"Throw away the crutch of knowledge and use the Knowing..." Thomas Elpel.

The Power of Plant Oils is a forum for learning about the therapeutic use of essential oils.
This 13 module course is a means of acquiring the knowledge and experience so you can KNOW the properties
and uses of the plants and their oils.

Please read this blog from the bottom up and check out previous posts to the right under Blog Archives.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


1. The skin (integumentary system) is the largest organ of the body. (ACHS)

2. The epidermis (top layer of the skin) is thinnest on the eyelids and thickest on the palms and soles of the feet (Wikipedia)

3.The entire epidermis  is replaced by new cell growth over a period of about 48 days. (Lizuka, Hajime (1994) “Epidermal Turnover Time”. Journal of Dermatological Science 8 [3]: 215-218.)

4. We have approximately 1500 sensory receptors in 1 square inch of skin; there are more in the mouth, tongue, and hand than on the back or the calf(ACHS)

5. The pH of the outer layer of the skin is usually mildly acidic (5.5) to protect against bacterial, viral, and fungal infection. (ACHS)
6. 50% of a person’s adipose tissue (fat cells) is found subcutaneously. (ACHS)

7. Vitamin C and copper are important for collagen formation. (ACHS)

8. Hair covers the entire body except the palms, soles, lips, and genitals. (ACHS)

9. The average person has around 5 million hairs on their body, 100,000 of which are on the scalp. (ACHS)

10. When the hair is wet, it can stretch to 1 ½ times its normal length. (ACHS)

11. Nails are hardened keratin (protein) and are created by thickening of the epidermis welding together. (ACHS)

12. Nails lose moisture 100 times faster than the skin. (ACHS)

13. The nails are a window into the body’s health; changes in look, shape, or color may indicate disease. (ACHS)

14. Sweat glands are found all over the body but especially in the palms and the soles of the feet. (ACHS)

15. Sweating eliminates about 1/3 of the body’s waste each day. (ACHS)

16. Harmful ingested substances like aspirin can show up in the skin and hair hours after they are excreted (it can take up to 20 days to be fully eliminated).  (ACHS)

17. Diaper rash and thrush (white patches on the cheeks of the mouth) are caused by yeast (Candidiasis). (WebMD – skin problems)

18. Staph infections of the skin can be contracted by touching athletic equipment, door handles, shopping carts, razors, and towels, and are frequently acquired in gyms and college dorms. (WebMD – skin problems)

19. Roughly 10% of the population suffers from athlete’s foot or nail fungus (Jones, Larissa. P. 289)

20. Americans spend an average of 18 billion dollars annually on skin-related products, including hair care (Cooksley. p.160)

21. Wrinkles are the skin folding in on itself. The collagen becomes criss-crossed and hard, greatly diminishing its ability to retain moisture. (Cooksley, p.164)

22. More than 7,000 Americans every year are “afflicted” with skin cancer. (Cooksley, p. 164.).

23. People with dark skin and hair will generally retain a more youthful appearance than others who have fair skin, freckles, and light colored hair (because their skin is oilier). (Cooksley, p.164.)

24. 90% of the symptoms of aging skin are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, and most of these effects occur before age 20. (http://dermatology.about.com/cs/beauty/a/wrinklecause.htm)

25. The number of epidermal cells decreases by 10% per decade and they divide more slowly as we age, making the skin less able to repair itself quickly. (same source as above)

26. Hair is the only body structure that is completely renewable without scarring. (The Biology of Hair)   
27. Hair grows about six inches per year. (The Biology of Hair)

American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). Aroma 201 manual. © 2007.
Cooksley, Valerie. Aromatherapy – A Lifetime Guide to Healing With Essential Oils. Prentice-Hall. New Jersey. USA. © 1996.
Jones, Larissa. “Aromatherapy for Body, Mind, and Spirit”. Evergreen Aromatherapy. Salt Lake City, Utah. © Evergreen Aromatherapy, 2001.
Lizuka, Hajime (1994) “Epidermal Turnover Time”. Journal of Dermatological Science 8 (3): 215-218.
The Biology of Hair.  www.dermatology.about.com. Accessed 11/28/2010.
What Causes Wrinkles? http://dermatology.about.com/cs/beauty/a/wrinklecause.htm. Accessed 11/27/2010.
WebMD www.webMD.com/skin-problems. Accessed 11/27/2010.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This month, we study the anatomy and physiology of the skin. Here is some great information about how wrinkles are created and some ideas for caring for your skin. Read all the way through to discover essential oils that are especially helpful for mature skin:

What Causes Wrinkles and Aging?

