The duo behind Oil Miracles Hawaii makes aromatherapy more approachable.

About a year and a half ago, Katra Cuskaden’s then 3-year-old daughter, Ireland, had been coughing throughout the day, and by bedtime, she was having trouble breathing. Ireland had suffered from excessive coughing and wheezing since she was an infant, but Cuskaden knew what to do: She put her daughter on a breathing machine right away. But when the nebulizer failed to regulate Ireland’s breathing, Cuskaden rushed her to the emergency room. This wasn’t their first trip to the hospital in the middle of the night—and just like prior incidents, doctors recommended putting Ireland on steroids.

Photo courtesy L’Occitane En Provence

Photo courtesy L’Occitane En Provence

“It’s an unimaginable fear,” she says. “It’s scary when you’re going through something like that yourself, but when it’s somebody who can’t even really describe what they’re feeling or what’s wrong, it’s just terrifying.”

A couple of ER visits and another round of steroids later, Cuskaden mentioned all of this to Alison Lum, whose kids attended school with Ireland. Lum suggested another option, which had helped ease her children’s digestive issues: essential oils. Almost immediately, Ireland’s coughing decreased. She began to breathe more easily.

Seeing these effects, Cuskaden and Lum teamed up to concoct their own formulas to address the health issues their children faced. Their efforts gradually expanded into a full-fledged company, Oil Miracles Hawaii, which provides certified-pure, therapeutic essential oil blends. Oil Miracles, also known as OM, can be found in two O‘ahu retail locations—Hair Candy Salon and A Little Bit of Everything—and they’re in talks with larger shops for potential partnerships. OM also sells its products online, and they’ve even been receiving a number of international orders.

Oil Miracles Hawaii’s curative characters; consulting an aromatherapist is step one en route to healing (photo courtesy Oil Miracles Hawaii).

Oil Miracles Hawaii’s curative characters; consulting an aromatherapist is step one en route to healing (photo courtesy Oil Miracles Hawaii).

Essential oils are all-natural products that are obtained through extraction from sources such as grass, leaves, flowers, fruits, wood and roots. As aromatherapy specialist Robert Tisserand details in his book The Art of Aromatherapy, while “it is impossible to point to a date when plants were first used medicinally,” people have been utilizing plants and their oils for healing purposes for thousands of years.

“Each essential oil has its own unique medical qualities, characteristics and therapeutic effects,” explains certified clinical aromatherapist Shanti Dechen, founder and director of Colorado-based Aroma Apothecary Healing Arts Academy.

These therapeutic effects can include, as certified clinical aromatherapist and author of e-book Using Essential Oils Safely Lea Harris explains: “a wide range of emotional-and-physical issues.”

The physical benefits may include reducing pain from a bug bite, soothing muscle pain and getting rid of rashes. In addition, “the effect of essential oils on the mind and emotions is extraordinary: uplifting depression, transforming anxiety into clarity and stress into tranquility,” Dechen explains.

Oil Miracles Hawaii’s curative characters; consulting an aromatherapist is step one en route to healing (photo courtesy Oil Miracles Hawaii).

Oil Miracles Hawaii’s curative characters; consulting an aromatherapist is step one en route to healing (photo courtesy Oil Miracles Hawaii).

For OM, it all started with “Vog Relief,” which Cuskaden and Lum crafted because vog is one of Ireland’s main triggers. From there, they came up with a string of other aptly named remedies, including “Sunburn Soother Spray,” “Muscle Relief,” “Immunity Boost,” “Headache Helper,” “Ditch the Itch and Allergies” and more.

Lum and Cuskaden never had any premeditated business aspirations. But their experiments in essential oils were so successful that they started sharing their unique blends with friends and family—who all raved about the products. So, although they both already have full-time careers—Cuskaden is a family-law attorney, and Lum as a community development specialist—they wanted to share their knowledge, and now spend every free moment they have working on OM.

“Seeing what a great help it’s been, we just felt compelled to be able to get this out to more people to have a natural alternative,” Lum says.

“We just wanted to make it easily accessible,” Cuskaden adds.

To make it easy to use—even in the case where parents may wake up in the middle of the night to treat their child’s coughing fit—OM products come in ready-to-use rollerballs.

Essential oils are most commonly applied in one of two ways: either topically or via inhalation. Harris explains that when it comes to topical use, “Once applied to the skin … some of the constituents in the essential oil will begin to be absorbed into the skin, and eventually, parts may even reach the bloodstream.”

“With inhalation, the essential oils are simply breathed into the nose,” Harris continues. “This can be done in several ways, such as: straight from the bottle, added to the cotton wick on a personal inhaler or diffused into the air via a water diffuser.”

Flowers, leaves and roots are just once source for aromatic healing (photo courtesy Premier Health Massage).

Flowers, leaves and roots are just once source for aromatic healing (photo courtesy Premier Health Massage).

Determining which method to use depends on what you are trying to do: “Topical is great for issues on the skin, and just under, in the case of muscular pain or even digestive issues—just remember to always dilute first,” Harris says. “Inhalation is best for emotional issues.” (In very rare cases, oils may be ingested, but Harris warns that it should only be done under the supervision of a certified aromatherapist who has been trained specifically in internal usage.)

Clients who have used OM products often return to tell Cuskaden and Lum the as-touted miraculous effects: a man whose swelling in his leg was reduced; a woman whose severe rash it cleared up.

“That is so nice to hear—that it hasn’t just helped me,” Cuskaden says.

Based on client feedback and requests, Cuskaden and Lum constantly are dreaming up new remedies. And each OM product undergoes a different type of market research: “Our kids are our primary guinea pigs. I feel like, what better testimony is there than I used it on a 3-year-old—my 3-year-old [whom] I have a vested interest in?” Cuskaden explains with a laugh.

Ireland, now 5 years old, hasn’t had to use the nebulizer since Cuskaden started treating her with OM’s Vog Relief. It’s been about a year now, and Ireland has been breathing much easier.

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