Essential oils 101: What are Essential Oils?

As you can tell from reading my different recipes, I love essential oils. They allow me to be able to gain the medicinal benefits of a plant without having to use a large amount of material. People always ask me questions about the oils, like where do I get them? How do you use them? Can you use too much? Because EO use is not common among the general population I decided to start an Essential Oil 101 series. Every week I will focus on a specific aspect of the use of EO’s to hopefully help  you in your wellness journey and increase your confidence in using oils. I just started selling EO’s through a wonderful company called doTERRA and will discuss them intermittently through all of this, but know that my focus here is to help you feel confident in your use, not to sell you oils. IF you do need them though, please take a look at my site. Thanks.

What are Essential Oils?

An Essential Oil is a concentrated liquid containing volatile organic compounds from different parts of the main plant including, but not limited to: seeds, bark, stems, roots and flowers. This plant liquid is not specifically oil of the plant, but the essence of the plant, with its specific scent, and chemical properties which is where we get the specific benefits from each individual kind of oil. Essential oils are very clean to the touch, not at all oily, and immediately absorbs into the skin.

Essential oils are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils. Essential oils are made from pure plants, while most perfume and fragrance oils are petroleum based fake scents and do not have the same beneficial effects of EO’s. Extraction of pure essential oils usually requires laboratory equipment and large amounts of plant materials for a small yield of oil. Seeing the extraction methods available it is easy to understand why good, pure, therapeutic grade essential oils cost so much.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years across many different cultures not only because they are beautifully fragrant but also because essential oils contain unique benefits to health and well being depending on the specific plant they are derived from. For example Lavender is a commonly used oil with anti-fungal, antiseptic, antidepressant, calming, normalizing, harmonizing, deodorizing, rejuvenation, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial properties and is believed to enhance the immune system. It is well known to calm and relax the nervous system. Sweet Orange is used for its uplifting properties, it is great for skin care, regenerative, antispasmodic, and balancing. These are benefits you will not get from a fake fragrance oil.

Essential oils many holistic and wellness benefits, which we will focus on more with specific plants later in the series, but should be used with caution. Due to their highly potent nature a little bit really does go a long way.  Use caution with the oils if you have a specific health condition, are pregnant, breast feeding, or using oils with children. There are a lot of good sources for information on essential oil uses and safety which I will try to provide for you as I use them. There are also a lot of bad and inaccurate sources out there, mostly on the internet so be ware and be sure your information is from a trusted source. I will link my sources as I can. If I forget please remind me and I will put them up for you!

When you buy Essential Oils, be sure not to trade cost for quality. I may have been cheap when buying oils to clean my house with, but never skimp on the oils I will be applying to my body, or in the products I make for others. “The quality of even pure essential oils can vary greatly depending on the country where the plant was grown, climactic conditions, how the raw material was collected and stored, and the process used to obtain the oil. Always opt for the best quality of oil available.” – The Essential Oils Book by Colleen Dodt. When you buy oils be sure to buy from a reputable supplier who is focused on providing the finest, high quality, pure essential oils. Always look for oils packaged in full dark glass bottles. Read the label carefully. Look for the term “pure essential oil” and for cautions such as “keep out of reach of children” and where the oil is intended for use.

dōTERRA (CPTG) Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® essential oils represent some of the safest, purest, and most beneficial essential oils available today. They are gently and skillfully distilled from plants that have been patiently harvested at the perfect moment by experienced growers from around the world for ideal extract composition and efficacy. Experienced essential oil users will immediately recognize dōTERRA’s superior quality standard for naturally safe, purely effective therapeutic-grade essential oils.

Cautions: everyone is different and will react to different oils in varying manners. Keep oils away from eyes. Always wash your hands before and after using essential oils. There is nothing worse than working with an oil, (like peppermint), then rubbing your eyes or mucous membranes directly afterward. I promise you, it feels like burning.  If you do get oil in your eyes do not rinse with water, but apply sweet almond oil (or another base oil) to a cotton ball and apply that to your eye. Water will disperse the oil and make it worse.

Keep out of reach of children. Pure essential oils can be toxic if ingested in large amounts and can be harmful to skin and eyes if improperly diluted.

Practice caution while pregnant. Essential oils are very strong and many have an effect on hormones and muscle contractions. Of everything I have read I would avoid most eo use in the first trimester, and use great caution and education while working with an educated midwife, doctor, or aroma therapist through the rest of your pregnancy.

A little bit goes a long way, using 1-2 drops has beneficial effects, but many people who use more than instructed find the benefit to be mitigated. Remember it takes pounds of plant material to make that very small amount of oil in your bottle. Use sparingly for best results. Also use proper dilution for oils. Most recipes will tell you how many drops of EO to use per oz of carrier oil, or water, or whatever you are using to dilute your material.

The uplifting, healing, and beneficial properties of EO usage in my daily practice has been a pleasure and I truly enjoy finding new uses for the oils. I am now working on putting together an essential oil kit to aid mothers in the stages of labor through the use of calming and uplifting scents, mixed with oils that are known to be beneficial during and after labor for the mother and baby. It is very exciting and becoming an addicting thing. I hope to share the journey with you.

What is your favorite use for Essential Oils? Include your favorite recipe or link here!

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2 responses to “Essential oils 101: What are Essential Oils?

  1. This is a great post, Amanda.

    My favorites are: On Guard blend to protect from winter cold cooties. Balance to help my moods (I like the smell better than lavender). Lemon, because it tastes good. Peppermint, it works better than the coffee I drink to keep me awake when I work midnights. Oh, and Breathe, when I use it with my inhaler, it makes the medicine last a lot longer!

  2. Pingback: What is in my “medicine” cabinet | Natural Living Mamma

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