Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Essential Oils 101

Essential oils, we've all seen them and some maybe have used a few here and there but what are they really capable of?!

Essential oils are natural oils that are usually obtained through distillation and tend to smell like the plant that they were extracted from. I have used lavender oil for years, for soothing when I want to sleep and I also heard that it was good to help repel mosquitos. Other than that I have never used too many because frankly, I just didn't know what they did. A few friends of mine love their oils and I finally decided it was time for some education. I was amazed at all the great things that essential oils can do both naturally and effectively.

My medicine cabinet is not stocked with every oil that I would like, but I am slowly building my collection. I just love them. Here's a few things that were helpful to me ...

Using Essential Oils

  • Essential oils should only be used externally and always diluted prior to putting directly on your body.
  • Know the therapeutic properties as well as safety precautions for the oil that you are using. (I almost bought oregano oil and quickly learned that it is not good while pregnant because it can stimulate menstruation and can cause miscarriages).
  • Essential oils pair great with 'carrier oil' so that you can dilute the oil for application. Carrier oils are the fatty oils that are usually extracted from seeds, i.e. hemp oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.
  • Best uses ...
    • Massage: Best for body aches, skin care and emotional stress relief.
    • Bath: Best for colds, body aches, skin care and emotional stress relief.
    • Inhalation: Best for colds and flu.
    • Diffusion: Best for colds and emotional stress relief.
    • And of course, cleaning!

Quick Tips & Safety

  • When buying essential oils, always make sure they are 100% pure. Many are labeled as fragrance. 
  • They should be stored in dark colored jars.
  • Keep them in a cool and dry location.
  • Like everything in nature, they too expire. When stored properly, essential oils usually keep for 12-18 months. Citrus oils are about 6-9 months.
  • I know I already said this, but know the therapeutic properties as well as safety precautions for the oil that you are using. It is best to perform 2 skin patch tests on your back or arm to check for any allergic reactions.
  • Do not massage someone who has an infectious illness, i.e. flu, measles, cancer, etc. 
  • Do not massage over varicose veins, infected areas, broken bones or injuries.

A Few Personal Favorites

    Camomile:  Used for anxiety, arthritis, dry skin, headaches, immune system, indigestion, insomnia, menstrual cramps, muscle pain, PMS, sprains and stress.
    *May cause drowsiness

    Eucalyptus: mild burns, colds and flu, disinfectant, insect repellant, muscle aches, exhaustion and sinus congestions. I love putting a little of this in my steam mop when I do my floors.
    *Make keep you awake if used at night. Avoid if you have high blood pressure or epilepsy.

    Lavender: Used for acne, mild burns, coughs, minor cuts, flu, fungal infections, headaches, insomnia, irritability, muscle aches and spasms, nausea, sprains, stress and nervous tension. This is such a relaxing oil, when my kids have rough days I will put a little on their pillow at nap or bedtime.
    *May cause drowsiness.

    LemonUsed for acne, arthritis, cellulite, colds and flu, coughs, oily skin. I like adding this to a lot of my cleaners for added freshness.
    *Often a mild skin irritant so use in low concentrations.

    LemongrassUsed for acne, anxiety, athlete's foot, excessive sweating, headaches, indigestion, muscle aches and my main use ... mosquito repellent!
    *There's not that much research into lemongrass oil so be cautious.

    PatchouliUsed for acne, cracked skin, depression, nervous exhaustion and stress. It also helps relieve insect bites and best of all, break up cellulite!
    *This is a funny one, small amounts can be soothing but too much can be stimulating!

    Tea TreeUsed for acne, arthritis, athletes foot, blisters, disinfectant, minor burns, cold and flu, cold sores, insect bites and warts. I use this in a lot of cleaners because of its disinfectant properties.

    Carrier OilsI mostly use avocado, hemp and coconut oils. They are all great for skin elasticity ... no stretch marks please! Also if I am making products for the home or body, these carrier oils allow most essential oils to keep their original strength and potency when mixed.

    Just like anything else, avoid excessive use of any essential or carrier oil.

    Much of the information on uses came from Dream Earth Botanicals.

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