Nature’s Medicine: Essential Oils
What Are Essential Oils?
Derived naturally from plant sources all over the globe, essential oils are most often characterised by their strong and pleasant odours. Each oil represents the plant from which it was extracted. Basil oil, for example, gives off a very telling aroma – cool, herbal, and spicy. Only certain parts of the plant are harvestable as it regards essential oils. Depending on the particular plant source, oil can be drawn from the leaves, peel, resin, seeds, bark, or fruit. Studies and trials are continually affirming the health benefits of essential oils as either topical or ingested supplements and products.
Benefits of Essential Oils
The smallest dab of oil can harness a staggering amount of natural healing power. This makes sense, considering that these oils (when properly harvested and produced) are direct products of natural plant sources. That considered, these plants and the oils derived from them can have anti-microbial properties. Moreover, essential oils facilitate healthy organ function and critical immune activity. They have the potential to address pathologies in many of the body’s systems – cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, pulmonary, and more. As mentioned earlier, the aroma itself can promote a positive temperament, relaxation, and overall wellness.
Long before laboratory studies were confirmed for the properties of essential oils, some of the most historically rich cultures took advantage of them. The Greeks, Romans, and Chinese used these oils many centuries ago for various medicinal purposes. A Frenchman by the name of Rene Maurice brought the oils back into modern times by demonstrating the use of lavender on his own burns.
Aromatherapy has surprisingly effective applications in treating a range of mood-based as well as physical problems. In this case, the oil is applied via inhalation – not topically. Some of the oil naturally permeates the barrier of our skin. When inhaled, the oil bypasses the blood-brain barrier to stimulate the olfactory centre, which is capable of affecting emotional responses. Instead of purely pharmaceutical products, which artificially clog important receptors in the brain, aromatherapy naturally stimulates these areas as they were meant to be.
Since the olfactory centre is associated with our emotional state, certain smells often have associations with certain emotions. Experience is also a factor in this association; a memory connected to a smell may elicit positive or negative emotions (based on the experience) when that smell is reproduced. Using these principles, aromatherapy can even affect our spiritual well-being. When we think of the purposes that these oils serve in their natural state, healing and protecting plants, we can rest assured that these benefits can be shared with us as well.
From Plant to Bottle: How Is Essential Oil Produced?
Simply learning about the properties of essential oils would be useless without economical means of harvesting and processing (when required). To date, three methods are used to accomplish this:
- Steam Distilling
- Solvent Extraction
- Cold Pressing
Because of its simplicity and efficiency, steam distilling is the most widely used technique in extracting essential oils from raw plant sources. First, steam is vented into a specialised compartment where the plant has been placed. Over time, the steam degrades the plant material, which stimulates the release of the oil as a vapour. This is then filtered through a condenser system that solidifies and separates the oil from the steam and other particles.
In instances when the use of the above-mentioned technique would degrade a certain kind of plant beyond the point of harvesting, solvent extraction may be applied. This technique involves the production of a concrete, which is referred to as “absolute” once processed. In order for this to occur, the plant must be soaked in a solvent over a calculated period of time. During dissolution, the plant begins to give off oil, wax, and certain acids. At the appropriate time, the solvent is removed via suction and the remaining material is extracted using alcohol. This is how the waxes and acids are separated; they are not soluble in alcohol. Finally, the alcohol with which the oil is now mixed is distilled off.
Alternatively referred to as “expression,” this method applies pressure to certain plant materials (namely peels) to solicit the separation of essential oils. Unlike the two previous methods, which relied on heat and solvents, this method is purely mechanical. This technique is most often used with citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits, etc.,
The Healing Art of Aromatherapy
The perception and application of aromatherapy have varied greatly over the past 100 years of research and experimentation. Recent initiatives prioritising the use of natural elements over harsher industrial chemicals and preservatives have aided in the development and availability of essential oils. As described above, these oils often have benevolent health effects and are commonly extracted by distillation, solvent extraction, or cold pressing methods. After these processes, the resulting product is usually packed with nitrogen in glass receptacles.
When essential oils are harvested from natural aromatic plant sources, they can catalyse very important healing responses in the human body. As such, aromatherapy has entered the CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) umbrella as a tool for supporting optimal health and wellness through non-pharmaceutical means. The typical aromatherapy session will comprise manual techniques and/or massage with essential oil in a diluted form. Apart from the professional setting, the availability of aromatherapy products enables people to apply the oils at home if they wish. How, though, does one without experience safely start aromatherapy?
