If you are a person who enjoys a lovely smelling home or if you are someone who faces a great deal of stress in your daily life…
then the one thing you might be missing is a series of scents to aid you. We put together this reference guide to educate people on the benefits and risks when using essential oils. When you are through with this guide, you will know what essential oils will be best for you and where to find them. There are so many essential oil types available that provide a great many benefits, both physically and mentally. A routine that includes essential oils can be downright healthy if done right.
But it’s difficult to just jump in and start a regimen without doing ample research first. That’s what this guide is for. While reading it you won’t have the opportunity to smell each of these scents but what we can do is give you an in-depth look into the uses of essential oils and touch on each individual aroma available so that you can get a better idea of what is out there.
What Are Essential Oils?
At its very core, essential oils are the essence of plants, which are the natural odors, flavors, and chemicals special to that variety. These compounds are pulled from different plants and bottled so that we, the consumer, can smell them, rub them on our skin, or even ingest them when we need or want to. Of course, you never want to consume something without knowing its effects first.
The aroma of each of these oils is dubbed the essence. Some of them stand alone and some work well when mixed with other. Yet, while “essence” is technically a flavoring, essential oils are hydrophobic liquids, which means that they are not soluble in water and are made up of the “volatile aroma compounds of plants.” These compounds hold the essence of the plant they are extracted from.
Why Should I Consider Essential Oils?
While some research is inconclusive on the benefits of essential oils, I can tell you about my own experience. Personally, I adore lavender oil, since I am an anxious person by nature, and have found the scent to be significantly relaxing. One of my favorite ways to incorporate a little lavender oil into my life is by topical application.
When I first began using it I liked to take a few drops and put it in my hair, although I found I got overzealous and friends began to suggest I tone down the scent just a bit. Have you ever been in a room when someone walks in with too much cologne or perfume? Well, I didn’t want to be that person but was realizing I was.
So, I found diluting the oil in a spritzer bottle with a lot of water gave me the scent I craved and the ease I was looking for without omitting an overbearing odor that disturbed others. This is just one of the ways I use essential oils. I also like to dab some on a piece of cloth and put it under my pillowcase when I sleep and also enjoy rubbing it on my temples.
Some studies on essential oils concluded that regular use can have “positive effects” on your health primarily in areas like anxiety, depression, pain, infections, and a slew of other ailments. And while some scientists say their evidence doesn’t support the health benefits of these extracts, the fact is many ancient civilizations used essential oils as a healing method and continue to do so today.
History of Essential Oil Uses
Extracts from shrubs, herbs, and other vegetation have been used for medicinal and other purposes for thousands of years. There is evidence in France on the walls that cavemen once painted of aromatherapy, and the Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to practice with scents, which quickly spread to Greece. India has been utilizing essential oils for a few thousand years, and China’s knowledge dates back all the way to the 25th century BC.
As for the effect on health, there is evidence that certain scents were essential in helping treat the plague during the 17th century. It’s a fact that essential oil uses have been regularly practiced for centuries.
How is Essential Oil Collected?
There are several ways to extract the oils from plants, most of them taking advantage of the fact that oil and water do not mix. In this section, I will educate you briefly on the different methods of collecting essential oils.
This method is the most widely used for essential oil extraction and is a process that goes back at least 5,000 years. It’s fairly simple. First, water is placed in a large pressure cooker. Above the water, the technician places a rack, which is where the herbs will sit when the water comes to a boil. The top of this pressure cooker has an attachment that looks like a long silver cone, this is where the steam that moves through the plants goes.
Cold water is run through the outside compartment of this cone while the steam with the essential oils runs through the internal section. The water cools off the steam turning it back into a liquid. It’s collected in a glass beaker, and you can see the oil floating on top of a water-like substance called hydrosol, which is then separated leaving a highly concentrated essential oil.
- A highly scientific process, distillation can extracts oils from any plant.
- Pressure cookers can be dangerous so do not attempt this without some professional training/advice.
Our next extraction process is “cold pressing” or “expression”, and it’s mostly used to obtain essential oils that come from citrus rinds, like lemons and oranges. The way it was originally done is that a sponge would be pressed against a rind of the citrus fruit or plant to release the oil from its pores. This was done and still can be done by hand. Nowadays, there are cold pressing machines, which is more practical.
Today, a process known as Écuelle à piqued is basically cold pressing but doesn’t take as much hard work. The rind is placed in a device containing spikes. The fruit rind or plant is placed in the top and the device is spun. The spikes prick and prod the contents. In the end, the oils and extracted liquids separate by centrifugal force of spinning.
- When done by hand, there is barely any equipment involved. This method is safer than using a pressure cooker.
- Can take much longer, especially when done by hand. Only works well with citrus rind scents.
How Are They Used?
Next, we will discuss the methods available to you for using your oils of which there are three. Essential oils can either be ingested, inhaled, or used topically. Which method you decide to use will depend primarily on the type of extract you decide on.
Certain oils can irritate your skin and are meant to be used with a diffuser or another type of olfactory device. If you are unsure of what method would work best for you, consult a specialist.
It may go without saying, but it’s important to mention that you should never ingest or inhale something without consulting your healthcare physician. Just be prepared to deal with possible skeptics of the advantages of using essential oils.
