White blood cells are the cells of the immune system that are involved in defending the body from invasion by bacteria, viruses, foreign bodies and other forms of disease. To protect yourself from disease etc. it is important to keep your immune system in top condition so that it is able to produce white blood cells whenever the need arises. One of the many fantastic properties of our velvety smooth and deeply aromatic lavender essential oil is its ability to stimulate the production of white blood cells by the immune system.
The effect of lavender oil to strengthen the body’s immune system has been known throughout antiquity. For example in the during the plague epidemics of the Middle Ages it was noticed that tannery workers who utilized the oil in manufacturing, and those who tended lavender fields, appeared to be immune to the disease. Also it was said that grave robbers of the time protected themselves with a combination of the essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove and lemon. Obviously at the time, it was not known that lavender oil was affecting and promoting the production of protective white blood cells, however today we are aware of this action.
There are many different types of white blood cells (or leucocytes) that each act in slightly different ways, however they fall into two main groups:
- Phagocytes – these types of white blood cells can move easily through the walls of our blood vessels towards the pathogens or toxins that could cause disease. Phagocytes then can either ingest or absorb the pathogens or toxins, or they can release an enzyme to destroy them. Some phagocytes may also send out chemical messages that help nearby lymphocytes to identify the type of antibody needed to neutralise them.
- Lymphocytes – white blood cells that fall into this category each carry a different type of antibody that can fit into and neutralise a specific antigen that is carried on a specific pathogen. When a lymphocyte with the appropriate antibody meets the antigen, the lymphocyte reproduces quickly to make many copies of the antibody that neutralises the pathogen.
Different essential oils have limited abilities to support and strengthen the immune response in two ways: by directly opposing the threatening micro¬organisms or by stimulating and increasing the activity of the organs and cells involved. However lavender essential oil (along with Rosemary and Eucalyptus) acts against a wide variety of bacteria and viruses whilst at the same time increasing the immune response.