How to Get the Most Out of Your Essential Oils
It's a new year, and you may be looking for different ways to support and improve your health. You may be aware that essential oils offer various health benefits, though you may not be sure about what those benefits are. Essential oils are incredibly versatile and beneficial, and they have a range of therapeutic applications and health-promoting uses. They also make wonderful natural cleaners. Read on to find out how you can use essential oils for maximum benefit.
What Are Essential Oils?
So what, exactly, are essential oils? Essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds produced by plants. Each oil carries the distinct “essence” of the plant from which it comes. Each essential oil contains a distinct mix of active constituents that helps determine what it can be used for.
Essential oils are generally distilled from the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, or bark of plants. Although they are fat-soluble, essential oils do not contain fatty acids or lipids, so they technically are not oils, though they are commonly referred to as such.
How to Use Essential Oils to Support Your Health
Now that we know what essential oils are, let's find out how they can be used to support health.
Aromatherapy- the use of essential oils for healing- is one of the most well-known applications for essential oils. With aromatherapy, essential oils may be inhaled or massaged into the skin for their healing benefits. It is still unclear exactly how aromatherapy works. However, we do know that the smell receptors in the nose communicate with the parts of the brain responsible for storing emotions and memories. Some researchers believe that when essential oil molecules are breathed in, they stimulate these parts of the brain and impact physical, emotional, and mental health (source). When essential oils are massaged into the skin, they are eventually absorbed into the blood stream. Some scientists think that essential oil molecules may interact with enzymes and hormones in the blood (source).
Emotionally, essential oils can be used to help a person feel more relaxed and to ease stress, anxiety, and depression (source). For example, lavender may stimulate certain brain cells in a similar way that some sedative medications do (source). Lavender is of course one of the best known essential oils for aromatherapy. But other essential oils have therapeutic uses too. One of my personal favorite combinations is lavender and peppermint. The lavender helps combat stress, while peppermint is energizing and invigorating. If peppermint is too strong, try spearmint. Spearmint and peppermint have similar properties, but spearmint has a more subtle scent.
The citrus essential oils tend to have an uplifting effect and are wonderful for improving one’s mood. Diffusing lemon essential oil, for example, has a positive impact on mood and can help counter depression (source). Grapefruit essential oil is thought to stimulate hormones that have uplifting effects on the brain (source). It therefore helps to induce positive feelings and to help ease stress and anxiety.
Diffusers are often used in aromatherapy. A diffuser looks a like a small humidifier. You simply fill it with water and add a few drops of your desired essential oil (follow the exact directions for your particular diffuser). When you turn it on, the essential oil(s) is diffused into the air and scents the room. A diffuser is preferable to adding essential oils to simmering water because heat can damage them.
Essential Oils for Skin and Hair Care
Before we look at some of the many ways that essential oils can be used in skin and hair care, it is important to note that, because they are so highly concentrated, essential oils need to be diluted in a “carrier” oil before being applied to the skin. Many plant oils, such as almond, grape seed and even olive, work for this purpose. Fractionated Coconut Oil is also excellent for this purpose. This odorless oil has a very long shelf life and, unlike most other plant oils, it absorbs rapidly into the skin.
Essential oils have many functions in skin and hair care products. We use essential oils in our lotions, soaps, sugar scrubs, and deodorants not only to give these products a pleasant scent, but also to infuse them with the aromatherapeutic benefits (see above) of the oils.
In addition to their aromatherapy uses, some essential oils have been found to have antibacterial and anti fungal properties when tested in laboratory settings (source). Therefore, they can be used as natural anti-microbial agents in hand sanitizers and soaps, and provide a safe alternative to synthetic antimicrobial agents such as triclosan.
To make your own hand sanitizer, mix 3 tablespoons aloe vera juice, ¼ to ½ teaspoon vitamin E oil (optional), 1 teaspoon Fractionated Coconut Oil, and 15-20 drops Immunity Oil Blend; or lavender or tea tree oils (or both lavender and tea tree) in a small spray bottle. Shake gently to mix and before each use. Store in a cool, dark place, and use within a few weeks.
