What are essential oils?
If you’ve ever peeled an orange and witnessed the spray of oils from the peel, or picked a fragrant flower, or even simply brushed your teeth with your peppermint flavoured toothpaste, then you’ve experienced essential oils. These oils can be found in different parts of a plant and gives its fragrance. In the plant world, this is what helps a plant attract pollinators and increase the plant’s survival. For thousands of years, we have inherently understood the importance of these oils and devised methods to extract these oils and concentrate them for our use.
What health benefits do essential oils have?
Our earliest exposure to essential oils might have been in toothpaste and you may have thought that it helped improve the flavour of the paste (which it does), but essential oils are also anti-microbial and help fight against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. On top of that, essential oils can increase wound healing, relieve indigestion, detoxify the liver, stimulate our minds, relax our body and minds, deodorize, repel pests, and the list goes on. Of course, not every essential oil aroma does all these things, just like we don’t just eat one food because it benefits all our needs. That is why there are so many blends of essential oils out there, customized for specific needs
How do I use essential oils?
Aromatic: This is the most common and well know way to use essential oils. By placing a few drops in a diffuser, the oil and its aroma are dispersed throughout a room, releasing health benefits to whoever is in the vicinity. By smelling the oils this way, we tap into the psychological benefits of the essential oils because of the close connection between the nose and the brain. In addition, the essential oils help clean the air (remember its antimicrobial properties?) and help keep our respiratory systems clean, too!
Another way to smell the oils is to apply it to your skin or just to smell the scent right from the bottle, but with these two methods, the aroma does not last long and can even shorten the life of the bottle since the cap is always off.
Topical: Essential oils can be applied directly to our skin since it is our largest organ. This way, the oils are absorbed directly into our bloodstream and gives a more direct benefit to our whole body. We have points in our bodies that are more absorbent than others and allows for an even more direct absorption. When applying essential oils directly onto our skin, we should always dilute unless we know it is safe on our skin (eg: Lavender for bug bites). Other examples of topical use is in a bath, compress or a massage oil or lotion.
Internal: This is the most uncommon way to use essential oils (although very common for some essential oils like lemon or peppermint found in candy or other confectionary as a flavouring). Do not use essential oils internally unless they specify that they are food grade and give instruction for ingestion (serving information and/or supplement facts on the bottle). Always dilute essential oils for ingestion in something that contains other fats like a carrier oil, in honey, or in a capsule combined with carrier oils.
How do I get started with essentials oils?
Both our Basic Set and Amber Sets are great ways to started! With a variety of 6 oils in each set, it is designed to make it easy for anyone to get started. Each set also comes with an information card outlining the benefits of each oil. They are priced affordably to make essential oils accessible to anyone.
How do I dilute essential oils?
Diluting essential oils is especially important when you plan to apply them to your skin because some essential oils like clove oil or even peppermint oil can be caustic (will burn/irritate your skin). To dilute oils, choose a carrier oil that is neutral and stable. Examples of carrier oils are olive oil, cocao butter, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, or even evening primrose oil.
The general rule for diluting is 1% for each drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil. The best dilution for adult skin is 5%, which means for 1 teaspoon of carrier, you would add 5 drops of essential oil. Of course, not every oil and dropper are made equal so some oils give larger drops (common for citrus oils). It is always best to patch test your dilution on your skin before applying to a larger area.
How do I store essential oils?
Most, if not all, essential oils come in brown or blue tinted bottles that help keep the oil from going rancid from light exposure. Essential oils should be kept in a cool place, not under direct sunlight, with the cap on tight to keep the aroma of the oil as fresh as possible.
How are essential oils made?
Seeing as essential oils are parts of plants, these oils need to extracted. If you’ve ever seen the movie Perfume, then you’ve taken a glance at some methods of extraction. Each plant is harvested at a specific time, usually when the essential oils are at its peak (for flowers, right after it blooms and not yet under prolonged exposure to the sun). The extraction normally happens shortly after the harvest. Many oils like lavender, myrrh, sandalwood, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and peppermint are extracted by steam distillation, using steam to separate the oils from more water-soluble compounds of the plant. Other essential oils like citrus oils are extracted using expression or pressure. Jasmine oil is normally extracted with solvents, frankincense with alcohol solvents.
