Aromatherapy (the use of Essential Oils for healing) has been in use for more than 6 000 years. Its origins aren’t completely documented, but there is enough evidence to show that aromatic essences have been used for healing over many centuries.
The plants from which we now derive essential oils have been used for thousands of years before the technique of distilling oils was discovered.
Essential oils are derived from the flowers (e.g. chamomile), leaves (e.g. tea-tree), seeds (e.g. black pepper), fruit rind (e.g. lemon), heartwood (e.g. sandalwood), bark/sap/resin (e.g. frankincense) and rhizomes/roots (e.g. ginger) of aromatic plants. The word “oil” is misleading, as essential oils are not oily, but are volatile essences which, if exposed to air, will evaporate quickly.
How do these essential Oils work?
For any medicine to work it has to get into the body. Essential oils do this by the inhalation of the aroma through the nose or by the penetration of the oil through the skin.
Essential oils, to varying degrees, have anti-viral, antibacterial, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Through absorption, essential oils are carried through the circulatory system to all the organs and elimination system. Each organ takes only the components it needs from the essential oils and the balance is discarded.
Essential oils are highly concentrated. If they are applied to the skin in this concentrated form skin irritations may occur. Therefore, before they are applied, they are usually diluted in a carrier (e.g. oil, lotion, cream). The carriers may also have their own beneficial properties and so the blending of the essential oil and the carrier is an important part of any treatment.
Once in the body, essential oils don’t stay forever!
Due to the rate at which the essential oils pass through the body, they are quickly metabolized. This makes them safe and, provided they are used correctly, there are minimal side effects and they rarely accumulate in the liver. They are excreted through urine, faeces, perspiration and exhalation. Expulsion of the oils takes 3–6 hours in a normal, healthy body, but up to 14 hours in an obese or unhealthy one.
Inhalation is an alternative means of administering essential oils. When the aroma is inhaled, the oils are quickly absorbed into the blood and transported around the body. When essential oils are inhaled, less essential oil enters the blood than when the oils are applied to the skin. Inhalation is not an effective means of treating skin conditions, but it does have powerful uses. Due to the concentration of the oils, they are usually mixed with hot water or put on a non-synthetic material and the vapour inhaled. When the aroma is inhaled, the oils are quickly absorbed into the blood and transported around the body.
Essential oils are usually diluted for safe application by the percentage method, between 1 % and 5 %. In other words, fifteen drops of essential oil in 30 mi. (one ounce) of vegetal carrier or base oil produces a 2.5% blend, which is suitable for face and body. Percentage can be increased if covering a smaller area (e.g., facial oil, reflex points) and increased for a larger application (full-body massage).
Many factors have to be considered, and the question of frequency of application depends on individual essential oil toxicity ratings, the extent of skin covered, and the efficiency of the particular essential oils chosen. Once a week is generally sufficient; twice a week should be regarded as maximum for regular treatments. For small skin areas (face) and safe (non-toxic, non-irritant) essential oils, daily application (including micro-diffusion for environmental purification and psychological purposes) is quite safe.
Irrespective of how the essential oils are administered, the ways in which they affect the recipient can be divided into the following categories:
On a physical level: Essential oils are a most potent form of herbal energy. They are antiseptic and immune system stimulants. They are also effective for daily first-aid, e.g., for bites, itches, coughs and cold.
On a cellular level: Essential oils are good for healing wounds, repairing scars, stimulating tissue and regulating the barrier between our inside and outside worlds. They help maintain optimum moisture level in skin and protect it from infection. Geranium and lavender are examples of oils that work on this cellular level.
On an emotional level: They stimulate both conscious and subconscious memories, basic drives and hormones. They are effective in dealing with depression, grief, low self esteem, and improving sleep as well as stress-related disorders.
On an energy level: They can be applied to acupuncture meridian points, Lielluli and subtle energy points to help healing.
On a spiritual level: Essential oils have been used by every major culture and society for over 10,000 years. They have been used for rituals, prayer, purification, magic, mysticism, celebration and meditation. Many people believe that essential oils can bring focus and deeper meaning to our existence.
What is becoming more widely accepted however, is that Aromatherapy can be a truly holistic (whole) treatment. As well as having effects that can be of benefit to physical conditions, Aromatherapy can help to relieve stress and tension. In general, holistic Aromatherapy treatments tend to create a sense of wellbeing, both physically and emotionally, balancing the mind, body and spirit.
Aromatherapy is also being used in a clinical environment as a complementary treatment. This demonstrates the gradual acceptance of Aromatherapy by the traditionally sceptical medical profession.
