The most recent study, from the UK’s University of Nottingham Medical School, found that chamomile significantly relaxed blood vessels and smooth muscle fibers. This effect was indicated specifically with Continue reading
While conventional medicine continues to drug women with PMS with addictive SSRIs, Japanese researchers have determined that Lavender essential oil can alleviate premenstrual emotional mood changes, confirming other research showing that Lavender aromatherapy produces overall calming effects.
The research comes from Japan’s Shitennoji University and Continue reading
Lavender essential oils have been used in European hospitals, mainly France, for treating burns. But that is not the only application of lavender that has proven itself. Insomnia and anxiety relief are the most common uses aside from burns.
The herb’s Latin title is Lavandula angustifolia, more commonly known as English or garden lavender. It grows abundantly in fields along the Mediterranean shores of Europe, mostly France. You may have noticed those fields as visual subjects from some famous artists.
It’s commonly sold and used as an essential oil for aromatherapy or made into a tea from the lavender leaves. The oil can be applied to the skin for transdermal absorption. Continue reading
Many people are deeply concerned about the condition of their hair, and will do almost anything to prevent further hair loss or to re-grow hair. There are a variety of pharmaceutical products that claim to promote hair growth and prevent thinning hair; however, they can cause dangerous side effects and often don’t work. Herbal treatments have been used for centuries to treat the scalp and hair, and many are effective in the prevention of baldness and even in restoring hair pigment to its original color.
Much hair loss and baldness is related to genetics; however, other factors may play a role such as hormonal problems, poor nutrition, medication, chemotherapy and thyroid disease. Try some of these alternatives to help restore your hair and slow down the hair loss problem.
Rich in antioxidants, Ginkgo provides increased blood flow to the hair follicles in the scalp, strengthening and stimulating the hair shaft. Continue reading
Dr. Edward Bach noticed that people with similar attitudes often had similar complaints. He concluded that mood and a negative outlook on life predisposed people toward ill-health and that illness is a manifestation of a deeper mental or emotional health imbalance. Flower essences are said to contain the life forces of the flowers used to make them. They work by relieving negative feelings, and they encourage the healing process by balancing energy in the body.
Negative emotions tend to depress the mind and immune system, thereby contributing to poor health. Dr. Bach identified 7 main negative states: fear, uncertainty, insufficient interest in present circumstances (or detachment), loneliness, over-care for the welfare of others, despondency or despair, and over-sensitivity to influences and ideas. By addressing these negative emotions and learning the healing capacity of peace, hope, joy, faith, wisdom and love, it is possible to develop a positive outlook and a general sense of well-being.
Flower remedies can support one in a time of crises, treat negative emotions produced by an illness, Continue reading
An addiction can be described as a craving for or dependence on a substance, usually alcohol, nicotine or drugs. Addictions to physical substances should always be treated by a registered practitioner. This article examines some of the natural, alternative remedies that may be prescribed by a homeopathic or naturopathic practitioner.
Homeopathic treatments for addictions
Homeopathic treatment is constitutional, or tailored, to specific needs. Some treatments a homeopath may prescribe include:
Nux vomica helps to overcome a craving for cigarettes.
Kali phos, said to strengthen the nervous system, makes it easier for a person to give up an addiction.
Arsenicum is usually given for anxiety, restlessness and fears.
Absinthium is sometimes given to addicts who are depressed, Continue reading
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing. Although the word “aroma” makes it sound as if the oils would be inhaled, they can also be massaged into the skin or — rarely — taken by mouth. Essential oils should never be taken by mouth without specific instruction from a trained and qualified specialist. Whether inhaled or applied on the skin, essential oils are gaining new attention as an alternative treatment for infections, stress, and other health problems. However, in most cases scientific evidence is still lacking.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. Each contains its own mix of active ingredients, and this mix determines what the oil is sued for. Some oils are used to promote physical healing — for example, to treat swelling or fungal infections. Others are used for their emotional value — they may enhance relaxation or make a room smell pleasant. Orange blossom oil, for example, contains a large amount of an active ingredient that is thought to be calming.
