October 18, 2011

Essential Oils 101: Starting Small

If you ever wonder what to give your family when you don't want to use regular over the counter medications and things, you may want to think about essential oils. Granted, there may be times when oils won't cut it, but at least you can turn to them first before other alternatives, since they're straight from the plant.

Basically your Essential Oil build your own kit should include the following things (and then I'll explain why):

A few essential oils (peppermint, lavender and tea tree are musts--stored in dark containers away from light)
A bottle of carrier oil (extra-virgin olive, almond, jojoba, etc. that is pure and least processed)
Cotton balls or strips of fabric (to put drops on directly)
Small bowl (to mix/dilute oils if needed)

There are many oils and you'll want to decide which work for you, but here are some oils I've found to be the most versatile:

Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral and invigoration
Uses: Digestive issues, freshen breath, hot flashes or fevers, headaches, indigestion, nausea, breathing problems, fatigue, inflammation, hives, toothaches, flavor water, etc.
Scent: Minty, sharp, intense
Info/Warning: Not best to use on pregnant women or babies. May cause skin sensitization. Caution if have high blood pressure.

Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, insectcidal and expectorant
Uses: acne, bronchitis, ear inflammation, flu, hay fever, high blood pressure, iris inflammation, nasal mucous membrane inflammation, sinusitis, etc.
Scent:  Slightly camphorous, sweet, fruity
Info/Warning: Caution with babies and pregnant women. Best to dilute before applying to skin.

Properties: Analgesic, anticoagulant, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antifungal, antihistamine, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, antitumor, cardiotonic, regenerative and sedative. Nutures creativity and calmness.
Uses: Balances the body and generally work wherever is needed (if in doubt, use lavender). Acne, allergies, burns, cramps, dandruff, hair loss, insomnia, lowering blood pressure, lymphatic system drainage, PMS, nausea, scarring, thrush, water retension, bruises, gallstones, headaches, heart irregularities, repel insects, reduce mucus, stress, bee stings, throat infections, fever, cough, sunburns, etc.
Scent: Floral, sweet, herbaceous, balsamic, woody undertones
Info/Warning: Don't use on babies. Doesn't need to be diluted (one of the more gentle oils--like chamomile). Blends with most oils very well.

Properties: Anti-anemic, antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, astringent, bactericide, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, hemostatic, hypotensive, insecticide, tonic
Uses:  Acne, anemia, cuts, greasy skin, insect bites, mouth ulcers, warts, throat infections, arthritis, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, poor circulation, varicose veins, asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu, fever, infections.
Scent: Light and refreshing. Fruity and penetrating, yet soothing.
Info/Warning: Blends well with other citrus oils, lavender, eucalyptus and chamomile. Phototoxic, so don’t use on skin before going outside in the sun. May cause irritation—use in moderation.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, strong antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, immune stimulant, insecticidal, nerotonic, stimulant, and tissue regenerative
Uses: Promotes cleasing and purity: heal cuts, wounds and skin infections, athlete's foot, bronchitis, colds, coughs, diarrhea, flu, gum disease, rash, sore throat, sunburn, tonsillitis, thrush, acne, cold sores, digestion, fungal infections, infectious diseases, inflammation, mites, shock, ticks, warts, etc.
Scent: Medicinal, fresh, woody, earthy, herbaceous
Info/Warning: Could be sensitive to skin with repeated use. Blends well with citrus, cypress, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and thyme oils.

How to Use Essential Oils
First off, make sure you buy 100% pure essential oils (if it's the cheapest type out there, it's probably diluted already in the bottle with things you don't want to put in your body so buy smart).
Become acquainted with oil guidelines before you just randomly use them, so you dilute them properly and don't use certain oils on babies or when you're pregnant. Basically one drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of drinking 30 cups of peppermint tea, which could be overload to one's body if not used correctly (esp. if pregnant). Always make sure the oil is ok for the age/pregnancy status.

Also, use your nose! When using oils, it's important to pay attention to our noses. Sometimes our body may not like a smell (even if it did before). This just means that your body doesn't want/need it at this time. Maybe your body already has enough of the properties contained in this oil or maybe that oil has more of a relaxing vs. stimulating effect (depending if you need energy or calm). Ex: Peppermint is awakening/energizing, versus lavender which is more calming.

