Why Try Essential Oils? + Beginner’s Guide To Start Using Them
The material in this post is for informational/educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see a qualified health professional for specific health concerns. Essential oils are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years. People in the ancient world used oils like Frankincense, Sandalwood, and Myrrh for various spiritual, emotional, and physical reasons.
Essential oils haven’t always had a large presence in the modern, western world, but right now they seem to be taking our culture by storm. More and more people are discovering the benefits of these ‘super-oils’.
I held off trying essential oils for a while because I thought they were just another fad. Then, I did my research and discovered that I was missing out on something big.
So what are essential oils exactly? Why are they so popular? And how can you start using them in a way that will benefit your overall wellness?
Here’s my quick guide to what essential oils are, how they can benefit you, and how to start using them.
What Are Essential Oils?
The basic definition of an essential oil is the “aromatic, volatile liquid that is within many shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, and seeds.”(1.*) Essential oils basically contain the essence of the plant they came from.
The oils are mostly extracted by steam distillation but also by resin tapping and cold pressing (citrus oils).
Essential oils contain the same compounds the plant uses to defend itself against toxins and other pests and keep itself healthy and growing. A single oil can have as many as 80-300 (or more) different chemical constituents, making them very complex.(1.*)
The distillation process also means that the essential oil produced is very concentrated. One drop contains a much more concentrated amount of the original plant compounds, making them much more powerful than the plant itself.
I like to think of essential oils as the super-powered versions of the plants they come from.
And once I started learning all this, it began to make sense why so many people were finding huge benefits from small bottles of essential oils.
How Essential Oils Work With Our Bodies
Another cool fact about essential oils is that the size of the molecules contained in an oil makes them able to do things other molecules can’t. They are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier (not many other molecules can say that) as well as penetrate cell walls and disperse through the bloodstream and into tissues.
Why is all that a good thing?
It means that essential oils can reach into pretty much every part of our bodies. When taken internally, the oils won’t just stay in the digestive tract. Their benefits can travel all throughout the body.
Using them aromatically is also powerful because our sense of smell is linked to our minds, memories, and emotions. This could explain why essential oils and aromatherapy have been used for emotional and spiritual reasons for many, many years.
We also sometimes forget that our skin is our largest organ. Essential oils have been popular in ancient and modern times for cosmetic reasons. Certain oils can help promote a glowing complexion and even improve signs of aging.
The list of specific benefits essential oils have will have to wait for another post, but these are just a few reasons they are worth a try. I haven’t looked back since I started using them.
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Ways to Start Using Essential Oils
Here’s a quick guide to the three main ways to start using essential oils: topically, in a diffuser, and internally. Finding which way helps you the most is a simple matter of experimentation. (Or use all three. I do!)
- Using essential oils on the skin is one of the most popular ways to use these lovely oils. They can be used in place of perfume, in a massage, or to improve the appearance of your skin. For example, Peppermint has a cooling effect that can benefit sore muscles when used in a massage. Or mix Lavender with some Epsom salts for a relaxing bath.
- The main thing to keep in mind when using essential oils topically is to pay attention to whether an oil needs to be diluted and how much dilution is required. Essential oils can be diluted by mixing them with a carrier oil such as olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil. ‘Hot’ oils- like oregano, cinnamon, and clove- need to be diluted more than other oils. Always read the label on the essential oil bottle to find out how much it needs to be diluted.
- As far as safety goes, it’s a good idea to always do a patch test on a small section of skin before applying an oil over a large area. If you do have a reaction, apply a carrier oil where your skin is irritated until the discomfort stops. Never put essential oils on or in sensitive areas such as your eyes, ears, and mucous membranes.
- Diffusing essential oils is one of the most familiar methods. Our sense of smell can have a direct impact on our emotions and state of mind, so diffusing is a wonderful way to use essential oils. Citrus is one of my favorites for its uplifting and energizing fragrance. I especially love using an Orange, Cinnamon, and Clove blend in the fall.
- The ratio of water to essential oils will depend on what kind of diffuser you use. Mine uses 8-10 drops of oil and has a fill-line for the water. Diffusing is a fun way to try out different combinations of oils to see what you like best and what helps your mood.
- Essential oils can also be used aromatically just by opening the bottle and inhaling. (I do this often with citrus oils when I’m having a bad day). Or try putting a few drops on a cotton ball to make a mini ‘diffuser’. This is especially good for freshening up places you can’t take a diffuser. Your car, for instance.
- The benefits of essential oils can also be found by ingesting them. Just make sure that the oil you want to use is meant for internal use. For example, Young Living’s Vitality™ line is labeled differently than the rest of their oils so that it’s clear which ones are safe to ingest.
- You will probably hear some different opinions about this method. I take essential oils internally every day. But some people don’t feel like it’s a good idea to ingest something as strong as an essential oil. I’ve found significant health benefits from internal use, but the choice is really up to you. Do what you are comfortable with!
- If you want to try it, there are lots of options! Peppermint can be added to a brownie mix. Oregano can go in pasta sauce. Many people enjoy putting refreshing citrus oils in their water. I prefer using oils in my tea or smoothies. Cinnamon is one of my favorites!
However you choose to use essential oils, quality is extremely important. You want to make sure that the oils you are using are 100% pure and distilled using responsible methods. So look for a company with high quality standards. If you find essential oils for really low prices, they probably are not high quality.
However you decide to start using essential oils, let your own judgment guide you. Oils work differently for everyone and it takes some experimenting to find what’s best for you.
I hope you can discover their benefits for yourself!
Sources: Essential Oils Pocket Reference: Seventh Edition. Published by Life Science. Copyright November 2016. (Pages 1-2)