Essential oils go hand in hand with aromatherapy, although the two are different. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils as well as other all natural ingredients for healing during massage or baths. In 1910, French Chemist Gattefosse burned himself while experimenting in his laboratory. He put his hand in lavender essential oil, and to his awe, the burn healed quickly. Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy in the mid 1920’s. He spent the entirety of his life dedicated to essential oils, aromatherapy, and the healing properties of natural ingredients; he was an author to medical journals and books on these subjects as well.
Essential oils come from tiny sacs inside a plants leaves, flowers, roots, trunks and stems. The tiny sacs are what give the plants their aroma, repel bugs, and help the plants heal when sick. Steam distillation is the most common way essential oils are extracted from the plants. A large amount of plant material goes into a big pot or vat with boiling water placed underneath. The steam then rises passing through the plant material and popping open the sacs of essential oil. This steam and oil then moves through a cold pipe where the essential oils and water separate. Hydrosols are the water that is left over and is also used therapeutically. Hydrosols are far less concentrated than essential oils so they can be used with animals and children with fewer safety concerns. However, essential oils are too concentrated for small animals like cats and birds.
Essential Oil Quality Matters
Did you know that France sells essential oils in their pharmacies? France uses essential oils both internally and medicinally. England is known for promoting the safe use of essential oils. The United States is known for having low quality and adulterated essential oils. Oils that are cut with synthetic chemicals lose their therapeutic qualities and may also pose the risk of having negative side effects. Synthetic oils are man made with phthalates which have been linked to cancer, asthma, birth defects, and reproductive harm. So how do you know if an oil is pure and of good quality?
- Latin name
- Country of origin
- GC/MS testing
You may be wondering….what is GC/MS Testing? GC/MS testing stands for Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectometry. This test gives the precise chemistry of the essential oil and would show if there are any adulterants like herbicides, pesticides, and/or fragrance oils. It’s the only way to know for sure that an essential oil is of pure, therapeutic quality. GC/MS testing is the gold standard for essential oils.
10 Ways to Use Essential Oils Safely
- Put a drop of a calming oil (lavender, roman chamomile, frankincense) cotton ball and inhale deeply.
- Add a drop to your bedsheets for sleep
- Put 3 or 4 drops orange or peppermint essential oil in your dish water
- Add 4-5 drops peppermint or Happy to a diffuser necklace
- Add 3 to 4 drops patchouli or Release Anxiety in your bath
- Diffuse 5 drops lemongrass in an essential oil diffuser
- Add 1 drop lavender to a bowl of hot water and steam your face
- Add 2 drops eucalyptus or black spruce to the floor of your shower everyday
- Add 8-10 drops of an immune essential oil (Immunity, marjoram, lime) to a carrier oil. Apply daily to chest
- Add 40 drops of a few different essential oils to 16oz distilled water and 2T vinegar in a spray container for an antibacterial, natural cleaning spray.
Important Safety Considerations When Using Essential Oils
Always make sure to dilute essential oils before using them topically. Dilute essential oils in carrier oils such as jojoba oil, coconut oil or aloe gel. Using essential oils without dilution runs the risk of causing burning and skin irritation and even building up an allergy over time to that oil. Do not use essential oils topically with children under 2 years old (even diluted can be too strong for their little bodies). Do not use essential oils on or around cats, birds, and other small animals. If diffusing, make sure the cat has the option to leave the room. If you get essential oils in your eyes or on your skin and it burns, use any vegetable or carrier oil. Essential oils are fat soluble, not water soluble. Water and oil do not mix and therefore water will not take the essential oils out of your eyes or off your skin.
Resources: 1.Robert Tisserand. Essential Oil Safety Second Edition, Elsevier, USA, 2014