Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder, is most often caused by bacterial infection, though occasionally it is due to irritants such as crystalline deposits in the urine. It is far more common in women than in men. This is because infection frequently spreads upwards from the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the exterior of the body) and this is only about 1 inches long in women and four to five times that length in men, giving the bladder greater protection. The use of essential oils at the first sign of irritation of the urethra will often prevent a full-blown attack of cystitis from developing.

The most valuable oils in treating this painful and depressing condition are Bergamot, Camomile, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Lavender and Sandalwood. Of these, the three which I find most effective, and think of as the first line of defence, are Bergamot, used externally as a local wash and in the bath, Camomile in the form of Camomile tea, and Garlic taken in perles or capsules. Camomile can be added to external washes, too, to ease the painful stinging and irritation. As with all use of essential oils on delicate mucous membranes, a very low dilution should be made, between 16% and 1 % of essential oil in boiled and cooled water and the opening of the urethra swabbed with this at frequent intervals. At the same time, as much Camomile tea as possible should be drunk, alternating with pure spring water or lemon barley water (home-made). Bergamot should be added to the bath about 6 drops, and used at least once every day, more often if possible.

A massage oil containing Bergamot and Lavender or Camomile should be very gently massaged over the lower abdomen, and if there is a lot of pain, a hot Camomile compress may be helpful. A full body massage with a choice of oils from the ones I have mentioned will be a great help, not only in overcoming the infection but also to relieve the depression that often goes with it

If there is blood or pus in the urine, or if the temperature is very high, do not delay in consulting a doctor, because cystitis can very quickly lead to more serious infections of the kidneys. This is one of the situations in which antibiotics should not be rejected, and it is also important to get a proper analysis of a urine specimen carried out to identify which strain of bacteria is involved, since different ones respond to different antibiotics. If treatment with antibiotics does become necessary, the aromatherapy treatment can be continued at the same time, with great benefit.

One of the disadvantages of antibiotics is that they kill many of the 'friendly' bacteria in the intestines along with the invading ones, and in the case of cystitis this is particularly unwelcome, as the bacteria most commonly responsible for the bladder infection are those which are normally present in the gut, but are kept under control by the helpful bacteria found there. This can lead to the cycle of cystitis-antibiotics-cystitis which many women dread and which can be very depressing and debilitating. It is important to eat a good quantity of live yoghurt while taking antibiotics to counteract this effect and re-establish a health intestinal flora. Regular use of essential oils, especially in the bath, can break this cycle and prevent frequent recurrence of cystitis. Attention to simple measures such as avoiding synthetic underwear and tights, and close-fitting jeans and trousers helps, too. Sandalwood has been used as a urinary antiseptic in India for many centuries and is a valuable alternative to Bergamot if repeated treatment is needed.

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