Essential Oils: Scents That Make Sense
Essential oils (EOs) are a great source to improve and maintain your health and beauty. The smells and aroma can also help a person unwind from a busy day or night at work. They have many health benefits and smell fantastic, but the critical issue here is that most people do not know the most appropriate use of these oils or their effectiveness. Though almost all of us have heard about the existence of essential oils that may benefit health and enhance beauty, the product itself lacks the support of research and or supportive information. It, therefore, has not been used up to its full potential. The author of this article will review the purpose and benefits of EOs, including their widespread usage, effectiveness, and precautions.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the extracted compounds of individual plants that provide a final product that produces the plant’s smell and flavor or essence; they are obtained from the leaves, roots, flowers, peels, and barks of the plants. Pure essential oil is made by using a mechanical method or distillation in which unique aromatic compounds are extracted from the plants. The extracted compounds are then combined with a carrier oil, eventually making the product ready for use. To keep the product pure, the manufacturing of these oils is critical, because if they are made using chemical processes; they are not considered pure essential oils.
According to Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, certified doctor of natural medicine and bestselling author of Eat Dirt, it takes 500 to 2000 pounds of a plant to make only one pound of essential oil, which makes some oils very pricey. These oils can be used by directly applying them on the skin or by inhaling or ingesting them in liquid or capsule form. (Essential oils can damage the liver and kidneys if they are swallowed through the mouth and ingested. This author does not recommend the ingestion of essential oils in any form or shape without the advice and guidance from Aromatherapist or a professional practitioner that specializes in the use of essential oils.) Users should follow the standard recommendations for usage as well as the recommendations from their personal health care practitioner. The health benefits and indications for the use of essential oils vary. For example, they may be used to calm yourself after a long hectic day, to breathe easier, to soothe sore muscles, to treat skin conditions, or to control nausea. Again, they are beneficial but must be used appropriately.
How do they work?
The crucial question about essential oils is, do they really work? Do they make a person feel better, and do they affect the health and beauty of a person, or are they just fictitious elements associated with false benefits? Due to limited research on their functionality, essential oils are not that commonly or vastly used, but their popularity is growing fast. The research to support their use is also mounting within the medical community. According to Brenda Powell, MD, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, “The most common use of essential oils that is well-known is Vicks VapoRub. It is an essential oil because it contains peppermint, camphor, and eucalyptus. Rubbing it on your chest and inhaling the oil breaks down mucus and suppresses a cough. Another popular EO is lavender, the fragrance smells good, and it is commonly used to fragrant a room and is sometimes used with eucalyptus for ease of breathing. Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute describes essential oils as “Complementary Medicine” that help to provide relief.
Now, in the field of gastroenterology, doctors are using peppermint oil to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dr. Powell says, “There are two essential oil treatments, one ingested and one for the skin that is making it into mainstream medicine.” People are skeptical about essential oils and their practical use. The most common methods of use are skin application and inhalation. There is much skepticism about EOs and their purpose. Dr. Powell says that currently, “Within medicine, we spray medicine up our nose all the time, and we deliver a lot of medicine through skin patches, so those delivery methods are not unusual.” Furthermore, she explains that “The studies are difficult to do, and in Western medicine, we want gold-standard studies, because even though we can put this essential oil in a petri dish and see that it reduces inflammatory markers, or we can do things in animals and see if it changes the autonomic nervous system, we still need to then try out the essential oil on a specific disease and see if it does something, and that is harder to do.”
Dr. Powell is hopeful that in the coming years, there surely will be more studies about EOs, and we will learn more about them and their potential uses. She says that “I think there is information that we can take further. It is not just a psychological thing that smell makes you happy and therefore relaxed; there really could be something really physiologic going on.”
A Few Essential oils and their uses:
Tea Tree Oil: This is a powerful antiseptic oil and can be used in treating mild to moderate acne as it can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi; it is the best home remedy for acne.
Chamomile oil: This oil is anti-inflammatory that can help improve sleep.
Lavender oil: This oil is fragrant and can be used to freshen up any room in the home. Researches show that it can also help with migraines and or be used as a sleep aid.
Rosemary oil: Researches show that diffused rosemary can help in reducing cortisol to a dramatic level when inhaled.
Frankincense oil: This oil is a great aid to reduce multiple inflammatory disorders such as asthma, arthritis, and psoriasis. If two to three drops of this oil are used with coconut oil to massage on the areas of concern, it can significantly reduce the inflammation and pain in the case of arthritis and psoriasis. Furthermore, in the case of asthma, breathing in the diffused frankincense oil air for five minutes can help reduce systems immensely.
Bergamot oil: According to the Complementary Medicine Research, this oil can help in reducing the stress hormone cortisol levels in just 15 minutes.
Thyme oil: Thyme oil helps in improving respiratory health as well as being a disinfectant of household surfaces.
Peppermint oil: This oil helps to ease throat irritation and coughing (de Sousa et al., 2010).
Lemon oil: According to Gauthier, “One study shows that nasal sprays containing lemon essential oils can reduce inflammation in the sinuses.” However, there is a precaution associated with lemon oil that reports by putting lemon oil under your nose and then being exposed to direct sunlight may cause the skin to burn and peel because sunlight intensifies the effect (Ferrara et al., 2012).
Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus oil can help with cough, colds, congestion, bronchial irritation, sinus congestion, and respiratory tract infections. It can also improve sore throat and hoarseness in approximately twenty minutes because of its strong ability to combat bacteria and viruses.
How to use them appropriately or instead more safely?
According to Dr. Powell, “They are generally safe and okay to experiment with, but I would not use them exclusively for treatment because we really need to know more.” It means that although we can use them for more conventional treatment, we cannot exclusively use them for the cure of cancer. We also need to keep an open eye towards the possible side effects of EOs irrespective of what you have seen on the internet. So, we need to read the label of the EOs carefully and follow the directions for proper use. If you are not familiar with essential oils, you should consult a health care practitioner before using them as some of the EOs are not meant to be ingested and can cause anything but health benefits. As Dr. Powell says, “The most obvious thing is that you could be allergic to the essential oil or that it could topically cause a rash.”
We cannot overdo their use. The concentrations have to be measured and appropriate. High EO dosages can overload the body’s sensory systems, resulting in the overstimulation of the brain’s trigeminal nerve, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. So, to use them safely, Kaufmann says to run the diffusers for only 30 minutes and then take a break for about two hours. The purpose behind this break is to use the diffusers in measured dosages so as not to overdo it.
For skin s applications, the EO should first be diluted to 1% – 3% (7 to 27 drops of EO into one ounce of neutral oil) before using. Before applying EO to your skin, test a small area on your forearm by applying a small drop, and checking for an allergy response or irritation, including hives. Lastly, the ingestion of essential oil should only be done with the guidance of a certified Aromatherapist because of its potential to cause systemic problems.
Why are EOs stored contained dark-colored glass as compared to plastic?
Essential oils should be stored in a dark-colored glass because it keeps them safe from the sun’s UV rays. Other plastic containers cannot keep them safe from the sun’s UV rays, which can damage their quality. So, to maintain quality, EOs should always be stored in colored glass containers like cobalt blue and amber-tinted so that the colored glass reflects the UV sun rays away from the EO.
How to tell if they are authentic or synthetic?
Essential oils can be diluted with a carrier oil or synthetic material, and they can easily be differentiated from the authentic essential oils by following some simple procedures:
- Pure EOs are stored in dark-colored glass containers, so if the oil is stored in anything else, then it is not pure.
- Pure or authentic essential oils do not leave any residue on the paper, so a ring test on a white strip of paper can help you in detecting the authenticity of essential oil. In almost all of the shops that sell EOs, scent strips are available for the customers to sniff. Use one of those strips to perform a ring test; put a drop of EO on the strip and let it dry; if a visible ring of residue is formed, then the oil is diluted or synthetic.
- Pure essential oils are not greasy or oily; they quickly get absorbed into the skin. So, if the oil is giving a greasy feeling, then it is not authentic.
- Pure essential oils do not contain any artificial substance; they are 100% pure.
How can their quality be checked?
According to Maura Henninger, N.D., a naturopathic doctor and member of the scientific advisory board, “Quality is incredibly important, as with all supplements and herbs.” If anyone has decided to use essential oil for health or beauty purposes, then the most important thing to consider is the place and company from where he/she is buying it. Essential oils are not regulated like vitamins and supplements, so they need to check their quality while buying. Generally, a retailer cannot buy them at low prices because their manufacturing is costly, so if there are any oils available at a low cost, do not buy them because they are most likely fake or of low quality. It is best to buy them from those companies or manufacturers who are transparent and clearly state their sources from where they get them and where the scientific name of the plant is identified. This identification means that the company has done purity testing, such as gas chromatography or mass spectrometry. When buying EOs, it is essential to check whether or not the EOs are organic, unsprayed, and wild-crafted.
What is the importance of obtaining an Aromatherapist or practitioner specializing in aromatherapy before ingesting any essential oils?
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy defines aromatherapy as “the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing.” This therapy includes massage, topical application, and inhalation. Essential oils have been used for the last 6000 years to improve a person’s health and mood. Still, the users should never forget that these natural products are chemicals and can adversely affect a person’s health if used in the wrong way or without any precaution, so it is crucial to take and follow the advice of a professional practitioner that specializes in aromatherapy.
With this information, I hope that you will have a better understanding of essential oils and be able to use them safely to relax and unwind. After all, you work hard to take care of others; now, it is your turn. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Please visit NurseAvatar website next month for new information on Wellness and always remember to take a Time Out!
De Sousa, A., Soares, P., de Almeida, A., Maia, A., de Souza, E., & Assreuy, A. (2010). Antispasmodic effect of Mentha piperita essential oil on the tracheal smooth muscle of rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 130(2), 433-436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2010.05.012
Ferrara, L., Naviglio, D., & Armone Caruso, A. (2012). Cytological Aspects on the Effects of a Nasal Spray Consisting of Standardized Extract of Citrus Lemon and Essential Oils in Allergic Rhinopathy. ISRN Pharmaceutics, 2012, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.5402/2012/404606