If you don’t know what olfactory means, it basically relates to your sense of smell. When inhaled, certain oils can free you from stress and have a wonderful calming power. This is especially true when you use a device that’s sole purpose is to put the scents of your extracts into the air you breathe.
This is possibly the most popular way of releasing essential oils into the air for breathing. In short, you put your oil into the diffuser. Though, some of them require that you add water, while others require heat for evaporation. A diffuser is one of the best ways to propel the scent of your chosen oil into the room.
All you need for this method is a cotton ball or facial tissue and some patience. Just apply a few drops of oil on one of these simple distributors and wait for the scent to evaporate into the air. If you have facial tissues but want things to get done immediately, then just smell it directly. Or you can put the tissue under your pillowcase before you go to bed. If you are stressed, using that last method with lavender oil will surely help you relax and fall asleep.
Kind of like the trusty diffuser, this method just requires that you boil some water, put it in a bowl, submerge a few drops into the water, and breath directly while keeping a towel over your head. Because this method is so direct, it could be rather intense and thus require that you use the oil sparingly. One or two drops should serve you well. Oils like eucalyptus are especially effective when used with steam.
Finally, for olfactory methods, you can simply put a few drops into the water of a spray bottle and mist the room when the scent is needed. This method is great when it comes to deodorizing a room or to keep animals away from your plants or furniture. Other uses could be to add a relaxing scent to the rug you meditate on or can be used when you are trying to keep pests like mice or insects away.
Using some essential oils topically is the best way to get the effect. The oil is absorbed through your skin, which is a great method for sore muscles. When applying oils directly to your skin, you need to be sure that you won’t have a negative reaction that could result in a rash. Trial and error could work for that, but just like ingestion, it never hurts to get a professional opinion before you jump right in.
These handy lotions can be found on most organic sites, health food stores, or even in your local grocery store. All you need to do is add a 3% concentration of your oil to the carrier substance. To give you a better idea, that’s about three drops of essence to one teaspoon of the carrier substance. Some of the best carrier oils include sunflower, coconut, and avocado, among others. However, vegetable oil or other hydrogenated oils are not considered as good carriers.
Water is a carrier substance like we discussed with the spray bottle. Oils from fruits or nuts work well too. If you are planning on using topical oils on a baby, then make sure the concentration is no larger than .25% since a baby’s skin tends to be more sensitive than adults. To be honest, you should consult your pediatrician before applying any essential oils to a child or baby.
These topical treatments are great for massage therapy, wound or burn relief, and body deodorizers. Of course, not all essential oils are used for all these things, so make sure you know the effects of each oil before you use them. Below, you will find many popular scents that are listed with their benefits.
This is one topical method that will work well with a liquid carrier substance. Put a little on the affected area, like a sore muscle, and rub it in. You can apply a heating pad or cold pack to accentuate the effects of the oil.
For this method, you won’t need a carrier substance. Simply put a few drops of the desired oil into your bath water and then get in. You will get a double dose of essential oils with this method since you will be inhaling the steam as well as absorbing it through your pores. If you want to use another carrier, full cream milk is a great way to disperse the oil into your bath.
Since oils are hydrophobic in nature, they will float to the top of the bath, so you can create your own bath mixture if you like. One part baking soda, two parts Epsom salt, and three parts of sea salt with two or three drops of your chosen oil is a great way to submerge your scent into the bath water.
If you add a few drops to a carrier oil, certain scents, when rubbing into the muscles gently, can relieve an array of external and internal discomforts. Muscle aches, headaches, sore joints, as well as stress and anxiety can all be relieved with selected scents.
Ingesting essential oils can become toxic. We suggest you consult a healthcare professional or your doctor before putting oils into your food or water.
Where To Find Essential Oils?
Extracts from plants shouldn’t be too difficult to get wherever you may live. If you feel adventurous, you can get a pressure cooker and make your own, but that method is impractical, to say the least. Not only would it be time-consuming, pressure cookers are not easy to use and can be dangerous. Also, having a variety of oils in your life would be nearly impossible unless you are sitting on a nice fortune and don’t have to work for a living.
Never fear, there are more suitable contemporary solutions. You can head to your local health food or holistic store. Nearly every community has one today. When I lived in New Orleans, I purchased my oils from an African shop a few blocks away from my apartment. The decor was so colorful, and I felt I was experiencing a new culture even if I was nowhere near Africa. There are tons of ethnic communities like your local Chinatown, which would be a great place to investigate.
Or, if time is of the essence, then online shopping might be the way to go. Here is a great starter kit that’s highly reviewed and reasonable in price. Wherever you decide to purchase your oils, read our descriptions first and pick a few that will meet your needs.
What Oils Should I Use?
This is a good question. The reality is, this is an answer only you can come up with. Our suggestion is to read each of the essential oils in this handy guide we put together for you. Mark down the ones that you feel will serve your needs and start with a few.
The nice thing about oils is you can combine them with other unique scents. If you want to try that though, then you should do a little more research on combining scents before mixing them all together. We also suggest, when combining, to test out a few drops instead of mixing two bottles together. Water is a nice carrier substance when testing out new combination scents.
Your Alphabetical Guide To Essential Oils
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the claims listed below are subject to research and should not be intended as a sole cure for any ailment or infirmity. We always iterate to seek medical advice when using these oils, especially when used in combination with other pharmaceutical drugs.