The Beginner’s Guide To Essential Oils
Whether you are a die-hard essential oil fan or have no idea what on earth people are talking about, you probably have a few questions that we would like to answer for you. This beginner’s guide is to help you understand what Essential Oils are, how they are made, differences in quality and how you can use them. At the bottom, you’ll find our Frequently Asked Questions.
What are Essential Oils?
If you have ever chopped an herb or squeezed an orange and gotten a whiff of its fragrance then you have already experienced the volatile aromatic compounds of essential oils! Wow what a mouthful, more on these compounds later. Essential Oils are extracts from the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Essential oils give plants their distinctive smells, protect plants and play a role in plant pollination. In addition to their benefits to plants and their beautiful fragrance, essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatment, and health-care practices.
But what exactly is a volatile aromatic compound? In short, these compounds are small organic molecules that tend to change quickly from their solid or liquid state to a gas at room temperature. They are called volatile because they change state quickly. When you first open a bottle of essential oil, you instantly notice that the aroma is super strong. The physical and chemical properties of the volatile aromatic compounds that make up essential oils allow them to interact with the olfactory sensors in the nose. These unique properties make essential oils ideal to help maintain a healthy mind and body through aromatherapy. Over 3,000 varieties of volatile aromatic compounds have been identified to date. The benefits of an essential oil vary from plant to plant, within botanical families, and from species to species.
Even with pure essential oils the composition of the oil can vary depending on the time of day, season, geographic location, method and duration of distillation, year grown, and the weather, making every step of the production process a critical determinant of the overall quality of the essential oil product.
How Are Essential Oils Made?
Therapeutic-grade essential oils are usually extracted through “steam distillation“. This means while heated steam passes through the plant material, gentle pressure is added causing the plant to release the essential oil from microscopic protective sacs. As the vapor mixture flows through a condenser and cools, you end up with a layer of oil and a layer of water. The essential oil rises to the top as it naturally separates from the water layer and can be collected easily. Since different plants require different pressures, times, and temperatures, this method makes it possible to adjust the temperature based on the plant type.
Some oils (such as citrus oils) are extracted through “expression” a process of mechanical pressure in which the oil is squeezed from the plant without heat.
The extraction process for high-quality essential oils needs to be monitored extremely close. If done incorrectly the aromatic compounds that make up the essential oil can be altered or even destroyed. Careful selection of plant materials is just as important as the distillation. Only plants of a certain species that were grown in the correct conditions and harvested at the correct times are allowed. The process requires experienced growers and distillers to work together to ensure the highest-quality product.
Differences In Quality
Essential oils have never been more popular. This also means that there is a growing number of products that claim to be or contain essential oils ranging in price and quality. However, many of these products do not use pure essential oils and often use fragrant synthetic substitutes to dilute or replace the more expensive essential oils.
There are many essential oil companies out there so it can be very hard to choose which one to go for. Since we do not believe in bad-mouthing others at Soul Essentials, I will not be going into companies that I believe do not do things the right way. However, I would like to tell you about the company that I have chosen to work with and why.
Personally, I have chosen to both use and build a business around the Essential Oils of dōTERRA. Some of you may have heard of other companies but I would love it if you could read this bit before choosing to opt out. After doing extensive research I have not found another company that goes through the same process as dōTERRA does. They go the extra mile in sourcing, quality control, and testing. DōTERRA sources their oils from all over the world ensuring the best quality plants, growing circumstances while giving back to the local economies. They have also created their own internal standard of purity, potency, and safety called Certified Pure Therapeutic Essential Oils, using a third party highly experienced lab to run their tests.
And honestly, if you don’t care about any of this let me tell you the following. I have had extremely severe eczema my entire life. Doctors could not help me and I was using some pretty last-resort medication which gave limited relief and a whole bunch of horrible side-effects. I had tried just about everything including essential oils, but they always ended up being cut with something that was not good for my body and I always ended up in the same place – severe debilitating pain and embarassment. I even ended up stopping my massage practice, something I loved doing. Somehow I ended up trying just ONE more thing (as you do when you are desperate) and after using several of the dōTERRA oils for a few weeks, I no longer have my problematic eczema. Believe it or not, this is the truth and over the past few years, I have witnessed many more of these stories. I am immensely grateful of the purity and therapeutic value of dōTERRA’s Essential Oils and I’ll never go back to the old days. If you’d like to know more about dōTERRA’s sourcing practices and how they are impacting countless lives, watch the video at the bottom of this page.
How To Use Essential Oils
Ok ok, Carol. Enough with that! How do you use them? Here are the three ways to use Essential Oils.
All the above application methods are safe when used appropriately, including aromatic, topical, and internal methods.
The sense of smell is a tool that can elicit powerful physiologic, mental, and emotional responses. Essential oils are quickly absorbed by the smell receptors, which have a direct link to the limbic system by way of the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is part of the brain that supports a variety of functions including smell, emotions, behavior, and memory. For this reason, essential oils have an especially powerful effect via aromatic application.
