Essential oils have received a lot of attention for a couple of years. They are being recommended for massages, aromatherapy, and even to reduce stress and anxiety. But, using them without knowing what they are and made of could be harmful to the individual. This is why it is imperative to understand essential oils, their types, benefits, uses, and more. Read on to learn about some basic dos and don’ts that one must know when it comes to essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are unique aromatic compounds that are made from the parts of certain plants. These extracts come from leaves, herbs, and even the rinds and typically have a distinct aroma and flavor specific to the plant.
This distinct aroma and flavor are also known as the essence of the plant, from which comes the name “essential oils.”
The extract is obtained using different modes and then mixed with a carrier oil for use. It is essential to note the method by which the essential oil is extracted, as the ones obtained with the help of chemical processes are not considered natural.
What are the different methods to extract essential oils?
Essential oils are naturally produced by two different methods:
- Steam and water distillation
In this method, the water or steam is passed through the plant. The water collects the extract, including the essential compounds away from the leaves and other plant matter.
- Cold pressing
This method of extraction presses or squeezes the different parts of the plant mechanically, which releases the essential compounds and juices from the plant matter.
At times, producers of essential oils add carrier chemicals to achieve a higher amount of essential oil from a similar amount of extract.
What are essential oils used for? Do they work?
Essential oils have multiple uses. From being used in cosmetics to natural medicine, essential oils have a wide variety of uses. Here are some of them:
- Cosmetic and beauty industry
In the cosmetic and makeup industry, essential oils are used to make perfumes. They are also added to other products such as creams, lipsticks, face washes, among others for added fragrance. They are also high in antioxidants, which are essential for the beauty industry.
Aromatherapy requires the essential oil to be inhaled. This can be done in multiple ways but using a diffuser is one of the most common ways to do so. Aromatherapists believe that inhaling certain essential oils allows them to enter the bloodstream through the lungs. The essential oils have the capability to help the body in different ways. One common example of aromatherapy is using vapor rub to eliminate congestion in the lungs.
- Massage therapy
Another use of essential oil is massage therapy where the essential oil is mixed with a carrier oil and applied directly to the skin. This allows the essential oil to enter the bloodstream. In such cases, it is important to use a diluting solution and never apply it on the skin in its pure form.
The question that now begs an answer is – Are essential oils effective? Yes, they are, but it depends on the problem and the essential oil that is being used for it.
What are the different types of essential oils?
To understand the purpose of each essential oil, we need to know their uses. This could be difficult considering there are more than 90 essential oils, each having their own set of use cases, probable health benefits, unique aroma, and flavor. So, here are the most commonly used essential oils:
Peppermint oil is said to have a strong scent. Due to this, it is most commonly used to relieve congestion in the chest and sinus. It is also used to improve overall respiratory functioning. It is also said to have properties that aid digestion, relieve nausea, and brain function.
Lavender is known for its scent that has calming properties. This is why it is often used in the cosmetic industry in products such as body washes and lotions. It is also used to relieve stress and anxiety. It also has capabilities to deal with physical conditions such as minor skin troubles, sinus congestions, cramping, anxiety and insomnia.
Orange essential oils have the ability to release stress and anxiety. It can also be used to promote the health of the lymphatic system in the body. For external applications, it is important to remember that when exposed to the sunlight, citrus can lead to the burns on the skin.
- Tea tree
Tea tree oil is a mandatory element when it comes to skincare. It helps to treat multiple things such as acne, fungus, and even warts. It is also used for medicinal purposes due to its strong scent.
This essential oil has multiple uses including boosting immunity, and improving the health of the lymphatic system. It also has medicinal uses due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Due to this, it is essential for treating bacterial and viral skin conditions such as bug bites, boils, and pimples.
This essential oil is another staple of the cosmetic industry due to its ability to calm nerves and soothe the sense.
Bergamot essential oil helps reduce levels of stress and anxiety. It is also used to treat eczema and other skin infections and diseases.
The extract of the rose plant has limited uses. It is mostly used to boost an individual’s mood and alleviate stress and anxiety.
Chamomile is another extract that is used for relaxation.
Another staple of the beauty industry is jasmine, which is used to soothe the mind, and provide relaxation while easing depression. This essential oil is also used during childbirth and to improve libido.
