Photo Credit: Diana Spatariu
From household essentials such as eucalyptus and lemon, to first-aid cabinet must-haves of lavender and tea tree, to complexion perfecting immortelle and rose geranium, to exotic frankincense and sandalwood, to every girls-best-friend clary sage, there’s an essential oil to delight the senses of just about everyone, and therapeutic benefits for just about every physical and emotional concern. These potent plant extracts can be used in a variety of ways, from steamy showers and oil burners, to fragrant bed sheets and aromatic massages, to soul soothing baths and meditations. The key point to remember is that essential oils are best used with the utmost care. One drop at a time.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils is nothing new, dating back thousands of years. It is a true holistic approach to healing in that it uses oils extracted from plants and flowers to treat the physical, mental and spiritual body. Essential oils are volatile organic compounds (i.e. carbon containing) that protect plants from outside threats. When inhaled, essential oils stimulate receptors in the nose which relay messages to the limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotions. When applied to the skin in a carrier oil or hydrosol, essential oils penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and are absorbed into our bloodstream, due to their small molecules size.
Common uses for essential oils
To help ease stress and anxiety, take 3 deep inhales of neroli, rose otto, patchouli, palmarosa. With every inhale, breathe in the calming scent of nature. With every exhale, breathe out your worries.
For a beautiful radiant complexion, add a drop of rose otto, immortelle or rose geranium to your beauty oil or moisturiser.
For an energy boost, reach for peppermint, lemon or sweet orange.
For a clean household, add a couple drops of eucalyptus, lemon or tea tree to a bottle of water (or water and white vinegar) and spritz on cleaning cloth to wipe down bench tops.
For a good night’s sleep, fill your bedroom with the aroma of lavender, roman chamomile or valerian via a diffuser.
How to discern which brand of essential oils to choose?
The essential oil market is extremely corrupt. So much so that you may be paying top dollar for an essential oil that lacks the beneficial components that bring about therapeutic benefits. When choosing an essential oil brand to shop from please ask whether the company has made the effort to ensure that their oils comply with high standards of appearance, colour, odour, and undergo in-depth testing to produce chromatographic profiles for the various components within each essential oil that ensures therapeutic quality assurance, purity of natural elements and the assurance that no toxicity or contaminants are present.
Why choose organic essential oils?
Organic farmers support our natural environment by increasing the fertility and biological activity of the soil, enhancing the well-being of the planet. Organic farmers do not endorse or use genetically modified seeds, pesticides and/or herbicides. A plant that has a stronger immune system, more vitality, and higher vibration of beneficial properties, will undoubtedly yield an essential oil of higher quality, that can help to support the complexion of your skin, emotional balance, and spirituality, far greater than essential oils that have been extracted from crops that are conventionally grown with pesticides and other known poisons. For me, it’s simply a matter of common sense. I wouldn’t dream of using an oil that has been grown in a manner whereby the ‘farmers’ are required to wear safety air-tight suits whilst spraying the land with highly toxic pesticides.
Essential oil safety
Whilst it is wonderful to see the popularity of essential oils increasing throughout the world, with this comes a responsibility to those who sell, recommend and use essential oils. It is NOT recommend to apply 100% pure essential oils or blends directly to the skin if you haven’t consulted a reputable aroma-therapist. Whilst it is acceptable for certain essential oils to be applied to the skin with favorable results, I strongly recommend that you do not experiment with this as negative skin reactions, irritation and phototoxicity can occur. There is a huge range of beautiful organic skin and body care products, with the essential oil percentage at a safe level, so that you can enjoy the skin care properties of essential oils in a supportive and harmonious manner. Furthermore, I would NOT recommend ingesting (swallowing) essential oils or blends without professional advice from an aromatherapist. Again, whilst certain essential oils can have favorable results when ingested one drop at a time it is not a practice that I’d recommend experimenting with whatsoever. Certain essential oils can be extremely toxic. For example, please don’t ever ingest eucalyptus essential oil. Whilst koalas can happily metabolise the 1,8-cineole found in eucalypts oil, humans can not, and if ingested eucalyptus oil can cause significant damage to the liver, and in some cases, death.
Can I use essential oil whilst pregnant?
There are mixed opinions when it comes to aromatherapy and pregnancy. Some people err on the side of caution and recommend that all essential oils are avoided. This is certainly an overcautious approach, as there are certain essential oils that can be very beneficial throughout pregnancy, helping to alleviate some of the discomforts during pregnancy. However, there are certain oils that you should most certainly avoid as they can either cause a disturbance in hormone levels, malformation of the foetus, or worse case scenario, abortion. When it comes to pregnancy, it is always best to follow your own inner guide and do what you feel is best for you. If in doubt, consult your health care practitioner or a reputable aromatherapist.
The following details regarding “Essential Oils to Avoid and Use with Caution” are excerpts from The Natural Way to a Better Pregnancy, by Francesca Naish & Janette Roberts. Francesca is one of Australia’s most trusted and respected practitioners for natural fertility management and pregnancy.
Essential oils to avoid during pregnancy
Ajowan, Angelica Root, Aniseed, Basil, Birch, Bitter Almond, Boldo, Buchu, Bulgar Rose, Camphor, Cedarwood species (Virginian and Atlas), Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Clove, Cornmint, Fennel, Horseradish, Hyssop, Jasmine, Lavender Cotton, Mugwort, Mustard, Myrrh, Oregano, Parsley seed, Pennyroyal, Pimenta racemosa, Plecanthrus, Rose (in 1st trimester), Sage, Savin, Savory, Star Aniseed, Sweet Marjoram, Tansy, Tarragon, Thuja, Thyme, Wintergreen, Wormseed, Wormwood.
Essential oils to use with caution during pregnancy
Chamomile, Cypress, Geranium, Juniper, Peppermint, Rose (only use in 2nd and 3rd trimester), Rosemary, Sandalwood (very slight risk).
If you’re looking for a high quality organic, cruelty free aromatherapy range, I’m naturally biased towards Be genki as all the guess work is taken out for you, so that aromatherapy can be experienced with ease and peace of mind. Surprisingly simple. Remarkably effective. Or if you’re wanting to experiment with single note essential oils then the range of Living Libations hi-fi oils are truly delightful.