Hope for a Solution to the Rise in Chronic Diseases in Kids
According to a 2022 updated review in The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (bold emphasis mine):
Chronic health conditions (both chronic illnesses and chronic physical disabilities) are generally defined as those conditions that last > 12 months and are severe enough to create some limitations in usual activity. It has been estimated that chronic health conditions affect 10 to 30% of children, depending on the criteria. Examples of chronic illnesses include asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart disease, diabetes mellitus, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and depression. Examples of chronic physical disabilities include meningomyelocele, hearing impairments or visual impairments, cerebral palsy, and loss of limb function.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that this results in ten to twenty million children and adolescents in the United States being impacted by a chronic illness or disability.
In 2019, one in three high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, an overall increase of 40 percent from 2009. Emergency department visits for attempted suicide have risen 51 percent among adolescent girls.
Thankfully, we have hope.
As essential oil lovers, we have seen how these amazing gifts from nature have been able to positively influence our physical, emotional, and mental health. But, can these powerful plant secondary metabolites be as effective in our kids, and can they be used safely?
This confusion about using essential oils with our little ones is often based on highly publicized claims that err on the side of being extremely cautious or avoiding them altogether. Many of these statements are based solely on theory, conjuncture, scare tactics, and have an absence of clinical data. At the same time, there also exists some incredible resources that present a balanced approach on how and when to use essential oils in children. (R, R, R, R, R)
Who do we trust?
In this episode of the Essential Oil Revolution, we are going to set the record straight on the safe use of essential oils with our kids. Our incredible guest is a go-to resource on this topic. This is based on her firsthand experience of using them, along with a variety of holistic methods, with her own children and within her integrative pediatric medical practice for over 20 years.
Today, we are blessed to have Dr. Elisa Song with us!
Dr. Song is a prestigiously trained integrative pediatrician and functional medicine expert. She has extensive experience in integrating the best of conventional medicine with evidence-based, holistic treatments. These include herbal medicine, homeopathy, Traditional Chinese medicine, flower essences, and of course, essential oils.
As a mother herself to two thriving children, Kenzi and Bodi, Dr. Song spreads her heart-centered care to her patients as well. She has successfully treated some of the most complex children’s medical issues, such as autism, ADHD, asthma, autoimmune illness, seizures and other neurological disorders, and environmental illnesses. Furthermore, she is a sought-after national expert who trains medical professionals.
Wanting to help more children across the globe, Dr. Song created an extensive online resource “Healthy Kids Happy Kids.” This site offers evidence-based, pediatrician-backed, and mom-approved approaches that help to bridge the gap between conventional care and holistic medicine.
Dr. Song is on a mission that is a true labor of true love to help all children and parents reach their fullest potential and thrive. She is fierce, fun, exceptionally brilliant, and a calming influence on worried parents worldwide.
If you have kids in your life, which we all do, you are going to want to listen-in to this full episode! In it, Dr. Song reviews some of the unfounded myths of essential oils and the importance of supporting kids’ vagus nerve and microbiome. She also teaches us how to apply essential oils on particular acupuncture points to ease anxious minds, enhance focus, reduce fevers, support immune health, and assist with nausea.
Below is an overview of what was covered during the interview and additional resources to complement your listening pleasure.
How Dr. Song Moved from Law to Pediatric Medicine… and Then to Merging Them
Dr. Song initially did not desire to be a doctor. What she did know was that she wanted to help children. Therefore, as an undergraduate, she majored in political science and public policy with the goal of advocating for children’s rights.
As she approached her junior year, a flyer for the Holistic Medical Association conference caught her attention. There, her “mind was blown” by some of the most distinguished pioneers in the field. This spurred her to consider going to naturopathic medicine school, but at her mother’s steering, she pursued conventional medicine first. During schooling, she doubted her choice when she discovered that her training focused solely on “putting out fires,” versus helping children thrive.
As “luck” would have it, another flyer popped into her life around this time. It was for using “food as medicine.” This training paved the way for her to excel in functional medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and integrative medicine.
As a result of all her accrued knowledge, in 2004, Dr. Song became one of the first pediatric practices that was truly holistic. She embraces evidence-based medicine that isn’t just based on publications, as these can have bias (R, R). Dr. Song also considers case studies, clinical evidence, and research from her twenty-plus years of experience working with children.