How do you blend essential oils?
Essential oils can work synergistically when blending, enhancing properties and complimenting each other in different ways. There are many recipes and guides out there to help you blend your oils or guide you to make the right blending choices. Often essential oils will blend well within their own family group. There are a few main groups of aromas to keep in mind.
Herbaceous: rosemary, clary sage, marjoram, basil, peppermint, hyssop, melissa
Citrus: bergamot, lemon, lime, mandarin, sweet orange, grapefruit, tangerine
Floral: geranium, rose, lavender, neroli, jasmine, chamomile
Resinous: frankincense, myrrh, benzoin
Spicy: ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, peppermint, cardamom, cumin, aniseed
Medicinal/camphorous: eucalyptus, tea tree, cajuput, rosemary, peppermint
Oriental: ginger, patchouli, ylang-ylang
Earthy: patchouli, valerian, vetiver, angelica
Are there pre-cautions to using essential oils?
Although most oils are generally safe, always learn about the oils you want to use and use them properly.
- Do not overdo essential oils. Because they are the concentrated form of what oils you might get from the plants in a tea or another solid form, a little bit goes a long way. Often, the more of an essential oil, the more dangerous it can become.
- Always only use oils that are 100% pure and natural from plants.
- Keep oils away from children and pets.
- Always tightly close essential oils.
- Never use oils that undiluted for consumption and only use oils that are approved for food use.
When should I not use essential oils?
Here are some oils that should not be used during pregnancy: ajowan, angelica, anise, bitter almond, basil, bay, birch, calamintha, cedar leaf, cedarwood, celery seed, cinnamon leaf, citronella, clary sage, clove bud, geranium, hyssop, sweet fennel, juniper berry, labanum, lovage, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, snakeroot, tagetes, tarragon, thyme. Avoid these during the first 4 months: peppermint, rose, rosemary.
Some essential oils increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity). These oils should be avoided when planning on spending time in the sun: angelica root, bergamot, cumin, ginger, lemon, lime, lovage, mandarin, orange, verbena
The following oils have the potential of causing some skin irritation - always do a patch test on your skin before using it extensively: ajowan, allspice, bay laurel, bitter almond, basil, black pepper, birch, cajeput, caraway, cassia, cedar (wood and leaf), cinnamon leaf, clove bud, cornmint, eucalyptus, sweet fennel, fir needle, garlic, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, pine needle, tea tree, thyme, turmeric, wintergreen
People with high blood pressure should avoid: hyssop, rosemary, sage (Spanish and common), thyme
Although essential oils are potent, they are not to be used to replace medication in treating serious medical or psychological problems.
Are essential oils safe for children?
Some oils, like peppermint, are found in candy, prepared savoury foods, and drinks that many children consume on a regular basis. Even toothpaste has some essential oils in it, which gives it its’ flavour, whether it’s mint, lemon, orange, or otherwise.
On the flip side, some oils are definitely too toxic for kids. Here is a quick guide to using essential oils with kids.
Babies 0-12 months old: use only 1 drop of lavender, rose, or chamomile essential oil, diluted in 1 tsp carrier oil for massage or bathing.
Infants 1-5 years: use only 2-3 drops of the ‘safe’ oils, diluted in 1 tsp carrier oil for massage or bathing.
Children 6-12 years: use as for adults but in half stated concentration
Children over 12 years: use as directed for adults.
What are some 'safe' essential oils for children and how do you do a patch test?
The essential oils that are safe for children are essential oils that non-toxic and non-irritating. That being said, even non-toxic and non-irritating oils can cause some irritation. Before using any oils directly on skin, do a patch test. Essential oils should never be ingested by children.
To do a patch test: put one drop of the essential oil on the back of your wrist. You may cover it with a band-aid if you wish to keep it from rubbing off. If there is irritation or redness from the patch test, rinse the area under cold water and discontinue its use directly on your skin undiluted.