What are Essential Oils?
An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word “oil” are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color.
Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.
Essential oils are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils. Where essential oils are derived from the true plants, perfume oils are artificially created fragrances or contain artificial substances and do not offer the therapeutic benefits that essential oils offer. The chemical composition and aroma of essential oils can provide valuable psychological and physical therapeutic benefits. These benefits are usually achieved through methods including inhalation and application of the diluted oil to the skin.
Essential oils are often used by diluting them with a carrier oil (sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil) and then applying this blend to the skin for absorption. Careful inhalation of the oils can also provide therapeutic benefit as the oil molecules enter the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Essential oils can vary greatly in quality and price. Factors that can affect the quality and price of the oil include the rarity of the botanical, the country of origin and growing/climate conditions, quality standards of the distiller, and how much oil is produced by the botanical.
Essential oils can often be purchased as blends of several essential oils. The advantage if it is a blend of pure essential oils is that you can save from having to buy every essential oil individually. The disadvantage is that you have no control over the blend by not mixing it yourself nor can you reliably mix the blend with other oils.
Essential Oil Uses
Introducing essential oils into your lifestyle can be quite easy, fun, and therapeutically beneficial. Below are a few ways in which you can get started. These methods are intended as guidelines only, and you do need to pay special attention to all safety precautions applicable for each essential oil that you choose. It is also important to remember that essential oils are flammable.
Place 3-4 drops of essential oil on a tissue. Place the tissue near your nose and inhale. When trying an oil for the first time, use only one drop to ensure that you do not have a sensitivity or reaction to the oil.
Boil 2 cups of water. Pour the water into a bowl and add 3-7 drops of oil to the water. Use fewer drops if you are using an oil that may cause irritation to your mucous membranes (i.e. cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, pine, thyme, cajuput, etc.). Place your nose about 12″ away from the bowl and inhale. Don’t inhale the steam constantly and if you notice any irritation or discomfort, stop immediately. Steam inhalation can help with colds and influenza. Use of energizing or relaxing oils can also make this method useful any time of day or night.
Use the steam inhalation method noted above but don’t directly inhale into the bowl. Use up to 10 drops of oil. Use fewer drops if you are using an oil that may cause sensitization. Other methods including use of an aromatherapy diffuser or lamp scent ring available through many aromatherapy companies.
General Household Refreshing:
Add a few drops of oil to your trash can, laundry wash, drain, vacuum bag filter, or on a tissue for placement in your drawers.
Many essential oils including citronella, lavender, and peppermint act as a natural repellent against insects. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil onto tissues or cotton balls and place near your doorways and windows to help repel insects. Be sure to read all safety data on the oils you use as some oils may not be suitable for use around pets. Be careful not to apply the essential oil directly onto fragile surfaces.
Add up to 20 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce carrier oil such as sweet almond oil and massage onto yourself or partner. Keep away from eyes and genital areas. Do not apply essential oils to the skin without first diluting them. Be sure to also read the safety data for the essential oils you choose to use.
Add 5-7 drops essential oil to 1 ounce carrier oil. Add this blend to your running bath water and mix well before getting into the tub. Be sure to read the safety data for the essential oils you choose to use.
Essential oils can be used in making homemade lotions, facial toners, shampoos, perfumes, soaps, shower gels, and other natural products. Additionally, essential oils are often blended for their therapeutic synergistic abilities. Almost all of my DIY recipes for both household cleaners and beauty products include essential oils
Essential Oil Safety
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that can be harmful if not used carefully. Implementing aromatherapy into your lifestyle shouldn’t cause paranoia or undue worry, but it is important to learn about and heed essential oil safety. By treating essential oils with respect and following the steps outlined below, you will be well on your way to safely enjoying the many benefits that aromatherapy can offer.
These safety guidelines are not a complete safety reference for the proper use of essential oils. When in doubt, consult your physician and/or a qualified and trained aromatherapy practitioner.
Essential Oils should never be used undiluted on the skin.
Some oils can cause sensitization or allergic reactions in some individuals.
Some essential oils are phototoxic and can cause irritation, inflammation, blistering, redness and/or burning when exposed to UVA rays.
Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy or by those with asthma, epilepsy, or with other health conditions.
Less IS more; follow the instructions.
Not all essential oils are suitable for use in aromatherapy.
Never let children use essential oils without the presence of an adult knowledgeable about their use.
Essential oils should not be taken internally without guidance by a qualified practitioner or until you have gained adequate knowledge and understanding of the risks and safe internal applications and dosages.
Essential oils are flammable.