Essential Oils 101
Are essential oils a must or a must-not, harmful or healing, ineffective or potent, costly or cost-effective, and is it really worth your time to research how to use essential oils? The answer to all the above is: yes.
Essential oils have been around for centuries, dating back to ancient civilizations (as early as 1550 BC, based on recovered Egyptian medical papyri, which are ancient medical texts written on papyrus) who developed recipes to create specific remedies for all types of illnesses and other medical needs, many of which are similar to current practices in Aromatherapy and Herbal Medicine today.
Being an all-natural product taken directly from aromatic plants, the Egyptians used a method known as infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants. Essential oil uses are numerous, as they would use the oil extracted in hundreds of different ways for healthy medicinal, spiritual, and cosmetic applications.
Essential oil recipes included incense where they would burn the oil for aromatherapy. There was also an essential oils guide to help create a moisturizer to protect the skin from the hot desert sun, as well as a preservative for mummifying the deceased. Those are just a few of the ways essential oils were used.
Although essential oils have great healing properties, there is a warning. If you begin purchasing and using essential oils without doing your due diligence first, you could experience adverse effects that could be potentially hazardous, like skin discoloration, burning and sores.
Mixing certain oils together, you could create a compound irritant instead of a calming salve. That’s why essential oils can be harmful. But when properly used, they can also be healing.
Your results depend on the knowledge of the one giving the advice and the one using the essential oils.
Typically, essential oils are used in one of three ways:
- Internally – when you sprinkle cinnamon on your latte, eat a peppermint, or add oregano to your lasagna, you are ingesting small amounts of essential oils found naturally in those plants. However, ingesting concentrated forms of essential oils in any way, including adding just a drop to your drinking water is not recommended.
The official Essential Oil Safety handbook (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014, pg. 50) says this: “…only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh risks against benefits, and have a knowledge of essential oil pharmacology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.”
- Topically – when you use peppermint infused lotion for pain in your joints, oils mixed with bath salts for detoxification benefits, or in a personal care product like toothpaste, deodorant or moisturizer, you are experiencing the benefits of essential oil.
Education is very important regarding essential oils and essential oil recipes so be sure to use well-researched essential oils guides to ensure you do not use too much, or mix certain oils together, as it can be a harmful irritant to your skin – especially when used on children and pregnant women.
Additionally, essential oils on their own can pass through the skin and be absorbed into the body very quickly unless a ‘carrier oil’ is used to help dilute it, or act as an essential oil diffuser.
Common oils used to combine with essential oils to help prolong the effects are almond oil, avocado, coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil and pomegranate seed oil.
- Aromatically – (also known as aromatherapy), it’s feeling that burst of energy from inhaling the aroma from your cup of morning coffee, using a lavender pillow to help promote better sleep, and freshening the air with eucalyptus stems – those are all ways we experience the benefits of natural aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is one of the more popular ways essential oil is used, and a good essential oil diffuser (also referred to as an aroma diffuser) is needed for optimum results. Essential oil diffusers come in many different types, shapes, and sizes, and more is discussed in the section below titled Common Types of Essential Oil Diffusers.
Learning how to use essential oils is a worthy pursuit, and by utilizing what you learn, you will experience different reactions in a variety of ways to the essential oils you choose to use. Here are three main ways your body will respond to essential oils:
- Pharmacological – this is when essential oils enter the blood stream, causing reactions with enzymes and hormones within the body to promote specific health-related results.
- Physiological – this is when essential oils are used to either stimulate or sedate various systems in the body.
- Psychological – this is when a particular desired response or reaction is experienced after inhaling the aroma.
Common Types of Diffusers
Diffusers are excellent choices for air purification, and it’s a healthy approach for receiving aromatherapy benefits. There are several different types of diffusers, some with more options and benefits than others, as well as cost differences.
Here are the basic types of essential oil diffusers as you learn how to use essential oils:
- Nebulizer Essential Oil Diffusers – often considered the most powerful of aroma diffusers, this type does not need water or heat to diffuse the oil into the air you breathe. Instead, this essential oil diffuser uses an atomizer to create fine airborne particles that help keep a constant stream of essential oils in the air.
