January 24, 2017

How to Choose Quality Essential Oils

 by Amanda Box

Making “Scents” of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been around for thousands of years. Used by ancient Egyptians, these precious oils were some of the world’s first medicines! Essential oils are even mentioned 188 times in the Bible, referenced as anointing oil and used to heal the sick.

Today, essential oils have become one of the hottest products on the market… and rightly so!

As a traditional naturopath, I am delighted that people are using essential oils rather than pharmaceutical drugs to heal their ailments.

Just 10 years ago, most people had no idea that the frankincense and myrrh given to baby Jesus were gifts of medicinal essential oils! Today, thousands of people regularly use these ancient oils in their own homes!

Even with all the excitement surrounding these therapeutic oils, I must voice some concerns.

When a natural product escalates in popularity, the excitement can lead to extravagant health claims. I’ve seen this happen with many MLM (multi-level marketing) companies. They produce great health shakes, skin care products and diet products with hundreds, if not thousands, of success stories! Unfortunately, in the quest to sell more product, people make statements that just aren’t true!

This dynamic can make sifting through the propaganda to find the truth about essential oils a daunting task!

Although my degree in naturopathy required a course in aromatherapy, I am not an aromatherapist and by no means an expert. However, I have been around essential oils and aromatherapy for nearly 15 years. I used the popular Young Living brand oils and experienced their Raindrop Technique® long before they became the monumental company they are today.

I use essential oils, but I also believe in using a holistic approach towards health. I eat a healthy diet and use a combination of not just essential oils, but also vitamins, supplements and herbs. I also don’t promote any one brand or company as the “holy grail” of essential oils. I believe there are several essential oil companies that produce quality oils that can bring about health and healing in the human body.

My goal in this article is to help you feel more comfortable with essential oils. I hope I can open your eyes to their safe and effective uses. Essential oils aren’t just some sort of gimmick, but a legitimate method to bring about whole body health!

If you use essential oils but would like additional information, or if you’re apprehensive about their uses and effectiveness, then I encourage you to read on. May you gain clarity amidst the massive amounts of misinformation about essential oils.

What are Essential Oils?

4 methods of essential oil extractionEssential oils originate from highly fragrant substances found in specialized cells or glands of certain plants.[1] When this aromatic substance is contained in the plant, it is called an essence. These fragrant substances are then extracted from the part of the plant that contains the aromatic essence. For example orange oil comes from the rind, rose oil from the flower, peppermint oil from the leaves, and cinnamon oil from the bark.

Once extracted, this fragrant oil is called an essential oil! The plants used for essential oils are harvested all over the world. Certain geographical regions provide the best soil conditions, climate and altitude for the plants to grow. It takes hundreds or even thousands of pounds of plant material to make a pound of essential oil! For example, it takes 150 pounds of lavender to produce just 1 lb of lavender oil![2] Thus, essential oils are extremely potent!

The methods used to extract the essential oils can separate quality from cheaper, less pure oils. There are four common methods of essential oil extraction:

  1. Steam distillation
  2. CO2 extraction
  3. Cold pressing
  4. Solvent extraction

Steam distillation is the most common form of distraction, and creates very pure oil. In this method, pressurized steam is circulated through the plant. The heat from the steam opens the specialized aromatic cells or glands and releases the essential oils. The oil then travels with the steam molecules through a tube into the still’s condensation chamber. As this mixture cools, it condenses into oil and water. Here, the essential oil naturally separates from the water.[3]

CO2 extraction is similar to steam distillation, but instead of water, liquid CO2 is used. After the oil from the plant is extracted, the CO2 returns into gas. This method is sometimes preferred because of its pleasant aroma.

Cold pressing is using a non-heating pressing method to squeeze out the juice and essential oils from the plant. This is typically used with rinds of fruit like orange, lemon and lime. When pressed, the essential oil rises to the top and separates from the juice in a centrifuge.

Solvent extraction dissolves the essential oils from the plant. The result is a solid product that must then be filtered and purified. Solvent extraction produces a stronger scent called an absolute. But, the toxic chemical solvents used can leave residues in the final product. These residues can lead to skin irritations and compromise the healing capacity of the oil.[4] The perfume industry loves this method because of the strong fragrance it produces. However, aromatherapists do not recommend the use of absolutes because they have little medicinal value.

Quality of Essential Oils

Many essential oil companies will use terms such as “therapeutic grade, aromatherapy grade, or certified” to promote their oils as superior. However, these are nothing more than marketing terms coined to promote their oils as superior to the rest.

