I’ve known an Expater friend, Maryam, for a few years now. Because I have a few Maryams in my life, I admit to having referred to her as the ‘the one with the really poorly child’.

I hate to put people into boxes, all the more based on their children’s health, but Maryam’s first daughter, Zeynah had a rougher start in life than most. My son also has food intolerances but his issues pale in comparison.

Early days were the worst

From an early age she suffered severe allergic reactions to most foods resulting in angry rashes, blotchy skin and horrendous digestive issues. She then went on to contract a virus leaving her with a weakened respiratory system. One chesty cold after the other, and after repeated overnight stays in hospital, she grew weaker and weaker until the coughing fits made her face turn blue, her eyes bulge and her body go limp. The only way to bring her around from a fainting fit would be a firm slap on the back, coupled with an ongoing cocktail of heavy medication including cortisones, antibiotics and inhalers.

allergic child photo

Strawberries: formerly a forbidden fruit

Baby steps, big leaps

Based in Antwerp in Belgium, Maryam consulted different medical experts and became increasingly desperate: ‘I felt so helpless and disempowered. I felt let down by all her healthcare professionals’. After being dismissed by doctors who didn’t seem to care or understand, she sought out a family doctor who was more open to alternative remedies complementing her existing medication. She went on to research a plethora of possible aids for Zeynah, and aromatherapy seemed worth a shot: ‘At first I was skeptical and thought it was all airy fairy nonsense, but the results spoke volumes’.

Starting with an all natural blend specially formulated for the respiratory system, including peppermint, eucalyptus and lemon, Maryam began diffusing oils in Zeynah’s room and also encouraged her to breathe in the scent whenever a coughing fit took hold. The oils seemed to calm her, helping her get her breath back so she could use her inhaler more effectively.

Part of the family

Now confident enough to apply a diluted form of the oils directly to her back, chest and the soles of her feet, Maryam went on to try other blends to support her immune system. Very quickly essential oils became a part of the daily routine for the whole family, including Zeynah’s younger sister, Ziva. From teething to insect bites, from a poorly tummy to emotional separation issues, Maryam found an oil which could help. ‘It has been such an empowering and liberating journey that opened my eyes to how we can support our bodies naturally,’ she tells me. ‘We use essential oils to support our emotions, sleep, brain, heart and gut, as well as for cleaning, cooking, laundry and freshening the air. It’s now an integral part of our day and is weaved in throughout, from the minute we get up, to when we go to sleep.’

allergic child travelling photo

A happier little girl on her holiday

Complementary healthcare – a personal lifestyle choice 

Aromatherapy is a complementary medicine, which can be administered in harmony with modern medicine according to the individual’s needs and in line with their personal lifestyle choices. Maryam explains: ‘We have chosen aromatherapy as an alternative and we are absolutely happy. We are almost off all medication, though if we needed medical intervention I would not hesitate if it meant saving my child’s life or making them comfortable’. 

As Maryam is keen to stress, aromatherapy and alternative health care in general is very much a personal choice. While Maryam’s family have chosen alternative remedies as their primary health care route, that isn’t to say the same needs to apply to everyone: ‘Essential oils are the primary source of our family’s natural healthcare, however, that isn’t to say that it has to be one or the other. Aromatherapy can work wonders alongside the traditional healthcare route’. 

A new beginning

After trying a range of oils, Maryam found a brand called dōTERRA to work most effectively. She was also impressed by the oils’ purity and the company’s eco credentials. Recently she became an ambassador for the brand, hosting workshops and events, as well as offering one-to-one consultations, from essential oil cookery classes, to group sessions with sleep deprived mothers and their newborns.

I recently met up with Maryam and her family, including a transformed Zeynah. When I got back, my husband asked me which Maryam I went to see. ‘The one with the sick daughter?’ he began. No darling, that one left a long time ago.

happy child with allergies photo

Maryam De Groef is a wellness advocate for dōTERRA and offers an initial complimentary 30 minute consultation for anyone interested in how aromatherapy can support their lifestyle. For details contact her through her webpage

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