How "Essential" are Essential Oils?


by Justina Salinas March 21, 2019

Over the past decade, essential oils have gained notoriety under the marketing guise of aromatherapy and alternative medicine. Numerous pictures of  beautiful fields, pastures, and glacial springs are used to portray natural, organic, and healing qualities of these essential oils. As a result consumers flock  to purchase expensive products hoping to gain health benefits but, how can you be sure you’re getting what you paid for?


For thousands of years, essential oils have been independently developed by many cultures around the world. From medicinal treatments to self-care rituals, essential oils have played a critical role in diverse health and wellness campaigns.  With lavender being a prominent feature in the essential oils market, it is important to dive beyond the marketing thrills and understand the true impact and power of these oils.


What are Essential Oils?


Essential oils are natural compounds found in plants. Plants use these oils to protect, hydrate, and communicate with the world around them. Through three primary methods (steam distillation, solvent extraction, and CO2 extraction), these oils are extracted and used for a variety of purposes. It is important to know that oils from the same plant can create very different products based on method of extraction. (Source:https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-are-essential-oils)

ic: 10ml Oil

A common size of essential oil is 10-15 ml,  slightly less than half of an ounce. That tiny 10 ml bottle that you’ve probably shuffled your purse or backpack around looking for, takes 3 lb of plant matter to fill. The significance of this figure is to demonstrate how highly concentrated these oils are and how much plant matter is used to create them.


Are Essential Oils Safe?


In the marketing rise of essential oils, many manufacturers and sales representatives have made unsubstantiated claims about what essential oils can treat. As a result, some consumers have inappropriately used these oils causing significant damage. Since 2013 the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy has found more than 268 injuries due to inappropriate essential oil use “ranging from mild rashes and anaphylactic shock to internal chemical burns” (Source: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/news/20180813/essential-oils-promise-help-but-beware-the-risks). Regardless of these reports, essential oils, when pure (no fillers), are harvested, distilled, bottled and stored correctly are very safe and versatile to use. As a result, it is very important to study the risks, benefits, and practical uses of different oils to ensure safety.  


What are the benefits of Essential Oils?

When used appropriately, there are so many benefits of essential oils. Common essential oils are Eucalyptus, Tea Tree Oil, Peppermint, Clary Sage, and Lavender, a personal favorite. Each of these oils have different applications and benefits. For example, lavender oil is considered one of the most versatile and effective essential oils with sedative, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anesthetic effects.



Tips on buying and using essential oil:


  1. Know your source! Educate yourself on the manufacturer of your preferred essential oil(s).

  2. Identify how the oil is extracted: Is the oil mixed with anything else or is it 100% pure?

  3. No matter who recommends you consume or put it directly on your skin - test, test, test! A small patch of skin works great to test out any irritations or allergies.

  4. Be careful of low price points, as discussed the amount of plant matter used to extract oils are hefty and the process of harvesting and distillation is very labor intensive. Oil is not cheap!

  5. Dilute your essential oils with carrier oils like coconut oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, etc. This will give you more bang for your buck and make the oil more versatile in application due to diluting its potency - also lowering the risk of irritation.

  6. Avoid direct sunlight especially with oils that may be phytotoxic and cause skin to burn in the sun.

Although the benefits of essential oils have been well researched it can be confusing for a consumer to navigate heavy marketing and understand which products are truly natural and safe to use.  Make sure to follow the tips above to help guide you to the best essential oils for you. Make sure to always do your research & enjoy these precious oils!

 

 

Edited by: Carolyne Ouya




Justina Salinas
Justina Salinas

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