What are essential oils?
Essential oils are also known as volatile oils because they evaporate quickly after coming in contact with oxygen. An essential oil is, simply put, the "essence" of a plant, obtained by water or steam distillation, or by cold pressing (for citrus peel oils), through this process, the oils inside a plant can be extracted into a highly concentrated form.
Essential oils constituents bind to receptor sites in the nose, which read the aroma molecules and send signals through the olfactory nerve to the limbic system and amygdala in the brain. Because different essential oils come from different plants, these components tend to change from plant to plant. Basically, the active ingredients inside an essential oil can trigger "switches" inside our body.
Essential oils can have complex biochemical interactions in the human body. Different essential oils can create different reactions in our enzymes and hormones. Essential oils can be up to 100 times more potent than the plant itself, therefore their effects are visible with just a few drops."
For exemple, an EO like lavender can stimulate olfactory nerves in the brain and cause effects to slow down the central nervous system and induce a sense of calm and relaxation.
How to apply Essential oils?
Some methods of applying essential oils are safer than others. Untrained people, especially in the multilevel marketing (MLM) business, will say anything to make a sale. Some folks, especially MLM bloggers—and even some big companies—suggest methods for essential oil use, without informing people of the dangers of using essential oils incorrectly. They’ll say that you can use them anytime, anywhere. In demonstrations, they might dab some on their wrist or talk about how oils can be used in capsules.
We suggest to be wary about how they use these products. Essential oils have the potential to sensitize and irritate skin. There have been rare reports of serious toxicities, including seizures, adverse effects in pregnancy, and lung or liver toxicity. We do not want to put you off from using essential oils, as in general, EOs are pretty safe. When irritation does happen, it’s usually mild and limited to the skin.
To minimize the risks of topical essential oil application, it’s best to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, ususally using carrier oils like jojoba, coconut, and avocado oil. Most allergic reactions are caused by the application of pure oils, or high-concentration products, but if you tolerate them or dilute them, they can help with dry, flaky skin, provide some antioxidant benefits, and also help relax your body.
Are essential oils are perfectly safe to ingest?
That’s not necessarily true. Essential oils are broken down in the liver into phytochemicals, and if they accumulate, they can become toxic to the body. Since oral ingestion results in ten times the amount of absorption into the bloodstream of an essential oil compared to topical application, this type of application is usually used for short-term treatment of more serious ailments, like bacterial infections (some essential oils are effective against the MRSA bacteria, for example), viral infections.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy offers several warnings against oral consumption of certain essential oils ("they may cause heartburn, nausea, and vomiting,").
For example, peppermint is one you may want to avoid. Clove oil is another one you should probably stay away from, although widely publicised from a notorious MLM EO brand as the holy grail of all cures in one of their blends. NAHA notes that people shouldn’t take essential oils internally without appropriate education and an understanding of the resulting safety issues.
Basically, our take is that ingestion should be medically prescribed and regulated by a doctor who has experience with essential oils — you definitely shouldn’t try and make your own capsules at home.
Can essential oils be used safely?
Essential oils have been used in aromatherapy for hundreds of years. Our sense of smell (controlled by the olfactory nerve) is very powerful and exerts influence over our thoughts, emotions, moods, memories, and behaviors.
Essential oils can reduce inflammation or stimulate the immune system or calm down the autonomic nervous system. If you're feeling confused, stick with the basics. Lavender oil is a great EO for beginners. Try inhale it before sleeping, pour a few drops into a diffuser, or rub it onto your pressure points (neck, wrists, and other places where your pulse is most prominent). Plenty of studies have been done on lavender oil to demonstrate its efficacy.
One study demonstrated that inhaling lavender oil increased the power of alpha and theta brain activities, resulting in significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature. But another, slightly larger study supported these results and showed that the same method of application (inhalation) before bed significantly decreased anxiety levels and greatly improved sleep quality. Inhaling lavender oil for 30 minutes a day during your period can also reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
Bergamot, another essential oil with "multitasking" capabilities, is often used as part of a treatment for depression because of its ability to reduce stress responses. When inserted into oil diffusers, it helped create a positive mood in patients. Besides its uplifting effect on mood, it can also be used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent against E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus.
We are all for essential oils an recognise their benefits as mood enhancer, as well as relieving some minor illnessent or discomforts. We are also beware of the hype essential oils have been, and continually are exposed to, as the panacea for all illnesses. We would like to make our readers skilled enough, not to fall into some marketing-hyped trap of unscrupulous sellers.