Essential Oils

For well over several thousands of years, humans have been employing essential oils for therapeutic purposes as well as sustaining good health. In effect, the ancient Egyptians extensively used essential oils. Currently, essential oils are used extensively in lotions meant for external use, aromatherapy, comforting baths and in a great assortment of herbal medications.
Any attempt to define essential oils accurately as well as in a few words is really difficult. For all practical purposes, one may possibly depict essential oils in the form of natural odoriferous (having potent fragrance) compounds that are present in or separated from plant materials. Generally, essential oils are in liquid form (in some exceptional cases they may be in semi-solid form, but seldom found in solid form), are not water soluble and volatile when they come in contact with steam. Essential oils evaporate at dissimilar paces under normal atmospheric pressure and at room temperature. Therefore, they are alternately referred to as ‘ethereal’ or ‘volatile’ oils too. In fact, the general term ‘essential’ is derived from the Latin expression ‘essentia’ – the ‘quinta essentia’, which the ancient alchemists regarded to be the attribute as well as the most vital element of all natural substances.
The comparatively rapid pace of evaporation of the essential oils and their distinct smell, apart from the chemical make-up of these oils, make them basically different from the stable, fatty oils. Among the several thousands of plant species identified in humans so far, comparatively a very little number of them provide essential oils. The essential oils actually develop either all over the complete plant or only in particular parts. A number of essential oils are found only in the roots, or the timber, bark, leaves, flowers or the fruits of the plants. In a number of instances, different parts of the same plant may possibly enclose essential oils of dissimilar composition.
Over the years, numerous theories have been put forward to elucidate the essential oils’ biochemistry; nevertheless, none of them has been established as being totally acceptable. Possibly, the essential oils are just purging products in the life progression of the plants. If this is the case, they are similar to specific gums, resins, and balsams; however, a number of essential oils definitely seem to be the forerunners of this type of exudation products.
It may be noted that as far as their physicochemical attributes are concerned, the essential oils greatly differ and their chemical composition is generally complicated. Some of them are near exclusively made up of only one element, for instance, the essential oils obtained from sweet birch (methyl salicylate), wintergreen and cassia oil (cinnamaldehyde). However, the majority of the essential oils enclose a greater number of ingredients, sometimes 50 or even more – which is something not atypical. These individual constituents are members of numerous categories of organic compounds, especially the sesquiterpenes and terpenes, and their esters, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, oxides and lactones among other things. A number of these essential oils are open chained while several of them are cyclic and bicyclic. Some of them also belong to the aromatic series, for instance, benzyl acetate and phenyl ethyl alcohol, and findings of recent studies have revealed that the azulenes appear to have a vital function in the essential oils.
An analysis of the essential oils can be achieved by conventional physio-chemical examinations, for instance, finding out the specific gravity, solubility in alcohol, optical rotation, boiling point and others. In addition, it is also possible to verify the free acids, esters, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, phenols and phenol ethers through conventional tests. Recently, scientists have made vast advancement in examining essential oils, especially in isolating as well as identifying individual components, by means of introducing state-of-the-art chromatographic and spectroscopic methods, for instance, infrared and ultraviolet (UV) absorption, nuclear magnetic resonance, gas and thin-layer chromatography as well as mass spectrometry. As the smell will continue to be a vital decisive factor always, the assay of an essential oil will not be absolute without cautious organoleptic examinations. However, it requires substantial experience on the part of the examiner to undertake the organoleptic tests of essential oils.
The majority of the essential oils are actually isolated from different parts of plants, for example, the leaves, stem, wood, roots, flowers, and bark, by means of a process known as hydro-distillation – partially in primordial, changeable stills – and partially in contemporary stationary distilleries. Only in the instance of citrus oils, which are present in the peel or coverings of the citrus fruits, essential oils are isolated by means of expressing the peel mechanically. Specific varieties of flowers are actually extremely fragile and, hence, the essential oils enclosed by them are unable to endure the hydrodistillation process, neither are they suitable for expression. Hence, the essential oils contained in such flowers need to be isolated by means of extraction using volatile solvents (generally, extremely refined petroleum ether) to yield the purported natural flower oils in a real, solid variety than can be converted into complete, liquid form. Such flowers include jasmine, acacia, tuberose, mimosa and the like. It is possible to process a number of flowers, including bitter orange blooms and rose, either by means of hydrodistillation or through solvent extraction.
The amount of essential oil yielded by a plant actually varies depending on the species. In the majority of instances, the yield varies from approximately 0.2 per cent to 2.0 per cent. However, oil rose also known as otto of rose and clover oil are two extreme examples in this case. While rose yields only 0.025 percent of essential oil, clover yields as high as 17.0 percent of clover oil.
It may be noted that several regions of the world produce essential oils, especially those having warm as well as temperate climatic conditions.
Not more than a hundred types of essential oils have already achieved genuine commercial significance. These essential oils are extensively used to add fragrance as well as essence to nearly a limitless assortment of consumer items, including food products, chewing gums, confectionery, pharmaceutical, and dental formulations, alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic drinks, soaps, room sprays, detergents, insecticides, perfumes, and cosmetics. They have also employed to camouflage the odor in artificial products, for instance, rubber goods, leathers, and plastics.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF ESSENTIAL OILS:

