Updated: Jan 23
What are Essential Oils and how are they used?
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are oils from the plants and minerals found in nature. These oils, created by Mother Nature, are collected in traditional methods. They offer an alternative to synthetic products which have become the predominant, man-made oils used in modern, commercial products. Essential oils are more than just natural products. Each essential oil has a unique chemical makeup. And these oils have dozens of benefits for the body and mind whose benefits are determined by the chemistry of the plants that created the oil. When these natural chemicals are properly extracted, they can be used to help you physically, mentally, and emotionally, for health and balance.
Essential oils were used traditionally throughout the world in various cultural practices and traditions. However, we now also have the scientific research showing that essential oils can be effectively and safely used and for natural health benefits. Essential oils are used by people for cooking, household cleaning, personal hygiene, sleep, boosting immunity, emotional health, body management, and spiritual practices.
Traditional uses included:
Today, we might add to this list uses including:
Cleanse and purify the air
Healthy respiratory system
The versatility of essential oils is also part of what has made them so useful.. You can use essential oils for a variety of tasks, without having to buy multiple products. Essential oils are obtained through distillation (via steam and/or water) or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. The finished product is the highly concentrated essential oil, which has the same properties and scent characteristics as the original plant. That does include the smell, but it also includes other elements such as the plant’s healing and other abilities.
The way the oils are made is important, as essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not considered true essential oils. Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they may be combined with a carrier oil to create an oil ready and safe for use.
What constitutes an essential oil?
Essential oils are derived from the plants of nature. These oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain the natural smell and chemistry of their source.The oils may be taken from the flowers, stocks, sap or roots. Each oil is unique as the source for each oil is unique. The oil is not chemically made or artificially scented. It therefore carries the DNA and life force of its plant source. The quality of an oil depends on the purity, quality and reputation.
Purity: Find an oil that contains only aromatic plant compounds, without additives or synthetic oils.
Quality: True essential oils are the ones that have been changed the least by the extraction process. Choose a chemical-free essential oil that has been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing.
Reputation: Purchase a brand with a reputation for producing high-quality products.
There are more than 90 types of essential oils, each with its own unique smell and potential health benefits.
The 10 most popular essential oils and the benefits associated with them are:
Peppermint: used to boost energy and aid digestion
Lavender: used to relieve stress
Sandalwood: used to calm nerves and help with focus
Bergamot: used to reduce stress and improve skin conditions like eczema
Rose: used to improve mood and reduce anxiety
Chamomile: used to improve mood and relaxation
Ylang-Ylang: used to treat headaches, nausea, and skin conditions
Tea Tree: used to fight infections and boost immunity
Jasmine: used to help with depression, childbirth, and libido
Lemon: used to aid digestion, mood, headaches, and more
For the best essential oil use and experience, it is important to use oils that are pure, potent, and safe.
How are Essential Oils used?
There are three main ways to use essential oils; aromatically, topically, or internally.
1. Through smell. We call this “aromatic” use of essential oils. This includes any application method that puts the aroma of the oil into the air. You can use essential oils aromatically by diffusing in an essential oil diffuser, applying a drop to your hands and inhaling, or wearing the oil as a personal fragrance.
2. On your skin. “Topical” application of essential oils allows the oil to absorb into the skin.This could be through massage, directy rubbing onto the skin, or through lotions or moisturizers containing the oils.
3. Ingesting, or “internal” use of essential oils allows the oil to be transported throughout your body, such as when oils are used to balance the body through Ayurvedic diet. It is critical to be sure the essential oil being consumed is safe for internal use first. Internal oils may be taken added to a glass of water, in a veggie capsule, or a drop under the tongue.
Some of the most popular essential oils are those with multiple benefits and application methods. These oils tend to become household favorites. Each oil is unique, making it easy to find a natural solution for your specific health concerns.
Two recent studies found that dabbing a peppermint oil and ethanol mixture on participants' foreheads and temples relieve headache pain. The traditional Persian headache remedy for migraines is applying a mixture of chamomile and sesame oil to the temples. Of the many studies on sleep, the majority of studies showed that smelling the oils, particularly lavender oil, had positive effects on sleep habits.
Studies have investigated essential oils, such as peppermint and tea tree oil, extensively for their antimicrobial effects. Other studies have found that ingesting a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils helped induce the remission of colitis. And studies on caraway and rosemary oils found they were effective for treating inflammation.
What’s the Difference between Essential and Aroma Oils?
A good quality, natural aroma oil is simply an essential oil blended with other natural ingredients such as carrier oils and other essential oils to create a balanced, scented oil that can be used in a diffuser. Blending essential oils with carrier and other aroma oils can result in a much more pleasant, subtle scent particularly suited for oil diffusers.
How does one safely test Essential Oils?
The Patch Test is one of the safest ways to initially try an essential oil. It allows you to insure you do not have an allergic reaction or rash from the oil. It is important when first using an essential oil to see how your skin reacts to a particular oil before you perform a full application.
Here are the steps for conducting a patch test:
Wash your forearm with unscented soap.
Rub a few drops of diluted essential oil into a small patch of your forearm.
Wait 24 hours.
Remove the gauze.
If the skin patch is red, itchy, blistering, or swollen, then you have an adverse reaction to the oil and should discontinue use. If you experience discomfort before the 24-hour period ends, immediately wash the area with soap and warm water.