Essential Oils 101 – Guest Post from Dr. Eric Zielinski
This is a guest post by Dr. Eric Zielinski. As an aromatherapist and public health researcher, he started DrEricZ.com in 2014 to help people learn how to use natural remedies like essential oils safely and effectively. Now visited by five million natural health seekers every year, it has rapidly become the #1 source for Biblical Health and non-branded essential oils education online. An accomplished researcher with several publications and conference proceedings, Dr. Z currently sits as a peer-reviewer for multiple journals.
Aromatherapy and essential oils are getting a ton of attention right now, and many people are choosing to adopt them in place of toxin-filled air fresheners and artificially scented aerosol sprays, as well as adding them to homemade beauty products and all-natural DIY cleaners.
My wife and I began using essential oil aromatherapy in our home several years ago and in that time we’ve seen that it enhances our mood, sleep, health, and virtually every aspect of our lives! We’ve also noticed positive changes in our children from essential oils as well.
In this article, I’ll give you a quick introduction to essential oils and provide some simple ways you can start using them in your own life.
What Are Essential Oils?
The original scientific term used for essential oils is volatile oil. The volatile oil of a plant is the part that disperses quickly into the air. In fact, according to The Encyclopedia Britannica, they are are called essential oils because they were thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor.1
The essential oil is the reason you can smell roses when you take a whiff of their blooms. It is released when you shake the plant itself or walk through a garden of roses.
Essential oils can be located in a plant’s roots, stems, leaves, and blossoms, and they are multifaceted, offering a range of therapeutic effects that can vary according to their composition.
A plant’s essential oil is a component of the plant itself, and it contains thousands or even millions of molecules that contribute to the plant’s needs and uses. This is key because the chemical composition of an essential oil can help us determine how we can best utilize it for scent, mood, culinary, or health purposes.
The essential oils that you can purchase online or at health food stores are extracted from plants using steam distillation to release droplets of essential oils. These oils are then collected to create a concentrated solution. Since it’s an extraction of only a very small part of the plant, it takes large volumes of each plant to create even a small bottle of essential oils.
It’s important to understand that because essential oils are a highly concentrated extraction of a plant, they should be used differently (with greater care and for more specific use cases) than you would the plant itself.
For example, cinnamon is a spice that comes from cinnamon bark, and it includes the cinnamon essential oil, as well as all of the other component parts of cinnamon bark. As such, it can be added to your tea, sprinkled into dessert recipes, etc.
Cinnamon essential oil, however, only has the essential oil component of cinnamon bark and is highly concentrated. So it should be used for the specific benefits those molecules provide – which in the case of cinnamon is as an antibacterial.
While the essential oil does still taste great and can be used in cooking with proper care (more on that below) it can also be a dermal irritant, so you wouldn’t add it into your tea the same way you would a stick of cinnamon because it could damage your mouth and throat.
3 Ways to Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be used by the following methods:
- Topical Application
- Home and Beauty Products
Inhaling essential oils is the oldest and safest way to obtain their therapeutic benefits. To obtain their direct effects, you can breathe in their steam or inhale them directly from the bottle or from a few drops on a cloth. This method helps disperse the volatile oil to your respiratory system and mucous membranes.
Topical use provides a more direct approach to applying essential oils compared to inhalation. The oil is absorbed through the layers of your skin, instead of being exposed to your mucus membranes.
The safest and preferred way to apply essential oils topically is to dilute them using a carrier oil such as olive, coconut, jojoba, or avocado oils. Using a carrier oil helps ensure that the application doesn’t cause a skin irritation, and the oils used often have their own health benefits themselves.
Essential oils can also be used when making your own toxin-free home and beauty products. In addition to adding wonderful scents, essential oils offer antimicrobial properties for household cleaners, and mood and relaxation benefits for body and beauty products.
**Some people advocate ingesting essential oils. However this is hotly debated and not all types of essential oils are safe to ingest. Unless you are working personally with an essential oils expert, it is not advised to ingest essential oils.
3 Essential Oil Blends to Support Your Brain, Mood & Sleep
Here are a few of my family’s favorite essential oil blends to help support optimal focus, deep breathing, and restorative sleep.
We simply add up to 6-10 total drops into a diffuser or pot of simmering water and let it disperse throughout the room.
Focus Blend: cedarwood, frankincense, sandalwood, vetiver
Deep Breathing Blend: cardamom, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree
Sleepy Time Blend: roman chamomile, lavender, and vetiver
These blends are a great place to start if you’re just beginning with essential oils and want to explore how they can support your mood, sleep, and health.