Fasten your seat belts because this truly is going to be a crash course. As time goes on I will get more in depth with the various ways to use essential oils. This is simply a primer to wet your appetite and hopefully start you on the journey of learning about aromatherapy. It’s a very fascinating and complicated topic with tons of varying opinions. At the end of the article I will give you some great book ideas and web sites for more in-depth learning.
Essential oils are the highly concentrated essences found in various parts of plants such as the nut, seed, petal, branch, root, peel, etc. The result is a liquid that can be used for healing purposes. Again, they are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.
Essential oils are NOT the same as fragrance oils and perfumes. True essential oils are derived solely from the plant they are extracted from. This gives them powerful and beneficial properties along with a (generally) wonderful scent.
Before we start keep this in mind:
Essential oils are not nuclear bombs. Meaning, you may be scared to touch them, but don’t be! They have a hands-on approach so the more you use them the more you will learn. Start small and it won’t be overwhelming. I promise that you won’t melt or ignite by using them as long as you use a little common sense. All oils deserve your respect so don’t start by slathering your body in them, or ingesting them like they are the next big thing.
Some of the more popular oils to start with are:
- Tea Tree
These oils are very well known and quite safe to work with which make them great “beginner” oils.
Why use essential oils?
There are many reasons to use essential oils but here are a few reasons that I use them:
- Essential oils have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties which make them extremely useful in warding off and preventing colds and the flu.
- Those same properties are also useful in making homemade non-toxic household cleaners.
- Certain oils also have antifungal properties which are useful in conditions such as ringworm and athletes foot.
- Essential oils smell delicious and are a great replacement for laboratory made synthetic fragrances and perfumes.
- Essential oils also have uplifting, invigorating, calming, clarifying, and many other properties that can help a person cope mentally and emotionally.
- Essential oils are perfect for homemade body care as they not only smell great but have properties that promote youthful skin, heal acne and other blemishes, reduce wrinkles, fine lines, etc.
- Essential oils can help ease PMS, headaches, aches and pains, and many other general ailments.
- Essential oils are great for first aid purposes such as cuts, scrapes, and burns because of their regenerative and healing properties.
Ways to incorporate essential oils in everyday life:
These are just a few of the ways I use essential oils in my everyday life:
- Homemade deodorant
- As a room spray
- Homemade laundry detergent
- Homemade toothpaste
- As a steam bath for congestion
- In a bathtub for relaxing, congestion, aches and pains, and many other reasons
- To prevent cold sores
- Homemade lip balm
- To soothe bug bites
- In homemade bug repellent
- As a homemade hand sanitizer
- To help soothe sore or aching muscles
- To relieve a tension headache
- Homemade face oil
- Homemade toilet bowl cleaner
- Homemade all purpose cleaning spray
- As homemade cleaning wipes
- And many other ways!
Various applications of essential oils:
There are many, many ways to utilize essential oils for healing purposes. Here are just a few:
- Diffuser: A diffuser can be any means by which to evaporate essential oils into the air. Some devices use heat from a tea light candle, others are plugged into the wall. You can even simply drop essential oils into hot water and they will “diffuse” into the air.
- Steam bath: A steam bath is basically using breathing the oils in to help with conditions such a coughs. It’s done by dropping a few drops of essential oils into hot water, leaning over the bowl with your eyes closed and a towel over your head to keep the steam in. You then inhale through your nose for several minutes.
- Bath: Dropping a few drops of essential oils into a bath can be a very rewarding experience. Depending on the oils you use it can be relaxing, cooling, soothing, uplifting, etc.
- Bath oil: A bath oil is made by mixing essential oils into a carrier oil such as apricot, almond, or olive oil and applying the mixture to your body. You then soak in a tubful of water and allow the oils to soak into your skin.
- Massage oil: Adding essential oils to various carrier oils such as coconut oil or almond oil make a wonderful massage oil. These can be useful for anything from sore muscles, to rubbing on the chest for sinus congestion, or simply a relaxing or romantic massage.
And of course you can use essential oils in salves, lotions, sprays, etc.
