WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?
Aromatherapy (also known as Essential Oil therapy), as defined by NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy), is the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
"It is a natural, non-invasive modality designed to affect the whole person, not just the symptom or disease, and to assist the body's natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils."
Jade Shutes, Director of Education at The School for Aromatic Studies
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Have you ever smelled a flower, a christmas tree, or the scent of an orange as it's being peeled? Whether you know it or not, you have been experiencing the aromatic qualities of essential oils all of your life! These naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Essential oils give plants their distinct scents, they offer protection for the plants, and they also play a role in plant pollination. Although essential oils have been gaining popularity recently, they have been around for thousands of years, dating back to 3500 BC.
Volatile compounds are small organic molecules that tend to change quickly from their solid or liquid state to a gas at room temperature. They are called volatile because they change state quickly. When you first open a bottle of essential oil, you instantly notice that the aroma is potent and you can smell it typically even from a distance. The physical and chemical properties of the volatile aromatic compounds that compose essential oils allow them to quickly move through the air and directly interact with the olfactory nerves in the nose. The type of volatile aromatic compounds present in an essential oil determines both the oil’s aroma and its properties.
Over 3,000 varieties of volatile aromatic compounds have been identified to date. The nature of an essential oil varies from plant to plant, within botanical families, and from species to species. The delicate ratio of aromatic constituents found in any given essential oil are what make it unique and effective therapeutically.
Even with pure essential oils the composition of the oil can vary depending on the time of day, season, geographic location, method and duration of distillation, year grown, and the weather...making every step of the production process a critical determinant of the overall quality of essential oils.
HOW ARE ESSENTIAL OILS PRODUCED?
Essential oils are mainly produced in one of two methods: steam distillation or expression. While there is a science to the extraction of essential oils from plants, it is also an art. Distillers not only rely on years of experience, they also employ modern technologies and techniques.
Steam distillation is the most common way to extract aromatic compounds (essential oil) from a plant. During the steam distillation process, steam passes through the plant material. The combination of heated steam and gentle pressure causes the essential oil to be released from microscopic protective sacs. As the vapor mixture flows through a condenser and cools, it yields a layer of oil and a layer of water. The essential oil rises to the top and is separated from the hydrosol (floral water) and collected.
Some have asked about the difference between first distillations in comparison to complete distillations. The temperature for steam distilling is usually between 140–212 degrees Fahrenheit. Since different plants require different pressures, times, and temperatures, using this particular distillation method makes it possible to adjust the temperature based on the plant type, making it a very effective and precise way to obtain the purest compounds.
To ensure the highest quality oil extract with the correct chemical composition, the temperature and pressure must be closely monitored. Too little heat or pressure and the oil will not release; too much, and the oil’s composition and potency will be affected.
Unlike steam distillation, expression, sometimes referred to as “cold pressed,” does not involve heat. In this process, oil is extracted from the product under mechanical pressure. Expression is mainly used to extract citrus oils, such as Wild Orange, Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, and Grapefruit, from the rind.
Proper distillation requires a consideration for the uniqueness of pressure, temperature, time, and harvesting practices, each of which may be as diverse as the plants themselves. A poor distillation process can alter or destroy the necessary aromatic compounds that comprise the essential oil, leaving a substance far different from the intended goal and something that would not be used to support health and wellness. For this reason, the best distillation artisans dedicate their efforts and work to only a few select plants. This focused effort develops proper knowledge and experience, helping ensure congruency between the oil chemistry of the plant and its distilled form.
HOW CAN ESSENTIAL OILS BE USED?
Traditionally, certain essential oil application methods have been preferred or used exclusively. However, as the research surrounding essential oils continues to develop, a greater understanding of application methods is now understood. All application methods are safe when used appropriately, including aromatic, topical, and internal methods. One or multiple application methods can be used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications. They can be used a single oil at a time or in complex blends in one of three methods: aromatically, topically, or internally.
The sense of smell is a tool that can elicit powerful physiologic, mental, and emotional responses. Essential oils are quickly absorbed by the smell receptors, which have a direct link to the limbic system by way of the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is part of the brain that supports a variety of functions including smell, emotions, behavior, and memory. For this reason, essential oils have an especially powerful effect via aromatic application.
Some essential oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. Diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. Diffusers that use cold air or water are ideal. However, using essential oils aromatically does not require any special diffusing devices.
You can achieve the same health benefits by simply placing a drop or two of essential oil in the palm of your hand that is then cupped around the nose as you breathe deeply.
Additional aromatic uses For Essential Oils Include:
- Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle
- Mix oils in a spray bottle with water and mist over furniture, carpet, or linens
- Add oil to a batch of laundry or to dryer sheets
- Use in household surface cleaners
Topical application is a very effective method for applying essential oils. Because essential oils have low molecular weights and are lipid soluble, they easily penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they stay in the applied area for a localized benefit.
