There is an awful lot of talk about Essential Oils (EO) these days, but what exactly are Essential Oils? Where do the come from? How do you use them? and What are they supposed to do for you? These are some common questions that arise which I hope to answer for you.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils are the concentrated hydrophobic volatile oils that are extracted from plants, wood bark, and flowers through various methods, primarily distillation. (Wikipedia, 2017) Concentrated means that they are more intense than normally sensed. Hydrophobic means they don’t care for water, so unlike dehydration which removes the water and leaves a fibrous part of the plan this is the part that is NOT water. Volatile oil means an oil that has a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature making it available to be perceived by the olfactory sense (smell). That’s a bunch of fancy terminology that in layman’s terms means a condensed plant oil that you can smell.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Essential oils are processed out of numerous woods, herbs, spices, seeds, fruits and flowers. Some of the major Essential Oil manufacturers offer as many as 83 unique oils. Essential oils have been used throughout history; the first known documentation of their use is from France dating back to 18,000 BC. So although they seem to be the hot trend right now, in all likelihood your ancestors made use of them in some way or another!!
HOW ARE ESSENTIAL OILS USED?
EOs are typically used in three major ways: diffused, topical application and internally, each having different results.
Diffusing oils-diffusing oils means that the oil is mixed with water and put into a diffusing device which turns the water/oil combination into a fine mist that permeates the air and is inhaled . This method can be utilized to treat a particular malady, such as sinus problems, or to create a particular atmosphere in a room. I work in an elementary school and there are some classrooms where the teachers use peppermint in a diffuser to help students be more alert in the afternoon. Another classroom uses a diffuser with a calming blend to help children with behavioral issues to regulate their emotions. Using a diffuser is the method probably most common for delivering essential oils, and is often referred to as aromatherapy. There are other ways to make use of aromatherapy which don’t necessarily use a diffusing machine but would fall under the diffusing category as you are not applying the EOs to your skin nor taking them internally. There are adorable necklaces that can be used. One simply puts a few drops of the chosen EO on a small disk pad (that comes with the necklace) and inserts it into the pendant locket. The oil’s aroma is wafted through the air toward the wearer’s nose; having the same effect as a room diffuser.
Topical application-with this method the EO is either rubbed directly on the skin or is combined with a carrier oil and applied. This method is used widely for personal benefits. Some people with sensitive skin may not choose to apply oils directly, so the diffuser or necklace would be a better option for them. To apply topically a vial is partially filled with the desired EO or combination of EOs and then filled the rest of the way with the carrier oil of choice. A roller ball is inserted on the top of the vial for easy application. Oils are then typically applied to places on the body with high blood flow near the skin such as: wrists, neck, temples or bottoms of the feet. This allows the oils to penetrate the blood stream most easily. For some, applying the oil directly to a “trouble spot” works as well. For example, I have had a problem with tight ligaments along the outer side of my knees (too much running, not enough stretching). So in addition to yoga and other stretching exercises, I apply Cypress Oil directly to my knees and the bottoms of my feet prior to a workout, and again afterward. It has helped to increase blood flow to those constricted ligaments, helping to ease the pain I had had for over 18 months!
Ingestion-this is a very controversial usage of essential oils. My ND, (Naturopathic Doctor) whose ancestors have a rich history of essential oil use, is adamant that essential oils NOT be consumed, unless under the direction of a health practitioner. There are many companies out there today label their products as “Therapeutic Grade” (which means nothing) and safe for internal usage. This has people diagnosing their own issues and prescribing their own treatment, which can be dangerous unless you are very well versed in the effects and benefits of any particular oil. It is one thing to put a few drops of an oil in a frosting recipe to enhance the flavor, but an entirely different issue if ingesting capsules filled with an oil to remedy an ailment. The concentrated oil has the ability to do great things for your body, but used incorrectly can have harmful effects as well. Obviously, pregnant or nursing mothers should consult with a health care provider prior to ingesting any essential oils.
WHAT CAN ESSENTIAL OILS DO FOR YOU?
There are so many beneficial uses of essential oils it would be impossible to list them all in one or two paragraphs! Some of the very common uses are: to relieve stress, to manage anxiety, to improve focus, to treat sinus issues, to reduce fever, to enhance a sense of well being, to calm, to awaken, to improve sleep or the ability to fall asleep faster. Some use oils to improve moods, to help headaches or allergies or to grow longer eyelashes! There really are a myriad of uses for these amazing compounds! With at least 83 individual oils and dozens of combinations available there is certainly an oil to help with whatever minor issue is bothering you. Can oils cure major issues? Possibly, but this is something that you would certainly want to consult individually with a certified Nathuropathic Doctor on, prior to beginning use.
Although essential oils have been used for thousands of years, the new EO trend has brought them back to the forefront of awareness and demonstrates that they have a place in every home. Whether it is simply making your home have a welcoming aroma or treating particular maladies there is an essential oil that is right for you!