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Chinese Medicine and Essential Oils: A Profound Combination

For the past 2 years, I have been incorporating essentials oils into my acupuncture practice and daily life. I have to say, the results have been pretty amazing. The use of essential oils is not new to Chinese Medicine. Its use was first recorded in China between 2697-2597 B.C.E. during the reign of Huang Ti, The Yellow Emperor. More well known is the use of herbal medicine as an integral part of Traditonal Chinese Medicine. Many of the plants used in herbology can also be used as Essential Oils for the same issues. In the essential oil form, they are a lot more potent. For example, 1 drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to 27 cups of peppermint tea.
Inhalation can be the most direct delivery method of the many components in essential oils, since the chemical messengers in the nasal cavity have direct access to the brain. Oils can also be used topically with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil. When essential oils are applied to the skin, their healing components are absorbed into the bloodstream by the pores and hair follicles. Once inside the bloodstream, they disperse to the specific organs and systems on which they work.
The following is a very small sample of Chinese herbs that are also used in essential oil form.
Sheng Jiang : Ginger
Ginger root and ginger oil are often used for upset stomachs. It is one of the best remedies for indigestion, stomach ache, dyspepsia, colic, spasms, diarrhea, flatulence and other stomach and bowel related problems. Ginger or ginger oil is often added to recipes, especially in India, as it helps in improving digestion. Ginger tea is also used for relieving stomach problems. Furthermore, it can increase your appetite, for this reason, I often recommend it to people who have a difficult time eating in the morning.

Bo He : Mint
The health benefits of peppermint oil include its ability to treat indigestion, respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fever, stomach and bowel spasms and pain. It helps to increase immunity, reduces bad breath, keeps teeth and gums healthy, stimulates mental activity and reduces sugar cravings. I often suggest it for morning sickness caused by internal heat as opposed to ginger which would be morning sickness caused by cold. A qualified TCM practitioner can determine your pattern through a thorough intake.

Ru Xiang : Frankinscence
The benefits of Frankincense are numerous. It is used to boost the immune system, aid in easing menstrual discomfort, may help in shrinking fibroids, helps wounds heal faster, helps fade stretch marks and scars, improves digestion, has anti aging properties, lowers blood pressure, relieves pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis, has a sedative effect and may help with anxiety and focus. There are numerous studies on Frankincense’s ability to suppress cancer cell viability. Here is just one of those studies that shows its effectiveness on bladder cancer:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664784/.

These are just a few examples of common uses of essential oils that coincide with uses of Chinese Herbs. The difference is that Chinese herbal formulas are more complex. There is generally at least 4 herbs in a formula and they each have their own individual jobs. In that way, they help to strengthen and guide each other by working together. I remember a great teacher of mine saying, “why do we need to use more than one herb or one point if that one herb and one point does what we want?” Often with essential oils we can get great benefit from using just one oil. However, there are many great blends that do exist and work amazingly well.

In my practice, I find that using specific oils on specific acupuncture points along with the treatments can provide some really great results. For example, the liver in Chinese medicine is responsible for moving the Qi throughout the body. Often times, when one is stressed or easily frustrated, we want to help move the liver Qi which results in an ability to relax and let go. In this case, I may recommend a patient put lavender oil on a liver point that is found on the top of the foot between the big toe and the 2nd toe. In another example, I may have a patient coming in for digestive issues and I will massage a digestive blend mixed with coconut oil into their abdomen along with the treatment. One more great example where I have found the use of essential oils has greatly enhanced the acupuncture treatment is in the use of encouraging the body to go into labor. At the end of a treatment, I will often massage clary sage into the sacrum, the triangular area at the base of your spine. I have found this method to be very effective at getting contractions going. I often recommend moms use clary sage throughout labor to keep contractions going and the feedback has been great.

There are many methods out there for using essential oils. I have found that my knowledge of Chinese Medicine and the location of acupuncture points throughout the body helps me to utilize them in a way that may be very different from what is found in a typical aromatherapy text. Whether it be aromatically or topically, the combination has made a difference in my practice and in my household.

If you are interested in learning more about how to use essential oils and acupressure points at home on yourself and your loved ones, contact Chantal Davis, L.Ac. at freeflowhealth@gmail.com.

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