A healthy lifestyle is the foundation to a healthy life, but what is lifestyle medicine? It is a branch of medicine where we can take a dedicated look at the determinants of poor health that contribute to disease. We use evidence-based lifestyle therapies to improve behaviors that can lead to the treatment and reversal of chronic disease. These include:
Have you heard the term “food as medicine?”
Did you know comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause reversal of heart disease, prevent at least some cancers and reduce risk of death from cancer, reduce risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and help with diabetes control and remission, healthy weight, pain management, arthritis, and mental health? Make sure to include healthy lifestyle changes as the foundation for your health journey.
“LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE, AND LET MEDICINE BE THY FOOD.”
Despite healthy lifestyle changes, some are looking for ways to deal with stress better, support your immune system, support inflammatory pathways, improve digestion, focus better, naturally deal with aches and discomfort, or have more energy.
In addition to some very high-quality and bioavailable supplements, I have found great benefit using certain essential oils that support the body effectively in various ways. Initially, I was extremely skeptical that these could work and were safe. However, once I experienced them for myself and my family, and when I started delving into the research, I realized I had found a whole new set of tools I didn't previously possess!
INTRO TO ESSENTIAL OILS
What are they? Essential oils are mixtures of natural chemicals that give plants their scents. These are volatile aromatic compounds, meaning they can change their state from a liquid to a gas at room temperature. They are lipid-soluble, meaning they dissolve in fats and can absorb through the lipid membrane of our cells. The chemical constituents of essential oils are how the oils affect our bodies. Each type of plant that produces essential oils has a unique blend of chemical constituents, that at the right concentration and amount, can provide a therapeutic benefit. However, even plants from the same species that are grown in different environments can have different levels of potency, for example.
Unfortunately, there are not clear industry standards for producing and testing essential oils. Not every essential oil company produces high quality oils and/or employs the in-depth testing methods required to verify that theirs are high quality, as this is time- and labor-intensive and costly. In fact, third-party testing has revealed that almost all essential oil products on the market are not completely pure and many contain synthetics.
Fortunately, a select few are doing it right. See below to discover how to know you are getting the highest quality product.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST OPTIONS FOR PLANT-BASED SOLUTIONS
There are important considerations when searching out essential oils. Some oils are intentionally adulterated to increase the company’s profits by increasing the amount produced and lowering the production cost. This can be done by diluting with vegetable oil or adding synthetic chemicals that were created artificially. Another adulteration tactic is to pass off less expensive oils as rare ones or to add cheaper oils to stretch the amount of the expensive one. Adding a carrier oil can be beneficial to avoid skin sensitivities; however, if a carrier oil is being added simply to cut costs and without the customer’s knowledge, it is extremely misleading.
To those who say essential oils “don't work," or who had an adverse reaction to essential oils, take a much closer look at what exactly is inside each bottle and how it is being used. The bottle may say it is 100% pure, natural, or organic, but that may not be entirely accurate. In addition, the company selling the product may not even know this if they sourced their oils through a broker and if they only do GCSM testing (which is the only testing many companies perform). The answer on how to find the truth is in the details: sourcing, processing, extensive testing, and third-party testing.
Identifying an Oil’s Chemistry
- Gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) identify which and how much of each compounds are present to detect adulteration and synthetic chemicals
- GC, including chiral GC analysis
- Inductively coupled plasma MS to detect trace elements/heavy metals
- Liquid chromatography MS looks for contaminants (e.g. pesticides or carrier oils)
Physical Characteristics (Organoleptics)
- Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy
- Optical Rotation
- Refractive Index
- Microbiology testing to look for microbes
- Specialized testing for pesticides using United States Pharmacopeia (USP) methodology
- Stability Testing ensures maintenance of purity and efficacy for the entire shelf life including packaging
ESSENTIAL OILS 101
HOW ESSENTIAL OILS ENTER THE BODY
Essential oils can be used in three different ways:
aromatically, topically, and internally.
If something is not pure, you run the risk of exposure to microbes, plastics, pesticides/herbicides, heavy metals, or contaminants entering your body. These can cause adverse effects, from mild to even more more dangerous.
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