There are so many places to find information on the internet, but I’ve done the research and fact finding for you!
1. So, what are oils? They are volatile (evaporating quickly), aromatic (have specific smells), compounds that are derived from various plant parts through distillation or pressing. They are used by their native plants to fight disease, fend off predators, even to attract pollinators. They are lipid soluble (can enter our very cells), and some oils have small enough molecules that they can permeate the blood- brain barrier. They are also highly concentrated, with one drop containing 40 million-trillion molecules (Stewart).
2. How are they helpful in the body? Essential oils have antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-parasitic properties. They have been used in many educated studies as potential alternatives to modern medications, and/or to be used in conjunction with certain modern treatment options. They can permeate cell membranes to help fight viruses, which replicate and live within our cells DNA where antibiotics cannot reach (hence the reason viruses are so difficult to treat!). They have the potential to affect every bodily cell within minutes of application, so they are highly efficient at moving through the body, and are metabolized and eliminated rather quickly as well.
3. How do we use them? Oils can be used either topically, aromatically (inhaled), or internally. Each route of administration has its own benefits, and one oil can have varied reactions in the body depending upon which administration method was used. When dealing with a localized problem, it is often beneficial to apply oils topically to that area. Once absorbed, the oils will reach the bloodstream and be distributed systemically throughout the body, but its effects will be most powerful at the source of application. When dealing with memory, hormones, behavior, mood, immunity, or respiratory issues, inhalation is an excellent route to use. The oil’s vapors are able to travel through the nose into the brain through the limbic system, and can cause and uninhibited positive change. This is my favorite way to use oils! Internal usage is the last leg that compiles what is modern day aromatherapy! This can be a useful, and often times controversial way to reap the benefits of oils, but only for certain ailments. This method is one that should be approached only when the user has educated themselves enough or has advice from a trained aromatherapist/professional. This method is also best utilized for a short amount of time, instead of the casual daily intake that is often seen on social media outlets.
4. What safety concerns are associated with the usage of oils? The majority of the concerns related to oils stem from uneducated use, miseducation, and lack of respect for the potency of the oils. Quality of your oils, integrity of the skin (abrasions and wounds would be synonymous with poor integrity), age of user, and level of dilution all play into the risk of reaction. Oils are safe ways to promote wellness and harmony among your family, they just must be used wisely! I feel as if the line between fear and folly is quite short, leaving those choosing to use oils either scared to touch them, or carelessly putting themselves at risk. We need to separate that gap with a class of users who are educated, safe, and excited to empower themselves! Skin reactions may occur when using oils that are “neat” (undiluted) or poorly diluted, and are referred to as “dermal irritation”. This will be evidenced by redness or splotches at the site of irritation. TIP: when an irritation occurs, it is best to add oil to the area and wipe clean until the oil is diluted off of the skin. Attempting to wash the oil with water will only drive the oil deeper into the skin. An actual allergic reaction called sensitization is also possible when using oils undiluted, or poorly diluted, and/or for an extended period of time. The first time you use the sensitizing oil, you may not notice any change, although a sort of “defense” has already begun forming within your body. After subsequent uses, however, a reaction may occur that can potentially lead to an irreversible sensitization to that particular oil. Cross sensitization can be present when using another oil after the reaction to the first. I have seen photos of oil users who suffered from sensitization reactions leading to hospitalization circulating on Facebook. This saddens me, because it leaves an entire population of people who are now afraid to even give oils a try. What the articles do not state is that reactions like this are preventable, should you use oils respectfully. Not everyone who uses oils undiluted will react, but I like to think of them like seatbelt. to even lavender, so do not think the mild oils cannot cause harm when abused. Each person’s level of sensitization varies as well, so if you show irritation to even the slightest of products, proceed with caution and dilute well when using oils topically!
5. Who else is using oils today? Chiropractors, hospitals, spas, dentists, college students, children, moms, dads, athletes, and midwives. Pretty much everyone has/is/will be dipping their fingers into these beautiful gifts of the Earth.
6. They can enrich your life like you would never believe. This is my favorite fact about oils, because I wholeheartedly believe that it is true. Despite the list of scary things that I listed above, I use oils in my house regularly, proudly, and with confidence. I list these potential reactions, because I want any of you who are curious to gain awareness at the very start of your journey on how to avoid any of these scenarios, because they are completely avoidable. I’m a huge advocate for educating yourself for the ultimate success. Start using oils the way that you SHOULD use them, rather than following the current careless trends, and you will have smooth sailing! Using oils is exciting, and rewarding! I feel so in control of our emotions and our ailments, because where I couldn’t really combat something before, i.e. viruses, general fatigue, sadness, etc, I now have a cost effective arsenal at my hands that is safe and easily recognized by our bodies, due to its plant based nature. Rather than flooding our bodies with synthetics at the first sign of a sniffle, I can avoid the side effects that those medications have that sadly, unlike oils, are not avoidable. Sometimes going back to basics really is the best medicine. Giving our body the tools that it needs to heal itself has both short term and long term benefits that involve so many aspects of our lives! Guys, the success stories that are out there, from parents of children with ADHD and autism who had exhausted every other avenue of treatment, to the new moms who leave their postpartum depression medications behind in exchange for a diffuser and some uplifting oils, down to the sufferer of chronic allergies or ear infections, the changes that these oils have made in the lives of so many are hopeful and brilliant and ultimately so attainable for every one of us wishing for change…all we have to do is seek it for ourselves.
Kylie Craft | Essential Oils Educator