Was my last post a bit of a “rant”? I apologize. Sometimes you just need a good ole’ get everything off your chest post. Plus it was a good way for me to introduce my oil series to y”all in a light that sets the stage about how I choose to live my life. I do not think oils are the replacement for every single treatment out there. I am medically educated, at times medically minded, and I do use medicine. I do use other holistic remedies also(vinegar and peroxide gargles anyone?). I do eat clean. but I do use oils as one very important piece of the puzzle that is living healthier more intentional lives. I do a lot of things, don’t I…
That being said, let’s open the door to the world of oils and start you off with a nice, clean, little intro.
Before I start, let me give you a little disclaimer. I joke, I make fun, but I’m in love with our oils. They have become embedded in our day to day lives and have made very profound differences. They are empowering and have such amazing effects on behavior and mood, not to mention supporting our immune system and every other part of our bodies (all of our favorite uses for them). I am also not a physician, or a specialist, but I do use my degree in nursing to help guide me in uncovering what information is helpful and what is foolishness. I spend a lot of time researching every aspect of oils (reading books, reading studies, calling companies, and communicating with respected aromatherapists who work for respected institutions). My data doesn’t come from Instagram or your best friend’s blog, so I’ve gathered enough factual backing that I feel comfortable with the way that my family and I use oils, and I’m excited to share this with you, but in the end, I’m just another mama on the internet voicing my opinion, so find that grain of salt and do with it what you will.
1. So, what are oils? They are volatile (evaporating quickly), aromatic (have specific smells), compounds that are derived from various plant parts through distillation or pressing. They are used by their native plants to defend themselves against invading agents, fend off predators, even to attract pollinators. They are lipid soluble (can enter our very cells), and some oils have small enough molecules that they can permeate the blood-brain barrier. They are also highly concentrated, with one drop containing 40 million-trillion molecules (Stewart).
2. How are they helpful in the body? Essential oils have many powerful properties. They have been used in many educated studies and proven themselves worthy enough to sit on the shelve in some really renowned hospitals. They can permeate cell membranes, and they have the potential to affect every bodily cell within minutes of application, so they are highly efficient at moving through the body, and are metabolized and eliminated rather quickly as well (Jager).
3. How do we use them? Oils can be used either topically, aromatically (inhaled), or internally. Each route of administration has its own benefits, and one oil can have varied reactions in the body depending upon which administration method was used. When dealing with a localized issue, it is often beneficial to apply oils topically to that area. Once absorbed, the oils will reach the bloodstream and be distributed systemically throughout the body, but its effects will be most powerful at the source of application. When supporting hormones, behavior, mood, immunity, or the respiratory system, inhalation is an excellent route to use. The oil’s vapors are able to travel through the nose into the brain through the limbic system, and can cause and uninhibited positive change. This is my favorite way to use oils! Internal usage is the last leg that compiles what is modern day aromatherapy! This can be a useful, and often times controversial way to reap the benefits of oils, but only for certain issues. This method is one that should be approached only when the user has educated themselves enough or has advice from a trained aromatherapist/professional. This method is also best utilized for a short amount of time, instead of the casual daily intake that is often seen on social media outlets.
4. What safety concerns are associated with the usage of oils? The majority of the concerns related to oils stem from uneducated use, miseducation, and lack of respect for the potency of the oils. Quality of your oils, integrity of the skin (abrasions and wounds would be synonymous with poor integrity), age of user, and level of dilution all play into the risk of reaction. Oils are safe ways to promote wellness and harmony among your family, they just must be used wisely! I feel as if the line between fear and folly is quite short, leaving those choosing to use oils either scared to touch them, or carelessly putting themselves at risk. We need to separate that gap with a class of users who are educated, safe, and excited to empower themselves!
Skin reactions may occur when using oils that are “neat” (undiluted) or poorly diluted, and are referred to as “dermal irritation”. This will be evidenced by redness or splotches at the site of irritation. TIP: when an irritation occurs, it is best to add oil to the area and wipe clean until the oil is diluted off of the skin. Attempting to wash the oil with water will only drive the oil deeper into the skin. An actual allergic reaction called sensitizaton is also possible when using oils undiluted, or poorly diluted, and/or for an extended period of time. The first time you use the sensitizing oil, you may not notice any change, although a sort of “defense” has already begun forming within your body. After subsequent uses, however, a reaction may occur that can potentially lead to an irreversible sensitization to that particular oil. Cross sensitization can be present when using another oil after the reaction to the first. I have seen photos of oil users who suffered from sensitization reactions leading to hospitalization circulating on Facebook. This saddens me, because it leaves an entire population of people who are now afraid to even give oils a try. What the articles do not state is that reactions like this are preventable, should you use oils respectfully. Not everyone who uses oils undiluted will react, but I like to think of them like seatbelt. If you choose to go unbelted on the freeway/interstate, then so be it, but don’t scare society into thinking they should avoid vehicles altogether, and for goodness sakes, buckle up your children! Here you can find more information about sensitizing and irritating oils, but do not be mistaken, there have been cases of people becoming sensitized to even lavender, so do not think the mild oils cannot cause harm when abused. Each person’s level of sensitization varies as well, so if you show irritation to even the slightest of products, proceed with caution and dilute well when using oils topically!
