Essential oils are easily attainable and not hard to find these days; their popularity has exploded in recent years, and they are widely used in bath bombs, lotions, and candles. Learning about them in their raw form, and how to use them for holistic healing and aromatherapy can be extremely beneficial.
THE HISTORY OF ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils and aromatherapy have been gaining popularity and trust in the Western world for a while now, but they’ve been used around the world for thousands of years in spiritual practices and to help boost mood and support health. Ancient Egypt is known as the birthplace of aromatherapy; the Egyptians were extremely interested in the power and properties of plants and used them in the practice of their religion, in the cosmetics and medicinal products, and even in the embalming process.
It is believed that they were produced by a solvent extraction method using animal fat, but distillation style “pots” have been found dating back to 3500 B.C. The main goal when making an essential oil is to extract the natural oils in the herb, fruit, or flower without destroying them, which contain the medicinal compounds of that specific plant in a highly concentrated form. This is done using steam, water, or these days, cold press.
Around the same time the Egyptians were studying and mastering the use of plant-based oils, China and India were exploring aromatic plants and their uses, and they later became integrated into the Aryurvedic, a sacred medicinal practice in India. The Ancient Greeks learned from the Egyptians, and in turn the Romans learned from them. Hippocrates believed strongly in holistic medicine, and the Romans incorporated the oils into their baths and wellness treatments.
For a time, during the Dark Ages, the popularity and study of essential oils died out, and if they were used it was mostly for their antibacterial properties. However, they were revived again during the renaissance and the term “aromatherapy” was coined by chemist and perfumer Rene Maurice Gattefosse after treating a badly burned hand in 1910 with lavender oil and being blown away by the results. Thanks to his research and interest, many soldiers were treated using essential oils in WWII, and admiration for the capability of plant medicine has continued to grow.
USING ESSENTIAL OILS AS PLANT MEDICINE
It is important to note that essential oils cannot treat or mitigate illness or disease; always seek a doctor for medical advice and never use essential oils in place of medication.
Essential oils are most often used in a diffuser, which can be purchased for an affordable price at most grocery and retail stores. The fragrance of the oil is released into the air using only a few drops at a time, and the strong aromatic properties of these oils can help boost mood or even ease headaches or tension. Diffusing oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint can help to purify the air and ease congestion and cold symptoms.
SOME oils can be used on the skin or even ingested, but it is extremely important that you do your research, talk to your doctor, and use VERY small amounts at a time. Most essential oil bottles are designed to only release a drop at a time, and that is because each drop is packed full of millions of time molecules from that plant, and a little goes a long way.
When using the oils this way, it is imperative you keep a few things in mind.
- Just like anything else, there are varying qualities of essential oils. Oils you buy for $10 at Walmart will not be the same quality as a $20 bottle from a natural foods store. While it can be pricey at times, it is important to get oils of the purist quality in order to ensure their safety and get the most benefit from using them. (DoTerra has some of the highest quality oils on the market!)
- If using on the skin, it is important to use a very small amount (as I mentioned above, but I can’t stress this enough!) and dilute it with water or a carrier oil, such as grapeseed, avocado, or coconut. This helps prevent irritation of the skin due to the potency of the plant oils. Before using an essential oil regularly on the skin, do a “patch test” by applying a little amount to a small, healthy patch of skin such as on the wrist, and covering with a bandage for 24 hours. Check to see if any irritation has occurred. Apply all diluted oils with a sterile cotton pad. Learn more about carrier oils here.
- There are very few oils that should and can be ingested. If a bottle does not have nutrition facts on the side, it is most likely unsafe or not recommended to use in this way. AGAIN, any oils you do ingest should be done in very minute and diluted amounts to prevent damage to the organs and body. There is not much conclusive science to back the use of these oils, as they have a reputation of being a “fad” and a type of holistic medicine. Therefore, you should proceed with caution and take ingesting oils seriously. However, many oils have been shown to have positive effects when ingested in these small amounts; one drop of wild orange oil from DoTerra (a pure and trustworthy oil source) in your tea or water every day can help stimulate and cleanse the liver. A drop of frankincense oil may help support cellular function and immune system.
That being said, essential oils have been used in medicine mainly because of their antibacterial, antiscarring, and antifungal properties. Some of the oils containing the highest medicinal qualities include oregano, clove, lavender, clary sage, cinnamon, tea tree, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. They can help treat minor fungal infections including ringworm, athletes foot, toenail fungus, and even acne (tee tree! Dilute a few drops, apply to stubborn pimples for a few days, and watch them disappear!).
- Diffuse (or sniff) mint oil for nausea
- Diffuse eucalyptus when you have a cold
- Diffuse lavender or rub in to the bottom of the feet for sleep
- Diffuse clove or apply small drop to temples for headaches and immunity
- Put a drop of pure grapefruit oil into your water for metabolism
- Diffuse lemongrass or orange oil for motivation and to lift depression
- Diffuse clary sage or apply diluted oil to the back of the neck to balance hormones and sooth cramps
- Combine gernaium and jojoba oil to sooth inflammation and sore muscles
- Apply diluted lavender to stubborn scars routinely
- Diffuse ylang ylang for anxiety and deeper sleep
USING ESSENTIAL OILS AROUND THE HOME
Not only can you use oils to lift mood or help ease illness and stress, they are also popular for use in and around the home. Essential oils can be used to make bug repellents, natural cleaners and disinfectants, soaps, lotions, massage oils, and more.
Citronella, spearmint, and basil are good for repelling insects. Place a few drops around entry ways to the home and in any problem areas such as the kitchen where you may be experiencing ant infestations. Lemon, lavender, rosemary, and sage are popular for making home cleansers.
By doing just a small amount of research, you can easily gather recipes for all sorts of essential oil based products that you use at home everyday. You may also find yourself enjoying a new hobby, like soap or candle making. ❤ Remember to do your research and test the recipes and oils before putting them to good use.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years, in different cultures around the world. Understanding them, the plants they come from, and how to use them can be a huge benefit to every day life in our stressed and disconnected society. They help us uplift the spirit, reconnect to nature, and find new ways to heal ourselves.
My favorite? Jasmine 🌼
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of essential oils, we can start digging deeper into each individual oil and their uses later on. Keep an eye out for those posts! (;