This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Essential Oils

I'm not going to give much background on this topic, since so many people understand it so much better than I do.  I am going to say that from what I understand, quality (and purity) vary a lot between brands so it's worth doing some research into the different brands available to you (and avoiding MLM/pyramid scheme brands including Young Living and DoTERRA.  See this article for links to testing which show fraud on the part of both companies).  The advice that I've gotten from "people in the know" is that with essential oils (EOs) you generally get what you pay for so it may be worth paying a bit more than you otherwise would.  Also, while much of the information available calls for internal use but again the higher quality information sources say to avoid internal use except in certain situations (in which case you should be working with a trained professional), and to always dilute the EO with a carrier oil when using directly on the skin.  Many people trained to use EOs tend to favor using the oils as aromatherapy (inhaled from a diffuser) rather than directly on the body.

Contrary to popular opinion, there actually is some research showing the effectiveness of many EOs as well as how or why they work.  The smell receptors in our noses are the only sensory input organ that sends signals directly into the brain rather than filtering them first, and this is thought to be at least part of why they work.   Essential Oils can be very problematic for people with mast cell disease or other allergic diseases (probably eosinophilic diseases as well), so if you have or suspect you have MCAS please be careful.  Because EOs tend to be very high in salicylates people who do not tolerate them should probably also be cautious.  The following is research that may help us to choose the appropriate oils.


What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
This page from The Mayo Clinic provides a basic introduction to essential oils.
"Essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically extracted from various parts of plants and then distilled. The highly concentrated oils may be inhaled directly or indirectly or applied to the skin through massage, lotions or bath salts.  Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions."

Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series
Many fans of essential oils claim that one of their benefits is that they do not and can not cause side effects.  I have never seen anyone try to support this argument, it just seems self-evident to some people.  I don't know how many of the adverse events in this paper were actually caused by essential oils, but I do know that people with MCAS can be very sensitive/allergic to them and that they can bring on many symptoms including life-threatening anaphylactic episodes in some people.  

3 Reasons to Avoid Ingesting Essential Oils
This post challenges the common advice that essential oils are safe to use internally, in particular it points out that just not enough is known about the effects of EOs on the microbiome in the gut.

Why essential oils are not water flavoring agents
This is another post that urges caution about the internal use of EOs, while also discussing some times in which it is appropriate to do so.

Some EOs have been shown to cause or worsen seizures in some people, and should be avoided by people at risk for seizures. This post lists out which oils these are, and explains why they can be problematic. If you scroll to the bottom of the post, it also has information about which EOs might help with seizures.

ANTIMICROBIAL EFFECTS (emphasis added in quotes below)

Essential oils from aromatic herbs as antimicrobial agents.
"Bacterial resistance to multiple antibiotics is a health problem. Essential oils (EOs) possess antibacterial properties and have been screened as potential sources of novel antimicrobial compounds. Terpenes and terpenoids are components derived from EOs. Some of these EOs show inhibitory activity against Staphylococcus aureus. Carvacrol has specific effects on S. aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Perilla oil suppresses expression of α-toxin, Staphylococcus enterotoxin A and B and toxic shock syndrome toxin. Geraniol shows good activity in modulating drug resistance in several gram-negative species. EOs could act as biopreservatives, reducing or eliminating pathogenic bacteria and increasing the overall quality of animal and vegetable food products. Although clinical studies are scarce, the uses of EOs for topical administration and as penetration enhancers for antiseptics are promising. Little information exists for oral administration."
Antibacterial and antifungal properties of essential oils.
"Factors influencing the in vitro antimicrobial activity of essential oils and the mechanisms of essential oils action on microorganisms are reported. This paper gives an overview on the susceptibility of human and food-borne bacteria and fungi towards different essential oils and their constituents. Essential oils of spices and herbs (thyme, origanum, mint, cinnamon, salvia and clove) were found to possess the strongest antimicrobial properties among many tested."

Some Essential Oils Inhibit MRSA, Influenza, and Strep - Scientific Studies
This is a very helpful post on another person's blog that includes a long list of studies and summaries of what the research found.