The answer lies in understanding the healing properties of each oil so that the most appropriate oils are used to target your specific health needs. First, be aware that most of these products are sold in a naturally concentrated form. Even smaller containers can harness the healing properties from hundreds or thousands of plant sources, offering potent and widespread physical and psychological benefits. As such, choosing the proper oil is imperative. I will demonstrate how to properly mix and portion oils for both commercial and personal use so that you can create your own products.
Reiterating, essential oils are available for purchase in concentrated form. As a result, these oils are up to 70 times more powerful than any single plant that was used in production, offering staggering health benefits for many ailments. Aside from direct physiological healing, the aroma itself from these oils can cause positive responses from the body, relieving stress and promoting relaxation.
Breaking Down the Research Process
After establishing essential oils as a treatment option for whatever health obstacles you may come across, it is critical to consider the following questions before purchasing. Like any other purchase, cautious research is always recommended. These questions will assist you in narrowing down the perfect oils:
- What is the stated quality? Why is this important?
- What are the resources used in production?
- What is the purity level of essential oil?
- How authentic is this oil?
- Which process(es) was used in production?
- How reliable is the supplier?
Let us examine these questions more carefully to best inform the purchasing decision.
The Ultimate Consumer’s Guide to Essential Oils
1. What is the stated quality? Why is this important?
Often times, an essential oil can contain a combination of dozens, even hundreds, of ingredients. This can vary based on area sourced, type of plant, and processing technique used. While this isn’t the only factor correlated with quality, examining the ingredients, where they came from, and how they got here is extremely important.
2. What are the resources used in production?
While it may seem trivial at first, the environment in which the plant lived offers critical insight into the nature of the end product. If pesticides or other harsh treatments were used, the plant could suffer changes in its fundamental structure. The aforementioned production processes, ingredients, and applied conditions (such as temperature or pressure) can all impact the plant’s potency as well. Therefore, considering the resources that were used in production should be a major part of the research process.
Additionally, consider that essential oils are derived from a completely organic material, which over time changes slowly, even without interference from mankind. We have the exclusive privilege of examining this process through the extracted oils that we use, as well as the obligation to teach future generations the most responsible ways of harvesting and producing these amazing oils.
3. What is the purity level of essential oil?
If an essential oil is completely pure, as it should be, then you should for no reason see any label warning of pesticide use or chemical content. In insisting on 100% purity, we hold manufacturers accountable to the most ethical and natural practices in obtaining and extracting these oils. A very reliable method for determining the purity of an oil is by its aroma. After just a bit of practice, you will quickly become capable of discerning between synthetic oils and the real thing.
However, keep in mind that independent of purity level, all oils may have different natural ingredients. If two essential oils of the same stated ingredient smell differently, then, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one has been produced synthetically or with harmful chemicals. The key point is that each smells strongly of the stated ingredient – the other notes may very well be natural ingredients used in one oil and not the other. The overall impression when smelling should be one of relaxation. If an oil is synthetic, you will come to know the difference.
Finally, take advantage of any official documentation or labelling that certifies the purity of the products. Many oil manufacturers are becoming more transparent about the purity because they know that people want to see this information. Important words to look out: “true,” “authentic,” or “clean.” Speaking of authenticity, how can we examine this further?
4. How authentic is this oil?
Despite rapidly growing use and popularity, official regulatory bodies have yet to impose firm, universal standards for essential oils in the therapeutic domain. So far, a small number of certificates have surfaced to at least certify purity level, however, these do not assess the health benefits of the oils. It is not a complete guarantee, then, that these certified oils are going to have a dramatic impact on health. Regardless, the relatively lackadaisical regulation at this time allows manufacturers to set their own standards of quality.
5. Which process(es) was used in production?
More than the production process alone, the entire process of locating, extraction, and producing essential oils should be evaluated when you are considering buying.
Regarding the sourcing, suppliers must access and evaluate a network of plant growers to select the best plant material for the particular products they intend to market. After sourcing, the supplier must harvest the plants. This is an important step in the evaluation process because certain red flags, such as the widespread use of chemicals or other harmful practices, can surface. Following the harvesting process, the oil must, of course, be extracted. Ideally, the manufacturer will be transparent with potential customers as to the processes that they use in extracting their oils. Always inquire about each one of these processes to gather as much information as possible for a more confident decision.