PURCHASING ESSENTIAL OILS
The first step to ensuring the quality of the oils is to purchase them from a reputable supplier. The label should be indelible and should give information such as the botanical name, country of origin, supplier’s name and address and a batch number. If the essential oil is diluted in a carrier the percentage of the mix should be quoted, along with details of the carrier. Another important safety benefit gained from buying oils from a reputable supplier is that they will not supply hazardous oils, so you gain even more peace of mind.
I personally prefer ordering my aromatherapy oils online from Bid or buy over conventional shopping, as they provide you with the botanical name, purity indication, origin, extraction method, batch number, common uses, property description and even suggested uses.
This way you avoid the headache of having to stare at hundreds of aromatherapy bottles not knowing where to start. You don’t have to wait in a line or wait till the shop assistant helps you with your aromatherapy oil purchases. I mean where else can you do shopping, even at midnight, wearing your jammies?
Order your aromatherapy oils online here to make your experience more convenient and reduce the amount of time shopping.
STORING ESSENTIAL OILS
Once you have purchased the essential oils look after them! Due to the chemistry of the oils, they should be stored in their coloured glass bottles in a cool, dark place. This will help their shelf life. On average a bottle of essential oil should be used within one year of opening, or two years if stored in a refrigerator.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, complex chemical compounds and should always be treated with respect. Just because they are ‘natural’ does not mean that they cannot do any harm.
The definition of Aromatherapy includes the phrase “the controlled use of essential oils”. The word ‘controlled’ should never be forgotten. An important safety issue, highlighting the importance of the controlled use of essential oils, is that of quantity.
As essential oils are so concentrated they are rarely used neat. Under normal circumstances they are always diluted to 1-3% using a carrier. A total of 6 drops of oil per day, preferably of different types, is considered safe.
For children and pregnant women (you should be treated only by a qualified Aromatherapist) essential oils must be diluted even further to 1-2%.
A Golden Rule to remember is that ‘Less Is Best’. Another Golden Rule that helps to maintain the safety of Aromatherapy is ‘Use Quality Oils’.
TREAT WITH CARE
Essential oils must be treated with care. They are volatile and flammable, so keep them away from naked flames and strong sources of heat. They should also be kept away from homeopathic remedies as some strong oils may negate them.
Essential oils will “rot” plastics. For this reason care should be taken when using them in the jacuzzi or in plastic baths. They should not be allowed to come into contact with varnished wood, plastic surfaces or any equipment with plastic workings such as dishwashers and washing machines. Needless to say, contact with any plastic-based contraceptive aids such as condoms and diaphragms must be avoided.
WARNING: DO NOT USE INTERNALLY
Within the field of Aromatherapy essential oils should NOT be used internally (although they are used in this manner in Aromatology). Tragically, children (typically between the ages of 1-3 years old) have been killed as a result of drinking a whole bottle of essential oil. As well as storing oils out of the reach of children, it is also obviously preferable to use child resistant tops as a further safety measure.
Should a child or an adult take more than 5ml of essential oil internally, give them milk to drink (the fat dissolves the essential oil) and seek medical assistance immediately. Take the appropriate bottle to the medical practitioner, as the information on the label may be useful in establishing a treatment.
Due to the potency of neat essential oils, harm can also be caused if they are accidentally splashed into the eyes or onto the skin. If essential oils make contact with the eyes wash the eyes out with milk or with a vegetable oil. Do not attempt to use water as the essential oil will not dissolve in it. Seek medical advice, taking the appropriate labelled bottle with you.
It is also dangerous for undiluted essential oils to come into contact with other mucous membranes such as the mouth, vagina or rectum. In all cases seek medical advice immediately. Should a severe dermal irritation occur as the result of neat essential oil making contact with the skin, dilute it with vegetable oil. Wash the skin with unperfumed soap and water and then dry it. Seek medical advice, taking along the appropriate bottle.
DO NOT USE AROMATHERAPY OILS IF:
Currently Treated by Doctor
You are being treated by a doctor you should not use any Aromatherapy oils/treatment without first getting a letter of consent from the doctor concerned. This obviously includes cancer patients, sufferers of angina or other heart problems and blood disorders.
You are taking medication, whether prescribed or not, you should not use Aromatherapy oils/treatment without the doctor’s permission. The reactions of essential oils with conventional medicines are not yet fully understood. Theoretically, essential oils could compete with the drug, inhibit its effect or produce a different effect.
Severe, Untreated Medical Problem
You should not use Aromatherapy Oils/Treatment when suffering from any severe condition, which is not being treated by a doctor, please seek immediate medical attention.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.
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