The Newbies Introduction to Essential Oils

Peppermint and lavender oil saved my life one day. Ok, so that might be a a bit of an overstatement, but they certainly helped, a lot.

My period had just started, and while my PMS has gotten MUCH better over the last year or so, every now and again I have cramps that don't exactly tickle. I randomly decided to blend coconut oil with lavender and peppermint oil and massage it into my back, tummy, and hips. WORKED. LIKE. A. CHARM. I was sold! Hooked!

After completing an intro to essential oils course online, I knew I had to know more about the world of aromatherapy. So I signed up for a certification course at the New York Institute of Aromatherapy. And it was amazing. 

I learned so much and I'm continuing my studies, which means I'll be sharing aromatherapy information, tips, and recipes here.  

What are essential oils?

Technically, essential oils are the the unadulterated volatile, aromatic lipophilic substances extracted or distilled from plant material. Simply put, they're the pure, unmixed, fat loving, water hating "oils" (they're technically not oils which is why they don't feel oily to the touch) that play a role in making plants smell the way they smell and give them certain advantages in nature. We use them for their aroma AND their therapeutic effects and wellness benefits. 

How do essential oils work?

Despite the fact that aroma is in the name AROMAtherapy, it's not actually all about smells, though scent does play a role. Essential oils can work directly on the skin, affecting how our skin cells function or by killing harmful germs. They can also get into our bloodstream, by being absorbed through our skin or by being inhaled, and have positive effects all over our bodies.  And when we take a whiff, their aroma can affect our emotions, stress levels, and hormones by influencing how parts of our brain work.

Essential oils support overall health and wellness by supporting the body's innate ability to heal itself. Each oil has multiple properties, some more powerful in one area than another. Essential oils can enhance wellness by:

  • killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses
  • putting a damper on inflammation
  • promoting wound healing
  • encouraging cell rejuvenation
  • balancing emotions
  • improving circulation and detoxification
  • putting us into a more relaxed state, which some people refer to as the healing state

What should you look for when buying an essential oil?

With all of those benefits (and the many others I didn't include), I'm sure it's pretty obvious why essential oils are such a hot topic. I'm super excited to see people turning back to nature for answers, but I'm not so excited about how some companies are using diluted and poor quality products to capitalize on this increased popularity. So, it's up to us to arm ourselves with the right information so we can get our hands on the good stuff.

Here are a few tips to ensure you're getting a quality essential oil:

 1. Check the ingredient list, unless you intend to get a blend or the label explicitly states it's diluted, there shouldn't be any other oil or alcohol present.

2. Slowly pass the bottle or scent strip back and forth under your nose. Does the aroma seem off to you or just not quite right? Might be a sign that it's starting to spoil, might be mixed with other oils, or has been altered in some way.

3. Choose wildcrafted or organic if possible. You don't really want pesticide residue in your oil, do you?

4. Does the packaging have safety instructions, information about the country of origin, scientific name, plant part, method of extraction, etc? While there are exceptions, usually companies that include this info are giving you some idea about the amount of care and attention to detail they put into their product.

5. Do your research before you go shopping. If you're unfamiliar with an oil get some basic info about what it smells and looks like. That way when you see it and smell it in person you have something to compare it to.

6. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. I love a good deal, so this one is probably the hardest for me to put into practice. If an oil costs a lot less than the average price you find from other reputable sellers, there's a reason...

Next week I'll be sharing the only 3 essential oils you really need in your kit. Essential oils are expensive and most can be used in a number of ways and have multiple benefits. Unless you're planning to become an aromatherapist or you're seriously studying essential oils you don't really need loads of different ones. Keep life simple whenever and wherever you can.