Saturday, August 23, 2008

Alternative Medicine Tips: 5 Essential Oils for Happy Healthy Kids

By Melissa Ginger

Our fast-paced lifestyles often leave little time for taking care of our children as well as we'd like. Often, we find ourselves compromising between what would be the healthiest options and what's most convenient. Fortunately, aromatherapy offers both; pure, effective natural medicines with simple, easy-to-use methods. The only time required is learning a little about a select group of essential oils, what they do and how to use them. Here's a quick review of five important oils commonly used with children and infants, and some ideas on how to use them most effectively.

We'll begin with a few tips on using oils with children and infants. There are three primary methods of using oils with little ones: Topical application through massage or applying directly to wounds or sores; Inhalation from a handkerchief, spray bottle, warm bowl of water, the bed sheets, or diffuser; and Baths, which actually combines the topical and inhalation methods. The main difference in using essential oils with children and adults is that children will simply need smaller amounts. There are a few oils that should not be used with children - peppermint, for example, is considered too powerful for the wee ones under two (spearmint is called for instead, which can be helpful with tummy trouble). Ask someone with experience if you are unsure about a particular oil.

The dosages and dilutions used for children are generally significantly lower than those used with adults. Dilutions for caring touch massage can start as low as 1 drop per ounce of carrier (hazelnut is excellent for most applications) for newborns, moving up approximately 1 drop per year, within a range of about 3 drops per ounce. For example, a massage blend for a four year old might contain anywhere from 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce, depending on the oil and the child. Oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Vanilla are exceptionally gentle - more could be used without worry. An oil like Rose, while wonderful for children, is fairly potent, and using a little less may be prudent. The child's weight and overall condition can also be considered; a child that is big for their age could use slightly higher amounts of essential oil, whereas a child that is week from illness could use a little less.

By now you might be wondering "which oils should I be using?" We'll start with vanilla...Everyone loves vanilla, right? It turns out that babies especially respond well to the comforting sweet aroma. While a good vanilla essential oil is a little expensive, only a very small amount is needed to create an exceptionally soothing massage oil for belly, back and foot rubs. Vanilla, being so gentle, can be used in concentrations of up to 1% (that's 10 drops per ounce of carrier). Really all that's needed is a hint of the aroma for it to work wonders. I've received reports of children being instantly calmed by a gentle vanilla massage, then immediately asking for more!

Next up is Chamomile. Roman Chamomile is premier oil calming little ones over two years of age. The oil may be used in a number of ways; aromatherapy massage, in a diffuser or room spray (with this and other oils, dilute 10 drops per cup of water in a clean spray bottle - shake well and lightly mist the air), a drop or two sprinkled on bedding, or in a bath. According to Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt in Advanced Aromatherapy, "Even in very small concentrations, whether alone or in combinations with other oils (Roman Chamomile) has a soothing effect. It's appropriate to massage a few undiluted drops into the solar plexus." It is noted as particularly suited to calming tantrums or bringing calm after nightmares.

True Lavender essential oil (Lavendula angusitifolia) is wonderful for its soothing effects as well, along with a great variety of other healing actions. It is an excellent remedy for small burns, applied directly to the area, undiluted. For small cuts and scrapes, Lavender may be used alone, or in a 50/50 blend with Tea Tree for added antiseptic properties. Lavender supports sleep, and is an excellent choice for diffusing in the evening time. Lavender may also be used in a bath, and is the first choice for a gentle foot rub. For a good night's rest, blend 2 to 1 with Roman Chamomile, diluting as needed depending on the child and application method.

When sour moods are in need of a lift, citrus oils supply the aromas of choice. Tangerine and Sweet Orange are especially liked, and Mandarin has a certain calming effect not found in any other oil. Citrus oils are often cold-pressed from the peels of the fruit; these can be mildly irritating to the skin. Stick to using these in room sprays or diffusers. Steam distilled citrus oils, often made from the leaves or flowers of the citrus trees (like Neroli, Petitgrain, or Mandarin Petitgrain - an especially nice oil for young ones) can safely be used in topical applications like massages and baths. All these oils are known as antidepressants, and might just lift your mood as well as your child's (not to terrible of a side effect!)

And for all those little abrasions of childhood, Tea Tree is highly regarded as a natural antiseptic for cuts and scrapes. Once a wound is washed, it may be covered with a Band-Aid which has a drop of Tea Tree placed on the gauze. Tea Tree may be a bit strong to apply directly to the injury, though when mixed with equal parts of Lavender, Tea Tree will prevent infection while the Lavender will relieve pain and actually speed wound healing. A few drops of the Tea Tree/Lavender mixture can be added to a warm cup of water to use as a cleansing wash. An effective, home made antiseptic spray can also be made: use 2 ounces water, 1/2 half ounce rubbing alcohol, 8 drops Lavender, 12 drops Tea Tree and 8 drops Roman Chamomile. Shake vigorously and store, shaking again before each use. Tea Tree is considered a 'universal antiseptic', with a great many uses in first aid and around the home. At 20 drops per cup of water, it can be used as a non-toxic (if not pungent!) general cleaner which you'll be happy to use instead of many chemical laden household cleaners where your children will be crawling about - and you can mix with lemon oil for a more pleasing aroma.

This is just a brief look at how you can easily incorporate the wonderful healing potential of essential oils into your child's natural health and wellness program. There are many, many essential oils available with an array of healthful effects and pleasant scents. A note about essential oil quality: consider spending a little bit more on your oils, rather than going for the least expensive available. The oil's aroma, and its therapeutic value, may be significantly different. Try to find a company you trust, that offers consistently high quality oils; when you buy a new oil for the first time, they're more likely to carry first-rate oils of each type. As your knowledge and experience grows, you'll find there are aromatherapy remedies for most common childhood ailments. There are many fine books on aromatherapy available, often with several chapters devoted to using essential oils with children. Most importantly, start slowly, be creative, and have fun; aromatherapy can easily become a key component in support of your family's health and wellness.

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