Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Essential oils can be a wonderful tool to help you on the path to a happier, healthier life. These distilled plant essences have been used for thousands of years to treat common ailments naturally, either as an alternative or supplement to modern medicine. If you're interested in learning more about what essential oils are and how to use them, this article is for you!
What Exactly Are Essential Oils?
It's important to note that essential oils aren't actually oils at all! despite their appearance and the fact that oil is in the name, essential oils don't contain any fatty acids that characterize traditional oils.
Essential oils are actually highly concentrated compounds that are extracted from plants by pressing or steam distillation.
Steam distillation is the most common method of extracting essential oils from plants. The process involves suspending plant material over a container of boiling water. As the steam moves upward through the plant material, it collects the essential oils and deposits them in a receptacle. The final step occurs when the essential oil passes through a separator to remove any excess water.
The resulting compounds are called essential oils because they contain the "essence" or fragrance of the plant from which they are made.
Essential oils are simply the natural compounds of the plant that remain after the extraction process.
Do Essential Oils Actually Work?
Many people who don't understand the underlying science behind essential oils often think they are just bottles of scented oils that people use as an ineffective cure-all. This perception can be attributed to a variety of outlandish claims made by a number of uninformed individuals or companies just trying to turn a profit.
In reality, essential oils provide a variety of real-world health benefits when used correctly. No, essential oils won't cure diabetes, heal broken bones, or reverse aging, but numerous studies have shown that essential oils can be effective in treating common ailments such as anxiety, depression, nausea, and insomnia.
Essential Oil Safety
Before you begin your journey into the wonderful world of essential oils, there are a few things you should know that will keep you safe when working with essential oils. This is by no means a complete list, so if you are interested in using essential oils I highly recommend doing some additional research into essential oil safety.
Learn which oils to avoid when pregnant.
Certain essential oils can be harmful when you are pregnant, so be sure to review the complete list of oils to avoid.
Keep essential oils out of reach of children
There are essential oils that are safe for children, however it is always a good idea to keep your oils stored in a safe area to avoid accidental ingestion.
Some essential oils cause drowsiness
For some, the relaxation associated with certain essential oils may be helpful in the case of easing anxiety or promoting restful sleep, but these oils should be avoided when driving or performing other important tasks.
Use caution around pets
While some essential oils have been shown to be beneficial to animals, others can be extremely toxic for your pets. If you have animals in the house be very cautious and review each essential oil to determine their safety before using them around your pets.
Do not take internally without proper guidance
While we do not advise taking essential oils internally, some may choose to do so under the guidance of a proper medical professional. Do not consume essential oils without direction of a medical professional as some essential oils can be toxic when consumed.
How to Get Started Using Essential Oils
Start out by researching a few of the most common essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus to see if they might be able to help with a condition you are targeting. Otherwise the vast number of oils and blends may be overwhelming!
It's always a good idea to research any essential oil you plan on using to avoid any allergic reactions or complications with medications you are taking. Certain health conditions may also affect your essential oil use, so be sure to read up on any oil you are interested in trying.
After you research the oils you are interested in using you can begin the process of experiencing them for yourself. One of the best ways to do this is visit your local health and wellness store to test the oil in person. Most of your local health stores should have a large selection of essential oils from a variety of brands.
If you are unsure that you will like a certain aroma, there are often testers that will allow you to smell or apply the oil before buying. Be sure to check with a store associate before trying an oil topically, they will know which ones are suitable for this type of application.
3. Pick a Brand
Once you have determined which oil or blend of oils may work best for the condition you are looking to alleviate, it is time to decide which brand of oil to use. This can be a daunting task with the vast number of options that are available, but your local health and wellness store should be able to help point you in the right direction.
Keep in mind that there are varying grades of essential oil ranging from commercial grade (used in soaps and candles), to therapeutic grade (common in low cost essential oils), and certified organic which contains no pesticides or preservatives.
Now we get to experience the full benefit that essential oils have to offer. We did the research, tested the oil, decided on a brand to use, so now we can start blending.
Blending is the process of mixing two or more essential oils. We do this because one essential oil might not have all of the compounds we need to treat the issue we are trying to address.
There are a variety of great resources for essential oil blends online and many companies offer pre-mixed blends, but I have found that experimenting with my own blends is a fun way to learn about how each oil interacts with others.
If you decide you would like to try blending oils yourself you can find a selection of helpful tools here. I personally like to use a 5ml cobalt glass bottle to store my blends. The cobalt glass offers great UV protection that keeps your blends from degrading with exposure to sunlight. You may also want to look at the glass liquid droppers to help you measure out your blend and prevent spills.
The final step in getting started with essential oils is determining the best method of application for your particular oil or blend. Apart from topical application, the most common method of using essential oils is with a powered diffuser. Other options are available including diffuser necklaces, lava bead bracelets, essential oil inhalers, and Thera-Clip nasal inhalers. Each of these have their own unique benefits, so follow the links if you would like to learn more about how each option can help you get the most out of your aromatherapy experience.
Exploring the world of essential oils can be exciting once you realize what these powerful plant extracts can do. Whether you are looking to relieve anxiety, depression, nausea, insomnia, or a variety of other health concerns, essential oils can be the natural aid you've been looking for!