Essential Oils: The Good, the Bad and the Essential

by Alyssa Johnson on August 3, 2016 in Lifestyle, Wellness,
original essential oil rose petals from Google Images e1469979641913
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Essential oils have skyrocketed in popularity as people seek alternative ways of enhancing their well-being. Millions of people use them to promote healing, achieve meditative states, enhance cooking and even for cosmetic purposes.

Essential oils are aromatic compounds from plants, herbs and trees. They are typically distilled from the plant and can be used on their own or with a carrier oil (like coconut oil). Each oil has its own unique smell and function.

There are many varieties to choose from, so information is important. Courtesy photos.
There are many varieties to choose from, so information is important. Courtesy photos.

While there are practically endless uses for essential oils, they are often used three different ways, with aromatherapy being one of the most popular. Place a few drops in your hand and inhale, inhale directly from the bottle, or use a diffuser to project a mist into the room and release the scent into the air.

To use topically, place a couple of drops on your skin to promote a desired body response. Tea tree oil, for example, can be used to cleanse the skin. Some oils are very potent though and must be diluted with a carrier oil before using on the skin.

Some oils can be ingested. Oregano and thyme, for instance, are popular oils used in food. There’s controversy surrounding whether essential oils are safe for ingestion. If you want to use them internally make sure to follow the bottle’s instructions and talk to a doctor, naturopath or aromatherapist who’s trained in chemistry, anatomy or pharmacology to be sure.

Essential oils can be used in multiple ways, including scent sticks which are becoming more popular.
Essential oils can be used in multiple ways, including scent sticks which are becoming more popular.

The scent of an essential oil affects your limbic system. This is your emotional response center and is a factor in your fight or flight response as well as your emotional response, mood fluctuation, sexual arousal and your hormonal secretions.

When you smell an essential oil, molecules travel through the nasal passage to the limbic part of your brain. If the oil is meant to calm your system, it sends a message for your body to relax. If the oil is stimulating, it asks your body to energize itself. Because the scent of an oil directly affects the messages your limbic system sends to your body, essential oils can have a very powerful effect.

If you plan on using an oil topically or internally, you may want a pure oil. If you want to diffuse an oil, synthetic might work. It depends on your needs and preferences. A pure oil contains only the compounds of the plant, herb or tree. A synthetic oil has added materials to enhance its smell, increase its shelf life, or increase its volume.

Do your research before buying oils. Company disclosure and transparency are important. If a company is vague about its sources or how its oils are made, beware of synthetic materials.

Don't be fooled by confusing labels. Do your research before committing to any particular brand.
Don’t be fooled by confusing labels. Do your research before committing to any particular brand.

A few companies claim their oils are “therapeutic grade” or “CPTG certified pure therapeutic grade.” This suggests that an independent body tested the oils and found them pure. This is false. Essential oil companies created these terms as clever marketing ploys. There is no governing or regulating body that tests essential oils or designates them ”therapeutic grade” or “CPTG certified pure therapeutic grade.” This means that you have to do your own research.

Price, how the oil feels on your body, and how it smells might also be important. You can research the price of oils or try samples from friends to see if an oil is right for you.

If price is important, you have a wide variety of companies to choose from and many that sell at popular stores. Oils sold at big chain stores are often less expensive than those sold online or through independent reps. Because price can be tied to the purity of an oil, that will give you an idea about the type of oil you’re buying.

If the oil’s feel on your body is important to you, make sure the oil absorbs easily. If it feels greasy on your body, it’s probably synthetic. If an oil’s scent is important to you, make sure it doesn’t smell like alcohol or is rancid, which indicate the use of synthetic materials. As you explore essential oils, you’ll find the companies and oils that are best for you. Have fun researching and finding what works for you!

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