Chronological Aging and Wrinkles

As a person ages the epidermal cells become thinner and less sticky. The thinner cells make the skin look noticeably thinner. The decreased stickiness of the cells decreases the effectiveness of the barrier function allowing moisture to be released instead of being kept in the skin. This causes dryness. The number of epidermal cells decreases by 10% per decade and they divide more slowly as we age making the skin less able to repair itself quickly.

The effects of aging on the dermal layer are significant. Not only does the dermal layer thin, but also less collagen is produced, and the elastin fibers that provide elasticity wear out. These changes in the scaffolding of the skin cause the skin to wrinkle and sag. Also, sebaceous glands get bigger but produce less sebum, and the number of sweat glands decreases. Both of these changes lead to skin dryness.

The rete-ridges of the dermal-epidermal junction flatten out, making the skin more fragile and making it easier for the skin to shear. This process also decreases the amount of nutrients available to the epidermis by decreasing the surface area in contact with the dermis, also interfering with the skin's normal repair process.

In the subcutaneous layer the fat cells get smaller with age. This leads to more noticeable wrinkles and sagging, as the fat cells cannot "fill in" the damage from the other layers.

Aging Effects of the Sun and Wrinkles

Exposure to ultraviolet light, UVA or UVB, from sunlight accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging. Most of the photoaging effects occur by age 20. The amount of damage to the skin caused by the sun is determined by the total lifetime amount of radiation exposure and the person's pigment protection.

Sunlight Effects on the Epidermis

Changes in the epidermis caused by the sun include thinning of the epidermis and the growth of skin lesions such as actinic keratoses, basal cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas.

Sunlight Effects on the Dermis

In the dermis, sun effects cause collagen to break down at a higher rate than with just chronologic aging. Sunlight damages collagen fibers and causes the accumulation of abnormal elastin. When this sun-induced elastin accumulates, enzymes called metalloproteinases are produced in large quantities. Normally, metalloproteinases remodel sun-injured skin by manufacturing and reforming collagen. However, this process does not always work well and some of the metalloproteinases actually break down collagen. This results in the formation of disorganized collagen fibers known as solar scars. When the skin repeats this imperfect rebuilding process over and over wrinkles develop.

Free Radicals and Wrinkles

Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that have only one electron instead of two. Because electrons are found in pairs the molecule must scavenge other molecules for another electron. When the second molecule looses its electron to the first molecule, it must then find another electron repeating the process. This process can damage cell function and alter genetic material. Free radical damage causes wrinkles by activating the metalloproteinases that break down collagen. There are several factors that start this cascading process including exposure to even small amounts of UV radiation in sunlight, smoking, and exposure to air pollution.

Hormone Effects and Wrinkles

It is likely that there are skin changes as a result of the hormonal effects of menopause or decreased estrogen production. However, studies in humans have not documented which skin changes are specific to decreased estrogen and which skin changes are a result of sun exposure or just normal chronological aging. In animal experiments lack of estrogen can cause a decrease in collagen levels of 2% per year and a decrease in skin thickness of 1% per year.

Muscle Use and Wrinkles

Habitual facial expressions cause the skin to wrinkle as it looses elasticity. Frown lines between the eyebrows and crows feet radiating from the corners of the eyes develop as the tiny muscles in those areas permanently contract.

Gravity and Wrinkles

The effects of gravity make the loosening of the skin more apparent as skin sags more. This causes jowls and drooping eyelids. 
The sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) radiation that we divide into categories based on the wavelength. UVC radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere and does not cause skin damage. UVB radiation affects the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, and is the primary agent responsible for sunburns. UVB does not penetrate glass, and the intensity of UVB radiation depends on the time of day and the season. UVA radiation penetrates deeper into the skin and works more efficiently. The intensity of UVA radiation is more constant than UVB without the variations during the day and throughout the year. UVA is also not filtered by glass.

UV Radiation and Wrinkles

Both UVA and UVB radiation cause wrinkles by breaking down collagen, creating free radicals, and inhibiting the natural repair mechanisms of the skin. A popular classification system of sun-sensitivity is the Skin Phototype (SPT) classification. People with skin types I and II are at the highest risk for photoaging effects including wrinkles and skin cancer. The proper use of sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB radiation is an important weapon in the battle against wrinkles.


