Essential oils have been used for thousands of years by different ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Chinese, a bit closer to home; the American Indians. Essential oils have been used in cooking, cosmetics, healing and religious ceremonies and continue to be used throughout the world today. Scientist over the years have analyzed and tested the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and there are many books written about the therapeutic benefits as well.
It is known that essential oils contain vitamins, hormones, plant estrogen along with natural antiseptics and antibiotics and may contain the life force of the plant itself. Essential oil or plant essence is the extracted liquid from the plant; stems, leaves, flowers, roots, bark, and seeds. This liquid may be extracted by using different methods. Steam distillation uses low heat for long periods of time and may produce the best quality essential oil. Plants or parts of the plant are placed in or over a kettle of water and the steam is then cooled then collected in a secondary container. In order to obtain the "essential oil" from the water, it must be extracted using an eye dropper. Whatever water is left over is called a hydro-sol and is also useful and beneficial. Other methods include absolutes; which are extracted by using a solvent, cold pressed; just like it sounds the plant is pressed by machine to extract the liquids, hydro-diffusion; is very similar to steam distilled however in this method the steam is forced from the top of the plant rather than from the bottom. A newer method of extracting essential oils is by C02. This method is best suited for very leafy herbs and produces essential oils that are very close to what is found in the plant itself.
Essential oils may be used to reduce stress, by using the correct plant essence the effects on the central nervous system can be a gentle and effective way to change mood and/or stress level. One of many essential oils used to reduce stress is lavender (lavendula Angustifolia, lavendula officinalis). This oil is known as a great stress reliever and "The Universal" oil. It is "baby-safe" and may be used directly on the skin to treat wounds. The oil is known as a natural sleep inducer and makes a great insect repellent as well. A couple drops under your pillow will ensure a bug free good-night’s sleep. In some individuals like me, Lavender is great at lifting the spirits at the end of a hard day before going to bed. Neroli (citrus aurantium), is yet another essential oil that may be used for nervous tension, insomnia, and stress-related illness as it has a very positive and calming influence over the nervous system.
Prevention of illness is yet another benefit from essential oils. They are a natural way to strengthen our physical, mental, and spiritual beings. Essential oils work by supporting the entire body and boosting the immune system. Tea Tree (melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil for example, is used for its many health benefits; its actions are used as an anti-septic, anti-viral, and fungicidal among many other uses. It helps to combat acne, athlete's foot, warts, and helps to heal wounds from insect bites or other infected sores. There are many other essential oils beneficial for use in preventing illness. Geranium (pelargonium graveolens), rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis), and peppermint (mentha piperita) are a few that specialize in their own unique properties. Aroma therapy is not an instant cure; you may also need to consult with your own doctor to be sure there are no contradictions with your medications. Essential oils are a part of holistic health that help to support the body and may be used in harmony with allopathic medicine.
Inhalation or breathing in the essential oil is one way to obtain its benefits. The beneficial properties from the plant travel directly to our limbic system; this is the area which controls our basic needs and emotions. This connection is instantaneous and the effect is already at work before we have a conscious thought about what we smell. The central nervous system reacts on reflex and is responding before you can say the name of the oils that you smell.
Topical application such as in soaps, lotions or body oils, are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream where the oils are brought to the part of the body that is needing support. The beautiful thing about using topical applications, now you are not only breathing in the essential oil to your limbic system you is absorbing the essential oil into your bloodstream as well.
Essential oil safety is very important. In Aroma therapy remember that less is more. It takes 30 roses to make one drop of rose oil!!! Essential oils should not be taken internally. They can cause damage to the mucus membranes in the digestive system. Essential oils are very concentrated and are 40 times stronger than the dried herb. Oils should always be diluted when applied to the skin; the only exceptions are lavender and tea tree oils. Before using any new oils on your skin you should always do a skin patch test on the back of your wrist to check for sensitivity to the oil. When in doubt with any oils research or ask a qualified aroma therapist for information. Essential oils used properly are very safe and enjoyable and can bring balance and harmony into your life.
To your aromatic health