The Aromatherapy approach and selection of essential oils for the outdoors.

Le 12 août 2005, par James,

A concern that all of us have when out for some time, is to face illness, and all these little disorders of every day.

With time and experiments, I have come to trust the use of herbal treatment, and better, of herbal essential oils, and found that they work at least as well as conventional medicine, if not more efficient, and produce less secondary effects.

What are essential oils ?

They are the oily principle, extracted from different medicinal flowers and herbs, by distillation. They contain most of the active substance, or at least those that are lipo-soluble and not hydro-soluble. They can be used externally, as unction, pure, diluted in oil, mixed with other oils, vaporized, breathed, or internally, swallowed.

As they are a concentrate, it is preferable if they are distilled from fresh herbs and flowers, and also the herbs and flowers must not have been treated, else the oil will also be a concentrate of pesticides.

Some essential common Oils

  • Arnica Montana Very efficient on bruises, or damaged tissue repair. External use, internal use at homoeopathic doses..
  • Cupresseus Sempervirens also called cypress. Indicated for asthma, bronchitis, insect repellent, hemorrhoids, spasmodic coughing.
  • Cymbopogon winterianus also called citronella, lemon grass .is also a good mosquito repellent, but also fight head aches, if used diluted in oil.
  • Eucalyptus Radiata also called blue gum. Indicated for : asthma, bronchitis, burns, blisters, catarrh, chicken pox, colds, coughs, cuts, flu, headaches, herpes, infections, insect bites, insect repellent, laundry, leucorrhoea, lice, measles, sinusitis, skin infections, sprains, throat infections, wounds. Highly efficient on respiratory system infections and affections.
  • Lavendula spica also called aspic lavender has a higher content of camphor, making it less analgesic.
  • Lavandula vera, augustifolia, officinialis Also called French lavender, true lavender . Good for Abscesses, aches and pains, acne, allergies, anxiety, bruises, burns, depression, eczema, headache, infections, insect bites, insomnia, psoriasis, stress, sunburn. Works on open wounds, but must be diluted first. Internal and external. I often use it to help sleeping, very efficient.
  • Helichrysum italicum favours skin and tissue repair, bones repair. Has some anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects. It is unmatched for treating cuts, stitches, burns, broken bones. Can be ingested. It is a very rare and expensive oil though, so use with care.
  • Matricaria recutita also called German Chamomillia painkiller, and very efficient anti-inflammatory. Inflamed joints, inflamed skin, insect bites, insomnia, irritability, irritated skin, itchy skin, menopausal problems, nausea, rashes, sunburn, tissue regeneration.
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia Also called bush tea tree or ti tree. Excellent anti-bacterial, anti-virus, anti-fungus. Highly efficient. Can be used on open wounds only if diluted 1/10 in sweet almond oil or other carrier oil. Can be ingested at very low doses. Once started, you MUST continue treatment for some time (local antibiotic effect). Can be used for laundry disinfections. It is reasonably kind to the skin. A must-have.
  • Melaleuca viridiflora quinquernervia Also called Niaouli is stronger, more active on streptococcus. It is slightly anti-inflammatory, and is efficient on urinary system infections. Can be used for drink-water disinfection and works extremely well for that use, one drop per litre, wait, shake, wait half an hour. It is also more aggressive to skin.
  • Leptospermum scoparium also called Manuka is even stronger on bacteria like staphylococcus and fungus. But it is really aggressive, to mucous tissues in particular.
  • Ocimum Basilicum also called French/tropical basil. Basil clears the head, relieves mind fatigue, giving clarity of thought. Good for nausea and digestive disorders.
  • Eucalyptus citrodoria or lemon eucalyptus is highly efficient against bugs, is recommended as an efficient alternative to DEET, but also treats bites and relieves their pain.
  • Pelargonium asperum/roseum also called geranium is a highly efficient mosquito repellent. , Also good for burns, dermatitis, haemorrhoids, lice, ringworm, ulcers. A common component in cosmetics due to it’s skin soothing effect.
  • Pinus Sylvestris also called Scots pine. recommended for arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, rheumatism, sores, urinary infection, colds, coughs, cystitis flu, gout, lumbago, muscular aches and pains, neuralgia, scabies, sinusitis, sore throat, stiffness. Skin irritant, must be diluted on skin.
  • Thymus vulgaris also called thyme. Very efficient for throat or respiratory affections and infections. Some essences are more charged in volatiles components like phenols, and have more specific uses. Linalol thyme is pretty smooth and works for children and sensible people, while tuyanol thyme is more efficient than melaleuca, externally and internally, while indeed less easily tolerated.

