Monthly Archives: November 2006

What are Essential Oils

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated organic compounds that are extracted from various plant parts, including flowers, trees, herbs, spices. Essential oil compounds are found in the leaves, wood, resin, fruit, flower blossoms, roots and buds of the plant.

The term aromatherapy has been in use since the early twentieth century; however the knowledge of essential oil extraction and application is an ancient art, used for centuries in India, Arabia and other countries for providing therapeutic effects to the mind and body alike.

The term “aroma” refers to the characteristic scent that essential oils contain and “therapy” referring to the healing modality; The ancient art of aromatherapy is based upon the principle that plant parts contain chemical constituents and a vital life force which impact our mind and body, assisting the body to heal itself in various ways.

Essential oils are pure, undiluted and very concentrated. With very few exceptions, essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to the skin and should only be taken internally when under the guidance and direction of a qualified health care practitioner. When used as directed, essential oils are non habit forming and non toxic.

Each essential oil contains different chemical components and hence each oil has different therapeutic properties. Essential oils can be used to enhance mental and physical wellbeing, alleviate some skin conditions, used as topical disinfectants, to repel bugs and insects, can assist the body in dealing with the effects of continued stress, aid sleeplessness, are antiseptic in nature and can help clear up stobborn warts, can help ease athletic injury, muscle cramping and minimise the effects of a cold, allergies or sinus congestion.

Essential oils are generally inhaled or absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. When absorbed through the skin, essential oils can impact the function of internal organs, muscle tissue and support circulation. When inhaled, essential oils affect the olfactory and limbic systems in the brain which then has an effect on memory, learning capabilities, emotions and other intellectual processes.

Extraction Methods

Steam Distillation

Stream is the most common mode of extraction, used at a high pressure and passing through plant material it releases essential oils in to water vapor. The steam is then cooled back to water and the essential oils are then skimmed off the top surface of the water.

Expressed oils

Are created by pressing the oil directly out of the citrus fruit peel.

Solvent extraction

Chemical solvents are used to dissolve compounds out of delicate plant material to make absolutes. The chemical solvents are removed during the final stages of production, and are required when it is difficult to extract oil from the plant. This does not affect the quality of the oil, it simply means that the final product is more concentrated that other essential oils.

What are Carrier oils?

Also called base oils, these oils are used to dilute pure essential oils so they are safe for topical application on the skin. Grape seed oil, Almond oil, Avocado oil, Sesame oil, and Peach kernel oil are all excellent cold pressed, unscented base oils ideal for blending essential oils.

To purchase pure, undiluted essential oils click here.

This information is for education only and does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

Home Use of Essential Oils

How to Use Essential Oils

Massage: First dilute the pure essential oil into a base oil, then pour into the palm of your hand and apply to the body for massage. Use 5-10 drops of pure essential oil to 125 ml of base oil.

Bath: Add 5-7 drops of essential oil dispersed throughout a warm bath for adults or use 2-3 drops for children to ease tension and promote relaxation.

Compress: To relieve aches and muscular pains, add 6 drops of essential oil into 100 ml of water. Dip a folded cloth or flannel into the warm water and apply topically to the skin or area to be treated.

Foot Bath: Add 4-6 drops into a bowl of warm water, stir water to spread oils evenly throughout and use as a foot soak, an excellent way to invigorate tired aching feet.

Inhalation: To clear up congested sinuses and provide relief from sinus pressure. Place 6-10 drops of essential oil is a bowl of boiling water. Take care not to burn yourself. Cover head with a towel and inhale the steam vapors or add 12 drops of essential oil to a handkerchief or tissue and inhale.

Perfume: Add an essential oil or your blend of choice to a base oil and apply to the skin

Light Bulb Ring: Place 2-4 drops of essential oils in a cool light bulb ring and attach to a light bulb. The heat of the light bulb gently releases the aroma into the environment.

Oil Burner: Burners have a lower compartment to hold a candle and an upper basin to fill with water and mix in 4-6 drops of essential oil. As the water is heated by the warmth of the candle and the scent is released into the air.

A great way to disinfect a room during the cold or flu season, or to gently release a tranquil aroma into a room.

Boiling water: In a pot of boiling water on the stove, add in 6-10 drops of essential oil; as the water boils, the steam containing the aroma of the oils will scent the house. Sauna Place 6-10 drops of essential oil on sauna rocks and inhale the steam.

Storage of essential oils

Keep bottles tightly closed. Essential oils are concentrated and flammable; store away from direct heat, open flame and ideally keep cold in the fridge. Keep out of reach from children and pets.

Precautions

  • Essential oils are completely derived from nature; they are also highly concentrated and need to be used mindfully.
  • Avoid contact with the eyes and mucous membranes.
  • ¬†Dilute before using directly on the skin -irritation may occur when used undiluted.
  • Essential oils are for external use only. Do not use essential oils internally without specific consultation from a qualified medical practitioner.
  • Seek professional guidance prior to using essential oils if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, suffering from high blood pressure, have epilepsy, liver damage, any medical condition or have specific health questions.
  • A skin patch test should be conducted prior to using a new essential oil. If you experience any adverse reaction, discontinue immediately and seek professional advice.
  • Use extreme caution when using oils with children and give children only the gentlest oils, diluted, at extremely low concentrations. It is safest to consult a qualified medical practitioner before using with children.

To purchase essential oils click here.

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist