Essential oils are something I’ve experimented with on and off over the 20+ years I’ve practiced the healing arts, first as a massage therapist and then as an acupuncturist. I’m falling in love with them all over again and finding what a dynamic and delightful addition they are in my acupuncture treatments my day to day life. Here is some basic information as well as do’s and don’ts to know if you are interested in experimenting with essential oils at home or in your own healing practice.
Essential oils are volatile oils extracted from the leaves, flowers, barks, root, fruits, seeds, resins and other parts of plants by various methods. Ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, India used essential oils as complimentary medicine for thousands of years.
This form of plant medicine can be used to:
clarify and focus the mind
provide antibacterial and antiviral assistance
beautify the skin, and so much more.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and powerful. When using them it is important to use precaution to ensure you are safe and receiving therapeutic benefit. The oils you choose should be 100% pure and preferably organic. Avoid using cheap oils which may be synthetic or adulterated with ingredients such as solvents and propellants that can cause irritation. Use essential oils in moderation to avoid an allergic response or irritation. When in doubt, dilute oils before topical use and use caution with kids and pregnant moms. Safety guidelines and a dilution ratio guide can be found here.
How to use essential oils
Inhalation, topical application, baths are the primary ways people use essential oils.
Topically- Topical use of essential oils penetrates the skin and is absorbed into the bloodstream. A few common oils such as lavender, tea tree and sandalwood are safe to apply “neat” or undiluted onto the skin. Other essential oils are categorized as sensitive such as peppermint, eucalyptus, bergamot and all citrus oils (which increase risk of sunburn) should be diluted in a carrier such as fractionated coconut oil, jojoba or almond oil. Avoid using on eyes and mucous membranes. You can add a few drops of essential oils to your bath water directly or mix into sea salt and then add to the bath.
Aromatically for inhalation: The sense of smell is one of our most primal instincts and tools. Smell can alert us of danger, arouse a memory, open the appetite or soothe the mind. Inhaling essential oils is thought to affect the limbic system of the brain via the olfactory nerve. These oils are also thought to be absorbed through blood vessels in the lungs when inhaled. You can use a diffuser to disperse a few drops of an essential oil or a blend for inhalation, or simply rub a drop on your palms and inhale. Depending on the essential oil you select, this simple and basic experience can give you swift effects such as mental focus or deep relaxation.
Energetics of Oils
Each oil has its own character that offers a unique scent and therapeutic effect. Essential oils can be placed in three basic categories, although there are more complex categorizations when studying them formally.
Top Note oils such as rosemary, eucalyptus and citrus oils are pungent and invigorating. They lift the mood, open respiration and clear mucous.
Middle Note oils such as lavender, clary sage and chamomile unwind tension, support immunity and soothe difficult emotions.
Base note oils like cedar wood, sandalwood and vetiver pull scattered energy down, grounding you and solidifying your energy.
While much is still unclear about the effectiveness and mechanism of essential oils, numerous studies have been carried out to study the effects of this therapy on human brain and its emotions. Its role in mood, alertness and reaction time has been debated and some spontaneous actions on the brain through electroencephalograph patterns and functional imaging studies. has been noted. Essential oil therapy was found to be superior when compared to synthetic odors. It appears lavender is promising to reduce anxiety disorders and insomnia while lemon oil can reduce nausea. Several studies have shown neuroprotective potential in treating Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment with essential oils.
Essential oils are a wonderful adjunct to natural self care. At Double Happiness Health we recommend that if you want to use essential oils, add them as a complement to a self care routine that includes a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise. When you see us for acupuncture care we will make a customized treatment plan for you and can include tailored essential oil suggestions and even use essential oils in your acupuncture treatment if desired. Let us know in the comments if you use essential oils and tell us your favorite oil.