How about a case study? In the instance of the essential oil derived from Hawaiian Sandalwood, processing is nuanced and lengthy; a common invitation for shortcuts that mass producers may use. To extract the oil in this case, the tree must be cut down, processed, and cleaved even more until it is a very fine substance. Then, the lengthy (often upwards of 36 hours) distilling process begins with high heat applied to facilitate expression of the oil. This demonstrates how costly and time-consuming the proper methodology can be, and why regulation would be very helpful for the essential oil industry.
6. How reliable is the supplier?
It is highly recommended that you visit a reputable essential oils seller who is upfront and ethical with customers about the quality of each oil. This also includes information relevant to the therapeutic benefits provided by each oil. The ideal seller will have a deep appreciation for these benefits as well as the complex combination of ingredients required to achieve them. After all, it is the supplier who must peruse the globe for the perfect ingredients raised in the perfect conditions. As a sign of authenticity and transparency, reputable suppliers will commission laboratory researchers to verify their products for quality.
While it is the supplier’s responsibility to uphold ethical and honest practices throughout the entire process, it is your responsibility as the consumer to do the research. If you do not investigate the validity of a certain essential oil, then you may fall victim to a supplier who cuts corners on quality.
Narrowing Down a Brand
While it may be rare to find a supplier that complies with 100% of the above certification and labelling standards, simply interacting with a potential supplier will convey to you an air of legitimacy or lack thereof. Suppliers who are the most ethical and safe in their methods will logically be the most eager to interface with you, as they are excited to share the worthy products they are bringing to market. Conversely, suppliers who cut corners will likely have systems in place to either avoid contact with you beyond the transaction or even mislead you into thinking that their additive-filled products are naturally produced.
How to use Essential Oil
Not unlike the delivery of mainstream pharmaceutical products, essential oils are meant to be mixed into the bloodstream in order to reap their benefits. What is potentially harmful with opioids and other potent medications – systemic delivery – is beneficial in the case of essential oils because all of the tissues and systems served by the bloodstream can now have access to these natural ingredients.
Considering the above, it makes sense that these oils can quickly and effectively mediate the effects of multiple problems in multiple body systems at the same time. Aside from the aforementioned delivery methods (topical and inhaled), internal use is also effective in quickly receiving the healing properties of the oil. In the case of inhalation, the oils work virtually immediately by stimulating the nervous system through the gut. Permeation of the skin barrier takes more time. One in the system, the oils perfuse the bodies various tissues to access deeper levels for deeper healing.
Let’s go into more detail as to how these oils are taken so that you can safely and effectively receive all of the health benefits that they offer:
By taking the essential oil through the respiratory tract, the vapour is delivered into our bloodstream in the same way that gas exchange occurs when we breathe air. This allows for almost immediate delivery of the oil into the bloodstream.
Add the recommended number of drops of the oil (check labelling) to a container filled with hot water. The water should be hot enough to steadily produce vapour. Align yourself above the bowl with a cloth or towel on your head, and inhale the steam for up to 10 minutes. If you are prone to respiratory disorders or distress of any kind, inhale with caution – short spurts of half a minute at first, then lengthen if no exacerbation occurs.
Be aware that essential oils are not soluble in water, and will not mix if you do not first dilute them in oil. Adults should use between 4 and 10 drops with one to two tablespoons of a base, i.e. coconut, olive oil, etc. A suitable alternative to these base oils is bath salt, honey, and milk. Once you have the oil prepared in a proper medium, apply it to a warm bath that has finished being drawn. A period of at least fifteen minutes should be allowed for the mixture to take effect.
While bathing, some of the oil content will be given off as a vapour, which will be processed through your lungs as explained above. Some of the oil content will contact the skin, in which case the slower permeation process takes place. Avoid using potentially irritating oils such as mint or cinnamon, as the skin contact potential may cause a reaction. Conversely, Eucalyptus oil is an efficacious treatment to use in a bath for breathing disorders and early symptoms of illness. The bath itself will alleviate neural and muscular tension. These effects are compounded by the addition of the oils. We now know that emotional strain as well is profoundly affected by both of these therapeutic elements.
2.Direct Skin Application
In addition to systemic delivery, topical application of essential oils allows it to have profound effects on a target area. Knowing this, many manual therapists and masseur use essential oils when treating clients.
