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A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils
You’ve probably heard about essential oils (or seen friends post about them on social media) and wondered what all the hype is about. Are they just today’s “snake oils” that take your money and end up doing nothing? Absolutely not. Let’s quickly explore what essential oils are and how to use them, then I’ll give you a list of some to start with and what they do.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are made from the roots, flowers, stems, seeds, leaves, and/or bark of various plants. Usually, the liquid is distilled via water or steam, and the end product is highly concentrated (so just one or two drops go a long way). Basically, essential oils are meant to provide the therapeutic benefits of the plants they are derived from. And a lot of them smell pretty amazing too, making them a popular choice for aromatherapists.
How Do I Use Essential Oils?
There are several ways to use them and not all oil will be most effective in the same way. Some can be mixed with lotion and directly applied to the skin, some have great benefits when a few drops are added to a bath, and others should be used with a diffuser to be spread via steam or heat and inhaled by the user. Before using any essential oil, research the best method of delivery (and correct dosage amounts), because some oil can cause irritation if used improperly.
Essential Oils to Start With
Let’s get you started with a few easy ones. I’ll give you a quick overview of what they’re good for and how to use them.
Lavender: One of the most popular essential oils, lavender smells amazing, has been reported to ward off headaches and has antibacterial properties that can fight germs. Mix it with lotions/bath products, or diffuse it to relax and center yourself.
Peppermint: This invigorating scent is able to boost your energy levels and help soothe headaches, indigestion, and other bodily aches and pains. Try massaging several drops on your abdomen and wrists to soothe nausea, apply a drop under your nose to boost energy, or use it on your temples/forehead/nape of your neck to relieve headaches.
Lemon Balm: The herb famous for relieving stress and depression can do the same things in essential oil form. It’s best used with a diffuser – don’t apply it to the skin undiluted, because the concentration can be quite strong. It’s also labeled by its Latin name, Melissa.
Orange/Lemon: Both of these are great to use in cleaning products for your home. You can also combine a few drops with bath products to keep yourself ultra-clean and smelling great.
Eucalyptus: Got a cold? Relieve congestion by creating a “steam bath” with a bowl of warm water and a towel over your head. Eucalyptus oil can also relieve arthritis and other body pains when added to a warm bath.
Try out a few of the above, then decide for yourself whether essential oils are worth the hype. However, note that you need to buy them from reputable sources/companies, as not everyone sells the pure stuff. Avoid any that are advertised as “fragrance/perfume oils” and do your research before buying.
Are you already using essential oils? What’s your favorite and when do you use it?
Using Essential Oils Safely
Essential oils are a great way to take care of yourself naturally but they do need to be used correctly to prevent from causing any damage. I’m not trying to scare you away from using essential oils just want you to understand that if not used correctly they can cause you great harm. When essential oils are used correctly they help many different conditions naturally. Here is a list of general safety guidelines:
-Never apply an essential oil directly to the skin without diluting it in a base oil first. The only essential oils that are safe to apply neat to the skin are lavender and tea tree.
-Make sure that you research any essential oil before you use it. Some essential oils may not be safe to use because of the health conditions that you may have. For example, if you have high blood pressure you need to avoid using rosemary essential oil.
-Do not use essential oils internally. Some essential oils are toxic if taken internally.
-Patch test any essential oil before you use it. This can be done simply by placing a drop of essential oil in a few drops of base oil and applying to the wrist and leaving there for a few hours. If irritation occurs rinse the area well with milk or water. With any mild irritation, you may be able to still use the oil as long as it is well diluted and if the irritation is more than mild you may want to avoid using the essential oil altogether.
-Some essential oils need to be used in moderation to prevent toxic levels from building up in the body. Some essential oils take longer to go through the body and some of these essential oils can become toxic if too much builds but in the body. In researching the essential oil you will know if the essential oil needs to be used in moderation.
-Some essential oils by cause phototoxicity, which may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight or tanning beds. Many citrus essential oils can cause this to happen, so use caution applying these essential oils right before exposure to sunlight or tanning beds.
-Use extreme caution when using essential oils on babies and children. On babies under a year only a few oils are safe to use, lavender and Roman chamomile are two of them. For infants up to the age of five make sure the essential oils are well diluted, use only about a quarter of what you would for yourself. The easiest way to do this is to use four times the normal amount of base oil. For children, 6 to 12 dilute the essential oil in twice the normal amount of base oil.
-During pregnancy dilute the essential oil in twice the normal amount of base oil. There are also some essential oils that should be avoided completely during pregnancy and others should be avoided at certain times. In researching the oils you will know if they are safe to use during pregnancy.
-Not all essential oils can be used with homeopathic treatments because they reduce the effectiveness of the homeopathic remedy.
-Always store essential oils in a cool, dark, dry area in well-sealed bottles. Essential oils are very volatile and will lose their effectiveness if not stored properly.
These are just the basic safety guidelines for using essential oils, some essential oils themselves may have safety guidelines that should be followed. You will know what these guidelines are once you have researched the essential oil.
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