This is the most comprehensive guide to essential oils.
In this expert-written guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about the benefits and uses of essential oil, how to best apply them to get the most out of them and a brief overview about their history.
So if you’re looking to learn more about essentail oils, you’ll love this guide. Let’s dive right in.
The Benefits Of The Most Commonly Used Essential Oils
(Quick Reference List)
1. Lavender Essential Oil
In case you want to learn more about Lavender Essential Oil, have a look a the following articles:
2. Rosemary Essentail Oil
In case you want to learn more about Lavender Essential Oil, have a look a the following articles:
The Science Behind Essential Oils
In essence, essential oils are highly concentrated compounds which are derived from plants. They can come from different parts of a plant, either from flowers, stems, bark, seeds, or the roots. Usually, they are extracted from the plant through the distillation process, and they bear the therapeutic properties inherent to that plant.
You might be wondering how essential oils work their magic if used for a specific purpose. Well, essential oils are composed of very miniscule molecules which can be absorbed by your body and chemically interact with it in various ways. Just like how essential oils are useful for treating gout, they also work well in killing germs and bacteria on surfaces. With their ability to penetrate the cell wall of the bacteria, they are proven effective against many disease-causing pathogens.
Differentiating Pure Essential Oils From Synthetic Fragrances
You can find essential oils in a lot of products you use and see every day, such as your soap, perfume, scented candle, cleaner, and many more. However, not all of them are made from pure essential oils but from synthetic fragrances which can smell exactly the same. Despite their similar scent, they differ in terms of chemical composition.
The special and unique chemicals found in certain plants called secondary metabolites are responsible for the wonderful characteristics of pure essential oils. The most abundant of these chemicals are known as terpenes are what provides the aromatic qualities of the oils. Other compounds commonly found in essential oils are alkaloids and phenolics which work together in providing a wide range of health and medical benefits to humans. These beneficial effects depend on the amount, mixture, and how these chemical compounds are absorbed by your body.
This is the reason why when you inhale the scent of a candle, which is one of the many uses of lavender essential oil, you will be calmed and feel relaxed. This reaction from your body may not be the same in the case of breathing in a synthetic lavender fragrance. Or worse, products made from synthetic fragrances may also contain some harmful chemicals. In fact, studies reveal that some of them are potential carcinogens like the ones identified in synthetic styrene.
So, if you want to bask in the full therapeutic and healing properties of the oil, consider only using pure essential oils. After all, great civilizations have been relying on these oils for their aromatic needs and other purposes. This brings us to the interest of how this natural wonder came about.
Looking Back At The Brief History Of Essential Oils
The origin and discovery of essential oils can be tied closely as to how herbal medicine came into being. This is because certain plants were used for medicinal purposes long before the ancient people have learned to extract the oils from those plants.
While it would be hard to pinpoint the exact period when essential oils were first used, their significant advancements happened between 4,500 and 3,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt. Egyptians were known for their avid fascination in aromatics which was very evident in their medicinal and spiritual practices, particularly the burning of aromatic herbs and woods. Followed by the ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations, these cultures have also shown a strong inclination to aromatics and the healing properties of herbs. They made further developments in the use of essential oils, focusing more on their medicinal properties.
Unfortunately, when the Dark Ages came, the holistic medicine and use of essential oils became less common, and they were produced in minimal quantities and primarily for perfumes only. Fortunately, when the Renaissance kicked in during the 14th century, people in Europe gained a renewed interest in medicine. It was this time when a famous physician named Paracelsus brought back the power of aromatics and the respect for essential oils as an effective natural treatment for a number of medical conditions. Hundreds of years later, they were recognized to treat a variety of diseases such as the proven effectiveness of essential oils for bronchitis and essential oils for tinnitus.
During the 20th century, almost three hundred different essential oils were studied and cataloged, and most of them became an important component of health care systems in parts of Europe and Asia. Their use has become widespread and so popular nowadays that many people have embraced their efficacy in many areas, particularly in aromatherapy.
The Modern Ways Of Extracting Essential Oils
While essential oils of today carry the same potent qualities as before, their major difference from the ancient times is the advances in their extraction techniques. However, similar to that of the old way of extracting the oil from flowers and leaves, distillation remains the most effective methods. The process is called steam distillation. While most manufacturers use this technique in producing essential oils, other alternative methods use a different medium to extract the oil. Here are the three common ones with each one explained in details.
1. The Steam Distillation Method
This extraction method is done with the parts of the plant placed inside of a sill which is then sealed. The distillation catalyst is then injected into the sill, such as steam, water, or their combination. The plant will start to break down through the high temperature of the steam or water, which causes the oils to evaporate from the plant itself and rise into a condenser where they cool down and return back into their liquid form. This liquid is then being collected in a container or chamber placed below the condenser, where the oil will then be ready to use.