What is the history of aromatherapy?
Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for nearly 6,000 years. The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them in cosmetics, perfumes, and drugs. Essential oils were also commonly used for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes.
More recently, René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when he applied it to a burn on his hand caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat burns, skin infections, gangrene, and wounds in soldiers during World War I. In 1928, Gattefossé founded the science of aromatherapy. By the 1950s massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care providers began using aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s. Today, many lotions, candles, and beauty products are sold as “aromatherapy.” However, many of these products contain synthetic fragrances that do not have the same properties as essential oils.
How does aromatherapy work?
Researchers are not entirely clear how aromatherapy may work. Some experts believe our sense of smell may play a role. The “smell” receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe that they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, lavender is believed to stimulate the activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way some sedative medications work. Other researchers think that some molecules from essential oils may interact in the blood with hormones or enzymes.
Aromatherapy massage is a popular way of using essential oils because it works in several ways at the same time. Your skin absorbs essential oils and you also breathe them in. Plus, you experience the physical therapy of the massage itself.
What happens during an aromatherapy session?
Professional aromatherapists, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, and massage therapists can provide topical or inhaled aromatherapy treatment. Only specially trained professionals can provide treatment that involves taking essential oils by mouth.
At an aromatherapy session, the practitioner will ask about your medical history and symptoms, as well any scents you may like. You may be directed to breathe in essential oils directly from a piece of cloth or indirectly through steam inhalations, vaporizers, or sprays. The practitioner may also apply diluted essential oils to your skin during a massage. In most cases, the practitioner will tell you how to use aromatherapy at home, by mixing essential oils into your bath, for example.
What is aromatherapy good for?
Aromatherapy is used in a wide range of settings — from health spas to hospitals — to treat a variety of conditions. In general, it seems to relieve pain, improve mood, and promote a sense of relaxation.
Several clinical studies suggest that when essential oils (particularly rose, lavender, and frankincense) were used by qualified midwives, pregnant women felt less anxiety and fear, had a stronger sense of well-being, and had less need for pain medications during delivery. Many women also report that peppermint oil relieves nausea and vomiting during labor.
Massage therapy with essential oils (combined with medications or therapy) may benefit people with depression. The scents are thought by some to stimulate positive emotions in the area of the brain responsible for memories and emotions, but the benefits seem to be related to relaxation caused by the scents and the massage. A person’ s belief that the treatment will help also influences whether it works.
In test tubes, chemical compounds from some essential oils have shown antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Some evidence also suggests that citrus oils may strengthen the immune system and that peppermint oil may help with digestion. Fennel, aniseed, sage, and clary-sage have estrogen-like compounds, which may help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. However, human studies are lacking.
Other conditions for which aromatherapy may be helpful include:
- Alopecia areata (hair loss)
- Agitation, possibly including agitation related to dementia
- Constipation (with abdominal massage using aromatherapy)
- Pain: Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (using topical chamomile), and headaches (using topical peppermint) require fewer pain medications when they use aromatherapy
- Itching, a common side effect for those receiving dialysis
Should anyone avoid aromatherapy?
Pregnant women, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies should avoid all essential oils.
Pregnant women and people with a history of seizures should avoid hyssop oil.
People with high blood pressure should avoid stimulating essential oils such as rosemary and spike lavender.
People with estrogen-dependent tumors (such as breast or ovarian cancer) should not use oils with estrogen-like compounds such as fennel, aniseed, sage, and clary-sage.
People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before trying aromatherapy.
Is there anything I should watch out for?
Most topical and inhaled essential oils are generally considered safe. You should never take essential oils by mouth unless you are under the supervision of a trained professional. Some oils are toxic, and taking them by mouth could be fatal.
