Although aromatherapy and essential oils are now quickly gaining traction as a kind of "natural remedy", many people are still unsure what is "aromatherapy" exactly.
No, it's not some hippy practice of burning "aroma candles", or using "fragrance oils" to make the house smell good.
Aromatherapy is the use of 100 percent pure essential oils to help alleviate, control, and manage certain symptoms manifested by health or mental issues, and to generally boost immunity and support the health and wellbeing of our body, mind and spirit.
The key here is the use of 100% pure essential oils if we want to benefit from their therapeutic properties. Essential oils are totally different from “fragrance oils” or synthetic perfume. Essential oils are natural substances (with different chemical components) extracted from plants. The chemical components in the oils are what make them medicinal and so amazingly therapeutic.
On the other hand, perfume and fragrance oils are nothing more than synthetic substances with no therapeutic benefits. In fact, sometimes some such synthetic oils may even cause allergies and other health concerns, especially if we are exposed to them on a regular basis.
Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted from different parts of plants.
To give you an idea as to how concentrated essential oils are, take a look at these figures:
Because essential oils are so highly concentrated, they are extremely potent and precious. Even used in diluted form, we can benefit from their immense therapeutic properties.
Some essential oil companies, especially those MLM (multi-level marketing) companies, have led people to think that only their oils are of "therapeutic grade". One company has even registered "therapeutic grade" as a trademark!
Actually, essential oil quality is not regulated by any international or country organization and there is no such standard as "therapeutic grade". It is just a fancy term dreamed up by some companies so they can market their oils more expensively.
All essential oils, if 100% pure, are by nature therapeutic. Of course, among pure essential oils, quality can differ (depending on many factors such as country of origin, growing method, distillation method, etc.). However, the bottom line is, right now there are no "grading tests" for essential oils and no regulations stipulating that only oils that have reached a certain level of quality can be labeled as "therapeutic grade".
Not all plants have essential oils. For those plants that do, depending on the plant, essential oils can be extracted from:
Essential oils are extracted from plants in several ways. The most common methods are steam distillation and cold pressing. Other methods include hydro-distillation, solvent extraction, and CO2 extraction.
You may wonder why only some plants produce essential oils… To get an exact answer, we need to ask Mother Nature herself!
However, what we do know is that essential oils play some quite amazing roles in those plants that produce them. For example, they:
Given the fact that essential oils play such important roles in plants, imagine what they can do to help our bodies! Indeed, research shows that certain essential oils can support our immune systems, reduce aches and pains, soothe skin irritations and inflammations, heal wounds, and kill off microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
In addition, essential oils also have a great impact on our mental wellbeing. Some oils can calm and sedate our minds, reduce anxiety, and boost confidence, while others can stimulate and help focus our minds, enhance our moods, and bring a smile to our faces!
Amazing, isn’t it?
I often get asked questions to the following effect: "I have (name of an illness), what's the best essential oil for that?"
Please understand that powerful and potent as they are, esential oils are not some magical "cure-all" oils as some EO companies and websites want you to think. Some websites actually claim that for every single ailment out there, there is an essential oil for it. That is of course not true at all, and it is irresponsible for people to say something like that just so they can sell more oils!
The practice of aromatherapy and use of EOs should be considered as a complementary modality, and no more than that. We should not "play doctor" - DON'T self diagnose, and DON'T replace medications and doctors by essential oils and aromatherapy.
Due to the very fact that essential oils are potent and strong, they should not be overused. If you use EOs every day and in improper ways (e.g. undiluted on the skin, ingesting EOs without consulting with a medical practitioner with aromatherapy training, etc.), you run a very high risk of developing adverse reaction and sensitization to the oils, and over time may even develop liver problems due to toxicity.
Before jumping on the aromatherapy bandwagon, learn more about some common EOs and how to use them safely. In other words, be EO savvy!