What You Don’t Know About Essential Oils

It’s quite likely that, by now, you’ve heard a thing or two about essential oils. Perhaps you’ve heard that they can have therapeutic effects or that they can be used for cleansing and cleaning. In the last few years, essential oils have developed quite a positive reputation and because of doing so, they have had a significant surge in popularity. This isn’t unexpected, as they have a wide range of benefits that span from being anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial to enhancing memory and concentration (depending on the oil).

While you may have heard one thing or another about essential oils, here is a list of things you may not already know.

Essential oils are not actually “oil”

Essential oils are made of the naturally occurring compounds that are extracted from plants by distillation (via water or steam), or by mechanical methods (such as cold pressing or expression). The result is a highly concentrated form of the plant’s essence that can be diffused into the air (aromatherapy), or mixed with a carrier oil and applied to the skin. They are called an oil because they consist of the plant’s oil-soluble chemicals.

Essential oils have a long legacy

The practice of using essential oils for their healing and cleansing properties is not limited to modern day society. While the exact dates are not known, historians have found evidence that indicates essential oils were being used by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese around 3500 BC. Also, the Bible makes over 200 references to essential oils, and in ancient Greece, Hippocrates was known to use them to help heal his patients.

Essential oils can change

One of the ways you can tell a “real essential oil” from one that is chemically created, or is a fragrance oil is by the oil’s capacity to change. An essential oil extracted from plant materials will smell differently to you when they are in the bottle, when they are on your skin, and when they are in the air. But a fragrance created in a lab will always smell the same. Essential oils are also subject to change from exposure to air (oxidation), to your skin, to the sun, and to other materials and substances. That’s why it’s important to store your essential oils properly, in a cool, dry, dark place.

Essential oils can be up to 100 times more potent than the plant itself

Because essential oils are so concentrated, they are incredibly potent. A few drops goes a long way, and the therapeutic effects of many oils can sometimes be felt in only 20 minutes. That’s why, in order to avoid irritation or a reaction, they need to be diluted with a carrier oil (such as coconut, sesame, or jojoba) before you apply them to your skin. Essential oils are sold pre-diluted, undiluted, or in a blend. So depending on what you buy,  you may or may not have to dilute them yourself.

The uses of essential oils are incredibly expansive

Aromatherapy is the most popular use of essential oils, but the use of essential oils expand far beyond aromatherapy alone. They can be used topically to ease a wide variety of ailments, to clean and disinfect your home, as a natural bug repellent, and to make cosmetics, just to name a few.

The therapeutic effects of common essential oils range from easing anxiety and stress (lavender and rose), to helping relieve headaches (peppermint and ylang-ylang) to lifting your mood (lemon, sweet orange, and rose).

Final Thoughts

Essential oils are an extraordinary way to experience the beneficial properties of plants. For centuries, it has been known that plants have the power to help us heal, but a recent resurgence in the popularity of integrative medicine has brought essential oils into the limelight. There are hundreds of health benefits that may be experienced from using essential oils, with the effects varying widely between oils, yet often overlapping. But it is still important to make sure that you are handling and using your oils responsibly. They are incredibly potent, and a little goes a long way. Before diffusing or applying any oils to your skin, make sure you know the proper procedure for handling and using your oils safely.

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