken by mouth causing any problem either.” Go with your gut, but know that TG oils are used safely by countless pregnant women around the world.
Now that we’ve covered how to use TG essential oils, the next step is to learn about what we can do with them. As you may know, there are many essential oils – well over 150 different types. So, in order to avoid overwhelming you, I am going to cover nine of the most versatile and practical oils for use during pregnancy, childbirth, and for family use post-partum. The information I will share with you is from testimonials from women in my own life as well as my studies, which include this wonderful little reference book that I highly recommend for anyone looking to add TG oils to their pregnancy and parenting: Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Infant Care by Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.
These nine oils are what I call the “Dr. Mom essentials” as they offer a wide array of uses and can act as a travel-size go-to first aid kit that never leaves your purse or diaper bag. They aren’t too overwhelming and are a great way to get accustomed to using oils in an “every-day” sense, rather than just as air fresheners.
- Lavender: The “mother” of all oils, lavender is known for its ability to promote tissue regeneration and speed wound healing. Lavender is great for any and all skin conditions. Antiseptic, antifungal, analgesic, antitumoral, anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine, lavender can also be used for preventing and addressing stretch marks as well as scarring from caesarians, diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, burns, blisters, fever, allergies, cradle cap, blocked tear ducts, teething pains, and ear aches.
- Peppermint: High in menthol, peppermint is anti-inflammatory, antitumoral, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and pain-relieving. One of the most versatile oils, peppermint is well known for soothing the digestive system and helping to curb appetite, while promoting alertness and mental clarity. Great for morning sickness, heartburn, stomachaches, constipation, fever, colic, headaches, high blood pressure, muscles aches and discomfort, breech and other pregnancy discomforts.
- Lemon: Rich in limonene (which has been extensively studied for its ability to combat tumor growth in over 50 clinical studies!), lemon is antitumoral, antiseptic and immune-stimulating. With an invigorating fragrance, it is known for giving clarity of thought and purpose, while being uplifting to mood. Lemon is useful for coughing, mucus, immune support, flu/cold, ph balance, and for reducing water retention. Kids love this oil!
- Frankincense: The “father” of all oils, Frankincense has been “used to treat every conceivable ill known to man.” The holy anointing oil, frankincense was valued more than gold in ancient times. Prized for its antitumoral, immune-stimulating, antidepressant and muscle relaxing properties, it is widely used in the treatment of depression, cancer, respiratory infections and inflammation. Frankincense can be used for anointing at birth, as well as colds/flu, pneumonia, blisters, preventing and addressing stretch marks, infections, head bumps, healing the umbilical cord stump, and respiratory issues.
- Anti-Microbial Blend: Effective against MRSA, this highly antibacterial and antiviral blend has been studied by Weber State University to destroy 99.96% of airborne pathogens when diffused into the air for 12 minutes. It can also be used for boosting the immune system preventatively, viral infections, bacterial infections, anti-fungal, anti-mold, sore throats, cough or colds, whole-home cleaning, diaper pails, changing table, and nursery sanitation.
- Pain Relief Blend: Used to reduce pain and inflammation, improve circulation and accelerate healing, it is great for swelling and discomfort from sprains and strains, muscle cramps and bruising. It also offers fast relief for headaches, bumps/bruises, stuffy noses, and backaches.
- Balancing Blend: Balancing to the energies and alignment of the body, it is known to instill feelings of courage, confidence and self-esteem. Wonderful during birth as it relaxes the central nervous system. This blend is also great for backaches and calming, as well as for anti-viral and anti-bacterial use.
- Relaxing Blend: Calming and balancing to children and adults, it is wonderful when diffused and can be added to the water during water births. It can also be used for anxiety, temper tantrums, sleeping, and ADD/ADHD issues.
- Purifying Blend: An effective and all-natural bug repellant, it is also well known for cleansing the air and neutralizing even the most pungent odors. Highly antibacterial, it can also be used to disinfect cuts, scrapes and insect bites. It is also very helpful for earaches, cuts and scrapes, and respiratory conditions.
My goal is to educate moms and dads to a point that they feel confident in using Therapeutic Grade oils during pregnancy, the birthing experiencing, and in everyday family’s life. Remember: trust your gut, use common sense, and know that oils are wonderful, time-tested alternatives for you and your family.
Alina Piccone,B.A., L.M.T., H.H.C., I.C.A., is an Internationally Certified Aromatherapist in Sarasota, FL. Her passion is educating the community about the benefits of therapeutic grade essential oils. Learn more at her website www.EssentialLifeToday.com.