Ever wonder what makes essential oils “essential”?
Actually, it turns out the term “essential oils” is a bit of a misnomer. According to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, the original (and more accurate) term is “quintessential oils,” taken from the classical Greek concept of four elements — fire, earth, air, and water — to which Aristotle included a fifth element, quintessence: spirit or life force.
What are essential oils and how are they made?
Things have changed a bit since Aristotle was around and, in a nutshell, essential oils, which are derived from a variety of plants, are made by a physical process, the most common being distillation. Steam is circulated under pressure through the plant which extracts the oils into the steam. When this mixture is cooled, the water and oils are separated and the oil is collected.
According to dÅTERRA, a company specializing in essential oils, the plants that produce these oils do so as a natural protection against environmental threats, such as insects. When we use these oils, they can have beneficial or even healing properties.
How are essential oils used?
Essential oils can be used in three ways:
Aromatically: When essential oils are inhaled, they can promote or enhance a positive emotional state, calm the mind, and help you relax. Scents are powerful memory triggers, so all scents will not affect everyone the same way. But, generally speaking, lavender, orange peel, and jasmine are among the scents that tend to be calming. Some people like to use diffusers as a way to fill a room with a scent.
Internally: Some essential oils are safe to ingest. Try adding a few drops of lemon essential oil to your water to promote digestive health.
Topically: Essential oils can also be applied directly to the skin. Some oils may help alleviate sore muscles, while others might aid your complexion. When using oils directly on the skin, it is recommended to dilute the oil with another oil such as coconut oil, which you may even have in your home.
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Do essential oils work?
Yelena Kozlyansky is a chiropractor, licensed massage therapist, and spa director at Facelogic in Mount Kisco. She has been using essential oils in her treatments and believes that the sensory components of these oils greatly enhance the physical aspects of her work. “I don’t know how I did massage before I found essential oils,” she says.
Kozlyansky gravitates towards using “emotion blends” — combinations of essential oils that have been designed to produce certain shifts in mood and feeling — with her clients.
Are all essential oils created equal?
No. The government does not currently regulate essential oils and there is no industry standard. Just because a label on a bottle says “pure,” doesn’t mean it is, and there are variations in quality.
It also matters where the source plant for the oil was grown. dÅTERRA believes that plants grown in their native environments yield better results because the natural elements specific to that region promote the best profile of the aromatic compounds produced by the plant.
We recommend researching companies before buying your essential oils to find out where their oils are sourced.