2. The Expression or Cold Pressing Method
Another conventional method of extracting essential oils from plants is known as expression or cold pressing. It works best to extract oil from citrus plants like lemons and oranges. Initially, this process was done manually, but with the advent of modern technology, it's now being performed using a dedicated machine.
Citrus essential oils require the application of cold pressing because they can't handle the high heat used in the steam distillation technique. Expression uses a large amount of pressure to extract the oils from a citrus plant, while the machine is also capable of piercing and spinning the citrus peel while the high pressure is being applied.
3. The Carbon Dioxide Extraction Method
This method is the modern development made from the old way of using solvents to produce absolutes which are similar to essential oils, but they contain small amounts of the solvent. With the CO2 extraction method, the extraction of the oils becomes entirely natural without the use of harmful chemical solvents like ethanol or petroleum.
This technique uses an increasing pressure to extract the oil with the help of a carbon dioxide that becomes part-liquid and part-gas during the extraction process. Once the essential oils are extracted, the CO2 returns to its gaseous form when the pressure had decreased, leaving behind no residue of harmful compounds.
The Various Uses And Top Benefits Of Essential Oils
So, after taking a pause and looking back at how essential oils came about and the different ways of extracting them, you may now have a good grasp of how this natural wonder works its magic and became so widely known. Now, you will be further amazed to learn how you can use essential oils in many different ways and enjoy their wonderful benefits.
If you want to join the growing community of people who are opting to go green by significantly cutting the use of potentially dangerous chemicals out of their daily lives, then the use of essential oils would be your best recourse. From promoting good sleep to relieving your constipation and treating any swollen lymph nodes, essential oils offer a wide range of health benefits when used appropriately.
This is how essential oils were first known that people across the world have enjoyed for thousands of years now. A mist is produced by the application of a heat source that can either be through a candle or by using an electric essential oil burner. Whichever way, diffusers are a great option to bask in the amazing relaxation and other benefits that aromatherapy provides.
You can choose from among the various essential oils, such as lavender, ylang-ylang, orange, cinnamon, eucalyptus, oregano, and so on. The chemical compounds present in these oils have excellent properties that promote relaxation and good sleep, relieve stress and boost energy levels. You can start by trying a collection of different essential oils to know which one works best for you.
2. Immune System Boosting
To keep your body in good shape and to fight diseases, it is vital to have a robust immune system. It helps you to do your daily activities and cope up with work-related stresses. You can boost your immune system naturally and affordably with the use of essential oils.
Many of them have been proven to provide immune system boosting effects and reduce the risk factors that can compromise the condition of your immune system. The most common choices include lemon, frankincense, ginger, raven, tea tree, oregano, and eucalyptus essential oils.
3. Natural Cleaning Agent
With more and more companies being forced to disclose the use of any potentially dangerous chemicals in manufacturing cleaning products, findings reveal that many of the ingredients they use are known to be toxic to humans.
While some may not pose serious health risks, most of them are considered to be harmful. This is where the natural cleansing power of essential oils comes in. With their powerful anti-microbial properties, essential oils like lemon and peppermint are a perfect natural alternative product that you can use to clean and disinfectant various items and surfaces in your house. You can use them as cleaning sprays to give you the same benefits with very little to no risk at all.
4. Natural Cosmetic Products
Just like cleaning products, there are a lot of beauty products which are made from chemicals which can have harmful side effects. More so, because cosmetics are directly applied to your skin on a daily basis. While you can do your research to find out whether the ones you are using do contain traces of those potentially harmful chemicals, it would be a difficult task.
Fortunately, several essential oils such as rose, lavender, and helichrysum are abundant with the natural ingredients that can help keep your skin and hair look and stay healthy. Some beauty care products use them as one of their main components just to say that they're made naturally.
5. Safe Pest Repellents
If pests are one of your headaches at home, the use of essential oils is an excellent alternative to using harmful bug repellents such as DEET. Many of the essential oils have equally the same pest repelling ability as the chemical product without posing any health risks to you and your family.
Lavender essential oil, for instance, is best known for its effective repellent properties for keeping furniture beetles at bay, as well as moths and other pests that may infest your home.
Moreover, if your primary concern is terminating fleas on your cats, there are also essential oils which are effective in doing the task and free your pets of such pest.
The list of other potential uses and benefits of essential oils can go endless. The ones identified above are the primary ways how you can use them, but there are still more.
While they differ in the way you use them, all essential oils share a common denominator. That is they can help promote your overall health and wellness. So by now, you might be wondering how exactly you can use essential oils to your advantage.
The Different Ways to Apply Essential Oils
Apart from the flexibility of essential oils in terms of their uses, they are also very versatile when it comes to the application process. They can be applied to benefit your body in three ways. They can be utilized topically to your skin, inhaled through your nose, and ingested through your mouth.
It's important to know how each one works to help you better understand how to use them for your needs effectively.
1. Topical Application
You have to keep in mind that not all essential oils can be directly applied to your skin, particularly those with have high concentrations. They should be diluted in a carrier oil first, such as coconut oil, before they can be used. Massage is the most common topical application of essential oils.