These are the ones I know and use, and find efficient, but there are hundreds of them, and most of the time-targeted cocktails are even more efficient. But this requires years of study and experience...

So what are our needs ?

Among the little affections that we can encounter while camping, here are the most common I can think of :

  • Open wound / infection : A lot of the oils are disinfectants, but by order of efficiency :
    • Melaleuca Alternifolia recommended diluted 1/10 in another oil for open wounds, But I never had any problem using it pure. It is also known to be anti-tetanic (lock-jaw) if the wound has been cleaned (clear water) or has bled sufficiently.
    • Melaleuca viridiflora more active on staphylococcus, but less larger overall spectrum.
    • Leptospermum scoparium , diluted, highly efficient too on staphilococcus, but a less wider general spectrum than the first. .
    • Thuyanol Thyme.
    • Lavendula spica also a painkiller.
    • Cistus is an hemostatic, and tends to "reglue" small cuts.
  • Fungus : Most fungus just go away better than with any other classical unction, with one of, these are very efficient :
    • Leptospermum scoparium used pure.
    • Melaleuca Alternifolia used pure.
    • Melaleuca viridifolia used pure less efficient than the previous.
  • Bruises : Avoiding the destruction of micro vessels.
    • Arnica Montana Needs to be diluted 1 to 20, external use only, do not apply on open wounds.
  • Skin and tissues repair : also works for bruises.
    • Helichrysum italicum favors skin and tissue repair, bones repair. Has some anti-inflammatory effects. Extremely efficient to stop swelling and bruising and speed up recovery of most wounds and bruises by a factor of 2 to 4...
  • Pain : Pain can be treated two ways, the cause and the symptoms. For the symptoms :
    • Lavandula vera is a general painkiller and sedative. Can be applied directly on wounds, and burns, and is also antiseptic. Efficient for brain aches.
    • Matricaria recutita pain killer, and very efficient anti-inflammatory.
  • Flu, bronchial and pulmonary infections :
    • Thymus vulgaris internally.
    • Cupresseus Sempervirens Internally. Helps breathing problems.
    • Pinus Sylvestris is efficient against coughs and colds too.
  • Digestion
    • Ocimum Basilicum in unction on the belly, or internally.
    • Eucalyptus Radiata in unction, or internally at very low dose.
  • Insects, mosquitoes : repellents.
    • Pelargonium asperum/roseum is highly efficient against bugs, also good for dermatitis.
  • ( Eucalyptus citrodoria ) Is recommended as an efficient alternative to DEET by the US CDC.
    • Cymbopogon winterianus is also efficient, but so smelly, better if mixed to the previous in proportion 1 to 9.

This is just an example of a few things that cover most of our needs. Take care, some oils are toxic if ingested, of if ingested in too big quantities.

My current "emergency" choice is made of the following :

  • a mix of lemon eucalyptus and pelargonium against mosquitoes and bugs and to treat bites.
  • a big vial of bush tea tree oil, covers antiseptic and antifungic needs, wounds disinfection, helps to fix cases of diarrhoea.
  • a vial of manuka, covers even more fungicidal and antiseptic needs, but is less tolerated by the skin.
  • a vial of lavander officinialis, pain killer, treats burns, can be used to seek sleep, antiseptic.
  • a vial of small grain bigarradier, antispasmodic, and pain killer.
  • a vial of helichryse, to be applied on traumas and wounds.
  • a vial of cistus, hemostatic and tissue glue in case of open wounds.

