The use of essential oils has grown widely in popularity over recent years, but one thing is for sure, they’re nothing new. They have existed since the moment the earth was created and have been used therapeutically for centuries.
When you slice a lemon, the smell that is left behind on your hands comes from the essential oil of the peel. The beautiful, heady scent of a rose is from the essential oil of its leaves.
If you’ve heard the hype around essential oils but haven’t tried them before, I’m here to explain a few of the basics.
Since I’ve been incorporating essential oils into our home I’ve found countless benefits; from helping us recover quicker from coughs and colds, to promoting restful sleep, removing unwanted smells, and creating natural and effective cleaning products.
So what are Essential Oils?
Essential Oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic flowers, plants, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits or other parts of the plant by various extraction methods.
They are called “essential” because they are necessary for the life of the plant and contain the essence of the plant. They are live; they contain life force, intelligence and energy that gives them healing power when used by the body.
Essential oils can be traced back to biblical times, with over 600 references to essential oils and/or aromatic plants in the Bible. The most popular one we probably all know are the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus at his birth.
The use of aromatherapy came into existence after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils and their therapeutic use to treat diseases.
How do Essential Oils Work?
Essential Oils are composed of tiny molecules that can penetrate into every cell, administering healing therapy at the most fundamental levels of our bodies which, when used correctly, come with no side effects. Once the oils are in the system, they remodulate themselves and work in a positive manner at the area of malfunction or distress. One of the wonderful things about essential oils is their ability to target a problem in a cell but leave the surrounding area unaffected, unlike many medical treatments.
Although essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, there is little published research on their effectiveness. But that is about to change as countries all over the world are conducting clinical studies on their power and uses. Research studies so far show positive effects on a variety of health concerns including infections, anxiety, pain, depression, cancerous tumours and hormonal imbalances, to name just a few.
Why choose Essential Oils?
Essential oils are safe, which unfortunately we can’t quite say about medicines manufactured by man. Man-made pharmaceuticals lack the life, energy and intelligence found in essential oils and often come with many undesirable side effects, some of which are deadly.
The reason only licensed doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs is because they are inherently dangerous; a person can die from an overdose or from failure to follow given instructions. They also frequently work in disharmony in the body when more than one type of drug is taken at once, producing a downward spiral of needing more drugs to counteract negative side effects, hurting the body further and causing a dependence on the health system.
Essential oils however, when used properly (by this I mean not pouring a whole bottle of undiluted oil on your skin or down your throat) have no serious side effects and can be used by anyone without needing the supervision or prescription of a doctor. When certain oils are used together, they work in harmony. They also have the ability to truly heal, naturally and harmlessly, bringing the body back into balance.
How can we use Essential Oils?
There are a few ways to use essential oils, the main ones are through topical application, massage, baths, inhalation and ingestion. There are many companies selling essential oils who promote their internal use but the information surrounding this seems conflicted. Personally I do not ingest essential oils and I would not recommend anyone do without the supervision of a licensed herbalist or aromatherapist.
When diluted appropriately, essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. I would think most bathroom cabinets in any family home contain a small pot of Vicks Vaporub, which is just an ointment containing essential oils used for inhalation and topical absorption to relieve the symptoms of congestion.
Applying essential oils to the feet is one of the best ways to use them topically; the feet have much larger pores than the rest of the body so they can be absorbed better, but no sebaceous glands so the oil won’t have to compete with our own body’s natural production of sebum, which can act as a barrier. Combining essential oils with reflexology gives even further benefit, targeting specific areas of the body that need support through particular pressure points on the feet.
Inhalation is one of the ways I personally use essential oils the most; I have multiple diffusers in my house which serve a multitude of purposes. I’ve always loved scented candles but since I now know they contain a number of toxic chemicals I don’t particularly want us to breathe in, I’ve found diffusing essential oils a brilliant, natural air freshener replacement.
One of the most fascinating things about essential oils is they also contain antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I found this particularly helpful when my son was a newborn. Being born at the end of November, the time of year when colds are rife, I found diffusing essential oils in our home helped to protect both him and me from airborne germs unintentionally brought in by our many visitors.
At night I religiously diffuse Frankincense and Lavender; both very calming and soothing, helping to promote sleep. Both Frankincense and Lavender have respiratory supporting properties, helping to clear mucus and reducing the spasmodic effects of coughing. If someone at my house has a cough, the first thing I do is turn on the diffuser!
Adding a few drops of essential oils to a bath, and using essential oils for massage are both wonderful ways to incorporate the benefits of oils and to to de-stress and support the body.
I also use essential oils for cleaning my home, since store-bought household cleaners can contain many harmful toxins, I’ve found a natural and effective alternative using essential oils. See here for a natural carpet freshener recipe you can easily make yourself using essential oils and products you likely already have in your cupboard.
Essential oils are very powerful, and their uses are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. It’s important when choosing a brand of essential oil that they are graded as pure and therapeutic. There are many companies out there who are using synthetic oils which may smell nice, but they aren’t essential oils. These synthetic fragrance oils often contain no actual trace of essential oil and contain no health benefits.
I’ve used a few different brands over the years and researched their quality, ethics and manufacturing processes. I personally now get all my essential oils from Neals Yard, because they tick all my boxes in terms of these things, and more. Plus they are all organic, which is an extra bonus! You can buy Neals Yard Organic Essential Oils here.
Have you used essential oils before? Any experiences or brands you’d like to share? Please comment below, I’d love to hear!