What are essential oils? Benefits and how I use them
With the term aromatherapy or treatment using essential oils we refer to traditional, holistic, complementary or alternative treatments with which we use the essential oils of plants.
Essential oils have been used for centuries for both their medicinal and aromatic benefits. Here you will find organic essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated, volatile, aromatic substances obtained from the fruits, seeds, flowers, bark, stems, roots, leaves, or other parts of a plant either by steam distillation, or from the epicarp of citrus fruits by mechanical process or by dry distillation.
It takes about 20 kg of rose petals or 8000 roses to give us 5ml of rose essential oil, about 50 lemons to give us 15ml of lemon essential oil and 3 tons of honeysuckle for 1 liter of honeysuckle essential oil.
Rose essential oil is found in the petals of the flowers and not in the roots or stem. However, in some plants we find the essential oil in different parts of the same plant, such as angelica (Angelica archangelica) has both in the root and in the seeds but with a different chemical composition and different properties each one. The essential oil from the root may cause a skin reaction, while the essential oil from the seeds does not.
Why are they called essential?
They are called essential because they are volatile, i.e. they evaporate quickly unlike synthetic perfumes or vegetable oils.
How many types of essential oils are there?
It is estimated that there are 10,000 aromatic plants i.e. plants that contain essential oils on the planet, about 3,000 of them are exploited for their essential oils and about 500 of them are the most commonly used in commerce.
What are the properties of essential oils?
The healing powers of essential oils include antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. They help sleep better, encourage healthy digestion, treat skin diseases, lift our mood, etc. Essential oils have many properties depending naturally on the plant they come from, some of the properties of essential oils are:
- They support good sleep quality
- They treat skin diseases
- They encourage healthy digestion
- They help to fight the common cold
- They lift the mood
- They help in meditation
- Muscle relaxants
- Insect repellents
- They stimulate concentration and memory
How are essential oils used?
Essential oils have many uses. We can inhale them, use them topically on our skin, scent our space with a diffuser or freshen things like our clothes, they are also used: to create high-quality natural cosmetics, as natural insect repellents without chemical additives such as DEET, to disinfect our space, to use them in bath blends, in potpourri, in massage oil, in candles, in relax blends, etc.
Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain associated with smell, including the nose and brain.
As the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system, which is associated with emotions, blood pressure, heart rate, memory, stress, breathing and hormonal balance.
Thus essential oils have a subtle but holistic effect on the health of the body.
The ways to inhale essential oils are through a diffuser, from a stick inhaler, in the bathroom, in a warm compress, in warm water, in a room spray, in a little cotton, *simply dripping 1 drop on our palm and rubbing it on the hands we inhale the natural aroma of the essential oil (*be careful to only use essential oils that can be safely applied to the skin) and the simplest, inhalation straight from the bottle.
Using an essential oil diffuser we diffuse the microparticles of essential oils into the space so that we can inhale them.
There are 4 types of essential oil diffusers:
- Candle diffuser (they use a reso candle and some water) the simplest to use
- Electric heat diffuser (like mosquito tablet devices)
- Ultrasonic diffuser (uses water) easy to use, minimal maintenance can disperse thicker oils
- Cold air mist diffuser (they don't use water) the most effective, they are the most expensive in cost, they need frequent cleaning
We avoid applying essential oils directly to the skin, with some exceptions. We need to dilute them with one vegetable oil, to make a relax blend or a mixture for massage, so they are absorbed through the skin and we enjoy their beneficial properties safely. The most common vegetable oils are almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, the argan, the jojoba, the avocado.
Generally when we use essential oils in the proper way they are quite safe and highly beneficial. But some people use these highly concentrated botanicals inappropriately.
To achieve a dilution of 0.5-1%, we use 3-6 drops of essential oil per 30 ml of vegetable oil. To dilute 5% we use 30 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of vegetable oil.
A concentration of up to 5% is generally considered safe for adults.
Note: If you are unsure about the method of applying essential oils, consult a qualified aromatherapist.