You can also look at charts which tell you the properties of oils as to how relaxing vs. stimulating they are so you don't take the energizing oils at night when you need to sleep. And which oils to blend together for synergizing effectiveness and what % of a blend the different oils should be. See Chart below for an idea (not comprehensive though).

There are three basic ways to use the oils:
1. Inhalation
Use something to diffuse the oil into the air. You can buy a fancy one that uses electricity or a little one that uses a candle (in which you add the esential oil to a carrier oil: almond, jojoba, extra-virgin olive, etc.) Or you can just smell the oil from the bottle or put a drop on some fabric/cotton ball to put in your pillowcase, drawers, near a vent, etc. to give the smell off wherever you'd like it. Or you can put it into hot water and do a steam treatment with a towel over your head.

2. Topical Application
Direct: Put it right on the area of problem (if an external problem)

Indirect: Or put it somewhere else on the body through various means: massage, bath, compress, etc.
Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil (to about 5% for adults or .5% for babies and pregnant women) and rub wherever needed. Places include feet for a reflexology massage--because the feet are connected to the whole body and within 20 minutes the oil applied there will get to your whole body. (ears and hands are also reflexology/pressure point good areas). Or massage into back, or neck. Be careful with areas near the eyes.

3. Ingestion
Generally not the best method and most oils say not to ingest. If so, they are normally in water (such as a drop of lemon or orange in your water to aid digestion) or put into capsules to swallow. Here are some examples of general dilution guidelines.

Adult Dilution: 3-6 drops per Tablespoon carrier oil
Child Dilution: 1/2 the adult dilution
Pregnant or Under 2 years: 1/4 the adult dilution

Body Systems and Medical Properties Charts for Reference
taken from Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils

*Some oils listed are blends of this particular brand of oils (DoTerra--a multi-level marketing company), but the list has most of the basic oils that you can find across brands, without needing this particular brand.


Natural Carrier Oils (use to dilute essential oils)

Sweet almond oil: Pale yellow oil from the nut kernel. Rich in protein and good for all skin types. Helps relieve dry, itchy skin, and can help reduce inflammation.

Grapeseed oil: Colorless and odorless, made from pressed seeds. Contains vitamins and minerals, and can be used by all skin types.

Avocado oil: Dark green oil from the avocado fruit. Contains vitamins, protein and essential fatty acids. Can be used by all skin types, especially dry skin, and by those who suffer from eczema.

Olive oil: Pale yellow to dark green. Contains protein, minerals and vitamins, can be used in hair care and is soothing to sore, achy muscles and joints.

Sesame oil: Dark yellow and rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Can be used to treat arthritis, psoriasis and eczema. Good for all skin types.

Sunflower oil: Pale yellow oil that contains vitamins and minerals. Can be used by all skin types.

Jojoba oil: Popular because it is similar to our own skin oils. Contains protein and a waxy substance that is similar to collagen. Useful in reducing inflammation and treating acne. Can be used by all skin types.

Castor oil: Pale, unscented oil made from the seeds of the castor plant. One of the few oils soluble in alcohol. Can be used by all skin types and also can be used on hair, nails and lips.

Extra Tips
This website has a lot of great info for finding which oils to use by what ailment:

• Aromatherapist Jeanne Rose offers these tips for choosing pure essential oils:
1. Place a drop of essential oil on a piece of paper. If a greasy spot remains after an hour or two, the product has probably been diluted with other oils.

2. Add a drop of essential oil to water. If the oil forms a cloudy slick on the surface of the water, it’s probably a synthetic oil.

• To best preserve the properties of essential oils, store them in a cool, dark place in a dark glass bottle.

• The shelf life of most essential oils is approximately two years (one year for citrus oils). Some oils, such as sandalwood, frankincense, and patchouli, improve with age.

• Avoid oils labeled as “perfume oil,” “fragrance oil,” or “nature identical oil.” These labels indicate that the oil is not a pure essential oil.

• Buy oils that have child-proof lids if you have children around the house (the ones you push down to twist).

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