Essential oils are still super popular, and for good reason: they provide some excellent healing benefits. But they’re not always safe, or the most sustainable choice. Here are some things you should know.
What Essentials Are and How They Work
Essential oils are the extracted volatile oils from plants. They are solvents, which is why they are considered antibacterial (they’ll literally dissolve the bacteria). This is also why applying them to the skin neat can result in damage to the skin that resembles a chemical burn. The essential oil will bind with the oils in the skin, and a painful rash will be the result.
Taking essential oils neat internally will also damage the mucus membranes and if the wrong oil is ingested, can result in death. Never ingest essential oils without the supervision of a trained herbalist.
Essential oils won’t bind to water (remember oil and water don’t mix) and they should always be applied with a fixed carrier oil (think olive oil, almond oil, etc) with the proper ratio, even when adding them to the bath, that way they don’t bind to the skin.
How Our Bodies Eliminate Essential Oils
These oils are eliminated by our bodies in two ways: the lungs and the kidneys. If you drink a cup or thyme tea, 30 minutes later your breath is going to smell like thyme, because the volatile oils are leaving your body through the respiratory system. Their antibacterial action will be carried through your respiratory system in this way. This is true for many of the aromatic plants that we use for aromatherapy. You’ll get the same healing benefits from the tea, and more, as you do from the essential oils.
Essential Oils Uses
Aromatherapy has its benefits especially for relaxing and uplifting the spirits. Using essential oils can be a very convenient way to connect with plants on the go. Say you’re out and about and need to clear your mind: Rosemary essential oil is fabulous for this. Or you’re stressed and tired: bergamot may be your pal.
The scents we encounter take a direct route through the olfactory bulb to the limbic system, including the areas of our brain linked to memory and emotions (the hippocampus and amygdala), making essential oils powerful mediators for emotions.
We can also use essential oils to make massage oils that are relieving to the muscles, and for balms and salves for the respiratory system, like a homemade vapor rub.
Essential Oils Sustainability
It takes a lot of plant matter to create essential (50 roses to produce one single drop of rose essential oil, for example) which is why they aren’t necessarily the most sustainable choice. I personally prefer working with a whole plant, rather than concentrating one part of it. Usually, what is considered a toxic constituent in a plant is mitigated by other constituents in the same plant. If you can do a tea instead, try that.
I’ve noticed that for me, lavender essential oil is easing to the mind. Lavender tea is a whole-body relaxation experience thar feels like being wrapped in a big, warm, cozy blanket and kissed on the forehead before drifting off to sleep.
Aromatherapy has its benefits, but be aware of where you’re purchasing from and that company’s commitment to the environment and their ethics. I’m a big fan of Mountain Rose Herbs for essential oils. They also have little portable inhalers that resemble a lipstick you can take with you wherever you go.
The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Jessica Jascha, the Jascha Botanicals, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.