If there’s a holistic method of healing that most people STILL have questions on, it’s essential oils. For a lot of years, these plant-derived highly-concentrated extracts have been touted by the adoring crowds for their ability to do just about everything, be it elevating mood, lowering anxiety, easing heartburn, or cleaning grimy floors.
Indeed, essential oils can play a powerful role in promoting wellness when used in the proper way. And research suggests that they have some hard-hitting pharmacological functions. But the online fervor raised by enthusiastic advertising campaigns and multilevel marketing strategies has made it more challenging to decipher when essential oils make a great choice for enhanced health and wellness — and when another treatment might make more sense.
Using oils safely and effectively requires you to have basic knowledge about what they are, how they work, and how they can be safely incorporated into your daily life. That’s because essential oils can be powerful medicine — and irresponsible use means risking overexposure, toxicity, and allergic reactions. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy while sidestepping potential dangers.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
As active botanical compounds that give certain plants their signature aromas, extracted these essential oils are substances that incur responses within the human system on biological, emotional, and psychological levels. Scents, aromas and smells have a proven track record of therapeutic properties.
How exactly do essential oils support psychological well-being? It’s likely via your olfactory senses. The limbic system within all of us has a connection to smells and the memories that are connected to them. The smell of roses can bring back memories of those times with Grandma or of a wedding. The smell of carnations bring back experiences with past funerals, etc. And it isn’t just the floral scents that can do this, any scent can be attached in a psychological sense.
This is the neurological theory behind aromatherapy: Because your sense of smell is so uniquely connected to emotion and memory, aromas have the power to transport you back to a particular moment — and feeling — in time. It’s why the scent of homemade chocolate-chip cookies can make you feel like you’re 8 years old again, licking the wooden spoon in your mother’s kitchen.
Essential Oils, and the terpenes experienced therefrom can also have an effect on our emotional state. Those plants like lavender that have relaxing or stress reducing properties can assist us in attaining a relaxed state. Conversely, peppermint can wake up one’s emotional response.
There is also the pharmacological potential of essential oils. Tea-tree oil, for instance, can be used topically to combat the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Other oils have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and a meta-analysis of a dozen or more studies found that peppermint oil — rather than commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs — might be “the drug of first choice” in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Peppermint oil is believed to work by reducing muscle contractions in the GI tract, which is similar to how IBS pharmaceuticals work to reduce symptoms.
Experimental research suggests that essential oils may have the power not just to kill otherwise resistant bugs, but to actually reverse resistance to conventional antibiotics. Helping in the worrying and ever-growing problem of antibiotic resistance across the globe. More research is needed on this to check for the modalities, frequency and usage in combination with other remedies and what can be consistently proven. Whatever the case, the initial findings are promising and will be exciting to learn more.
These Oil extracts have more uses than just with the human body. Some are being used as a non-lethal way to protect gardens and vegetable growth. Certain scents “chase away” the bugs that hamper one’s green thumb. Also others have a great method of killing germs on surfaces as a result of their intrinsic toxic potential. Particular Essential Oils have a penchant for eliminating organisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi and even lice. And in the same breath human cells share some of the same characteristics as these organisms (skin specifically) so for those you seek to use for these purposes, take the proper precautions.
So when it comes to essential-oil use, knowledge is key. The chemical components in the oils can be used for our benefit in various ways, and by utilizing the proper cautions can save a world of hurt or remedy from an Oil misstep of overexposure, allergic reactions and toxicity levels in your system. Now, generally speaking Essential Oils are not harmful in their use. It is when ignorance hits enthusiasm where mishaps happen for the DIY crowd.
Know with which you are dealing. There are very powerful elements, compounds and chemicals that are in the world of nature… that happen naturally without any manipulation from mankind. Remember oil does not dilute in water. And if ingested can only serve to have the oils come in contact with sensitive internal tissue in their full, undiluted state.
