Essential oils are wildly popular these days, and for good reason – they can have myriad positive effects on the mind and the body, and they smell fantastic!
Many people have experienced the benefits of essential oils firsthand, without actually knowing how or why they work. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of essential oils, and how they can support your health and well-being.
What Are Essential Oils?
An essential oil is the liquid extract of the chemical properties of a plant, or the essence of the plant. Generally, essential oils are created by crushing and distilling the plant, or through cold-pressed extraction.
As every plant has different qualities and different effects on the human body, so too does every oil have different properties and effects. Each essential oil is made up of at least 200-500 biological properties, making the effects of oils quite diverse.
How Are Essential Oils Used?
Essential oils are typically used aromatically, topically, or internally. In each case, it is important to make sure you are using the right oils for the job, and using them correctly.
Our sense of smell has been vitally important to the survival of the human species over millennia. The molecules we inhale can, and do, have an effect on the brain and the body. Nature wants you to be tuned into the world around you, and your sense of smell ensures this.
Plants use their scent to communicate with the great, wide world. A plant’s aroma can attract beneficial insects and pollinators, ensuring the plant’s survival. Some plants use their scent to provide a defense against insects and animals who may want to eat them. A plant’s scent can have quite an effect on the one smelling it, including altering the heart rate and/or hormones and causing confusion.
We can harness the healing and calming powers of plants by using essential oils aromatically. Most commonly, essential oils are used in a diffuser, releasing their scent into the air to be inhaled, or applied to a necklace or bracelet that the wearer can smell throughout the day.
Perhaps the most popular way to use essential oils is to apply them directly to the skin. Some oils are safe to use without being diluted, while others require dilution with carrier oil before topical use. (The term “carrier oil” refers to an oil, such as coconut or jojoba, that is used to dilute essential oils.)
Our skin is permeable and can absorb a lot of what is applied to it. The molecular structure of essential oils allows them to be absorbed by the skin fairly quickly. It takes approximately 20 minutes after application to the skin for an essential oil to affect every cell in the user’s body, and about two hours for the body to metabolise the oil. Some people may experience a skin reaction to essential oils, especially if the oils have not been properly diluted, so it is important to test an oil on a small patch of skin before widespread use.
When using essential oils topically, you don’t want to rub them just anywhere. Using oils on different areas of the body will have different results. The soles of the feet are a great place to apply oils, especially stronger oils that can be irritating if they are applied closer to the mucous membranes. Bonus points if you massage oils into the accupressure points on the feet! Many oils are also highly effective if rubbed into the pulse points – inner wrists, behind the ears, inside ankles. Some oils are ideally applied in the belly button or rubbed on the belly (oils used to treat stomach upsets, for example).
If you are unsure how and where to apply an oil for a specific issue you are experiencing, please consult with someone who has extensive knowledge.
When opting to ingest essential oils, it is important that the utmost care is taken to ensure safety. Only the purest oils should be used, and they must be properly diluted. Please consult a health professional who works with essential oils for guidance, before using an essential oil internally.
What is an Essential Oil Blend?
Oils can be used on their own (ie. pure lavender oil applied to a burn), or they can be blended with other essential oils. Essential oil blends are excellent for addressing specific concerns (for example, combining several oils that support hormone regulation), and deliver the benefits of two or more oils in a single application. Not all oils belong together, so make sure you’re blending oils that work together well!
When used appropriately, essential oils can be a valuable tool in your health kit. Always make sure you are using pure, unadulterated oils and high-quality carrier oils, and enjoy your essential oil journey!