Did you know essential oils can positively impact your health? Until recently neither did I. Having just completed a Clinical Aromatherapy Certification, I am now fully aware of just how beneficial essential oils can be!
Essential oils are extracted from every part of the aromatic plants and flowers; petals, stems, leaves, bark, seeds, and resins as well. Not all plants are aromatic but many of them definitely are. In fact, there are 300 essential oils currently being extracted from the plant kingdom. The most common way to extract these oils is through steam distillation.
Essential oils are effective in two ways; through the olfactory system, or sense of smell, and through absorption by applying them topically. It only takes 20 seconds to absorb essential oils into the systems of the body and this is what makes them so effective in healing.
Essential oils should be diluted in carrier oils, i.e. coconut, jojoba, rosehip, sweet almond or argan oils; in gels such as aloe vera gel; or in lotions such as facial and body lotions, before applying topically, as pure, good quality essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause irritation if not diluted. Steam inhalation is a very effective method of diluting and using essential oils, particularly if you have a cold. Diffusers can be purchased for a room, or just add a few drops to a bowl of hot water and put a towel over your head. Essential oils can be added to bath and body products, facial lotions and serums, shampoos ad conditioners, foot baths and spritzers. You can use just one essential oil or make a blend. Certain essential oils, when combined together, are very effective for specific ailments. Dilution rates are important too and I will address them later.
Some of the many ways essential oils can be used for health related issues are outlined below.
Eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and any citrus oil can be inhaled into the body to boost the immune system!
Calming the Mind
Basil essential oil can calm and tonify the mind for better focus and concentration.
One particular blend of essential oils effective for insomnia is lavender, marjoram, and clary sage. Or you can use lavender, Roman chamomile, bitter orange, neroli, or frankincense individually to calm you and help you relax.
Uplifting Your Mood
Bergamot essential oil is especially effective for depression, but any citrus oil (lemon, wild orange, grapefruit) will heighten your mood. Some recent studies (12 in total) found that essential oils used in massage therapy helped people suffering from depression immensely! The best carrier oil to use with bergamot for massage is sweet almond oil. Three noteworthy blends found to be effective when placed in a diffuser were: 1) clary sage, lavender & bergamot; 2) neroli & petitgrain; and 3) rose otto, orange & sandalwood. Basil, frankincense, jasmine, marjoram, rose, chamomile and ylang ylang essential oils are great for depression as well.
Women, in particular who suffer from anxiety do better with a lavender-sandalwood essential oil-soaked patch, according to a recent study, although orange and peppermint together are also helpful. All the essential oils mentioned above for uplifting mood apply for anxiety as well.
Headaches and Migraines
Aromatherapy is very effective for relieving headaches, and even migraines. Generally, you want to choose essential oils with calming properties, such as chamomile, frankincense, and geranium. Peppermint neat (straight out of the bottle) is very soothing for migraines when rubbed into the temples. Unadulterated (100% pure) peppermint essential oil can be very effective for headaches when inhaled directly from the bottle as well. Lemon essential oil is great for when a migraine leads to nausea, and works really well for morning sickness (not Australian Lemon Balm, however).
Aches and Pains
Musculoskeletal pain, in particular can be relieved somewhat by using the right essential oils. The essential oils that have analgesic properties include black pepper, eucalyptus, lavender, ginger, nutmeg, sweet birch, peppermint and German chamomile. Essential oils are either warming or cooling so choosing the right one at any given moment is important. If an injury is recent (within the first 72 hours) it usually involves inflammation, therefore you must use a cooling essential oil. Some cooling anti-inflammatory essential oils include peppermint, German chamomile, lavender, turmeric and yarrow. After 72 hours, or when the inflammation goes down, you can safely use warming essential oils. These include black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, and cumin. In the event of muscle spasms and lower back pain, the essential oils with antispasmodic properties include marjoram, clary sage, lavender, basil, Roman chamomile, and tarragon.
Anyone over 50 often wants to know how to relieve arthritis pain. The right essential oil used at the right time can be very helpful. Cooling essential oils can be used in cold compresses for flare-ups (inflammation). Add a few drops to a compress already soaked in cold water. Lavender, geranium, Roman chamomile and tea tree oils have great cooling, anti-inflammatory properties. Warming essential oils can be used for stiffness to increase the range of motion. These again are black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon and cumin and can be used under a heating pad in a warm compress for greatest effect. Tip: Wrap plastic wrap around any compress to increase absorption.
Even varicose veins can be relieved with essential oils. Cyprus is the best one to use, preferably diluted down to 1-2% in a carrier oil and rubbed into the legs. A low dilution is best as you will want to do this every day.
Some essential oils can actually reduce deep lines and wrinkles! Frankincense is excellent for this and was found to be especially effective when diluted (4%) in jojoba oil. Rosehip oil is also very effective to use as a carrier oil for an anti-aging serum when combined with frankincense, as is oil of primrose and geranium oil in a 1% dilution.
As I mentioned earlier, dilution is very important. Healthy adults can tolerate high dilution rates, however for children, seniors, and pregnant or nursing mothers this isn't the case. Basically, for most adults a 1-5% dilution is standard, and a 5-25% dilution is fine for acute conditions such as burns. 3 drops of essential oil added to 10ml of any carrier oil = a 1% solution. 15 drops of essential oil added to 10ml of carrier oil = a 5% solution. To make a one ounce (30 ml) anti-aging serum add 9 drops of essential oil to your chosen carrier oil for a 1% solution. To make a spritzer for use on a sunburn, make a 5-25% dilution by adding 25 drops to 100 ml distilled water in a spray bottle. Keep in the fridge and shake before you use it. Anytime you prepare essential oils for use on children or seniors, you must cut the dilution rate in half to avoid irritation. Essential oils must be used with caution on pregnant or lactating women as many can cause irritation to a baby. As the list is quite extensive, make sure you do some research to determine which ones these might be.
Aromatherapy is a great hobby and is very easy to learn. Essential oils have so many uses I couldn't mention them all here! Definitely take a course if you think you might want to incorporate them in your daily life. There are some great courses online for a minimal cost, or you can check out your local college. There are so many benefits to using them, it really is mind-boggling! One thing I forgot to mention is that it's really important to buy good quality oils. If the essential oils are extremely cheap ($6.00 each) they are not good oils and you shouldn't buy them. They will be cut with other ingredients that may not be named (fillers). Smell the oils to ensure you can actually smell them. Also ensure they don't feel oily. I know they are "oils" but pure essential oils should not leave an oily residue on any surface. You can purchase pure, unadulterated USDA Certified Organic essential oils on my website if you have trouble finding good quality oils in your area. Go to www.essanteorganics.com/BlissBling where you will find a large variety of high grade essential oils in their purest form. Namaste!