So, why do people use essential oils? Well, they have been used for centuries, in different cultures from all over the world. Their uses varied from religious purposes, to healing ailments. The plants/oils were used in ointments, cosmetics, perfumes, incense and medicines. Among other cultures, history has shown that aromatic oils have been by used by the Egyptians as early as 4500 B.C.E.
Today Essential oils have gained big popularity, as many have become more health conscious and are trying to avoid a lot of the toxic chemicals and synthetic products that are out there.
So if you want to learn more about why people use essential oils, we will go over some information on their uses and benefits and how exactly we can use them.
What Exactly Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are aromatic and concentrated oils that are extracted from plants – from stems, roots, leaves, bark, flowers or seeds of a plant. The oils are obtained through a process known as distillation, then becoming the highly potent version of the plant it was extracted from, where the healing or therapeutic benefits from the plant can be maximized.
The oils are made up of tiny molecules which can easily be absorbed through the skin or the nose, and also when ingested (extra caution must be used if ingesting). When the oils enter your system, they interact with your body in different ways, aiding your health and well-being.
Do Essential Oils Actually Work?
Essential oils can be used for many things including aromatherapy and healing purposes – but do they really work? There are a number of studies that have been done, that prove and back up claims of the effectiveness of essential oils.
For example, results from studies have shown inhaling certain essential oils can modulate the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for stress response) in adults, as well as alleviating depression and improving sleep. Also, a lot of essential oils contain anti-bacterial and anti-inflamatory properties that can can be used anywhere from killing germs and bacteria (ex. cinnamon or clove oil) to helping people with irritable bowel syndrome using peppermint oil. Some essential oils have even been found to contain anti-cancer properties.
Long before chemicals and synthetics were created, plants were used for medicine. A lot of modern medicines today, still contain certain ingredients that are derived from plants, so why would’t essential oils (the highest potency of a plant) work in helping to heal or cure certain health problems or at least alleviate some issues? Not to say that essential oils can replace all medicines and methods for healing of course. But something to think about.
How To Use Essential Oils
Now of course essential oils are not a cure for everything, and does not mean they should be used for everything. There are also possible side-effects from using certain essential oils, if used improperly. This is why it is important to do a bit of research before using an oil, as well as making sure you are using it appropriately.
Photosensitive Essential Oils
Certain essential oils, such as the citrus oils are photosensitive, or photo toxic, which can cause a skin reaction when exposed to direct sunlight, if you have applied it topically. Certain compounds in the citrus essential oils, react with UV light, causing damage (ex. blistering of the skin, severe sunburn, discoloration). Do not expose affected area of skin (to sunlight) for up to 24 hours after application of these types of essential oils.
There are three ways to take in essential oils:
- Inhaling – either using a diffuser which disperses the molecules into the air you breathe, or more directly-breathing in essential oils with steam, or straight from the bottle/from a couple drops on a cloth. Inhalation is technically considered the safest method of using essential oils.
- Topical – applying oils topically is more direct and can sometimes be more effective, depending on the situation or what you are using. The safest way to apply oils topically is via dilution using a carrier oil such as almond, coconut or jojoba oil. Although some essential oils can be applied undiluted, it’s safest to dilute, as some oils can cause burns or rashes, depending on the sensitivity of your skin.
- Internal – Some essential oils can be ingested, either in capsule form, in culinary use, or adding a drop to a beverage. Extra caution needs to be taken when ingesting oils. If you are ingesting, make sure to do research or speak to an expert, and be sure that the essential oil you are using is from a reputable brand and is completely pure, high quality, organic, and without any additives etc.
It is recommended to dilute essential oils that you are using topically, with a carrier oil or cream (especially those with sensitive skin), since the oils are very concentrated and potent, although you can apply some of them directly (applying “neat” – straight from the bottle).
Some oils can cause a possible reaction (ex. burn or rash) or irritation, depending on your skin’s sensitivity or if you might be allergic. It’s always a good idea to do a patch skin test before using.
Dilution is necessary when using certain “hot” oils that are stronger (ex. cinnamon bark, oregano).
It is even more important to dilute oils that you might be using on kids – as kids have thinner and more sensitive skin (certain essential oils are not recommended for children under certain ages). Avoid sensitive areas when using essential oils. If any oils come in contact with the eyes – use a carrier oil to dilute it to “wash” it out, as water will not help get rid of the irritation.
There are different essential oil dilution ratios, for kids and adults (for example, for a young child a 1% dilution should be used – so 1 drop per 1 tsp of carrier oil).
Here is a chart to get an idea of how much of each oil to add before application. (For adults that applying for short term use, you could go stronger – adding more essential oils, or applying without dilution).
What Is A Carrier Oil?
A carrier oil is an oil that is used to dilute and “carry” essential oils. Since essential oils tend to evaporate quite quickly, carrier oils are used as a base to enable the essential oil to “last longer” and be absorbed better without evaporating as quickly, when applied topically. When using essential oils on children or those with sensitive skin, diluting any/all essential oils should be done.
There are a number of different carrier oils that can be used, such as:
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Sweet Almond Oil
How To Choose Your Essential Oils Carefully
There are many brands of essential oils out there, so it may be overwhelming to choose or figure out which are the best, trust-worthy brands. You have to be careful about choosing, since some companies claim that their oils are 100% pure or all natural – but they actually may not be. Some may have fillers / are combined (diluted) with other oils, or have synthetic ingredients in them. Some oils may not have been processed correctly, which in turn will not deliver beneficial therapeutic properties. As well, the term “therapeutic grade” doesn not necessarily mean anything
Finding an honest and transparent company who specializes in essential oils will most likely minimize or eliminate the risk of buying adulterated essential oils.
Things To Look For When Choosing An Essential Oil Brand
Testing – Companies that care about the purity of their essential oils will have them tested – at least twice – gas chromatography and mass spectrometry tests (GC/MS) for purity on every batch received from their distiller. The retailer will usually have that information on their website or would provide it upon request.
Label – Check the label for the legitimacy of an essential oil – each oil should identify the plants botanical or scientific name ex. peppermint (Mentha peperita), as well as country of plant origin, extraction process used, and even a distillation/expiry date.
Cost – If some brands are outrageously cheap, then it’s probably too good to be true. Although more expensive brands do not always mean they are better quality than less expensive ones. Keep in mind, it takes a large amount of plant material to create a small amount of oil.
Organic, Unsprayed, or Wildcrafted – Organic essential oils should be your first choice – especially if you plan to take some of them internally. Although, some companies carry oils that are “unsprayed” where the farms are not organically certified, and many good quality oils are wildcrafted.
As essential oils, that have been used all over the world for centuries, are becoming so popular in this day and age, more and more health conscious people are pushing away the toxic, chemical filled products and uses etc, and replacing them with natural alternatives. There are so many uses and benefits of essential oils!
Before purchasing and/or using essential oils, it is important to learn how to use them properly, what to use them for – a guide to essential oil uses and benefits, and to make sure you are getting a good quality, pure product from a reputable company. If you are looking for a good quality oil, you can check out my review on Vitruvi essential oils.
If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share, please leave them below!