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Essential oils: your questions answered

06 March 2019

What are essential oils? They’re beautiful aromatic oils that are extracted from plants. Essential oils can be found in a variety of plants ranging from trees down to the smallest flowers, and are produced in different parts of the plant, depending on the species – not just the flowers and leaves, but also the fruit, leaves, stems, bark or even roots! 

Aromatic oils in various forms have been prized for thousands of years by cultures around the world, including the ancient Eqyptians, Greeks, Mesopotamians, Indians and Chinese. Not only do these oils have lovely scents, they also have many beneficial properties!

Finding quality essential oils

What do you look for in a good-quality essential oil today? First, avoid any oil labelled ‘fragrant oil’ or ‘perfume oil’, as this generally won’t be a true essential oil and may contain artificial fragrances! Next, check whether the label gives the method of extraction. Oils can be extracted by steam distillation or pressing (sometimes called ‘expressing’, and used for citrus and eucalyptus oils), or with the use of solvents: some great (carbon dioxide extraction, for example), and some not so great. When you’re starting out, it’s best to look for steam-distilled oils, and if there’s a use-by or best-before date on the bottle, great. The more information the manufacturer gives on the oil and its origins, the better!

How do you use essential oils?

Because essential oils are natural, volatile substances that evaporate readily, they’re often used in aroma diffusers, which release the oil into the air. Traditional diffusers have a reservoir to hold some water and the drops of essential oil; a lit candle is placed underneath to create a gentle heat that will release the oils. Electric diffusers do the same thing using an electric heating element or an ultrasonic mist generator. 

Essential oils can also be used by combining them with a cream or lotion, putting them in steaming water, or adding them to an oil that doesn’t have a strong scent of its own, like almond oil.

Health and wellness with essential oils

Some essential oils leave you calm, relaxed and ready for bedtime, while others provide a boost of energy and mental clarity to help you seize the day! Here are some different oils to use for common complaints.

Essential oils for general health

For general wellbeing, you can’t go past citrus oils to give you a feeling of refreshment and energy. Try adding lime or lemon essential oil to a spray bottle of water, and keep it at your desk! If you’re feeling tired and under the weather, inhaling the steam from peppermint, eucalyptus or cedarwood oils in a bowl of hot water can give you a boost.

Essential oils for sleep

Struggling with insomnia? The classic essential oils to use are chamomile and valerian. A few drops in a nighttime bath will help ease you into dreamland, or you can infuse your bedroom with calming aromas using an electric aroma diffuser.

Essential oils for anxiety and stress

Just the act of taking time out for self-care with essential oils can be relaxing when you’re experiencing anxiety or stress! Why not put four drops of lavender and two drops of ylang ylang essential oil in a carrier oil and do some gentle self-massage?

Are essential oils safe?

Essential oils are concentrated substances and need to be diluted for safety and optimum effect. Never use them neat, particularly on the skin! A good guide is up to five drops in a diffuser or for steam inhalation, and up to ten drops in a carrier oil for massage or a bath. 

Child and animal safety are paramount, too: make sure you keep essential oils out of reach of both children and pets, and use them in a diffuser rather than applying diluted oil to the skin in any way.

Want to know more about essential oils? Our Essential Oils for Health and Wellnesskitprovides detailed information and a lovely aroma diffuser to use!

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