Rarely, aromatherapy can induce side effects, such as rash, headache, liver and nerve damage, as well as harm to a fetus.
Oils that are high in phenols, such as cinnamon, can irritate the skin. Add water or a base massage oil (such as almond or sesame oil) to the essential oil before applying to your skin. Avoid using near your eyes.
Essential oils are highly volatile and flammable so they should never be used near an open flame.
Animal studies suggest that active ingredients in certain essential oils may interact with some medications. Researchers don’ t know if they have the same effect in humans. Eucalyptus, for example, may cause certain medications, including pentobarbital (used for seizures) and amphetamine (used for narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) to be less effective.
How can I find an aromatherapist?
While there are currently no boards that certify or license aromatherapists in the United States, many professionals are members of professional organizations. To locate a qualified aromatherapist in your area, contact the National Association of Holistic Therapy at www.naha.org. Many aromatherapists are trained in some other form of therapy or healing system, such as massage or chiropractic, and include aromatherapy in their practice.
What is the future of aromatherapy?
Although essential oils have been used for centuries, few studies have looked the safety and effectiveness of aromatherapy in people. Scientific evidence is lacking. And there are some concerns about the safety and quality of certain essential oils. More research is needed before aromatherapy becomes a widely accepted alternative remedy.
Although it’s common to have the occasional sleepless night, insomnia is the lack of sleep on a regular basis.
Before starting any natural remedies, consult your doctor. Chronic insomnia can itself be a symptom of another condition, such as depression, heart disease, sleep apnea, lung disease, hot flashes, or diabetes, so it’s important to see a doctor if you are having trouble sleeping.
Natural Remedies for Insomnia
Here are fourteen natural remedies that are used to treat insomnia.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a herb that has been long used as a remedy for insomnia. Today, it is an accepted over-the-counter insomnia remedy in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy.
Exactly how valerian works in the body is still not well understood. Some studies suggest that like conventional sleeping pills, valerian may affect levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA.
Unlike many other sleep medications, valerian is not believed to be addictive or cause grogginess in the morning. But valerian doesn’t work for everyone. And although studies in labs have been encouraging, clinical trials are still inconclusive.
Melatonin is a popular remedy to help people fall asleep when the sleep/wake cycle has been disturbed, such as in shift workers or people who with jet lag.
Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. The pineal gland in the brain makes serotonin which is then converted into melatonin at night when exposure to light decreases.
Melatonin is typically taken about 30 minutes before the desired bedtime. Some experts caution that melatonin should not be used by people with depression, schizophrenia, autoimmune diseases, and other serious illness. Pregnant and nursing women should not use melatonin.
The University of Alberta study examined 17 studies with 651 people and found no significant side effects when used for three months or less. The long-term effect of melatonin supplementation is not known. For more information about melatonin, read
Kava is an anti-anxiety herb that may be helpful for anxiety-related insomnia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory to consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury resulting from the use of dietary supplements containing kava. To date, there have been more than 25 reports of serious adverse effects from kava use in other countries, including four patients who required liver transplants. Learn more:
4) Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are one of the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. They require a minimum of 20 minutes before going to bed. There are many different techniques:
Visualization involves imagining a relaxing scene. You can try it in bed before falling asleep. Involve all your senses. If you’re imagining yourself on a tropical island, think of the way the warm breeze feels against your skin. Imagine the sweet scent of the flowers, look at the water and listen the waves–you get the picture. The more vivid the visualization and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
Relaxation Response – A mind/body technique based on the principles of Transcendental Meditation.
Mindfulness – A type of meditation that essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present.
Yoga combines deep breathing, meditation, and stretching. A
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a promising natural remedy for sleep. If you’ve never tried a relaxation technique before, this technique is easy to learn and simple to master.
Cut out caffeine
Caffeine can have a pronounced effect on sleep, causing insomnia and restlessness. In addition to coffee, tea, and soft drinks, look for hidden sources of caffeine such as chocolate, cough and cold medicine, and other over-the-counter medicine.
