Alternatively Speaking: The other 'miracles' of oil

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: What are the benefits of clove oil? Which oil is best for giving massages?

Cooking oil 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cooking oil 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For many thousands of years, oil has been one of the most prized compounds to human life. Oil benefits are far reaching, extending from medicinal, culinary uses, to skin care, to hair care and relaxation. For this special Hannuka edition I have carefully selected questions below to highlight just some of the 'miracles' of oil today...
Q. I read that it is healthy to consume olive oil every day. The sheer number of different kinds of olive oil in the supermarket is overwhelming! How do I know which one to select and how much should I be consuming a day?
A. Both extra light and light olive oils are the lowest-quality olive oils. Pure olive oil is different than the name implies; it has actually been subjected to chemical solvents and heat. This oil is often used in commercial applications, such as restaurant use. Virgin olive oil is a higher quality oil, and extra-virgin olive oil is considered to be the highest quality of olive oil. These two varieties retain the most olive nutrients and are regarded as the healthiest types. Flavored olive oils contain garlic, herbs or other ingredients to alter the smell and taste of the product. Women between the ages of 19 to 30 should consume 6 tsp. of oil per day, while women over 30 should consume 5 tsp. Young men between the ages 19 to 30 should get 7 tsp. of oil daily, while older men are advised to ingest 6 tsp. Children ages 2 and older should get 3 to 6 tsp. daily, depending on age and gender. No matter how old you are, use olive oil for at least 1 tbsp. of your daily allotment, the equivalent of 3 tsp., for maximum health benefit.
It might take you a short while to acclimate yourself to the taste. You can add olive oil to stir fry's, soups and many other dishes, such as spaghetti sauce and lasagna. After a week, you can begin to mix it into your salad dressing. Once you are accustomed to the taste, you can then use olive oil to replace your usual oil in all recipes and use it as a butter substitute when appropriate. I recommend using 3/4 tsp. of olive oil to replace 1 tsp. of butter or margarine.
Q. What are the benefits of Clove Oil? Does it rid the body of free radicals?
A. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is an ancient oil used by man. It is the highest antioxidant oil ever measured and is greatly recommended for digestive upsets for intestinal parasites and most notably for tooth aches. In Chinese medicine, the oil is used for diarrhea, hernia, bad breath and bronchitis. It is excellent for anti-aging, anti-tumoral, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, analgesic, anesthetic, antioxidant, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant and anti-worms properties. This is why it is considered such an effective anti-aging oil. It is good for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, rheumatism, hepatitis, intestinal parasites, throat, sinus and lung infections, cataracts, ulcers, lice, toothaches and acne. Clove is also good for raising blood pressure and for impotence. The emotional message of clove is to move forward, make things happen, achieve as much as your spirit can without harming others. Clove assists in the awakening of the senses. It gives us the confidence we need to be unafraid. The fragrance discourages inhibiting thoughts and makes it easier to weather the storms of life. For emotional healing it is used to encourage stimulation, regeneration, inspiration, trust, and inner warmth. The main effect of clove oil is antiseptic, having a broad spectrum of action against bacteria and viruses. It is considered a strengthening oil and an oil for longevity.
Clove oil can be diluted one part essential oil with four parts mixing oil; it can be applied neat on gums or mouth, diffused or taken as a dietary supplement. For a tickling cough or the hiccups, place one drop on back of tongue
Q. I am a massage therapist and have noticed that the oil I use is leaving my clients rather greasy. Which massage oil is the best?
A. There are indeed some oils that are more likely to leave you feeling greasy after the massage, while other massage oils go rancid quickly and take on an unpleasant smell. Worse, some oils might irritate skin or cause allergic reactions.
Here are my five top choices. They can be used alone or in combination.
1. Sweet almond oil is one of the most popular massage oils among massage therapists. Extracted from almonds, sweet almond oil is pale yellow in color. It is slightly oily, which allows hands to glide easily over skin. Sweet almond oil is absorbed fairly quickly, but not so quickly that you need to keep reapplying it. Compared with other oils, sweet almond oil is reasonably priced. It usually does not irritate skin. People with nut allergies should not use almond oil.
2. Fractionated coconut oil is actually a light, non-greasy, liquid oil. It is called fractionated coconut oil because it contains only a fraction of the whole oil. The long-chain triglycerides have been removed, leaving only the medium-chain triglycerides.
Fractionated coconut oil is less pricey than many other oils (it's comparable to sweet almond oil) and like jojoba oil, has a very long shelf life. But perhaps the top feature of fractionated coconut oil is that it tends not to stain sheets, a problem with many massage oils.
3. Apricot kernel oil is a good alternative to sweet almond oil for people with nut allergies. Apricot kernel oil is similar in texture and color to almond oil, but costs slightly more. It is rich in vitamin E, a quality that gives it a longer shelf life than the typical oil.
Like almond oil, apricot kernel oil is absorbed into the skin, so it won't leave people feeling greasy afterwards.
4. Jojoba is actually a wax extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant. Jojoba is a good option for most people prone to back acne because it is thought to have antibacterial properties and contains long chain wax esters that closely resemble skin sebum. Jojoba has a very long shelf life, so it's a good choice if you don't use it regularly. It is very well-absorbed, which makes it a favorite carrier oil for aromatherapy. Jojoba is usually not irritating to skin.
There is one drawback - jojoba oil is rather silky and quickly absorbed, you may need to reapply it often or mix it with other oils listed here. It is also more expensive than sweet almond oil.
5. Sesame oil is prized in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It is used in a daily Ayurvedic self-massage. According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is especially useful for nourishing and detoxifying and for ailments associated with the vata type, such as anxiety, poor circulation, constipation, bloating, and excessive dryness.
Sesame oil is a rather thick oil that may leave skin feeling oily, so it can be blended with lighter massage oils. The unrefined oil has a strong aroma.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at
Someone Once Said: 'Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadfully uneasy to take'. - Josh Billings