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I am not one of those people who are strongly for or against essential oils. But in my journey with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), I have had experiences with essential oils that may prove helpful for others. They are, at the very least, interesting.

I often felt conflicted about whether or not to write about this. It seems there are “believers” and “nonbelievers” on the subject of essential oils. And I am certainly not one to start an argument.

My view has been double-sided in a lot of ways. I have had some really bad experiences with some oils and very good ones with others. But I don’t use any of them directly for AATD. However, I think the subject needs more study. These oils are very strong and so many people use them. I just think it’s a topic to discuss.

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In my limited exposure to them, I learned a lot about what my body can tolerate and can’t. For me, using an essential oil diffuser, especially with lavender oil, can be dangerous. I know a lot of people love lavender for its calming properties but it never was calming for me. I often feel I am suffocating when I use it for very long. One time my chest felt heavy from it.

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However, I don’t react that way to all oils. I can handle eucalyptus oil alright, and it may actually help my breathing. But I don’t put any of these substances in a diffuser. My doctor told me absolutely no essential oils. Nothing against my doctor, I just noticed some of them are very calming, so I have a couple of those on hand. I keep only the ones that help me function the most.

I don’t often go against my doctor’s orders, so I tread carefully, but deliberately. For instance, I get migraines (unrelated to AATD) sometimes that are very persistent and disabling. I take medication for it, but when it fails, this is my backup.

The truth is, I only use that one (a blend) maybe 3 times a year. Just on my skin, sometimes the results are instantaneous. I also use pure peppermint oil sometimes, just to switch it up.

I like peppermint because it makes me feel calm, focused, and energetic. And I feel it benefits my breathing. It feels cool on my skin, which is why it is good at distracting me from a headache.

Also, I only use them on my skin. Because there are very few studies done on how essential oils would impact the condition I have, I don’t ingest them.

Hence, until I know, I will choose the safer route. It seems like a double standard, but when a person has multiple conditions and a job, they have to make choices. Sometimes we make those choices and just choose to live with the results.

One that I put on my skin, cinnamon, I really regret trying. With only a couple of drops, it immediately caused a rash and it didn’t go away with lotion or water. I never went near that again.

I use cypress oil when I have a cramp because it instantly makes it go away. That effect is not usually permanent, though, only lasting about 30 minutes. Cypress oil, like the others, can be very calming. I like it for this reason, too. I don’t have any issues with asthma attacks with it.

A lot of essential oils are used in cleaning and deodorizing products. They are even in many lotions and soaps. However, I usually avoid scented cleaning products, or really anything besides vinegar and some soaps. There are hidden chemicals there that can still cause issues. For me, it’s a matter of wanting to breathe without interruption.

These essential oils are the only ones I still use. I tried a blend made for breathing, and that just created new respiratory issues, so I stay away from that one.  Because it was a blend, I still don’t know what the culprit was.

The blend I use for migraines has some eucalyptus, some progesterone made from yams, as well as other oils. Eucalyptus is the one I can smell the most from that blend. Usually, the smell goes away after an hour.

The people in my AATD support group often talk about them in the same way I do. We would like more information on them and continue to be careful. Perhaps one day we will know much more.