That is why we discourage any internal use or ingestion of Essential Oils unless otherwise recommended by a knowledgeable practitioner… and even then do your own research that you can find at the reputable medical study portals.
We all are different. Each one of our physiologies are made up slightly different from everyone else. Those slight differences mean that anything we intake can have a different effect upon us than another person we know. Essential Oils is no different in that a desired response or result can happen but until we use it and find out we will not know if that is what will be our response to it. For example, I love the smell of mint and use it often in and around me. My sister, on the other hand, even comes in contact with the smell of mint, and it sends her into an allergic reaction that can become life threatening.
Overexposure to the compounds in Essential Oils is dealt with within one’s liver. If the liver is already compromised, or underdeveloped (like with children) it can have a hard time with the volatile oils to metabolize.
Be judicious in your use of Essential Oils. Diffusers are a good investment along with the quality produced Essential Oils. Watch the use of them around children, a little goes a long way with smaller human beings. A little goes a long way with adults too, overexposure just dulls the senses, fatigue to the scent increases and you “stop smelling” the diffused Essential Oils.
When this occurs, it isn’t just the olfactory nerves that have had enough, the compounds within the oil that enter the system are being dealt with via the liver AND the kidneys and can cause you ill-effects, rather than the healing you are seeking from it
How to Use Essential Oils
Here’s a rundown on how to safely incorporate essential oils into your daily life, consider these top tips:
- Important Reminder – that responses are different for different people. A specific scent can do well for you and not for another. Be mindful that if there is one scent that helps you, that very same scent could agitate and have an ill-effect on those around you. Experiment with those that you most connect with and see if those in your circle at home or at work have the same reaction.
- Don’t confuse “more” with “better.” Marketing promotions and the general public can be mistaken that because the Oils are from nature they are harmless in any quantity. Because of their high concentration, Essential Oils are best used in moderation so that the user can continually feel the effects they are after. Dosage is a critical component of all of this.
- Look for third-party certification. Properly produced Oils won’t expose you to the pesticides and herbicides used in the conventional growing process. Know from whence you get that Oil! If you still have concerns about the quality of an oil, look for independent lab assessments of the oils as noted on the label. Third parties certify that a specific oil contains the chemical constituents it says it does.
- It pays to invest in the best. Quality matters, especially when it comes to essential oils. The price of each can almost always reflects quality, but it isn’t so in all cases. However, expect the pricing to be not cheap either (if it is run away quickly). Because of the amount of labor, knowledge and sheer product volume that goes into making Essential Oils there is a cost to it. Find the right supplier with the quality you need.
- Check and test your oil’s purity. Paying more helps safeguard against purchasing an oil that’s been cut with cheaper ingredients or carrier liquids. You can do this by dropping a couple drops on regular paper. If after 24 hours the drops are oily or greasy, then they have a carrier component, however if it simply evaporates, you’ll see the outer ring of it but nothing more. Then you can know if it is pure oil from the plant.
- Avoid “absolutes.” If the label states “absolute” on it, that means it is a petroleum-based byproduct of the essential-oil extraction process. You don’t want this on your skin. As pure as you can get is the ideal.
- Don’t use ‘just’ single oils. Single oils are nice, straight Orange or Lemongrass is a sweet and enjoyable. When you create oil blends for personal use you can receive a broader experience than with just one. This also helps inoculate you against entrainment, when the brain associates a particular smell with a particular time in life. You aren’t only creating a way for healing, but you are also creating a memory in one point in time that will be connected with that scent.
- Well-researched oils and blends are great choices. If you are going to work with Essential Oils topically (diluted in a carrier oil on your skin), choose the oil that you have studied extensively, whether for its analgesic, antibacterial, or calming properties. Here are a few Blends that you can try – Click Here
- Pick the right Essential Oil tools. Look for diffusers that are made specifically for essential oils. They are designed to break up the particles in a way that makes the vaporized oils easier for the body to process. Never diffuse oils in products made of plastic or Styrofoam, which can release plastic particles into the air.
