As the use of essential oils becomes more popular, I see lots of posts about people using them in ways that quite honestly worry me. The unfortunate thing about something getting really popular really fast is that there is very little education about how to properly use the item and people like to cash in on it, so they’ll tell you whatever they can to get you to buy it.
I’m sorry if this sounds blunt, but I would hate for people to be misinformed only to face trouble down the road and as an aromatherapy student, I feel kind of obligated to share how to properly use essential oils. On that note, essential oils, or EOs as I will often refer to them as in short, are amazing. Their healing powers astound me as they are good for both the mind and the body, but because they are so powerful, they need to be used with caution.
For those of you who don’t know what essential oils are, they are extremely concentrated oils that are extracted from plant materials (petals, leaves, roots, grasses, bark, etc.) and contain the smell of the plant. They are usually removed from the plant by steam distillation or cold expression (basically, pressing the peel to get the oils out). Aromatherapy uses these essential oils, usually along with massage, to address various health and wellness issues.
Personally, I think it’s best to see a certified aromatherapist who can put together blends for you in safe dilutions, however I know that there are many people out there who are “DIYers” so I’ve created a little list of safe and unsafe ways of using EOs.
Use oils that you are drawn to as they will be of greatest benefit to you. If you hate the smell, you’re not going to want to use the product. Because there are so many EOs out there, you will always be able to find a different scent that will help with the same issue. For example, Tea Tree (Melaleuca angustifolium) oil is really great for your skin but smells very medicinal. If you’re not into that, you could try Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) which is an oil that smells floral and also does wonders for your skin.
Vary the oils that you use. As with anything, overuse of an EO will cause it to become less effective and also creates the potential for you to become sensitive to the oil. Change it up every 3 months at the very least and also take the time to go without.
Follow the recommended dilutions. This is really important if you are creating any products or blends of your own using essential oils. Because they are so powerful, a little goes a long way. Anything that is going on your skin should not exceed a 3% dilution. This means that if you have 5 ml (1 tsp) of carrier oil, the maximum amount of drops total should be no more than 3. On skin that is more sensitive, such as your face, as well as with elderly people, use a 1% dilution – 1 drop in 5 ml (1 tsp) of carrier oil. EOs should not be used on babies under 2 years old and children up to age 6 should also use a 1% dilution.
Put on skin “neat”. When I say “neat”, that means undiluted. All essential oils need to be diluted in either plant oil (olive, coconut, sunflower, etc.) or alcohol so that they don’t burn your skin. They are not soluble in water so mixing with just water won’t do the trick. There are companies out there who will tell you that this is okay and even incorporate it into their practices, such as Raindrop Therapy. Not good. The “toxins” that they say are coming out of your body is really just severe skin irritation and burning. Aside from Lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) and Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) which can be used for spot treatments (bug bites, a horrendous zit before a hot date) without being diluted, save your skin the stress.
Ingest oils. Sigh. This is the one I see the most. “Put a drop of lemon EO in my water, so good!” ..will you think it’s that great when your throat is totally ruined in a few years? Most essential oils irritate and damage mucous membranes, meaning your insides, when in direct contact because they are so concentrated. Did you know it takes 5 pounds of peppermint to extract just 1 ounce of essential oil? If you want flavour, just use the some fresh lemon slices or mint leaves.
Use EOs when pregnant. All oils should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy. Because your tiny baby is still forming, their little systems aren’t strong enough to break down EOs. There are a few oils that are safe to use at a 1% dilution (1 drop in 5ml carrier oil) after the first trimester including Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Orange (Citrus sinensis), and Lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) to name a few common oils, however if you have a history of miscarriage, it’s best to avoid them altogether until your little bundle of joy has arrived.
One final note is that when it comes to EOs, you get what you pay for. Buying cheap oils will not be nearly as effective as spending a bit more to get good quality. When buying oils, they should always be in a dark blue or brown glass jar to protect them from light which causes them to go bad. Also, the label should always say the common name as well as the Latin name.
I’m hoping that for those of you who are dabbling into the world of aromatherapy, this was of use to you. If you ever have any questions about what I’ve written or suggestions about things you’d like to read about in the future, or maybe you’d like to try a blend – drop me a line!
Until next week,