Currently, there is no organization that certifies the quality of essential oils. Click to Tweet.

essential oil company qualitiesOils tested by a third party do not grade the oil as being therapeutic or not. The benefits of third-party lab testing reveal contaminants and variations in the chemical composition of the oil. A quality company will have their oils third-party tested on a regular basis. This assures that their customers are truly getting what they are paying for!

Don’t let marketing claims made by essential oil companies sway you. Two companies, doTERRA and Young Living, market their oils “certified” and “therapeutic grade.” Though I don’t feel comfortable with their marketing choices, I do believe these companies produce quality essential oils. I am a huge fan of some of their blends.

  • I wear Young Living’s Stress Away daily.
  • I also use Valor, Grounding, and Thieves.
  • doTERRA’s Deep Blue and In Tune are two of my favorites as well.

Unless you are benefiting from the MLM structure of these companies, you can purchase quality oils from other companies at lower prices. Again, I hold no allegiance to one company. I wish those who make their incomes through multi-level marketing companies the best. However, for those like myself, who are only using essential oils for personal use, finding quality essential oils at the best price is important!

When looking for a quality essential oil company, it is important to look for these attributes:

  1. Undiluted, unadulterated pure essential oils
  2. The common and botanical name
  3. The extraction method
  4. The country of origin
  5. Safety warnings
  6. Recommended uses
  7. List of other oils it blends well with
  8. Lab testing for quality

Though everyone has their opinions on the best oils on the market, below are the essential oil companies I trust and believe to produce lab tested, quality essential oils.

  • Aromatic International
  • Essential Oil Exchange
  • Heritage Essential Oils
  • Nature’s Gift
  • Mountain Rose Herbs
  • New Directions Aromatics
  • doTERRA
  • Young Living

As you can see, there are far more than two essential oil companies on the market. When purchasing single essential oils, the prices will vary between companies. I encourage you to try oils from different companies. Many of them offer small sample sizes for a very low price point for you to try. You will soon find aromas you prefer and seem to work best for you and your family!

What information have you never thought about before about essential oils?

 

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Amanda Box, N.D.
Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.

 

 

Sources:
[1] https://faculty.unlv.edu/landau/herbsandspices.htm
[2] https://www.auracacia.com/auracacia/aclearn/features/lavender3.html
[3] aromahead.com
[4] http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/aromatherapy-and-essential-oils-pdq-complementary-and-alternative-medicine—health-professional-information-nci-general-information

Are Essential Oils Safe for Internal Use?

 

When it comes to essential oils, the phrase, “Too much of a good thing” even applies to them, as wonderful as they are.

There are hundreds of articles that speak of the amazing benefits of these natural medicines called essential oils.

  • Rub peppermint oil on your temples for a headache.
  • Sniff lavender oil to induce sleep
  • Drink grapefruit oil in water to curb appetite.

Are Essential Oils Safe for Internal UseThe recommendations are truly endless.

Most people are ready and willing to follow these recommendations because essential oils are good and natural. And if they are all-natural, then they can’t hurt you, right?

Wrong! Unfortunately, few people are addressing the safety concerns and proper uses of these powerful remedies.

I’m not against using essential oils. I love my oils and I use them often! I promote their use to others and I am excited to see them skyrocket to popularity.

What disturbs me is that among the growing essential oil subculture, there is an enormous amount of misinformation about how to use essential oils.

Many who use essential oils have little information on how to employ them safely. The extent of their essential oil knowledge is often limited to what they have learned from a friend who uses them or what they read in a blog post written by an essential oil consultant.

In my experience, many who promote unconventional applications of essential oils have minimal aromatherapy training and represent multi-level marketing companies who themselves are promoting these controversial methods..

An individual selling essential oils in a multi-level marketing scheme does not possess the same knowledge or background on the safety of essential oils that a licensed aromatherapist does.

I place no blame on the consultants who sell the oils and have created an income for their families by making a business for themselves. These well-intentioned consultants trust and believe in the companies they work for. Furthermore, they have no doubt experienced positive health improvements from using essential oils.

Unfortunately, a multi-level marketing company’s quest to sell more oil often motivates them to blur the truth and exaggerate benefits. I believe that these companies produce quality oils, some of which I personally use. But, I cannot agree with all of their suggested uses.

Hazardous Uses of Essential Oils

There are two hazardous applications of essential oils that are currently promoted as safe. These two unorthodox methods have never, in the history of aromatherapy, been promoted by certified aromatherapists.

The two questionable methods of using essential oils are:

  1. Neat (undiluted) application
  2. Daily internal use (specifically of undiluted oil)

The Dangers of Neat Application

Neat application is the use of essential oils that are not diluted. This method of application is rarely, if ever used in aromatherapy. If neat application is performed, it should be:

  • Supervised by a qualified professional.
  • Used for a very short period.
  • Administered for an acute and very traumatic situation.

