Thursday, February 12, 2009

Practical Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils With Children

Busy parents are always on the lookout for natural, effective alternatives to support their children's health and happiness. Invoking gentle calm in an otherwise hectic family life is especially appreciated. Essential oils can offer this support in a fun, safe and natural way. A few essential oils are particularly suitable for use with young ones, both for bringing soothing emotional calm and contentment healing the small wounds of childhood - here's a quick primer to help you safely and effectively use five valuable essential oils with children.

There are several easy methods to utilize natural essential oils with children. These include topical application via caring touch massage; direct application to wounds; inhalation from cloth (like clothing or a pillowcase); room sprays and diffusers; and the all-purpose aromatherapy bath. The key difference in using essential oils with children, compared to adults, is that children will need smaller amounts of oil for the same effect. There are a few oils that shouldn't be used with children; peppermint, most eucalyptus varieties, and red thyme, for example, are considered too strong. If in doubt about any oil consult a knowledgeable practitioner or reputable text.

Also, the younger the child, the more dilute the concentration of essential oils should be in a formula, bath, or inhalation application. Massage formulas, for example, can contain approximately 1 drop essential oil per ounce of carrier oil for each year of age - this is flexible depending on the oil and the situation, within a range of 3 drops for each year (i.e. For children one and under, up to 4 drops can be used with gentle oils such as Vanilla, Lavender and Chamomile - use only 1 or two drops with newborns). The child's weight can also be considered; if a child is larger for their age, a little more essential oil can be used. If using a diffuser, only enough oil so that the scent can be detected is necessary - nebulizing diffusers may output too high a concentration of oils for children; warming or humidifying diffusers are more appropriate. The oils we'll look at here are all quite safe and can be used as often as feels appropriate; Tea Tree, though, should be reserved just for its potent antiseptic applications.

And now for the oils! We'll start with soothing the very little ones; comforting an infant can seem a full-time job for many parents, where support is always welcome. For this, there's one indispensable tool: pure Vanilla essential oil. Mmmm! Who doesn't like vanilla? Infants really respond to its calming, sweet scent. And it's so easy to use. A belly, back or foot rub with a blend containing 1/2 percent vanilla in any quality carrier oil (jojoba, hazelnut or other seed or nut oil of your choice) works magic for many parents. To make a 1/2 percent Vanilla blend, purchase a small amount of pure Vanilla essential oil and add 4 drops into each ounce of carrier. Use as frequently as you like, as vanilla is completely non-toxic. You can even add a few drops to your favorite cookie recipe for an exquisite flavor, far surpassing that of the commonly found vanilla extracts.

Next up is Chamomile. There are several varieties of Chamomile, with an array of uses. German Chamomile is an exceptional oil for skin inflammation and rashes, applied in a 1/2 to 1 percent dilution in Hazelnut oil. 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 is 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.

Lavender essential oil is also highly regarded for its soothing qualities, along with a host of other healing actions. Lavender oil has been called 'a medicine chest in a bottle', as it is anti-inflammatory (good for small burns - apply directly as needed), relieves pain and supports wound healing. Clinical studies have proven Lavender oil's effectiveness for improving sleep. For children, blend 2 to 1 with Roman Chamomile. Apply one drop of this blend to the pillow at nap or night time. Lavender works well in a bath, too. Additionally, Lavender can be mixed in equal parts with Tea Tree oil to add a soothing quality to Tea Tree's antiseptic action. Really, every parent should have a bottle of Lavender on hand.

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 quick overview on caring for children with essential oils. Once you get started, you're likely to find these and other oils are a safe, effective means to naturally support your child's health and happiness. As your knowledge and experience grows, you'll find there are aromatherapy remedies for many common childhood ailments. In much of the rest of the world, essential oils are considered potent medicines, deserving a place in everyone's medicine chest. There are many great books on aromatherapy, with loads of information and recipes to get you started. Just remember, when using essential oils with children start slowly, and with small amounts; their response to certain oils and concentrations will likely tell you about the oil's effectiveness. When used with care and respect, essential oils can become a much appreciated part of your natural health and wellness lifestyle.

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