Essential oil is good for this and that. Um, yes, but in what dose and in what form? I’ve seen too many fried throats because of taking oregano oil in teaspoons. As in phytotherapy, one dimension is the notion of indication, and another equally important dimension is the amount of active substances and how to apply them. The knowledge of essential oil medicinal forms makes professional aromatherapy.
Why are preparations (formulations) made?
Numerous substances are medicinal in nature, but their path from plant to human application is a long one. The first part of this journey is a good extraction of plant substances, in the case of essential oils distillation or pressing.
The second part of this journey is the expert selection of the essential oil for each ailment (indication), the choice of dose, treatment time, and the preparation (formulation) to be prescribed. What does the choice of formulation mean? When choosing a formulation, we must be aware of:
- which dose will be administered
- where it will be applied (skin, urogenital mucosa, nasal mucosa, vagina, rectum, lungs by inhalation, orally)
- how long is the period of therapy expected, in order to prepare a sufficient amount of the preparation
Proper formulation is equally important, if not one of the most important processes in aromatherapy. Namely, in addition to these first three initial steps, excipients are very important in the formulation, which will make the application of essential oils safe and effective.
It is precisely the good formulation that defines the boundary between professional aromatherapy from amateurism. There is no doubt that there are a number of books on aromatherapy and essential oils, just as there are many schools that teach it. It is my experience that everyone goes agitated when they read or hear: “rosemary essential oil is used for respiratory infections, cosmetics and rheumatism”. Let’s put aside chemotype inaccuracy, but everyone would ask me: “And HOW to use it? Shall I drink the whole bottle? Do I put it on my wrist or in my nose?” This shows the difference between phoneys and professional aromatherapy.
Let’s take the example of the already known peppermint. In the book of pretentious title The Directory of Essential Oils by Wanda Sellar, peppermint acts as: “analgesic, antidontalgic, antigalactagic, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cephalic, collagen, cardiogen, emenagogue, expectorant, antipyretic, hepatic, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, diaphoretic, vasoconstrictor, anthelmintic”. It cannot be said that a significant part of these descriptions are inaccurate. Namely, peppermint is an analgesic (reduces pain), primarily due to the content of menthol. It is carminative (reduces bloating in the digestive system), probably because it is an antispasmodic (relaxes smooth muscle in the digestive system). I could analyse each of the actions, but again the question arises: “How to apply it?”.
Looking strictly at the formulation, as a stomachic it is used in a dose of 0.02-0.08mL (1-4 drops), up to three times a day (ESCOP), as an emulsion in water, on sugar or in oleocapsules. As a antispasmodic and carminative in the digestive system, especially in irritable bowel syndrome, it is used in a dose of 0.2-0.4mL three times a day, but in enteric capsules that melt after passing through the acidic contents of the stomach. It is the famous drug Colpermin of the Johnson & Johnson group. As a decongestant (nasal mucosa) and expectorant it is used in inhalations in a dose of 0.06-0.08mL. Locabiotal by Servier contains 0.25g of peppermint essential oil in 100ml in a nasal and mouth spray bottle, with a dose of 0.25mg of essential oil/nostrils and 0.5mg of peppermint essential oil into the oral cavity four times a day.
Peppermint perfectly illustrates how much knowledge is needed about both the dose and the formulation. It is these two factors that make aromatherapy safe. A few years ago, there was a real boom of articles about oregano on the Internet, with the usual tendencies towards sensationalism. Sites posted that you should put it into water and drink, others sugar and swallow it, some said that you should take a whole teaspoon (!) three times a day… The consequences were predictable. One person who was taking oil in on sugar got oesophageal damage. The other had swollen lips all day as she put oil into a glass of water and drank. Namely, essential oils do not dissolve in water, so they look for the first lipid “fatty” medium. And these are our skin and mucous membranes. The person who took oregano with sugar managed to prevent prolonged contact with the mouth, but the essential oil was released very quickly from the dissolved sugar into the mucosa by passing through the oesophagus. The person who put it into the glass of water could notice that the oil floats on the surface of the water, so the oil immediately “moved” in the direction of the lips and was absorbed into them. And so great antibacterial oil becomes a great irritant. That is why oregano oil is formulated into oleocapsules. The vegetable oil in the formulation dilutes the essential oil and reduces its irritability, and slows down the rapid absorption, while the wall of the capsule itself prevents the release of essential oil in the oral cavity and oesophagus.