When it comes to caring for the wounds, essential oils are effective by merely applying them topically on the skin. In particular, treating toenail fungus is possible by using this natural remedy at home. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of several oils are proven to help relieve such problem and other medical conditions.
Other ways of topical application for essential oil are the hot or cold compress where a dressing can be placed on the affected area, or can also be added to your hot bath where it will be absorbed by your skin in full strength.
When using oils topically, it's advisable to apply them on body parts where sweat glands are for better absorption of the body. These include the palms of your hand, soles of your feet, head, armpit, hair follicles, and genitals. And finally, if it's your first to apply an oil, do a patch test first for allergic reactions or skin irritation.
2. Internal Application
Essential oils that are safe for ingestion usually come in supplement form which can be taken by mouth or available in suppository form. They are typically used to treat various stomach problems like an upset stomach and acid reflux, as well as improve the gut performance to aid in the digestion process. Since they are taken internally, you will receive the full health benefits of the oil.
However, it's crucial to know that plenty of essential oils are not safe to be ingested. So, you need to talk with a qualified medical professional first before swallowing any of the oils. Ingesting the wrong oil or taking it in excessive amounts can result in serious health issues. It may also cause adverse reactions if you are under certain medications.
3. Inhalant Application
One of the best ways to use essential oils is through the sense of smell. The simple process of inhaling the scent of the oil has a great effect on the respiratory system, the limbic system, and more so the brain.
This is why inhalation of the oil has been proven to improve mood and help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. It replaces those negative feelings with more positive emotions while making you feel more relaxed. For instance, peppermint oil is believed to increase alertness while the rosemary oil is proven to improve memory recall and promote relaxation of the mind.
Essential oils can be inhaled in many ways. The most common is through a diffuser where the oil is burnt to release the desired scent into the air. Another option is by using a spray that can be used to freshen up a room and illicit good mood. Others prefer the process of dry evaporation where the scent of the oil can be directly inhaled from a material like a cotton ball for immediate effect. You may also add a few drops to your pillowcase for better sleep.
Lastly, you can even inhale essential oil by steaming or vaporizing it to relieve symptoms of cold or flu. Inhaling the vapor of the oil deeply can unclog a stuffy nose and ease a sore throat.
Choosing The Right Essential Oil For Your Needs
Now comes the time that you know how to choose the right essential oil you need. The most important thing that you should always remember is that not all essential oils are created equal. You would encounter so many types and different brands as you search the market. Each product promises to deliver great benefits and claims to give you the best quality. But how do you if that's right? Here are the three things you should know before buying an essential oil so that you won't be fooled by marketing ploy and end up buying a synthetic fragrance oil.
1. Your Intended Use For The Essential Oil
Firstly, you have to carefully think about how do you plan to use the oil. Will it be as a natural beauty care product or for aromatherapy purposes? Determining its intended use is very important as each type of essential oil is better for a specific application than the other. Using fragrance oils for your personal care can actually cause you more harm than good. Another crucial fact about essential oils is that they're not regulated by the FDA, making it easy for manufacturers to claim anything they want to advertise their products. So, consider only 100% pure essential oils that went through rigorous processes to ensure the best quality.
2. Go Only For The Trusted Brands
The product is only as good as the person or company that makes it. This is even more true in the case of the essential oil brand you pick to buy. The best essential oil brands won't hesitate to share all the information you want to know about their products, such as their cultivation and harvest processes. You will learn any details you want to know by visiting the company's website or talking to one of their staff. They should not be hesitant to freely give you everything you need to learn. One vital information you must ask is whether the company has strict quality control by undergoing lab testing. These tests are called as GC/MS which tell you that their essential oil is what they say it really is. In this way, you would be confident that you're buying from a trusted brand.
3. Beware Of The Cost
While cost is one of your considerations, there's no way it should be your top priority in choosing the right essential oil that works best to your advantage. Usually, 100% natural and pure essential oils are priced higher than less superior brands. This is simply because the additional cost is necessary to pay for the rigorous production processes, including the testing made for each bottled oil. After all, you can still save on using even just a few drops of pure essential oil that's proven effective than using larger amounts of less potent product made from poor quality.
Throughout history, essential oils have made a significant journey from as early as humanity had discovered the natural healing properties of medicinal herbs. After civilizations have perfected the techniques of extracting essential oils from various plant parts, further developments were made to use them in many different ways. Modern extraction methods further made the use of this volatiles widely famous.
More importantly, studies revealed the undeniable efficacy and potency of essential oils not only in the field of aromatherapy but in treating a number of medical conditions. This makes the use of essential oils so popular nowadays as a natural ingredient for plenty of personal care and housecleaning products, as well as an effective remedy to relieve many illnesses.
Just keep in mind though that not all essential oils out there are made equal, so pay extra attention to the things identified earlier for you to choose the oil that perfectly suits your need and gives great value to your money.