- Ignore “grade” scales. When you see the terms “clinical grade” or “medical grade” on labels, it’s easy to think you are getting the highest-quality product. Oils like these are inherently highly-concentrated. These are just marketing tactics and they don’t have any meaning when it comes to quality assessment whatsoever.
- Dilute, dilute, dilute and dilute. Never put undiluted essential oils straight on your skin. This can set you up for sensitization and allergic reactions. Essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil — not with water or a different non-oil-based liquid, because the two won’t mix. Those Oil manufacturers worth their weight will detail the percentages of Oil to Carrier. When mixing with a carrier oil from a pure source of the Oil, opt for jojoba or fractionated coconut oil because of their long shelf life. Avoid sweet-almond oil for long-term use, it tends to go rancid quickly.
- Diffuse smartly. If you want to add essential oils to a humidifier, don’t put drops directly in the water — the oils will break down the internal plastic parts of the humidifier and begin to send vaporized plastic into the air. Instead, put a drop or two on an organic cotton ball and put that cotton ball into the vapor outlet. Also don’t diffuse in a humidifier or a diffuser continuously for more than 30 minutes, for risk of overexposure.
- Know your smelling audience. Everyone responds to essential oils differently — and children are especially susceptible to the effects. Be mindful of reactions in popular, yet closed in spaces. Also, some essential oils are contraindicated with certain medications, causing adverse reactions or preventing the medicine from doing its intended job.
- Give pets and yourself a chance to get some fresh air. Essential oils can be especially hard for some pets to process. Just like you, they will at times need a break from the Oils. If using a diffuser, always make sure pets can leave the room if they need some fresh air. And they usually make it known when they have had enough. Pay special attention to cats, who have a particularly hard time processing essential oils. All oils can be hard for cats to process (thanks to a missing liver enzyme that helps metabolize certain types of compounds), but they are specifically sensitive to sweet-birch oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, pennyroyal oil, eucalyptus oil, tea-tree oil, and pine and citrus oils.
- Be careful with your sun exposure. Some essential oils, particularly the citruses, dramatically increase the risk of sunburn, because they can draw more of the UV rays to the place on the skin you have used the Oil. So don’t wear these oils when you’re out in the sun, and be cautious on your next tropical vacation.
- Don’t use oils that have gone ‘south’. How can you tell it’s gone bad? Put it to your nose and smell it. Does it smell like what you anticipated? If not, discard the sucker. No matter how much you spent for it, it won’t do you any good. The oils that go bad the quickest are bergamot, lemon, lime, and sweet orange. Resinous (woody) oils — like frankincense, Douglas fir, cedarwood, pine, and the balsams — tend to last longer.
- Rotate your oils. Not only in your supply of Oils if you have more than one container of it, but also give your body a break from specific scents or blends by rotating the oils you use every two to four weeks. This helps to prevent overexposure and sensitization.
- Don’t use essential oils for everything under the sun. Use it for the right purposes. When you are experiencing a headache due to dehydration or a stomach ache from something you ate, Essential Oils are not the first go-to. When another intervention is appropriate, try that first.
- Don’t ingest essential oils without the guidance of a certified practitioner. Ingested oils can do significant harm, and more so, when it is done over time. So always, always consult a practitioner who is certified in medical aromatherapy before taking an oil internally. Even if someone you trust says it’s okay, yet doesn’t know clinically of the case. Check with the person who has put in the work to know.
- Not everything online is spot on. This is where your study chops come into play. You must get reputable sources, and often more than one source of the efficacy or proposed usage of an Essential Oil. Those portals are out there, and currently Google is still connecting with them. So do your homework, it will be well worth the time to do so.
The Takeaway on Essential Oils
They, the Oils and the Terpenes we receive from them are great methods of healing, and gaining a balance within and without your own being. With the right education and proper use, the Essential Oils can do wonders for your health and well-being journey that you are on.