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Peppermint vs. the Migraine

Click here for Part I: Wild Orange and the Anxiety Experimentpeppermint essential oil and migraines

I am a week into my Anxiety Experiment. My results have been very interesting. Following is my log.

Day 1:

Hyper-aware of how I feel in preparation of running the stress experiment. I find myself asking over and over, Am I stressed yet? The baby cries, I decide that is enough stress to start the experiment. I warm a couple of drops of Wild Orange essential oil in the palms of my hands by rubbing them together and then inhale deeply for half a minute.

Aaah.

I rub the excess on the back of my neck and feel a slight tingling sensation. What is that? I knew that peppermint cooled the skin with a refreshing tingle…but Wild Orange? Hmm.

The baby cries again. Am I stressed? I better administer some Wild Orange, just in case. Hubs remarks of the smell when he walks through. With his myriad respiratory issues I brace for his protestation but there is none, he is only noting the aroma. If synthetic chemicals in anyway wafted up to his nose— perfume, nail polish and remover — he would flee the room and brace for an asthma attack. So far, so good.

Dinnertime approaches and the smell of Wild Oranges has faded to a whisper. I go to put on my dosage and the baby cries. I think to myself, Just in time. She wants to be held. As usual, she needs cuddling at the very moment when holding her would be impossible if I wanted to still get dinner on the table in time for bath and bedtime. I wish the baby sling would fit on the back instead of the front — I could cook dinner and carry her around like a backpack. I haven’t used the thing since she was a baby.

I try it anyways—I put the baby in the sling on my back knowing that it won’t work, but it works!! Why didn’t I try this before?

Usually, the toddler and I would have acted at cross purposes for the entire making of dinner. A willingness to try something new seems very different from my normal routine of tense up and stress out. I wonder if the wild orange applications from earlier have relaxed me so that I am calmer and more free to think clearly rather than get upset and stay in reaction mode.

With the baby in the sling, I administer my dose of wild orange — just in case — and cook dinner.

I am not a multi-tasker by nature—the hard deadlines of cooking stress me out. I cook dinner with my usual flubs—forget to start the bacon first, don’t start the wontons on time, completely forget the egg rolls—however I am unconcerned. Instead of the baby crying and tugging on my pant leg, she is swinging on my back, happily watching the events as they pass. When I flub up, instead of muttering under my breath, I feel a tingle on my neck from the Wild Orange oil. I have a narrowed focus on my task and dinner is ready more quickly. Hubs is talking about being 100% ON BOARD WITH THE ESSENTIAL OILS before dinner even hits the table… so, that is a recommendation. I eat dinner in wonder while simultaneously scratching my head why every day isn’t this easy. Bath is a breeze, bedtime and out.

So yesterday I was a dinnertime stressball, and today I am transformed into boss mom. Did I mention my voice dropped 20 decibels as the day progressed?

What is this stuff?

Day 2:

I wake up, grateful that I have discovered my anxiety problem AFTER I figure out how to solve it. I am feeling invincible when the worst case scenario happens as if on cue: MIGRAINE.

Yes, the mother of all headaches and an affliction I have suffered with for the last twenty years. Not only a headache, my migraines are accompanied by pain and tension in my muscles stretching along the right side of my body from my little toe to my jaw where it bursts into flames on the right side of my head.

It hasn’t blown up yet, but my body is displaying all of the symptoms and I know that the Wild Orange is not going to be enough for this. I do some research on the other little sample bottle of essential oil that I have been provided for the study: Peppermint Essential Oil. Hallelujah—it treats headaches and migraines. Not just headaches, but headaches AND migraines. I look at my little bottle and wonder if I have enough. I am skeptical. Even the heavy duty drugs from the MD barely touch my pain. A $75 pill gives me 4 hours of relief and then it comes back and rolls over me like a freight train. I gave up taking medication early on when I realized this and that a lifetime of imitrex or whatever else the snake oil salesmen were peddling the doctors were prescribing would kill my liver thirty years too early.

I rub the Peppermint Essential Oil together in my hands, warming it up, and inhale for 30 seconds. The natural menthol of the peppermint potently opens up my sinuses and passageways. I rub the cooling oil on my neck and the tingling also slightly numbs the area. My neck relaxes noticeably — the place where all of the pain in my body and head meet — and I continue to apply throughout the day (maybe 3 times total?) and watch in disbelief as my migraine fades away. I still feel the tension throughout my normal tension spots and I wish I have enough of the stuff to bathe in it. What would happen if I put it on my sore shoulder? Or the tight hamstring? My sore toe?

Now the question arises, after two rather miraculous days with the stuff:

Why haven’t I tried this before??

Me—the person who doesn’t believe in medical solutions for daily problems while I watch everyone around me get on the essential oil bandwagon and poo poo their results?

A friend’s husband stops a gout attack where his medications only diffuse it. Everywhere, people are sleeping where there was only insomnia before. My own pediatrician recommends it and yet I think it can’t be powerful enough to touch the pharmaceutical stuff?? But I don’t even believe in the pharmaceutical stuff!!

Day 3:

Wasps have started building a nest in my daughter’s playhouse. Hubs suggests a cotton ball with a couple drops of peppermint oil and they scatter and haven’t been back since.