- Ultrasonic/Humidifying Essential Oil Diffusers – these aroma diffusers utilize water to create a fine cool oil-infused mist that is distributed into the atmosphere. Since it is water based, it also acts as a humidifier which makes it a good choice for the dry winter season.
- Heat Essential Oil Diffusers – this type of aroma diffuser functions by evaporating essential oils through a heat source like a tea-light candle, or a small warming crock. The fragrance can be stronger, which could change the bonding compound of the essential oil.
Using a lower, controllable heat source is better.
- Evaporative Essential Oil Diffusers – this type of essential oil diffuser can be small enough to be used as a necklace, pendant, or personal oil inhaler and it simply uses the existing air current to subtly diffuse the essential oil into the air around a small space.There are also aroma diffusers a bit larger that can sit on a desk or shelf that use a fan to blow through a pad or filter infused with essential oil, to evaporate it into the air circulating in the room. These tend to evaporate the essential oils more quickly than other types of aroma diffusers.
How are Essential Oils Made?
There are several different types of processes used to extract the essential oils from the desired plant, each requiring different criteria to ensure its purity. The more common extraction methods for essential oils include:
- Enfleurage – this is noted as one of the most expensive ways to extract essential oils. In cold enfleurage, whole flowers or petals are placed on a layer of lard (animal fat) for 1 to 3 days to allow the scent through essential oils to be diffused into the fat. This process is repeated until the desired degree of saturation has occurred.
Hot enfleurage – this is considered to be the oldest known procedure for extracting essential oils. In this process, solid fats are heated while botanical matter is stirred in and then strained back out once they’ve been spent.
This process is repeated until the desired degree of saturation has been reached.
For both hot and cold enfleurage, the finished product is referred to as “enfleurage pomade.” Although it is often used in pomade form, there is an additional process to create a pure form of essential oil without the diffusing agent (lard / pomade).
This is the form that is generally purchased in a small vile from retailers or online marketers.
- Expressed Oils – The expression method of extracting essential oils is also referred to as “cold pressed.” This is when high pressure (machine induced) is used to press the oils out of the plant material.
- Distillation – This method uses steam to rupture the oil membranes so that the plant releases its essential oil. The steam then carries the essential oil to a condenser where it then liquefies, and is separated from the water.
- Solvent Extraction – This is also referred to as liquid-liquid extraction or LLE where compounds are separated into two different liquids, usually water and an organic compound like essential oils. This type of extraction is a basic technique performed in laboratories using a variety of apparatus and separatory funnels.
- Carbon Dioxide Extraction (C02) – When pressure is applied to carbon dioxide, it will turn into a liquid that then becomes a safe liquid solvent used to extract the essence of the plant. This process resembles the distillation process except it uses carbon dioxide instead of steam or water.
Making Essential Oils can be a rigorous process and takes a very large amount of raw product to extract enough of the essential oil to create just a milliliter of it. For example, Rose essential oil is highly sought after for its healing properties (noted later in this article).
It takes 10,000 pounds of flowers to make just one pound of the rose essential oil. With one pound of petals equal to approximately 1045 petals and an average of 30 petals per rose, that comes out to about 348,480 roses that are needed to make just one pound of essential oil.
To break it down even more, for just one tiny drop of rose essential oil, you’re looking at the highly concentrated essence of 60 roses.
Essential Oil Uses Require Safe and Proper Guidelines
As you learned from the previous section, essential oils are highly concentrated, and can therefore become irritants or poisonous when misused. A hazardous situation could occur when the proper essential oils guidelines are not followed.
There are many factors that influence the safe and proper use of essential oils and they should only be used according to the associated essential oils guide for that specific product. Any deviation should only be under the advisement of a qualified practitioner who has learned how to use essential oils properly.
Here are the top three things to consider when using essential oils and essential oil recipes:
- Quality – obtaining essential oils from unknown and unverified sources could mean the quality, potency, and authenticity of the product could be compromised, and could increase the chances of having an undesirable reaction.
