Why I love the oils…
Over the last few years, I have made several small changes in our home that have amounted to a big impact on my family. One of those changes included reducing the number of toxic products in our home.
The source of my search began with daily headaches, zero energy, horrible breakouts, crippling allergies, and just living in a state of mental malaise. This was all pre-mommyhood days! So I couldn’t blame my symptoms on sleepless nights and screaming toddlers.
I was taking some form of an over-the-counter drug almost daily. I still fought allergies and headaches. I tried every anti-zit cream on the market, proactive, and even some prescriptions from my dermatologist. Nothing helped my terrible skin either! And mentally, I just couldn’t seem to focus. I hated living in a mental fog!
It was then that I started doing some research and straying from all of the usual answers. And I did find some very unusual answers to my questions. But I was ready to try anything! So little by little over the past 4 years I have found some great solutions! I rarely get headaches. My skin is great. Allergies have diminished substantially. And I feel better than I have in years…and that is with sleepless nights and a screaming toddler!
Before we dive into essential oils, I would like to note. All of my health changes did not come over-night. Nor were they a result of just the essential oils. I made other life-style changes over past few years as well. However, these oils do play a huge role in me taking back my health! I do not want to minimize their impact, nor do I want to pass them off as a cure-all. They are one piece of the puzzle of healthy living.
So what are essential oils?
Some people drink herbal teas or take herbal supplements to improve their health. Essential oils are similar to these substances in that they come from many of the same plants. However, there is one major difference. Essential oils are much more potent and powerful than their counterpart teas and supplements. For example, it takes 24 cups of herbal peppermint tea to match the strength of 1 drop of peppermint essential oil. They should be treated with care and caution.
According to the Essential Oils Desk Reference, “Essential oils are the aromatic, volatile liquid that is within many shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, and seeds.” They are highly concentrated and far more potent than dried herbs because of the distillations process. It requires a lot of plant material to make a little essential oil. For example, it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to produce 2.2 pounds of rose essential oil! What an expensive bouquet that would be!
Briefly here are the four most common methods of extraction (aka getting those precious oils out of the plant):
- Steam Distillation – Most common method. Steam the plant only to a specific heat and pressure to release oils.
- CO2 Extraction – Similar to steam distillation only CO2 is used rather than water.
- Cold Pressing – Rind is mashed into water. Oil is released and separated from pulpy water. Used on citrus fruits.
- Solvent Extraction – Plant matter is mixed with a solvent that separates oil from plant.
If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the oil distillation process, here is a great resource: Experience Essential Oils.com.
The method used for distilling / extracting the oil will have an impact on the chemistry of the oil as well as the effectiveness of the oil. Only steam distilled and cold pressed oils are considered to be therapeutic grade oils. The brand of oils that I use steam-distills most of their oils. The exception is the citrus oils, which are cold-pressed. Oils that are subjected to high heat and high pressure are noticeably inferior to oils not subject to high heat and pressure. Think of vegetables. A garden-fresh tomato contains more nutrients than a canned tomato. The canned tomato has been exposed to high heat and pressure necessary for canning. Inevitably nutrients are lost. Some methods involve the use of solvents, which is usually left behind in the final product. So when shopping around for a brand of essential oils, you will want to consider the method of distillation. Unfortunately, many people opt for very inexpensive oils that are inferior in quality. When these don’t work, they give up on oils all together. So be sure to do your research before choosing where you will purchase your oils.
Essential oils are definitely not simple substances! Each oil contains 80-300 different chemical components. Each contributing to the oil’s beneficial uses to some degree. That is why oils such as lavender have so many uses.
A little history on the oils…
So essential oils have been around for a really really long time! Since they come from plants, one might assume they have been around as long as the planet has been in existence. Essential oils, probably called by another name, were man’s first form of medicine.
God gave us plants for our enjoyment, our nutrition, and for our healing. They are mentioned in the Bible over 200 times! The Bible speaks very highly of precious oils. And if you recall, Baby Jesus was gifted oils by the wise men!
And before the time of Christ, Egyptians had mastered the use of oils. They used these precious oils for beauty treatments, medicinal purposes, and for embalming. Hieroglyphics found in Egyptian temples describe recipes for perfumes and various therapeutic blends. I love the story of King Tut. The ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922. Over 50 alabaster jars, used for holding oils, were found in the tomb. Only traces of the oils were remaining in the jars. Grave robbers chose these precious oils over a king’s wealth! History also confirms that the Greeks and Romans also used essential oils.
