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Essential Oils

What is Essential Oil?

Essential oil is an aromatic plant-derived substance that is used for aromatherapy and wellness.  

Essential oils are natural volatile oils extracted from plants. They are often used as aromatherapy treatments for various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain relief. There are many different types of essential oils, each with their own unique properties.

Some essential oils are known to have antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even insecticidal properties. These oils are also be used in perfumes, cosmetics, and food flavoring. Essential oils can be used in many ways for the home apothecary enthusiast. Essential oils can be added as a base for cleaning products, perfumes, and even as a natural insect repellent. Applying essential oils topically to treat minor ailments such as headaches and colds is another popular method with the use of these products.

There are many different essential oils available, each with their own unique properties. Some oils are known to be good for certain conditions while others are better suited for others. For example, peppermint oil is great for relieving nausea and stomach aches, while lavender oil is known to calm anxiety and stress.

How are Essential Oils Made?

Essential oils can be made synthetically or from the plants themselves, but in general, they come from a single type of plant (such as Lavender Oils from Lavendula) where it’s extracted via steam distillation. Hot water vapor pulls the water and oils from the plant material creating both steam and volatile plant oils. These plant oils have condensed phytochemical compounds that are present in the plant material and thus have a pronounced effect when used topically.   

Other essential oils such as are produced through a mechanical process known as cold pressing, which uses pressurized machines to physically squish out the volatile oils from the plant material. This is another natural method for making essential oil. Both methods produce varying degrees of beneficial and aromatic compounds (e.g.: cold-pressed lavender has more aromatic and organic compounds than steam-distilled lavender).   

Also, plant species can produce varying qualities of essential oils. For example, there is an orange essential oil and then there is sweet orange oil. Regular (bitter) orange oil can have photo-toxic effects causing irritability after being exposed to sunlight. Sweet orange oil is considered non-toxic.  

Today, essential oil popularity has grown so much that there are now more than 100s of different types to choose from, with new ones being introduced every year! There is no need to collect that many, having some basic essential oils will suffice in your home apothecary.   The simpler, the better.

essential oil pipette and white round plastic bowl
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How to use Essential Oils?

Essential Oils can be used in aromatherapy – where a plant’s aromatic compounds are aerated so that an individual can yield the beneficial effects.  

There are various mechanisms to aerate essential oils, and the most popular way is by using a water vaporizer to suspend the aroma in the air, or you can use tea light candles to burn a mix of water and essential oils into the air quickly and intensely. Essential oils can also be applied topically for localized relief of pain or discomfort, typically diluted with a carrier oil.

Just take the intended essential oil and mix it with a carrier oil, rub it between the palm of your hands, and apply to the affected area or just behind your neck and ears for a lasting effect. The smell will also linger in the air after you’ve applied it, so go lightly and apply more as needed.   Most, if not all Essential Oils have properties that are antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial. The use of essential oils in daily practice can prove to increase the quality of life in a very practical way.

Lastly, sometimes some essential oils can be ingested. You have to be very careful with which essential oils you attempt to consume as many can be poisonous and are not recommended. Be sure to do good research and consult with various sources before attempting to ingest any essential oil. Below we’ve provided a preview of some essential oils that may be good to have on hand in your home apothecary.

How do Essential Oils work?

Essential Oils stimulate the nervous system through chemical receptors in the nose, producing emotional responses. 

The nose can detect over 10,000 different odors and aromas. This biological feature has helped humans develop a greater relationship with their environment and avoid – foul matter for many kinds of reasons. Using oils with the practice of aromatherapy can produce similar responses to how it would be perceived if it were the essence in its natural environment. 

When the vaporized essence of a plant, fruit, or herb is inhaled; those smells are detected by the brain and produce a physiological reaction. Some essential oils can induce feelings of euphoria, while others can calm the nerves and slow a person’s heart rate. Some people will use certain oils to enhance their moods and create environments that are conducive to the experiences they want to produce. 