Lavender and tea tree oils can also be helpful in treating acne. Lavender essential oil is particularly helpful for addressing the root causes of hormone-related acne because it can help balance hormones and relieve stress (source). Lowered stress levels can lead to a decrease in sebum (oil) production, as stress is believed to increase sebum levels. In addition, lavender oil's antimicrobial properties help eliminate acne-causing bacteria from the skin. Tea tree oil's antimicrobial properties make it an effective solution to mild to moderate acne as well (source).
To treat acne with lavender and/or tea tree oil: Mix 12 drops essential oil(s) with 1 ounce carrier oil (coconut, jojoba, or Fractionated Coconut Oil). Dab onto affected areas with a cotton swab or cotton ball. Store leftover mixture in a cool, dark place, and use within a few weeks.
Tea tree oil is also useful for healing and soothing cuts, scrapes, and minor burns. For this reason, it is an important ingredient in our First Aid Stick and Ointment. To treat minor skin wounds with tea tree oil, follow the directions for dilution above, and gently apply with a cotton ball.
Tea tree oil is also excellent for treating dry, itchy scalp. And rosemary essential oil is known for promoting hair growth and health. Simply add a few drops of tea tree and/or rosemary oil to your shampoo, and wash as usual.
Household Uses for Essential Oils
Plants use essential oils as a defense system against various diseases. As was mentioned above, some of them have anti-microbial properties, making them ideal for use as safe, natural cleaners. Household cleaners made with essential oils rather than synthetic chemicals have the inherent benefit of being naturally free of harsh ingredients that may cause skin irritations, headaches, and allergic reactions. Lemon, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary essential oils all work well in natural household cleaners. Or try Clean, our essential oil blend formulated specifically for household cleaning jobs.
To make a simple all-purpose cleaner with essential oils: Fill a 16-ounce spray bottle with distilled water. Add a couple ounces of distilled white vinegar for extra cleaning power (optional). Add 20 to 30 drops (total) of essential oils to the bottle, and shake gently to mix. Use on countertops, door knobs, and bathroom surfaces. You can also spray it in trash cans to remove odors. Be sure to test a small area of the surface you are cleaning for discoloration before using on large areas. Do not use vinegar on granite countertops, as this may damage them.
Eucalyptus and peppermint are also both helpful for loosening respiratory congestion. To ease congestion, diffuse one or both of these oils in a diffuser, stand back several inches from the mist, and breathe deeply several times. Alternatively, put a drop of either essential oil on a tissue, hold several inches from your nose, and breathe deeply several times.
Peppermint is also wonderful for calming an upset stomach or relieving nausea. To use peppermint for this purpose, dilute 8-10 drops of essential oil in 1 ounce of a carrier. Gently rub directly into the abdomen.
Essential oils have a wide range of therapeutic benefits and practical uses. They can be used regularly to boost mood, support healthy skin, address various minor ailments, and keep your home naturally clean.
How do you like to use essential oils? Share your tips and recipes below!
Note: Essential oils are highly concentrated, and they should therefore be used with caution. Please dilute them before use. Some essential oils are unsafe during all trimesters of pregnancy; others should only be used after the first trimester. Use essential oils cautiously if you are pregnant or nursing. When using the recipes above for children under the age of 12, use half or less of the amount of essential oils. Rosemary, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils should be used with extra caution on young children. The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration; it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
"Aromatherapy." University of Maryland Medical Center. Web. 6 January 2017.
Axe, Josh. "Top 4 Essential Oils for Acne." Dr. Axe. Web. 9 January 2017.
Axe, Josh. "10 Lemon Essential Oil Uses and Benefits." Dr. Axe. Web. 9 January 2017.
"Health Benefits of Grapefruit Essential Oil." Organic Facts. Web. 9 January 2017.
"What are Essential Oils?" National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Web. 7 January 2017.