COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS
What ARE essential oils, anyway?
Essential oils are the elixir of life; literally, the "LIFE-BLOOD" of the plant.
Essential oils are the concentrated aromatic liquids derived from the many varied plant parts via a low-heat, slow-steam distillation process.
Yes, quite literally, they are the “LIFE-BLOOD” of the plant that serve to preserve it from insects, fungi, disease & harsh conditions, as well as attract pollinators and deter other plants from growing in their territory. They are“essential” because without them, the plant would most surely die.
When you have enjoyed the scent of a rose or pinched herbs like basil, cilantro or mint between your fingers and then taken in the fresh aroma, you’ve encountered the aromatic benefits of essential oils. These volatile, aromatic compounds in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants is where the power lies.
Basically, essential oils are the plants' aromatic properties distilled for powerfully effective health benefits. The microscopic molecules (as in 40 million-trillion in just one drop!) that make up essential oils are highly concentrated, making them 50-70 times more potent than the plants they are derived from. Conversely, dried herbs can lose up to a whopping 90% of their valuable nutrients & oxygen molecules.
This distillation process is what makes essential oils so extremely concentrated.
It often requires an entire plant to produce a single drop of essential oil. Thus, "less is more" is not an under-statement when referring specifically to proper essential oil use!
Humans have used essential oils for many centuries and across many cultures for their powerful physical & emotional health benefits, with their rich aromas & flavours also enhancing recipes and cosmetic products.
The season of the year, growing practices (organic vs pesticides/herbicide use), timing of the harvest/drying times, geography, and distillation techniques, etc., all play an extremely vital role in the potency and efficacy of the final product. This is what sets apart the truly therapeutic-valued (health-supporting) oils from mere floral waters and perfumes, which are far more health-harming than benefitting often due to the adjuvants and solvents added to increase profits.
What makes them so powerful? Is there science to back it?
Essential oils are actually recognized by the body as
have the highest level of oxygenating activity known to man. They also share several common properties with human blood where they effectively fight infection, contain hormone-like compounds, and initiate regeneration the same way that blood does in the human body.
Working as the chemical defense-mechanism of the plant, essential oils possess potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. The ability of some essential oils to work as hormones (such as Clary Sage) helps them bring balance to many physiological systems in the human body.
The similarites go even deeper. The unique, lipid-soluble structure of essential oils have a chemical structure that is similar to that found in human cells and tissues. This renders them compatible with human protein, and enables them to penetrate cell membranes into blood and tissue; readily identified and accepted by the human body.
The chemistry of essential oils is very complex: each one may consist of
hundreds of unique chemical compounds. Ever heard of “Sesquiterpenes”... “Monoterpenes”… “Phenols”... “Aldehydes”... “Ketones”... “Esters”, just to name a few? These are the scientific terms to identify the complex chemical chemistry of essential oils (ie:
plants). They are what make essential oils ideal for preventing and arresting the spread of bacteria and viruses.
They have been scientifically proven to not only effectively combat/eradicate bacteria and viruses outside cell walls, but are able to penetrate cell walls to push toxins out so normal cell function & balance can be re-established, which pharmaceutical meds cannot do (
the synthetic nature of pharma drugs essentially blocks DNA receptor sites so oxygen cannot get in). Essential oils, on the other hand, are proven able to effectively “clean” receptor sites in our DNA, delete and unscramble bad info from cellular memory, and awaken correct information (
equalling more vibrant health and vitality).
PubMed and other reputable science journals have literally
thousands of documented studies on varying beneficial functions of essential oils, proving them to be some of the most powerful inhibitors of microbes known. Just a few examples...
A 1999 study found that Basil oil, for one, exhibited strong bactericidal action against aggressive microorganisms. Another study at the Central Food Technological Institute in India found that a large number of essential oil components (including Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Marjoram, and Lemongrass to name a few) exhibited tremendous germ-killing effects.
In 1997, clinical studies were conducted on the specific immune-stimulating formula of
Thieves (a proprietary blend of Lemon, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Cinnamon, and Clove) by the University of Weber in Utah & proved that it is
99.96% effective against airborne bacteria.
Another 2001 study at Weber State University in Utah found Oregano, Thyme, Peppermint, and Basil to exhibit very strong anti-microbial effects against pathogens such as Pneumonia. Many other studies confirm these findings.
How do you use essential oils, exactly?
Essential oils are used for a plethora of emotional and physical wellness scenarios. They can be used alone as single oils or together in complex synergistic blends.
Because oils are so powerful and potent, one needs to educate themselves to have a basic understanding of how to use them properly. That said, with some simple principles and good common sense, anyone can use oils safely and effectively.
There are three primary application methods for oils, via...
The most common way to benefit from essential oils is simply to breathe them in aromatically. Either direct from the bottle (cupping your hands around your nose), via steam with a bowl & towel (remember doing this as a kid with Vick’s Vaporub?), or by diffusing through an atomizing, or “ultra-sonic "diffuser. Diffusing certain essential oils can be stimulating, while others can be calming. Diffusing is ideal for cleansing and purifying the air, and addressing respiratory needs.
Another common way is by rubbing, spritzing, or eye-dropping directly onto your skin, including the bottoms of your feet which are a “window" to all the body systems via nerve receptors (“Vita-Flex Points”). You can use essential oils topically when you want a straightforward way to target specific areas on your body. For instance, a soothing and effective method is to use hot compresses together with diluted oils to localize their intended effects (such as helping to ease painful period cramps, for example), as well as put oil-infused epsom salts in the tub to soak in.
