As children, we were always told that ‘mother knows best’. When it comes to the health of our minds and bodies, however, many would argue that Mother Nature is the one to rely on. From witches and alchemists to modern chemists and naturopaths, humans throughout history have used nature to create countless remedies. Today, we refer to this process as aromatherapy and these ‘magical’ natural substances as essential oils.
Explained simply, essential oils are the natural pure essence extracted from botanicals. They are commonly used for everything from fighting bacteria and alleviating stress to improving sleep, nourishing hair and reversing the signs of ageing. However, with so many oils available and so many possibilities for use, deciphering which to choose can be a daunting concept. Therefore, if you struggle to distinguish your cedarwood oil from your clary sage or an oil burner from an infuser, we’re here to take it back to the basics. Whether science is your second language or you flunked out of high school chemistry, this essential oils guide for beginners will allow you to use natural oils like a pro.
What are Essential Oils?
The word ‘essential’ has many meanings, however, when it comes to oils and aromatherapy, the term originates from the word ‘essence’. To break it down, essential oils are the pure, highly concentrated aromatic chemical compounds that derive from plants or botanicals. Producing these oils requires extraction and distillation of a plant’s leaves, flowers, stems or roots. Alternatively, you can also use citrus fruits and their rinds to create essential oils. Perfumes and fragrance oils do not fall into this category. This is because unlike essential oils, they cannot aid or alter physical or psychological health.
Uses of Essential Oils
For thousands of years, people have used essential oils as an alternative form of medicine known as aromatherapy. This is a result of their antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as the effects they have on mental health and wellbeing. However, the use of these oils is not limited to the treatment of physical and psychological ailments. They may be used as a cleaning product in the home or as natural insect repellents. Specific essential oils can reduce acne, prevent skin ageing, aid hair growth or stimulate weight loss. If you need to fight off bacteria or alleviate stress, they can do that too. Ultimately, the list of uses for essential oils is almost as long as the seemingly neverending range of oils available.
Safety with Essential Oils
When used properly, essential oils are a powerful, safe and effective form of natural medicine. Therefore the key to unlocking their full potential is knowing how to use them properly. Just as Chanel No. 5 is entirely different to Gucci Bloom and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium smells nothing like Guerlain’s Shalimar, every essential oil is unique. This is because they each originate from a different flower, plant or fruit, or, from different parts of these. Whether they require inhalation, diffusion, or topical application will vary from oil to oil, and it’s important to pick the right method to avoid any mishaps. Ensuring that you use high quality, pure oils will also ensure your foray into aromatherapy is rewarding and without complication.
A few crucial things to consider and remember when dealing with essential oils are potency, dilution and high-risk parties.
Essential oils are significantly more potent than the dried herbal forms of the plant from which they originate. Therefore, when dealing with them, it is important to remember that a little truly goes a long way. One to two drops is often more than enough.
If not properly diluted, essential oils may cause irritation when applied directly to the skin. Therefore, if you are intending to topically apply an essential oil, it is critical to first dilute it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, jojoba, or almond oil.
It is highly recommended that children do not use essential oils. Furthermore, if a woman is pregnant, or a person has epilepsy, cancer, liver damage, is elderly or has a medical problem, it is advised that they contact a qualified aromatherapy professional prior to using essential oils.
Do Not Ingest
Taking oils internally, for example by mixing into water or other drinks, is generally not advised unless under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.
Health Benefits of Essential Oils
When it comes to improving your physical and mental health, essential oils are truly a gift from nature. For anyone in need of a boost, they have the ability to increase energy levels, speed up metabolism and aid digestion. If your moods are low, there are essential oils to balance your hormones and cortisol levels, alleviate stress and decrease feelings of anxiety. Promoting health from the inside and out, there are antibacterial oils that fight infections and aid in healing, while others will rejuvenate and nourish your hair and skin.
Types of Essential Oils
From bergamot to peppermint or lemongrass to patchouli, there are hundreds of types of essential oils. Beyond these botanical labels, it is important to be able to categorise oils in order to effectively mix them to create your own, unique blends. Two common ways to do this are by aromatic profile or by ‘notes’.
Aromatic profiles are determined by the overarching aroma or scent of each oil. So, while they each ultimately smell different, they still fall into certain categories. For example, lavender and jasmine may be categorised as floral aromas, while nutmeg and clove are spicy aromas. Aroma categories include floral, woody, earthy, citrus, herbal, spicy, minty and oriental.
A second way to categorise your oils is by learning their ‘note’ classification. Notes refer to the oil’s volatility and the rate at which it evaporates. Basically, oil that evaporates within 1-2 hours, such as eucalyptus, grapefruit or lemongrass is a top note. Essential oils that take 2-4 hours to evaporate, such as chamomile, rose, and tea tree are middle notes. Finally, oils such as frankincense, vanilla, or ginger that can sometimes take several days to evaporate, are base notes.