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS IN MASSAGE
The addition of essential oils into a soft tissue massage session will boost the therapeutic effects of the massage, including relaxation, circulation, and lymphatic drainage among other benefits. It is likely that, during the massage, you will inhale some of the oil vapour as well, accelerating the process by which it will take effect. Regarding massage, oil can be applied to the forehead, shoulders, ankles, feet, core, back, and many other areas.
In addition to the benefits provided by the oil, what can you expect to improve as a massage therapy patient?
- Oxygen delivery to sore or irritated muscles by way of increased circulation of blood.
- Tissue extensibility.
- Anxiety and stress management.
- Spasms, neck pain, and headache reduction.
- Detoxification by means of lymphatic stimulation.
How much oil should you use when massaging, and how is it prepared?
For adult patients, prepare between 2 and 4 drops of oil with 5 ml of a base oil (almond, grapeseed, etc). Try to avoid pouring the oil directly on the body. Instead, apply the mixture to your palms and begin massaging the oil into the skin in a rhythmic, circular fashion. For infants older than two months, you can use a single drop of the desired oil with 10 ml of the base to safely dilute it. For a 1-year-old infant and older, you can safely apply up to 3 drops.
-This is what we recommend:
Do not spend too much time concerning yourself with finding the exact match of healing properties to pair with the exact array of symptoms that you or a massaged client may be experiencing. When selecting the desired oil, many times the process is a subjective one – simply align the choice with the client’s emotional state. Don’t forget to monitor change in the client’s preferences, as what was avoided at first may become preferred at another time based on changes in state.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR COLD (OR HOT) COMPRESS
Another convenient application for essential oils to supplement healing is with hot or cold compresses. Generally, heat is used as a therapeutic modality to improve blood flow and address stiffness and chronic pain, where ice is used for acute swelling and pain.
Apply between 4 and 5 drops of oil to a container of water that is as warm or cold as you can tolerate. Take a towel or piece of cloth, fold it, and set it in the water such that it can take in the oil that is likely on top of the water. Wring out the cloth to eliminate extra water before applying it to the target tissue. If needed, you can use wrap or bandaging to secure the compress over the target tissue without needing to hold it yourself. If necessary for further treatment, replace the compress after the temperature normalizes.
USING ESSENTIAL OILS DIRECTLY
There are only two essential oils in the field of aromatherapy that may be used directly, which is to say without the use of a base oil for dilution purposes: Tea Tree and Lavender. This extends to topical uses of these substances – you could apply a couple of drops of Lavender to your forehead, for example, to prevent or reduce the effects of a headache. Ensure that you are working with either Lavender or Tea Tree oil before you attempt to use directly.
- Pregnant women and those with severe illnesses should consult an aromatherapy professional prior to use.
- Make sure the oil stays out of the sun, away from children, and secured with a tight-fitting lid when it is not in use.
Just 2 or 3 drops should be sufficient to use in a bath for a small child or infant. Make sure that the oil is diluted with a base as instructed to ensure that it blends with the water and becomes delivered into the body. Also, take extra caution to avoid essential oils that have the potential to irritate the skin – this information may be on the label.
The following oils have been identified as potential irritants to avoid using in the bath:
Lemon, Oregano, Birch, Cassia, Pimento Berry, Pine, Wintergreen, Lemongrass, Basil, Benzoin, Clove, Red Thyme, Ginger, and Peppermint.
Be aware that this is not an exhaustive list, and if you suspect that a certain oil may irritate your skin, you are advised to test with a patch before using in the bath. In order to carry out this test properly, as you should do every time you use a new essential oil, you will only require a couple of simple ingredients. First, procure 1 drop of the essential oil that you intend to test. Mix that with a teaspoon of a base, such as almond or grapeseed oil. Once you have mixed this solution, place a drop or two into your forearm. Wait for a full day and ensure that you don’t irritate the site by wearing long sleeves or bathing. If after the full day you don’t experience any irritation, redness, or inflammation, then you are cleared to apply the essential oil.
Keep in mind that base oils themselves can elicit allergic reactions, and testing with these oils alone will ensure for more accurate tests with essential oils.
The dispersion of an essential oil into the air accomplishes more than just circulating a nice fragrance. The oil actually purifies the air it enters by eradicating potentially dangerous organisms. This serves a double purpose for the user, both in promoting a positive emotional state and protecting the body from harmful pathogens.
- Using a humidifier
To apply essential oils to a humidifier, simply apply a few drops of the oil to a piece of cloth before inserting the material into your machine. This ensures even distribution of oil particles within the vapour produced by the machine. Ensure that you don’t add the oil straight to the machine, as it will not mix or become vapour and could harm the humidifier.
