Essential oils are used in Aromatherapy, which is where the oils are used in various methods, helping health and well being.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are oils that are extracted from plants and trees. Their scent is that of the plant/tree they come from and they capture their “essence”. Different compounds in each one give each oil its unique characteristics and benefits.
The oil is extracted by different methods such as distillation (water/steam), solvent extraction or cold pressing depending on the plant or tree. The finished product is that of a very concentrated chemical composition of oil. The essential oil then needs to be diluted in a carrier oil or another way for it to be used directly on the skin.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts retaining the natural scent and benefits of the plant or tree.
How do Essential Oils work?
The most used way essential oils are used are through aromatherapy. They are not meant to be swallowed but diluted and applied to the skin or used through inhalation.
Essential oils are made of of chemicals and these can interact with the body in several ways and when applied to the skin, some chemicals are absorbed completely. This is due to how small their molecules are and easily penetrate all the layers of the skin.
Inhaling essential oils can affect your limbic system which is in the brain. This system controls things such as emotions, behaviors, sense of smell and long term memory. The limbic system also plays a role in controlling breathing, heart rate and blood pressure and so essential oils can help physically too.
Essential oils can be diluted and applied to the skin or inhaled. This can have affects on the emotional, mental or physical aspects of a person.
The benefits of using Essential Oils
Essential oils have a range of benefits and there are still more studies that need to be done, but here are a few ways in which there is evidence of how essential oils have helped the following conditions.
Anxiety and Depression
A lot of people suffer with anxiety and depression these days. This could be down to all sorts of stress in their life, but one way to help relieve the symptoms is with essential oils.
This study (1) shows that when using essential oils through aromatherapy it can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
Another study (2) shows that essential oils can be an advantage in the treatment of depression as they do have an effect.
Sleep is very important and if we do not get enough of it then our mental health can deteriorate as well as other things in our lives. Essential oils can help when we struggle to sleep or in such conditions as insomnia.
This study (3) shows that lavender essential oil helped the quality of sleep as well as reduce anxiety.
Another study (4) shows that inhaling essential oils has a positive effect on sleep.
Headaches and Migraines
Essential oils can be great to relieve a headache or migraine as they have analgesic abilities.
Peppermint essential oil can be very effective for migraines and headaches and in this study (5) it shows that menthol (which is in peppermint) had made significant improvement on the migraine after 2 hours of it being applied.
Reducing inflammation and Pain
Everyone will suffer from some pain in their life time, whether it is minor or major and inflammation is usually apart of it. Some essential oils have analgesic and anti-inflammatory abilities. This study (6) shows that essential oils have a good potential to help in inflammatory diseases especially chronic inflammatory conditions.
In this study (7) it shows how a blend of essential oils helped menstrual pain with primary dysmenorrhea.
Antibiotic and Antimicrobial
Some essential oils have great antibiotic and antimicrobial abilities. They help boost the immune system, helping fight infections and speed up wound healing. This study (8) shows that cypress essential oil has antimicrobial and antibiofilm properties making it a good candidate to use as a natural preservative in food and pharmaceuticals.
How to use essential oils
There are a few ways in which you can use essential oils, depending on what your purpose is. If you are looking for a remedy to help sore muscles, then the best way to use essential oils would be to blend them with a carrier oil and massage into the skin. If you are looking for emotional relief, then inhaling is the best way.
Using a diffuser or oil burner is a great way to fill a room with the beautiful scent of an essential oil or blend. You will be able to breathe in the oil/oils and help any emotional issues you may have. It can also help to sanitize the air depending on which essential oils you choose.
Another way to breath in the wonderful benefits of essential oils is an inhaler. This is great for emotional issues. Whether you are feeling down and need a pick me up, or if you need some energy to boost you and motivate you. It can also be carried anywhere with you as its small and compact, so you can take your oils on the go!
Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil such as grapeseed or fractionated coconut oil can make a wonderful massage blend. You can make massage oils for all sorts of occasions. Whether its for muscles or just to unwind, with the right essential oils mixed with a carrier oil, you have our very own massage oil.
Anointing oils are for when you wish to connect your inner wisdom, to connect to the divine, to balance your energy/chakras, or connect to the plant/tree its self. You can even use them in a self care ritual. By diluting essential oils in a carrier oil, you can make your own anointing oil. This can be applied to your wrists, temples, chakra points or where ever you like.
Placing some essential oils in a spray bottle with some purified water or witch hazel can make a room spray. You will need to shake it up then spray around the room or you could even freshen up some linen. If you are going to save the spray, then you would need to add a preservative to stop any bacteria breeding. But it should last up to two weeks kept in the fridge. Please note, this spray is not to be used on skin, as oil does not dilute in water as they do not mix.