Essential Oil Mixing Guide
Once you’ve figured out what type of essential oils you are working with you can begin mixing your own creative concoctions. Before you begin, however, it is important to determine what is the purpose of your desired oil blend. If you are seeking to create a therapeutic blend, first identify whether you want a blend that energises, detoxifies, alleviates stress, or has an alternative function. A good way to tackle this is to conduct some basic research and write a list of which oils lead to your desired effects. When this is complete, the next step is to look at the aromatic or note profiles.
As a general guide, oils that fall into the same aromatic category will usually mix well together. However, many people experiment with mixing oils with different aromas, which can also be highly effective. For example, floral oils mix well with spiced, citrus and woody oils.When it comes to mixing oils by notes, using a combination of base note, middle note and top note oils is the best way to create a balanced blend. It is suggested that beginners compose their creations with 30% top note oils, 50% middle note oils and 20% base note oils. If you are planning to use your essential oil blend topically, then you must mix in a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil to dilute it.
Guide to Diluting Essential Oils
Topical application of an essential oil involves the direct contact of that oil with the human body. So, if you plan to rub the oil into your skin or hair, put the bottle down now, because dilution is your new best friend.
The first step to dilution is to purchase carrier oils. Essential oils are highly potent, concentrated substances, therefore without a carrier you may end up with a nasty rash or unwanted allergic reaction. While essential oils come from the aromatic portions of a botanical, a carrier oil is sourced from the fatty portions of the plant. Some examples of carrier oils include olive oil, sunflower oil, almond oil and coconut oil. These are what you want to mix with your essential oils before topical use. However, before you rush to the pantry, consider that the best carrier oils are cold pressed or cold expeller pressed. If that extra virgin olive oil you love to cook with isn’t, you may be better off finding one specifically created for aromatherapy uses. Aloe vera gelly or unscented lotions may also be used as soothing carriers.
Finally, just as each essential oil has different therapeutic properties, carrier oils also vary in their purpose. The carrier used and ratio required for dilution will differ depending on the essential oil and overall desired effect.
Aromatherapy Essential Oils Guide
So you’ve gone and bought yourself some of those magic little potions better known as essential oils and you’re wondering what to do next. You know they are created through the extraction and distillation of botanical essences, but how on earth do you extract that goodness for yourself? Welcome to the world of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a natural, alternative form of medicine and healing, which uses essential oils to improve one’s physical or psychological well-being. One way to harness the oils’ properties is to inhale their aroma directly. Alternatively, you can inhale these indirectly through the use of an oil burner or aromatherapy diffuser in the home. Another common method is to topically apply the oil by rubbing a drop or two into your skin or hair after dilution. Finally, some oils may also be taken internally. This, however, should only be done under the guidance of an aromatherapy practitioner, or by highly experienced users of essential oils. In all cases, it is important to research which method is required for your chosen oil to ensure safe and effective results.
Essential Oil Skin Care Guide
Although it may seem counterintuitive, adding some essential oils to your skincare routine can work wonders for your complexion. When used effectively, these natural oils have the power to reverse the signs of ageing, ward off blemishes and bring your skin back to a fresh, youthful state.
If you’re looking to combat ageing, jojoba. pomegranate seed oil, frankincense oil and lavender oil are for you. To target blemishes and balance out hormone levels, opt for essential oils of the tea tree, lavender, clary sage or juniper berry variety. For best results, mix a few drops of one of these stellar skin care oils with a carrier such as jojoba oil, aloe vera, or coconut oil before massaging it into the skin.
The superstar of skincare essential oils, jojoba oil is incredibly hydrating. This is due to its high dose of Vitamin E, Vitamin B complex, silicon, chromium, copper, zinc and iodine. Essentially, jojoba is great for minimising fine lines and wrinkles, clearing up eczema and blemishes and moisturising dry skin. On top of this, it also balances oil levels and stimulates collagen synthesis.
#Pomegranate Seed Oil
For a natural defence against the sun this summer, make sure to always carry some pomegranate seed oil. Natural SPF properties mean that you can use some of this sweet smelling oil as a sunscreen. If, however, you forget to apply before going outside, the healing properties of this oil allow it to soothe and treat sunburns.
Also known as nature’s concealer, this oil reduces the appearance of ageing by evening out skin tone, reducing blemishes, smoothing wrinkles and fading stretch marks and scars. It can also strengthen the skin’s elasticity.
When it comes to healing, lavender oil not only soothes the mind but also helps heal cracked dry skin, minor cuts and burns. When mixed with frankincense oil, it may also reduce age spots.
Oils to Prevent Acne
#Tea Tree Oil
The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea-tree oil have led to its appearance in many over the counter acne treatments. For a natural remedy, therefore, simply use a few drops of tea-tree in its pure, essential oil form diluted with a carrier.
