We all have strong associations with scent and memory…fresh cut grass and summertime, the cologne of a first love, movies and popcorn…scents can evoke all manner of recollections. The powerful connections between a smell and emotions has made aromatherapy a multi-billion dollar industry.
Aromatic or fragrance oils are manufactured scents. They are created artificially and contain artificial substances. Often, they are specifically designed to mimic the scent of a natural product; spring rain or apple pie, for example. The range of scents is enormous and fragrance oils are quite inexpensive. These products are often used in making candles and soaps. While fragrance oils may smell like their essential oil counterparts, they do not offer the therapeutic benefits that true essential oils possess.
Essential oils are effective because they are highly concentrated: You only need a few drops to be effective in most applications. The only kind you should use—particularly any you intend to apply to your skin—should be pure, without additives or artificial ingredients. Essential oils come in a wide variety of single scents and blends and can be used in numerous ways. So what can you do with these pure plant potions?
Scents for your setting
One popular use for essential oils is to scent your environment and there are a few ways to achieve this. The simplest and most direct approach is to just add a drop or two of essential oil to a cotton ball, tissue, cloth or even your pillow. The scent can then be inhaled directly from the source of application, or indirectly by letting the aroma disperse.
An essential oil diffuser is another easy option for inhaling essential oils. A few drops of oil mixed with water are steamed into the air providing a scented source of humidity. There is a simple, less expensive, DIY way to do this. Simply fill a humidifier with water, and place a tissue or small cloth, sprinkled with a few drops of oil, in front of the escaping steam. (Do not put oil in your humidifier. It will float on top of the water instead of rising with the water vapor and may cause damage to your machine.)
Essential oils can be used topically for all kinds of aches and ailments. Because essential oils are highly concentrated, topical use is best done after a patch test on a small spot of skin to be sure you aren’t going to have any type of adverse reaction. Depending on your purpose in using the essential oil, you can use it all over your body during a massage, or in a small area to treat a particular condition or issue.
Bath time gives both
A few drops of essential oil in your bath water can provide a spa experience, plus you get the benefits of both inhalation and topical treatment.
Drink it in
Research indicates that some oils are more effective when taken orally. Only pure essential oils, proven safe and labeled as dietary supplements, should be used internally. Dilution and dosage is dependent on the age, size and health of the individual. Follow the recommended dosage on individual product labels to ensure safety, or seek the advice of a qualified health professional before administering oils internally.
Taking care with oils
- Essential oils are very fragile and must be stored correctly to preserve their shelf life. When stored in dark bottles and away from sunlight and heat, most oils can last several years.
- Once essential oils are exposed to light or heat for a period of time, they will begin to oxidize and degrade, and they will gradually continue to lose their beneficial properties.
- In addition to carefully storing your essential oils, you must also take special care in handling them. Some can be irritating to the skin, especially if applied undiluted.
- ALWAYS keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
- Certain oils may not be recommended for use during pregnancy. These include—but are not limited to—basil, cassia, cinnamon and clary sage. Use peppermint essential oil sparingly near the end of pregnancy and while breastfeeding, as mint has been shown to decrease milk production.
- Check with your healthcare provider before using essential oils.