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Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Basics of Essential Oils

I LOVE essential oils. There is something about the aromatherapy, the massaging them into my skin, the fresh scent in my home made laundry soap, and so much more!

Essential Oils can be used for a variety of purposes.  Pinterest has multitudes of "recipes" that you can put together to solve just about any medical problem, cleaning problem, or beauty problem.  Although I use both oils and medicine for my ailments, I couldn't fathom getting rid of either.  I use essential oils in my laundry soap, as relief for colds, allergies, and headaches, massage and in my household cleaning- just to name a few.

Use of essential oils

  • Air freshening
  • Bathing | Amount of essential oils to use in bath
  • Compresses
  • Foot and hand baths
  • Hair care | Amount of essential oils to use in shampoo
  • Jacuzzis
  • Massage | Amount of essential oils to use in massage blend
  • Saunas
  • Showers
  • Sitz bath
  • Skin care | Amount of essential oils to use in creams
  • Steam inhalations
  • Vaporization
Have you ever wanted to use essential oils, but didn't know where to start?  Here are some things that you need to know to get started.

Essential oils are not really oils. They do not contain the fatty acids that constitute what we would consider an actual oil. I would define them more as "plant juice."
Most essential oils are high in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties: This makes them an excellent addition to your homemade cleaning preparations. Oils that are best for cleaning are: Lemon, grapefruit, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary. 

Essential oils are miniscule in molecular size, which means they are absorbed well by the skin – making them perfect ingredients in personal care items intended to heal, soften, and nourish. However, they do not accumulate in the body over time – they simply offer up their healing properties and then pass on through. 

Fragrance oils and essential oils are NOT the same thing. As a rule of thumb, if you see the word “fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or even “perfume” on anything, you can assume this is synthetic and NOT natural. (Even if it says natural fragrance.) 

Essential oils are wholly natural and cannot be patented; which means that you’ll never see an essential oil in a pharmaceutical drug. 
Enormous amounts of plants are needed to produce essential oil. In fact, on the extreme end, it takes 4000 pounds of Bulgarian roses to produce 1 pound of essential oil. Other plants like lavender only take 100 pounds of plant material to produce a pound of essential oil. Still, can you imagine how concentrated essential oils must be, in light of how many plants are used to produce them?
Most essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin. Instead, they should be combined with “real” oils (called carrier oils), waxes, butters, alcohols, or other diluting measures. Because they’re so concentrated, if you don’t dilute, you may end up with an unfortunate reaction (and unhappy skin). My favorite carrier oil is olive. Although some oils are classified as "safe" to use in their full strength, you will still probably want to dilute just to weaken the smell. 

Never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child. Children have much thinner, more delicate skin than adults have, and tend to be very sensitive to the potency of essential oils. In fact, even if you do use essential oil in a recipe for children, only use half of the essential oil recommended in the recipe. 
To test if you’re sensitive to an essential oil (which is probably best to do before using it in a skincare preparation): Combine one drop of essential oil with 1/2 tsp carrier oil (like olive, jojoba, or sweet almond). Rub this on the inside, upper portion of your arm and wait a few hours. If no redness or itching develops, you’re most likely not sensitive to that essential oil. 

Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and avoid contact with your eyes. I know that this is more of a "duh" thing, but it really should be mentioned. 

Do not take essential oils internally, especially oils like wintergreen and eucalyptus. While some essential oils may be used well-diluted in something like toothpaste with safety, it’s generally recognized that there’s no need to take essential oils internally. 
Not all essential oils are created equally, nor does more expensive necessarily mean “better.” There are certain brands I will use in a less therapeutic fashion (like for cleaning), because they’re far less expensive than their counterparts. When you see a wide fluctuation in price between, say, lavender essential oils, you can bet that the far less expensive one is likely lower in quality. However, a small variation in price differences on the higher end will NOT mean a better essential oil. It will just mean a higher price. (A little birdie also told me that there are also only a handful of essential oil distilleries in the world, which means that most essential oils come from the exact same places – thus there is little difference in quality between the more “typically priced” EOs.) What I’m saying here is: Understand that you DO have to pay for quality, but that if you’re just using essential oils in non-therapeutic fashions, it’s okay to use less expensive oils. 

Where do I purchase my oils? I suggest using Native American Nutritionals or another ethical supplier that offers organic essential oils (grown without pesticides or toxic fertilizers). **No, I don't get compensation for recommending them. This is where I purchase my own oils. THIS is a great blog explaining WHY I chose NAN for my oils. I highly recommend reading ALL of her entries on essential oils. They are very informative.  

To test your essential oil to see how “pure” it is, put a single drop of it on a piece of construction paper. If it evaporates quickly and leaves no noticeable ring, it is pure. If you have a ring left, then it is likely diluted by the manufacturer with an oil of some sort (this test will not work for myrrh, patchouli, and absolutes). 

Essential oils will last for at least 5 years (if not 10), so one bottle could literally last you a decade. Hopefully that thought will help mitigate the cost involved in purchasing some essential oils. Because they are SO concentrated and only a tiny amount is needed in anything you do, they’ll last you a very, very long time. The only exception to this rule is citrus oils, which will see a reduction in potency after a year or two.
Store your essential oils in dark glass bottles (which they were probably packaged in) and out of direct sunlight. This is simply to help preserve their potency. 

USE ESSENTIAL OILS TO HELP YOUR MOOD. Lavender, peppermint, grapefruit, chamomile, lemon, ylang-ylang all help produce happy, joyous moods. Clary sage helps with PMS (although there have been reports that overuse of clary sage can lead to intoxication). Rosemary increases focus and concentration. Don’t forget the mood benefits of essential oils.

Recommended Essential Oils to Get You Started

I’ve narrowed it down to 7 essential oils to consider when starting to use them in your personal care products or homemade cleaning supplies. 

Peppermint (good for lip balms, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
Rosemary (good for hair preparations, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
Sweet orange (good for all skin types and very soothing in room sprays for children)
Rose geranium (good for all skin types, creating perfumes, and for use in homemade moisturizers)
Tea tree (great for healing, getting rid of dandruff, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
Lavender (great for all skin types, for relaxation, hair preparations, and cleaning products)
Lemon (great for lifting moods, cleaning preparations, and sparingly in toners and products for oily skin)

All of these essential oils also happen to be some of the least expensive and easiest to find. Bonus!

There you have it! Hopefully, this answers some questions about using essential oils. I can honestly say that once you start to find a place for them in your life, you can't ever imagine NOT using them.

Want to learn more? Check out THIS BOOK! It's full of information and recipes!

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