aromatherapy-essential-oilsIt has been proved that the essential oils offer numerous health benefits. They are obtained from the leaves, flowers, stems, barks as well as the roots of plants by means of distillation. Essential oils may have a direct or indirect effect on our body’s physiological system. For instance, taking a few drops of peppermint oil by mouth may promote digestion. Similarly, breathing in lavender oil causes a soothing impact.
A number of essential oils may be taken orally to aid in stimulating digestion while several other essential oils are applied topically to alleviate inflammation and provide relief from pain. Essential oils having antiseptic as well as anti-fungal attributes are also employed to sterilize and cure scrapes, cuts as well as other injuries and skin complaints.
Aromatherapy is one area where essential oils are employed extensively. The use of essential oils in aromatherapy is not only very popular but has also proved to be useful in curing physical, emotional as well as aesthetic conditions. A number of essential oils have a tranquilizing and also invigorating effect on our nervous system and they can either raise or lower the blood pressure and regularize secretion of hormones in some way.
In addition, inhaling the steam of essential oils is helpful in the treatment of respiratory problems, for instance, a cold or influenza. The essential oils that are effectual for inhaling comprise eucalyptus, angelica, cypress, sage, myrtle, lemon grass, lemon, ocean pine, mountain pine, chamomile, juniper, niaouli, thyme, cedar, and hyssop. It may be noted that steam inhalation of essential oil is usually not suggested for people suffering from asthma.
Employing essential oils for lymphatic massage is actually a typical aromatherapy treatment that activates the healing process of the body by means of inciting the blood circulation as well as lymph fluid. It needs to be noted cautiously that nearly all essential oils ought to be diluted prior to applying them directly to the skin since direct application of essential oils may result in acute exasperation.
Normally, essential oils are diluted in the ratio of 15 drops of the oil to one ounce (approximately 28.35 grams) of carrier oil. It may be noted that carrier oil is basically any vegetable oil that is obtained by using the compress method on the fatty part of the seeds, kernels or nuts, for instance, wheat germ, almond, coconut, hazelnut, olive oil, jojoba and aloe vera oil.
There are a number of essential oils that alleviate the taut muscles and augment blood circulation. Such essential oils comprise lemon grass, lemon, rosemary, lemon verbena, juniper, lavender, birch, cinnamon and Swiss pine oils. On the other hand, essential oils that have a calming effect include petitgrain, Roman chamomile, rose, bergamot, lavender, mimosa, neroli, geranium, sandalwood, orange, cedar, rosewood, and tangerine. When you employ the facial and body oils every day, it helps to nurture the skin. Essential oils that are used for deep body massage comprise rose, jasmine, sandalwood, orange, cinnamon, ylang-ylang, nd iris.
essential oils and medical flowers herbs
essential oils and medical flowers herbs

Adding a few drops of essential oils to your bath will help to promote relaxation as well as lift your spirits. You may add five to ten drops of your preferred essential oil to the bath water and enjoy the benefits. Nevertheless, it is advisable that people having sensitive skin ought to dilute the essential oil by adding base oil. Ensure that you wipe the tub properly after the bath, since essential oils may leave stains on some type of tubs.

