What Are Essential Oils
Essential oils are organic compounds extracted from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree and have several healing properties. The oils in the plants are made up of very small molecules that can penetrate your cells, and some can even penetrate the blood-brain barrier. These oils are highly concentrated and have a strong aroma and can be used in aromatherapy and their benefits range from mental to physical healing.
Safety with Essential Oils
Essential oils are generally safe to use and have very few negative side effect or risks associated with their use especially when used as directed. If you are trying to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle, they make for great alternatives to over the counter medications for both physical and mental health. Overall, there is good evidence that essential oils are both safe and can be a powerful healing tool in natural medicine.
There are different methods of application that are appropriate for each essential oil. They can be applied topically (in the skin), inhaled or diffused or taken internally. Not all essential oils can be applied all three ways, so it is important that you do your research and buy high-quality oils in order to use them safely. Some essential oils should not be taken internally, topically, or should be used by people with certain sensitivities.
Due to the concentration of essential oils, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way and they should only be used at small amounts at a time. They must be used with care and guidelines and labels should be read and followed carefully.
Essential oils can be used topically on the skin. Most oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil or jojoba oil. If you are using an essential oil for the first time, it is always safe practice to perform a patch test on a small part of your skin before full body application.
To do this, dilute the essential oils in a 1:1 ratio, then apply a small amount to the inner part of your forearm or a sensitive part of skin. Wait 24- 48 hours to be sure that no negative skin irritations occur such as swelling, redness, hives or rashes. It is best to start with an even ratio, then work your way up slowly to avoid any irritations.
Best Locations to Apply
When using essential oils topically, the best places to apply the oil mixture is:
• The affected area
• Soles of feet
Never apply essential oils to your eyes or ear canals. If essential oils do get into your eyes, place a few drops of a carrier oil in the eye and blink until the oil clears out. Be sure to wash your hands after using essential oils to avoid spreading them into your eyes.
Let’s face it, not everyone’s skin will be able to handle all essential oils. Some people’s skin will have more sensitivity than others and that’s ok. If you do have sensitive skin, you want to avoid undiluted applications. Be sure to dilute essential oils with carrier oils such as coconut oil or jojoba oil.
Essential oils that can be more tolerated with people with skin sensitivity include:
• German chamomile
Some essential oils, especially citrus oils, can increase photosensitivity. You want to be sure to not apply these oils on your skin within 12 hours before spending time directly in the sun. They may cause skin to burn.
Although it may be tempting, do not use essential oils excessively on your skin. Some have lipophilic (fat-loving) nature and can cause an increase of dryness to the skin.
Avoid application of essential oils directly to damaged or open skin, wounds, infected scrapes or burns. Damaged and inflamed skin is often more penetrable and may be more sensitive to dermal reactions.
Some essential oils are rich in aldehydes and phenols which can cause negative skin reactions and MUST be diluted before applying directly to the skin. Some of these oils are cinnamon, clove and oregano.
If you are experiencing signs of dermal irritation, apply a small amount of carrier oil or cream to the affected area to dilute it and discontinue use of all essential oils for at least several days.
When breathing in essential oil fragrances, the process is called aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is a term used when we use essential oils aromatically. When the aromas of an essential oil Is inhaled, the molecules enter the nasal cavities and stimulate mental responses in the limbic system which can trigger a powerful emotional response.
Aromatherapy can be obtained by adding a few drops of oils to your bath or shower, by relaxing in a warm bath with bath salts and essential oils, by diffusing the oils in an essential oil diffuser, using room or body sprays containing essential oils, essential oil nasal inhalers, essential oil roll ons used as perfumes or colognes, or just simply inhaling the aromas from the bottle.
Diffusing Essential Oils
Diffusers are used to vaporize essential oils into the air. They release small amounts of the oils and the same safety concerns apply when diffusing them as they do with inhaling them. Inhalation is considered a very safe method and poses low levels of risk. It is very unlikely the concentration oil will rise to dangerous levels due to vaporizing.
When using your diffuser, diffuse for about 30- 45 minutes at a time. There are diffusers on the market that even have a built-in timer that will shut the device off automatically in case you forget.
It is advised that you not leave the diffuser plugged in overnight. Be sure to read the diffuser’s directions carefully, be sure the diffuser has the appropriate amount of water, and don’t add carrier oils to your diffuser which may cause the device to break down. Regularly clean your diffuser with soap and warm water to help it work effectively and to prevent mold or bacteria from accumulating.
It is important to note that you may not want to diffuse around newborns, babies, young children, pregnant or nursing women or pets unless you know they are safe. Each essential oil has its own precautions when using them, so be sure to read and follow the labels carefully.
Start slowly when it comes to diffusing your essential oils to test your reactions to them. Ask a healthcare provider or a professional if you have any concerns or concerns about oils worsening symptoms you may already be experiencing.
