Essential Oils – Do you understand them enough to use them safely?
Essential Oils really are awesome. If you stop and look, you will find that they are used in more products and places than many of us realise. Most people would commonly associate essential oil with incense sticks and meditation, or relaxation massage in a Day Spa, but they can also be added to natural cleaning products and skin balms to make better use of the properties of the oils. As our community and society in general become more focussed on Natural over Synthetic, so many people are latching onto how great Essential Oils can be to aid & assist improved emotional, physical and general well-being … but do you understand essential oils well enough to use them safely?
Anyone who watches morning television here in Brisbane might have seen the news story they aired on Monday 9th December 2019 about the increase in poisoning cases nationally related to essential oils … they reported that some people were ingesting essential oils – either by mistaking them for other remedies (like cough syrup), or for some other reason.
This raises alarm bells for me … People need to understand that just because something is recognised as having beneficial therapeutic effect doesn’t mean it an be taken broadly without due care and concern. The core of the problem is that we all allow ourselves to be led like lambs to recognise the benefits of using essential oils, but it isn’t so widely understood that some essential oils can be harmful and potentially dangerous – even deadly in worst-case scenarios.
Especially with health care, it is great to reach for something natural – but if you don’t understand what you are reaching for, you might end up worse off. The story on the Today Show (aired in Brisbane on 09/12/2019) mentioned some of the chemistry behind why essential oils are so potent in comparison to say vegetable or olive oils, but it didn’t actually offer any suggestions on how to use essential oils safely to reap the health benefits they offer. I chose to highlight essential oils in this week’s blog to help highlight that just because something is natural doesn’t automatically also make it safe to use without professional direction.
What are Essential Oils?
To start with, let’s make sure we all know that essential oils are the natural essence of a plant or flower – the chemical component that gives a plant it’s characteristic fragrance, distilled not only from flowers but also roots, barks, resins and leaves. When extracted from the plant, essential oils contain a variety of properties that have been proven to have a significant physiological effect on our bodies at cellular level.
How do they work?
Concerning our emotional selves, the aromas of Essential Oils can trigger memories and feelings – either warning us of something harmful or comforting us with happy thoughts.
Concerning our physical bodies, the chemical properties of essential oils can have therapeutic effect on body organs and systems by stimulating and regulating hormonal secretions, activating thermal receptors, destroying microbes on the skin, and stimulating the immune system.
How does the chemistry of essential oils enter our bodies?
When you smell and inhale an essential oil, some of the properties of the oil contacts the Olfactory Nerve allowing direct interaction with the Limbic System in the brain, and then having effect on the Hypothalamus, Pituitary Gland and Cerebral Cortex. The properties of essential oils can also be absorbed into the blood stream either through the lungs when inhaled or by absorption through the skin when used in massage.
Where’s the danger?
So, this is where we start to get to the real point of this article. We understand ‘What’ essential oils are – ‘Where’ they come from – and ‘How’ their properties get into our bodies … We also know that essential oils are indiscriminate – they don’t pick-and-choose whether they will absorb into your body or not.
Manufactured chemicals that are harmful to us are easier to identify because they come with clear & obvious warnings on their labels, but nature’s warnings aren’t always that easy to see. The information is easy enough to find – if you know where to look … and interpretation of the information you find is easy enough as well – if you are familiar with the language used.
Did you know that some essential oils are not recommended for use on/with you body at all? … or that some can interact negatively if you are pregnant or live with epilepsy? … Did you know some oils that are harmful during pregnancy are actually very helpful during child-birth – but which are those?
My point here is that a reasonable number of essential oils come with contraindications – which means, some reasonable potential for negative or harmful effects when used on or with the body – but these contraindications are not always as identified as they should be.
Time to ‘Calm the Farm’ …
I really don’t want to scare you, so please understand that any product sold ‘off-the-shelf’ that includes essential oils will be ‘generally safe for the wider community’ … but always remember that everyone is individual, and what is safe for one may not necessarily be as safe for the next.
This concern is greater (of course) if you start looking at using pure essential oils because of the potency of the properties in the oils. Most essential oils are recommended to be used at a dilution of no more than 3% … never neat on your skin.
So now you need to understand which oils are safe – and then accurately dilute your essential oil in carrier oil – and remember that dilution will vary depending on your age and the integrity of your skin … That’s a lot to make sure you understand. Just as well we offer Aromatherapy Consultations here in clinic at HANDS from HEAVEN 😊
Why have an Aromatherapeutic Consult?
An Aromatherapeutic Consultation will investigate your personal health history – taking into consideration what you want to achieve by using essential oils – and advise which essential oils are more likely to provide more recognisable results for you, ensuring that any oils that have harmful potential to you are avoided. I can also blend oils to maximise property potential, providing better more recognisable outcomes for you. If this interests you – more information about Aromatherapeutic Consultations can be found on the ‘What We Do’ page of this website.