Essential oils for mature skin: geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) supports in balancing and rejuvenating dry skin conditions such as wrinkled and mature skin; frankincense and myrrh are both gentle and effective in replenishing moisture. According to Young Living Essential Oils, frankincense repairs DNA damage, and sandalwood prevents further DNA strand breakage. Frankincense is a major ingredient in their day-activator moisturizer, and sandalwood is the main ingredient in the night rejuvenator cream. Boswellia (frankincense) and NingXia wolfberry assist in wrinkle prevention and repair in the Boswellia wrinkle cream.

Rose  (the Queen of Flowers) and Jasmine (the King of Flowers) have been renowned since ancient times for possessing anti-aging properties.

Jojoba oil, actually a wax, is similar to the sebum normally produced by the skin and is helpful in restoring moisture to mature and/or dry skin. Use as a base oil for essential oils. Other base oils for the skin are: Rose hip seed oil (Rosa Mosqueta, or Rosa rubiginosa), hazelnut, macadamia nut, kikui nut, carrot seed and wheatgerm oil. Borage and Evening Primrose are also excellent and help to balance the hormone levels in the skin.

Be gentle when applying oils to the face - never pull, rub, or over-manipulate the skin!

Friday, November 12, 2010


    • Humans have the largest ratio of brain weight to body weight of any creature on earth15
    • Scientists have discovered that approximately 1% of our genes are devoted to sensing aromas1
    • Humans can smell up to 16 million odors16
    • Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste1
    • The sense of smell can be sharpened and intensified with use (and training)1
    • Smoking adversely affects the sense of smell; it can up to a full year for it to return1
    • No two people smell the same odor the same way; a rose may be sweeter to some than others2
    • Inhalation is the fastest indirect route for the body to absorb volatile substances – research says it takes 1-5 minutes1
    • The nose smells directionally2
    • The sense of smell is least acute in the morning; our ability to perceive odors increases throughout the day2
    • We all have our own unique odor (smell fingerprint) and can be recognized by that odor2 
    • Women have a more acute sense of smell than men at all ages.6
    •  Women have an increased sense of smell at ovulation and during pregnancy – estradiol11
    • Study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennesee showed that 90% of women tested can identify their baby’s smell after only ten minutes to one hour of exposure after birth 8*
    • The odor produced by the fetus changes the pregnant mother’s urine and even alters the odor of the mother herself (Monell Chemical Senses Center study 1995)
    • The fetus samples the outside world through the amniotic fluid1; this influences postnatal preferences13
    • Infants recognize their mothers very quickly by smell (bonding)1
    • Body odor may be linked to sexual orientation**
    • Our ability to smell is at its peak at about age 8 and declines as early as age 1512
    • As we get older, our sense of smell declines; we also lose our ability to discriminate between smells
    • Smell is unique among the senses in its privileged access to the subconscious
    • Your sense of smell doesn’t sleep
    • Sperm may smell their way to the egg14
    • Research has shown that your body position can influence your ability to smell (lie down and you become less sensitive)9
    • Dogs and horses can smell fear in humans; sharks can smell 1 tsp of blood in the equivalent of 3 swimming pools of water1
    • Human males born without olfactory bulbs and therefore have no sense of smell have been reported to suffer from hypogonadism (testicular and penile atrophy)7
    • The scent of grapefruit can cause men to perceive women to an average of six years younger than they really are2
    • A combination of floral and spice scents can cause men to see them as an average of 4.1 pounds lighter in weight.2
    • A combination of lavender and pumpkin increased arousal by 40%, as measured by blood flow.2
    • The smell of peppermint can increase athletic performance.2***
    • Many mental illness are characterized by a decrease in smell can be one of the earliest indications of approaching Alzheimer’s Disease 7****
    • Astronauts tend to lose their sense of smell (thought to be because of nasal congestion as a result of increased capillary pressure)9
    • Viagra may impair the ability to smell5
    • Traumatic head injury can cause an irreversible loss of smell
    • Low vitamin A levels may correlate to a loss of smell (the greater the pigmentation of the olfactory epithelium, the more sensitive it is to smell)
    • Albino animals lack a sense of smell16
    • Zinc has been used successfully to treat some smell and taste disorders.12
    • Smell can be used to decrease seizures in epilepsy (One possible explanation is that because olfactory centers are next to regions where seizures begin in temporal lobe epilepsy, activity generated in these areas by the presentation of a smell prevents the spread of the synchronous activity from the epileptic focus.)
    • Researchers found that what a scent is called can have an affect on whether or not people like it. For example, study participants were told that an odor was either cheddar cheese or body odor.

