What are Essential Oils and How are They Used?

What are Essential Oils and How are They Used?

For thousands of years, we’ve been using essential oils to address all kinds of daily needs.  And, to this day, they’re regarded highly for their therapeutic value – not to mention their value as a source of natural fragrance for the products we use on a regular basis.  But, despite their longtime popularity, many people don’t know exactly what essential oils are, what kinds of benefits they can offer, and how to use them properly to get the full benefits that they have to offer. 

What are Essential Oils?

An essential oil is a heavily concentrated liquid derived from a plant, which contains desirable volatile compounds – meaning, compounds that evaporate easily.  The term “essential” refers to the essence of the plant, rather than a synonym for “necessary”.  Essential oils contain only the plant’s compounds, with nothing added to them, and can be made out of any species, although the ones that you will find most often are derived from plants known to be particularly beneficial.

Examples of very popular essential oils include:

  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Orange (or “sweet orange”)
  • Peppermint
  • Grapefruit
  • Tea tree
  • Eucalyptus
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Clove
  • Cedarwood
  • Sandalwood
  • Lemongrass
  • Jasmine
  • And many, many more.

Each essential oil has specific benefits, just like their respective plants.  Essential oils are so valuable because they offer these benefits in the form of a very concentrated, and thus very potent, oil form, which makes their therapeutic properties extremely accessible.

Essential oils are created through various ways, depending on what best serves the individual plant.  Some involve a cold-pressing method – applying pressure with the absence of heat to a plant until its oils are fully separated and isolated.  Some methods use steam distillation, which applies high-temperature steam to the plant material.  There are numerous methods for extracting the oils from plants.

What Gives Essential Oils Their Properties?

The “volatile compounds” that we referred to earlier are primarily the terpenes of the plant.  And, if you’re a cannabis enthusiast, this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about terpenes.  Terpenes are the secondary compounds in weed and hemp (after cannabinoids), which play a major role in the effects we derive from cannabis.  The particular terpene profile of a cannabis breed determines its strain, affecting how we feel when we consume the cannabis plant.

Terpenes are responsible for the flavor and aroma profiles of plants, which is why essential oils have such a powerful aroma.  Terpenes also possess unique beneficial properties, such as properties that are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, stimulating, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, etc.  The role of terpenes in plant life is mainly to protect the plant against disease and infestation, and these same compounds can be highly therapeutic to us.

What Kinds of Effects Can You Get from Essential Oils?

Essential oils have been studied by clinical researchers for a long time, providing a great understanding of how useful they can be.  Of course, each essential oil has its own unique benefits, and we have already touched upon the variety of properties that you can derive from them.  Let’s get a little more specific by giving some examples of popular essential oils and listing what they can do.

How Can You Use Essential Oils?

There are a number of ways to derive benefits from essential oils, and certain benefits require a specific delivery method.  Let’s elaborate.

Method #1: Smelling

With some essential oils, simply removing the cap and inhaling the oil directly from the bottle can be very useful.  For example, a person who is dealing with nasal congestion can benefit from inhaling eucalyptus from the bottle, as that alone can break up mucus.  A person who is feeling anxious can inhale clary sage or lavender oil from the bottle and enjoy a calming sensation.  Simply smelling essential oils does introduce the plant’s volatile compounds into the body through the nasal passages.

Method #2: Diffusing

Diffusing is a popular way to get the benefits of essential oils.  It involves pouring a few drops of oil into a diffuser that contains water, and powering the device so that it diffuses essential oil vapor into your environment.  This effectively allows you to inhale the beneficial compounds in essential oils into the body, and besides that, it acts as a room fragrance.

Method #3: Applying to the Skin

Some essential oils offer benefits when applied to the skin, as they absorb transdermally to provide their properties to the tissue of the skin, muscles and joints, for effects like pain relief or relief from inflammatory conditions that affect the skin.  Keep in mind, however, that essential oils should be diluted before being applied to the skin, since the compounds are so concentrated that they can be irritating otherwise.  To dilute an essential oil, mix it with a carrier oil (any oil will do), and try to maintain up to a 5% concentration of the essential oil.

Method #4: Ingesting

Some people ingest essential oils, but this can be extremely dangerous, as not all oils are meant to be ingested.  Aside from that, if you are going to dilute an essential oil, it must be heavily diluted, with the same concentration as discussed earlier – about 2-5%.  Before ingesting an essential oil, please research it to find out whether or not it is an essential oil that’s considered safe to consume orally.

Are Essential Oils Safe?

Yes, essential oils are generally safe, when  they’re being used as instructed.  Like we mentioned, certain essential oils can be harmful to ingest – toxic, even – and in general, they should always be diluted if they’re going to be ingested or applied to the skin. 

One thing we do need to point out, however, is that essential oils can be highly toxic, and even deadly, to pets.  Even diffusing certain essential oils around a pet can be very dangerous, so please look up the essential oil that you’ve purchased to find out whether or not it’s safe to use around animals.

Is it Time to Incorporate Essential Oils into Your Routine?

Essential oils can offer an all-natural way to manage things like mood, sleep, inflammation, and more.  And, research has been done over the years to show just how clinically useful essential oils are.  If you’re interested in exploring these oils for yourself, visit Kingdom Harvest.  Whole4Life Essential Oils use high-quality extraction methods, and even promise the purity levels that you’re looking for.