If you have allergies, asthma or similar conditions, you may find that some oils with strong fragrances may trigger respiratory reactions. If this is the case, stop inhaling or diffusing immediately and ventilate the room. Use caution when diffusing essential oils that might irritate mucous membranes like:
• Cinnamon bark
The following essential oils can be less irritating when inhaled:
• Tea tree
Many essential oils can be ingested- taken by the mouth or eaten. You can cook with foods that contain essential oils in them such as lemongrass, ginger or cinnamon. You can also use them in teas to create our own herbal tea remedy. A few popular teas would be chamomile tea or peppermint tea. A few other common ways to ingest them is through capsule form, adding a few drops to your beverage or food dish or by adding a few drops of essential oils under your tongue for fast absorption.
If you are ingesting essential oils, it is critical to make sure that the essential oils you use are safe and pure, are a very high quality, organic, “therapeutic grade” brand and are appropriate for internal use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers these safe for consumption and has approved some essential oils generically for internal use and given them the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) designation for human consumption.
Be sure to read the warning labels carefully before ingesting. Only consume essential oils that are Certified USDA Organic and labeled as dietary supplements. So many essential oils on the market today have been adulterated, so be sure to use 100% pure essential oils to decrease the likelihood of an adverse response.
Use small amounts of essential oils internally (about 1-2 drops at a time up to 2-3 drops daily). Never use an essential oil internally that you are already allergic to. If you experience any mouth or throat irritation, dilute the oil in liquid, food such as honey or applesauce before swallowing or spit it out. It is also best to take essential oils with food rather than on an empty stomach.
Keep in mind that using essential oils at the same time can increase a drug’s side effects if you’re currently taking prescription or over the counter medications regardless if they are being taken internally or topically. Always ask your physician or a professional if you have any safety concerns regarding medication interactions.
People taking heart medications, such as blood thinners, should avoid using clary sage, cypress, eucalyptus, ginger, rosemary, sage and thyme oils. People dealing with any type of hormonal issue, keep in mind that lavender, tea tress, chamomile, sandalwood and clary sage essential oils may alter hormone levels.
Be sure to be on the look out for symptoms or negative reactions such as eye or throat irritation, hives, rash, nausea, vomiting or dizziness. If it appears a child has ingested large amounts of essential oil, contact the nearest poison control unit right away for emergency help.
People Who are More Sensitive to Essential Oils
Although essential oils are natural and most are safe to use on the body, there are a few people who tend to be a little more sensitive to the oils than others. People who tend to be more sensitive than others and should take more precaution when using essential oils are:
• Younger children
• Older people
• Pregnant women
• Nursing women
There are some essential oils that pregnant women should stand clear of all together. These essential oils can have stimulating effects on the uterus, pose risk to the fetus, affect blood pressure or simply, there’s not enough research conducted on the effects they may cause. Essential oils that aren’t safe for pregnant women include:
• Black pepper
• Clary sage
• Geranium (not considered safe during first trimester)
• Tea Tree
• Roman Chamomile
There are essential oils that are safe for pregnant women to use. It may be best practice to diffuse the oils into the air so they don’t have strong effects like using on the skin or internally. Essential oils Safe for Pregnant women are:
• Geranium (after first trimester)
• Ylang ylang
Essential Oil Precautions
When using any type of essential oil topically for the first time, it is always safe practice to perform a patch test on a small part of your skin before full body application. To do this, dilute the essential oils in a 1:1 ratio, then apply a small amount to the inner part of your forearm or a sensitive part of skin. Wait 24- 48 hours to be sure that no negative skin irritations occur such as swelling, redness, hives or rashes. It is best to start with an even ratio, then work your way up slowly to avoid any irritations.
When inhaling essential oils for the first time, keep the amount of exposure at a minimum to be sure you or anyone else in the household doesn’t experience any negative effects of the aromas. If you do, then ventilate the room being diffused immediately. If irritations continue to occur, seek medical or professional help.
If you are ingesting essential oils, it is critical to make sure that the essential oils you use are safe and pure and are a very high quality, organic, “therapeutic grade” brand. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers these safe for consumption and has approved some essential oils generically for internal use and given them the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) designation for human consumption.
It is best to talk to your doctor if you are unsure how using essential oil will impact existing health conditions such as heart disease, liver damage, cancer or skin disorders. If you have a reaction, or unsure about using any type of essential oils, it is best to speak with your doctor.
If you are taking any medications that you are not sure if they will interact with essential oils, be sure to speak to your physician before use. If you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly, be sure to speak to a physician or professionally before using essential oils.
Storing Essential Oils
Be sure to keep essential oils out of direct sunlight. Some essential oils are light sensitive and will lose their benefits if exposed to direct sunlight or heat. Some essential oils can be corrosive if used in plastic in their concentrated form. This is also why most essential oils or products that contain essential oils in them are packaged in deep amber or cobalt glass bottles.
Be sure to keep your essential oils in a cool dry place out of the reach of children and pets. Keep Essential oils away from open flames. Some of them are highly flammable.
Summing It Up
Overall, essential oils are a safe, natural alternative and are great for natural medicine. Each essential oil can be applied in different ways, and if they are not used correctly, they can be harmful. Be sure to read and follow all labels correctly and carefully. If you find that essential oils could become a staple in your household, dive into nature’s gifts to us.
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The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. Self Verve is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. Be sure to contact your physician before trying any of the items stated in the above article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Self Verve does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.