For example, if someone wants to focus, they can use a rosemary-based essential oil to help heighten the senses and improve cognitive function. Rosemary oils are said to help improve brain function because of their antioxidant effects on the body by removing damaging free radicals. Sometimes, on different occasions, people will bring aromatic plants or essential oils home to produce a nostalgic feeling such as with citrus scents or pine scents. 

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Rose Essential Oil

Rose Essential Oil is derived from steam-distilled rose petals.

Just as the Rose itself represents love in so many ways, the essential oil contains the most concentrated form of that love, or so it is said.   Rose Essential Oil may be used effectively to: reduce anxiety and stress, increase libido, protect against harmful bacteria and fungi. Rose essential oil is typically sold in dark amber or cobalt blue bottles with a dropper cap. It is also found in a multitude of skincare products. 

The best way to use rose essential oil is to diffuse it into the air. To do this, simply place a few drops of rose essential oil into a diffuser, add water and turn it on. As the water evaporates, the water molecules aerate the rose essential oils up into the air as well. 

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Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular and versatile essential oils. Lavender’s pleasant aroma, sedative properties and, soothing effects on skin conditions like acne or eczema make it a helpful addition to many beauty products as well as remedies for common ailments from insomnia to allergies.

Lavender essential oil has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress. The benefits of Lavender essential oil include: calming the mind, relieving stress, promoting better sleep quality, and improving mood.

You can diffuse some drops of lavender oil in your home, or add it to bathwater. Lavender essential oil is also used in aromatherapy massage therapy.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Steam-distilled from the leaves of the Eucalyptus Tree, Eucalyptus Oil is one of the oldest and most widely used essential oils. This aromatic plant material creates a very strong camphoric scent that is both pleasant and invigorating.    Eucalyptus oil has a refreshing, minty smell that leaves skin feeling soft and smooth. The oil also helps relieve stress, headaches, and muscle aches. Eucalyptus essential oil has been used for centuries to treat respiratory conditions such as colds and flu and to relieve stress and anxiety.    The main active ingredient in eucalyptus oil is 1,8-cineole, which is also found in tea tree oil. Eucalyptus oil can be applied topically to the skin, inhaled through the nose, or ingested orally. Use some drops of eucalyptus oil in a water vaporizer to clear the air and nasal passages. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree plant, which grows naturally in Australia. The leaves contain a high concentration of terpenes, which give the oil its antibacterial properties.

The benefits of tea tree oil include anti-bacterial properties, antifungal properties, anti-viral properties, and anti-inflammatory properties. These antimicrobial effects make tea tree oil great for treating acne, cuts, scrapes, burns, and other skin conditions.

Tea tree oil can be used for various ailments or household purposes. To use on a specific skin condition such as ringworm, you can apply tea tree oil topically by mixing 1 part tea tree oil with 10 parts carrier oil. Apply the mixture directly to the affected area, and leave it on for 15 minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water.

Another good use of this essential oil would be to treat shoes that have a bad odor. Just add some drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle with water and spritz your shoe’s soles with the mixture for some added freshness.

Peppermint Essential Oils

Plant extracts from the Peppermint plant have been commonly used for many holiday season cosmetics and flavored candies and foods. As a popular fragrance oil, this essential oil can commonly be found in a natural products store. It is one of the most popular essential oils because of its refreshing aroma and cooling sensation.

Peppermint essential oil has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. It was originally used to treat digestive problems such as indigestion and flatulence. Today, it’s also commonly used to relieve headaches and migraines.

Peppermint essential oil is known for its cooling properties. Peppermint oil contains menthol, an organic compound that gives the scent of mint its characteristic flavor. Menthol is known to help reduce pain and inflammation and improve circulation. This makes peppermint oil useful for treating headaches, muscle aches, sore muscles, and arthritis.

Lemon Essential Oil

A fun and invigorating scent, coming from the Lemon itself, lemon essential oil is one of the most uplifting aromas in the entire world. 

The scent of lemon oil is true to the actual fruit and is so volatile it evaporates quickly. Lemon oil is often used in perfumes, but it may be more effective when combined with other scents.

