What is an Essential Oil?
What is an Essential Oil?
Essential oils have many different uses, but first lets cover what an essential oil is. An essential oil is a concentrated liquid containing volatile aromatic compounds from plants. An oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance or the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived.
Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often using steam. They could also be extracted with solvents or by mechanical pressing. Uses of essential oils include: perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products. We do not recommend using essential oils directly on your skin, or ingesting them. To use them on your skin we recommend adding a few drops (to your liking) in a small amount of a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil. Any sort of vegetable oil could be used as a carrier oil. For the most nourishing and freshest carrier oils look for something cold-pressed that does not have much scent. Our preference would be for sweet almond oil, or avocado oil (which is often available at mainstream grocery stores).
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine in which healing effects are ascribed to the aromatic compounds in essential oils and other plant extracts. Some essential oils are claimed to have an uplifting effect on the mind for example. In addition to aromatherapy, cosmetics, soaps, and cleaning products, essential oils have also been used historically in medical applications. We would urge you to discuss with your doctor if you plan to use essential oils to treat any sort of medical condition. Modern medicine has come a long way, and was not available when the use of essential oils was more prevalent in the medical community. At the same time, many of our drugs today are derived from plant materials. If you decide to use essential oils in a medical application you should know that not all natural materials are safe and that it is possible that natural remedies could interfere with prescription medications. If there is any concern, you should discuss with your doctor. We are just pointing out that essential oils have been used historically for medical treatment.
Essential Oil Sources
Not all essential oils are created equally. As a consumer it is difficult to asses essential oil quality. To make matters worse, there are no standards for quality control of essential oils in the United States. Many companies and individuals promote the use of "therapeutic grade" essential oils. Since there is no authority figure to define what therapeutic grade means for everyone, then the company is free to define as they like. A company could for example, say that therapeutic grade means that it should contain 50% water (I doubt they would be in business long). The point is the words therapeutic grade don't really mean very much, it is just a marketing term. In our opinion, you don't need to pay a premium from these multilevel marketing companies you may already be aware of because they offer what they accept as a "therapeutic grade" essential oil. If there are multiple grades of the same essential oil offered for sale, we would not recommend purchasing any of the lower grades of essential oils. In general, you could use the following guidelines in purchasing essential oils:
- Latin Name provided? - There are several species of plants that can produce the same essential oil. Some are more desirable than others. You should have this information, even if it doesn't make a difference to you.
- Country of origin? - A consumer may not differentiate oils from different countries, but the quality can vary from region to region. Listing the country of origin is an indication the company is marketing to knowledgeable parties, as well as general consumers.
- Purity - You should be informed if the contents of the bottle are not 100% pure essential oils.
- Cost? If the cost is significantly cheaper than other brands, then it may not be the real thing. Some essential oils can be quite expensive. A real rose essential oil could cost around $1000/ounce. This is because it takes approximately 10,000 lbs of rose petals to make 1 oz. of rose essential oil. If you have found something called rose essential oil for $10 per ounce, it is not the real deal.
- Smell? Does it smell as you would expect? There is natural variation of the same oil from the same country from the same source, but this is a generally a good indicator.
Examples of Essential Oil Uses
Essential oils can be used in a wide varieties of ways. Below we give some examples to get your started. Please let us know if you try some of these how they work for you, or how you like to use your essential oils!
- All-natural Cleaner: Mix 1 cup water with 1 cup vinegar and add a few drops of Lemon/citrus essential oil (or your choice) for a simple all-natural cleaner you can make yourself.
- Laundry Freshener: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to a damp washcloth and place in the dryer for clean & fresh smelling clothes.
- Insect Repellent: Some essential oils can form the basis of an effective bug repellent. You could simply add a few drops of the essential oils to a spray bottle and fill with water. Just remember to shake well before use. We also offer an essential oil bug spray as well as a bug stick that uses an essential oil blend to repel bugs. Essential oil bug repellents.
- Linen Spray/perfume: Combine your favorite essential oils with water in a spray bottle, shake and then spray on yourself or around the house to freshen up.
- Scented Stationary: Place a few drops of Cinnamon Essential oil on a cotton ball and place inside a plastic bag with your stationary and leave it for a day or two to give the paper time to absorb the aroma.
- All-natural air freshener: Diffuse essential oils into the air with a ultrasonic humidifier made for essential oils, or use a wax tart warmer. Just fill the tart warmer with water, and place a few drops of your favorite essential oils on top.
- Aromatherapy Bath: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to your bath water for a spa-like experience at home. For example, lavender could be used to help you relax, or peppermint and/or eucalyptus could be used if you are congested.