Although sugar can give a burst of energy, it’s short-lived and can cause uneven blood sugar levels. This can disrupt sleep in the middle of the night as blood sugar levels fall.
Eat foods that help you sleep
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Carbohydrate snacks such whole grain crackers before bedtime may help to promote sleep. Just be sure to stay away from sweets.
Eat magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is a natural sedative. Deficiency of magnesium can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. It has also been use for people with restless leg syndrome.
Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains.
The scent of English lavender has long been used as a folk remedy to help people fall asleep.
Research is starting to confirm lavender’s sedative qualities. It’s been found to lengthen total sleep time, increase deep sleep, and make people feel refreshed. It appears to work better for women, possibly because women tend to have a more acute sense of smell.
The good thing about lavender is that it begins to work quickly. Try putting a lavender sachet under your pillow or place one to two drops of lavender essential oil in a handkerchief. Or add several drops of lavender oil to a bath — the drop in body temperature after a warm bath also helps with sleep.
Other aromatherapy oils believed to help with sleep are chamomile and ylang ylang.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may need more light in the morning.
Light exposure plays a key role in telling the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Try taking a walk first thing in the morning. Just be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays.
On the other hand, if you find you’re waking up too early in the morning, you may need more light in the afternoon. Try taking a walk in the late afternoon.
Gentle, slow music is another remedy that can help to improve sleep without medication.
Music has been found to improve sleep quality, decrease nightly wakenings, lengthen sleep time, and increase satisfaction with sleep.
Acupuncture may help with insomnia. A University of Pittsburgh analysis concluded that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for insomnia. A preliminary study found that five weeks of acupuncture increase melatonin secretion in the evening and improved total sleep time.
10) Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, insomnia often stems from kidney energy weakness. This syndrome is not necessarily related to kidney disease in Western medicine. A few signs of kidney energy weakness are low back ache, tiredness and fatigue, and a burst of energy at about 11 pm in the evening. Women in menopause often experience this type of insomnia. People who are taking anti-estrogenic drugs such as tamoxifen also experience this type of insomnia, however, they should not take herbal combinations such as the herbal formula liu wei di huang that may increase estrogen levels.
11) Ayurvedic Medicine
In Ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is often associated with a vata imbalance. Vata regulates breathing and circulation. People with a vata imbalance often notice irritability, anxiety, and fear with insomnia. One Ayurvedic treatment is the application of oil on the head and feet. For the pitta type, room temperature coconut oil is used, for the vata type, warm sesame oil is applied, and for the kapha type, warm mustard oil is often applied.
Lack of exercise can contribute to poor sleep. Muscle tension and stress build in the body. Exercise can promote deep sleep that night. However, intense exercise too close to bed can increase adrenaline levels, leading to insomnia.
13) Other Natural Remedies
- For hot flashes, a thin, flat foam pillow insert, called a Chillow, can help to cool the head throughout the night.
- Chamomile, hops, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwagandha are other herbs that are often used for insomnia. Some people may find benefit from simply having a cup of chamomile tea one to two hours before going to bed. Chamomile can reduce anxiety, calm the digestive system, and relieve muscle tension.
Feng shui, which originates in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, instructs on how to arrange rooms, furniture, offices, houses, and other arrangements to maximize favorable energy flow throughout living spaces. Here are some recommendations that may help promote relaxing sleep:
- Try not to have the bed in a corner of the room. The corners are where energy tends to be stagnant.
- Avoid putting your bed next to a window. Energy can be drained this way.
- The bed shouldn’t be positioned so that the soles of the feet, when lying face-up in bed, directly face the doorway.
- When lying in bed, you should have full view of anyone coming in the door. If you can’t do this directly, hang a mirror to reflect the entranceway.
- Try to avoid facing sharp corners from desks, bookcases, and other pieces of furniture.