Today begins our journey in a series about essential oils, unique oil blends, and aromatherapy. There are so many wonderful essential oils available today, and many have multiple benefits. We'll learn a brief history of aromatherapy, discuss the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils, and also share some wonderful recipes using essential oils.
What are Essential Oils?
The term "essential oil" is a bit misleading, truth be told. An essential oil is actually a concentrated compound and not an oil at all. These compounds come from various parts of plants. They can be extracted from flowers, bark, resin, leaves, roots, and peels. They are typically extracted through a method called distillation. Distillation can occur chemically or through steam and you really want them to be steam distilled. It is not always an easy process, as it is sometimes much more difficult to extract these natural compounds. You can tell how easily an essential oil is distilled by the cost. The more expensive the essential oil, the more difficult it was to extract the natural compounds from the plant.
Essential Oils are very concentrated and need to be diluted prior to usage in almost every instance. The most common method is by adding Essential Oils to what is known as a Carrier Oil. Adding the concentrated Essential Oils to Grape Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Safflower Oil, Avocado Oil, etc. makes it easy to reap the benefits of Aromatherapy because you can apply the oil right to your body.
Essential Oils are the backbone of a practice known as Aromatherapy.
Quite simply, Aromatherapy is the practice of using Essential Oils in order to promote wellness and good health. Aromatherapy used one of our key senses, that of smell. Your nerve receptors, once hit with a fragrance, send a message right up to something called the Limbic System. This is within the brain and it essentially processes a scent and gives you a certain reaction. This is the system that triggers emotional responses to fragrance. Many people associate a certain scent with a person or memory.
Whenever I smell a certain department store perfume, I am reminded of my late grandmother. She always wore it when I was a child and even though she is gone, I instantly think of her when I smell it. When I smell tulips, I am always reminded of the garden I played in at my childhood home. The salty scent of ocean air reminds me of the summer we lived in Coastal Georgia planning our wedding.
Before I further discuss Essential Oils and using them for Aromatherapy, I would like to clear up a common area of confusion.
A common misconception is that popular Fragrance Oils are basically the same as Essential Oils. This could not be more false. Well over 95% of an actual finished Fragrance Oil comes from petrochemicals (crude oil) and are hazardous to your health. These oils are created in a lab and are made to mimic a particular scent. You can buy bottles of synthetic fragrance oil in every type of scent these days--from rose to chocolate chip cookies to pumpkin to the scent of pizza and popcorn. It is important to remember that these highly scented oils serve no benefit, are completely synthetic, and may be very harmful. Even though much has been done to raise awareness of certain toxins, synthetic fragrance oils often contain a harmful range of toxins known as phthalates.
Beginning next week, we will look at certain Essential Oils, from the most popular to the lesser known. I will discuss them with you at length and then share ideas for blending oils. I will devote each "chapter" of this series (which will go through the end of the month) to certain ways to use the Oils--ranging from cold and congestion relief to relaxation to stress relief to energy boosting and so much more.