Tick all your skincare boxes with this soothing oil that nourishes, heals and reduces skin-damaging stress and anxiety.
#Clary Sage Oil
Reduce skin inflammation while regulating oil production with a few drops of clary sage. This wonder oil also helps to lower cortisol levels and balance hormones to fight off acne-inducing stress and anxiety.
#Juniper Berry Oil
Several studies indicate that this antibacterial oil is an effective, natural way to combat acne as it fights irritations, infections and reduces stress.
Essential Oils for Hair Growth
For anyone seeking luscious, thick locks, a dandruff-free scalp, and altogether healthy hair, take a trip into the world of essential oils. Struggling with greasy hair? A few drops of peppermint oil will transform you. Looking for longer, stronger hair? Treat yourself to some sweet, floral lavender oil.
Superstar haircare essential oils include lavender, rosemary, chamomile, clary sage, lemongrass and peppermint. These natural oils not only nourish your hair but are also all natural meaning they are free of any harsh chemicals. For best results, combine one of these oils with a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba or olive oil. Then, simply massage the mixture into your hair or scalp and prepare to bid your bad hair days goodbye.
Promotes hair growth by deepening hair follicles, soothing the scalp and healing the hair. The calming properties of lavender oil also reduce stress-related hair loss.
Stimulates hair growth and thickens hair to create long, luscious locks. Additionally, rosemary oil may prevent baldness, slow down any unwanted greys, and naturally treat dandruff.
Killing two birds with one stone, chamomile oil promotes hair growth while slowing down hair loss. It does so by stimulating the follicles and increasing scalp circulation.
#Clary Sage Oil
Is exam or work stress ruining your hair? The effect of clary sage essential oil in reducing cortisol levels, balancing hormones and relieving stress can help prevent stress-related hair loss.
The superfood of essential oils when it comes to hair; lemongrass oil strengthens hair follicles, diminishes dandruff, alleviates stress and soothes irritated scalps.
Give your hair that minty fresh feeling with some peppermint oil. Not only does it make your hair shiny and oil-free, but it also promotes hair growth while treating any unwanted dandruff.
First Aid Essential Oils
With the ability to fight bacteria and relieve allergy symptoms, many people regard essential as nature’s medicine. Packed with healing qualities, they are a great way to ward off illness in the home and important addition to your typical first-aid kit. When it comes to fighting bacteria, cinnamon, thyme, oregano and tea tree oil are your warriors. For stopping allergies or relieving cold and flu symptoms, keep peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, lemon and tea tree oil close by. Whether topical application, direct inhalation or diffusion is required depends on the oil itself and the symptoms you are seeking to relieve or treat. Remember, it is crucial to consult a doctor or aromatherapy practitioner before relying solely on the listed oils as medical alternatives.
Essential Oils for Weight Loss
Essential oils alone, unfortunately, cannot yet shed those unwanted kilos. However, when combined with a balanced diet and a healthy, active lifestyle, they can aid the body in losing weight by increasing metabolism, boosting energy and aiding in digestion. As if that wasn’t enough, they can also stimulate fat-burning enzymes and control sugar cravings to help you look and feel your best.
When it comes to weight loss, your essential oil secret weapons include grapefruit, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, peppermint and bergamot oil. For topical application, combine with a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil. Alternatively, these oils may be diffused through your home. With the guidance of an aromatherapy practitioner, some of these oils may also be taken internally. It is crucial, however, to consult a professional before using this method.
Essential Oils Quality Guide
To get the best results from your essential oils, it is worth investing in high quality, pure oils. This will ensure the oils are effective and more importantly, safe. With countless brands on the market, however, it can be hard to determine this key factor prior to purchase. Generally, it is beneficial to research and compare companies before making your decision. When doing so, take note of the price, place of origin, expiry date and labelling.
A common term associated with high-quality essential oil is ‘purity’. However, it is important to note that there is no official, regulated definition for this term in aromatherapy. The word ‘pure’ on a label does not mean it is high quality. It is always important, therefore, to conduct further research to determine the purity of the oil.
Essential oils are highly potent substances that require careful preparation and processing to create. For this reason, you should never be buying your oils from the sales section or the bargain bin. It is always worth the investment to obtain high quality, pure oils. Additionally, as each oil requires a different process and some botanicals are rarer than others, do not expect to pay the same price for every type. For example, it takes approximately 1.3 kg of lavender flowers to produce 15mL of lavender essential oil. Compare this to the 47 kg of rose petals needed to create just 5mL of rose oil. Take time to research the creation process of your chosen oil to determine if the cost reflects the desired quality.
Any high-quality essential oil should have the plant’s scientific or botanical name listed on the bottle. The label should also include information regarding where the plant originated, the process of extraction used and an expiry date. If none of this information is present, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere.
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