What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated liquids from plants that contain volatile aroma compounds. They are most used in aromatherapy and consist in entirely of botanical manner. Essential oils may be also known as volatile oils or ethereal oils. Similar to herbs essential oils have many uses that include aromatherapy, pharmacology, food flavoring and perfumery.
Botanical oils should be used with caution since they do carry potential dangers. Natural products are often healthy, but they must still be adequately dosed. Too much can be toxic to our bodies. When experimenting with a new oil or when trying essential oils for the first time it is very important to follow the directions.
How Are Essential Oils Made?
Essential oils are extracted from the plant in a process called distillation. The plant is heated by steam and the heat breaks down and releases the oils. The steam is cooled then turned into water and then the oils and the water are separated from each other. The oil is also filtered to ensure its purity.
Distillation is the most popular extraction for oil since it is easy and effective, but there are other methods that can be used as well. Sometimes essential oils can be extracted by just pressing on the plant. For instance grapes, oranges, lemons have strong-smelling juices just by pressing on the fruit.
Uses For Essential Oils
Botanical oils have many uses because there fresh and abundant aromas. They are commonly used in perfumes, cosmetics, personal hygiene products, soaps, and cleaning products. They may also be added to food and drinks thanks to their flavoring properties. For centuries essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes, primarily to treat skin conditions and diseases. In modern times chemically based medicines have been proven to be effective in treating these conditions, and evidence based research shows no proof that essential oils are effective from a medical standpoint.
Still, essential oils have been drawing in more attention for their ability to act as an alternative medicine. While understood that essential oils are not effective at treating infection or curing cancer, botanical oils may manage symptoms like anxiety and stress, lowering the risk of certain health conditions. Additionally, essential oils used in massage and aromatherapy can have curative effects on the total health and well-being of our bodies.
Even though there may be some uncertainty regarding the healing effects of botanical oils, we can be certain that these oils are much better for our bodies than using chemically based products. Using oil based products may prevent certain cancers and health conditions, so in a way, they can be part of a preventive lifestyle.
For instance, traditional cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that have been linked to various health conditions and especially dangerous to those with allergies and asthma. Thymol is an essential oil that is contained in all natural cleaning products, and this ingredient is safe yet provides the same disinfectant properties as harsher ingredients. Which would you chose for your own home?
The bottom line is this: while we have discovered all there is to know about essential oils, choosing products that are oil based rather than chemically based are better for the environment, our health and overall well-being.
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy deserves its own spotlight since essential oils are the core of this holistic alternative therapy. Aromatherapy uses volatile plant materials to alter a person’s mind, mood, and health. It’s true that there is limited research that supports essential oils from a medical standpoint, but research does show that these essential oils have many benefits in a therapeutic setting.
For those who believe in the power of oils, great things may follow a therapeutic session especially when coupled with a massage. People have stated that botanical oils have reduced anxiety, enhance energy and improve short-term memory. Other have attested to essential oils’ ability to help with skin issues, hair loss prevention and relaxation.
To the many people who are comforted, relaxed and perhaps even relieved of various symptoms, scientific research doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is the fact that something simple and natural can lead to improved health and cognitive functioning.
still what we must wonder is what is it about essential oils that give them their healing effects, even if these effects can’t be measured in scientific analysis.
Why Essential Oils Have Curative Effects
When looking at the structure of botanical oils, we can understand how these substances can aid in natural healing. First the aromas that are released from the oils go through the olfactory system and then work on the limbic system. The limbic system is responsible for controlling our emotional responses; therefore its soothing, calming sense produced by the oils have the same effects on the brain.
When the brain is more relaxed, it means that we have a better state of mind. Obviously with calmer senses comes less stress, anxiety, depression. We may approach an old problem in a way register pain differently or develop improved sleep pattern, which all alleviate depression and anxiety. Second, there may be indeed pharmacological effects of essential oils even though our understanding of the connection between the body and the aromatic oils has yet to be measured by conventional science and medicine.
Important: The biggest mistake someone can do is to use too much or consume them too often. It is important to treat essential oils as antibiotics or over-the-counter medication. There is no formally approved grading standard used consistently throughout the essential oil industry. No governmental agency or generally accepted organization “grades” or “certifies” essential oils as “therapeutic grade,” “medicinal grade,” or “aromatherapy grade” in the U.S. Be cautious of the oils made using alcohol as they are not always 100% pure. Also when looking for food grade essential oils read the bottle and make sure they are properly labeled for ingesting.
Buying Essential Oils
If you decide that botanical oils may improve your health and your well-being, your next step will be to purchase the oils. Essential oils are sold in small bottles that are 5ml, 10ml, or 15ml in size. When purchasing essential oils, it should be used with in the first few months since the solution will start to oxidize within six months or so. When oxidation occurs, the oils start to lose aromas and their healing properties. There are some oils that contradict this in fact, as botanical oils such as patchouli oil and sandalwood mature with age.
It is best if oils are stored in amber or cobalt blue containers or bottles. As the darker bottles help filter out sunlight which break down the structure of the oil. Glass is always the best material for oil but essential oils can be sold in aluminum-lined bottles. Plastic bottles are not idea as the oils eat away at the plastic.
The price of essential oils varies greatly because the quality of the oil. Factors that affect the quality of aromatic oils depends on the country of origin, region, climate, and growing conditions, the quality standards of the distiller and how much oil was produced. As with other products its best to find a brand you like and trust your essential oil purchases.
How To Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are used in a variety of ways, but not all can be used in the same manner. For instance oils are very popular in massage and aromatherapy, but only some can be applied directly to the skin. Lavender and tea tree oil are often safe where as other oils need a carrier oils to dilute them. Reading labels are extremely important in this context, and its always best to test a small area of skin to ensure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.
Another way that aromatic oils can be used is through inhalation. Done with care, essential oils can provide therapeutic as oil molecules enter the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream. There are also certain oils that can be taken in pill form, but this should be done under supervision of a medical professional. These pills can be taken orally or as a suppository, but like all medications, they do have side effects and should never be taken with out the consent of a doctor.
Essential oils are intriguing, they have been around for centuries, yet we still know little about them. When used appropriately botanical oils have neutral effects on the body which enhance energy, reduce anxiety, and combat fatigue without having to put any additional chemicals into the body.