One True Thing

Life's questions, big and small

The Healing Power of Scent

Stay young and healthy with essential oils.

To take a yoga class from Mana Iluna is to understand the spiritual and physical joy of Purna Yoga. I know that sounds corny and over the top, but it's actually true. Mana, who is 75-going-on-eternally youthful, has been teaching yoga for 19 years and meditation for five years at Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington, and has been practicing yoga for nearly 50 years. She's my motivation for trying to quiet my mind and listen to my body... if this is what growing older can look like, I'll take some of that! One of Mana's secrets (which she happily shares) for staying young and healthy is essential oils, which have been have been used therapeutically for thousands of years in other cultures-from Ancient Egypt to modern-day France. The U.S. seems to be behind on this trend, but we're catching on. Here's more from Mana:

Jennifer Haupt: How did you discover the healing power of essential oils?

Mana Iluna: My first introduction to an essential oil was during a massage. I had just done handstands and backbends, and there was a giant muscular knot in the shoulder blade area that the massage therapist had been working on for quite some time without success. She decided to put this wonderful smelling "thing" on that knot and it was gone within perhaps 30 seconds-we were both amazed! This was the first time she had used this "thing" on anyone.

When I asked what it was and where could I get some, she said it was a blend of oils from Young Living Essential Oils designed to relieve pain. I now have about 100 of their oils and use them for anything from healing skin issues, to cooking, to clearing my sinuses-and much more. Sometimes I may want to cleanse the air of germs or just make a room smell wonderful. Oils are also great as perfume.

JH: Are there different grades of essential oils? How do you know which ones are best to use medicinally?

MI: Yes, there are many grades. To be medicinal they should be labeled as pure, grade A essential oils.

According to the Young Living Reference Guide for Essential Oils, a number of variable can contribute to determining the purity of an oil, including: the parts of the plant from which the oil was produced, soil condition, fertilizer (organic or chemical), geographical region, climate, altitude, harvest season and methods, and distillation process. nothing less than pure, may not produce the desired results and can in some cases, be extremely toxic.

JH: Do you need to go to a doctor or aromatherapy specialist to make sure that you're using essential oils correctly? Do you have any precautions for people?

MI: Unfortunately there are few doctors who are schooled in the use of essential oils for medicinal purposes, although aromatherapy specialists will give the safety precautions an essential oil. The general protocol for safety is to test a small area of skin for sensitivity. It's a good idea to at first dilute the oil with some organic oil such as almond oil.

Certain oils are safe to ingest and these are designated as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). There are a few oils that pregnant women should avoid, and an aromatherapy specialist or a reference book such as the one mentioned above should be consulted.

JH: What are the best essential oils to use to reduce stress and anxiety? Depression?

MI: Young Living makes an oil blend called Valor that is excellent for anxiety, and the company's White Angelia and Joy work beautifully for depression.

JH: What essential oils are best to cook with? Do you have a favorite recipe you can share?

MI: There are many oils from ordinary cooking herbs that can be used, however it's best to use the tiniest amount. Experiment with the oils on a portion of the dish before serving because sometimes even one drop is too much. In that case, you can take a toothpick to the drop and add it to the dish.

My favorite use of an essential oil in cooking is to add three to six drops of orange essential oil in a brownie recipe or in a chocolate cake. It's amazing!

Mana can be reached at manailuna1@msn.com for more information about Young Living Essential Oils.

Jennifer Haupt is a writer based in Seattle, Washington. She has written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Readers Digest, and The Christian Science Monitor.

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