Having a comforting foot bath using essential oils is a wonderful experience. Add drops of rosemary, peppermint and thyme oils to a big basin filled with water and soak your feet in it for some minutes to bring back life to your tired feet. In order to get some extra comfort, after you have soaked your feet, massage some lavender oil on them.
In addition, essential oils are useful in curing insomnia (sleeplessness) or to bring on a peaceful sleep all through the night. For this, you may add a few drops of the essential oil of your preference to perfume your pillow.
Last, but not the least important, handkerchiefs are an extremely handy means to utilize essential oils. Inhaling a handkerchief perfumed by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil will help to alleviate the tension and pressure that build up all through the day. Adding only two or three drops of the essential oil to a handkerchief will be enough to serve the purpose.
Several types of synthetic or man-made oils are also available and they are generally much inexpensive compared to their natural equivalents. However, such synthetically prepared oils never possess the same curative attributes or results that are present in the natural essential oils. In addition, always bear in mind that essential oils are completely dissimilar to the ‘scented’ or ‘perfume’ oils – which are also known as fragrance oils.
It may be noted that perfume or fragrance oils enclose elements as well as chemicals that are not always obtained from plant sources. Very much similar to the man-made oils, fragrance or perfume oils also do not possess any remedial or healing attributes. This is the primary reason why it is always very important to carefully read the labels on all products that you plan to employ for aromatherapy.

Use of Essential Oils

Contrary to the common perception, essential oils are not oily, but undiluted liquids enclosing effervescing fragrant compounds usually distilled from different parts of plants, including leaves, flowers, stem, bark, and roots. Essential oils actually possess the genuine aroma and concentrate on the plants they have been obtained from and are hence known as ‘essential’. Essential oils are very valuable and a small amount sustains for long. They are also called ‘volatile’ or ‘ethereal’ oils and most essential oils are usually clear in appearance. Speaking precisely, every year people around the globe harvest thousands of tons of trees, shrubs, aromatic plants, flowers, roots and grasses and distil them most frequently by steam to obtain essential oils and absolutes.

WHERE DO ESSENTIAL OILS COME FROM?

essential-oil-bottles-plants-herbs-flowers-1024x695-5
The aromatic matters found in the plants are produced in the chloroplasts of the leaves. These distinctively smelling substances coalesce with glucose in the chloroplasts to develop into glucides, which later flow around the plant. The glucides accumulate in specific parts of the plants either at a particular time during the day or the year.
However, the essential oils are also formed in the tissues that perform the function of secretion in a number of plants, while in other plants they are blended with glycosides. In the second instance, the essential oils are usually not evident till the plant is dehydrated or squashed. An ideal example of this is the valerian. It is important to note that the essential oils are deemed to be performing significant roles in the food assimilation process or metabolism of the plants. While a number of essential oils have hormonal actions, others comprise a phase in some other development. For instance, the essential oil present in the rind or peel of the orange is basically a phase in the process of vitamin A synthesis.
Significantly, the essential oils may be present in nearly all parts of the plant. However, their concentration varies depending on the plant as well as the moment in time of a day or a period of a year. For instance, essential oils are found in the roots of calamus and valerian, flowers like the lavender and rose, barks of the sandalwood and cedarwood trees, fruits such as the lemons, cardamoms, and oranges, berries like juniper and leaves of the thyme, rosemary, and sage.
All plants possessing the essence ought to be harvested at a particular point of time during the day, in the right time of year and specific weather situations to enable one to extract the greatest amount of essential oils from the plants. In addition to these, as in the case of any other herbs (therapeutic or dietetic), the quality of the soil on which the plants are grown as well as the atmospheric or climatic conditions at a particular place also influence the amount and quality of the essential oils acquired from plants.
Absolutes are a special type of essential oils that are profound (heavy) and undiluted in nature. The essential oils extracted from flowers such as the roses and jasmines are perfect examples of absolutes. On the other hand, the essential oils that are in solid form at room temperature and need to be heated prior to use are known as balsams. Typical examples of the balsams include essential oils such as camphor and benzoin.

PROPERTIES OF ESSENTIAL OILS:

It is important to note that though many essential oils may possess features that are exclusive to them, they may have common medicinal actions and utilities. In fact, more or less, all concentrates possessed by plants are antiseptic or insipid in nature. The essential oils derived from eucalyptus, thyme, and the tea tree are best examples of this statement. In addition, a number of plant distillates also possess anti-viral characteristics. Among them, the essential oils extracted from garlic and the tea trees are the most potent.
Generally, the concentrate obtained from garlic is not used for aromatherapy message for understandable reasons. However, as an alternative, the essential oil obtained from garlic is used as a medication as garlic capsules. Several concentrates obtained from plants such as the rosemary and juniper are known to be effective in alleviating or preventing rheumatism. Massaging these essential oils on the surface of the skin invigorates the flow of blood as well as things pertaining to the lymph and boosts the supply of oxygen to the aching regions in the body. This process helps to remove the undesired elements such as the uric acid and lactic acid from the system. It may be mentioned here that the wastes such as uric acids and lactic acids are largely responsible for the acute pain endured by people enduring arthritic and rheumatic symptoms.