Day 4:

I make a natural hair serum out of castor oil and essential oils that tames my frizz. I have paid so much money for the same over the counter stuff that has never worked. Have we as a society been hoodwinked? How perniciously tied together is the medical-industrial-pharmaceutical-cosmetic industry??

Day 5:

I wonder if this is the stuff of magical spells and why witches were burned at the stake. Making Aromatic Clay necklaces for essential oil scented jewelry and to ward off evil spirits.

Day 6:

Ordering a boatload of peppermint and wild orange. And bergamot. And lemon, jasmine, ylang ylang. I can’t forget about Frankincense. Why don’t I just order the whole kit?

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Wild Orange and the Anxiety Experiment

wild orange and anxietyWould you try something with me now?

Pinch the bridge of your nose with one hand and place the other hand on the back of your head. This is the path of a nerve in our head which travels from our nose to the back of the brain where it accesses our emotions (amygdala) and memories (hippocampus). This is the limbic system and it combines higher mental function with our more “primitive” feelings like stress, depression, and anxiety. It is directly connected to our sense of smell and it is why scent can bring up memories so vividly — think chocolate chip cookies at Grandma’s house.

Scent is on my mind this week as I am inundated with the luxurious smells of essential oils. I am participating in an essential oil study this week for stress and anxiety. Every time I feel stressed or anxious, I am to put a drop of Wild Orange essential oil in my palms, rub them together and inhale for 20-30 seconds. Then I rub the excess oil on the back of my neck. I haven’t done it yet because the study just began and I haven’t felt stressed… yet. It won’t take long, I’m sure. I am already planning to administer my dose of essential oil at dinnertime tomorrow because this is my stress-out time for reasons I have yet to figure out. Perhaps I wait too long to eat after I am already hungry. I really have no clue, but I am excited to arm myself with an ally in my wild orange oil.

Will it work?

I have always loved and used essential oils for my handmade body butters and bath products. I luxuriate in the intoxicating smells and studied layering scent to be the master body butter maker that I am. You could definitely call me an addict. When Mom Life came to me and offered a collaboration with Natural Mama to expand the shop with certified pure therapeutic-grade essential oils, I jumped at the chance. But supporting health and wellness through essential oils? I have always been skeptical. It turns out my skepticism was a good thing as I look back through my collection of oils and find many of them not of the highest grade… Thank goodness I wasn’t ingesting and using aromatically.

I recently read a fascinating article in National Geographic about the healing power of faith. Scientists are finding that belief can be a more powerful indicator for healing than anything else. And this fact crosses cultural lines from aboriginal tribes to our modern society.

Do I believe that an essential oil can heal my dinnertime anxiety? I am willing to believe a lot. In fact, I am more ready to believe in alternative methods of healing than anything that modern medicine prescribes. Each decade I hear conflicting information from “authorities” leading me to believe that no one knows what they are talking about. One decade butter was sure to kill you if it so much as touched your lips. The next decade butter was a whole lot better than the butter alternatives that had been on the market for the same decade that saw a concurrent explosion in obesity. Thankfully, I never fall for the hype — thanks to my natural philosophy — and I had been eating butter all along, still trim and healthy.

Meanwhile, kooks spill out of the woodwork with claims of miraculous healing, and, somehow, the kooks make more sense to me – a willingness to go out on a limb seems more believable than the fall in rank and file scientists who aren’t allowed to have any new theories because everything has been discovered. Really?! Isn’t that the point of science? That it is forever evolving? And yet science isn’t very good at curing stress or anxiety, rather the rise of science sees a concurrent rise in overall society anxiety…

And essential oils are kooky, right?

I don’t know. It makes a lot of sense to me. My study of emotion keeps bringing me over and over to the conclusion that our emotional state is integral to the body, mind, spirit connection. I think it is the fourth point in a 3-dimensional triangle. It is in the center—it is a pyramid.

Speaking of the pyramids, did you know that archeologists have uncovered vials of intact essential oils in the Egyptian tombs? Intact. That means that the oils are still alive thousands of years later, kept perfectly maintained in the darkness and sealed environments of the tombs.

What does that mean for our body? We put synthetic chemicals in our body for medication — medication imitating single compounds in the much more complex herbs and plants with hundreds of chemical compounds. Aspirin is fashioned on two compounds of the many compounds in Willow Bark, used for millennia by the Lakota. What is the use of stripping a natural and whole plant whose properties must be numerous for healing to use just two?

Controlling nature? Extending profits? Collusion with the medical industrial complex?

So, yes, I am willing and excited to try my Wild Orange sample for the week and report the results back to you. To answer my earlier question, I don’t know that my body needs anything to heal. I wonder if my mind isn’t the more integral factor in my healing and when I finally figure out exactly what is bugging me at dinnertime, my frustration will evaporate.

I get the power of using smell to access memories — I have experienced this like everyone. I get that the quickest way to put a body under for surgery is through anesthesia. The lungs pull in oxygen and it is delivered straight to our bloodstream. Yes, breath is life.

Will it calm my inevitable irritation at dinnertime? More than food? I just don’t know. We will have to wait until next week, won’t we?

Results forthcoming…Click here for Part II.

~ Tifany