There’s security in knowing that people throughout all of history have been using these substances for healing. Because I don’t know about you, but I get quite nervous when the FDA recalls a medication due to life-altering and even fatal side effects.
So how do I use the oils?
I tend to over-complicate just about everything! I enjoy using essential oils to make home-made bath and beauty products, linen sprays, soaps, cleaners, and more. However, it can be as simple as inhaling from the bottle or diluting and rubbing on your feet….or having your sweet hubby rub on your feet. Who doesn’t love a good foot-rub! *sigh* Anyway, I will cover some of the fun recipes that I make in another post. But for now, there are four very simple methods of using the oils.
- Internally – This is the least commonly used method with the oils. Some people use essential oils to enhance the flavor of their drinking water. Others put a few drops of oil in a capsule and swallow. There is some debate over the safety of this method.
- Diffuse – Diffusing essential oils helps to remove toxins and purify the air. Not to mention, some of these oils smell amazing!
- Direct Inhalation – This method is the best way of using the oils that promote emotional health. Okay, so I’m going to go a little science chick on you and take you back to your high-school anatomy class to explain how this works. Research shows that inhaling components of certain oils can stimulate the olfactory receptors and hence activate the regions in the limbic system that are responsible for memory, emotion, and state of mind. The pituitary gland is stimulated and releases chemical messages that travel to glands and organs. The glands and organs create the physical responses. So the way to reach the emotional part of your brain is not orally, but through your nose. I have to confess, I used to think it was a little hokey to use a chemical product, natural or not, to sway emotions. However, I then became pregnant and got to know a naturally occurring chemical, hormones, real well. I quickly realized that chemicals play a huge role in emotions. I no longer under-estimate their power.
- Topically – This is the most commonly used method with the oils. Because of their molecular structure, essential oils are rapidly absorbed into the skin and hence the bloodstream. Because they are so potent, most oils need to be diluted before applying to the skin. Coconut oil is a great oil to use for diluting since it is really good for your skin.
What can essential oils do for you?
Here’s a brief list of uses for essential oils:
- Migraine Relief
- Reduce Sinusitis or Cough
- Heal Burns
- Reduce Itch on Bug Bites
- Improve Digestion
- Relieve PMS
- Soothe Sore Muscles
- Curb Food Cravings
- Relief Motion Sickness
- Reduce Fever
- Treat Head Lice
- Boost Immune System
- Calm Tired Cranky Baby
- Reduce Cellulite
- Reduce Acne
- Soothe Itchy Scalp
- Whiten Teeth
- Reduce Wrinkles
- Strengthen Nails
- Reduce Stretch Marks
- Relieve Nausea
- Heal Cracked Feet
- Sooth Diaper Rash
- Improve Sleep
- Relieve Tension
- Detox Bath
- Clean Dishes
- Purify Water
- Eliminate Odors
- Clean Just About Everything
- Reduce Anxiety
- Kill Pests
- Clean Carpet
- Laundry Freshener
- Mosquito Repellent
There are so many more uses for these amazing oils!!!
If you have no experience with essential oils, I would encourage you to start small. Think about what health problems you are facing that traditional medicine just does not seem to be working. Chances are, there is an oil or an oil blend that can give your body the boost it needs to improve your condition.
Or find a potentially hazardous chemical item in your home to replace. A good place to start looking is under the kitchen sink. Most household cleaners are full of harmful, carcinogenic chemicals. These can easily be replaced by home-made cleaners made with essential oils. Most cleaner recipes are very simple to make, involving only a few other ingredients that you probably already have.
Another place to look for potentially harmful chemicals is in your bathroom. Sadly most moisturizers, soaps, and creams are full of chemicals too. A great resource for seeing what you are really putting on your face is the Skin Deep Database.
You can type in your product and it will give your product a safety rating. It also lists every ingredient and explains if and why it is toxic.
It’s pretty user-friendly. And you can also find baby care products here.
Getting Started with Essential Oils
I hope you found this brief post on essential oils helpful. Most of the information was taken from the Essential Oils Desk Reference.
There is so much to learn in the world of essential oils. One can easily become overwhelmed. So if you would like more information, I would love to answer your questions. Or if you are ready to begin your journey with essential oils, I can help you get started. Click here to learn how you can get started with essential oils.
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