MEDICINAL AROMATHERAPY:

Numerous essential oils, as well as herbal medications also, possess a fascinating feature and that is their ability to normalize or produce various natural substances that work through the adrenal glands to produce adjustments in the body to combat stress and increase resistance to stress, and which usually produce no side effects. In fact, scientists in Eastern Europe have discovered that garlic possesses a special property whereby it can raise unusually low blood pressure and at the same time lower very high blood pressure.

In fact, the essential oil obtained from hyssop is said to possess a similar action like garlic. Several types of research have demonstrated that the hyssop essential oil makes the blood pressure to rise, subsequently, fall and finally stabilize it at normal conditions. Interestingly, such a feature is unique for essential oils obtained from garlic and hyssop and is absolutely absent in any artificial or chemical medicine.
It is important to note that a number of physicians engaged in the field of remedial aromatherapy have also found that combinations of specific concentrates are more potent compared to the individual essential oils present in the blend. They are of the opinion that this is primarily owing to an inexplicably combined effort of the concentrates at work. As a result, the impact of the blends is more compared to the total of each of the individual essential oils in the combination. This phenomenon is especially evident in the case of the antibacterial activity of the essential oils. For instance, a combination of essential oils obtained from thyme, clove, lavender, and peppermint is much more potent compared to what the chemist may anticipate of the combination considering the collective chemical elements of the essential oils in the blend.
While a blend of a few essential oils may prove to be more powerful than the total strength of each of them, it has been intriguingly noted that when more than five concentrates are blended together the result is harmful or counter-productive. However, a number of essential oils are extraordinarily aggressive against microbial germs even when they are used individually. For instance, the essential oil derived from the lemon is so aggressive that it counteracts typhoid, diphtheria and pneumonia bacteria below three hours! With a view to determining the essential oils that are most suited and effective for any individual, the French aromatherapy physicians normally undertake a special test known as the aromatogram that is said to be a vital key to optimizing treatment with aromatherapy. Employing the aromatogram entails collecting a layer from a contaminated region of the patient’s body, culturing the substance in a laboratory and subsequently testing it with at least 15 different essential oils to ascertain the right combination of the oils that would be most effectual for treating the infections in a particular person. Once the most powerful oils have been identified, they are produced as capsules and given to the patient for oral administration. It is surprising to note that under this form of treatment different combinations of essential oils are used to treat the same infections in different individuals. Hence, there is no fixed formula for treating any particular infection, but it depends on the individuals enduring the contagions.

SOME THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF ESSENTIAL OILS:

A number of essential oils possess some special remedial properties, including antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, cytophylactic and sedative. These topics are discussed in brief below.
ANTISEPTIC:
As discussed earlier, more or less all essential oils possess antiseptic properties, which is one of their most noteworthy and helpful features. In fact, an expansive depiction of ‘antisepsis’ comprises anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-viral and common anti-microbial actions that are present in essential oils obtained from fruits, leaves, roots, flowers and bark of plants such as lemon, thyme, garlic, tea tree, lavender, pine, sandalwood, cinnamon, and eucalyptus.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY:
Essential oils possessing anti-inflammation features aid in alleviating irritation and tenderness. Normally, the indications of inflammation include aches, swelling, redness and sectional or complete loss of the concerned tissues. Some of the essential oils that possess anti-inflammatory features include concentrates obtained from rose, chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, benzoin, and myrrh.
CYTOPHYLACTIC:
Many essential oils also help in restoring tissue function as well as a renewal of cells. Essential oils derived from basil, pine and rosemary are known to possess such extraordinary features. They are said to reinstate the performance of the adrenal glands while the concentrate present in cypress, jasmine, and ylang-ylang help to renew the functioning of the reproductive endocrine glands. On the other hand, essential oils derived from lavender and chamomile also rekindle the renewal of the cells in the dermis.
SEDATIVE:
Many essential oils also have a distinct impact on the nervous system as their administration/ application leads to relaxation, comfort, alleviate pain, mitigate muscle contractions and soothe the nerve cells. Generally, essential oils obtained from rose, neroli, lavender, ylang-ylang and geranium possess these special properties.

Lavender Oil

A whiff of lavender oil can trigger various sensations, and its sweet fragrance brings to mind rows and rows of beautiful blue-violet flowers under the summer sky. But if you look beyond lavender oil’s aroma, you’ll find that there’s more to it than meets the eye – or your sense of smell.

What Is Lavender?