Dr. Song’s goal is to boost the confidence of parents on the efficacy of an integrative approach. She is also now merging her background in law to advocate for children’s health in political lobbying.
Integrating Essential Oils in Pediatric Care Through the Vagus Nerve
Dr. Song integrates essential oils into acute and chronic care for her pediatric patients. She feels one of the most important aspects they support is the vagus nerve. By stimulating vagal tone, essential oils help to integrate the mind-body connection, which is often not given enough attention to in conventional medicine. Furthermore, by influencing the vagus nerve, inflammation, gut, brain, and emotional health are also all supported.
In fact, the vagus nerve is the main “highway” that the microbiome in the gut uses to communicate with the brain. The microbiome (the sum of all our microorganisms and their DNA) impacts almost all aspects of health including the immune response, digestion, cardiovascular function, and other vital systems. It is also responsible for producing our neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which influence our nervous system and mood.
Our microbiome is shaped early, mostly after birth. This is why tending to our microorganisms from the start is crucial. Children’s microbiomes become populated by their environmental exposures and through their birth process. The makeup of their microbes informs how their immune system and brain is developed through this “vagal highway.” This includes the pruning and connecting of neural synapses during growth spurts (R, R, R).
For these reasons, addressing the root cause of childhood disorders through supporting the gut and vagus nerve is a better long-term plan than suppressing the symptoms with strong medications. The latter may create more harm down the road. For example, medications that disrupt the gut microbiome, such as antibiotics and antacids, can increase the risk of mental health disorders and allergic disorders in later life
In summary, by igniting the parasympathetic state with the vagus nerve, we can regulate the balance of our immune and digestive systems, brain health, and balance the inflammatory process.
(See more about supporting the vagus nerve and its impact in treating chronic illnesses in this previous episode with Dr. Moorcroft.)
Heart Rate Variability and Essential Oils
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measurement of vagus nerve tone. Dr. Song has seen that essential oils support vagal tone through HRV changes. She has found that once children are in this parasympathetic state, they can further engage in mindfulness practices and other coping skills that compound this improved resiliency.
The essential oils Dr. Song uses for vagal nerve support are lavender, bergamot, and sandalwood. (I also mention ylang ylang.) She feels that these oils can help children wind down at night and enhance their meditation.
Stimulating Two Acupuncture Points for Vagus Nerve Function with Essential Oils
Dr. Song shares some wonderful tips on incorporating essential oils for vagus nerve function through using them to stimulate acupressure points. Below are the points mentioned in the show. Keep in mind that if there is any tenderness at that point, it is a sign that energy is stuck and stimulation can help move it along.
- To calm the mind and anxious thoughts apply oils to Heart 7 (Shenmen), located below the back of the inner wrist crease on the pinkie side of the hand.
- For calming and for relieving motion sickness and nausea apply gentle oils to Pericardium 6, located below the inner wrist crease, four fingers below the wrist. For older kids, peppermint oil can also be used here.
Essential Oil Safety in Children
Dr. Song reviews what she has found in clinical practice and within her research of what to be aware of regarding safe use of essential oils for children. These break down to the main topics of potency and toxicity.
Potency of essential oils
Dr. Song explains why consumers need to be mindful of dosages and the potency of essential oils. For example, one cup of rosemary herb is needed to make a teaspoon of essential oil and 35 bags of chamomile tea are needed for producing one drop of the oil.
Note: 1 drop of essential oil is about a teaspoon.
Below are guides for dilution and dosages in children:
Toxicity with Essential Oils
Virtually all toxicity studies that both Dr. Song and I are aware of are linked to excessive ingestion. Most report children ingesting the equivalence of a full bottle of an essential oil in a sitting! This post on children and essential oil from my database goes through the toxicity scares and some of the studies Dr. Song discussed. (I’m opening up this article for non-community members for the purpose of this post.)
In general, inhalation is a very safe method to use with children. For infants, it may be best to diffuse in a separate room to avoid too much nervous system stimulation.
Oils to Be Careful of with Children
Below are some oils to be mindful of with children:
- Peppermint and sage oils, because they can reduce breastmilk production.
