Essential Oils and Modern Medicine
Pure essential oils are plant oils extracted from known medicinal plants. They have been used medicinally for thousands of years and for almost every ailment. They are applied to the skin to improve softness, promote healing and disinfecting and taken internally or orally.. They are way too potent to be ingested or used directly on the skin and like all plants, some are poisonous and can cause allergic reactions. Topical essential oils have to be diluted/dispersed in a separate inert liquid. Most of the medicinal properties (alkaloids) are oil base, soluble in organic solvents but not in water. This is why we have essential ‘oil’. To make lotion you disperse the oil into a water-based emulsion/gel.
Alcohol can be used as on of its scientifically know properties is that it can get water and oil to mix. My auntie used to say my Mom and Pop were like water and oil. Now i see where Dads alcohol fits in.
Once applied to the skin, the water based gel slowly dries away leaving tolerable amounts of the oils evenly dispersed on your skin. This is preferred in most hand lotions but most dermatologists agree water is not good for your skin. Other methods utilize a more oily gel like glycerine. it coats the skin with a very strong, protective layer which in itself is also known to be antimicrobial and antiviral properties of its own. But its sticky and a little uncomfortable. it also stays wet similar to Vaseline. Essential oils can also be dispersed in inert vegetable oils like olive oil or coconut oil. Of the 3 methods its hard to find the right balance.
Nearly every drug or medicine used in hospitals today are thousands of years old and usually originated from plants. In fact most modern drugs and medicines are still entirely plant based including:
Opioids: Almost all known painkillers–Morphine, Codeine, Vicodin… are still made from oil in the beautiful, backyard-variety poppy flower.
Benzodiazepines: Librium, Valium; Gets its origin from synthesized vitamin b complex (vitamin h).
Aspirin: From another beautiful flower, Spiraea– and see the name, Acetylated Spirea: Ace-Spirean
Novacaine: Nova means ‘the new’–The New Cocaine extracted from the leaves of a harmless tree in South America
Cannibis is now an accepted medical treatment for countless conditions
The benefits of most of these drugs has been known for millennia and were all originally home remedies.
The first and most common of these are the alkaloid rich plants that predate history. An alkaloid is an organic compound naturally occurring in plants and flowers and is the starting point for drug discovery. Common alkaloid rich plants and their popular drug include:
- Coca Leaf: Cocaine
- Poppy Flower: Opium, Morphine, Codeine
- Coffee: Caffeine
- Tobacco: Nicotine
The word Alkaloid actually means ‘ashes of plants’ derived from the Arabic al-qalwī. The word Morphine comes from the Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. This doesn’t sound like the nasty ‘drug’ thing we hear about.all the time?
Alkaloid use was quite popular in almost all societies and civilization. The usefulness of these medicines was critical to daily functioning. Chewing coca leaves would ease the pain of a toothache. Rubbed on a cut or wound, it would virtually make the pain disappear. Poppies were found in the satchels of Roman soldiers and consumed by mouth to make the ills of a sever wound subside–and depending on the dosage can results in a deep sleep.
This sound great! Is it safe? If so, then why is it illegal now?
Our ancestors used these remedies safely and harmlessly. But after centuries of use, science thought to extract and concentrate the medicinal chemicals in the plants for the betterment of society (or the greedy pocketbooks of British colonialist traders). Instead they created devastating adaptations of the drugs which would later challenge the existence of mankind itself.
The beautiful, harmless medicinal poppy turn into heroine! There’s a milky fluid that comes out of the poppy pod which is rich in alkaloids. The milky fluid is dried to a sticky resin which becomes a super concentrated dose of the drug. This new concentration is now Opium. 17th century chemist refined it further by boiling it with lime then reducing water until its a brown paste–now basic morphine. To worsen things they started smoking it to directly deliver the drug faster, directly into your blood system. One last process which involves boiling it in acid (acetic anhydride) turns it into heroine. It can then be directly injected into your body with a hypodermic needle.
It was one of the largest trade items in the World. And the availability of its virtually free (and harmless) predecessors became scarce. Entire populations of people became addicted as business thrived. However these drugs were so addictive and debilitating it threatened the ability of nations to thrive. For the sake of posterity and our ultimate existence it its recreational had to become banned although it still thrives in the medical industry.
The powerful business moguls behind this learned their lesson fast. Tobacco never got past smoking the dried leaves. Tea and coffee are just boiled and taken by mouth like our ancestors did with poppies. In America however, far from the British rule, there was a new elixir that literally cured almost everything and swept the nation. And you guessed it. It was an alkaloid based drink consisting of coca (the base plant of cocaine) and cola an African nut high in caffeine.
The country soon got addicted and before it would be made illegal the company preemptively removed most of the harmful drugs from the sweet soda beverage.
However, believe it or not, today, The Coca-Cola company uses over 100 metric tons of Peruvian coca leaves per year to make your beloved beverage. They supposedly extract most of the cocaine off using the same process described above before they mix the leaves into it our soft drink, They then sell the remaining cocaine to Mallinckrodt, a large drug manufacturer of pain killers based on cocaine–Hydracodone, Oxycodone…
You see, the use of these plants in their more-natural form can and should be greatly beneficial to our society and many of us agree that the poppy, coca leaf and others should be included in this group of natural home remedies and pick-me-uppers. The essential oils are no exception.