It must be ten years ago when I first read a book of essential oils. I learnt about the basics and used essential oils (lavender, tea tree, peppermint) here and there as natural remedies. Four years ago a friend of mine organised women's get-together and part of this event was for her friend in the US, an essential oil expert, to talk to us remotely about essential oils and how they had helped her and her family. Some of her stories, how essential oils can have powerful healing properties, were truly intriguing. I decided to buy myself a kit of good quality essential oils and a diffuser.
I have never been the one who has wanted to take medicine for aches and antibiotics, unless I really have to and there is no other choice. My cures for pain have been rest, sleep, walking, drinking water and using essential oils.
Until the late 1800s there was no division between plants and medicine - medicine only came from plants. It was only the early 1900s when synthetic chemicals were invented and where botanicals were divided off from pharmacology. Today the pharmaceutical industry is looking again towards botanicals and how can they use essential oil molecules as these oils are readily absorbed into the body and can quickly cross the blood-brain barrier. And because essential oils do not linger for long in the body, they are easy on the liver. Also inhaling aromatic molecules of essential oils elevates emotions and affects positively your nervous system.
There is so much to talk and share about essential oils, but for most people the important first step is to do your homework before using any essential oil, as they need to be diluted, some of them are phototoxic and you really should know which ones can be ingested.
Choose your essential oils carefully
Not all essential oils are created equal. There are many companies out there who sell highly adulterated oils, which do not give you the expected and desired results and could even hurt you if they contain any chemicals or solvents that should not be added to essential oil. Don't fall in the trap of buying cheap essential oils. High-quality oils do cost quite a bit and there is a reason why the pure oils come in very small bottles (5-15ml bottles), you only need few drops to get the benefits of the oil. A 15ml bottle contains around 250 drops of essential oil.
High-quality essential oil producers are paying a lot of attention to where the plants are grown from which they extract their oils. When you purchase the oils, know
- where the oil is sourced by the company
- is the harvesting done at peak times to ensure the best quality of the oil
- is testing being done to ensure the purity and potency of the oil
How to test the quality of an essential oil?
Paper test- put a drop of essential oil on a piece of paper. Let it sit and evaporate for about one hour. If there is any residue or ring left behind on the piece of paper, you have an oil that's adulterated. Use this test for essential oils like Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon. This test won't work for essential oils like Patchouli, Rose, Vanilla, Jasmine as they need to be processed with solvents due to their delicate nature.
Smell the oil for a clean scent, feel the oil, see if it absorbs quickly into your skin with carrier oil.
What indicates that the company is producing high-quality essential oils?
They display proper Latin names of the source plant on the bottle label. If carrier oil is used and if the oil is diluted, this should be listed.
The bottle should have user guidelines, whether the oil is Aromatic (should only be used in a diffuser or inhaled), Topical (can be applied on the skin with a carrier oil), Internal (can be taken internally)
Size of the bottle- as I wrote they come in 5-15ml bottles
Bottle should be dark glass to protect from sun exposure, capped and fitted with a orifice reducer, that protects the oil from oxidation
Essential oils from different plants are sold at different price levels as each oil requires different process of growing, harvesting and extracting as well as different amount of plant material to produce the oil
Potency of the oil- you shouldn't need to use more that a few drops to get the desired effect and result
How to use Essential Oils?
You can use essential oils aromatically, topically and internally. But do note, that not all oils can be used in all three ways- always check the label for usage.
This is the easiest way to use the oils- direct inhalation (from the bottle), indirect inhalation (applying few drops to a cotton ball or felt squares and putting them on a desired place to give aroma), diffusion (a small device that creates a fine airborne mist) or utilising steam (such as in the shower). Test whichever way works the best for you.
Oils evaporate quickly and spread through an area, entering your lungs and your brain's olfactory system, where oils stimulate olfactory (smell) receptors. Mitral cells carry the output signals from the olfactory bulb to the limbic brain, which influences our emotions, hormonal balance, sleep, memory as well as to other areas of brain. Simple as that.
Through smelling the oils, they also absorb into your bloodstream affecting the areas in need and also your endocrine system, which is responsible for our hormone production.
Finally the oils are excreted from your body, through lungs, kidneys and skin pores after they have worked their magic on your body.
Applying essential oil mixed with a high quality carrier oil topically allows the chemical constituents to combine with the natural sebum of your skin and absorb quickly throughout your body from muscles, lymphatic system and bloodstream before being excreted. You also get the benefit of breathing the oils in while applying them.
Not all oils are recommended for internal consumption. And this should be done after careful homework and working with a healthcare provider.
I have personally used internally only the oils that are clearly marked 'Used in the food' and these would be oils that come from fruits or spices, such as lemon, wild orange, lime, peppermint, clove, rosemary etc. I would put a few drops in the glass of water if I want a flavoured water or add a drop or two into my food when cooking.
I will be covering more on the ways you can incorporate essential oils into your non-toxic life in upcoming blog posts.