I feel like essential oils have completely blown up in the last couple of years. Something I had never previously heard of was all of a sudden all over the place! If you have spent any time on the internet, especially Pinterest or Groupon (hey to all the other Pintrest/Groupon addicts out there!), or have ventured into your local Walgreens, then you probably know what I am talking about. Something once reserved for the holistic section of Whole Foods can now be found just about anywhere. I’ve even run into essential oils and diffusers at Ross and T.J. Maxx! Maybe they were always there and I just didn’t notice, but we are now hearing all about the variety of benefits these essential oils can provide.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about the benefits of essential oils I was highly skeptical. I mean HIGHLY. It just seemed so “foo foo.” It wasn’t until my therapist introduced me to using essential oils on the body that I became convinced of their validity. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t have any completely undisputed evidence to back up any of my claims, but I’m 100% convinced that incorporating essential oils into my life increased my quality of living. I’m not here to convince you to start going wild buying all kinds of oils and accessories, but I will share a little about my experience and what I have learned so far.
1. Essential Oils are Different From What You’re Probably Thinking About
At first I was super skeptical about essential oils because I was thinking of them as just a fragrance, something like perfume, that was meant to smell nice and therefore have some type of positive effect on you - hence the “foo fooness.” After all, you see “aromatherapy” products everywhere, like in candles or body lotions at various stores and I just assumed this is what was meant by essential oils.
However, pure, therapeutic grade, essential oils are actually extremely potent. They are made from cold pressing or distilling different parts of plants to extract an unadulterated oil directly from the plant. Just as teas can have different effects on the body from steeping the various plants in water (think: the calming nature of camomile or the stomach settling properties of peppermint), the oils themselves have an effect on the body whether they’re being inhaled, digested or applied topically. Long story short, this isn't the same as smelling your lavender candle from the mall.
2. Not All Oils Are Created Equal
As with just about everything these days, you get what you pay for (usually). Because it takes a lot of a plant to create enough of an oil to bottle and sell- like 180 pounds of roses to make rose otto oil - this stuff isn’t cheap. I am sure you can imagine that it’s probably pretty temping to put in some fillers if all you have in mind is the bottom line. This is why it is important to do your due diligence around essential oils. I’m not saying the most expensive is going to be the best, but if you get a bottle for $3.00 from some random discount store and other more reputable, places are selling it for $35.00, it should probably give you some pause. Lower quality of oil means you're going to get a lower quality experience with the oil and it may not have at all the effect it should. Additionally, if it contains any chemical fillers you might not even know what all you are exposing your body to. There are lots of comparisons you can read online so I encourage doing some research if you’re looking to experiment.
3. Safety is No Joke with Essential Oils
Like I said, essential oils can be very potent! You have to be really careful about using too much, potential drug interactions with any medication you are taking, sensitivity to sunlight in areas where you apply the oil, using specific oils while pregnant or breast feeding, and potential allergic reactions. You should always consult with a doctor or veterinarian before using essential oils with a child or a pet, despite whatever that Pintrest article claims.
Please know I don't want to encourage fear of essential oils, but just like with anything you put in or on your body, care must be taken. I actually feel like the warnings you need to heed with essential oils are encouraging because it backs up the evidence that this isn’t just some hippy dippy magic- essential oils have a very real impact on the body and mind!
4. Depending On What Your Goal is There are Several Different Ways to Incorporate Essential Oils Into Your Life
There are lots of different ways you can use essential oils. Diffusers are something that have become very popular, and there are several different kinds. Again this is a place you want to do some research. The oils you're using probably aren't super cheap, so you want to make sure you're choosing an effective way to disperse your oils. Different oils have different effects. There are all kinds of guides online to help you choose which oil or mixture of oils can help you achieve your goals. Looking for a mid-day lift? Diffusing some lemon, peppermint and frankincense can be a good combination! Headache? Try peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender! There are a million different blends and it can be so fun, and helpful, to try them out!
You can now find all kinds of diffuser accessories as well! Wearing your chosen scent in a necklace or on a bracelet, or even using a plug-in in your car can help you keep the effects of the oils going all day long.
I am a big fan of applying essential oils topically. Again, you have to be careful with essential oils, so you want to find a trusted guide in this area, but essential oils should always be mixed with some type of carrier oil before being applied topically. Depending on where you buy your oil it might already be mixed and ready to go out of the bottle. If it isn’t, using some type of coconut, almond, or olive oil should do the trick! As with anything you put on your body it gets absorbed through the skin and makes its way to the blood stream, so again, this can be a great thing if you're looking for some type of relief or a not so good thing if you aren't being careful. Applying topically can help provide not only physical relief from aches and pains but also help you achieve mental balance and improve mood. I recently purchased a “stick” that looks like a giant lip balm for headaches that contained menthol, peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus and I had great results in taming my migraine!
Essential oils can be great around the house as well. Certain oils, especially of the citrus variety, can be used in home cleaning products. Lemon spray for the counter instead of that chemical mixture? Yes please! Different blends such as lavender, lemon and rosemary can help give a fresh scent to the air, and you can spritz some lavender oil that has been diluted with a tiny bit of vodka (to help the oil evaporate and not set into fabric) and distilled water on your pillow before bed to help lull yourself to sleep. Essential oils can also be mixed into soaps or homemade candles! Again, there are loads of “recipes” for this stuff online.
Essential oils can also be taken internally but this is where I’m going to really encourage seeking out the very specific advice of a medical professional who is familiar with essential oils. There are several companies that are selling ingestible versions of oils that I would deem pretty trustworthy but we are all so individual and we all can react very differently to what we put in our bodies. This is not something I would recommend just experimenting with on your own.
5. Combine Essential Oils and Mindfulness for Best Results
This isn’t really a tip you’re going to find on Pintrest, but this has really been my experience. Smell can be such a profound “trigger” either in a positive or negative way because scent can be so closely linked with memory. For example, I love visiting my storage unit because the inside of that place smells like my grandma and grandpa’s house used to and it brings me such warm memories. I’m sure other people can no longer even stand the smell of certain alcohols because of that one real bad night in college. I mean I can’t relate to that at all but surely someone out there can :) Anyway…
Essential oils are going to have an effect on you no matter what, but I find when I am mindful and present when I am using my oils, when I can assign them meaning that is personal to me, I can really harness the power. For example, there is an oil I have used in my own therapy from Young Living called White Angelica. Because of the meditation it was used in combination with I have a very specific reaction of feeling protected and strong in my boundaries when I apply it. This reminds me of the different feelings(read: mostly embarrassment) I have when I smell the ever popular Cucumber Melon scent that I excessively applied in my junior high years. I smell that cucumber melon and all sorts of awkward memories come flooding right on in! The point being, you can use oils and they’ll be effective, but if you use them intentionally and combine them with mindfulness and meditation they can become infinitely more useful to you.
Have questions? Want to know where you can learn more?
Contact me- I am happy to help get you started!