What are essential oils?
Essential oils are the soul or the life blood of plants. Although referred to as oil they are in fact odoriferous, highly concentrated, viscous substances that are extracted from flowers, leaves, twigs and roots of plants through various mechanical processes.
Aromatherapy is enjoying a tremendous resurgence.
Its roots are however, firmly planted in the ancient worlds of Egypt, China, Persia and India. Biblical references abound extolling its uses for healing and functions in sacred ritual. Although the ancients didn’t have scientific data on how or why essential oils were effective, they had clear and evident empirical proof of its efficacy. It wasn’t until the 20th century that aromatherapy was put through rigorous scientific scrutiny in Europe. In France, during the W.W. II, when pharmaceuticals ran low, essential oils were used by Dr. Jean Valnet to treat terrible war wounds with good success. To this day, aromatherapy is a well established modality of holistic medicine throughout Europe.
How does it work?
The strong scents emitted by plants influences its survival by effecting pollination, reproduction, in addition to strengthening them against predators and disease. All essential oils have antiseptic, anti-viral as well as bactericidal properties. Due to the complex chemical nature of essential oils, they offer us in turn, protection against disease, infection and stress related disorders.
Our sense of smell is our most primitive and powerful sense of all.
Because it has a profound effect on the limbic system (the most primitive aspect of the brain) it is associated with strong emotions. Smell can trigger very potent emotional experiences from our past. Have you ever walked passed a stranger and caught a whiff of a former lover’s cologne and been instantly transported back to that time and place in your life? Do you revel in the scent of pine remembering happy holiday memories? Conversely, does the smell of rubbing alcohol bring back the anxiety of being in a lineup for school inoculations?
We each have a particular smell that is as unique as our fingerprints. The subliminal smell we emit has a powerful influence on the partners we choose, menstrual cycles, mother-child bonding. It is also influenced by our moods and hormonal cycles.
Essential oils influence us profoundly on a physiological as well as a psychological level.
They are absorbed by the body through the nose, or through the skin. If taken in through inhalation, they are detected by the olfactory cells and broken down in the mucosa in the nasal passages. These cells have a direct connection to the limbic and hypothalamus areas of the brain, resulting in a strong and immediate effect. These areas influence emotions, memory and hormonal secretions. If essential oil is applied to the body through massage, it is absorbed by the skin and picked up by the blood and lymph systems. From there, the essential oil is carried to specific organs and glands depending on its chemical composition. As with herbal preparations, each essential oil has a unique and specific function.
We attracted to some oils and repelled by other.
It’s the law of attraction in action, so let your nose guide you. Chances are that if you love the smell of a particular oil, it is in fact one that will be of benefit. Essential oils are absorbed into the body through the olfactory nerve by inhaling the oils, through direct application to the skin by way of massage, or in a bath.
How to use essential oils
For the most part, essential oils are perfectly safe to use, however if you are pregnant, suffer from epilepsy, high blood pressure, or have known allergies, it is best to check with a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oils.
Since essential oils are one of natures most concentrated and potent extracts, they must NEVER BE USED NEAT ON THE BODY or INGESTED. It is imperative to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba or grape seed before applying them to the body.
First time users, people with allergies, sensitive or fair skin should be more careful with essential oil use. It is prudent to do a skin test before applying aromatherapy oils to the entire body. Mix 1 drop of essential oil in a half teaspoon of massage oil and rub it into the forearm. Wait and watch for any signs of redness, burning or irritation. If any reaction is observed discontinue use. Essential oils are not water soluble, so if skin irritation occurs or gets into the eyes, flush with pure vegetable oil. Always store essential oils in a cool, dark place safely away from children. Citrus oils and lemongrass are photo-toxic and should not be used on the skin if exposed to the sun.
To learn more on how to begin using essential oils, please CLICK HERE.