- Using oils with a diffuser
Often times, documentation will indicate how much oil should be applied to the diffuser – check your product label and/or instruction manual. Generally, the amount can range between 3 and 8 drops of oil. Also, take into account the area of the space that you intend to effect with the diffuser. When used in a diffuser, essential oils are gradually heated to ensure even distribution of particles in the air while preventing denaturing of helpful ingredients. If your diffuser has a nebulizing feature, it will create a very fine spray that circulates and settles for a number of hours. If you have a traditional water tank, you can apply oil directly.
- Essential oils and candle burners
After pouring water into the receptacle, apply 3 to 8 drops of the desired oil before igniting the candle below. Ensure that there is ample space, at least 10 cm, between the receptacle and the flame. This allows the oil to disperse evenly without degrading any of its healing properties by overheating.
Note: You can even apply essential oil to powder detergent or household cleaning chemicals! This will strengthen their effects while taking the edge off of what can be a noxious, unpleasant order depending on the chemical. By adding 2 to 3 drops of oil in your carpet cleaner or vacuum, whatever you clean will have the added benefit of a lasting, pleasant fragrance.
Certain kinds of essential oils have the ability to supplement food sources, adding valuable healing properties to nutritional content. This is one reason why determining the purity of the oil is so important – without completely pure oil, this is not a possibility. Even oils that are certified as completely pure, however, are not necessarily appropriate for use in this manner. The wrong kind of oil, as most are heavily concentrated, can reap harmful effects on the gastrointestinal tract and organs.
When ingesting, always supplement with raw honey, milk, or water. The amount of oil ingested varies based on demographics of age and weight as well as overall health of the user. Given the concentration level, the addition of more drops for increased healing potential is not recommended.
Check with the label or with the supplier to learn about recommendations for use in food. When practised properly, internal use can provide additional health benefits, but it should not be the primary method of use. It is safer and more efficient to use external methods.
That being said, internal use is straightforward: simply apply the recommended number of drops to milk, water, or honey, and swallow. Keep doses to no more than three a day.
Essential Oils By Type
Sifting through the options
Regardless of your level of exposure and experience with essential oils, the options are as numerous as they have ever been, which can be intimidating at first. How could you possibly narrow down the hundreds of choices to the one or two essential oils that work best for you? Lengthy Latin plant names thrown in the mix don’t exactly help either.
Don’t stress out too much. Many people are embracing aromatherapy, and support for beginners is at an all-time high. Even experts are continually learning more and more ideas and products hit the market. Don’t allow this list to intimidate you – it’s arranged into categories for your convenience.
Essential oils by scent types:
- Floral: Jasmine, Geranium, Rose, Lavender, Palmarosa, Neroli
- Resinous: Elemi, Frankincense, Benzoin, Myrrh
- Woody: Sandalwood, Coriander, Cypress, Cedarwood, Fir, Pine, Frankincense, Juniper Berry, Helichrysum
- Spicy: Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cumin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, Anise
- Earthen: Patchouli, Vetivert, Ginger, Oakmoss
- Grass: Marjoram, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano
- Minty: Spearmint, Peppermint
- Herbal and Medicinal: Tea Tree, Rosemary, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Sage, Thyme, Melissa, Chamomile
- Citrus: Petitgrain, Lemongrass, Tangerine, Lime, Mandarin, Melissa, Grapefruit, Lemon, Citronella, Orange, Bergamot, Lemon
- Floral is best combined with spicy, woody, or citrus oil.
- Woody oils are best combined with earthen, floral, mint, spicy, and citrus aromas.
- Earthen smells combine best with woody and mint smells.
- Herbals go best with woody and mint aromas.
- Mint aromas are best mixed with woody, earthen, herbal and citrus.
- Medicinal oils combine well with woody.
- Spicy oils are best combined with citrus, and floral.
- Resinous oils are best mixed with spicy, woody, and citrus oils.
- Citrus oils are best mixed with woody, minty, floral, and earthen oils.
Essential Oils by Notes: Top, Middle, and Base
Why would a blend of oils smell differently over time? Has that ever happened to you? The reason is simple. Each oil has a set point and rate at which it begins to evaporate. Some oils, evaporate more quickly than others. As such, your experience with a particular blend may be an evolving one. At first, one smell may be “in the lead” in terms of intensity, dominating the other aromas. As the constituent oils begin to evaporate at different speeds, however, the overall smell can change.