- Composition – certain essential oils like citronellal, cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol could cause skin reactions. Many essential oils must be diluted prior to use.
Also, because they each have a different level of potency, they also require a different dosing schedule. To ensure safety and health, proper essential oils guides must be followed at all times.
- Application – different essential oils are administered in different ways. Some are dermal applications, inhaled, diffused, or taken internally. Mix those up and you could have a big problem on your hands and instead of finding better health, you could end up a lot worse.
Common Essential Oil Uses – Guide to Better Health for a Healthier Lifestyle
There are hundreds of essential oils to choose from, all with different healing properties and essential oil uses. Here are the most common essential oils and what they are most used for:
Lavender Essential Oil – this may be the most popular essential oil on the market and is used all over the world. It has many health benefits that include:
- Healing burns and wounds
- Aids with weight loss
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Restoring skin complexion
- Alleviating headaches
Rose Essential Oil – Practitioners state that rose essential oil has several health and personal benefits. People can use it as:
- An anti-depressant
- An effective mosquito repellant (Citronellol)
- A digestive aid (Citral)
- A pesticide (Farnesol)
- An antibiotic compound (Nerol)
- An antioxidant (Eugenol)
Lemon Grass Essential Oil – Lemon and lemon essential oil are also used to decrease cholesterol deposition in the blood vessels and prevent heart disease! With it’s detoxifying properties, it helps shed pounds while boosting your energy levels which increases metabolism.
Bergamot Essential Oil – this is a citrus-scented oil widely used in perfumes and colognes. It is also used as incense or in a vaporizer. If it is applied directly to the skin in its pure form, it can potentially burn the skin.
Bergamot oil has many uses and benefits, and listed here are just a few of the areas in which this essential oil can help when used for aromatherapy:
- Relieves stress and helps relax, even after a hard workout
- Reduces pain
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces fever
- Skin infections like psoriasis and eczema
Cedarwood Essential Oil – this has a woodsy scent and comes from the Juniperus Virginiana tree. This may be one of the first essential oils ever extracted. Here are a few of the benefits of cedarwoord essential oil:
- Improves focus
- Promotes hair growth
- Cures fungal infections
- Repels bugs
- Reduces cough
- Stimulates metabolism
Chamomile Essential Oil – mostly known for its soothing properties in the form of chamomile tea, this essential oil is extracted from the chamomile flowering plant. This essential oil should not be used during pregnancy, or by those with allergies to ragweed.
Otherwise, chamomile essential oils can be blended with massage oils, used in aromatherapy, mixed with lotions, and more. Other benefits include the following:
- Fights anxiety and depression
- Naturally relieves allergies
- Relieves PMS symptoms
- Improves sleep, even after weight training
- Relieves irritations like eczema, poison ivy, and diaper rash
Use Essential Oil Recipes for Healthy Living
There are many online resources for finding essential oil recipes that can help you feel better and live healthier, but again, find reputable sources. One such resource is Dr. Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist.
Take a look at his list of 101 Ways to Use Essential Oils for a variety of creative tips on how to use essential oils.
A sample of a few of his simple recipes and uses are listed below:
Natural Mold Killer (for showers/shower curtains, and more):
4 drops eucalyptus essential oil
4 drops tea tree oil
Add the above ingredients to 16 ounces of warm water in a spray bottle, and spray onto your shower / tile / etc.
Reduce Cough or Sinusitis – add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a diffuser or to steaming water and inhale the steam.
Heal Burns – mix lavender essential oil with aloe vera to treat burns. Remember can also aid in weight loss.
Soothe Bug Bites – use lavender essential oil for bites and stings.
Increase Concentration – inhale bergamot, grapefruit, or peppermint essential oil to increase your level of concentration.
An Essential Oil, when used properly and with care, can bring tremendous health benefits into your life. Before purchasing, always do research and find a reputable, long-standing company with good reviews, and always follow the products essential oils guide.
They are a must for anyone looking to enhance a healthy lifestyle. For natural remedies, they are certainly worth the investment. It is essential to stay healthy in order to live your best life possible, and essential oils can help get you there.