Friday, March 21, 2014
What are Essential Oils?
Something all-natural that's becoming increasing popular among "crunchy" people are essential oils.
So what are they?
An essential oil is a natural oil that is extracted from plants or other sources. Essential oils have been around for thousands of years and used in everything from aromatherapy to hygiene to healthcare. Fragrance oils and essential oils are different. The oils I am talking about are pure, undiluted and can be used therapeutically.
Most are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral. That is why they have such great uses in getting and staying healthy. Because they are natural, they cannot be patented. That is why pharmaceuticals do not contain any essential oils. They cannot patent them, therefore they do not use them.
It takes hundred of pounds of plants, flowers, or fruits to get small amounts of the oils, so they are very concentrated. Because they are so concentrated, many oils should not be used directly on the skin. You can dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil for use on the skin though.
I think it's crazy how long essential oils have been around and used for ailments and disease, but the doctors of this day and age do not use them regularly, if at all. For example, going back to Bible days, oils like frankincense and myrrh were used.
Frankincense is used in pretty much anything skin related: burns, rashes, cuts, scrapes, and oozing sores. It is even used to help prevent the skin from prematurely aging and "turns back time." It can promote calmness when smelled. It has a sweet and warm aroma so some people like to use it as perfume.
Myrrh is used in many ways as well. It can help smooth cracked and chapped skin, it can repel insects, it is used as an antiseptic, and a study has even shown it kills cancer cells! It was the most mentioned oil in the Bible, for a total of 156 times! Here are some of the ways essential oils can be used:
Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy.
Smelling certain oils like rosemary can actually improve memory recall and brain performance. Other oils can elevate mood, balance hormones, and increase alertness.
Essential oils can be used to fight illness and infection.
Taking oils internally can help fight illness such as the flu and can help fight infections due to their natural antibacterial and antiviral qualities. They help to boost the natural immune system, helping the body to fight infection. They can also be rubbed on the body (some must be diluted) and the skin soaks them in well to aide in healing.
Essential oils can be used in skincare and bath products.
Essential oils are great to use in on the skin due to their healing properties, moisturizing capability, and their great smell. Some oils can be used directly on the skin, but it depends on skin sensitivity. I made the mistake recently of trying a new oil on my skin. Lavender doesn't bother me at all but I tried lemon and it really started burning very quickly! After I got it washed off though, it quickly went away. I would not suggest using undiluted oils on sensitive skin.
Also, some hot oils like oregano and cinnamon should never be used undiluted on skin. You should also never use an undiluted oil on a baby or child. They have much thinner and more sensitive skin than we do, so always dilute oils before using.
Essential oils can be used for cleaning and in other ways around the house.
I first learned about essential oils in a cleaning class where I learned to make my own non-toxic cleaners. Tea tree oil is great for disinfecting and peppermint oil makes an awesome bug deterrent.
Some oils should be skipped during pregnancy, especially oils that are used to promote and regulate menstrual flow. You also should avoid essential oils from contact with the eyes. I use undiluted peppermint oil on my forehead for headaches, and the menthol irritates my eyes for a bit, so I would definitely NOT want to get any IN my eye. There are certain oils that are thought to improve vision and eye health but it is strongly recommended to consult with your eye doctor before trying.
Essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles, out of sunlight. This is to preserve their potency, but also because essential oils can deteriorate plastic, therefore you should never use essential oils in a plastic container. I try to avoid plastics anyways due to the chemicals.
I am just getting started with essential oils and only have a few bottles in different brands at the moment. I am hoping to get a kit soon with many different oils in it. Good quality essential oils are on the expensive side, but they are so worth it. I have heard many testimonials attest to their greatness! On future posts I plan to go in depth and share some of these with you, along with specific uses for essential oils.
Do you use essential oils? I would love to hear your testimonies below!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and cannot be held liable by opinions I have stated in this post. This is for informational purposes only.