Have you ever recalled a memory solely through your sense of smell? The smell of smoked turkey reminds me of our family Thanksgivings. The smell of cinnamon means fall has arrived. Our sense of smell is powerful because the olfactory system is connected to memory in the brain. This connection is why essential oil use is called Aromatherapy.
Essential oils span much of human history in varying forms. The Art of Aromatherapy is an entire subject of study that takes years to master, and for which one can become certified (so on my bucket list!). Pharmaceuticals are often derived from plant materials yet the art itself misunderstood in the 21st Century.
My friends started using essential oils (EO’s) a few years ago. The whole thing sounded sketchy to me. So I investigated. I’ve been researching and reading over the past two and half years.
Once I came to that conclusion, I decided to experiment on myself. Don’t gasp. Medical doctors have been using me as a guinea pig my entire life, drowning me with pharmaceuticals and side effects, some permanent…
I consider EO’s, when used correctly, to be much safer than pharmaceuticals…and cheaper, and gentler without all the side effects.
The Simple Facts of Essential Oils
What exactly are EO’s? Plants have tiny sacks of volatile oils stored inside them. Volatile oils are plant substances that evaporate quickly. Plants produce these oils to protect themselves from bacteria, microbes, fungus, other plants who encroach on their territory and predators.
These volatile oils or EO’s are found in seeds, fruit, leaves, flowers, stems, bark and roots of plants in differing quantities.
How do we get the EO’s out of the plant? The 2 most common and most often used methods are steam distillation and cold press (also called expression). During steam distillation, steam passes through the plant material – whether flower, leaf, stem or root – extracting light weight molecules. The steam is cooled and two products are formed, EO’s and hydrosols (these are the heavier plant molecules).
What are EO’s used for? God created plants, and the EO’s within, to support the human body’s ability to heal itself.
How can EO’s be used? The best way for a beginner to use EO’s is through inhalation. This is the safest method, and preferred for children, pregnant women and the elderly. There are 4 methods of inhalation.
- Cotton ball: Drop a few drops of EO on a cotton ball. Place cotton ball near your workspace, in your homeschool, next to the sink while you wash dishes, next to your bed at night or tucked inside your pillow case.
- Straight from the bottle: If you need a quick pick-me-up, open the bottle and waft under your nose. Sticking the bottle right under your nose and taking a deep breathe might be a bit much if you are unfamiliar with the EO. Avoid touching your skin to the bottle, some EO’s like peppermint, cinnamon and clove smell divine, but they will temporarily cause a burning sensation on your skin if not adequately diluted.
- Hands: Dilute EO in a small container, 1 teaspoon of carrier oil to 1 drop of EO, then mix. Rub mixture between your hands, cup your hands to your face and breathe in deeply. Use any healthy oil you have on hand: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc., these oils are called “carrier oils” in aromatherapy. With increased familiarity with EO’s, dilution may not be required.
- Diffuser: Selections abound. Choosing one is mostly a personal preference. My only warning: read the instructions and care insert before purchase. Some diffusers are more trouble than they are worth.
Oils for the Beginner
The ingredients should only contain the Latin name of the plant and nothing else. Some unscrupulous companies cut their EO’s with other stuff. The lavender family has many species; the one below is preferred in aromatherapy.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): If the smell of flowers lightens your day and paints a smile on your face, lavender EO might be for you. Any of the above methods of inhalation will work.
Lemon (Citrus limon): As the rain comes down and the clouds move in, your motivation disappears. This EO creates a lift of the spirits and makes your house smell clean…no actual cleaning necessary! The only inhalation method that requires caution is direct application to your hands. All citrus oils can be photosensitive, meaning the EO makes you susceptible to the sun’s burning rays. Don’t head outdoors after applying Lemon EO to your skin until 12 hours after application until you know how the EO affects you.
Enjoy your journey and breathe deeply!