How to use them

There are different ways :

  • Diffusion / inhalation a special diffuser or water fountain are needed. At worst, a few drops in boiling water and the head over it under a cloth...
  • Proximity diffusion : impregnate a bandage close to a wound.
  • Unction : must be targeted at the sick part, or the lungs for general effects.
  • Internal - swallow : Great care must be taken. Must people will strongly advise to avoid most of the oils I have cited as internally admissible. Doses are around one drop a day, maximum two for the less toxic and strong oils. Better diluted in edible oil, or in honey. Can be painful for the stomach
  • Internal - suppository : a great way, more direct to absorb oils.
  • Diluted : it is generally recommended to dilute essential oils before application on open wounds. dilutions are done with sweet almond oil, or any other edible oil.
  • mixts : I have recently started carrying a mix of manuka oil and bush tea tree, which in the field is extremely useful. It has a very wide spectrum of action on bacteria and fungi,, one oil reinforcing the other, and also covers a variety of purposes : fungicide, bactericide, antibiotic, anti-virus (quite efficient against flu and gastroenteritis, 2 drops internally every 2 hours for two days at the first symptoms, and it will not get you.) mosquito repellent, itch soothing, etc...

Does it work ?

The established allopathic medicine in western countries does not use herbs and plants, because laboratories control the markets, and there is little profit to do in distillery. Poorer countries tend to use they local herbs much more. Does that mean that only "design" antibiotics and anti-inflammatory and medicaments are efficient ? Of course not, it is just the way people are educated.

Some personal experiences :

  1. My 3 1/2 years old son gets a pulmonary infection, he passes a lung radio, showing a whiter lung, is prescribed antibiotics, and a control radio 4 days later. We are told that if the antibiotics do not work, he will be set to some with a different antibiogram, and that he is at the limit to be hospitalized. Forget the antibiotics, we set him with two suppository dosed with thyme, eucalyptus and gaultherie (gaultheria procumbens) every day. Immediate effect, in one hour the fever drops , and he breathes better. 1/2 days latter there is no more temperature. 4 days later for the radio, the comment from the doctor is "The current antibiotics are really amazingly efficient, continue the treatment, in 2 days he will be cured, he won’t need another radio check". Sure !
  2. I know at least 2 persons with feet nail fungus, causing the nails to fall every 6 months and resistant to all (even expensive) treatments. One month of pre Bush tea tree oil, morning and evening, and it was gone.
  3. Got a very bad infected cut once on a finger, to the point it was swollen and there was pus. Bush tea tree in 2/10 dilution, and impregnated in the bandage did it in one day.
  4. My 78 years old mother opens a kitchen cupboard with her front head, and needs 10 stitches where the hair starts. I give her some helichryse, one drop every day on the wound. a week later she gets the stitches out, and the doctor marvels at the speed of her wound repair. When I saw her, just coming from the doctor, except for the razed hair, you could hardly guess the scar, same colour, and same texture ...

of course the prices are important and widely differ, depending of the rarity of the plant, of amount of oil extracted (10ml of rose oil needs 100kg of petals). Bush tea tree or Niaouli or thyme, cost around 12 $ the 10 cc, Helichryse around the 20$, etc... Though 10 cc is not much, it is a lot of treatment, as the product is a concentrate, and mostly used by drops.

more references

I did not get these indications here from nowhere. My wife is following a 4 year formation with a world-renowned aromatherapist. Take care, some oils are toxic in certain conditions, and not everybody agrees which conditions, or which oils.

Here are some more references :

Guide to essential oils

Guide to aromatherapy

Aromatherapy Essential oils guide


No prescription needed, but often as efficient (if not more) as allopathic medicine. Some of these oils are a must to carry for the outdoorsman. Just Lavender, Thyme and Bush tea tree would cover most of the needs of a few day’s hike.

It does not take space (10 cc bottles), but is highly efficient. I now use them all the time, and feel no real need to use anything else, as it just works.

Post-Scriptum :

Please contact me if you have questions or comments. Use at your own risks and make sure you are documented properly before doing so ! Our Disclaimers apply !

par James,



Le 27 septembre 2006