Essential Oil Facts

Essential Oil Facts

Essential Oil Facts

Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine that employs plant extracts to support health and well-being.

However, some of the health claims associated with these oils are controversial.

This article explains all you need to know about essential oils and their health effects.

I hope these essential oil facts are all as helpful to you as it has been to me.  Here goes….


1.  Are Essential Oils Really Oils?

That’s kind of a funny question, but what I mean is, are they really oils or are they something else?

They are oils.  However, they are not like the super greasy oils that contain fatty acids, but they are considered to be volatile oils and have a slightly oily feel to them.

The word “essential oil” is actually a contraction of the original term, “quintessential oil.” This term comes from the Aristotelian concept that matter is made up of four elements–fire, air, earth, and water. The quintessence (fifth element) was thought of as the spirit or life force. Evaporating or distilling the “quintessential oil” out of the plant was thought to bring out the spirit of the plant.1

Basically, an essential oil is a product made by distilling either citrus rinds or other natural products. The essential oil is then separated from the water phase.


2.  Essential Oils come from many parts of a plant.

A plant’s bark, roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and blossoms can all be used to make essential oils.


3.  It Takes a Lot of Plant Material to Make a Little Essential Oil

I’ve found different figures in different places, but one of the figures I have read is that it takes 60,000 roses (about 180lb) to make just one ounce (29.57 ml) of rose otto oil.  Now you can see why essential oils are so expensive and why it must be tempting for some to add “fillers” to oils to make them go farther.


4.  Essential Oils are Very Concentrated

This follows from how much plant material goes into each drop of essential oil, but it is important to note that there is a lot of power in these oils. While I don’t encourage fear of using them, some caution is warranted because they are strong.


5.  A “Fragrance Oil”, “Scent”, or “Natural Oil” is NOT an Essential Oil

In general, if you see the term “fragrance”, “scent”, or “fragrance oil”, you don’t know what you are getting, but you are not getting a pure essential oil.

It’s kind of like the food industry in this regard.  Think of how the word “natural” or “minimally processed” in the food industry means just about nothing.  Same with the oils industry, you need to know your terms to know what is being sold.


6.  Water and Essential Oils Don’t Mix Well

Do not use water to dilute Essential Oils, water only INCREASES the strength of the oil. If you ever mistakenly apply an oil to your skin and it ends up burning or itching, do not use water to dilute it–instead you should use a carrier oil.

It is recommended to always dilute oils before using them topically.  However, that diluting needs to be done with a carrier oil and not with water.  The most typical oil for diluting is fractionated coconut oil, but you can use pretty much whatever oil you like.  I tend to use coconut oil as it has great health giving properties.

Likewise, if you ever do happen to get too much oil on your skin, you should dilute it by putting an oil onto the oil rather than trying to rinse the essential oils off with water.

If you are making a DIY item with a water base and essential oils, you will need to use an essential oil emulsifier to make the oils blend thoroughly.


7.  What is a NEAT oil?

NEAT means no carrier oil is added.

As mentioned above, oils are sometimes sold blended with other oils, the most common blending oil being fractionated coconut oil.

Again, it is best to always dilute essential oils for topical use.


8.  Allergies and Essential Oils

It is often said that if you are allergic to a food you will be allergic to the essential oil.  That may or may not be true.

If someone has food allergies and while he will have a potentially anaphylactic reaction to sesame, he might eat sesame oil (even cold pressed) all the time with no problems.  That is an unusual situation, but it is the possible.

Essential oils have different chemistry than the plant.  If you are allergic to a chemical in the plant and that chemical is in the oil you will be allergic to the oil, however many people are not allergic to the oil.  For example, I have heard of one person that is allergic to lemons but loves the distilled lemon oil and doesn’t have any reaction to it.

That being said, if you are allergic to the plant, I would personally recommend using extreme caution with the essential oil, or to avoid it completely.


9.  Essential Oils for Children and Babies

You should never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child and you should be very careful using essential oils on children of any age.

Remember that the younger the person is the more sensitive the skin will be.  Use extreme caution when working with infants and young children.

Regardless of how you choose to use them, keep your essential oils out of the reach of children and babies.


10.  Essential Oils and Pets

You will want to be cautious when using them on cats.

Cats are highly sensitive and just having them on your own body is usually enough to affect them.


11.  Not All Oils Are The Same – Expensive Does NOT Necessarily Mean “better”.

It has been estimated that 95% or more of the companies blatantly adulterate or purchasing from essential oils “experts” that blatantly adulterate (heat, add things to or take things out of the oils, or otherwise alter them from their natural state), it is important to find a source that you can trust for your essential oils. 

But as a general rule the low cost oils have a tendency to be more adulterated and the more expensive oils test out to be higher therapeutically.  


12.  Can You Use Essential Oils Internally?

That is a hotly debated question. When I first started trying to find “The Best” Essential Oils company, I thought that it was OK to use essential oils internally but I have since changed my mind based on studying the opinion of many experts who are experienced.

I personally think that since the oils are quite strong, it is important to respect them and not use them willy-nilly, and only when under the care of a medical professional or aromatherapist.  Furthermore, it is possible that the antibacterial and antifungal oils could damage the good bacteria in the gut and so it might be wise to use a probiotic when using these types of oils, and to not use them for too long ongoing.

The use of such oils for a prolonged period of time might in fact make changes to your microbiome and create a problem in your digestive system and thus affect your gut health.


13.  Do You Need to Consult with an Aromatherapist to Use Essential Oils Internally?

This is a can of worms, but I am going to open it anyway.

I commonly see folks talking about essential oils on the internet stating something like “Do not use these unless you are under the care of a certified aromatherapist.”

When I first started using essential oils, I thought differently, but I now have seen how overuse of oils and use of them in the wrong way can be truly harmful.

Following is the official recommendation of the oils company that I recommend:

“We recommend you consult with a professional before ingesting any essential oils.  Consult a Medical Doctor, Naturopath, or clinically trained Aromatherapist who knows you and is aware of your medical history, as well as any medications you are on.  With this information, the professional can tailor a regimen that works for your body”.

And this is how I currently think as well.


14.  Essential Oils Near Ears and Eyes

Never put essential oils in or too near to your eyes.

They are very strong and can do damage.


15.  Essential Oil Shelf Life

This is a complicated topic as many oils will oxidize and how quickly they will do that depends on how much they are exposed to oxygen.  However, they typically do last a long time if stored correctly.


16.  How to Store Essential Oils

Essential Oils should be stored in dark glass bottles (brown or blue, which they hopefully were packaged in), and out of direct sunlight.  So an open shelf in your bathroom might not be the best place to have them.

This method of storage keeps them from having their chemistry changed by the light as it can interact with some chemicals in the oils.


17.  Essential Oils, Emotions, and Moods

Most people talk about using essential oils for physical ailments, but the oils also can be helpful for moods and emotions. I find diluting a certain scent like a citrus oil (orange, lemon, or grapefruit), or peppermint can give me a real lift in the middle of the day.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Smells affect us. And pharmaceutical companies use nasal delivery for some medications, so the nose is one means of delivery into the body.


18.  How to Use Essential oils

There are many ways to use essential oils.

Some of the options include:

– apply the oils topically to the skin (remember to dilute when getting started)
– diffuse into the air
 take internally (read above for more about the internal usage debate)

The power in the oils is amazing and it is so wonderful to be able to use natural products rather than toxic chemicals for health, beauty, and natural home care.


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