Some essential oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. Diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. Diffusers that use cold air or water are ideal. However, using essential oils aromatically does not require any special diffusing devices.
You can achieve the same health benefits by simply placing a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand that is then cupped around the nose as you breathe deeply.
Additional aromatic uses For Essential Oils Include:
- Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle
- Mix oils in a spray bottle with water and mist over furniture, carpet, or linens
- Add oil to a batch of laundry or to dryer sheets
- Use in household surface cleaners
Topical application is a very effective method for applying essential oils. Because essential oils have low molecular weights and are lipid soluble, they easily penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they stay in the applied area for a localized benefit.
Although essential oils are readily absorbed, there are many ways to increase absorption. Using a light massage will increase the blood flow to the area of application, in turn improving distribution throughout the body. Use of a carrier oil can also increase absorption, especially in skin that is dry as it helps moisturize the skin and slow evaporation of the oil.
To decrease the likelihood of developing a skin sensitivity, especially on young or sensitive skin, it is advisable to use a carrier oil (such as Fractionated Coconut Oil) to dilute more potent oils and when trying an oil for the first time. The recommend dilution ratio is typically one drop of essential oil to three drops of carrier oil.
It’s always advisable to use several small doses throughout the day rather than a single large dose. Start with the lowest possible dose (1–2 drops). A topical dose can be repeated every 4–6 hours as needed. Because every individual is unique, the dose will vary for each individual based on size, age, and overall health status.
Beneficial Areas You Can Apply Essential Oils
- Forehead and temples
- Chest and abdomen
- Arms, legs, bottom of feet
Other Effective Methods of Topical Application
- Add a few drops of oil to a warm bath
- Make a hot or cold compress by soaking a towel or cloth in water, adding essential oils, and then applying to the desired area
- Add oil to a lotion or moisturizer and then apply to skin
Sensitive Areas to be Avoided:
- Some facial areas, such as the skin around the eyes
- Eyes and inner ears
- Broken, damaged, or otherwise injured skin
Certain essential oils have a rich culinary history and can be used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of health conditions. When you sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, sip a mug of peppermint tea, or add fresh basil leaves to your spaghetti, you are actually consuming some volatile aromatic essential oil compounds.
Essential oil contributes many health benefits as well as flavoring and aroma properties to foods. When in their concentrated form, essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for more targeted and potent health benefits. Internal use is a very safe and effective method of application because of the sophisticated physiologic processes of our bodies.
When ingested, essential oils can enter the bloodstream via the gastrointestinal tract, where they are transported throughout the rest of the body.
The composition of essential oils is highly complex. Each constituent possesses a unique set of biochemical properties that react with cells and organs in different ways. Although these mechanisms of action are not completely understood, the positive end results have been demonstrated. However, the body is only equipped to handle appropriate doses of essential oils.
Proper dosing according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines should be strictly followed to avoid toxicity.
Effective Methods of Internal Application
- Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking to replace fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Remember that essential oils are much more potent than dried or fresh herbs and spices, so start with a very small amount
- For more potent oils, it may be better to administer them by toothpicks (dip the end of a clean toothpick into the oil and then add to the food) rather than drops
- Add essential oils to water, smoothies, milk, tea, or other drinks
- Take essential oils internally in a veggie capsule or add to a small amount of applesauce or yogurt
Using Essential Oils Safely
As I’ve mentioned before be sure to use only pure, potent, high-quality essential oils and follow all warnings and instructions on the label. Essential oils are not to be used in the eyes, inside ears, or in open wounds.
Use caution when applying oils topically. Use a carrier oil and dilute for less sensitization and increased absorption. If redness or irritation occurs when using essential oils topically, either apply more carrier oils (vegetable oils such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil) to the affected area or lower the dosage. Consult your physician before using essential oils if you are pregnant or under a doctor’s care.
Safety Guidelines for using essential oils and essential oil products.
1. Only use pure & potent essential oils from a company that you trust and follow all label warnings and instructions.
2. If redness or irritation occurs when using essential oils topically, apply a vegetable oil such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil to the affected area. This should help dilute the essential oil or help you take it off your skin.
3. Essential oils should not be used in eyes, ears, or in open wounds. In the event of accidental contact with the eye, dilute with vegetable oil NOT water.
4. Do NOT consume an essential oil unless
5. Discontinue the use of an essential oil if you experience severe skin, stomach, or respiratory irritation or discomfort.
6. When using on children, apply a very small amount of oil to test skin or other sensitivity. Do not use oil on a child’s hand as they may transfer to their eyes or mouth.
7. Consult your physician before using essential oils if you are pregnant, under a doctor’s care or have other safety questions regarding essential oils.
Want to know more? These links should help you on your way.
If you’d rather watch a video instead of reading about it. Here is a quick video by dōTERRA explaining what Essential Oils are and how they are impacting lives through their sourcing practices.