There are many kinds of oils, but only one kind of essential oil. The word “essential” means that it is the most basic or crucial part. The essential oil is the lifeblood of the plant, which carries nutrients throughout its structure. This concentrated liquid has many health benefits and can be mixed with base oils to make them more powerful, effective, and long-lasting.
They have been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in one way or another by humans. It is even estimated that people have been using oil before recorded history.
The uses vary from health to skincare and everything in between, but they can be very beneficial to us all around. For some reason, there seems to be a lousy connotation surrounding essential oils as if they were not good for you, which is simply untrue.
This article covers where oils come from, their purpose, how they work, and some practical uses based on this information.
Where do essential oils come from?
Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds that are extracted from plants. The extraction process can be done in a number of ways, but the most common method is steam distillation. This involves placing the plant material in a distillation chamber and passing steam through it. The heat from the steam causes the essential oils to vaporize, and they are then collected and cooled to produce a pure product.
Another popular method of extraction is cold pressing, which is often used for citrus fruits. In this case, the peel of the fruit is pressed to release the essential oils. Essential oils play a variety of roles in nature, blocking out harmful UV rays and attracting pollinators.
They also play an important role in human health, providing numerous benefits when used topically or diffused into the air. Whether you’re looking to improve your physical or mental well-being, essential oils can be a powerful addition to your natural health arsenal.
What is their purpose?
The reason that essential oils exist is to carry nutrients throughout the plant and protect it from outside elements.
Everything we see about them helps us understand how powerful they can be when used correctly. It makes sense that a seed or root would hold nutrients because it is the only thing directly responsible for growing and producing a new plant. A flower’s role is to reproduce, so it carries pollen that could come from anywhere and attract bees, which then helps with reproduction and pollination.
The bark of trees protects them from outside elements such as weather, predators, etc., just like our skin does for us. Leaves gather energy from the sun through photosynthesis and distribute this throughout the plant.
They also have to protect themselves from too much sun exposure, just like we do with sunscreen! We are all made up of pretty similar stuff when you get down to it, even if plants lack several of the needed organs to be classified as “alive.”
How do essential oils work?
These natural liquids are incredibly complex combinations of numerous things. The main chemicals in oils are called terpenes, which can exist by themselves or in combination with others for thousands of different smells and uses.
Some essential oils have been shown to have calming effects, while others may boost energy levels or improve mental focus. In addition, some essential oils can be applied topically, where they are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.
The exact way that essential oils work is still not fully understood, but there is evidence that they can be helpful in promoting overall health and well-being.
What is their practical use?
The most common practical use is in aromatherapy, in which certain scents are used to create a specific result in one’s body or mind.
However, they also have hundreds of other uses, including:
- creating perfumes
- adding flavor to food
- promoting sleep
- killing harmful bacteria
- repelling insects
- protecting the skin from damage
- embellishing soaps, lotions, body washes, or other skincare products
- cooking, to add flavor or as a preservative for homemade food items
- benefiting the soil by being mixed into compost to enhance fertility and reduce pests in gardens
- improving moods by diffusing them throughout the air
- treating a variety of ailments such as migraines and toothaches
Essential oil safety guidelines.
The skin is the biggest organ of the body and can easily absorb what it comes in contact with, so there are some safety precautions to consider when utilizing them.
- They should never be used on children under 10 years of age without a doctor or aromatherapist guidance. The liver and kidneys start developing at this time, making it difficult for them to process essential oils properly without assistance from an expert.
- Properly dilute any oil before topical application. They should never be applied to full strength unless that is the suggested method of use. Since they are so potent, these oils should usually be diluted with another oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, for topical application.
- Never ingest essential oils unless specifically instructed to do so by an expert. Some people who handle them may be tempted to taste a small amount, but this could make them very sick and should absolutely be avoided. Even if an essential oil tastes horrible, as some do, this doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you if consumed.
- People with certain medical conditions should never ingest essential oils without consulting a physician first. This includes those with diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, and liver or kidney disease. Those who are expecting a child or breastfeeding should not ingest essential oils without checking first as well. Women who have had breast cancer should also avoid them, according to some sources.
- Some essential oils can interact with prescription medications, so consulting an expert is vital before using these to ensure safe usage for everyone involved.
- Since essential oil uses vary widely, the best advice here is always to be cautious when using any new product on your body unless instructed explicitly by an aromatherapist or physician to do so!
- When using undiluted oils, always exercise caution because even if you only use one drop, it could still cause irritation or allergies, especially if you’re not used to putting chemicals directly on your skin. The best practice here is to do a patch test by applying the oil to the inside of your elbow and waiting 24 hours before continuing with further uses.
- Despite their benefits, essential oils should only be a part of your overall health strategy rather than your primary focus. In other words, please don’t rely on them as a total cure-all without also eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise and sleep each day.
How to use them for your home.
Used in massage oils, these can help relieve sore muscles, whether for people or pets. Add 2-3 drops of your favorite oil to 4 oz. of the carrier oil of your choice and gently rub them into the affected areas. You can do this as often as you need to, with no risk of side effects.
