The Essentials of Essential Oils
From Egyptian hieroglyphics to Chinese manuscripts essential oils have been used for thousands of years. Essential oils were a part of mankind’s first medicine. Essential oils are the regenerating and oxygenating properties of plants, found in each living plant cell. They are known as the “life force” of the plant because they are an essential part of their immune system and defense against any threat. Essential oils are distilled from different parts of herbs and plants including seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits. Their molecular size is so small that they quickly penetrate the tissues of the skin and the cellular membrane. Producing pure oils requires extractions from hundreds to thousands of pounds of plant material to produce one pound of pure essential oil. It takes 60,000 roses to produce just 1 ounce of rose absolute oil! Due to the distillation process essential oils are filled with powerful antioxidants and healing properties from each individual plant. This is one of the reasons why they are so effective in treating an array of conditions whether mental or physical. Essential oils have powerful healing properties and are highly concentrated.
Essential oils enter and leave the body with great efficiency, and can last from 3-6 hours. They help to stimulate the body’s healing mechanism and boost the immune system. Essential oils have the ability to increase blood circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to body tissues and organs. They also help to remove toxins from your body. Essential Oils can be adaptogens, meaning they can affect your autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and blood pressure. Essential oils can have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-septic, and anti-inflammatory properties to help bring your body back to homeostasis, so you are functioning at the most optimal levels. You can create a synergy or powerful, essential oil blend by combining two or more compounds. This can increase the potency of the essential oil without having to increase the dose.
The sense of smell goes beyond the sensation of odors, to include the experiences and emotions associated with smells. Smells can evoke strong emotions. Whether or not you like how something smells is almost always based on an emotional association. Your olfactory (sense of smell) and limbic systems are directly connected. The limbic is the most primitive part of the brain and is the base for emotions. Every time you smell something, you have a cognitive or emotional response. Think about what your favorite smells are and what emotions or memories are associated with those aromas…this is where aromatherapy has its benefits. Scientific studies using placebos have shown that essential oils can greatly increase our mood and sense of well being and can create an attitude of optimism. This can sometimes work to your disadvantage though! A study done in Las Vegas showed that when exposed to a pleasant aroma, the amount of money gambled in slot machines increased by 45%!
You can use essential oils in perfume, on a tissue or handkerchief, inhaled as a vapor, in massage oil, in your baths, Jacuzzis, or saunas, in the shower, in candles, humidifiers, room sprays, water bowls, wood fires, bath salts, or potpourri. They can be added to shampoos and conditioners and lotions.
Safely Using Essential Oils
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) there are different factors that influence the safety of essentials oils.
Quality: Adulterated essential oils significantly increase the chances of adverse reactions. Always buy essential oils from a trusted source and ask about the distillation process used by the manufacturer.
Chemical Composition: Essential oils that are rich in aldehydes and phenols are more likely to cause skin reactions and must be properly diluted.
Method of Application: Essential oils can be applied to the skin, inhaled, or diffused. Inhalation proposes the least amount of risk to most people. However, prolonged exposures to high levels of essential oils can cause headaches, vertigo, nausea, and lethargy. The safety of ingesting essential oils is unknown, and the NAHA has adopted the safety guidelines set forth by the Alliance of International Aromatherapists, a non profit professional memberships organization who’s members include aromatherapy professionals, medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, nurses, reflexologists, massage therapists, Reiki masters, and other health care practitioners.
“AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal).”
Dilution: The majority of aromatherapy blends are between 1 and 5 percent dilutions and do not typically pose any risks. With any increase in dilution beyond 5 percent there are safety concerns for all types of application.
Integrity of Skin: Damaged, diseased, burned, infected or inflamed skin is considerably more permeable and sensitive to essential oils. It is dangerous to put undiluted essential oils directly onto skin that is damaged in any way.
Age of Client: Infants, toddlers and young children are more sensitive to essential oils and safe dilutions are between .5-2.5%. Birch and wintergreen are rich in methyl salicylate and should not used on children. Peppermint should also not be used on children. Elderly people may also have more sensitivity due to thinning and bruised skin.
Pregnancy: The use of essential oils during pregnancy is a controversial topic and is not truly understood due to the lack of evidence and ability to do scientific testing on pregnant women. The most respected aromatherapists recommend avoiding essential oils during the first three months of pregnancy and never using them undiluted or internally throughout the entire pregnancy. There are essential oils that affect hormones and the central nervous system and they should be avoided completely during pregnancy. These oils are basil, cinnamon, aniseed, fennel, juniper, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, clary sage, oregano, clove, nutmeg, pimento berry, cistus, hops, sage, valerian, spikenard, tarragon, hyssop, myrrh, mace, cumin, parsley seed, wintergreen and birch.