Top Notes: When an oil comprises ingredients that require little time to evaporate. This kind of oil can also be referred to as a “top note” oil – one that can evaporate in as little as two hours.
Middle Notes: The middle notes represents oils that have less sharp, more balanced scents that bring the “sharp” and “flat” elements of a mixture together. Somewhat slower than the top notes, these oils can evaporate for up to 4 hours.
Base Notes: Oils that are comprised of ingredients that take a great deal of time to evaporate, at least compared to the other two layers, belong to the lower layer. These oils can be referred to as “base notes.” These can even take multiple days to evaporate in many instances.
In most cases, you want to have a balance of upper, middle, and lower layer oils to create a dynamic, long-lasting blend of sharp, medium, and lighter scents in harmony. Enough theorising – what are some of these oils, specifically?
Top notes (evaporate quickly)
- Bay Leaf
- Lemon Verbena
- May Chang (Litsea cubeba)
- Orange Sweet
Middle notes (medium time to evaporate)
- Camphor White
- Carrot Seed
- Celery Seed
- Clary Sage
- Clove Bud
- Coriander Seed
- Fennel Sweet
- Fir Needle
- Ginger Root
- Ho Wood
- Jasmine Absolute
- Juniper Berry
- Lavender Spike
- Lemon Eucalyptus
- Marjoram Sweet
- Melissa Leaf
- Neroli Light
- Parsley Seeds
- Pepper Black
- Pine Needle
- Rose Geranium
- Rose Absolute
- Spruce Black
- Tea Tree
- Thyme Red
- Thyme White
Base notes (longer evaporation times)
- Vanilla Extract
- Ylang Ylang
PROPER DOSAGE AND DILUTION
These guidelines are intended to outline the safe mixing and consumption of essential oils. Always follow these guidelines to prevent the risk of harmful effects. Don’t ever use essential oils on the skin with the exception of Tea Tree and Lavender oils, of which you should only use 1 to 2 drops. Due to the fast evaporation of essential oils, they are often mixed with other “base” oils for dilution and steady delivery. These oils also help to prolong the duration that the aroma is circulating. They are dense with vitamins and biological agents which help to nourish the skin and guard it against harmful stressors. Very few of these essential oils feature strong flavour, however, some of them have a faint and naturally occurring odour. Keep this in mind when choosing an oil to use as a dilution agent; a clashing smell may negatively affect the effects of the aromatherapy treatment.
Also, as a helpful tip, you can use the properties of oils to best suit the time of year. If it is hot, then cooling coconut oil would be appropriate. If you are with child, apricot kernel oil is an efficient means of supplementing folic acid. Always remember that essential oils are heavily concentrated and can cause injury or harm if you use too much at any given time.
-Here’s a useful tip for blending
It can be especially difficult for beginners to recall the correct proportions of ingredients when preparing mixtures. A simple trick, known as the 30-50-20 rule, can be used to assist you in getting the perfect balance for your aromatherapy blend. The first “30” represents the percentage of the blend that should be a top note oil as discussed previously. The second “50” represents middle notes, and the last “20” represents the top notes. Remember, you will likely experience a shift in the scent that you can perceive throughout the treatment, usually from top to middle to bottom. On your first practice blend, you may want to keep the amount low to avoid wasting oil. Most of all, don’t stress out too much about amounts – go with your nose!
Why Dilute Essential Oils?
So why exactly do we dilute these oils prior to use? Doesn’t it water down the effects? On the contrary, dilution is the only safe way to prepare most essential oils.
- It decreases the risk of skin reaction caused by the essential oil.
- Dilution also ensures that the oil is dispersed more evenly, as most of them would evaporate very quickly without a blend.
- With a base or a carrier, you are able to distribute the essential oil over a greater surface area. If applied directly, one dab only covers the surface area of, well, one dab.
Now we understand the why, let’s get into the how. How and how much should we dilute essential oils?
Diluting for Adults
For those aged beyond 10 and with no serious medical conditions, a mixture containing two to 5% of essential oil is appropriate. The higher end of this range is for illness or acute pain situations. To achieve this ratio, apply 5 to 10 drops of oil per a half ounce (14.8 ml) of a base.
