What is an Essential Oil?
An essential oil is a highly aromatic and concentrated oil that contains powerful compounds that give out an aroma, and contain the essence of the plant’s fragrance. Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, flowers, roots, needles, stems, and bark of plants, or rinds of fruits. They are generally extracted by water or hydro distillation, but some are extracted by expression, absolute oil extraction, cold pressing, resin tapping and solvent extraction (Wikipedia).
Essential oils are highly concentrated and a few drops go a long way. They can be harmful if used in concentrated form, so the first thing to know about essential oils is to respect them.
- Do not use concentrated essential oils on the skin.
- Essential oils can cause sensitivity or allergic reactions in some people. Do a skin patch test on a hidden area to test for sensitivity or allergic reaction before applying an oil that you have never used before on your skin.
- Some oils are toxic when exposed to sunlight. Inflammation, blistering and reddening or burning of the skin are common with the following phototoxic oils: cumin, angelica root, bitter orange, tagetes, rue, oppanax, cold pressed lime, cold pressed lemon, cold pressed grapefruit, and fig leaf absolute. (Aromaweb). Use these oils topically only at night.
- Some oils should be avoided by pregnant women and by those who have asthma, epilepsy, pregnancy or other health conditions. First, do your own research here.
- Some essential oils are not suitable for aromatherapy. They are more toxic and cause more harm than others. Make sure you know the difference.
- Keep essential oils away from children. Oils smell wonderfully and some of them (like citrus) smell edible, so children may be tempted to ingest them with harmful consequences.
- Do not ingest essential oils unless you are guided. Most of them are hazardous when taken internally.
How to Use Essential Oils
Now that we have taken care of safety, you can enjoy your essential oils. Essential oils have enhanced lives for thousands of years, offering spiritual, religious, cosmetic, medicinal, and dietary benefits. The best ways to use essential oils are topical application, aromatic diffusion (breathing) and ingestion.
1. Topical Application
- Essential oils can be applied on the skin which absorbs the active ingredients that are then distributed throughout the body to targeted organs by the body fluids, particularly the bloodstream. The general guideline is to dilute 2 ml, or 40 drops, of essential oil in 100 ml of carrier oil. This can translate to 20 drops in 50 ml of carrier oil or 10 drops in 25 ml of carrier oil. For example you can:
- Apply a blend that contains black pepper or ginger essential oils to reduce joint pain and to improve joint flexibility.
- Apply German chamomile essential oil to treat eczema.
- Make a moisturizing body butter lotion by mixing shea butter, coconut oil, magnesium oil and essential oils (like geranium or rosemary).
- Make a lip balm by mixing beeswax, coconut oil and lavender oil to heal chapped lips.
- Make a relaxing massage oil by mixing cedarwood or lavender oil with a carrier oil.
- Mix 5 drops of grapefruit essential oil with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and massage into areas on the body with cellulite.
- Make a sunscreen by mixing zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter, lavender oil and helichrysum oil, which you can store in a bottle.
- Make a relaxing oil by mixing 2-4 drops of chamomile, lavender and peppermint oil in a carrier oil and apply to the temples for a cooling and relaxation effect.
Some essential oils are medicinal while others are antibacterial, and they are useful when used for washing.
- Add basil, cedarwood or lavender oil to shampoo to reduce an itchy scalp.
- Make a detoxifying bath by mixing Epsom salts, lavender oil and sea salt to a warm bath to cleanse and rejuvenate the body.
- To soothe tired feet, add a few drops of lemon or eucalyptus oil to a large bowl of warm water and soak your feet.
- Make an acne wash by mixing tea tree oil with raw honey, rub on the face, then rinse off.
- Make a shampoo by mixing rosemary oil, lavender oil, aloe vera gel and coconut milk. You can wash your hair with it for 2-4 weeks.
Essential oils can be inhaled. When inhaled, they affect the body through several systems. They interact with the olfactory organs and immediately affect the brain. Some molecules are carried to the lungs to interact with the respiratory system. Here are some of the ways to use essential oils.
- To reduce morning sickness during pregnancy, add a few drops of wild orange, lemon or ginger oil to a handkerchief and inhale.
- To relieve itchy eyes and throat caused by allergies, rub frankincense and lavender on your palms and inhale.
- Inhale peppermint oil before you workout to reduce fatigue.
- Inhale a mixture of cinnamon oil and peppermint oil to reduce food cravings and to balance blood sugar.
- Inhale grapefruit, peppermint or bergamot to improve concentration when working during the day.
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to steaming hot water or diffuser and inhale to clear nasal passages and to reduce coughs.
- Diffuse frankincense oil when meditating, praying or reading to enhance the spiritual state.
- Add rose oil to baths and diffusers to improve your mood and to relieve depression.
The above are just a few examples of hundreds of ways of using essential oils. Nature, in its abundant way, has given plants all the properties that we need for our daily lives on earth. When you learn how to use essential oils, you can basically replace a lot of your household cleaning and your personal care products with safer homemade ones. Use essential oils to enhance every part of your life naturally. Enjoy!
AromaWeb, Essential Oil Safety.
Dr. Axe, 101 Essential Oil Uses and Benefits.