(NOTE: Citrus oils are considered photo-sensitive so application before sun exposure should be avoided.)
Certain Young Living essential oils
(proven specifically for their absolute purity and potency) have been officially designated by Health Canada as “
GRAS" or “
Generally Regarded as Safe” to ingest. A such, these oils can be used as dietary supplements for targeted wellness, as well as used for culinary purposes.
Ingestion can be helpful for supporting the immune system and digestive health. Keeping in mind the potency and concentration of some oils (such as cinnamon, oregano, lemongrass, or thyme, for instance), dilution in an ingestible oil like Olive or Avocado oil, or a healthy sweetener like raw honey is always recommended.
Because essential oils are so potent and powerful, they should be used sparingly and respected & navigated with care and learning. Only the purest of oils should be used from a company with the highest of standards (no harmful adjuvants, solvents or fillers, or second/third distillation which renders them therapeutically ineffective).
(NOTE: Essential oils should never be given as dietary supplments to children under 6 years of age.)
Are there any safety precautions in regards to the use of essential oils?
For sure, as with incorporating anything new into your life. Before using essential oils, one needs to have a foundational understanding of how to incorporate them safely and effectively into your wellness regimen.
Some basic tips, for starters:
• It is advised to use a lipid-based (oily) carrier oil (Olive oil, Coconut oil, or Young Living's "V-6" oil to name just a few optimal ones) to dilute, especially with really strong oils such as Oregano, Cinnamon, Clove, or Peppermint, for example. This is especially applicable to new users, as your body acclimates to useage (toxins can often be drawn to the skin's surface, creating a "reaction" of sorts).
• Never place essential oils in the eyes, ears, genitalia, or open wounds (hot oils in particular, as tissue-regenerating oils such as Lavender and Frankincense can be very beneficial in injury repair).
• Always "patch test" for sensitivities before proceeding with new or unfamiliar oils. The bottom of the feet is the safest, most effective place to use oils and a good place to start.
• If using oils in the bath, always emulsify with Epsom Salts or a bath gel base to disperse the oils properly in the water.
• Keep bottles tightly closed and store in a cool location away from light to maintain their optimal potency.
• Keep essential oils away from open flames or sparks, as some (fir, pine, orange peppermint for example) are potentially flammable.
Reference Guides to know how and which oils to use for specific purposes.
• Keep out of the reach of young children. Treat them as you would any product for therapeutic use.
• Use the "Less oil, More often" rule for optimal results.
• Ingestion of oils should be done with prudence in moderate amounts (several drops at most at a time), and only consume (including cooking with) high quality oils that have been designated "GRAS" (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA and Health Canada.
NOTE: avoid orally administering to children under 6 years of age.
• If pregnant, nursing, or working with children or animals, be sure to seek out specific guidelines from trusted sources or professionals for safe and responsible use.
• Because essential oils are oil-soluble, not water-soluble, do not attempt to use water if there is a sensitivity or reaction (water will actually enhance sensitivity); rather, always use a lipid-based carrier oil.
• Avoid using any citrus oils (Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, Orange, Bergamot, etc.) prior to direct sun exposure as they may cause a photosensitive reaction.
• As the gatekeeper of your home, be sure to do your due diligence to expand your learning and knowledge-base from reputable, trusted sources.
If I buy a "100% Pure" oil from a safe source like a health food store, that's okay... right?
Unfortunately (and tragically), the essential oils industry has NO regulations in place to ensure that the claims made on bottles and by companies are accurate—or even
Meaning... someone like you or I could easily obtain Lavender oil in bulk for a smoking deal from some supplier overseas, or even here in North America, come up with a savvy marketing campaign & pretty labels claiming that the oils are "100% Pure Therapeutic" (and any other catchy lingo that instills confidence in customers), and be in business next week. With no one making us (or the bulk supplier we bought from) accountable for the quality—or even the authenticity—of what's even in those bottles.
At worst, essential oils can be adulterated and diluted with solvents and fillers, which is very health-compromising and a more common practise than anyone cares to admit (and gives essential oils in general a really bad rap). And, at the very least (
which is no small thing either!),
the standards for growing, harvesting, drying & distilling can be radically different from one farm to the next.
Weed and pest control alone can be a
huge factor, where many farms simply won't spend the extra funds required to employ critically necessary alternatives to chemical herbicides & pesticides (such as hand weeding and actually using essential oils, rather.
SEE THIS ASTOUNDING FACT). Of course, these chemicals inevitably make their way into the vast majority of so-called "Pure" essential oil bottles—yes, even the ones often offered in health food stores.
This is a sad reality of the industry, and also why Gary Young, over 25 years ago, began his fervent quest to significantly raise the bar in this regard.
So... you might be thinking: if there's no industry regulation keeping essential oil supplier and sellers honest, then
no one can be trusted—not even Young Living, right...?
UNLESS: you're a company with full jurisdiction over the farms that your product is being grown and harvested from, and there is
complete transparency and an open door policy. Meaning: anyone, at any time, can come and not only view, but
partake in all the varying stages of the growing season and harvest on any of the global farms.
Young Living has been the forerunner and leader in the industry for over 25 years
specifically because Gary Young was so passionate about
Purity, Potency, & Quality, and has set the highest of standards for premium quality oils with their
Seed to Seal promise. In a nutshell: this is Young Living's guarantee to the world that they never cut corners in favour of profit or convenience, and are accountable in every way possible. Very few (if any) other essential oil companies can make this bold of a claim.