      (from: Shutterstock 3/06/09)
      *Humans can differentiate blood-relatives (mothers and children, but not husbands and wives) through olfaction. Mothers can identify their biological children but not their stepchildren through body odor, and preadolescent children can pick out their full siblings but not half siblings the same way (the theory is that this has a bearing on avoiding incest)17 

      **Researchers found that gay men and women had body odor preferences that were different from straight men and women. After evaluating 24 samples of underarm odor, gay men preferred odors from gay men and straight women. Odors from gay men were the least preferred by straight men and women and by lesbian women.10

      ***Peppermint has an affect on the reticular formation (in the brainstem), where arousal and sleep are modulated. Bryan Raudenbush, professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia discovered with his research that the smell of peppermint can increase athletic performance.  Peppermint odor also helps people work out longer and harder. Additionally, Raudenbush found that peppermint or cinnamon scents make for more alert, less frustrated drivers.2

      ****“Schizophrenics, depressives, migraine sufferers and very low weight anorexics often experience olfactory deficits or dysfunctions.” One group of researchers even suggested smell-tests should be part of the diagnostic process for psychiatric disorders because many of them are so closely linked to olfactory deficits.11 Alzheimers patients gradually lose the ability to recognize loved ones, and eventually their possessions, their houses and location of rooms – “all permeated with the subtle pheromonal secretions of the occupants”7

      1American College of Health Sciences. Aroma 201 Manual.
      2Dembling, Sophia. “Dr. Smell”. Dallas Morning News.
      3“Fun Facts with Professor Nosetradamus”. The Sense of Smell Institute. The Fragrance Foundation, Research and Education Division. www.senseofsmell.org.  Accessed 10/19/2010.
      4Gordon, C.B. Practical Approach to the Loss of Smell American Family Physician 26 (3) 191-193. 1982.
      5Gudziol, V., Muck-Weymann, M., Seizinger, O., Rauh, R., Siffert, W. and Hummel, T (2007) Sildenafil Affects Olfactory Function. Journal of Urology 177(1), 258-61. 
      6Howard Hughes Medical Institute. http://www.hhmi.org/senses/d130.html Hughes et al. Climacteric. 2002 Jun;5(2):140-50
      7Joseph, Rawn, PhD. Olfactory Limbic System. Reprinted from Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, Clinical Neuroscience. 3rd Edition. Academic Press. New York. 2000. http://brainmind.com/OlfactoryLimbicSystem.html.
      8Kaitz M, Good A, Rokem AM, Eidelman AI. Mothers learn to recognise the smell of their own infant within 2 days. Dev Psychobiol. 1987 Nov;20(6):587-91.
      9Lundstrom et al., (2006) "Sit up and smell the roses better: olfactory sensitivity to phenyl ethyl alcohol is dependent on body position". Chemical Senses, e-print ahead of publication,         doi:10.1093/chemse/bjj025.
      10Martins Y, Preti G, Crabtree CR, Runyan T, Vainius AA, Wysocki CJ.Preference for human body odors is influenced by gender and sexual orientation.Psychol Sci. 2005 Sep;16(9):694-701.
      11Macalester College’s Behavioral Neuroscience Class. www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/smell/memory.htm. Accessed 10/19/2010)
      12Monell Center (The world’s only independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to basic research on taste and smell) www.monell.org
      13Schaal, B, Marlier, L, Soussignan, R. Human Fetuses Learn Odors From Their Mother’s Diet. Chemical Senses. 25 729-737. 2000.
      14Spehr, M., Gisselmann, G., Poplawski, A., Riffel, J.A., Wetzel, C.H., Zimmer, R.K. and Hatt, H.  Identifiaction of a testicular odorant receptor mediating human sperm chemotaxis". Science  2003 Mar 28; 299 (5615), 2054-8
      15Social Research Center. “The Smell Report”. http://www.sirc.org/publik/smell_emotion.html. Accessed 10/22/2010.
      16Stoddard and Whitfield. Hearing, Taste, and Smell. Pathways of Perception. Torstar Books, Inc. New  York, NY. (Quoted in “Olfaction and Memory”.
      17Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olfaction. Accessed 10/22/2010.