Essential oils have been a main-stay in my life since 2005. I wonder now what I ever did without them.
What are essential oils?
First, the term “essential oil” is a contraction of the original “quintessential oil.” This comes from the Aristotelian idea that all matter is composed of five the elements, fire, air, earth, and water. The fifth element, or “quintessence”, was then considered to be spirit or life force. We now know that EO’s are physical in nature and composed of complex mixtures of chemicals, although I feel that the spirit of the plant is still some how involved.
Essential oils (EO’s) are the highly concentrated version of the natural oils, the life blood so to speak, found in plants. I’ve seen how surprised people are that they aren’t oily when they first try them. The name, essential oil, can be miss leading. Yes, they are essential, but few are actually oily. Depending on the manufacturing company, some are often mixed with a carrier oil. But either way you look at it, EO’s were the first natural medicine that date back 1,000’s of years.
Getting essential oils from plants is done with a process called distillation. Most common distillation is by steam or water where many different parts of the plants are used, depending on the plant itself. This includes the plant’s roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and/or bark. After distillation, the product is a highly concentrated portion of the plant which will have the characteristic fragrance and properties. It contains the true essence of the plant it came from. This includes the smell as well as the plant’s healing properties and other plant characteristics.
The Healing Compound in Essential Oils
It is fascinating to learn that the very thing that gives an essential oil its characteristic fragrance is also what provides that oil with its healing ability. There can be hundreds of phytochemicals (plant based chemicals) within a single drop of essential oil. Science is just beginning to learn exactly how each phytochemical works in the human body. These phytochemicals have peculiar names like terpenes, aldehydes, esters, ketones, phenols, oxides, sesquiterpenes, and more. Each one works differently within the body. This very potent extract of the plant can be extremely useful for many different purposes. That’s the amazing beauty of these EO’s. For example, ketones found in a common EO, lavender, can stimulate cell regeneration, liquefy mucus, and have calming properties.
Essential Oil Quality Varies
The phytochemical make-up of an oil can vary from plant to plant, even on the same farm. Growing conditions, harvesting methods, and even the time of day that the plant is harvested can have an effect on the phytochemical content of an oil. For example, ylang ylang flowers are best collected between midnight and 9:00 am in the morning. This is when the essential oil content in the flowers is at its highest and best. For this reason, it’s important to go for the highest quality to be sure that your EO’s, especially if you are using them for health issues, come from a reputable company.
Make sure the essential oils you purchase are organically grown when ever possible. Be sure that the company knows how to properly distill the EO’s they sell, that they do not use chemicals during the extraction process and that they have excellent practices on the up keep of their machinery. What’s the point of using organically grown plants if they clean their machinery with harmful chemicals? A good essential oil company will also check each EO batch to be sure that it has the proper phytochemical components. Don’t just rely on a label that says “pure.” These days, that just isn’t good enough. Plus, only use EO’s labeled “therapeutic” grade.
How To Use Essential Oils
So, you bought a bottle of your first EO. Now what? Often, people get stuck here, but it’s really very simple.
1. Inhalation: easy peasy, put a few drops of EO on your palms, rub them together, cup them over the mouth and nose and breathe. If you do the bottle inhalation method, breathe gently at first and then if it seems appropriate, breathe the oil in deeply − as if you were dragging the oil up over your brain. Please sure to leave your eyes out of this as essential oils do not belong anywhere near the eyes.
**Warning: If you accidentally get an EO into your eyes, dilute immediately with a carrier oil like almond or olive, never water. It will burn like crazy, but will ease in a few minutes. Be careful not to rub your eyes right afterwards if the EO was on your hands.
2. Around your neck: Gently rub a drop or two on your chest or drop on a terra-cotta pendant and breathe in throughout the day. You could also put a few drops on a scarf, but beware it could stain. I haven’t had a problem doing this, but be careful.
3. Salt Bowl: Place a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of Epsom salt in a small bowl. Put 10-15 drops of EO onto the salt. Keep it by your bed. The salt helps to slow down the evaporation rate of the oils, allowing you a longer diffusion throughout the night. A great way to get some healing while you sleep. Also, depending on the EO, it can help you sleep too.
4. Home Diffuser: There are various diffusers on the market for EO’s at a wide range of prices. I do this year round before bedtime and often at bedtime. During the warmer months I diffuse EO’s that are natural antihistamines to help with allergies. Lavender is one of them, plus it has the added benefit as a sleep aide. I’ll also use lavender during the day around my neck as in #2.
5. Car Diffuser – You can now get car diffusers for their essential oils. Or, with a cotton ball, put a few drops of your chosen oil onto it, stick it in the air vent or tape it on, turn on the vent and enjoy. Be sure not to do this with an EO like lavender so it doesn’t make you sleepy!! Peppermint EO is great for long distance driving to help keep you alert.
6. Foot Absorption – Massage a few drops of your chosen EO’s onto the bottoms of your feet before you go to bed or anytime. The soles of the feet contain some of the largest pores in the body. Therefore, the oils are easily and quickly absorbed and working in your bloodstream within just a few minutes. This is my go-to method of application.
7. Essential Oil Bath – Drop and mix in your chosen EO’s into a few tablespoons in epsom salt first. Then put it into a warm (not hot) bath. You could use coconut oil too, which will assist in the absorption of the oils through your skin. Then just step into the bath and soak. Not only are you absorbing the oils, but also directly inhaling them at the same time. This is also a great way to finish off those bottles of EO’s that just have a drop or two left in them − just drop the entire bottle into your bath. I’ll also put my empty bottles into a large jar of epsom salt until I can’t fit anymore bottles in the jar. Then put the salt in my bath. It makes a wonderfully interesting mixed therapeutic scent.
8. My Go-to Perfume – Rather than using man-made (and potentially toxic) perfumes, which I stopped using many years ago, combine your favorite EO’s and wear them on those perfume points. Blended EO’s are perfect for this too. Not only will you smell fabulous, you are bringing the phytochemicals in those oils right into your body. Plus, because they’re natural, you won’t have the issue of an allergic reaction for you or those around you. I have a few favorite blends that are far better than any man-made commercial brand perfume.
Suggested EO’s and their purposes:
As a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils®, they’re mainly what I use. However, I have bought a few from Aura Caia®. There are many EO’s that can be ingested, but I’ll only take Young Living®. They also carry many other products that I use regularly such as their Thieves® toothpaste & mouthwash that stops receding gums.
Here are a few of my favorite singles and blends that are reasonably priced and a small sampling of their uses.
Lavender: known as the Swiss Army knife of EO’s with it’s many uses. But a few are: antihistamine, sleep aide/relaxing, healing the skin from kitchen burns, bug bites/sting and anything else having to do with the skin.
Citrus Fresh: this EO blend is perfect for anything stinky such as shoes, gym bags, and as a room freshener. It’s the EO I use to make my deodorant.
Peppermint: indigestion/tummy ache, headaches, and long drives. Purification: my go-to germ killer on any surface including my skin. It’s also great as a germ-killing room freshener such as in the bathroom or kitchen. Burnt something in the kitchen? Purification mixed with water or alcohol spritzed into the air and the smell is gone.
Note: caution needs to be taken with EO’s when applied to the skin as they can be irritating for some people and/or with continued daily use. Mixing with a carrier oil solves that problem. Any oil can be a carrier oil such as grape-seed oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, even your usual cooking oil. About a drop or two of EO per tablespoon of oil works well.
Application: in addition to the ways mentioned above, drops (neat or mixed w/carrier oil) can be applied directly onto the skin. But never ever on an open wound, in the ears and away from the eyes.
Got any questions about EO’s? Just ask!