SCIENCE OF ESSENTIAL OILS

ESSENTIAL OILS are fragrant chemical compounds that derive naturally in plants. The oil is termed “essential” because it is the “essence of” a plant’s organic fragrance or aroma, as well as the host of many essential therapeutic benefits for the plant.

Essential oils are considered "secondary metabolites" of the plant, which means they act as “defense chemicals” that protect and enhance the plant’s survival.  Unlike primary metabolites, they are not essential for a plant’s growth, metabolism, and development, yet they support the plant’s survival as well as its ability to adapt to changing environments.  In Aromatherapy (more on aromatherapy here), essential oils are used to provide these defense-like therapeutic benefits to the mind, body, and emotions.  Scientific research reveals that essential oils posses many benefits including: anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-stress, antioxidant, antimicrobial and analgesic properties. 

Essential oils may be extracted through the flowers, roots, leaves, stems, barks and peels of the plant, and where and how they are extracted also contributes to their energetic effects on the mind and body.  They can be extracted in three different ways: Steam Distillation, Expression and Carbon Dioxide Extraction. Today, steam distillation is the most common essential oil extraction method. 

Essential oils have been used for centuries to heal the individual on a mental, emotional, physical and, spiritual level.  Each oil has its own unique chemical makeup and properties - which determines how it smells, how it can be absorbed, and how it supports the body and mind. The therapeutic purpose and psychosomatic benefits of the oils aligns with their chemical constituents. 

In Aromatherapy, we can use essential oils for specific occasions to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Therefore, it depends on the individual’s mood or physical condition as to which oil to use and when.  For example, Lavender Oil is shown to have a calming effect to the Central Nervous System and can be used before sleep (it also has a whole host of other benefits for the physical body), while Bergamot Oil is shown to be a bit more stimulating and emotionally uplifting.

According to recent research, Lavender oil, Lemon oil, and Rosemary oil have been shown to increase serotonin levels. Oils of Ylang-Ylang, Bergamot, and Lavender have been proven to moderate our cortisol (stress) levels. There are different ways to incorporate essential oils into our daily lives such as….

DIRECT INHALATION: You can inhale an essential oil of your choice directly from the bottle by carefully holding it up to your nose. Take a few slow, deep and controlled breaths as you inhale the aroma. Deep and controlled inhalations of an essential oil can harmonize our nervous system. Simple inhalation is a convenient way to benefit from the healing properties of essential oils. You can take your essential oil bottle on the go with you, or keep it on your nightstand for some quick, and natural relaxation.

DIFFUSER: Research has shown that essential oils can kill most airborne microorganisms. If you are interested in improving your air quality at home or supporting your respiratory health, using an electronic diffuser to diffuse the oil into the air is shown to be helpful. Electronic diffusers steam and disperse fine mists of the essential oil into your space, which then enters into your lungs to support our respiratory system - which is responsible for most of the vital functions in our body. If we have a weak respiratory system, it can affect our physical and mental wellbeing.

STEAM INHALATION: If your nose feels ‘stuffy’, or if you have a cold, steam inhalation can be a natural remedy to ease cold and flu-like symptoms. Boil 3 cups of filtered water, pour into a bowl, then add 2-5 drops of an essential oil into the water. Research shows that using Eucalyptus Oil in steam inhalation helps clear nasal congestion and our sinuses, and may be used to treat bronchitis and decrease inflammation in our throat.

SKIN (TOPICAL APPLICATION): Essential Oils are fat-soluble, making them easily absorbed by the skin. Essential oils are also highly concentrated, therefore should be diluted with a ‘carrier oil’ before skin application. Carrier oils act as a base oil that ‘carries’ the essential oil and dilutes it, making it safe to use. Sunflower Oil, Jojoba Oil and Coconut Oil are examples of carrier oils. There are various carrier oils and it is important to know which ones to use, depending on the application and purpose. One of the benefits of combining an essential oil with a carrier oil is that it helps promote smoother skin, which is our body’s largest organ. For example, research has shown that Jojoba Oil improves overall skin condition and promotes our skin health. When an essential oil is used topically, their properties enter the bloodstream through our pores and hair follicles. An effective method used when applying the oils on the skin is rubbing a few drops on our pulse points. Pulse points, such as our wrists and temples - allows for a quick absorption, since pulse points are areas where our blood vessels are the closest to the surface of our skin.

*Essential oils are unique and highly concentrated and should be used with caution and safety. Essential oils should be handcrafted and provided by a certified aromatherapist.*

RESOURCES:

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-do-i-choose-and-use-essential-oils
https://www.acne.org/jojoba-oil.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0025082/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22585103
https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/how-are-essential-oils-extracted
https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-science-of-essential-oils-for-mind-body-and-spirit
https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2086009
https://www.essentialoilhaven.com/how-to-use-essential-oils/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-g-goldberg-phd/essential-oils-health_b_868303.html
https://www.thearomablog.com/essential-oils-for-respiratory-conditions/