What are the different ways to use essential oils?
Now that we know about the uses of different essential oils, we need to understand how to use them. There are different ways that one can use these essential oils, they are:
One of the most common ways of using essential oils is with the help of a diffuser. A diffuser is an electronic device that is used to convert the essential oils into droplets that can be dispersed into the air. This allows the aroma of the essential oil to spread in the area, which can have a lot of soothing effects depending on the type of oil that is being used. Essential oil diffusers are available in different types such as ceramic, candle, lamp rings, ultrasonic, reed diffuser, electric. Ensure that the diffuser is not used around pregnant or breastfeeding women, pets, and even children. Essential oils can be potentially harmful to these individuals.
Essential oils can also be used by simply inhaling them. This can be done by adding a few droplets of the pure essential oil to a bowl of hot water. Then, use a towel to cover yourself and the bowl. Now, close eyes and inhale the steam from the bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes.
The other way to inhale essential oils is by simply opening the bottle of pure essential oil, placing it near your nose, and inhaling the fumes. Make sure the pure essential oil does not touch your skin.
- Dry evaporation
This method is rather similar to inhalation but requires a dry material like a cotton ball or cloth. Apply a few droplets of the pure essential oil to the material and wait for it to dry out a little. Bring the material to your nose and inhale. It can also be added to the shirt collar, pillowcase, and the vents in the house.
- On the skin
Essential oils can become a part of an individual’s skincare routine in multiple ways, But, it is important to remember that they cannot be used directly on the skin, they always need to be diluted with a carrier oil or lotion.
To do this, they can be added with the help of a recipe or with the help of intuition. This can help you get a combination of your choice, but it is important to do some research beforehand to see which oils work with which carrier elements.
Cosmetic products including toners and serums can also be given a personal touch by adding essential oils with skincare benefits.
- In the bath or shower
Keeping essential oils in the shower or bath is a strict no-no as they could be affected due to the humidity and heat. But, they can actually be very useful if they are added to shampoos, conditioners, and body washes.
A few drops of pure essential oil can also be applied to the shower walls just before the shower. This will allow you to inhale it while taking a shower. They can also be added to the washcloth, bathwater, and more.
Remember to check if the humidifier allows the use of essential oils as not all humidifiers provide such services. To the ones that do, add a few droplets of pure essential oil to the water tank. Once the humidifier is on, the oil will be dispersed throughout the area and will vaporize.
Dos and don’ts for essential oils
- Use it to curb anxiety
Essential oils made from lavender, chamomile and even jasmine are known for creating a relaxing environment and alleviating stress and anxiety. So, yes, do use them when you feel anxious.
- Throw away that old bottle of essential oil
Essential oils that are more than 3 years old need to be thrown into the can. They are probably spoiled due to the exposure to oxygen. Spoiled essential oils not only affect the skin, they could even lead to an allergic reaction.
- Tell the doctor everything
It is important to ask your doctor before you begin to use essential oils. They are fully capable of ruling out any oil that is not good for you or informing you about the side effects of the essential oils.
- Keep in mind the age of the individual
The age of an individual is important when it comes to using essential oils. This is because children and the elderly are more sensitive to essential oils. This means that it may require more dilution compared to an average healthy adult. Some essential oils need to be completely avoided for children and adults.
- Swallow or consume essential oils
Pure essential oils are extremely concentrated. They can irritate the cells inside the body and have an adverse reaction. Only certain essential oils can be consumed in the form of oral capsules.
- Use pure essential oils on your body
Normally, essential oils are not used directly on the body, but in some cases, diluted versions may be used on hands and legs. This does not mean that they can be used anywhere on the body. Especially near places where they can enter the body such as eyes, ear, anus, or vagina.
- Believe everything you see and hear
At times, we just believe that if something is natural, it is good. But, that need not always be the case. Natural substances can also have an adverse effect on the skin. It can cause irritation, toxic reactions, or even allergy. Just because something has come from a plant, does not mean it is safe. This is why it is best to test any essential oil on a small area first to understand how your skin responds.
- Use it on inflamed and damaged skin
Skin that is damaged usually absorbs more of the pure essential oil which can lead to a whole lot of skin reactions that are unwanted and dangerous.