Could Aromatherapy and Massage Help Survivors and Workers
Recover from September 11?

By Martin Watt

First published by: The journal Aromatic sage

People who do not know much about aromatherapy will think that it may be a
nice relaxing massage with a nice smell, but that’s about it. However, that
alone give tremendous relief from physical and psychological stresses. Yet, in
skilled hands, the use of massage and essential oils - separately or combined -
can have many real medical benefits.

There are number of health problems associated with the Sept. 11 incidents
and I will briefly discuss what aromatherapy and massage can do to relieve
some of them.

Firstly massage: A magnificent operation was undertaken by the CERMT
team of volunteers without substantial funding. They worked with fire service
personnel and at the landfill site. They provided respite massages and gave out
samples of oil blends.

Massage alone is excellent for relieving the physical strains on the body caused
by heavy work in difficult surroundings. This will reduce the chances of those
workers ending up with back strains and such like.

Massage given by a caring therapist can also have tremendous psychological
benefits. It can allow someone who has been ‘bottling-up’ their emotions to
release them in an environment where support is available. It can revive the
spirit and give people a new zest for doing what they have to do. In the case of
these workers the emotional benefits will carry over to their families and
partners. This is because if the individual is de-stressed, their close friends and
family will be less likely to suffer as the result.

There are many other beneficial effects of massage that I am unable for lack of
space to cover in this article.

The use of essential oils: The obvious system to suffer as the result of being
around Ground zero area is the respiratory tract. This is mainly from the
volume of inhaled dust particles, but possibly also the inhalation of a variety of
noxious chemicals. A noxious chemical might cause some lung damage, but
generally the body will soon wash the chemical away and the lungs will repair
themselves. That is unless it has carcinogenic potential which may or may not
cause problems later in life. Long term damage may occur to the lungs if large
volumes of a chemical are inhaled, but I do not think that the case with this
incident. Some metal dusts can also cause problems in particular mercury and
lead, but I doubt significant volumes of that are in the rubble. However, the
big problem is mineral dust inhalation.
If the dust consists of mixtures of
insoluble minerals then the body has difficulty removing it. Some will be
coughed up, but a lot will remain in the lungs for the rest of people’s lives.

We know how bad the inhalation of asbestos is and that mineral must be the
greatest cause for concern in this incident. As soon as I saw what had
happened, I sent a message to US aromatherapy contacts about the one
essential oil proven to help expel mucus from the lungs - that oil was Fennel.
There are several others that will help such as: Aniseed, pennyroyal and
hyssop, but there is weak scientific data supporting their use whereas there
good research on with fennel oil. Boyd E. et al 1971. Pharmacology 6,65-80. A
few drops of fennel or aniseed oil should be inhaled from hot water - not
boiling - for a few minutes, and done as soon as possible after the dust
inhalation. This will trigger coughing and help remove some of the dust. If
heavy chest massage can be performed - as is done for cystic fibrosis sufferers
- that is also to be encouraged.

Once the dust has become encapsulated within the lung tissues there is
probably nothing that can be done to remove it. In that case essential oils can
be used to reduce the secondary effects such as irritation and soreness. There
are many oils useful for this, but I would highly recommend this formula: 3
drops of Roman chamomile, 1 drop of German chamomile and 3 drops of
lavender inhaled from hot water (not boiling).

If severe coughing occurs after dust inhalation, this should not be suppressed,
as this is the body’s way of eliminating a noxious substance. However, if the
coughing continues (through the night for example) and starts causing chest
soreness then this should be treated.

For a spasmodic cough good oils to use are: Basil, cajuput, chamomile
German, cypress, fennel, frankincense, neroli, rose, rosemary and spearmint.
You can mix up to 4 of these oils, but do not use more than 6 drops in total on
the hot water for inhalation. It is a good idea to use an electric diffuser with
some of these oils in a bedroom for half an hour before going to bed. Shut the
windows and warm the room all night. A chest rub with some of these oils
diluted appropriately can be a good way to calm a night cough.

Essential oils are perfect for treating minor physical traumas such as those
demolition workers may suffer. Cuts and grazes can be treated using lavender,
tea tree and German chamomile oils ideally dissolved in some Aloe Vera gel.

Another problem of working in hot humid environments is foot rot. I would
suspect that workers at Ground zero are suffering from this because of the hot
ground. Depending on what organism is becoming established between the
toes, certain essential oils can knock them out.

Tea tree is the oil of choice for Candida (athletes foot) but it is a good idea to
also add some healing oils such as lavender or German chamomile to help
protect the tissues while the tea tree hits the bugs. It is difficult to generalize
on this treatment because it will vary a lot depending on the severity of the
condition. All I can add here is do not use any essential oils undiluted for such
a problem or the irritation will be severe.

Psychological stress and the power of essential oils to relieve it.

Women suffering from severe emotional stress can stop menstruating. This
proves how powerful emotions are in their ability to interfere with bodily
functions. I expect this will have happened with some of the female partners of
those lost on Sept. 11th and with some survivors. Emotional support is of
course desirable, but is not always welcomed when people are grieving.
Certain essential oils have long been used to kick-start the female reproductive
system in such circumstances. There is more about that on my web site in the
articles section-see pennyroyal.

The effects of fragrance on the brain have been demonstrated in hundreds of
scientific trials. The effects are not always clear cut, but definite effects on
brain waves following the inhalation of many essential oils have been

The effects of essential oils to relieve emotional trauma are far from being
well-researched despite us knowing they do effect the brain. However, anyone
who has had a massage with beautiful smelling oils will confirm this effect. We
are self-healing organisms, and the key to healing lies with inhibiting the
brains capacity to adversely interfere with bodily functions. With many
ailments, including severe physical trauma to the body, you fix the brain and
that in turn fixes the body.

Long term health care.

I find it frustrating, that little thought seems to be being given to the long term
health problems that will be suffered by the heroic rescue workers.

As I am from the UK, I am used to a health care system that supports people
from cradle to grave, no matter what their income. Okay, it is shaky at times
but at least it is in place. In the USA you do not have such a co-ordinated
health care system.

My fears are that in the future the fire and rescue service workers, truck
drivers, dumper drivers, etc., suffering from long term health problems and
needing expensive health care will be long forgotten by Joe Public. The media
won't be interested and the funds in the charities will have been applied to
purposes you did not give the money for.

So readers, I urge you to consider this and to demand that the charities sitting
on the funds that you donated, do some long term health care planning. You
should be able to take care of those that have given so much, in their time of
greatest need.


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