Some words of caution:
There are a few things on essential oils I would like to point out that deserve special attention.
- Citrus oils such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, etc., can cause photosensitivy which basically means use caution if you plan on being out in the sun. These oils attract the sun which could result in getting a sunburn very quickly. (More details on this later.)
- Highly irritating oils such as cinnamon, clove, thyme, etc., should never be used undiluted on the skin as they can cause irritation resulting in itching, burning, etc.
- Never use essential oils in the eyes. And make sure to close your eyes if you do a steam bath.
- In general, essential oils should never be used undiluted. Occasionally I will use lavender, eucalyptus, or tea tree for an acute issue such as a bug bite, burn, etc.
- Children can benefit greatly from essential oils, however, their dosage is much smaller of what an adult would be. Babies use even less, and they should stick with very mild oils.
Essential oils and pregnancy:
This is a pretty hot topic out there in the essential oil world and you will find tons of different opinions. Since I have never been pregnant I don’t necessarily feel qualified to give my “opinion”, but here it is anyway. During pregnancy, essential oils can be a great help for many common ailments such as nausea, fatigue, anxiety, stress, etc. There are many beautiful oils that are perfectly safe during pregnancy. However. On the flip side there are definitely oils that should not be used during pregnancy simply because they have properties that can stimulate contractions, would be too harsh for a baby’s tiny body, etc.
The lists you will find on the web are going to be very diverse. Not one looks exactly alike so it’s hard to give a definitive guide on which oils to use and which to avoid. I will list a few sites to check out in the reference section below.
Essential oils versus herbs:
As you know from my blog I am a huge fan of herbs. Some herbalists strictly use herbs and some incorporate essential oils. I am of the latter group because I feel essential oils and herbs have very different, but very important, parts to play in the world of natural healing. For instance, I use herbs internally all the time to maintain my family’s health. I take them as capsules, drink them in teas, use them in baking, take them as tinctures and infusions, and use them in body care. Other than in baking, I don’t generally take essential oils internally, but I use them for cleaning, topically on the skin, in baths, steams, and facials, and in times of chronic sickness. Together I feel they make a killer team that promotes health, wellness and a great quality of life.
Choosing a reputable company:
Quality definitely matters when it comes to essential oils. Many oils out there are not in their pure state. Finding a company you trust that produces consistently pure oils is very important. But how do you know if a company is of high quality? There are a few tell-tale signs to keep in mind. The following article is a fantastic guide to knowing if a company is high quality or not:
Also please keep in mind that labels such as “therapeutic grade” sound great, but those are terminologies used for marketing. There are no government regulations for what that means. Let me say that again. There are no tests that oils undergo to make them therapeutic grade. Unlike, for example, certified organic oils which do have to pass rigorous tests. I am NOT saying oils labeled as therapeutic grade are not high quality. I simply want people to know what that actually means. Wherever you choose to purchase your oils, please be sure they are from a reputable company and be very sure not to be mis-leading in how you discuss essential oils.
The books and websites I have found most useful in learning about essential oils are as follows, in no particular order:
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood: A fabulous in-depth book on essential oils. A great beginner’s guide but also useful for continual reference.
- Glossary of essential oils: A great website for learning the different terminologies used in aromatherapy.
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: A website with some very useful information on the safety of essential oils.
- Babycentre.co.uk: Information on using essential oils during pregnancy
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: Another good resource guide on the safety of essential oils among other things.
- The East West School for Herbal & Aromatic Studies: Here’s a another great article on how to buy quality essential oils
- Aromaweb: A website with articles, essential oil profiles, and recipes for various concoctions.
I certainly hope this helped a bit in becoming more familiar with essential oils. They are super fun to have around, and once you begin using them you won’t remember what life was like before!
My top ten favorite oils: (in no particular order)
- Tea Tree
- Fennel, Frankincense, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Palmarosa…oh wait. That’s more than ten. 🙂
Anyway, hopefully this will get you excited to explore the world of aromatherapy. Look for more recipes, profiles, etc. in the future!