Although essential oils are readily absorbed, there are many ways to increase absorption. Using a light massage will increase the blood flow to the area of application, in turn improving distribution throughout the body. Use of a carrier oil can also increase absorption, especially in skin that is dry or flaky as it helps moisturize the skin and slow evaporation of the oil.
To decrease the likelihood of developing a skin sensitivity, especially on young or sensitive skin, it is advisable to use a carrier oil (such as Fractionated Coconut Oil) to dilute more potent oils and when trying an oil for the first time. The recommend dilution ratio is typically one to two drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil.
It is always advisable to use several small doses throughout the day rather than a single large dose. Start with the lowest possible dose (1–2 drops). A topical dose can be repeated every 4–6 hours as needed. Every individual is unique, so the dose will vary for each individual based on size, age, and overall health.
Beneficial Areas You Can Apply Essential Oils:
- Forehead and temples
- Chest and abdomen
- Arms, legs, bottom of feet
Other Effective Methods of Topical Application
- Add a few drops of essential oil to epsom salts in a warm bath
- Make a hot or cold compress by soaking a towel or cloth in water, adding essential oils, and then applying to the desired area
- Add oil to a lotion or moisturizer and then apply to skin
Sensitive Areas to be Avoided:
- Some facial areas, such as the skin around the eyes
- Eyes and inner ears
- Broken, damaged, or otherwise injured skin
Internally (I only use DOTERra essential oils internally)
PLEASE NOTE: I do NOT recommend using essential oils internally right out of the gate. I would much rather YOU use an essential oil aromatically and topically UNTIL YOU ARE WELL VERSED IN THE KNOWLEDGE AND SAFE USE OF ESSENTIAL OILS.
Certain essential oils have a rich culinary history and can be used to support a variety of health conditions. When you sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, sip a mug of peppermint tea, or add fresh basil leaves to your spaghetti, you are actually consuming some volatile aromatic essential oil compounds.
Essential oil contributes many health benefits as well as flavoring and aroma to food. When in their concentrated form, essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for more targeted and potent health benefits. Internal use is a very safe and effective method of application because of the sophisticated physiologic processes of our bodies.
When ingested, essential oils directly enter the blood stream via the gastrointestinal tract, where they are transported throughout the rest of the body. Essential oils are lipid soluble so they are readily transported to all organs of the body, including the brain. Then, like all things we consume, essential oils are metabolized by the liver and other organs and are then excreted.
The composition of essential oils is highly complex. Each constituent possesses a unique set of biochemical properties that react with cells and organs in different ways. Although these mechanisms of action are not completely understood, the positive end results have been demonstrated. However, the body is only equipped to handle appropriate doses of essential oils.
Proper dosing according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines should be strictly followed to avoid toxicity.
Effective Methods of Internal Application
- Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking to replace fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Remember that essential oils are much more potent than dried or fresh herbs and spices, so start with a very small amount
- For more potent oils, it may be better to administer them by toothpicks (dip the end of a clean toothpick into the oil and then add to the food) rather than drops
WHY DOES QUALITY MATTER?
The FDA does not regulate the essential oil industry - which can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Good, because you don't have companies just barely meeting set standards....Bad, because companies are not held accountable by any governing body and are free to do whatever they please (except make disease claims).
When purchasing essential oils, purity and potency are two things that you want to look out for - one for peace of mind, two for safety, and three for efficacy.
I know that you don't know me from Adam and don't know if you can trust what I'm saying - but PLEASE have the same skepticism that you have while reading this when you are looking at essential oils in the store - even trusted health food stores. Take the time to do your research before buying just any brand - even if it says ORGANIC! Essential oils are delicate things and you want to make sure that it doesn't contain any fillers, solvents, or toxins - but you also want to make sure that it has the proper balance of chemical constituents to maximize the therapeutic properties of each individual oil.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
If you are not sure what you want or need, I'd love to speak with you about what would be best for you and your family based on your specific concerns. I offer free 30 minute consultations.
I am passionate about educating families on the safe use of essential oils and my goal is to empower people and families of all sizes and budgets through the use of natural solutions.
If you know what you want or need, or would like to get a kit, you can simply click HERE!
TO SIGN UP FOR A FREE CONSULTATION: CLICK HERE...(OR CLICK ON 'CONSULTATIONS & PRODUCTS' UNDER THE 'WORK WITH ME' TAB, SELECT 'FREE CONSULTATION'), FILL OUT THE REQUIRED INFORMATION, AND I'LL BE IN TOUCH WITH YOU SOON!
Love and peace,