Diluting standards based on the method
- Inhaling: Apply 3 or 4 drops of your essential oil to two litres of steaming water
- Bathing: Apply 4 to 10 drops of already diluted oil into the bath
- Applying to Skin: Apply 2 to 3 drops of oil into your skincare product
- Foot Bath: Apply 8 drops of essential oil into the water
- Nose Dispersion: Apply 1 to 3 drops to the water
- Natural Soap: Maintain a maximum 3% ratio of oil to soap
- Bath Salt: Use 6 to 8 drops of essential oil in a tablespoon of bath salt
- Skin Cleanser: Apply 20 drops of oil to 120 ml of base
- Body Oil: Apply 6 drops of oil for 10 ml of base
- Washing Machine: Apply 5 to 10 drops of oil to powder detergent box
- Vacuum: Apply 5 drops to the cleaner bag
Important Safety Tips
Remember that essential oils occur naturally in high concentrations, so use them with great attention to dosage. Make sure that you have a working knowledge of the intended effects of the oil so you can know what to watch for and when to stop use. Rarely is a quantity of oil large enough to be expressed in ounces – pay attention to units.
Furthermore, consider these safety tips when using essential oils:
- Always dilute oils prior to use on skin (exception Tea Tree and Lavender)
- Remember that compromised skin integrity speeds up absorption
- Always test oils before using greater quantities
- Contact a physician or aromatherapist prior to use if you are pregnant, suffering from an illness or condition, or on medication
- Store oils away from infants and pets
- Do not apply essential oils to your eyes
- Follow specified guidelines for dilution at all times
- Ensure you maintain the proper dosage – too little is always better than too much
- Be careful with photosensitising oils
Essential Oils to Avoid When Pregnant
Under no circumstances should essential oils be applied to expectant mothers without proper research. While documented complications are rare, there are many essential oils that have been contraindicated for pregnant women:
- Bay Leaf
- Camphor White
- Carrot Seed
- Celery Seed
- Clove Bud
- Clary Sage
- Jasmine Absolute
- Juniper Berry
- Marjoram Sweet
- Parsley Seed
- Rose Absolute
- Spruce Black
- Thyme Red
- Thyme White
- Vanilla extract
Aromatherapy for Children
There is no conclusive evidence contraindicating the use of aromatherapy for children. In fact, children respond strongly to aromatherapy and other alternative medicine remedies because they are quick to heal and have had less exposure to toxins and unhealthy choices like the rest of us. Consistent essential oil use early in life can help to prevent illnesses, which children are prone to – especially those in school or daycare. Even in cases where illness has already taken hold, essential oils can assist in decreasing symptoms. If you are going to give your child aromatherapy, however, consider the following precautions:
- Use gentle oils – Lavender, Neroli, Geranium, Tea Tree, and Sweet Orange are all excellent options that kids like
- Always supervise children undergoing an aromatherapy treatment, especially if a lamp is involved
- Avoid harsher oils or those that may cause respiratory issues in kids: Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Peppermint
- Don’t apply oils on the skin directly, with the exception of 1 drop of Lavender or Tea Tree
- Remember to always dilute essential oils with a base. For two-year-olds and under, dilute to 0.25% or 1 drop per a half ounce. From 2 to 6 years of age, use 2 drops per a half ounce, and from 6 to 10 years of age, use 4 drops per a half ounce.
Best Essential Oils to Have at Home
1) Eucalyptus – beneficial for respiratory and viral infections. It is particularly popular in winter for colds, flu and other respiratory problems (inhalation)
2) Lavender – can be helpful for a range of skin problems including acne, oily skin, dandruff, burns, wounds, insect bites and stings. It is also an effective insect repellent
3) any citrusy oil – uplifting oils (bath), for example: Lemon is useful for treating oily skin and acne, Sweet Orange is beneficial for acne or blemish prone skin, mature, dry and irritated skin and dermatitis.
4) Tea Tree – natural antiseptic, beneficial for a wide range of skin problems including acne, blemishes, athletes foot, cold sores, blisters, insect bites, cuts, infected wounds
5) Rosemary – its analgesic properties can help to soothe aches, pains and stiff muscles (massages), and it can also be beneficial for relieving headaches and migraines
6) Clove Bud – strongest antiseptic properties
How to Maximise Life and Effectiveness of Your Oils
Proper storing of essential oils is imperative to maintain their full function. To best protect the structure of the natural ingredients, you must keep the oil away from sunlight. Tinted glass containers are most suitable, as too much light exposure can denature the helpful ingredients.
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