What Are Essential Oils and Aromatherapy?
Essential oils are basically plant extracts. They are made by steaming, or cold-pressing, various parts of a plant (flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, and bark) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. They are sourced from around the globe. To be truly effective and beneficial to our health, essential oils must be a 100% natural product. Unfortunately, many essential oils on the market can be synthetic or adulterated in some way.
Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine, used for the aim of improving a person’s health, mood, and overall well-being. Aromatherapy applications can include massage, topical applications, and inhalation. Many individuals nowadays are turning toward using essential oils as a complementary treatment and holistic healing for a variety of ailments.
Apart from providing a pleasant smell, aromatherapy oils can provide emotional benefits, be used for respiratory issues, as a decongestant, and offer psychological benefits. They may stimulate your sense of smell or have medicinal effects when absorbed. Essential oils are often used to ease stress, boost mood, relieve pain, improve sleep, hormonal balance, calm nausea, and even repel insects.
When essential oils are inhaled, the oils evaporate into the air using a diffuser, spray or can be breathed in, for example, during a steam bath. Inhaling the scent of essential oils is the safest way to use them. The potential side effects of breathing in essential oils are minor and, depending on the oil, could include headache, nausea, burning of eyes and throat, cough, or shortness of breath. These side effects typically resolve when the scent is no longer detectable.
Essential oils can also be applied topically in the form of massage oils, during a bath, and skincare products. Massaging the area where the oil is to be applied can boost circulation and increase absorption.
Precautions When Using Essential Oils
When used as directed, essential oils have few side effects or risks, although the way a given oil is used has a great deal of bearing on its safety.
When applying essential oils directly to the skin, they should be diluted with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are oils with little or no scent. Usually, a few drops of essential oil to an ounce of carrier oil is the concentration. By diluting these highly concentrated oils spreads the small amount of essential oil over a large skin area, helping to prevent skin irritation and other adverse reactions. Common carrier oils include sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and sesame oil.
To do an allergy test:
- Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil at twice the concentration you plan to use
- Rub the mixture into an area the size of a quarter on the inside of the forearm
If there is no allergic response within 24-48 hours, it should be safe to use. Some people report developing allergies to essential oils after using them many times before. If a new allergic response appears, stop using it immediately and avoid its smell.
Certain oils increase photosensitivity and may increase the risk of sunburn, especially citrus oils, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, bergamot, and tangerine. It is advisable to stay out of the sun for 24 hours after applying any of these oils to your skin.
It is important to use any essential oil with precaution. Ingesting, or swallowing, essential oils are not recommended. Do not use essential oils near your eyes, genitals, or mucous membranes. If you get an oil in your eyes or mucous membrane, you can dilute it with a carrier oil. Taken by mouth, the oils can damage the liver or kidneys. They can also lead to interactions with other drugs, and they can undergo unexpected changes while in the gut. Pregnant and nursing women and children should always consult their primary care providers before using essential oils. Users should be aware that “natural” products are also chemicals, and they can be hazardous if used in the wrong way. It is important to follow the advice of a trained professional when using essential oils.
The Take-Away of Essential Oil and Aromatherapy
There are many benefits of using essential oils, the correct way. Aromatherapy has been around for centuries and is an effective way to treat an enormous variety of ailments. When used in conjunction with your physical and occupational therapy plan of care, they can help heal your mind and body in a completely safe and natural way. More and more people are turning to natural and holistic approaches when it comes to health. By becoming more knowledgeable about the uses of essential oils and aromatherapy, you can begin to understand the many benefits.
Another important caveat: If you choose to use an alternative therapy to help treat different issues, you need to continue working with members of your health care team. Aromatherapy and other holistic modalities are great complements; however, you should still be following what your physician tells you to do. Doing otherwise can be dangerous.
This page is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative, or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.
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