A friend, who later became my client, was in so much pain he went to the hospital, staying a few days. He had thought he had a bad cold. Then he started experiencing pain that became excruciating. He couldn’t take it! He was the third person in as many months to be diagnosed with shingles and to reach out to me.
Shingles, medically known as Herpes Zoster, is a virus that affects the roots of nerves and appears as blisters, generally in a band on one side of the body. It is also a disease that affects individuals who have already had the chickenpox. Once one has had the chickenpox, the chickenpox virus can remain dormant within cell membranes for years, or forever. If the virus flares up again, it will appear as the Herpes Zoster virus, more commonly known as Shingles.
Shingles occurs most in individuals over the age of 50, although it can strike at an earlier age. The first person I can recall having a case of shingles was Magic Johnson of NBA fame, now a successful entrepreneur. At the time I thought it was a complication of his positive HIV status announced many years ago, both occurring that long ago. Magic Johnson was not 50 years old at the time. Shingles typically also occurs when one has an auto-immune illness, is experiencing high levels of stress, both of which are somewhat more likely as one ages or has sustained an injury.
The three persons that contacted me did so seeking some relief from the pain the illness brings with it. They could not sleep; one complained that he couldn’t eat and could barely think–which is why he went to the hospital not realizing initially that the sudden onset of blisters could result in so much pain. The other two clients were being treated as out-patients by a physician.
In my research as to how I was going to assist my first client, I came upon a common blending component, a carrier oil named Tamanu Oil (Foraha to some) or known by its botanical name Calophyllum inophyllum. Calophyllum means “beauty leaf.” It is native to east Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. A member of the Mangosteen botanical family, it has been widely planted throughout the tropics and is naturalized in the main Hawaiian islands. To obtain the oil, the seeds of the plant are dried for several months and cold pressed. It takes 100 kilograms of Tamanu fruit, the amount produced by one tree annually, to yield just 5 kilograms of cold pressed oil!
In the Polynesian and Melanesian Isles Calophyllum inophyllum (Tamanu Oil) is also known as Green Gold! It is cicatrisant, anti-inflammatory, anti-neuralgic, antimicrobial, antibiotic and also possesses antioxidant properties. Tamanu oil is well researched as a skin healer. One item I came upon highlighted its use to treat leprosy in the 1930s. It is a thick oil possessing a nutty aroma, a somewhat translucent green color and is exceptional enough to generally be among the more costly of carrier oils. For the relief I have witnessed it achieve, it is worth it!
I have learned that the choice of a carrier is very important to effective aromatherapeutic blending. When I research chemical components of the essential oils I will select from, I make sure to provide just as much concern to the carrier I select. It is important that the manner of delivery be spot on whether an oil, gel, salt, diffusion blend, etc., and all of the primary ingredients should all serve to make the blend as effective as possible.
As my clients were all is so much pain and could not bear to touch the area or have anything against their skin in the affected area, there was no choice to consider anything other than a spray application. In each case, I selected the same three essential oils: Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole), Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Melissa (Melissa officinalis), each receiving a dilution of no less than 5% with a determined amount of Tamanu oil in an aromatic organic Lavender hydrosol to heighten the efficacy of the blend from the start. Other essential oil options considered included Bergamot, Tea Tree and Roman Chamomile.
In each case, I reached out the next day to see how each was feeling and to ascertain that they were all, in fact, using their blends. The satisfaction and relief expressed by each was rewarding to hear. In two out of three instances, the pain medication that had been prescribed was not necessary as the blend provided adequate relief from the pain. In the other instance it took three days before my client conveyed likewise that she felt it was unnecessary to take the pain medication anymore. In all instances, I stressed the requirement that each complete the oral antibiotics that had been prescribed by physicians that were treating each one of them. The blistering effect of shingles can be a horrifying image. I observed numerous blisters larger than 1/2 inch in diameter on the trunk of the male client (they appeared smaller but were just as numerous for the two female clients). Needless to say, all are concerned about potential scarring. I plan to transition to a topical oil blend containing Tamanu and Jojoba as carriers and a few carefully selected cicatrisant organic essential oils for my most recent client as was successful with the prior two. When they see me, they can’t thank me enough for “getting them through it.”
Maintaining my own health and helping others as a result of knowledge gained, as in other circumstances in my life, serve as primary motivating factors regarding my interest and effort to study and use aromatherapy. I love hearing positive results. I am always grateful about the bounty and blessings in plant life that serve our needs in miraculous ways. While I would insist that anyone diagnosed with shingles be treated by a physician, I would not hesitate to promote the use of aromatherapy to support the need to alleviate pain, and once the external healing has begun, calm the itch and anxiety that accompanies a shingles diagnosis.
With a rise in compromised immune systems and stress as factors for the onset of shingles, in addition to the benefit of living longer among growing segments of the general population, I expect to see more clients presenting shingles as their introduction to aromatherapy. I full expect to utilize more Green Gold (Calophyllum inophyllum) to assist and relieve their physical and emotional discomfort.
To read more about Tamanu (Foraha) Oil, please use these links: Aromatics International http://www.aromaticsinternational.com/aromatherapy-other-products/tamanu-oil-foraha