You can also use essential oils in diffusers, which convert them into a fine mist that will be spread throughout your house. To do this, combine the oil with unprocessed sea salt and warm water in the vaporizer. Turn on the device and allow it to mix for around 10 minutes until everything is thoroughly dissolved. Since these are very potent, it’s essential to turn the machine off between uses.
You can also add essential oils to various cleaning supplies, such as adding a few drops to your favorite dish soap when you’re doing the dishes or adding some vinegar for use in the laundry.
You can also give your home a pleasant scent by simmering essential oils in a pot of water on the stove. Add 1-2 drops to the water and let it boil for five minutes before turning off the heat. The aroma will spread throughout your house as it cools down.
If you’re using them to clean, only use about 10 drops per bucket and dispose of them promptly after use.
You should never mix these with bleach or any other harsh chemical because this may cause harm to your skin or lungs, so avoid combining anything with ammonia, either.
When trying out their uses at home, be sure to keep track of all safety information listed for each oil. This is especially vital if there are children or pets in the house since they will be more sensitive to these products.
Another option is to make an air freshener by filling a small jar with baking soda and carefully adding 6-8 drops of oil to it before tightly sealing the lid. Shake the jar up well before placing it anywhere.
If you experience burning or discomfort, stop using the oil immediately and rinse your skin with cold water until the pain subsides. If irritation continues, seek medical help as soon as possible.
One last use in your home is in-room sprays, which can be used to keep pests out of certain areas or just for a pleasant scent throughout your house. Mix around 20-30 drops of essential oil with filtered water in a spray bottle, and then lightly mist the area where you want it to have its effect.
If you have a medical condition, consult a physician before using essential oils to ensure there won’t be any dangerous interactions between them and your medication.
Essential oil blends for specific purposes.
If you’re looking for a product that takes advantage of the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, then aromatherapy is a perfect choice. The oils are typically diluted in water and then spritzed into the air.
There’s no risk of side effects here, but you must be careful because certain scents can trigger different reactions. For example, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, lavender oil may help ease your symptoms, while peppermint might make them worse. You should avoid this mix if possible… and if not, use extreme caution and keep an eye on how you feel until it passes completely.
The best way to select an essential oil is by considering what purpose it will serve. For instance, a bug repellent may contain a potent oil like citronella or cedarwood but should be combined with something more soothing for perfume. Jasmine is a common choice here because it’s gentle enough to wear as a perfume yet is also effective in keeping insects away.
Deciding between one type of essential oil and another can depend on what you plan to use them for and your personal preferences.
- For relaxation and similar purposes, choose oils like chamomile, cedarwood, or sandalwood.
- To promote feelings of warmth and comfort when celebrating winter holidays, use scents like cinnamon or clove.
- When you want to feel more energetic and lively, rosemary, grapefruit, or lemon are great choices.
- For mental clarity, look for oils like eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint.
- If you plan on using them in cleaning products, lavender, lemon, or tea tree are great options.
- If you’re looking for oils to promote feelings of energy, use basil, grapefruit, or rosemary.
Of course, the only way to truly know how an essential oil will affect you is by trying it out with experiments in small doses. Oils are very potent and can be dangerous if they aren’t diluted appropriately before usage… so never try combining them without consulting a guide for that specific oil first.
Making your essential oil blends can be a fun way to experiment with different scents and see how they interact.
Dangers of Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are extremely concentrated and can be harmful if not properly diluted. They should always be stored in dark bottles with tightly sealed lids to prevent damage from sunlight.
When using them topically, avoid getting any oil directly on your skin without diluting it first because it can cause skin irritation or burning sensations (more common for those sensitive to the oil).
Using essential oils around children is generally discouraged because they could easily ingest them by mistake. Always keep oils out of their reach and never put them in food or drinks.
Due to the potency of essential oils, they should only be combined with safe carriers like lotions or alcohol (to use for cleaning) that will dilute them safely and help spread the scent over a larger area.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are not enough studies on how some of these oils may affect unborn babies or young children, so you should avoid using them around anyone under the age of 6 or pregnant women.
Also, some types of people will have an unpleasant reaction if they contact certain scents, even when used in small doses. People with difficulty breathing, asthma, or high blood pressure should avoid any oil containing camphor or eucalyptus. As always, check with your doctor before trying essential oils if you have a medical condition.
Finally, the FDA doesn’t regulate the production of essential oils, so some companies may not produce them as safely as others. Always research a company before deciding on a purchase.
Where To Buy Essential Oils.
When purchasing essential oils, ensure that the oil comes with a safety sheet that explains any precautions for usage… especially for pregnant women or children.
Ensure that you know the concentration of oils before buying them to ensure that you’re getting pure essential oil and not an oil blend (where there are other ingredients added).
The best option is to find a company specializing in just essential oils to be more easily trusted.
Since essential oils can be expensive, it’s often recommended to buy them in bulk, whether you plan on using them only internally or externally (some of the most common carrier oils include coconut oil and jojoba oil). This allows you to save money and avoid running out unexpectedly when needing them for a specific purpose.
