Normally we smell something long before we see it. In fact, our noses often direct our eyes where to look and our feet where to walk; either toward a desirable smell or away from an undesirable one. Yet I feel we often take our sense of smell for granted.
I was just reading an amazing article on the learning capabilities of deaf-blind children. These extraordinary human beings, who are not able to rely on the typically dominant senses of sight and hearing, become quite reliant on their sense of smell.
These children use the chemical signals that come in through their noses as information for identifying the various people in their lives and for anticipating activities that they are about to experience.
Imagine for a moment not being able to see and not being able to hear. In fact, experiment with covering your eyes and plugging your ears.
Now smell. Sniff deeply. What do you notice? What information are you able to take in about your surroundings? How would it feel to navigate through the world, relying predominantly on your nose?
What about during times of sinus congestion?? Imagine only having your tactile sensation as a guide!
I, like many, am quite attached to the richness of the sights and sounds around me, but through my extensive studies of essential oils, I also know that I have developed quite a sensitive nose.
Opening up this sensory apparatus has been a true gift, as it has made me aware of aspects of the world that often go unnoticed by others; things that go unseen and unheard, might yet be smelled.
In this installment of “Get to Know Your Oils”, I would like to talk about essential oils that help us to breathe more deeply; oils that open up our sinuses, help to fight infection in our lungs and help us to recall those extraordinary organs right in the center of our faces: the beautiful noses that we too often forget about.
OXIDE-RICH OILS – Breath, Mental Clarity & Insight
The commonality of the oils I am discussing today is found in their chemistry; they are all extremely rich in oxides. Oxide is simply a classification that describes a particular family of chemical compounds.
When I hear “oxide”, I think “oxygen”, which is a good way to remember the best use for these oils: respiration.
In essential oil science, there is one oxide in particular that shows up in the distillates of plants: 1,8 cineole, also known as eucalyptol.
Based on this name alone, you can probably guess at least one oil that is high in this compound…………yep, you guessed it: eucalyptus. In fact, eucalyptol (the oxide) was given its name by a scientist studying the chemical make-up of Eucalyptus globulus (the essential oil).
The more generic name of 1,8 cineole (which describes the molecular structure of this compound) was later given when this particular oxide was discovered in many plant oils outside of the eucalyptus family.
PROPERTIES & APPLICATIONS
1,8 cineole has been studied extensively in its isolated form, and has some exceptional therapeutic properties:
- airborne antimicrobial (it disinfects the air)
- analgesic (pain killer)
- expectorant (helps get built-up mucous out of the lungs)
- immune supportive
- increases blood flow to the head (mental clarity, focus, clear thinking, attention)
Because of this incredible list of strengths that 1,8 cineole expresses, its applications are also quite extensive and you may find it as an ingredient in many commonly used products:
- cough suppressants/decongestive aids
- disinfectant solutions
- insect repellents
- other body care products
- as a flavoring agent in foods and candies
Now that I have pointed it out, I am sure you will start to notice eucalyptol everywhere. Just take a look at the labels of some of your body care products.
Connection to the Plant
Oils rich in 1,8 cineole are distilled from the leaves of the plant. Imagine the leaves as the breathing apparatus; the place of photosynthesis; the place of nourishment. As a byproduct, these plants give off oxygen through their leaves; an oxygen from which we greatly benefit as humans; an oxygen without which we would not survive.
The most obvious use of these oils, then, is as a respiratory aid. That is how we benefit from these plants in nature, and that is the same way we can benefit from them once distilled and bottled.
In fact, just opening up a bottle of oxide-rich essential oil is like infusing the room with a fresh burst of oxygen. You instinctually want to take a deep breath, you feel your nervous system calm down, you feel a sudden clarity of mind and you may even find yourself smiling for no apparent reason.
Mental & Emotional Aspects
Beyond respiration, these oxide-rich oils also offer inspiration. They bring in new ideas, clear our heads, clear our sinuses, offer fresh insight, offer mental clarity and allow us to slow down long enough to choose our actions rationally.
These oils also help to lift the spirit, support inner strength and confidence, and combat feelings of fear.
Whether we are feeling angry & unforgiving, anxious & stressed, paralyzed by uncertainty or depressed & unmotivated, oxide-rich oils remind us to take a deep breath.
This type of conscious breathing sends a signal to the brain saying “You’re safe now. You can breathe and relax.” The parasympathetic nervous system then takes over and gets the body back to a state of equilibrium.
Which Oils are Oxide-Rich?
There are so many wonderful oils that have 1,8 cineole as a primary component; many of them even having a strikingly similar aroma. This is great news, as it means you can always substitute your favorite oxide-rich oil into a recipe that calls for one you do not like as much.
Here is a list (not exhaustive) of oils that fall into this category:
- Cajeput, Melaleuca leucadendron var cajuputi
- Eucalyptus globulus
- Eucalyptus radiata
- Fragonia, Agonis fragrans
- Helichrysum gymnocephalum
- Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis var decumbens ct 1,8 cineole (not to be confused with Hyssopus officinalis, which has some serious safety concerns to consider due to its high ketone content)
- Laurel Leaf, Laurus nobilis
- Niaouli, Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole
- Ravintsara, Cinnamomum camphora ct 1,8 cineole
- Saro, Cinnamosma fragrans
A Note to Asthmatics
While oxide-rich oils are tremendous for respiratory issues and have an opening effect on the airways, paradoxically for asthmatics, certain oxide-rich oils have the potential to cause a feeling of restriction instead.
If you suffer with asthma, always test an oil first by sniffing the cap, or placing a single drop on a tissue and inhaling. Check to make sure that the oil creates a feeling of openness before diffusing or inhaling it in a larger quantity.
- 10-15 drops of Ravintsara, Cinnamomum camphora ct 1,8 cineole
(or your preferred oxide-rich oil)
Essential oil inhalers are clever little plastics tubes (about the size of a lip balm container), with a cotton “cartridge” for holding the oil, and small holes for accessing the oil. They are small, portable and keep your aroma contained so as not to affect others around you.
Essential oil inhalers are simple to use and are available for purchase from many online stores.
Depending on the size of the cotton insert, you will be able to add 10-15 drops of your favorite oil, which will last several months to a year, depending on frequency of use.
- 4 drops Cajeput, Melaleuca leucadendron var cajuputi
- 4 drops Wild Mint, Mentha arvensis
- 4 drops Lemon, Citrus limon
This blend of oils will not only open up your breathing, it will dramatically disinfect the air; clearing out germs, along with stagnant energy and stale odors. It will also help to ease headaches, improve mood and encourage positive thinking.
If you do not want to buy an inhaler kit, or you do not have a diffuser, try simply dropping 4-5 drops of Eucalyptus globulus on the shower floor before running the hot water. You will create your own decadent eucalyptus steam.
Or next time you mop your floors, add 4-5 drops of Laurel Leaf, Laurus nobilis, to your solution. It will leave your entire house sparklingly clean and smelling amazing.
If you are not ready to invest in your own essential oils, try our BE Light BREATHE blend (currently $5 off with coupon code: breathe).
Recommended Oil Distributors:
- Aromatics International
- Stillpoint Aromatics