You may have noticed over the last few years “essential oils” being talked about more and more, making many think they’re just a trend that will fade away. I can assure you, a fad they are not. Plant extracts have been used for centuries by numerous cultures and religions for their medicinal and therapeutic properties. They were worn by the Egyptians as perfume, and used by many cultures to flavor food, long before scientists found a way to produce natural scents and flavors in a laboratory.
So what exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are the natural occurring oils found in plants and trees (that actually serve as protection and communication), extracted through a distillation process. Some plants and trees use as defense to deter herbivores and insects and protect against fungus, while other plants provide fragrance to attract bees for reproduction by cross-pollination.
Humans are exposed to essential oils more than we think. We inhale them in the air and consume them when we eat fruits and vegetables. They even contribute to the fragrance in flowers and medicinal properties of herbs and spices. For example, Earl Grey tea is infused with bergamot oil. Do you remember eating a peppermint candy as kid or drinking peppermint tea or ginger ale to settle your stomach? This is because peppermint and ginger have constituents that are known for assisting with digestive issues, easing nausea and even giving you a natural boost of energy.
Essential oils connect to the body in many ways, but let’s explore a few of the basic ways. The first one has to do with phenols: monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. These are constituents found in essential oils to enhance our well-being. Taking care of the limbic system is an amazing way oils can help our bodies. The limbic system is the center of the brain that controls many of the body’s basic functions such as memory, breathing, hormonal balance, stress levels, and blood pressure. Only one of our senses is able to access this part of the brain…our sense of smell. This is why we can trigger a memory or emotion just by smelling something familiar. If you have lost your sense of smell, don’t fret. You, too, can benefit from using essential oils topically. When applied, they are absorbed into the blood stream just like anything you put on our skin, and your body will react in the same way as if inhaled.
Do distillation methods really matter? Yes, it absolutely matters to guarantee quality and purity. An analogy: would you rather drink a fresh cup of slow brewed coffee, full of aroma with the highest concentration of coffee beans…or a second or third cup brewed from those very same beans? You would most likely need to add creamer and sugar to make the weaker version taste better, and need to drink more cups to get the same effect. The same idea holds true for essential oils. The more they are distilled, and how they are distilled, makes a huge difference in their effectiveness in our body systems.
When buying essential oils at the store, you may just want something that smells nice for aromatherapy, rather than choosing an oil based on what it can do for you mentally or physically. Many times, new oil users will smell an oil that is earthy or medicinal, and be turned off because we are conditioned to overly sweet, laboratory produced scents. Many essential oils found on the shelves may have been re-distilled with fragrance and fillers to improve the smell and keep the price point down, and at higher temperatures and under more pressure to produce larger batches quickly. Bottom line: cheaper isn’t always better.
Quality essential oil may have a higher price point, but you will only need a drop or two to get the full benefit of the oil, versus 3 to 4 times that of a cheaper oil. Through research and personal use, I have experienced firsthand the true power essential oils offer, beyond just using lavender to relax or eucalyptus to breath easier. I have learned that lavender has a multitude of uses besides calming, and can be used to soothe cuts, bug bites, and rashes, and for hair care. There are also essential oils to help support our immune system, especially during the cold, wet seasons and when our bodies are run down.
Essential oils are very easy to use and can be incorporated into every area of our daily life. They can be inhaled, applied topically, and diffused. They can be used for physical, mental, and emotional benefits, and can even be used to clean your home. No more burning throat and watery eyes when cleaning the bathroom. I always suggest to start slow…lean in to this new approach to life’s aliments, struggles, and demands.
Instead of grabbing a synthetic product in the medicine cabinet, you will start turning to your essential oils instead. Maybe you suffer from headaches or stomach issues, have a hard time sleeping or just want to freshen up your home. Try some peppermint applied to the forehead to help quiet the pounding in your head, or rub some on your abdomen to settle your stomach. If you have sensitive skin, I recommend adding carrier oil (grapeseed, avocado or coconut oil) to the peppermint, as it may a bit warm on the skin or cause redness. A favorite combo at our home is lavender and cedarwood in our bedside diffuser to help us unwind at night and drift off to sleep easily. If you like DYIs, you can incorporate oils into body scrubs, body cream, lip balms, hair products or non-toxic cleaners. It really is that easy to start making the shift from traditional options to a more natural and holistic approach. Once you dive in, you will find there is an essential oil for almost everything!
If you are interested in essential oils but not sure where to begin, please reach out to chat. Sharing my knowledge of essential oils is one of my biggest passions next to my massage practice. I offer 1-on-1 sessions and Essential Oils 101 classes. Here’s to a healthy, holistic New Year!
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Benefits of Essential Oils:
• Mental clarity and focus • Emotional balance
• Purify the air in your home
• Improved sleep • Immune support
• Calming the nervous system
• Skin care • Digestion • Respiratory support • Muscle & joint pain
• Natural energy boost