Most of the time neat oils can be applied without any apparent issues. However, stronger is not always better when it comes to essential oils. Undiluted oils are extremely potent and concentrated. “Hot” oils like cinnamon and oregano are so potent, that they can cause second degree burns if applied undiluted![1]

The recommended dilutions are as follows[2]:

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Top 10 Essential Oils

 

The use of essential oils is based in a practice called aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses volatile (quick to evaporate) aromatic plant oils to bring about spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Essential oils provide healing in many ways including:

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Penetrating cell walls to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • Neutralizing free radicals with antioxidant properties
  • Killing bacteria, viruses and fungi[1]
  • Detoxifying cells in the body
  • Passing the blood-brain barrier to treat neurological issues
  • Increasing ozone and negative ions in the air
  • Raising the frequency of the human body. This fights disease and brings balance the physical, emotional, and spiritual health.[2]
  • Acting on the central nervous system. Oils can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress and also bring focus and alertness.
  • Bringing relief to pain and inflammation

Essential oils are not the same as fragrance or perfume. They are naturally potent medicines with constituents based in chemistry. Made of hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds, essential oils have the potential to be as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs. This is why safely using these powerful and effective oils is so important!

There are three primary and safe methods of essential oil use:

  • Inhalation
  • Topical
  • Internal

Inhalation of Essential Oils

The inhalation of oils is most effective on the central nervous system. When inhaling essential oils, the volatile molecules become a vapor. This vapor travels to the top of the nasal cavity and meet the olfactory mucous membrane. The olfactory membrane has thousands of sensory receptors to:

  • Identify the smell.
  • Convert the smell to an electrical charge.
  • Send the frequency to the olfactory bulb.

Inhaling Essential Oils CanThe olfactory bulb then sends those charged impulses to different parts of the brain, including the limbic system.

The limbic system includes parts of the brain that control emotional and psychological responses. Once the charge reaches the limbic region, it stimulates the hypothalamus and continues to the autonomic nervous system or pituitary gland. Once the charge reaches the autonomic nervous system, it can affect body functions such as heart rate and digestion. Its effects on the pituitary gland can initiate hormonal activity in the body.

Through the process of inhalation, essential oils have the capacity to:

  • Heal emotional trauma
  • Stimulate memory
  • Enhance focus and learning
  • Decrease stress levels
  • Balance hormones
  • And much more!

The entire process from inhalation to response from the brain takes place in a matter of seconds![3] The oils also reach the bloodstream during inhalation via the nasal mucosa and the alveoli in the lungs. Certain oils, eucalyptus for example, can also have a direct effect on the lungs.

When inhaled, eucalyptus acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and expectorant. Click to Tweet.

Inhalation can be performed using an essential oil diffuser or an inhaler. Another way that essential oils enter the body is inhalation through the nose or mouth. Diffusers are also an excellent way:

  • To neutralize odors
  • Kill airborne bacteria and viruses
  • Increase ozone in the air

I recommend using ultrasonic diffusers. They are the most effective at creating a fine mist of aromatic molecules. This inexpensive diffuser from NOW is a great introductory diffuser for a great price!

Applying diluted essential oil to the skin through a body oil or lotion is also a great way to incorporate the benefits of both inhalation and topical application.

Topical Use of Essential Oils

Topical application quickly gets the oils into the bloodstream by bypassing the digestive system. When applied to the skin, essential oil molecules pass through dermis of the skin, into the capillaries and then into the bloodstream.

Essential oils can be quickly absorbed through the feet. The feet contain bundles of nerve endings. These nerve endings act as neuroelectrical pathways to different organs throughout the body. Applying oils to the corresponding points on the feet allows healing to reach the particular affected organ.

For example, if you are nauseous, then apply peppermint to the stomach and intestinal locations on the feet.

To induce sleep and relax your mind, apply lavender to the brain’s location on the big toe. Click to Tweet.

Applying certain essential oils, such as peppermint, close to the chest or face of a small child is strongly discouraged due to risk of bronchospasm. Applying essential oils (always diluted) to their feet instead is a great, safer way for small children to get the topical benefits of essential oils.

Foot reflexology chart description

Using a reflexology or vita flex chart gives you a visual mapping of where to apply the oils on the feet to treat a particular organ. Other great application points are:

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How to Add Essential Oils to Your Workout

When it comes to exercise, there’s a lot more at play than simply lacing up our running shoes and going out for a jog.  There are a number of factors we need to consider to ensure that we actually follow through with our exercise plan and that our experience is positive.

