Essential oils are fast becoming a mainstay in many health and fitness programs because of their health benefits. While it is understandable if you would also like to experience these benefits, you will first have to understand some essential things about these gifts from Mother Nature.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are substances or compounds that are extracted from different life forms from the environment. This can include plants and animals. Majority of the essential oils used today are extracted from parts of plants as well as trees including their flowers, leaves, stems, barks, fruits, and even the root. These plant forms are processed to extract the “essences” in a very concentrated form; hence, the name essential oil.
How Do They Work?
Essential oils work in different ways often depending on the active ingredient. There are some that act on the nervous system to effect changes in mood as well as cognitive processes. There are also some that act on the different substances inside the body to effect changes or improvements in the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the urinary system, and the digestive system, among other body organ systems. It should be clear that these essential oils contain chemicals that can react with the different chemicals found inside the body. And these are in highly concentrated forms. As such, they are often blended.
How Should they be Blended?
We have already said that essential oils are extracted in their highest possible concentration of active ingredients. And since these active ingredients are also chemicals or compounds that can interact with the different molecules found in the body, it is crucial to tone down the concentration of the essential oil by diluting it. Different essential oils require different dilutions. However, generally a typical dilution method consists of adding 3 drops of an essential oil to 5 milliliters of a carrier oil. For example, you can add 3 drops of lavender oil to 5 mL of jojoba oil or coconut oil or even olive oil. Now, if you are quite sensitive or this is your first time, you are pregnant, or you are going to use it on a child, then you have to dilute it a little further. This time, you need to dilute 1 drop of your essential oil with 5 mL of your carrier oil.
Can they be Used Undiluted?
There are certain essential oils that can be applied directly onto the skin. For example, tea tree oil and lavender essential oil can be applied topically. Tea tree oil is often applied locally to help treat or manage an acne or even a wart. Lavender essential oil can be applied directly onto a mosquito bite to help relieve itching. If you are not sure, it is always best to dilute the essential oil.
Are there Safety Concerns?
Aside from what we have already presented about diluting essential oils further, there are also some contraindications to the use of essential oils. Generally, essential oils should be avoided during the first 3 months of pregnancy as there are no firm evidence as to what the active ingredients of these oils can do to the developing embryo. Additionally, pregnant women who had a history of miscarriage are discouraged from taking any essential oil in the first trimester. Beyond the first 3 months of pregnancy however, essential oils are deemed safe to use.
Can they be Taken Internally?
There are some literature that say essential oils can be taken internally or ingested. Unfortunately, the industry is mixed in this aspect. Perhaps it depends on the use of the essential oil.
These are just some of the things you have to know about the best essential oils. There are plenty of books and online resources that can provide you with greater depth if you want to know more.