I fondly remember the days of packing up every year to spend a week at horse camp in the summer. One blissful week of eating, sleeping, and living horses 24/7. Well, I don’t get to go to horse camp anymore, but I try to spend at least one long weekend a year at Acupuncture Camp!
Usually I’ve taken time out to attend further certification trainings, and this year I already spent a week getting certified in Chinese Veterinary Medical Food Therapy for “Acupuncture Camp”, but I was itching for more this summer. It just so happened that this year the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) held their annual conference in Portland, Oregon. Well, with the fun happening just two hours from home how could I resist? Especially since there was an entire day of classes on using essential oils for veterinary acupuncture.
I’ve always been a big fan of essential oils, they just smell so yummy! My chiropractic training taught me about the neurological science behind using essential oils. Scents are one of the only ways we receive sensory input that goes straight to our brains. This is why scent is such a powerful mediator of memory and also why aromatherapy with essential oils can be so effective. Recently I’d been reading articles on combining aromatherapy with traditional Chinese medical theory and even using oils in tandem with acupuncture. I’ve also been quite curious about that since I had an experience with an aromatherapist client who teamed up with me to dab a custom essential oil mix onto her dog before I would do acupuncture. That dog always seemed so calm during her treatments, and I wondered how much was due to that magical oil mixture.
The day of classes was taught by Jeffrey Yuen, a well-respected human Oriental Medicine practitioner who uses essential oils frequently in his practice on small children. He discussed using oils in a few different ways. Firstly, the aromas themselves are very therapeutic and simply using a diffuser of a particular blend can have powerful effects on everyone who smells it. We also talked about topical use of oils. This was really exciting to me as we discussed stroking the oils onto the pet’s fur as a home treatment, but also applying mildly irritating diluted oils directly to acupuncture points as a way to stimulate a point without inserting a needle. I can’t wait to try this on myself and then perhaps on some of my more sensitive patients!
The third and most exciting method we talked about was medical aromatherapy, which involves taking the oils internally This has to be done with great care. Essential oils are incredibly powerful and need to be treated with great respect just like herbs. In fact, because of the distillation process used for oils they are generally much more potent than the herbs that I usually use in practice. Very small amounts can cause great effects. This is excellent if you have the right oil in the right dose, but can lead to toxicity if you use the wrong oil or overdose it.
As you might know, some oils are very toxic (such as wintergreen or pennyroyal), and some oils are not very toxic to horses, humans, or dogs, but can be life threatening to kitties. We discussed some of the more common oils that are considered toxic to cats and how we could potentially safely use them. This is definitely a “don’t try this at home” kind of thing though, always avoid eucalyptus, tea tree, and other phenol containing essential oils in cats unless you have received advice from someone who is well trained and specifically trained in feline medicine.
The reason that this was the most exciting method of treatment to me is that cats can sometimes be very difficult to get herbs into, and horse doses of herbs can be restrictively expensive. Both of these creatures are acutely sensitive to oils, however. I am excited to try essential oils in the right mixtures and at the right dilution as a way to potentially treat complicated cases without using powdered or tabletized herbs.
We also learned about the Chinese energetic properties of a few oils and were taught how to determine the characteristics of other oils for ourselves. Additionally we had a primer on mixing a therapeutic oil blend for our patients and the characteristics of various carrier oils to use for dilution.
What a cool class! And that was just day one of my four day adventure! In my second post I’ll tell you a little about the highlights of the rest of the weekend.
This was such a cool experience for me that I’m thinking of running a seminar on essential oils for pet owners. Stay tuned for details!