Another way to use essential oils is to use them as a household cleaner. Just by putting some essential oil in some purified water, you can clean with it. Use a spray bottle, shake the mixture and clean away! You could also add some castile soap too. Please note, this is not to be used on the skin as oil and water do not mix and therefore the essential oil is not diluted. You might also want to check which oils can be used on which surfaces, as they could ruin some materials.
How to choose the right essential oils
The quality of essential oils can vary and there is no regulations in this industry to confirm if a companies essential oils are of high standard and are therapeutic. Therefore even if you see a statement that the essential oils are of pure or therapeutic quality it doesn’t necessarily mean they are.
When choosing where to buy and what essential oils to use, you should keep the following in mind.
Look for essential oils that are 100% pure, with no added ingredients.
They should be labeled with their Latin name and place of origin. Firstly The Latin name is important as there can be several species of the same plant and you need to know you have the right one. Different species can have different effects. Secondly you may not know how the country of origin effects the quality, but generally if it has this information the company are looking to sell to professional parties such as aromatherapists (who would know that quality can vary from different countries) as well as the general public.
Does the price seem too cheap? If its really cheap, then it may not be good quality, however if it’s really expensive, it doesn’t mean it is either. Look at various companies to see how the price compares. If they are similar, then it should be ok. There are some essential oils that are expensive such as jasmine absolute. This is due to how many flowers are needed to just make one small bottle and therefore a lot of energy and work goes into producing the oil.
Is the essential oil organic or made from wild crafted plants? Some companies do not certify whether they are organic grown in the US, but some European ones do. You do not necessarily need it to be organic or wild, but if you can afford that little extra then this would be the way to go.
Therapeutic and good quality essential oils should be pure. This means there will be no added ingredients, the oil will be that which came from the plant/tree only. Avoid any oils that may have been diluted with chemicals or fragrances.
There are a variety of companies now selling essential oils as it’s become very popular. Some better than others. Look for companies that have a good reputation of producing high quality products, especially their essential oils.
One company I love is Plant Therapy. They have therapeutic high quality oils at reasonable prices as well as free shipping.
This is where I buy my essential oils and I haven’t found any complaints yet!
They have a wide range of essential oils as well as other plant based products. They use third party testing and have GC-MS test reports, which provide in-depth information on the chemical constituents in each oil they produce. These can be found on their website, showing you exactly what is in each oil you buy.
Not only that they have aromatherapists ready to answer all your questions, so you know you will get professional safe advice and they answer quickly!
Another thing I love about them also is they have essential oils that are marked kid safe and give you lots of information on safety and how to use essential oils.
Therapeutic high quality essential oils only use pure plant extracts from the plant or tree where it came from. Avoid any diluted oils that use fragrances or other chemicals.
Safety precautions when using Essential Oils
Although essential oils are natural, it doesn’t mean they are safe. Plants and their chemical make up can be harmful and may cause side effects.
However when inhaling or diluting essential oils in a base such as a carrier oil, they can be safe and effective to use. Just take care when using them and be aware of who may be around you, such as children or pregnant women.
There are a few things you need to know before you use them as they can cause the following:
~ Allergic reactions
~ Trouble breathing, especially if you have asthma
There can be more serious reactions, but the most common is a rash.
Essential oils can cause skin irritations and some such as the citrus essential oils can cause photosensitivity, which is when exposed to the sun can cause the skin to burn if one of these oils have been applied just before going out side.
Taking essential oils internally is not recommended as they can cause serious harm, even fatal reactions. If this is something you want to find out about, then ask the advice of an aromatherapist that has been specially trained in taking essential oils internally.
Some groups of people should avoid using certain essential oils such as pregnant/breastfeeding women, babies and small children as some are just not safe for them. However there are oils that can be used if needed and you should seek advice from an aromatherapist to help you choose the right oils for you.
Essential oils are a great tool for having a healthy more natural life style. Natural and generally considered safe to inhale and apply to the skin diluted in a carrier oil, they are a wonderful complimentary therapy. Helping minor health problems and wounds, helping you feel better and providing a great natural scent and cleaning means for homes.
However always seek professional advice, especially for more major health issues or if you are on any medication, from your healthcare provider, primary healthcare physician or other medical professional.
Getting in touch with a professional aromatherapist for advice on which essential oils to use, whether they have any side effects and how to use them is a good idea too.
Study 1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21309711/
Study 2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6152054/
Study 3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26211735/
Study 4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24720812/
Study 5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316718/
Study 6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30671173/
Study 7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22435409/
Study 8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4052795/
Study 9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2839398/
Study 10 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25764843/
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for information only and using any of the methods suggested is at your own risk. Always consult a doctor with any medical condition you may have, especially if you are trying new complimentary medicines.