If you are into wellness like we are, you have probably seen TONS of articles and ads about the benefits of things like Lavender Oil, Frankincense, or Sweet Orange essential oil.
But have you wondered, what is an essential oil, exactly? How should I use it? How can I tell if it is pure?
These are some basic questions that very often get overlooked and something I want to talk about today, with Essential Oils 101.
The foundations of our products and many of our services, rely on high quality essential oils for their benefits and natural aromatherapy. If you want to find out more about the extraction process of essential oils, check out our blog post : Essential Oil Extraction Methods
THE BASICS :
- Essential Oils are extracted from live, raw plants
- Essential Oils have NO FILLERS. It is the pure oil from a single plant species
- If you have filler oils or several oils blended, it is called a “blend”
- They smell great, but those smells are actually beneficial
- Temperatures of extraction determine the amount of oil produced
- Temperatures of extraction also determine the quality. This is in direct inverse relation to the amount of oil produced
- Essential Oils can be produced from many plants, flowers and fruit
- The Smell of Essential Oils are from their Terpenes
READ THE LABEL – You Get what you Pay for (usually)
When you go to the store, you will often see oils that say “essential” somewhere – and maybe its like $5-10 for around 15ml. Sounds like a good deal, right? But when you open that bottle any number of toxicants can be found in there; from chemical solvents, cheap filler oils, or chemical scent fillers. If you see “fragrance” on the label – run! Its a fake! On the other side of the coin, there are a number of outrageously marked up essential oils whose price has more to do with the brand on the bottle, than the oil inside. This begs the question, how can you tell if an oil is high quality and pure? There are some very simple tests.
TEST FOR PURITY – One of my favorite ways to determine if an oil is pure is called the paper test. When you have a pure essential oil, it leaves no residue on a piece of paper due to its high volatility. Just take one drop, wait for a minute and check the paper. If it feels dry on the spot where you dropped the oil – it is pure. If it leaves an oily residue, you know there are fillers in it. Next time you are in Sephora, grab a few of their perfume sampler paper strips. They are PERFECT for this.
EXTRACTION METHOD – This can get tricky and isn’t really a basic concept, but I really think it’s important so I wanted to include it. If you want to know more about this, check out my blog about Essential Oil Extraction Methods. Just like any food you prepare, the way you prepare it will change how you absorb it, how it tastes, and the vitamins that are present in it. Just look at green beans: raw vs overcooked makes a world of difference. The same goes for essential oils. The general rule of thumb is a low (or no) distillation temperature. We use molecular distillation for our oils, which means the oil is fully intact with no degradation from heat or chemicals. This makes every oil we use more bioavailable and potent.
STORE IT PROPERLY – Like I mentioned before, essential oils are volatile. That means they change depending on how they are stored. If they are protected from light, kept cool, and stored in glass they will keep for a long time. If they are exposed, in a clear bottle out on the windowsill in direct sunlight they will denature (this essentially means they will go bad) and will even evaporate. We keep our essential oils in opaque white glass bottles and store them in packaging, in a temperature regulated space. They will last forever. Essential oils 4 life, yesssss.
TERPENES – I love terpenes. They are chemical compounds found in organic matter that we interact with as smell. The COOLEST thing about them is that not only do we have receptors for terpenes as scent in our nose, but we have them ALL OVER. The thing that gives Lavender that gorgeous scent? It’s a terpene called Linalool and you can find receptors for it ON YOUR LIVER. Thats right, on your liver. That means that lavender smells awesome AND helps your liver. Cue the “mind blown” emoji. The benefits of exposing your body to organic terpenes runs the gamut, and when you combine them together you can really create some powerful effects for your body and mind. Read more about Terpenes in this blog post.
USES – Anyone who has used a mentholated rub to help clear their sinuses and lungs has used a form of aromatherapy. As the authors of a 2013 study note, inhaling menthol in this way can reduce feelings of congestion and shortness of breath.
The active compounds in essential oils are condensed elements of the plant, and can deliver a concentrated amount of these terpenes to your body. You can inhale, apply on to your skin, drink or eat essential oils.
To be on the safe side, a person should be cautious when applying essential oils directly to the skin without diluting them, unless under the direct guidance of a healthcare professional. Many essential oils can be too concentrated and can create lesions or rashes. There are often essential oils that encourage the production of certain hormones, and some that even mimic hormones – Lavender I’m looking at you. This is especially dangerous when dealing with infants and toddlers. For that reason I recommend using hydrosols for babies. That is the distillate water from essential oil extraction. It is much more gentle and is already a reduced form of these terpenes.
You should also be very cautious of swallowing essential oils. Not only are essential oils extremely concentrated, but they can also irritate the sensitive cells inside the body. There are MANY people who swear by internal applications of essential oils. Please make sure you know all the information before taking these oils internally, without any carrier oils. You should only do this under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
The world of essential oils is magical, and fun. You can use plant extracts and oils for a myriad of benefits in your everyday life, but you need to know what is an essential oil, and what you are putting on your body and in your home. This is just a brief foundation for a few of the things you should look for as you begin your journey into the world of aromatics. We hope it helps!