FAQs about Essential Oils.
Q: What are the main benefits of using essential oils?
A: Essential oils offer a variety of health benefits, including aiding with digestion, relieving tension, boosting energy levels, soothing skin irritations, fighting bacteria and viruses, promoting mental clarity, encouraging feelings of relaxation, fighting depression, or providing relief during allergy season.
Q: Is there anything I should avoid when taking essential oils internally?
A: It is generally advised to stay away from ingesting any oil unless specifically instructed by someone who has studied how it might interact with your body. The only exception would be pure coconut oil because it’s usually well tolerated by most people. You can also find “carrier oils” that can be ingested safely if needed.
Q: What are the safety precautions I should take when using essential oils?
A: Essential oils can cause skin irritation and burning sensations, so it’s important to always dilute them before putting them on your skin. It’s also critical to always ask someone who has studied essential oils for their advice before using them on yourself or others.
Q: How long will essential oils last?
A: It depends on the type of oil you have and how frequently you choose to use it. Some bottles can help you stretch your dollar by including multiple uses per drop, while others are more diluted, so they need to be applied more often for the same benefits as other versions.
Generally, most essential oils should last around 9-12 months or longer if you keep them stored in a dark place with moderate temperatures that don’t have large fluctuations between hot and cold seasons.
Q: Which essential oils are the best to start with?
A: It’s recommended to try lavender oil first because it can be used for many reasons, making it an easy starter oil. Lemongrass is another great option because of its clean smell and ability to increase energy levels. However, you might want to avoid eucalyptus oil until you feel comfortable using more complex scents.
Q: What do I do if my skin has an allergic reaction?
A: Try to quickly rinse the oil, cleanse your skin with water, and then apply a carrier oil (like coconut). If you’re not sure if it’s just an allergic reaction or something else that should be treated by a medical professional right away, contact the Poison Control Center before doing anything else.
Q: What essential oils are considered safe for pregnant women?
A: It’s generally advised to avoid using any oils unless specifically recommended by someone who has studied their effects on pregnant women. Even when given by professionals, less is more because the fetus can get very sensitive during pregnancy. I
Q: Are essential oil diffusers safe for my pets?
A: It depends on the pet, but it’s generally advised to keep any essential oils far from dogs and cats because their sense of smell is much more powerful than ours, which makes them much more susceptible to poisoning. You’ll want to use extra caution with smaller dogs and cats and take into consideration their size and weight when diluting oils before putting them in a diffuser around your home. If you’re unsure, ask someone who has studied how they might respond before using an essential oil diffuser with your pet nearby.
Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid when using essential oils?
A: The most significant mistake people make is not consulting with someone who has studied how you might benefit from a particular oil before trying it out. You’ll never know if you can use oil until you ask someone first. Second, many people will use too much of the oil, which could cause irritation or other problems that could have been avoided if they had just started with a smaller dose and ramped up as needed after side effects were given. Lastly, it’s important to mix/blend your own oils because single-ingredient oils may not have all of the qualities you’re looking for, which means they won’t be suitable replacements for other blends. For example, a single-ingredient lavender oil might not have the calming effect you’re looking for. At the same time, a mixed blend of ingredients can be formulated to deliver all sorts of benefits that people are looking for.
Q: What oils can I mix together?
A: It depends on what kind of smell you’re looking for and how your body might react to two different scents at once. For example, some people love the smell of lavender and peppermint, but some people find that they can’t stand both scents (because their body has an opposite reaction). It’s best to experiment with different scents to find out what works best for you.
Q: Where can I learn more about using essential oils?
A: You can read up on lots of information about how they are made and the best ways to use them by visiting websites like Plant Therapy.
Q: What are the best companies to buy essential oils from?
A: Since essential oils can be expensive, you must do your research before buying them. Some companies might cut costs by reducing the amount of oil in their bottles or hiding ingredients behind generic descriptions.
After reading this article, you should know much more about essential oils than before. This was meant to serve as an introduction to what they are and how you can use them.
Now that you have a better idea of how to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about them, you should be able to start using them without too much difficulty.
Before long, these wonderful fluids will become an important part of your life, so you’ll want to learn as much as possible before deciding which ones might work best for whatever situation or problem comes up in your day-to-day life.
Remember that knowledge is the key to everything, so always keep yourself informed on new developments surrounding essential oils and anything else that could help make your life easier.
Comment below and give us your thoughts on essential oils: would you like to learn more about them and how to use them?
Joanna Perez is a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Practitioner, a passionate blogger, writer, traveler, wife, and mother of one boy. Joanna loves to share her thoughts on parenting, health, wellness, and lifestyle.
She is a Certified Women Empowerment Life Coach and has done courses on Life Mastery, Happiness, Health, and Success. She also has studied Neuroscience for Parents and took the Skilled Helper Training Course.
She believes in helping people become the best version of themselves and strives to provide quality informative and inspiring content. She loves animals, especially her two cats, and can often be found taking photos of them as they pose for the camera.