Essential oils have become increasingly popular over the last few decades, but what might seem like a new trend is actually a centuries-old method of supporting natural health. Essential oils are made from some of the most potent parts of plants and herbs and can be a way to support your body's natural processes and systems without using conventional products containing harsh chemicals. Learn more about what essential oils are, how they work and their uses and benefits with the ultimate essential oils guide.
Essential Oil Origins
The Greeks and Romans were interested in the properties of essential oils, not only in relieving common ailments, but also for the benefits and different effects the aromas had on a person’s feelings. Scented baths were common during this time. The modern idea of aromatherapy came from these practices and really started to take shape in the 1970s and 1980s as part of the natural health and wellness movement. The popularity of essential oils for a variety of uses has been increasing ever since.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are oils extracted from certain plants and trees. Depending on the oil, it may be extracted from the root, leaf, stem or even bark of the plant or tree. Essential oils are, therefore, a very concentrated form of the substances found in the plant. They can be used in everything from aromatherapy to skin care and household cleaners.
What are some popular essential oils?
Each essential oil has slightly different properties depending on the plant it's extracted from. For this reason, it's important to pick a few oils from each category when creating your basic essential oil kit. Some of the most popular essential oils include:
- Rose: This oil has a soft, floral scent that promotes relaxation and can also help relieve minor skin irritation, ease headaches and reduce symptoms of cough and cold.
- Rosemary: Perhaps best known as an herb used in cooking, rosemary has several benefits for health in its essential oil form. It can be used in natural household cleaners, can be added to skin care products and has an invigorating scent when diffused.
- Tea Tree: Also known as Melaleuca Alternifolia, Tea Tree essential oil has a host of uses for skin care, including as an addition to skin care products and supporting the appearance of healthy-looking skin. It can also be used as a natural deodorizer.
- Ylang Ylang: This essential oil has a soft, sweet scent and moisturizing properties that make it a great choice for skin care products and aromatherapy. It can also help promote healthy-looking hair and nails.
- Orange: Orange oil's fruity, citrus scent can help enhance relaxation and ease tension, and it's also a popular choice for using in household products. It can help cut grease or remove sticky residue and helps mask unpleasant odours in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Lemon: The bright citrus notes of this essential oil can help reduce symptoms of cough or cold.
- Peppermint: The scent of Peppermint is stimulating and invigorating, which can give you a boost during a midday slump. This oil is also often used in massage oils post-workout to help soothe tired and sore muscles.
- Lavender: Well-known for its calming properties, Lavender essential oil can help promote relaxation and is a staple in most nighttime routines.
Essential Oil Uses
The uses for essential oils are as varied as the number of oils themselves. Many of these products have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine and natural remedies. However, it's important to understand that although essential oils are generally considered safe for most people and situations, they are also potent substances that must be used properly for the best results.
How are essential oils used?
Essential oils are primarily used in aromatherapy. The oils are added to water and then used to create fragrant steam. A diffuser makes this process easy by doing all of the work for you. However, you can also do this on the stove with just a regular pot or pan. Oils can also be used topically with dilution, and the Young Living line of Plus oils can be used as flavouring for foods.
Where do you put essential oils?
If you're using essential oils topically, they can generally be applied to almost any area of the skin. Essential oils can be diluted in a carrier oil and massaged into sore muscles. In this case, you would apply the diluted oil to the specific area you're working on. You can also apply essential oils diluted to pulse points like the inner wrist, ankles and temples, and on the bottoms of your feet. Essential oils should not be applied around sensitive areas such as the eyes, mouth or on any mucous membranes.
Can I apply essential oil directly to skin?
Pure essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin without dilution as this can cause irritation. They should be diluted in an appropriate carrier oil following the dilution recommendations on the label. Oils that have been prediluted, such as Young Living’s roll-ons and KidScents™ lines can be applied directly to the skin.
How should I dilute my oils?
Dilute essential oils by adding the oil one drop at a time to a measured amount of carrier oil. Different oils have different dilution ratios and may require anywhere from 1 ml to 15 ml or more of carrier oil. Make sure to mix the essential oil into the carrier oil thoroughly for an even application.
Do essential oils expire?
Some oils can oxidize and become expired. Essential oils should always be stored properly at room temperature and away from direct sunlight to preserve their natural properties. And it’s important to always check for an expiration date on consumable oils.
Essential Oil Benefits
There are many benefits to essential oils. They can help you freshen your home, promote a more positive outlook and some can even help support your body's natural functions. This essential oil reference guide includes more information on some of the mental, physical and emotional benefits that essential oils may offer below.
Essential oils, such as Peppermint, Lemon, Spearmint and Rosemary, can all help you feel more present. Diffusing one of these oils, or a blend, when you're studying or working late can give you an extra boost and create a focused, clear environment.
Some of the most common uses for essential oils when it comes to the physical body have to do with skin care. Many essential oils have skin soothing properties, which can help reduce the appearance of irritation and promote healthy-looking skin.
Emotional health can be just as important as physical well-being, and aromatherapy using essential oils is one way many people choose to help uplift themselves during the ups and downs of life. Aromatherapy has been shown to be helpful in promoting a more positive outlook, uplifting spirits and providing a natural way to unwind at the end of the day . It's also been shown to have a positive effect on helping children feel more confident during dental procedures .
Essential Oil Safety Consideration
Many people use essential oils as a daily part of their lives to support their overall well-being and as part of a natural, healthy lifestyle. However, knowing how to use essential oils safely is important. Here is an overview of common safety concerns when it comes to using essential oils.
Can you ingest essential oils?
In general, essential oils should not be ingested unless they are specifically created for internal use. Young Living’s Plus line of dietary essential oils can be ingested according to the label directions.
Are essential oils safe for use in children?
Several essential oils are very safe and suitable for use with children as long as they are diluted properly. However, there are some oils that should be avoided in young children. If you are unsure, ask your doctor if an oil is okay for use around children, whether through inhalation or topical application.
Are essential oils safe for pets?
Because dogs, cats and other small animals — such as guinea pigs — have very sensitive respiratory systems, diffusing essential oils in a room where pets are present may be problematic. However, some oils, such as those in the Young Living Animal Scents™ line, are safe for veterinary use when used as directed. It’s best to go slowly when introducing oils and to pay very close attention to how your pet acts so you know if it’s too intense for them.
Are there any contraindications to using essential oils?
Essential oils can interact with and affect how certain medications work and can have an effect on blood pressure, heart rate and other bodily processes. If you have a medical condition or are currently using any other prescription or over-the-counter medications, you should talk with a doctor before using essential oils. Those who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding should also talk with their doctors before using essential oils.
Essential oils can play a big role in helping you maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle. Using the tips and information in this reference guide can help you better understand how to utilize oils to enhance various areas of your life.