Essential oils are definitely “a thing” right now. You can even find them in your local grocery store. Almost everybody has a diffuser and will expound the virtues of aromatherapy; but did you know essential oils offer us more than aromatherapy?
My first introduction to essential oils was through aromatherapy designed to help me “relax”. I read that lavender essential oil was great for stress and anxiety, so I bought a diffuser and lavender essential oil, and enjoyed my first session. I will admit lavender is one of my favorite fragrances, so it was most pleasant and I did, in fact “relax”. When I read that there were over 40 uses for lavender essential oil, I realized there was more to essential oils than aromatherapy.
Essential oils have been a part of the daily lives of people for thousands of years. The Bible mentions frankincense, myrrh, hyssop and spikenard among others. In Exodus 30:22-25, God gave Moses a specific formula that was compounded to be a sacred anointing oil for the priests. Essential oils are mentioned in numerous other passages, their uses ranging from fragrances to medicinal uses.
The Egyptians are known for their extravagant use of essential oils. Frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon and cedarwood were among the oils used to preserve the bodies of royalty for burial. They used aromatherapy as they burned incense in their religious ceremonies, as well as in their daily lives for bathing. As a matter of fact, Archaeologists found fifty alabaster jars of essential oils in King Tut’s tomb when they opened it in 1923!
The Chinese also valued the use of essential oils; they developed medicinal uses for essential oils as early as 2700 B.C. They determined that herbs have specific actions and properties. The Chinese used essential oils according to their “warming” or “cooling” properties to treat symptoms related to “Yin and Yang”. Their method of diagnosis and treatment was the early form of what we now call “holistic medicine”; emphasizing the analysis of the whole person for optimal health and wellness.
The aromatic nature of essentials oils is the first thing people think about when you mention using essential oils. Science has shown that particular smells or fragrances illicit powerful mental, emotional and physiological responses. When inhaled, essential oils trigger a reaction in the brain, but also the lungs, supplying therapeutic benefits.
Aromatherapy can be achieved two ways, the first is direct inhalation; opening a bottle of an essential oil and inhaling the aroma.
The second way offers the most popular method of aromatherapy, diffusing essential oils. When a diffuser is used, the essential oil is evaporated into the air. Diffusing essential oils can help elevate your mood, relax or stimulate your mind. It is also great to use to kill airborne pathogens or freshen the air. Diffusing can also be used therapeutically to treat a respiratory condition.
I have actually used both methods; I keep a bottle of lavender essential oil and frankincense essential oil in my desk. Sometimes when I practice my mindfulness breathing, I inhale one of my essential oils right from the bottle for the first few breaths. It is very calming and keeps me grounded in the present moment. Also having a bottle of peppermint essential oil is great for anytime I may experience nausea or indigestion; I can inhale from the bottle, or put a drop under my tongue.
Another amazing way to use essential oils is to apply them topically. As they are considered “fat soluble”, they are absorbed through the skin, and enter the bloodstream. One of the most popular places to apply essential oils is to the soles of the feet. There are a number of reasons for this, three of the most common are:
- Less Irritation- some essential oils can cause skin irritation, and the soles of the feet are less sensitive and likely to become irritated than the skin on the rest of the body.
- No Sebum-The soles of the feet and the palms of the hands are the only sites of the body that do not have sebaceous glands. As a result, there is no “waterproof” barrier to prevent the oils from being absorbed.
- Bypass the Liver– When essential oils are applied to the soles of the feet, the oils bypass the liver and do not accumulate there. They are able to be directly absorbed without being “processed”.
Other areas that essential oils can be applied directly are behind the ears, neck and temples. There are many benefits to applying essential oils on other parts of the body, but they must first be mixed with a carrier oil such as, coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil or grapeseed oil.
This reduces the chances of skin irritation and allow for larger areas to experience therapeutic benefits, such as for sore muscles and joints or rashes, not to mention homemade body care products , even toothpaste!
Other ways to use essential oils topically is to add them to bath water, warm compresses and salves, hormone balance cream and soothing foot soaks.
I enjoy making my own personal care products with rose geranium, frankincense, lavender and jasmine essential oils. These can all be applied directly to the skin, but I will often mix them with shea butter or coconut oil for a great salve.
I also use a mixture of frankincense, lavender, roman chamomile, peppermint and clary sage combined with coconut oil for a very effective pain cream. I used this to massage my husband’s knee after knee replacement surgery; he found it very helpful and soothing.
Essential oils are extremely potent; for example a single drop of rose oil contains 60 roses! So if considering taking essential oils internally, it should be in small amounts only. Research shows that many oils are safe and effective when taken orally, but with extreme caution and wisdom. If in doubt, diffuse,apply topically or consult with a certified therapist or naturalist.
Some oils, like peppermint and lemon oil can be consumed in small doses (1-2 drops) two or three times a day. Other oils like oregano, a very powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal should only be taken for a maximum of 10 days and must always be consumed in capsules or diluted in water, as it is very irritating to the skin and mucus membranes.
The best ways to use essential oils internally is by putting several drops into empty capsules and swallowing, adding 1-2 drops to a glass of water, add 1-2 drops to a teaspoon of coconut oil and consume, or add 1-2 drops to a teaspoon of honey and consume. Some oils are placed under the tongue. Another great way to ingest essential oils is using them in cooking!
Essential oils are fantastic cleaning agents. They offer powerful ways to clean and refresh every area of your home. If you want to be sure you are using safe, non-toxic cleaning agents in your home, especially around children and pets, there is no better source than essential oils.
Use them in the laundry, to sanitize your kitchen and fight mold in the bathroom. They are simply the best smelling, naturally anti-bacterial options for your home!
I make a spray cleaner with lemon and tea tree essential oils that not only smells fantastic, is non-toxic, but cleans and disinfects better than anything else I have ever used, with less effort, especially in the bathroom. My husband tells me every week how fabulous the shower looks; like it was brand new!
Essential Oils may seem “trendy”, but they are backed by thousands of years of history. They’ve been used in Biblical medicine, Egyptian medicine and Chinese medicine, and still used throughout the world today.
Their popularity in America is growing every year.
Supported by history and science, and now with extensive research studies, essential oils benefit your health, are effective natural remedies for many ailments, amazing ingredients for personal care products and the ideal ingredient for cleaning products.
While aromatherapy is one facet of essential oil use, it is far from the only way we can benefit from incorporating essential oil use in our every day lives.