The incredible healing effects of essential oils are beginning to become more recognized and many have started to experiment with these powerful ingredients. Have you ever wondered where they come from? Perhaps you are curious as to how to they work or how to use them. Welcome to Essential Oils 101, where Certified Nutritional Practitioner Marva Ward, explains the history, application, safety and dosage of these ancient therapeutic tools.
Marva begins by explaining the historical timeline of how essential oils came to be used and recognized. “The use of essential oils (EOs) in traditional healing can be traced as far back as 5000 BC. Ancient Egyptians were masters in the documentation and the therapeutic application of essential oils. After death, frankincense, cedarwood and myrrh were used for their antiseptic, antifungal and preservative properties. In the 10th century, the advancement of ancient extraction methods was mastered by the Persian physician, Avicenna. He created the first effective steam distillation process which allowed plant vapours and steam to cool down more effectively. This method is very similar to the steam distillation extraction process used today. In the early 1900’s, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist, coined the phrase “Aromatherapy” after personally experiencing the healing effects of lavender. To this day he is referred to as the “Father of Aromatherapy”. Today in Europe, the medical community prescribes essential oils in therapy as anti-virals, anti-bacterials, anti-inflammatories and anti-microbials.”
Although many of us find the idea of taking essential oils orally appealing, Marva explains that inhalation and topical use is safer and superior. “The therapeutic application of EOs is most effective when the oils are inhaled from a diffuser or applied topically after mixing with a carrier oil (e.g. almond, jojoba, grapeseed, etc.). Through passive inhalation, the scent as well as the chemical constituents are carried to the brain’s limbic system via the olfactory system (sense of smell). The limbic system supports a variety of functions including the release of epinephrine (fight or flight chemical) and the triggering of emotions, behavior, motivation and memory formation. It is the combination of the scent and the chemical constituents that influence the production of key hormones that may support vital mechanisms for healing. One of the safest and most effective applications of these oils is through natural skin penetration.”
Due to the fact that these oils are extremely therapeutic, they should be approached with caution. Marva explains: “Essential oils are extremely concentrated; therefore, it is always recommended that any topical application of these volatile oils be in conjunction with carrier oils. Topical application allows the healing constituents of the essential oil to be directly absorbed through the skin, sinuses, blood and lymph exposing all organs and tissues to their therapeutic properties. Eventually, EOs are safely eliminated through the kidneys, liver, and lower GI tract and even through the breath and sweat glands. This process can take anywhere from 3-16 hours dependent on the state of health of the individual.”
She re-iterates that although the world of essential oils is incredibly exciting, they should be used with utmost care, especially if one is considering their use on children.“It is always recommended to consult qualified experts such as Certified Aromatherapists, Nutritionists and/or Naturopathic Doctors that have been trained in the science of essential oils. Often the expertise of these professionals can be found as close as your local health food store.”
Marva concludes with suggested ratios for individuals whom wish to make their own blends at home. ”For safety, a 3% ratio of essential oil over carrier oil is the strongest dilution recommended for one application. However, for spot treatment (small amounts of the formula used a number of times), a 5% solution may be used.”
Carrier oils are the fatty substance from plants, nuts and seeds. Each offers unique properties and characteristics. They are used to moisturize the skin and carry essential oils safely. Examples include avocado, almond, apricot, grapeseed, coconut, jojoba, vegetable glycerin or castor oil. Here are the recommended guidelines on how to use essential oils!
Topical Dosage: In 30mls carrier oil (2 tablespoons/1 ounce)
- 1% solution = 6 drops EO
- 2% solution = 12 drops EO
- 3% solution = 18 drops EO
- 5% solution = 30 drops EO - spot treatment only – small amount applied to affected area
- Note: Lavender is the only essential oil that can safely be directly applied to skin
To summarize, essential oils are a great tool to use for both cosmetic and therapeutic purposes. However, they are highly concentrated and proper dosing should be followed to ensure safety. Happy blending!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.