The inhibition of Candida albicans by selected essential oils and their major components.
"The essential oils of Origanum vulgare, Satureja montana, Mentha piperita, Cinnamomum verum, Cymbopogon flexuosus showed maximum inhibitory activity (MIC = 500 ppm) after 7 days. According to the results of the examination of pure constituents, beta-phellandrene proved to be the most interesting component among cyclic monoterpenic hydrocarbons as it showed a strong activity (MIC = 50 ppm). The most active of phenols was carvacrol (MIC 100 ppm). The open-chain alcohol 1-decanol was the most active of alcohols at 50 ppm. Finally, among aldehydes, a strong activity was shown by trans-cynnamaldehyde (MIC 50 ppm)."

Vapor-phase activities of cinnamon, thyme, and oregano essential oils and key constituents against foodborne microorganisms.
"The aim of the study presented here was to gain knowledge about the vapor-phase antimicrobial activity of selected essential oils and their major putatively active constituents against a range of foodborne bacterial and fungal strains. In a first step, the vapor-phase antimicrobial activities of three commercially available essential oils (EOs)-cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and oregano (Origanum vulgare)-were evaluated against a wide range of microorganisms, including Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella choleraesuis), Gram-positive bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Enterococcus faecalis), molds (Penicillium islandicum and Aspergillus flavus), and a yeast (Candida albicans)".  The results of the study are complex and hard to summarize so please follow the link for more information.

Antifungal activities of essential oils and their constituents from indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) leaves against wood decay fungi.
"The antifungal indices of these two leaf oils at 100 ppm against five strains of white rot fungi and four strains of brown rot fungi were all 100%. Cinnamaldehyde, the major compound in C. osmophloeum leaf essential oils, possessed the strongest antifungal activities compared with the other components. Its antifungal indices against both Coriolus versicolor and Laetiporus sulphureus were 100%. The MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) of cinnamaldehyde against C. versicolor and L. sulphureus was 50 and 75 ppm, respectively. In addition, comparisons of the antifungal indices of cinnamaldehyde's congeners proved that cinnamaldehyde exhibited the strongest antifungal activities."

Effects of oregano, carvacrol and thymol on Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms.
"The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of oregano essential oil, carvacrol and thymol on biofilm-grown Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis strains, as well as the effects of the oils on biofilm formation. For most of the S. aureus (n=6) and S. epidermidis (n=6) strains tested, the biofilm inhibitory concentration (0.125-0.500 %, v/v, for oregano, and 0.031-0.125 %, v/v, for carvacrol and thymol) and biofilm eradication concentration (0.25-1.0 %, v/v, for oregano and 0.125-0.500 %, v/v, for carvacrol and thymol) values were twofold or fourfold greater than the concentration required to inhibit planktonic growth. Subinhibitory concentrations of the oils attenuated biofilm formation of S. aureus and S. epidermidis strains on polystyrene microtitre plates."

Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Carvacrol and Carvacrol Bearing Essential Oils
"Oregano essential oils obtained from the genera Origanum, Thymus, Coridothymus, Thymbra, Satureja and Lippia are rich in carvacrol, a monoterpenic phenol isomeric with thymol... Carvacrol is responsible for the biological activities of oregano. Many diverse activities of carvacrol such as antimicrobial, antitumor, antimutagenic, antigenotoxic, analgesic, antispasmodic, antiinflammatory, angiogenic, antiparasitic, antiplatelet, ACE inhibitory, antielastase, insecticidal, antihepatotoxic and hepatoprotective activities and uses such as feed additive, in honeybee breeding and in gastrointestinal ailments have been shown. This paper highlights these activities and attempts to explain the possible in vivo mechanism of action of carvacrol."


Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva.
"both lavender and rosemary stimulations decreased cortisol levels. A significant inverse correlation was observed between the FRSA values and the cortisol levels with each concentration of rosemary stimulation. No significant changes were noted in sIgA or alpha-amylase. These findings clarify that lavender and rosemary enhance FRSA and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, which protects the body from oxidative stress."
"The lemongrass essential oil (LEO) possessed various pharmacological activities, especially the anti-oxidative stress and cancer prevention... However, these effects were suppressed when the cells were also treated with LEO, leading to enhanced levels of SOD and CAT activities (2.9- and 2-fold, respectively, compared with BaP treatment only) and reduced the level of MDA in the cells (43% reduction in malondialdehyde level). At the same time, LEO also reduced the level of DNA damage, as shown by a reduced level of 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG). Taken together, the results showed that LEO offered protection against BaP-induced OS and DNA damage, suggesting that LEO could be a promising agent for lung cancer chemoprevention."