Essential Oils: Where would aromatherapy be without them?
What is an essential oil and where do they come from?
Essential oils are the heart and soul of aromatherapy. They are concentrated oils removed from various parts of plants; the oil contains odors and properties of the plant it is derived from. The essential oils then are used in so many different ways to bring us aromatherapy.
The most common way of extracting the essential oils from the plant is steam distillation. To do this steam is passed over the plant in a still. The steam the turns into a condensation that is oil and water; the oil will float to the top of the water and can be separated. You now have an essential oil. However, to remove the oil from citrus plants you will have to actually crush them to release the essential oils. To get the best oils there are a lot of factors. When and where the plant is harvested is important, as well as weather conditions and the condition of the soil. All these factors will have an effect of the aroma of the essential oils as well at the price.
There are a few ways the essential oils can enter your body. One of the most common ways is through a massage. During the massage the essential oils are blended with a carrier oil and rubbed onto your body, the essential oils will absorb into the dermal layer of skin and then into your circulatory system, blood vessels, muscle tissues and joints. The essential oils can also enter your body through inhalation. They are volatile, which means they will turn to vapors quickly at room temperature, and you inhale them. There are many kinds of diffusers that will help you disperse the vapors through the room. Once in your body they will travel around for hours and continue to have their effect on you. Eventually the essential oils will leave your body through the kidneys, bladder or skin. Some will even leave your body through your breath. Who has not had garlic breath after eating Italian food?
Safety is a very big factor when using essential oils. They are very concentrated and if not used properly they can irritate the skin. Essential oils should be used in small amounts and almost always should be diluted. Keep in mind a safe dilution is about 2.5% of the total solution, or divide the amount of the carrier solution in milliliters in half and that will be the amount of drops of essential oils needed. For pregnant women and children the amount of essential oils should be cut in half, if used at all. Also be careful if there is a history of high blood pressure or epilepsy, check with a doctor first. Read up on every oil before you use it, some have more precautions then others.
Now that you understand a little more of what an essential oil is and how to use it, you also want to know how to store it properly. You will want to store them in dark bottles that seal tightly. The normal shelf life is about two years; this can be extended if you store them in a cool dark place like the refrigerator. Always label and date your bottles. If you have made a blend of the essential oil and a carrier oil, the shelf life will become that of the carrier oil. The uses of essential oils are endless and are meant to be used to promote good health and relaxation. So go on relax.