I have been reading a lot about essential oils lately – both about the benefits that people say they derive from them, and about the dangers of not using them correctly. So I asked Leader reader Tara Lehr, who sells essential oils, to give me the low down.
Lehr says that basically essential oils are what gives plants their wonderful smell. “Technically speaking, they are the ‘aromatic compounds’ found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of the plants,” she said. “The oils provide plants with protection against predators and disease, fight infection, initiate cell regeneration, and possess wonderful properties from the plants they come from.”
These oils are extracted from the plant material by a gentle steam distillation process which separates the essential oil from the rest of the plant material. That is the pure oil that is bottled. Lehr thinks that essential oils are gaining popularity due to the simple fact that they are extremely effective, and very potent – so potent that Lehr says they can create changes, improve normal detox, improve circulation, or improve neurological function because of the ability to cross the blood brain barrier.
“The molecules of an essential oil are so minute, smaller than the cells in our bodies, [so] they are able to enter through your skin, cross through the fatty lipid area, enter your blood stream and support every cell within 20 minutes,” she says.
There are hundreds of essential oil companies to choose from and Lehr cautions it is important that you do your due diligence in researching a company since there is no regulation of essential oils.
Questions include: Do they provide complete distill or first distill oils? Do they distill their oils using solvents? If so, which ones? Do they distill their own oils or purchase from third parties? Do they bottle their own oils? Do they own their own farms? Can they provide you with a Certificate of Analysis? Do they recommend to NOT ingest their oils? What sustainable practices are in place for their global footprint?
If essential oils are something you want to know more about, Lehr suggests the following resources: Essential Oils Desk Reference by Life Science Publishing, The Essential Oil Truth: The Facts without the Hype by Jen O’Sullivan, Healing Oils of the Bible by Dr. David Stewart, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by David Stewart and www. seedtoseal.com.
Although there are many oils with many different benefits, here’s a sample of a few Lehr likes:
Frankincense – inhale directly to increase spirituality and inner strength, lift mood, and inspire balance. Apply to face to help smooth the appearance of healthy looking skin.
Lemon – inhale for a clean, fresh, and uplifting citrus scent. Use directly to easily remove sticky residue or add to natural household cleaner.
Lavender – inhale for a calming and comforting scent. Unwind by adding a few drops to Epsom salts for a relaxing nighttime bath.
Cedarwood – inhale or diffuse to support rest and to oxygenate the brain.
Thieves – blend of 5 single oils cinnamon bark, rosemary, clove, lemon & eucalyptus to support the immune system. Apply topically (bottom of feet) to stay above the wellness line. Thieves is an excellent cleaner and degreaser and can be found in many household products.
While essential oils are getting more attention from doctors for their benefits – including Duke University plastic surgeon Dr. Scott Hollenbeck who told a Durham, NC news station that they’re looking at the use of essential oils to help patients as they recover from surgery – they also can be dangerous if misused.
Although there is some difference of opinion on this among devotees of essential oils, because some companies do label their essential oils for internal use, the University of Maryland Medical Center cautions never to take essential oils by mouth unless under the supervision of a trained professional as some are toxic.
Essential oils Dos and Don’ts
Do use your essential oils often as a first line of defense to support your immune system, hormones, emotions and brain health.
Do use a carrier oil when using an essential oil on children. Essential oils are live and work off of frequencies and can cause irritation to the thin skin of children. It is always safe to apply essential oils to the bottom of their feet, since their skin is thicker and easily absorbed into the bottom of their feet.
Do be careful when using citrus oils on skin and exposure to sunlight. Citrus oils contain natural molecules that react with sunlight (UV light) and cause a sensitivity reaction.
Never put essential oils in eyes, ears and sensitive areas of your body.