Using Essential Oils Safely
Essential oils are amazing! I’ve been enjoying the Essential Oils Revolution online seminar this week, learning so much and I am so excited to share that knowledge with you. ‘ Cause you’re my peeps and I love ya like that. 😉
One thing I’ve learned is that essential oils are a super powerful, highly concentrated source of serious plant power. Which is awesome. But it also means you should know what you’re doing before you just lather yourself up and down in these powerful chemicals.
You may not have really thought of essential oils as “chemicals”, but that is exactly what they are, albeit, natural chemicals.
Realize that essential oils aren’t regulated by the FDA. They aren’t patent-able (is that a word?), so pharmaceutical companies don’t really give them much attention either. Since they can’t slap a patent on these naturally occurring chemicals, they can’t make $$$ off of them. What they have to do instead is find a naturally occurring compound that has said affect on the body, and then they then seek to isolate that chemical compound (that’s the first problem: most plant chemicals work synergistically with each other in their naturally occurring form). From the isolated compound, they seek to make a synthetic derivative that they can then patent. So they can make money. Off of you. Problem is, your body doesn’t know how to cope with this synthetic derivative and that’s why these fake chemicals have such a laundry list of side effects associated with them.
Let’s take a trip
Take a little side trip with me and I’ll give you an example: I’m sure you’ve heard of trans-fats, those nasty fake fats that are created by hydrogenating seed oils. The food industry thought these fats were the bomb-diggity when they first came out on the market. By hydrogenating cheap, poly-unsaturated seed oils, like cottonseed and corn oils, they could create shelf stable frankenfoods that could last for months on the grocery store shelves, as opposed to maybe a week or two (or less?) that regular oils could last before going rancid. Unfortunately, science proved that these fake fats are seriously bad for your health, getting the blame for everything from heart disease to cancer.
The clue word here is trans. The suffix trans actually refers to the chemical configuration of the molecule, and essentially means that it’s a mirror image of the real thing. Why is that a big deal? Let me give you an example (yes, another one). Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents took you to McDonald’s for those fun little Happy Meals with the exciting little toy inside? It came in a fun little box with little games and what not on the outside. Sometimes one of those games was a puzzle of sorts where there was a message written as a mirror image. You had to hold it up to a mirror before you could figure out what the message was. Do you remember trying to read that mirror image just like you are reading this post right now? Without holding it up to a mirror it was difficult, and maybe you couldn’t even figure it out. Your eyes had been trained to read from left to right, with the letters in a certain orientation and so your brain had a difficult if not impossible task of deciphering the writing. Trans fats are kinda like that. Your body isn’t used to “reading” the chemical code in trans-fats and so it can’t process the message properly. Sometimes it even messes up the message and you have problems.
Ok, so that’s not exactly an example of a medication, but you can apply the same logic to many pharmaceuticals on the market today. The pharmaceutical industry creates a chemical that is almost like the real thing, but not quite. And your body doesn’t know what they are. They can’t process them properly. You have problems. You have side effects. It’s not pretty. (That’s why the announcer quickly rattles off a whole list of side effect at the end of every pharmaceutical commercial picturing miserable people magically transforming into happy, smiling individuals walking through meadows and playing with puppies and such. The puppies and meadows are there to distract you from the fact that taking those medications may very well make you sicker than you were to begin with.) One such example is the acetyl salicylic acid in aspirin- it’s a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid found in Willow tree bark. By the way, acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. Just sayin’.
Fortunately, our bodies have coexisted peacefully for thousands of years with the naturally occurring compounds in essential oils, kind of like Wookies and Humans in the Star Wars movies. Not to mention the fact that they were actually created to use plant products for nourishment, sustenance and healing. But I digress.
Will The Real Healing Chemicals Please Stand Up?
So, while essential oils are much easier on the body than their synthetic pharmaceutical counterparts, remember they are still really powerful chemicals that need to be used wisely. You can have problems if you don’t. I think the best way to use essential oils is to think of them as plant based medicine. Granted, they are much safer than your average pharmaceutical. That doesn’t mean you should use E.O.’s with reckless abandon. Let’s chat about the safest way to use your oils so you can maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.
First, Remember This
1. Essential Oils are Highly Concentrated
E.O. can be anywhere from 10 to 70 times the concentration of the dried herb. That is some serious plan power in your corner! But that also means you need to know how to use your oils wisely and know what you are doing.
2. There are hundreds of different chemical constituents in essential oils.
And each one has it’s own unique affect on the body. For example, Thujone, a member of the ketone family found in oregano, arborvitae and tansy as well as others, can be inhaled to relieve respiratory distress, however also acts as a neurotoxin when taken internally.
Whether using essential oils topically, internally or aromatically, let’s go over a few things to keep in mind.
When applying oils topically the following precautions should be taken.
1. Always dilute when using with children. Their little bodies just don’t need the same amount of E.O. to be effective. Too much isn’t going to do them any good. So err on the side of caution.
2. Some oils are considered “hot oils.” You always want to dilute these babies- or you may regret it. While they won’t do any permanent damage, they can be pretty uncomfortable. Test a small spot on your skin before applying to a larger area. These oils include cinnamon, cassia, clove, oregano and thyme.
3. Some oils, while not considered a hot oil, can still cause sensitivity for some individuals. A good example is peppermint. It can cause redness and discomfort at the point of application. Again, test a small spot before applying to a larger area. Some individuals may need to dilute them if your skin is sensitive. I’ve heard the case for always diluting, and while I don’t necessarily agree that you should always dilute, when in doubt, just dilute it.
4. Be aware that some oils, such as the citrus oils, are photosensitive. They can cause a sunburn if you apply them before going outdoors.
Using E.O.’s internally is something of a hot debate for many and I really don’t feel qualified to weigh in on the topic other than to say that if you do decide to use them internally, do your research beforehand. Know what oils are considered safe for ingestion and don’t forget that these are really potent, highly concentrated chemicals, meaning a little goes a long way. One issue with internal use is the quality of your essential oils. Be aware that the vast majority of the essential oils on the market today are not therapeutic grade. I recommend doing your research when it comes to the brand of oils you are using, whether it be topically, aromatically or internally. There are really only a few good companies on the market today that I would personally spend my hard earned money on. I use doTerra essential oils because they are committed to the highest standard of quality on the market.
Let me just say that I do use essential oils internally. However, that doesn’t mean I’m downing them left and right for every little thing. When using E.O. internally, I would generally recommend using them for only a short period of time and only one to two drops at a time. For example, you might add a drop of peppermint to a spoon of honey for a tummy ache. I don’t use E.O’s internally with my children and don’t recommend doing so. You can use them effectively by sticking to aromatic or topical applications for kiddos.
Using essential oils aromatically involves smelling the oils, diffusing the oils into the air, and to a degree, using in a bath or foot soak (although those methods are also topical since the oils come in contact with the skin) . This is generally the safest way to use essential oils. Just inhaling an E.O. can have a powerful effect on your psyche, including emotions, memory and even hormones!
I love diffusing oils in my home, not only for the pleasant scent, but for the positive affect on my emotions. My favorite blend right now is lavender and wild orange. It smells heavenly!
If you walk away with anything from reading this article, I hope it will be to do your research, make sure you know your oil and how you should use it and err on the side of caution. Respect your essential oils and they will respect you! My goal isn’t to overwhelm or intimidate, but to Empower you to take responsibility for your health and supercharge your healing protocol! Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite way to use E.O.’s!
Modern Essentials, Sixth Edition, Aroma Tools