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Essential oils have been in use since ancient times and a quick Google search will give you the history dating back 5,000 years! The use of botanicals as healing agents is as old as humanity itself. It is only in recent times that the marketing and propaganda by Big Pharma have cast doubt on the healthful benefits of using aromatic (essential) oils. I’m not here to try and convince anyone of their usefulness, but I would like to help you figure out just how to use them so you can begin to enhance your daily life. It’s a lot easier than you think!
So What Is An Essential Oil?
Essential oils are naturally occurring aromatic compounds found in plants. This is what gives plants their distinctive smells and serves to protect them from disease and assist in plant pollination. These aromatic liquids are extracted from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, and seeds through steam distillation, resin tapping, and cold pressing. The result is a highly potent extract that lives up to the adage “a little goes a long way”. I’m not kidding when I say highly potent! It takes 150 pounds or more of lavender flowers to make just one pound of lavender essential oil. That’s a whole field distilled down into a small bottle! Less is more when it comes to the application of oils.
How Do You Use Essential Oils?
Essential oils can be used on their own or as a blend with additional oils. You can use different application methods for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness benefits. Application methods are safe when used appropriately.
This is widely regarded as the easiest and most direct method of achieving the health benefits of essential oils. Aromatherapy diffusers can be used to create an all-over effect in a room or you can simply place a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand, rub them together then cup around the nose as you inhale deeply. Voila! Instant activation of the limbic system by way of the olfactory nerve!
Additional methods of delivery include:
- Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle
- Mix oils in a spray bottle with water and mist over furniture, carpet, or linens
- Add oil to a batch of laundry or to dryer sheets
- Use in household surface cleaners
- Add oil to the water in your steam mop
Essential oils are readily absorbed into the skin and topical application is a very effective method for localized health benefits. Keep in mind that it is advisable to use a carrier oil in order to avoid developing a skin sensitivity. Also, avoid applying oils to injured skin, eyes and inner ears or some facial areas (such as skin around the eyes). Carrier oils include jojoba or sweet almond oil and the recommended dilution ratio is typically one drop of essential oil to three drops of carrier oil.
Common areas of application include the neck, forehead and temples, chest and abdomen, arms, legs, or bottom of feet. In addition to a direct application with a carrier oil, you can add a few drops of oil to a warm bath, lotions or moisturizer, or use them with a hot or cold compress.
From the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: “Do not take essential oils internally without appropriate advanced aromatherapy education and understanding of the safety issues involved in doing so. Essential oils are commonly used internally throughout the world. Some individuals are doing so without the appropriate knowledge or understanding of safety concerns. NAHA does not support the indiscriminate or uneducated internal use of essential oils. If essential oils are used internally, we recommend doing so under the guidance of a knowledgeable health professional. To learn more, we recommend you receive education from a NAHA approved school. NAHA is dedicated to promoting education in this area so that internal use is better understood, and if done, is performed safely and effectively.”
What Safety Precautions Do I Need To Take?
- Research the safety data on each essential oil prior to use.
- Sun Exposure: Do not use photosensitizing essential oils prior to going into the sun or tanning booth.
- Mothers: Use caution if you are a nursing mother, pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant.
- Children: Research the data of the oil and ALWAYS dilute prior to application.
- Pets: Many oils are toxic to pets! Do your research first!
- Eyes: Keep all essential oils away from the eyes and the surrounding area.
- Plastics: Do not mix or store essential oils in plastic containers. Use glass containers wherever possible.
What Oils Should I Start With?
These are my “go-to” oils that we use around the house daily. We also use specific oils to support our mental health, but for daily all-purpose use these five top the list:
- Eucalyptus: This little wonder oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. We use it for our daughter’s chronic allergies and asthma. It was a lifesaver during her bout with pneumonia! You can use it for respiratory problems like colds, coughs, and congestion in addition to wounds, muscle pain, mental exhaustion, dental care, and skincare. A few drops of eucalyptus oil in a hot shower each night helps clear up nasal passages and stop chest congestion.
- Frankincense: Or what I like to call the mother of all oils. This is the one oil I would not live without as it has incredible health benefits, including helping relieve chronic stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, boosting immunity and even potentially helping to fight cancer. We use frankincense oil to boost the efficacy of any other oils as it blends well with all manner of scents.
- Lavender: This is the most popular and widely used essential oil, for good reason. In addition to its antioxidant properties, lavender oil is vital in helping our family regulate our sleep patterns. Diffusing this at night and spraying a dilution on our pillows helps us fall asleep and reduces symptoms of insomnia.
- Tea Tree: Also known as melaleuca, this is a popular and very common oil with antiseptic properties that have been proven to kill many strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. We use it to treat minor cuts or abrasions, diluted in cleaning solutions and as a lice prevention measure (just a few drops of tea tree oil in a shampoo bottle keeps those suckers away).
- Immune Strength Oil Blend: This is a protective blend of 11 oils that has the benefits of being anti-microbial and anti-bacterial to help stop the spread of germs and fight off any cooties that come into the house. This immune strength blend goes into the diffuser every evening and we also apply it to the sides of our neck or soles of our feet at the first sign of infection.
How Do I Learn More?
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils and the many ways to incorporate them into your everyday life, I encourage you to continue seeking out more information (especially if you are living in a home with little ones, fur babies or loved ones with compromised immune systems). Seek out reputable sources online and in print and remember you can listen to information on the go as well. My favorite podcasts include the Essential Oils & Herbalism Podcast and the Essential Oil Revolution Podcast
Above all else, remember to have fun on this journey!
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