- Peppermint and eucalyptus can be strong for young children. Yet even these can be used at high dilutions and with inhalation. (Note: some suggest avoiding the use of eucalyptus before 2-3 years topically due to potential spams in the throat.)
- Lavender and tea tree oil have been associated with breast development, but these case studies are related to excess use and personal care products with endocrine disruptors in them. This has since been refuted.
Dr. Song’s Favorite Oils for Kid Issues and How to Use Them
Fevers, Headaches, and Constipation
Dr. Song explains that when a child has a fever it is best to allow their body to respond to the infection in the appropriate way. Fever reducers, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, tend to increase the amount of time the body needs to recover and generally don’t improve outcomes. This makes essential oils a good ally in this situation.
Dr. Song suggests applying lavender oil to the Large Intestine 4 acupuncture point for fevers. This point is in the web between the thumb and index fingers on the back of the hand. This point can also help with headaches and constipation.
Acute Illnesses and Respiratory Health
Thyme essential oil and teas (for younger children) are great for respiratory illnesses. This plant must be diluted because it can be irritating. For acute infections and illnesses, one can apply this oil, or other antimicrobial oils, to Large Intestine 11. This point is located is below the outer crease of your bent elbow.
Anxiety and Stress
Heart 7 is great for managing anxiety and stress, according ot Dr. Song. One can apply lavender or citrus oils to this point, being mindful of photosensitivity reactions with citrus.
For focus, memory, and concentration, using rosemary and vetiver mixed with peppermint and/or grapefruit can be helpful.
Essential Oils and Homeopathy
Dr. Song and I also discuss why you can use essential oils with homeopathy, but why you may not want to use peppermint oil at the same time you are ingesting your homeopathy.
All of this and so much more is discussed during the episode, so make sure you take a listen to the full show. Also, be sure to snag the free gifts Dr. Song offers you below!
Click here to dive in to the episode now!
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Links to Learn More About Dr. Song and Her Healthy Kids, Happy Kids Resources and Offerings:
- Website: Healthy Kids Happy Kids
- Practice site: Whole Family Wellness
- FB: @drelisasongmd
- IG: @healthykids_happykids
- X: @ElisaSongMD
- YT: @drelisasongmd
Dr. Song’s Resources
- Dr. Song’s online store
- Food as Medicine for Immune Resilience PDF
- E-Book: Top 5 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Child Has a Fever
Dilution Guides for Essential Oils
Bio of Dr. Elisa Song, MD
Dr. Elisa Song, MD is a Stanford-, NYU-, UCSF-trained integrative pediatrician and a pediatric functional medicine expert. She earned a master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley, is board-certified in pediatrics and holistic medicine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Song has also been trained in the Defeat Autism Now! biomedical approach to autism and has additional expertise in functional medicine/holistic nutrition, homeopathy & homeopathic detoxification, acupuncture, herbal medicine, essential oils, and flower essences.
Dr. Song is a nationally recognized authority in holistic pediatric care. Not only has she provided integrative care for children with some of the most complex medical issues, but she also provides training in integrative pediatric care to healthcare professionals. This is through the Holistic Pediatric Association, the CEDH (Center for Education and Development of Clinical Homeopathy), the Academy of Pain Research, and the Institute for Functional Medicine.
In 2005, Dr. Song started her integrative pediatric practice, Whole Family Wellness (www.wholefamilywellness.org) as a labor of love with a mission to offer the best holistic pediatric care possible. Wanting to reach more parents and children than she could in a brick-and-mortar setting, Dr. Song created Healthy Kids Happy Kids (www.healthykidshappykids.com). Today, it is celebrated as a go-to online holistic pediatric resource that is evidence-based, pediatrician-backed, and mom-approved.
Dr. Song’s gentle, fierce, and fun approach has eased the worries of many concerned parents and shone light on the innate healing power within both kids and adults alike. As importantly, she is the mom of 2 thriving children, Kenzi and Bodi, and wife to her husband, Peter. Every day, Dr. Song continues daily to live up to her mission to teach the world how children deserve to be happy, healthy, and thrive. Find her at www.healthykidshappykids.com.
Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Resources for Hormonal, Mood, and Digestive Support
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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.