Ask Dr Bo: your questions answered

We have had an overwhelming response to Ask Dr Bo – where Good readers ask Dr Bo Hendgen of Absolute Essential for advice on how to use essential oils safely and how help ease ailments.

This is the first of several Ask Dr Bo Q&As that we will publish online, so do keep checking in. To find these Q&As easily, just pop Ask Dr Bo into the search tab.

Q. My husband has recently been diagnosed with cancer and I am his (willing) support person and carer. I’m well physically but find it very difficult to stop myself being constantly on red alert and worrying about him and possible outcomes. Of course, I’m struggling a bit with sleep too. Please can you advise me how I can help myself to be more resilient and get through? Alison

A. This is a difficult time indeed for your husband and in another way for yourself.

As scent affects our moods immediately it is important to surround yourself with uplifting aromas in your direct environment, like your home. The easiest way to achieve this is via diffusing clinically formulated pure blends of essential oils. I recommend three different ones to choose from: 

Uplift – A bright and upbeat blend to help support a positive mood. Great for balancing and shifting perspective. This will be incredibly helpful for you during this ever-shifting landscape of emotions.

Stress Less – A gently relaxing blend to help in times of tension and pressure. Promotes sustained energy, calm focus and relaxation. It’s my go-to when I feel anxious, worried or stressed.

Purify – A very fresh and cleansing blend to effectively kill germs and support the immune system. They say cancer have a certain smell, this blend is very helpful to leave your house smelling amazing.

All of the above may also be applied to your pulse points on the wrist up to 6x a day.

Naturally, when we are worried about our health or the health of a loved one it will affect our sleep.

If you’re able to establish great sleep hygiene around bedtime it is a bonus. Run yourself a hot bath, blend 10x drops of Deep Sleep (a pure essential oil blend) with 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salts, mix it with ½ cup of milk (any) for better dispersion in the bathwater. Rest in the bath for no more than 15 min (released toxins tend to be reabsorbed after 15 minutes) and go straight to bed, maybe with an easy read book if you like reading to take you mind off things.

Also add 1 drop of Deep Sleep pure essential oil blend to your pulse points, neck, wrist, back of knee and ankles. Repeat the later when you are unable to have a bath.

Wishing you and your husband the very best of health.

Q: Please can you let me know what essential oils would be best for me to help me sleep.  I always have a job to get a full night’s sleep, specially round Full Moon. Also, I get stressed at times, so wonder what essential oils would be best to help me with this. Verity

A: A great question. See above answer to Alison for some great ways to improve your sleep. Deep Sleep will definitely help.

Q. I’m brand new to the essential oil world and I’m wanting to know which oils are the best to start with? I’m wanting to get a diffuser as I’ve heard this is better to use than burning candles. Would love some info around what would be amazing please. Lou

A. I love that you ask this here as it is a concern for many, and quality essential oil products are such an incredible tool to use for a healthy life and home health care.

We have a Starter Collection on offer which sets you up with seven most popular essential oils and blends. If you have always wanted to explore the benefits of essential oils but have not known where to start, this is the collection for you. These 7 best-selling therapeutic grade oils and pure blends have been hand-picked by our health experts as the ultimate must-haves.

The Absolute Essential Starter Collection includes Lavender True, Peppermint, Eucalyptus Australiana, Lemon, Deep Sleep, Stress Less and Tranquillity. Presented in a beautiful complementary handcrafted storage box made from sustainable Nepalese Lokta bush paper.

Using an ultra-sonic diffuser is very convenient and effective for bigger spaces however keep an open mind for other recommended applications to serve you better in your personal space.

Assure your diffuser is crafted from ceramics and not plastics as this can disintegrated with the essential oils and send out plastic micro-particles which you breathe in, not healthy…

However, you are correct that the ultra-sonic diffuser is a much more efficient distribution of scent then the candle burners, firstly you have a fire danger if you forget it and second when the water runs out it tends to bubble and burn everything dry.

Q. My question is about stress – acute and chronic. All of Auckland and Aotearoa has been disturbed, rattled, upended by multiple floods then Cyclone Gabrielle. My community of Muriwai can be described as a collective whole as traumatised. How can we use oils to ground ourselves? How can we use fragrance as part of a multi-pronged toolbox to stave off anxiety, depression and despair? Ruth

A. Thank you for your question, it has been such a challenging time for many people and communities in Aotearoa. We all have to dig a little deeper to find our resilience to pivot to the “new now” and to what I am observing in Muriwai as well as other affected communities Kiwis are a generous helpful bunch looking after each other. I applaud you for upskilling yourself in the trauma recovery space and agree this all does take time.

