What makes an oil Essential?


I’ve been reading a lot about essential oils recently and it can be pretty overwhelming. First, there are SO many different oils. Then, there are about a million ways to use each one. I have dabbled in essential oils (literally!) with some success. I keep lavender near my bed. While I cannot say definitively that it helps me sleep, I sure do love the scent. I’ve also tried eucalyptus for sinus issues and lemon for keeping the kitchen smelling fresh. But this is apparently the tiniest tip of the iceberg where essential oils (EOs) are concerned.
EOs are extracted directly from the root, bark, flower or fruit of the plant and distilled or steamed to separate the oil from any water. They are organic and very concentrated. They are believed to have healing and protective powers because that’s pretty much what they do for the plant – EOs shield the plant from insects and other predators. They also safeguard the plant from harsh environmental factors, like weather and seasonal changes, and help the plant adapt to surroundings that might be otherwise unsuitable.

Although EOs have been used for thousands of years by cultures across the globe, A French chemist is credited with using lavender oil to heal a burn in 1928. This led him to experiment with other healing properties of EOs, which were used to treat soldiers during World War 1. Aromatherapy was born, even though it did not gain popularity here in the US until as recently as 30 years ago. Initially, EOs were added to candles and lotions. These days, aromatherapy is a widely used practice among medical doctors, massage therapists and mental health professionals.

It is believed that EOs can be absorbed by blood vessels in the lungs when their scent is breathed in, causing their healing powers to circulate thru the body. The most common way to achieve this is to rub a couple of drops on pulse points, like the temples, or on the soles of the feet. Another popular method is to purchase a diffuser, which is a great way to deodorize your home at the same time.
This is bit more tricky and not recommended for everyone. Some EOs are said to affect hormones, for example, and are not recommended for pregnant women. But many can be added to drinking water, a few drops at a time. Some are suitable for teas. Still others can be mixed with honey to create a healthy elixir to treat various maladies.
EOs are often added to moisturizers, perfumes and other products. They can be used to make shampoo, lip balm and insect repellant. Because of their chemical lightness, they are absorbed by the body faster than other products. To get more for your EOs, mix them with a carrier, such as coconut oil. About 5 drops of EO to a half- teaspoon of carrier oil should do the trick. Rather than dilute the EO, this actually increases the skin area into which it can be absorbed.
So, which EOs provide what benefits? It’s a long list! Here are some of the most commonly used EOs and some of their reported advantages.
  Lavender: Promotes sleep. Heals skin irritations, including burns and insect stings. Helps with anxiety. Calming.
  Peppermint: Aids digestion, reduces cravings and suppresses appetite. Promotes mental sharpness/alertness. Treats joints and muscles. Clears sinuses and relieves respiratory conditions. Invigorating.
  Tea Tree: skin cleanser/blemish treatment. Treats ringworm. Household cleaner and disinfectant. (On a personal note, this is one scent that I just cannot warm up to. It reminds me of an old lady’s attic.) 

  Lemon: Degreases and cleans. Deodorizes and freshens. Added to a carrier oil, polishes wood and leather. Great in the kitchen after cooking fish or if you live with pets or a smoker. Revitalizing.

  Eucalyptus: Muscle and chest rubs to promote better breathing. Purifying.
  Frankincense: Boosts immunity. Heals bruises. Fades age spots. Enhances spirituality and meditation. Unearthly.

Personally, I like to mix a few drops of EO – or a nice combination – in a spray bottle of water. There’s nothing like a little spritz to freshen up sheets, guest towels, throws and carpets!

All EOs are not the same. Look for oils that all natural and certified to be pure, therapeutic or organic – Never synthetic. It might be more expensive, but the imposters are pretty useless and do not have the same properties. To make a half-ounce of rose oil, for example, it takes 65 pounds of rose petals!


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