What are Essential oils?
Essential oils are the life essence of plants. They can be extracted from various parts of plants and used therapeutically to enhance well-being naturally. Essential oils are made up of chemical compounds which have a particular effect on the body systems. Essential oils are potent. Used appropriately essential oils can have a positive effect on the body systems to help treat a range of complaints.
Essential Oil History
In fact, plant oils have been used for thousands of years. Perhaps most famously the Egyptians used aromatic oils and gums in the embalming process. Essential oils have been used throughout history as incense for rituals, cosmetics and perfumes to enhance beauty, for culinary purposes such as preserving food and for medicinal applications to treat illness and disease. Chinese culture has long depended upon herbal medicines and preparations to maintain health and indeed today traditional Chinese medicine sits alongside more modern practices. Patients are able to combine these two approaches when undertaking treatment. Early Vedic literature in India dating from 200BC shows the use of a wide range of aromatic substances including ginger, cinnamon, sandalwood and myrrh to treat people therapeutically.
How do they work
Aromatic or essential oils (their compounds) are found in various parts of the plant. Oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, bark, berries, seeds, roots and wood. Typical compounds include terpenes, esters and alcohols. For example, oils high in terpenes have antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflamatory properties, oils high in esters have fungicidal and sedative properties and those with high levels of alcohol are antiseptic and antiviral. These compounds or chemicals interact with the body systems and the benefits are numerous.
Chemical properties of essential oils need to be absorbed by the body. The two key routes are through smelling or through the skin. The Olfactory bulb, based in the brain processes our sense of smell and is linked closely to our limbic system a primitive brain structure which processes our emotions. Think about your favourite smell. The chances are you may be sitting there with eyes half closed and a smile or a feeling of contentment when you recall this to yourself. Aroma is incredibly powerful, so when we breathe in the aroma of certain oils they can in fact stimulate or calm our senses, both emotionally and physically.
Absorbing oils through the skin via massage is the other key route to get the natural compounds in to our system. Essential oils (diluted in a carrier oil such as grapeseed) are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and taken around the body, eventually to be expired through the respiratory or urinary system. The use of touch through massage can also be very relaxing and therapeutic which helps to enhance the overall feeling of well-being.
Using oils at home for Winter Well-being
You don’t have to be an expert to use essential oils at home. There are however, some safety precautions to be aware of as pure essential oils are very potent and only small amounts are used at a time. Below are some basic guidelines to get you going.
If you are interested in using a larger range of oils than the ones I have listed here then please read up on them. The majority of oils are safe. However, not all oils are good to use directly in the skin, with babies, toddlers and children, pregnant women or individuals who have certain conditions. There is a lot of information out there on oils and it is easy to get hold of. Click here for information on A – Z of oils
Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as grapeseed, coconut or olive. If you have a nut allergy DO NOT USE carriers such as almond.
DO NOT eat essential oils. Only follow the guidance of a professional aromatherapist.
Check out any oil you want to use first for safety data and any health precautions.
My Top 5 oils for winter health support
A must have in your well-being kit. One of the few oils you CAN use directly onto your skin. A great wound healer. Keep in the kitchen and put on minor burns. Use as a spot / insect bite healer. A drop on your temples to help stop a headache. Put a few drops on your pillow or burn in an oil burner to aid sleep and relaxation. Use to aid anxiety and quiet the mind. Put a few drops in your bath or make up a massage oil and rub into your arms or feet.
This is a good oil that helps to give an emotional uplift and helps aid recovery after illness as it is a good immune booster. It is an excellent mood enhancer. Helps to treat skin complaints so mix in a fragrance free body cream (great mixed with a bit of lavender) to help brighten and smooth skin. Burn in an oil burner to stimulate motivation and boost energy.
Ooohh one of my favourites. Excellent antiviral properties – burn in an oil burner to help stop germs spreading (great if you have flu, burn in an oil burner in the bedroom). Anti congestant, antibacterial and antiseptic. Great for colds, flu, aches and pains and bronchitis.
Bergamot is a great mood enhancer. It is a gentle uplifter soothing the nerves which helps anxiety and depression. A few drops the bath can help with urinary problems such as cystitis. Mixes well with sweet orange and lavender. A lovely oil that uplifts but won’t over stimulate like other citrus essential oils.
I use this oil at the first signs of a cold or flu. Ravintsara smells very much like Eucalyptus but with more of a camphor tone. You can mix this essential oil in a carrier and rub in on your back, chest or soles of your feet every day and evening to help boost your immune system (big antiviral, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties) and stop colds from taking hold. Burn in a oil burner if you have bronchitis as it has good expectorant properties. Good used as a massage oil to help with muscular aches of pains or put a few drops in the bath.
If you want more information you can contact me here
Qualified Aromatherapist ITEC Diploma Aromatherapy.