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Fragrant essential oils might help fend off winter ailments

Columbus Dispatch (OH)


Nov. 24--There are those who go after cold and flu season with a fragrant arsenal.

Peppermint. Eucalyptus. Oregano. Tea tree.

They diffuse essential oils in their homes, spread them on their children's feet and inhale them deeply.

Some even swallow the oils for their antiseptic, antibacterial and sometimes antiviral properties, although experts urge extreme caution with that approach. The oils derived from plants are highly concentrated, and some can cause problems in excess.

Essential oils and other complementary treatments, such as herbs and vitamins, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"People have been using plants for thousands of years," said Kyongson Pae, who owns Earth Elements in Grandview Heights.

Pae said many people are looking for oils that will help with symptoms of winter ailments -- congestion, coughs, sore throats.

Eucalyptus radiata and Ravensara aromatica are especially popular, she said. Some school-teachers diffuse tangerine oil in their classrooms for its bug-fighting properties.

People make homemade cough drops, chest rubs and hand sanitizers, among other things, Pae said.

In most cases, when it's used directly on the skin, essential oil should be diluted in a carrier oil such as grape seed or safflower, she said.

Karla Banks of Plain City has been enthusiastic about essential oils since she tried a blended oil that contained clove, cinnamon and wild orange for her son last year. He'd had strep throat seven times, she said.

He gargles with a few drops mixed in water and swallows it.

"I want the bacteria in his mouth and throat to be knocked out," she said.

Banks said she believes that oils have kept her son, and her family, healthy.

She's also a big proponent of oregano, melaleuca and eucalyptus.

"It concerns me more taking regular over-the-counter drugs and stuff," said Banks, who is involved with the essential oils company doTERRA. "Essential oils are natural. You're ingesting something that comes from nature."

Jennifer Kuck of London, a massage therapist, said she'd long used oils in her practice for aromatherapy and recently has started to use more oils for prevention and treatment of illness.

She diffuses oils in her home and dilutes a blend with coconut oil before rubbing it on her children's feet before bed.

"We haven't been sick this year, so that's a plus," Kuck said.

Dr. Ruslana Kurpita, a family-medicine physician at Ohio State University's Center for Integrative Medicine, said she often brings up essential oils for cold prevention. Eucalyptus, tea tree, oregano and peppermint are helpful, she said.

Peppermint also can be good for feverish babies, Kurpita said.

She said people should know that oils break down over heat, losing their healing properties.

Aside from oils, Kurpita highly recommends moderate exercise and a diet that boosts the immune system. Stress reduction also is an important way to guard against winter illness, she said.

"We usually take things for granted and want a magic pill for everything," Kurpita said. "We need to address our psychological health as well as our physical health because they are very in tune."



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