Pure and natural plant-based essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their ability to heal, cleanse, and enhance mood and enjoyment in every day life. They are truly one of nature’s most precious gifts.
Today there is a resurgence in popularity in the use of pure aromatherapy essential oils as more and more people to seek to live a more natural, healthier life.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the living element of a plant; the aromatic compounds, which are it’s natural ‘essence’. Depending on the plant, they can be extracted from the leaves, petals, bark, stem, gums, resins, nut kernels and skin / rind.
Methods of Extraction
While several methods of extraction exist (including some involving chemical solvents) the essential oils we use are extracted using organic methods, such as steam distillation and expression.
Steam distillation is the most common way to extract essential oil from a plant. In this process, steam passes through the plant material, causing the essential oil to be released. This vapour then cools and settles as a layer of essential oil that sits on top of water (this water is referred to as hydrosol, or floral water). The essential oil is then separated from the water and collected.
Essential oils that have been extracted through expression are often called ‘cold pressed’ because there is no heat involved in the process. These oils are literally squeezed out via pressure from a mechanical device. Citrus plants such as wild orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime lend themselves well to this process due to their rinds being rich in aromatic oils.
Essential Oils and Healing
Pure essential oils are easily absorbed, allowing their active compounds to effect the body rapidly.
There are 3 primary ways to use essential oils:
- Topical (on the skin)
Probably the most common way that people experience the healing benefits of essential oils (other than just smelling them) is through diffusing them into the air, usually with an ultrasonic diffuser (cold mist). You can also inhale the aromatic vapours wherever you go by wearing a diffuser necklace around your neck.
As the essences are inhaled they enter the body via the millions of sensitive cells in the nasal passage. This then effects the limbic system, which controls major functions in the body, not the least of which is our emotions. This is why inhaling essential oils can have such profound effects on our mood, mental and emotional state.
As essential oils are made up of very small molecules they are also easily absorbed into the skin. This can nourish the skin and also soothe the muscles and joints. From there they make their way into the bloodstream where their various healing properties can travel around the body.
However it should be noted that because of their high level of concentration and potency (as well as potential skin sensitivities) most essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or almond oil before being applied to the skin.
We use diluted pure essential oils in our massage treatment upgrades, such as our peppermint foot scrub and our lavender scalp massage, which our clients really enjoy.
While controversial and well-debated within Aromatherapy circles, the taking of essential oils internally can be very safe and beneficial, when done with appropriate dilution, and within moderation.
In fact, from a biochemical standpoint (i.e. the speed at which they are metabolised and eliminated) taking essential oils internally can have a more moderate effect on the body than applying them topically on the skin, which can remain in the body for longer.
What are the Best Essential Oils?
As a professional massage therapist, I have tried and tested several different brands of essential oils over the years but there is one that I believe stands out from the rest in terms of smell, purity and potency.