How do I use essential oils safely?
A small number of people may experience irritation or an allergic reaction to some essential oils. Someone is more likely to have a bad reaction if they have atopic dermatitis or a history of allergic reactions.
Because essential oils are strong, diluting them in one vegetable oil is the best way to avoid a nasty reaction from direct application to the skin. If we experience a red, itchy rash or hives after applying essential oils we can contact our doctor / aromatherapist.
Genuine, organic or adulterated essential oils?
Care must be taken because there are many counterfeits on the market, as well as many that are synthetic perfumes and are sold as essential oils!
How can we distinguish genuine essential oils from imitations?
- We prefer dark colored glass vials to plastic ones. Essential oils should always be stored in glass vials.
- The Latin scientific name of the plant from which the essential oil is derived must be mentioned, e.g. for lemon: Citrus limon.
- If the price is low it will probably be adulterated or even worse perfume oil.
- We buy organic essential oils because it is very important to avoid possible contamination from pesticides and chemicals.
- If the essential oil smells consistently the same every time you buy it across lots then chances are the company is adding synthetic chemicals to achieve the same scent profile. Many factors play a role in the aromatic profile of the oil such as: the air temperature, the amount of rain, the length of the growing season, the content of the soil, etc. as with wine. while the chemical components may remain the same their ratio will not remain the same.
- Make sure the bottle cap has a reducer mouth and not a rubber dropper because the rubber caps break down on contact with the essential oil and release synthetic substances into the essential oil.
- The texture of the essential oil should not leave any greasiness. The original ones can glide on but should not leave any greasiness.
Pure essential oils (pure)
In the US the term pure has no legal status and can refer to almost anything.
In general, the more expensive an essential oil is, the greater the risk of adulteration. In some essential oils such as honeysuckle, sandalwood, rose, etc. we find high rates of adulteration, for example in some essential oils they add cheaper essential oils or synthetic materials and fragrances.
We prefer organic* essential oils, produced sustainably and ethically with respect for nature and plants, and tested to ensure purity and maximum therapeutic benefit.
Some essential oils with their properties:
Lavender, the most common essential oil. Analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, healing, calms and removes stress, improves mood. Natural sleep aid, excellent choice for promoting overall skin health and radiance.
Lemon, helps concentration, mental alertness, eliminates negative emotions. It is widely used in cosmetics and perfumery as a perfume, antiseptic, cleanser, deodorant, tonic, etc.
Tea tree, essential essential oil for any first aid cabinet or kit. Effective against fungi, germs and bacteria. The most suitable essential oil for house cleaning. Effective in cleansing and restoring healthy skin tissue. Fights acne.
Rosemary, helps in cases of hair loss, dry skin. Enhances concentration and memory, improves brain function. Helps with cold fingers and extremities. Antidepressant properties. It stimulates the secretion of hormones that reduce the sensitivity of nerves to pain, acting as an excellent analgesic, which is why it has very good results in headaches, migraines, etc.
Bergamot, creates a feeling of freshness, joy and well-being, while at the same time helping to deal with nausea and dizziness. Reduces stress, lifts mood, helps lower blood pressure. Healing action on cuts and bruises. It is antibacterial and antifungal.
Oregano, strong healing properties. Antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, analgesic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, etc. It has a strong antioxidant effect, reduces cell damage due to oxidation. Powerful choice in bacteria reduction formulations.
Eucalyptus, can help relieve the airways during a cold or flu. Many people are allergic to eucalyptus, so care must be taken. It has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, strengthens the respiratory system. It helps to dissolve and expel the mucus from the chest. Eases breathing, prevents asthma symptoms.
Essential oils can have a positive impact on our health and well-being as long as we use them in a safe way. Keep essential oils tightly closed. Store them in a cool, dark place and away from children. Here you will find organic essential oils.
*It is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals (herbicides, insecticides, etc.), the addition of hormones and genetic modification. Plants grown for organic essential oil production are grown in soil free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers and do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).