There’s a lot of buzz around Essential Oils these days. It seems everyone you talk to has an opinion around their effectiveness and use.
So WHAT are essential oils? Briefly — Essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds found in all kinds of plant materials. It’s what you smell when you inhale the fragrance of a rose or lavender blossom, or the woody musk of an Arborvitae tree. They are extracted from the plant material using a number of different methods, but the most popular these days are steam distillation and expression or cold pressed.
With steam distillation, heated steam passes through the plant material with gentle pressure which causes the essential oil to be released from microscopic protective sacs. This vapor flows through a condenser and cools, leaving a layer of oil and a layer of water. The essential oil rises to the top and is separated from the hydrosol (floral water) and collected. Cold pressed is when they apply pressure without heat — citrus oils are extracted this way as the oils come from the rind of the fruit. Still with me?
There are a lot of very big words that describe the chemical components of each oil — words like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes, and esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides. Have your eyes glazed over yet? Mine did about this point. And while I decided that there would be a time that I would learn in depth all about these properties, when I first started out I really wanted to know if and how they could help me.
So WHY should I investigate this alternative choice? Having spent a lot of years with arthritis, I really wanted to get away from all of the side effects of the NSAIDS I was having to take and find a different solution for my inflammation and pain. I found that all these pharmaceuticals were harming my body more than helping them, and in fact, I was starting to exhibit symptoms that were worrisome. Inevitably, I was prescribed more pharmaceuticals to combat the side-effects of the NSAIDs — so drugs for drugs and more drugs to combat those drugs.
About the same time, my wonderful massage therapist started asking me each session if she could use Essential Oils during my massages. She chose oils that would help reduce inflammation and soothe sore supporting muscles.
I am an analyzer so off to the internet I went to find out all I could about what oils she was choosing and what other oils could support my arthritis. I talked to everyone I could find who was already on this path. And . . . wow . . . did I find information. Research, discussion and following of facts. The results I received from her ministrations and the results I was getting from my own “experiments” with oils not only filled me with hope, but eventually, I weaned myself off the NSAIDS and other supporting pharmaceuticals and am pleased to be supporting my arthritis with my oils.
So HOW am I using these oils to help? The fastest way to feel the effects of an Essential Oil is by inhaling the “fragrance” of the oil. You can do this by direct inhalation; direct from the bottle, from the palms of your hands, from a diffuser bracelet or necklace or a diffuser. (We will talk about diffusing in another post). But either way, inhaling the scent is a great way to uplift your mood, relieve stress, support hormonal balancing, relieve nasal congestion and nausea — and more.
I also use Essential Oils topically, right on the area of concern. For instance, I have trouble with my knees so I will layer on (rub in) two or three different oils or blends that support reducing inflammation and pain. Some of these blends will already be diluted with a carrier oil and some I will add a carrier oil to. Lots to talk about with carrier oils — stay tuned for this discussion!!
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Western Medicine and Holistic Therapies can and should work hand in hand. If you break your arm, get yourself off to emergency!!
Essential Oils are very powerful. Do your research, use oils that you can confirm are pure and have the best quality . . . and experiment! Treated with respect, following safe usage guides and listening to my body, I have an alternative way to support my wellness goals.