If you've ever walked into a spa and immediately felt more relaxed after taking a single deep breath, you've most likely just experienced one of many benefits of essential oils: aromatherapy. Our sense of smell plays an important roll in how we interpret our environment, the decisions we make, our emotions, and even our memories. Molecules that enter our body through inhalation can influence the actual neurons in our brain by way of our olfactory system. Once they enter our body, these molecules then influence our limbic system – an important group of specific brain structures responsible for regulating instinct, emotions, and memories.
Beyond influencing our brain, specific essential oils can also be used externally and even internally for the benefit of the body, as well as to help create a cleaner and more comfortable living space.
These special plant juices are incredibly versatile and have a plethora of beneficial properties to support our overall health and wellness.
What are they?
Essential oils are natural, highly concentrated oils which have been extracted from plants - most commonly through the process of distillation. These potent plant oils have many profound effects on the human body. Essential oils are incredibly complex and can contain upwards of 200-500 different constituents in each drop, making each different essential oil completely unique in its effect. The molecules of essential oils are incredibly small and can absorb transdermally (through the skin). Once they absorb, they also enter directly into our bloodstream and lymphatic system and therefore can have a direct influence on the tissues and organs in our body.
How to Use Them
Applied directly to the skin. Most essential oils will need to be diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond or coconut as they can be highly irritating to the skin if applied directly. Generally speaking, a ratio of 1 drop essential oil to 5-10 drops carrier oil is a good guideline. Applying essential oils topically can help support tissues and muscles after physical activity, help support healthy skin, and can even support various internal organ systems since they are absorbed transdermally. They can be massaged into the skin, or mixed with Epsom salts and added to bath water. **see note below for safety information
Diffused in a room. This is a great way to give your own living space a rejuvenating spa-like atmosphere. Simply add 5-8 drops of your favorite essential oils to your favorite diffuser and let it run in your office, bedroom, or if you're really into essential oils, every room of your house. Inhaling essential oil molecules in the air can help boost the mood, help support restful sleep, help cleanse and purify the air, and help support the respiratory system.
Internally. Certain essential oils can be taken internally - as a flavor ingredient in recipes, to flavor water (always use glass, essential oils can leach petrochemicals from plastic!), or therapeutically to support the body in maintaining a state of health. For instance, peppermint is a great aid to digestion, oregano and thyme are powerful immune support oils, and lemon can help support liver health and detoxification. Please note - not all essential oils can be consumed and some could even have a toxic effect. **see note below for safety information
Household Cleaning. Adding a few drops of cleansing oils such as sweet orange, lemon, or tea tree to your cleaning cloth or mop bucket will help refresh your home, make the experience of cleaning more enjoyable due to the aromatherapeutic benefits, and also help physically cleanse your space due to the powerful constituents of the oils themselves. They are also eco-friendly and non-toxic, which cannot be said for the majority of cleaning products on the market.
Our Top 10 essential oils and Their Uses
Frankincense oil is incredibly versatile with such a wide range of uses. It promotes healthy skin and tissue regeneration when applied topically, supports the emotions and a healthy hormone balance, is grounding and calming, and is a great oil for overall immune support. It is also one of the most ancient oils, its properties and benefits having been prized for thousands of years. It is one of the best oils to apply topically, such as in the form of an oil-based serum, for anti-aging and overall skin health.
One of the best oils for calming the emotions, de-stressing, and getting a good nights rest. Lavender is a must-have oil for first aid kits, and for the summer months. It can be diluted and applied to the skin after a little too much fun in the sun to immediately calm, soothe, and help support quicker healing.
Have a skin blemish? Tea tree to the rescue. Tea tree is astringent, slightly drying, and may help quicken the rate of healing by keeping the skin clean. Its cleansing properties can also help boost and support the immune system all year round.
Citrus (Sweet Orange, Lemon, Tangerine, Grapefruit, Lime)
Citrus oils are happy oils – they are uplifting, energizing, and invigorating. They are also very cleansing and can help support respiratory health and boost the immune system. If you are new to diffusing or using essential oils in your home, citrus is a great place to start.
Peppermint invigorates the senses and helps increase energy levels. It's also a great aid to digestion and can help provide relief from tummy troubles. Peppermint is very cooling and is a great oil to have on hand during the summer months. It can be diffused in the home to create a more comfortable atmosphere when the mercury rises.
Everyone needs at least one good tree oil in their collection. Cedar is grounding, uplifting, and helps calm the nervous system. It has a refreshing woodsy, earthy scent, helping to bring the energy of nature indoors. It can be diffused with lavender to set the vibe for a good night's rest or added to skin care formulations to support smooth, healthy skin.
Another ancient oil, sandalwood is one of the best oils for creating a meditative environment and for supporting a calm and grounded emotional state. The perfect oil to support a yoga or meditation practice. It can also be used to help boost the memory and helps the skin retain moisture for a youthful glow.
A known aphrodisiac, jasmine increases libido, can help support healthy milk production in nursing mothers, is supportive of hormonal health, is rejuvenating for the skin tissue, and can help uplift the emotions. It is sweet and very floral, and a little goes a very long way.
Rosemary has a fresh, invigorating herbal scent, and can be used to increase mental focus and alertness, soothe discomfort in the head caused by mental tension or stress, support respiratory health, support healthy digestion, and boost the immune system.
A must in any essential oil collection, eucalyptus is one of the best oils for sinus and respiratory support - helping to promote healthy, clear breathing. It is refreshing, cleansing and energizing.
Be Mindful - Not Oils Are Created Equal
Not all essential oils are created equal. In order to gain the profound benefits of essential oils, and stay safe, quality is imperative. Source therapeutic-grade essential oils that are 100% pure, extracted from organically grown plants and 3rd party lab tested for contaminants and constituents. Remember, essential oils have been concentrated, meaning any chemicals used during plant cultivation will also be concentrated.
**Ask the essential oil company directly to get instructions on proper use, especially if ingesting oils or applying them directly to your body. Do not apply essential oils undiluted to children's skin, as it may be more sensitive. Do a patch test first before applying essential oils to your body or face, even if diluted. Consult with your healthcare practitioner if using medications as some essential oils may be contraindicated.