We may not always consciously think about these factors, but often have them pre-built into our routines. Regardless of the particular form of exercise that we choose, we are probably concerned about:

  • how to add essential oils to your workoutDeveloping healthy routines
  • Making our workout as pleasant as possible
  • Improving stamina
  • Staying hydrated
  • Preventing strains and sprains
  • Maintaining energy and endurance
  • Preventing/minimizing muscle fatigue
  • Overcoming post-workout soreness
  • Avoiding risk of injury

What we may not have considered before now is that aromatherapy can help address any and all of the above challenges. Because many oils have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties they are a great addition to your exercise routine and help you stay in great form. For instance, merely introducing a pleasant-smelling essential oil into your workout routine can evoke a desire to engage in that routine more consistently. Let’s consider some other ways that aromatherapy can complement your of plan and become a part of preventative medicine for any sport enthusiast young or old, blue ribbon winner or beginner.

How does Aromatherapy Play into Fitness?

Aromatherapy, as a complementary alternative medicine, neither takes the place of exercise itself nor serves as a substitute for heeding other important factors associated with exercise like eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and not overdoing it when we exercise. Any one of those factors can significantly impact how we feel during and after a workout. Aromatherapy won’t replace any of these essentials, but it can augment them beautifully.

Consider the following applications:

Peppermint oil

In 2013, a small study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Twelve healthy male students drank one 500 ml bottle of mineral water mixed with 0.05 ml peppermint essential oil for ten days. Various readings were taken before and after the 10-day period.

Researchers found that peppermint oil proved effective on exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate of all twelve students.[1] In other studies, peppermint essential oil used as aromatherapy has been shown to raise the pain threshold, lower perceived physical workload, effort and anxiety.

Eucalyptus, wintergreen and cypress oils

Following a hard workout, mix these essential oils with a neutral carrier oil like coconut or grape seed oil and work the mixture into your sore muscles for relief.[2]

frankincense and ginger essential oils reduce inflammationFrankincense and ginger oils

Together, these two essential oils help reduce inflammation and support joints. Mix with a carrier oil and rub onto sore joints or to knead out the inflammation from a cramp.[3]

Lavender oil

After a hard workout, you want to allow your body the rest and relaxation it needs to recover and replenish itself. Lavender oil applied aromatically, in bathwater, or topically as a lotion can help you achieve the relaxation you need.[4]

Oregano or melaleuca oil

A downside of working out in a public gym is the likelihood of picking up a fungus in the locker room like athlete’s foot. Oregano or melaleuca oil with their powerful antifungal properties can help prevent and remedy such an outbreak.[5]

Eucalyptus oil

In preparation for a workout, mix eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil and apply it to your neck, throat and temples. This will improve circulation and help open up your airways.[6] If you suffer from asthma or allergies, eucalyptus oil can provide relief following a workout as well.

Lemon oil

This essential oil may be the most powerful anti-microbial oil of them all. This oil assists in the breakdown of fat, stimulates lymph drainage, quenches the thirst, and protects the immune system.[7]

How to Add Essential Oils to Your Workout

Typically, essential oils are inhaled, applied topically to the skin, or ingested, although this is not as common in the US and should only be done under the supervision of a professional.

Inhale essential oils using a diffuser, by placing oil directly on a cotton ball or tissue, via steam, or through a mist sprayed into the air.[8]

When applying essential oils topically, most oils must be diluted with a carrier oil or water, usually at a concentration ratio of no more than 3-5%. And for a whole body application (bath or massage), dilute the oil to a 1% solution.[9]

Can you exercise without essential oils? Certainly! But I’ve given you seven good reasons to complement your exercise routine with essential oils. These oils can provide relief from debilitating pain, boost your performance, increase circulation, and can make your workout more pleasurable.

Most of us wouldn’t go out for a run without the proper equipment. Perhaps the essential oils hold a place in the category of “proper equipment!” Why not test them out and see for yourself.

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.

 

Sources:
[1] Abbas Meamarbashi and Ali Rajabi, “The Effects of Peppermint on Exercise Performance,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 21 March 2013, http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/15.
[2] Dr. Axe, “101 Essential Oil Uses and Benefits,” nd, http://draxe.com/essential-oil-uses-benefits/.
[3] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide,” nd, http://draxe.com/essential-oils-guide/.
[4] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide.”
[5] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide.”
[6] WikiHow, “How to Use Aromatherapy During a Workout,” nd, http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Aromatherapy-During-a-Workout.
[7] Dr. Axe, “Top 10 Lemon Essential Oil Uses and Benefits,” nd, http://draxe.com/lemon-essential-oil-uses-benefits/.
[8] University of Minnesota, “How Do I Choose and Use Essential Oils?” nd, http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/how-do-i-choose-and-use-essential-oils.
[9] University of Minnesota.

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