Mucous membrane irritation can also occur, such as in the buccal mucosa when ingesting oils “neat” or without dilution. Water does not count as a diluent, so when adding citrus oils to water regularly, you will be exposing your mouth, esophagus, and stomach to the oils in their purest forms, which can be quite irritating. Some people may never react negatively, while others may develop mouth irritations, etc. This is personal preference, I am only giving you the facts, and unlike popular belief suggest, oils do not contain any nutritional value, like the juice of the fruit, so I do not find the benefit of ingesting them to outweigh the risk. Once again, personal preference!
Photosensitizing oils, which include the citrus oils (bergamot, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit), and cumin, can cause a reaction on the skin if you are to expose the area of application to sunlight (or a tanning bed’s rays) within 24 hours of use. The method of extraction matters when it comes to photosensitizing qualities, and any citrus that is expeller pressed runs the photosensitizing risk, while the extraction method of steam distillation lessens or removes that risk. This would be a good reason to use a reputable oil company as well, so that you are made aware of the method of extraction! Photosensitizing reactions can be pretty terrible, so using oils properly is important to avoid this. If you are needing to topically apply any of these oils, try to do so on an area that will not be exposed to the sun, or just diffuse the oil to reap the benefits while avoiding the potential reaction. TIP: The antibiotic class of tetracyclines can potentiate the photosensitizing capabilities, so be conscientious of this!
TIP: For my last safety consideration tip, never put oils directly into the ear, directly into the nose, or into the eyes! You can dilute the oils out of these areas, if they are accidentally applied by using a carrier oil.
5. Who else is using oils today? Chiropractors, hospitals, spas, dentists, college students, children, moms, dads, athletes, and midwives. Pretty much everyone has/is/will be dipping their fingers into these beautiful gifts of the Earth. My two favorite studies to date are: 1. Vanderbilt Hospital’s study with its ER staff, where they diffused oils in the work area for one month and took measurements both before the study, and at the end, revealing just how powerful aromatics are at affecting mood. Here’s a little peek into the results: before the study, 41% of the staff reported feeling stressed very often. After the study that number dropped to a whopping 3%. This is good stuff…and that’s just one of the many great results that the study showed. 2. Terry Friedmann completed a two year study using lavender, vetiver, and cedarwood on participants who needed support for focus and redirection of the mind. He redirected them to a task while monitoring their brain waves to see how successful they were at refocusing following the inhalation of one of the three oils. All three oils proved to show significant improvement in their ability to concentrate, but the amazing part is that the vetiver refocused the users by 100%. Hard to believe? The proof is in the study, check it out.
6. They can enrich your life like you would never believe. This is my favorite fact about oils, because I wholeheartedly believe that it is true. Despite the list of scary things that I listed above, I use oils in my house regularly, proudly, and with confidence. I list these potential reactions, because I want any of you who are curious to gain awareness at the very start of your journey on how to avoid any of these scenarios, because they are completely avoidable. I’m a huge advocate for educating yourself for the ultimate success. Start using oils the way that you SHOULD use them, rather than following the current careless trends, and you will have smooth sailing! Using oils is exciting, and rewarding! I feel so in control of our emotions and our ailments, because where I couldn’t really combat something before, i.e. environmental threats, general fatigue, sadness, etc, I now have a cost effective arsenal at my hands that is safe and easily recognized by our bodies, due to its plant based nature. Giving our body the tools that it needs to heal itself has both short term and long term benefits that involve so many aspects of our lives! Guys, the success stories that are out there, from parents of children with issues focusing and spectrum conditions, who had exhausted every other avenue of treatment, to the new moms who leave their postpartum depression behind with simply a diffuser and some uplifting oils, down to the sufferer of persistent seasonal threats or ear conditions, the changes that these oils have made in the lives of so many are hopeful and brilliant and ultimately so attainable for every one of us wishing for change…all we have to do is seek it for ourselves.
Lead a life worth following, for little eyes are always watching
I didn’t want to discuss the brand of oils that I use, or include any affiliate links in this post, because I wanted it to be purely educational- a true introduction to oils for those curious souls out there sifting through the sea that is the world wide web. I know that it’s hard to find reliable information-and at first glance, some sources may even seem honest and rational, but they too are misleading to an impressionable oil newbie. I’ve read things that I thought were true, and then later uncovered more educated sources that completely invalidated my previous thoughts. The field of aromatherapy is vast yet limited. You will always find someone debunking another person’s thoughts! I try to rely on the results gained from studies, personal use, and recommendations from professional sources to guide me on my oil journey. You may not agree with everything that I said in this post, and that’s completely okay! I urge everyone to forge their own paths, do their own research, and discover what trail they want to claim as their own. Each one of our journeys will be different, yet similar. This is the beauty of learning from one another, and taking control of our health and wellness.
Let’s meet on your path to wellness. I’m loving teaching classes both locally and out of town, no charge, just your time. Let me know if this is something that interests you wanting to know more, or wanting to start your own journey. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to set up an appointment.
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved June 18, 2015, from http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/what-are-essential-oils
Steward, PhD, R.A., D. (n.d.). THE BLOOD-BRAIN BARRIER. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
(n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2015, from http://journal.scconline.org/pdf/cc1992/cc043n01/p00049-p00054.pdf