One of the first alternative healing methods that ever interested me was aromatherapy and the use of essential oils and this was years before I would truly identify as “natural” or “green”. I just loved the idea that plants had healing powers…that all around us were these tiny little powerhouses that we could harvest and use to heal ourselves. The idea that a person may decide to take a variety of drugs to help with headaches and another may look to flowers and leaves and get better results is kind of thrilling. It’s like magic…the magic of nature. Except it’s really not magic, it’s science.
Pills or plants? What sounds more appealing? I know what sounds more appealing to me.
Unlike eating a plant or a flower, using essential oils involves inhaling or absorbing the plant essence via the natural oils. They are highly concentrated and therefore very powerful in the therapeutic benefits department. We access these benefits primarily in two ways, inhalation and absorption. When we inhale the fragrance from vaporized essential oils we take into our bodies the healing molecules. We can also absorb oils through our skin where they make their way into the bloodstream and take immediate effect.
To test the theory just take a bath with lavender oil. Put a few drops of the oil on some epsom salts first, to help evenly distribute it since oil and water don’t mix. The hot water will cause some of the oils to vaporize and be inhaled. Some will also be absorbed into the body. After a lavender infused bath you will feel tranquil, relaxed, happy, and less stressed. Different oils do different things…that is the magic of essential oils.
But maybe you think the idea is a bit “out there” or that it is some modern fad. You would be wrong in thinking so. Essential oils are among man’s first medicine. Ancient writings show that they were used to treat illness dating back to 4500 BC. Egyptian hieroglyphs depict the blending of various oils and they describe recipes. Oils were so highly prized that tomb raiders would pass over gold and choose to take heavy jars filled what they considered to be precious oils. Peasants and slaves used herbs for health and healing because that is all they could afford or find. Queens, kings, and pharaoh’s used essential oils. It is perhaps for this reason that essential oils are not as widely known for their healing properties as herbs are…because they weren’t widely available to the common folk.
In some of our earliest history as a species we used essential oils for health and well being. That is no fad…that is wisdom passed down over the centuries and it is unfortunate that modern medicine and big pharma have blinded us to our roots.
How to Get Started With Essential Oils
Research! Get a few good books from the library. My intro to aromatherapy was The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy when I was 16. Now I am all about my Essential Oils Pocket Reference. Though at nearly 500 pages I doubt it will fit in anyone’s pocket. You need to know how to use the oils and how not to use them. If you are using them with kids or while pregnant you also need to be aware of what is safe and what is not safe. Spend some time learning about them and how to use them before you jump in.
Some oils can help you get to sleep, others can help you wake up in the morning. Certain oils can ease stressful situations and others can give you courage for a job interview or speaking engagement. Lemon is a stimulant and lemongrass is a sedative. Rosemary and peppermint smell about as different from each other as possible and yet both can help you fight fatigue. Get to know the most common oils and what they can be used for.
Buy the Oils
There are many bands available but I recommend Young Living. They have been distilling oils for many years and they own most of their own farms. Their seed to seal process makes them the gold standard by which all others should be measured, in my opinion. You can sign up to get Young Living oils here. Your options and the process are outlined step by step.
Why is purity so important? Well, you may decide that a bottle of cheap lavender oil being sold for $5 on the Internet is your most economical bet. What you don’t know though is that this bottle may actually contain a hybrid called lavandin. Much of the lavender oil sold in the US is actually lavandin. This is a big problem for you because after sustaining a burn on your arm you may decide to try and soothe your symptoms with lavender oil BUT because you actually have lavandin, which has much higher levels of camphor (7-18%), it makes your burn worse. You toss the bottle in the garbage and think that essential oils are worthless hocus pocus when in actuality you were sold a product that was biologically different than pure Lavdanula angustifolia. Purity is important and this is why I only recommend Young Living.
Some of the undiluted oils seem expensive but you only need to use small amounts (drops) so they last quite awhile. You can add these oils to a carrier base such as avocado oil or jojoba oil or you can add them to products such as shampoo or soap. Many EO brands make blends that contain several different oils in the same bottle. One of my favorite blends is Young Living’s En-R-Gee blend with rosemary, juniper, lemongrass, nutmeg, Idaho balsam fir, clove, and black pepper. I feel unstoppable all day long when I put a couple drops in my diffuser necklace. Wham Bam Pow!
How to Use Essential Oils
Diffuse Them – One of the easiest ways to diffuse essential oils is by using an electric diffuser (above). You add water, a few drops of essential oils, and the cold air diffuser atomizes a microfine mist of essential oils that can stay in the air for several hours. Start slow and diffuse for about 15-30 minutes a day, working up to 1-2 hours.
You can also diffuse oil by adding the oils to cedar chips, cotton balls, or by adding to a vaporizer or humidifier. Just be aware that the cold air diffusers are usually best because they do not heat the oils.
A diffuser necklace – These are locket style necklaces that have an absorbent pad or leather disk in them. You apply a drop or two of the desired oil and wear it throughout the day. After a day or so the oils evaporate and you can reapply. I adore mine and wear it every day!!
Topical Application – Many oils are safe to be applied neat or directly to your skin (neat=undiluted). Some oils should be diluted. For use with children the safest best is usually to dilute inside a carrier oil. You can apply the oils to the area in which you want to see some benefit…ie the DiGize blend on the tummy to help with tummy issues. You can also apply to the bottoms of the feet and along the spine. You can use Thieves in this way for instance, applying some each day to help family members stay well during the illness season.
For deeper penetration of the oils you can use a warm compress on the area. A few drops of gernaium applied to the abdomen followed by a warm compress will do wonders for menstrual cramps. Sore muscles will benefit from PanAway and a compress. A cold compress can be used for inflamed tissues.
Bath – Add oils to epsom salts and then disperse in your warm bathwater. Make your own oily bath gels by adding 5-10 drops of essential oils to an unscented bath gel.
Clean With Them – Oils can help with the the elimination of germs, bacteria, and mold. This makes them powerful natural cleaners. For cleaning I recommend citrus oils (lemon, lime, grapefruit), tea tree, eucalyptus, and Thieves blend. Young Living even sells a Thieves cleaner that is ready to go. You just add water and get to scrubbing.
There are also some other methods for usage (including ingestion) but these are the basics. Never put oils inside the ear canal or in the eyes.
If you are ready to get started on your oily journey make sure to subscribe to my list where I periodically send out emails with amazing recipes and tips for how to use them. Sign up here. It takes two seconds. It also contains an ecourse that walks you through the basics.
The link below contains more information about signing up with Young Living so we can be oily BFFs. Enjoy!
Wednesday, October 29th, 2014