Essential oils are natural, highly concentrated aromatic liquids that are extracted from the flowers, leaves, roots, fruits, shrubs, seeds, bushes of various plants. They are powerfully and beautifully fragrant, providing plants with their distinct aroma and enhancing their immune system. They provide plants with protection against harmful insects, disease and harsh environmental conditions. They are natural alternatives for overall health care and general well being.
Essential oils have been in use from ancient times; as far back as 4500 BC. The early people had stumbled into certain plants that could cure their common ailments.
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They went further to concentrate these plant essences into essential oils which they used in treating illnesses, in religious rituals and as perfumery.
They passed this discovery to their descendants and over the years, there have been lots of improvement in its usage. Today, research has proven that essential oils, besides being safer and more affordable, work just as well and in some cases even better than commercial products. Essential oils are now used for numerous emotional and physical wellness applications.
Essentials oils are not really oils in the real sense of the word as they do not feel oily. They are not like our cooking oils either. The reason they are called oils is the high number of oil-soluble chemicals present in the plant (about 100-200 chemicals in one essential oil). They are highly concentrated, even much more potent than dried herbs. For instance, 1 drop of peppermint oil equals 26 cups of peppermint tea in potency and 1 drop of lemon oil equals 16 lemon rinds as well!
Since essential oils are extracted straight from parts of plants or trees, they possess a complex nature that is hard to replicate outside of nature. Actually, some essential oils contain substances that do not occur naturally anywhere else. Furthermore, they are not the same as fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are artificially created perfumes which have been infused with synthetic scents for aesthetic effect. Essential oils, on the other hand, actually provide the natural therapeutic benefits of their original plants.
When purchasing essential oils, make sure they are pure and of high quality. Do not buy fragrance oils or diluted essentials oils. The therapeutic properties are in the actual substances and not just the fragrance. Cheap copies bring cheap results, causing problems like skin irritation or even worsening an already existing ailment. There is no regulating body for essential oils so make sure you buy from reputable sources to get your moneys worth. To test if your oils are pure, put 3-4 drops on a blotting paper. Once evaporated, pure essential oils will not leave any residue but petroleum solvents and adulterated essential oils will.
Like any other substances, safety precautions must be taken when using essential oils. When using any essential oil for the first time, carry out a skin patch test. This test will also help you to know if you have a sensitive skin or you have an allergy to the oil.
To do a skin patch test, dilute your essential oil in carrier oil. Place 1-2 drops on the inner side of your upper arm, cover with a bandage and keep it dry for 24 hours. If the skin turns red or feels hot, then it is unsafe for your use. Apply vegetable oil to the area to dilute the essential oil. You can also wash it immediately with water and mild soap but this is less effective. Do not overlook this procedure as it is essential. Additionally, do not take anybodys word for it because two people may react differently to essential oil applied on them. Also remember that if you are allergic to any plant, you are likely to be allergic to its essential oil.
Like regular tanning oils, essential oils if not carefully used can cause sunburn or even very deep burns. If it gets into your eyes, dampen a cotton cloth with sesame or olive oil and apply it to your eyelids. Be informed that some essential oils can irritate the eyes so must be used with care. Again, a few can be poisonous e.g. tea tree oil. Avoid this poisonous essential oil for mouthwash.
The safest way to treat essential oil is to consider them as medicines. This way, you will be able to lessen the level of harm that may occur, if handled wrongly.