“Scent is the only medicine you can apply directly to the brain” is what I always say and hence 100 per cent therapeutic essential oils and blends deserve a place in your recovery toolbox.

And furthermore “scent works by association” which means we can train our brain to relate to / react to a scent a certain way.

Let’s take our certified organic Confidence essential oil blend. A potent and energising blend to encourage mental clarity and positive action. If every time we catch ourself with negative, despondent self-talk, add a couple of drops to your hands, rub them and take a deep breath, we can instigate a release of the cocktail of happy hormones like dopamine and assert the feeling of hope and possibilities.

Alternatively, if the mood gets dark diffuse 10 drops of Uplift essential oil blend to your diffuser and replenish as needed. It is known for its bright and upbeat instant mood support.

The feeling of anxiety we may experience every time it rains for example is best managed with Tranquillity pure essential oils blend in a diffuser, bath, on pulse points, or simply rub 2 drops pure onto your chest when you are feeling anxious.

These three essential oil blends would be a great selection for your trauma tool kit.

Q. I would like to know the best blend for healing long-term repeated trauma from family members which then rippled out to the community being all that was known. Would a rose blend for self-love be best? Pamela

A. Long-term trauma and grief are indeed treated effectively with Rose Damask essential oil. Due to the price of this incredibly precious essential oil I like to also suggest a couple of blends I have created with this purpose in mind.

Sweet Rose essential oil blend is a soothing and balancing blend to support self-care, relaxation and restoration, very healing for a grieving and sad heart.

Our Heart Chakra blend is a gentle and harmonious blend to support emotional balance especially during times of stress, trauma or grief. The key active ingredients in this blend are precious essential oils of:

Melissa True Melissa officinalis: to calm, refresh and ease feelings of grief.

Bergamot Citrus auranthium var. bergamia: to promote composure, calm and confidence.

Rose Maroc Rosa damascene: to strengthen, ease anxiety and relax.

The pure essential oils are blended with organic Jojoba so you can apply this straight to your skin (heart area). This blend is not suitable for the diffuser or bath.

Q: I have had gastritis which is inflammation of the lining of the stomach which causes my bowel to become inflamed as well. Could you please suggest what natural product I can take for my gut. Sandra

A: Thank you for your question. Such a huge concern when our tummy is sore and especially when it has grown to a state of inflammation and is affecting your bowels. I recommend the following, focusing first on the healing of your stomach, which will take time especially if this condition has been with you for some time.

Step one is Soothing and Cleansing. I would highly recommend Chamomile Roman Floral Water (organic) –  hydrosol is made by capturing the steam during distillation – which is full of the plant’s water-soluble compounds and therapeutic properties, making it a gentle and versatile alternative for various healthcare applications.  

You also need Argyle Clay. This is a  naturally detoxifying and alkalising fine white clay powder. It is especially restorative for a sensitive stomach and upset digestion, very anti-inflammatory.

Go ahead and do the following for 10 days.

In the morning add 1 teaspoon to a glass of water, add 1 tablespoon of organic Chamomile Roman Floral water, stir and sip.

Repeat this 30 minutes prior to every time you eat (including snacks). Your glass should be empty by the evening.

I have just advised another customer of this recipe with similar symptoms who messaged me three days later to say “It’s working” so give it a go.

Once your tummy is settled we can start working on your bowels while continue healing your stomach.

I do hope it will give you some relief.

Q: I have recently had an attack of hives on my face and neck after having a facial treatment (I was assured beforehand that the treatment was gentle and wouldn’t aggravate my skin).

My skin has been left red, hot, and bumpy, but not particularly itchy. What would you recommend as a safe and effective way to calm an allergic reaction down when something like this happens? I have sensitive, mature skin and I’m prone to eczema, but I haven’t had anything like this before. Help! Sarah

A: It is always so very concerning when something like this happens in your face especially after a facial treatment.

But if it does, we need to focus on “soothing” and of course “cleansing” the irritating allergens away from your skin.

I recommend 3 steps for a healthy, revitalised glowing skin:

1 – Cleansing / Toning:
I would highly recommend Chamomile Roman Floral Water (organic), this is the hydrosol (steam) extracted while distilling the essential oil and as saturated with the water-soluble compounds of the plant its super soothing for your skin. Use it as a toner / cleanser 2x day morning and night.

2 – Oil cleansing:

Take 20-30 drops of organic Castor oil (thicker) or Apricot Kernel oil (lighter) and “wash” your face with this by massaging the oil into your skin with small circular movements. Wipe access oil off with a warm cloth and leave overnight. Repeat every night for 10 days and then as required. This will also be deeply hydrating for your sensitive facial skin.

