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    Dummies Guide to Essential Oils

    Posted by: Gillian Day BHSc. Comp Med, Adv Dip Nat, AFMCP Grad

    Dummies Guide to Essential Oils

    Essential oils are becoming widely known as an option for home healthcare, however there is still a certain mystery about them as so few people know exactly what they are – how to use them safely – what to do with them and why? This article will attempt to answer these questions so you can make more informed choices for yourself and your loved ones. What is an essential oil? Different to what the name actually suggests – an essential oil is not really an oil. It isn’t greasy like an oil and it won’t leave oil stains. It’s fundamentally the non-water soluble elements of plants and herbs. When distilled (usually by the use of steam) they become a highly concentrated form which is entirely different to a water based herbal decoction which extracts out only the water soluble parts of the plant. Both are beneficial for their own reasons, however they are very different. It takes a LOT of plant matter to make a small amount of oil; think a minimum of 50kgs of plant for ½ kg of essential oil. This obviously makes the essential oils very, VERY concentrated. Additionally, the molecular structure of essential oils, allow them to be passed through certain normal barriers of the body, allowing them to reach the places in the body to carry out their work. How do we use them? Essential oils can be used in several different ways;

    1. Inhalation We can benefit from inhalation of essential oils whenever they’re used for scenting products like bath salts, candles or lip balms and are very popular in essential oil diffusers.
    2. Diluted in a carrier oil You will recall that essential oils are not water-soluble, so we don’t dilute them in water. We dilute them in what’s known as a carrier oil as they ‘carry’ essential oils to their intended locations.  Most commonly used with massage oils and blends.
    3. Applied directly onto the skin – known as ‘neat’ application Some oils are ‘hot’ by nature and should never be applied ‘neat’ and should always be diluted. These include (but are not limited to) peppermint, oregano, cinnamon, basil, clove and cedarwood. Some oils are photosensitive in that they can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun (or other UV light) anywhere between a few hours and a full day after application. Citrus oils are photosensitive and include bergamot, lemon and mandarin.
    4. Ingestion of essential oils The safety of ingesting essential oils is a hot topic, therefore our recommendation will always be to consult with your healthcare practitioner before directly ingesting any essential oil.

    Safety Precautions There is some debate over the safe use of essential oils for a particular demographic i.e. use by pregnant and/or breastfeeding women and the application of oils with infants. Likewise, our recommendation is to consult with your healthcare practitioner. How to choose quality essential oils When looking for a brand of essential oils, it’s necessary to ensure that the oils have not been subjected to too much heat, or washed with chemicals or cut or adulterated with any other substances and of course – nothing further added. To read more about choosing and using essential oils; click here

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