Dr. Low Dog, essential oils

Plant-based oils often carry the scent of the plant. Plants may use them to attract insects, but people have found numerous uses for them as well. Some can be used in skin care, while others may be used for relaxation or to improve digestion.

What Are Essential Oils?

The volatile aromatic compounds found in plants have been used in healing traditions that reach back thousands of years. Frankincense and myrrh, so familiar from the Bible story of the Magi, contain essential oils. So does Vicks VapoRub.

Using Essential Oils:

People take enteric-coated peppermint oil to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is very effective. Lavender oil, on the other hand, is usually used topically or as aromatherapy to ease depression, calm anxiety, promote sleep and treat skin blemishes. Tea tree oil, from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia, has antibacterial and antifungal activity. It can be used against acne, athlete’s foot or vaginal yeast infections.

Essential oils are potent, so they should be diluted in a carrier oil before you apply them to the skin. For a 2 percent dilution, add 10 or 12 drops of the oil to the carrier oil, which could be almond oil or another oil you would use in cooking. For delicate skin, a 0.5 percent dilution is preferable: add just two or three drops to an ounce of carrier oil.

Be careful not to put any citrus oils on the skin before going out in the sun. That could result in a bad burn.

Tune in to learn how to use essential oils to improve your health.

This Week’s Guests:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine and women’s health.

Dr. Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She has served as Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee.

Her books include: Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative MedicineLife Is Your Best Medicine; and Healthy at Home. Her latest is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. For more information, see her website: drlowdog.com

Stacey Brower is a physician assistant in the Department of Surgery at Duke University Hospital.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. Carolyn

    I love your newsletter, and followed it for years in the Houston Chronicle. Do you have an article regarding toenail fungus? I have gone to a podiatrist for years trying to get rid of it. He uses a laser treatment. Only I never get rid of it completely. If only I could. I have tried also liquid treatments on it and bought from him a sterilizer for my shoes. Can you suggest a treatment that works?

  2. Jan

    “Essential” oils are NOT essential! There are many people who can no longer go into hair salons, massage studios, make up stores, health food stores, etc. The smell from the ingredients affect people with respiratory issues, migraines, and the like. Please remember that NO smell needs to be the standard! No wonder there is a rise of asthma in children! We are bombarded with chemical “fragrances!”

    • Sue

      I use Vicks Vapo-rub. I just rub it into the nail and surrounding skin once a day. From my nail being 1 third detached 5 months ago new healthy nail is growing in well. It is far better than anything marketed for the problem.

    • Judith
      Charlotte NC

      I had a toenail fungus on my big toenail. I kept putting organic coconut oil on that toenail. Within weeks the fungus cleared up; and the toenail, which had become very thickened, with a curved ridge running through it, became a normal toenail.

    • Theresa Berryman

      Dermatologis prescription name JUBLIA cleared fungus. Works great.

    • ebm

      Nuts! Essential in this case means ESSENCE oil of the plant, i.e., an extract. Not that it is an essential nutrient. Flavors and fragrances are JUST that and most often synthetic with a drop of the real thing. Yes, allergies abound but because of all the perfumed dryer sheets, laundry soap and disgusting amounts of perfumed sprays used.

  3. Janet
    Cary NC

    Be very careful with Oil of Oregano. I read it was helpful in the treatment of rosacea; also a few drops on a toothbrush, with toothpaste, would freshen breath. Well, I tried it on my toothbrush, but it was so hot and strong, it burned my lips, and they were painful and blistered for days. Other oils I’ve used have been therapeutic and
    effective. Just use caution with Oil of Oregano ! It does need to be mixed with a very generous amount of bland carrier oil.

  4. Bob
    South Carolina

    The guests on the show highly recommended getting a book/guide/oils from a reputable source but didn’t suggest any. Can you provide a list of reputable sources?

  5. Paul R

    Another great conversation revitalizing my zeal for healthful living and my quest for salubrious chemical I ingest. I’ve been successful with toothpaste, under arm deodorant, hair shampoo, body wash and other items. Good health you us all!

  6. Kate

    I was skeptical, now I’m enthused.

  7. M

    Vicks uses a synthetic camphor now & it does not smell the same any more – I have an old jar to compare.
    There is a generic product that is similar to the old VapRub

  8. Sensitive non-user

    Please mention that some people may be sensitive to the aromas that essential oils emit. The aromas can permeate into an area and what may be helpful to some can be problematic as well causing eye irritation and headaches to others.

  9. Noah V.
    Chapel Hill, NC

    May I presume that CBD oil would be considered as an essential oil? I have used it, as I am aging, on arthritis in my knees and shoulders (I also have torn rotator cuffs), on my throat to eliminate that dry tickle, to relieve an itch and pretty much anyplacefrom my neck to my feet where I am feeling discomfort and boy, does it ever work. Hours of relief.

    • Jessica
      Buffalo, NY

      Everything is a “chemical,” including water (hydrogen and oxygen- both chemicals). If you read through the entire article, you’ll note that the biggest concern with using essential oils is that most EOs on the market are NOT actually essential oils, but fillers, fragrances, and toxins- which would produce a negative reaction. Not to mention the combination of “essential oils” with the other (often toxic) ingredients in our skin care products. Using pure essential oils is safe. You may notice that “hot oils” cause a warming sensation (that goes away) – for example Peppermint Essential Oil. Additionally, all citrus oils cause photosensitivity (remember the days of putting lemon juice in hair to get ‘natural’ highlights?) and when exposed to air, they can become oxygenated over time, particularly when not stored properly.

    • Theresa B.

      What is CBD oil?

  10. SarahB
    Los Angeles

    ” For a 2 percent dilution, add 10 or 12 drops of the oil to the carrier oil, which could be almond oil or another oil you would use in cooking.”

    Add to how much carrier oil?

    • ebm

      Read to the end. You will see that the recommendation was to put the ess. oil in ONE OZ OF
      CARRIER OIL!!!

  11. Cathy M

    I use essential oils and find them very beneficial. I am interested in the podcast by Dr. Low Dog. Is there a link to register for this coming soon? I do not see one in the newsletter.


    • Susan H

      My friend just posted her story of her young son’s struggle with his extreme anxiety and trouble sleeping. Her sister suggested they try CBD oil and after one dose of 3 drops he fell asleep easily. Has there been a program to explain CBD? Thank you.

  12. Lida

    I am confused about using peppermint oil. I have read on numerous other sites not to use it if you have digestive issues such as GERD.

    • Joe Graedon


      What you heard Dr. Low Dog say was enteric coated peppermint oil is used in Europe for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The key words are “enteric coated.” If made correctly, this formulation should dissolve in the lower intestine rather than the stomach. It should not relax the lower esophageal sphincter and make GERD worse the way pure peppermint candy or peppermint gum or peppermint anything might.

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