Possible Dermal Reactions: Irritation, Sensitization, Phototoxicity/Photosensitization
Irritation: This will cause an immediate reaction on your skin and can be represented by blotchy, redness and pain. You should skin test any known irritants and always dilute properly. Essential oils that are known to commonly cause skin irritations are bay, cinnamon bark, clove, citronella, cumin, lemongrass, lemon verbena, oregano, tagetes, and thyme.
Sensitization: This is a type of allergic reaction that often does not manifest at first use but will eventually start to cause a skin reaction that will be red and painful. It will cause inflammation throughout your body, and will likely continue to do so if you continue to attempt to use the essential oil. Becoming sensitized to an essential oil is unpredictable, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Common dermal sensitizers are cassia, cinnamon bark, Peru balsam, verbena absolute, tea absolute, turpentine oil, backhousia, and inula.
Phototoxicity: There are some essential oils that can cause your skin to burn when exposed to the sun or to similar light, such as from a tanning bed. These oils cannot be used if you are going to be out in the sun or if you have been in a tanning booth within the past 24 hours. Photosensitizers include angelica root, bergamot, cumin, distilled or expressed grapefruit, expressed lemon, expressed lime, bitter orange, and rue.
Additional Safety Precautions
Coconut oil is antimicrobial, antifungal, and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It is effortlessly absorbed into skin, provides much needed moisture to dry, rough and wrinkled skin, and revives elasticity. It is a natural exfoliant that removes dead skin cells, making the appearance of your skin shiny and smooth. Coconut oil can be used on your skin, hair, eyelashes, and for oil pulling (an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique). This oil also contains a natural SPF of 5 and is a great base for homemade sunscreens.
This is the premium carrier for essential oils. Jojoba acts as a natural preservative and because it is wax based it does not deteriorate or turn rancid. When jojoba is mixed with your essential oils it will enable them to last longer. Jojoba oil is the closest to our natural skins oil, and the proteins and minerals in this oil mimic our own collagen. It is great oil for all skin types, especially acne prone skin. Jojoba oil actually breaks down excess sebum (oily matter excreted from the sebaceous gland or oil gland) that can cause breakouts. Jojoba oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and can ease the redness and pain of eczema. It has a natural SPF of 8 and is a great companion to coconut oil for homemade sunscreens.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil is light and easily absorbed into the skin. It is a great carrier oil for beginners due to its affordability and variety of uses. This oil contains vitamins A, B and E. Vitamin E gives this oil natural preservative capability. Sweet almond oil helps balance the moisture in your skin to improve your complexion and give your skin a youthful glow. Sweet almond oil is also known to provide instant relief from muscle pain and is the perfect carrier oil for massage blends. This oil has a shelf life of about 12 months. If you blend it with wheat germ oil you will gain even longer shelf life. If you are allergic to nuts than do not use this oil.
Other Great Carrier Oil Options
Avocado oil is great for dry and dehydrated skin. Use this oil in blends to treat skin that has been in the sun. Grapeseed oil is perfect for all skin types. Olive oil is the perfect carrier oil for skin and hair care blends. Borage seed oil is used in blends for pms, menopause, and treating prematurely aged skin. Borage oil is excellent for eczema and psoriasis.
Dilutions & Usage of Essential Oils
Excellent Uses for Aromatherapy Oil Based Blends:
Dilutions for Body Care/Massage Oils:
Infants & Young Children:
.5-1% dilution= 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
2.5% dilution= 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
3% dilution= 20 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
5% dilution=30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
10% dilution=60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
Facial Creams, Lotions & Oils
Sensitive skin: .5-1% dilution per ounce
Normal, healthy skin: 1-2.5% dilution per ounce
3-5 drops depending on the essential oil into 1/3 oz roller bottle with carrier oil. This application is great for utilizing pressure points or using as a perfume.
Add 2-12 drops depending on the essential oil into a teaspoon of honey, whole milk or oil and then add to bath.
Place 3-7 drops of essential oil into low boiling water, cover head with a towel and breathe through your nose. Keep your eyes closed!
You can inhale essential oils directly from the bottle, a cotton ball, or a piece of cotton or leather fabric. This type of inhalation is most effective for relief of emotional distress, respiratory congestion, or mental support.
ŸBottle: Use a combination of 3-5 essential oils. Take deep inhalations 3-4 times per day or as needed.
Smelling Salts: Use 20-30 drops of 3-5 essential oils and combine in a bottle with sea salts. Waft bottle under nose and take deep inhalations 3-4 times per day or as needed.
ŸCotton ball/Fabric: Use 2-4 drops of essential oil onto material of your choice. Take 2-3 deep inhalations as needed throughout the day.
ŸInhaler Tubes: Use 100% essential oils in inhaler tubes, as there is no need to dilute them for inhalation. Great for breathe and respiratory blends and to manage stress and anxiety.
A Little Bit about some Essential Oils we LOVE
In honor of Heart Health Month and Valentines Day!
Heart Health Blend
(Makes one 1/3 oz roller ball)