Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Essential Oils 101: What Are Essential Oils?

In the Essential Oils 101 series I'll go back to the basics of essential oils and discuss what essential oils are, how to identify a good oil, safety and precautions, ways to use oils, etc. This is the same information that I teach in my Essential Oils 101 class, for those who are unable to attend. If you're interested in hosting an Essential Oils 101 class, let me know!

As you learn about essential oils and hear the opinions of different people, you'll start to find some contradicting information. There are various schools of thought regarding essential oils. I would encourage you to spend a little time learning about the differences, then decide what you feel like is right for you.

So what are essential oils?

From the book "Butterfly Miracles with Essential Oils" by LaRee Westover, we learn that essential oils "contain the nutritive values and healing properties of plants in a very concentrated form. They often heal the body, mind, and spirit, while regenerating damaged tissue and bring oxygen to deprived cells. The use of essential oils also seems to improve overall immune function."

Essential oils are made by extracting the healing properties of a plant, typically through a steam distillation process. I've read that it takes 16 pounds of the fresh peppermint leaf to produce one ounce of essential oil! And that one drop of pure essential oil is equivalent to drinking 30 cups of herbal tea. That's how concentrated they are!

There are 2 categories of essential oils: Singles and Blends.

Single oils are oils like peppermint, lavender, and lemon. They are not mixed with any other oil.

Blends are a combination of single oils. The mixture of the oils results in an blend "that is more effective than if those oils had been used separately." (from "Butterfly Miracles")  Examples of a blend are Deliverance, Breezey, and Aspire (as discussed in previous posts).

What do essential oils do?

This information can be found in "Butterfly Miracles with Essential Oils":

1. Restore the body to normal energy frequency ranges to promote healing and well-being.
2. To one degree or another, all oils are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic (some more than others).
3. Their small molecules are readily diffused into the air and absorbed into our bodies and purify the air.
4. When applied externally, they can act on internal organs. They quickly penetrate the tissues of the skin.
5. Activate capillary circulation to increase healing.
6. Improve the lymphatic system.
7. Cleansing effect on the body.
8. Powerful antioxidants.
9. Transports nutrients to cells.
10. Brings the body into a state of balance.
11. Some oils are able to cross the blood/brain barrier.

Know your oils!

There are 3 main categories of oils that are labeled "essential oils". You need to be aware of the differences between the 3 so that you choose the right kind of oil.

1. Fragrance oils: These are the oils that you'll find in stores like Bath and Body Works. Their only purpose is to smell good. They are synthetic oils and contain chemicals that you don't want on or in your body. We are learning more and more about how harmful these fragrance oils are to our bodies.

2. Flavoring oils: You will find these oils in a cooking store. They are used to flavor candies and desserts. While they are a food grade oil, they will not contain any of the healing properties desired in an essential oil. They are also made with chemicals and additives.

3. Pure oils: These oils have been properly extracted from a plant to retain their healing properties. Lately they have been called "therapeutic grade" as well. This is where you'll start to find some inconsistencies. Some oil companies claim to be the only "certified pure therapeutic grade" oil on the market. The reality is that there is no certification for essential oils. Any company can make that claim (or whoever gets the trademark first). The fact is that most essential oil companies buy their product from the same source. There are some oils labeled as "pure" but the company adds a filler oil, like coconut oil, to maximize their profits. You can tell the difference between a truly pure oil and an oil with a filler by how it feels. A truly pure essential oil does not feel oily. You can put a drop on a piece of paper or cloth and it will not leave a stain behind. An oil with a filler added to it will feel oily and will leave behind an oil stain. Not only do you not want to pay for an oil filled with other stuff, but the filler oil compromises the integrity of the essential oil and shortens its shelf life. Properly stored, a pure essential oil can have a limitless shelf life!

I like to energy test different oil companies to see where their oils are on my scale of 1-10. Oils from health food stores (like the NOW brand) test very low, around a 2. I stay away from those oils. I haven't experienced every oil on the market, but of the ones I've tried, I have my top 3 that I feel comfortable recommending:

1. Butterfly Express
2. doTerra
3. Young Living that order. I'll discuss my reasons why in the next post!