It is also very beneficial for cleaning up after pets and children. Simply mix 10 drops of lemon oil with 4 cups of warm water. Use this solution in a spray bottle to refresh carpets, furniture, floors, walls, and even clothing.

With the abundant therapeutic benefits provided by using essential oils, having this essential oil in your medicine cabinet could prove to be useful.  

Lemongrass Essential Oil

This essential oil is extracted from the lemongrass plant. Lemongrass is native to Southeast Asia and India. It is now grown all over the world, especially in tropical climates like in certain parts of Australia and Africa. 

Lemongrasses are fragrant herbs that grow in clumps at ground level. They have long, thin stalks and oval leaves. When crushed, they release a sweet citrusy smell that is similar to orange peel. Use some drops of oil to freshen the air around your home.

Lemongrass essential oil is great for relieving stress and anxiety. It helps calm down those who feel anxious, depressed, or stressed out. The scent of lemongrass is relaxing and calming. You can diffuse it in your room or simply inhale the scent.

Lemongrass essential oil is also helpful for easing menstrual cramps. A few drops of oil rubbed into the lower abdomen will help ease any discomfort associated with menstruation.

Wild Orange Essential Oil

One of the best smelling essential oils on the market today, wild orange essential oil comes from the rinds of the orange fruit. Many people can be familiar with this scent in its natural form because when an orange is peeled you can see the vapors of the orange essential oil burst out of the pores of the rind. 

Wild oranges are said to have come from Asia and India and were brought over to the Mediterranean by the 15th century. Wild orange is the uncultivated plant species found in natural environments, as opposed to the commercially frown sweet orange. 

Wild orange essential oil is high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Vitamin C is needed for healthy skin and hair. Antioxidants protect against free radicals which cause cell damage and premature aging.

Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot Essential Oil is another citrus aroma that is extracted from the bergamot orange rind.

It’s predominantly cultivated in southern Italy, commercially produced by the coasts of the Ionian Sea in the Mediterranian. Bergamot comes from citrus trees native to southeastern Asia, and eventually became a staple crop in Calabria, Italy. It has been cultivated since the 16th century in Italy and is also grown in France and Turkey. Bergamots are considered a hybrid plant species between the bitter orange and lime.

Bergamot essential oil is widely used in perfumery. Its aroma is described as being reminiscent of grapefruit, lime, mandarin, and orange. People who consume Earl grey tea regularly will notice this aroma since it is the citrus essence that is used in the flavor profile for this tea. 

Bergapten, a component of cold-pressed bergamot essential oil, is found to have phototoxic reactions so be careful when using under direct sunlight. Using a bergamot aromatherapy oil will promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. The effects of bergamot oil include reduced levels of stress hormones, relief in mood-related disorders, and even being shown to relieve and modulate pain receptors. 

Use some drops of Bergamot oil, preferably from steam-distilled fresh bergamot fruit to reduce stress-induced anxiety. Bergamot essential oil can be used topically on the skin with a carrier oil, hair, and in bath water for a therapeutic experience. 

Essential Oil Allergic Reactions

Although many essential oils have predominantly positive physical and psychological effects as alternative medicine, sometimes the active compounds can cause irritation, adverse effects, and change hormonal activity.  

Pregnant women should take caution and research all products before use and/or exposure to prevent miscarriage or gestationally induced defects. If you are a pregnant woman, consult with your doctor and relevant studies before using any kind of essential oil. Allergic reactions such as skin irritation (especially from synthetic fragrances branded as “essential oil”) can cause discomfort and further adverse reactions.

To test for any allergic reaction simply take a small cotton ball, apply a tablespoon of carrier oil (such as coconut oil) and a few drops (2-3) of quality essential oil, rub it into your forearm, and wait to see if there is any redness or skin irritation. For a bad reaction, consult with an allergy specialist for allergy tests.

Be sure not to apply essential oils to damaged skin, and keep all your products in a hard-to-reach (for children) medicine cabinet.

For recommendations and more on the benefits of aromatherapy oils check with this aromatherapy community on Facebook. 

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