3 – Clay mask:

Once a week, I typically make it a “thing” on Sunday (Selfcare day) and prepare a Argyle Clay (very fine French clay) mask utilising either / or Chamomile Roman and / or Rose Floral Water. You can find the recipe on our website here (link). Leave for 10-20 minutes and remove with warm cloth. Let the skin breathe for a bit and repeat step 1+2.

Have a play with this and let us know how you go, the soothing result should be apparent within days, the long-term skin resilience you will build over weeks of taking gentle care and balancing.

Q: I lost my sense of smell in my mid-twenties following severe sinusitis. I’m now 44 and still cannot smell or taste much. I have always wondered whether people with little to no sense of smell can benefit from therapeutic essential oils at all? I would love to learn more about oils. However, I feel I would not gain much since I cannot smell. I would love to hear your thoughts. Emmanuelle

A: To answer your first question, yes even though you might not be able to identify the scent you are experiencing you will still receive the therapeutic benefit from the organic essential oils as the fine molecules enter the body not only via the olfactory system but also via the lungs and epidermis.

Last week I came across an interesting documentary about the scent of smell and how to re-educate our nose once we have lost it. The documentary explained how we can re-educate our nose to identify certain scent. If you would take a common scent e.g., a slice of lemon, or garlic and take 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening to really smell this, little repetitive sniffs like a rabbit, repeat daily, add new scent when you can identify the objects via your sense of smell. Essential oil bottles are excellent for this exercise.

Your observation is correct that if you cannot smell much it is difficult to link your study of essential oil to a personal experience however if you are comparing this with the study of vitamins, minerals or homeopathic for example which none of this has a scent, you would neither have an experiential learning.

Dr Bo Hendgen is a Natural Health Practitioner, D.O. N.D. A.M and a doctor of osteopathy with more than 38 years of hands-on, clinical experience, specialising in paediatrics and maternity care. She founded Absolute Essential in 1988 and studied aromatic medicine in France.

Q. I’m hoping Dr Bo can help me. I’m very keen to start using essential oils however I find there are so many different brands on the market that all say they ‘are the best’. What makes Absolute Essential oils the best and how are they different? Noelene

A. I’m very glad you are asking this. For the beginner essential oil user this is a bit of a jungle out there to walk yourself through. In general I would advise to be very clear on the purpose of use of your essential oils.

If you intend to utilise essential oils for health benefits here is what you should look for: common name, Latin name, country of origin, plant part, extraction method and a statement of purity, e.g. Lavender True, 100% pure lavandula angustifolia maillette, distilled, flowers, France. Plus, growing method and company and products certifications such as certified organic, vegan, cruelty-free, ethically sourced, NZ made.

Also a statement regarding the quality e.g. medicinal, therapeutic, flavour and fragrance as only 4% of the world’s production of essential oils are performed with the intent of producing a therapeutic product, the remaining 96% is produced for the flavour and fragrance industry.

We define this superior quality simply by our low temperature and slow extraction methods. A similar rule applies to carrier oils. Following these guidelines will help you.

Your Absolute Essential toolkit

Uplift – A bright and upbeat blend to help support a positive mood.

Stress Less – Promotes sustained energy, calm focus and relaxation.

Purify – A very fresh and cleansing blend to effectively kill germs.

Deep Sleep – A natural and deeply relaxing blend to support restorative and restful sleep.

Tranquillity – A relaxing blend to help reset the senses and support tension relief.

Chamomile Roman Water – This light and gentle floral water is very soothing.

Castor Oil – Virgin – A pure extraction to support skin hydration, joint mobility and lymphatic flow. 

Apricot Kernel Oil – Virgin – A light, nourishing, moisturising oil that makes your skin glow.

Argyle Clay – Raw – Restorative for sensitive skin, supports cleansing and purifying processes.

Sweet Rose – A soothing and balancing blend to support self-care, relaxation and restoration.

Heart Chakra – A harmonious blend to support mental and emotional balance in times of stress, loss or grief.

Lavender True – A first aid staple in every home.

Peppermint – A cool and refreshing plant distillation to support relief of body, tummy and head tension.

Eucalyptus Australiana – A clean and refreshing plant distillation that supports decongestion.Lemon – From uplifting to happy moods to relieving tired feet – a classic essential oil.

If your question is published in print in Good magazine you will receive an Absolute Essential product recommended for you by Dr Bo up to the value of $35.

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