Posts Tagged ‘ aromatherapy ’

Is This Chamomile, Really Chamomile?

I’ve mentioned the importance of specifying the plant source of an essential oil before [link to eucalyptus post]. Each essential oil has its own therapeutic effect according to its chemical makeup. The functional groups (e.g. alcohols, ketones, aldehydes) in its chemistry, dictates the function the essential oil will serve for the body (e.g. anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, mucolytic). Chamomile is of no exception to this rule.

Chamomile is the name given to several oils but, unbelievably, only some of these are distilled from genuine chamomile leaves! Sold under the name of ‘chamomile’, some oils are actually made from a relative of wormwood but are passed as chamomile due to a compound that gives them a colour similar to chamomile. Chamomile is also the name given to some oils of the mugwort family of plants which are actually toxic and may result in damage to the central nervous system, seizures or even liver damage.

There are two main types of genuine chamomile, each with their unique function:

  • German chamomile – anti-inflammatory
  • Roman chamomile – anti-spasmodic

German chamomile


Are We Talking About The Same Eucalyptus?

There are a number of oils that are not clearly identified by their common names such as eucalyptus and chamomile. A little trackback to some secondary school (high school) biology should ring a little bell reminding us that in the plant kingdom, there are many species and subspecies of a particular plant. Saying ‘eucalyptus’ alone doesn’t help to identify the specific plant source.

For eucalyptus alone, there are hundreds of its varieties in existence around the world. Each variety has its own chemical composition which, when produced, creates hundreds of unique essential oils with different composition and therefore, different pharmacological effects. They would, of course, be used for various ailments. Here are a few examples:

  • Eucalyptus radiata – known for its high terpene alcohol content – great antiviral agent.
  • Eucalyptus dives – known for its ketone content – great mucolytic (especially in combination with Eucalyptus radiata).
  • Eucalyptus citriodora – known for its aldehyde content – reliable sedative.

When speaking of essential oils, correct terminology and specification of the plant source is extremely important in understanding its correct aromatherapeutic use.

Eucalyptus globulus

The Mind-Body Connection

There are a number of aspects to healing. In complementary and alternative medicine, a person is treated holistically, taking into account mental, emotional and physical stresses.

A definition shared with people of all walks of life from young to old, the W.H.O. defines health as “…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” While this is taught to everyone, conventional medicine is so divided that it’s not often one comes across a doctor who will treat mental, emotional and physical together. Psychiatrists and psychologists take care of the mental and emotional dimensions of the whole body. They are the ones who’ll sit and chat with you about your life for an hour. All other aspects of conventional medicine deal with the physical dimension and even this is divided into specialties and again into subspecialties. These guys deal with all the physical manifestations of disease…symptoms with a root cause that is rarely discovered. Symptoms are often treated and, I’ve learnt so far, many diseases have a number of causes many of which are unknown.

There are three dimensions of a being: body, mind and soul. All of these are so intricately connected. The manifestations of a disease could be the result of a past emotional trauma or spiritual torment. But these are rarely explored by individuals trained thoroughly in the physical being.

However, it’s safe to say that these connections are being more widely recognised with the emergence of psychoneuroimmunology in the 1990s. This field of research explores the interactions between the nervous and immune systems, trying to understand the relationship of behaviour and health.

Therapies like aromatherapy and Bach flower therapy utilise the healing power of nature to create a link for mind-body healing. These are therapies used not only for humans but animals as well. After all, I believe every animal possesses the same three dimensions as we do. Techniques such as meditation and yoga also help with the mind-body connection.

So, should you or anyone you know suffer from any infirmity, remember that it may not be a manifestation of just physical internal calamity but emotional or spiritual as well, whether it’s obvious or not.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

~ Buddha


Happy links: Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society (PNIRS)A New Take on Psychoneuroimmunology (Article)