Lavender oil comes from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), an easy-to-grow, evergreen shrub that produces clumps of beautiful, scented flowers above the green or silvery-gray foliage. The plant is native to northern Africa and the mountainous Mediterranean regions and thrives best in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it grows throughout southern Europe, the United States, and Australia.

Lavender has been used for over 2,500 years. Ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans added the flowers to their bathwater to help wash and purify their skin. In fact, the word “lavender” comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.”

Phoenicians, Arabians, and Egyptians used lavender as a perfume, as well as for mummification – mummies were wrapped in lavender-dipped garments. In Greece and Rome, it was used as an all-around cure, while in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was scattered all over stone castle floors as a natural disinfectant and deodorant. Lavender was even used during the Great Plague of London in the 17th century. People fastened lavender flowers around their waists, believing it will protect them from the Black Death.

High-quality lavender oil has a sweet, floral, herbaceous, and slightly woody scent. Its color can range from pale yellow to yellow-green, but it can also be colorless.

Uses of Lavender Oil

Both lavender and lavender oil are valued for their fragrance and versatility. The flowers are used in potpourris, crafting, and home décor, while the essential oil is added to bath and body care products, such as soaps, perfumes, household cleaners, and laundry detergent.

Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It also has antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive, and sedative effects. Lavender oil is one of the most well-known essential oils in aromatherapy, and can be:

  • Added to your bath or shower to relieve aching muscles and stress.
  • Massaged on your skin as a relief for muscle or joint pain, as well as for skin conditions like burns, acne, and wounds. Make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.
  • Inhaled or vaporized. You can use an oil burner or add a few drops to a bowl of hot water, and then breathe in the steam.
  • Added to your hand or foot soak. Add a drop to a bowl of warm water before soaking your hands or feet.
  • Used as a compress by soaking a towel in a bowl of water infused with a few drops of lavender oil. Apply this to sprains or muscle injuries.

I also recommend adding lavender oil to your list of natural cleaning products. You can mix it with baking soda to make an all-natural antibacterial scrub for your bathroom and kitchen.

Composition of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents. This oil is rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules with antispasmodic (suppressing spasms and pain), calming, and stimulating properties.

The chief botanical constituents of lavender oil are linalyl acetate, linalool (a non-toxic terpene alcohol that has natural germicidal properties), terpinen-4-ol, and camphor. Other constituents in lavender oil that are responsible for its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory properties include cis-ocimene, lavandulyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, and geraniol.

Benefits of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties and has been used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.

I am particularly fascinated by lavender oil’s potential in fighting antifungal-resistant skin and nail infections. Scientists from the University of Coimbra found that lavender oil is lethal to skin-pathogenic strains known as dermatophytes, as well as various Candida species. The study, published in Journal of Medical Microbiology, found that lavender oil kills fungi by damaging their cell walls (a mechanism that I believe could apply to bacteria and viruses as well). The best part is that this oil does not cause resistance, unlike antibiotics.

Lavender oil can also be used to:

  • Relieve pain. It can ease sore or tense muscles, joint pain and rheumatism, sprains, backache, and lumbago. Simply massage lavender oil onto the affected area. Lavender oil may also help lessen pain following needle insertion.
  • Treat various skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles. It also helps form scar tissues, which may be essential in healing wounds, cuts, according to Texas-based dermatologist Dr. Naila Malik, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness.
  • Keep your hair healthy. It helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCB) says that lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata (hair loss), boosting hair growth by up to 44 percent after just seven months of treatment.
  • Improve your digestion. This oil helps stimulate the mobility of your intestine and stimulates the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Relieve respiratory disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
  • Stimulates urine production, which helps restore hormonal balance, prevent cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and relieve cramps and other urinary disorders.
  • Improve your blood circulation. It helps lower elevated blood pressure levels and can be used for hypertension.

Lavender oil can help ward off mosquitoes and moths. It is actually used as an ingredient in some mosquito repellents.

How to Make Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is produced via steam distillation. The flowers are picked when they are in full bloom, where they contain the maximum amount of esters. It takes 150 pounds of lavender to produce just one pound of pure lavender essential oil.

You can also make a cold infusion by soaking lavender flowers in another oil.

Ingredients and Materials:

  • Dried lavender flowers
  • Mineral oil or olive oil
  • Jar
  • Cheesecloth or muslin
  • Sterilized bottle

Procedure:

  • Clean and dry your jar completely, and then place the dried lavender flowers in it. You should have enough flowers to fill your jar.
  • Pour the oil all over the flowers until they’re completely covered.
  • Put the jar in a place where it can get a good amount of sun, and let it sit for three to six weeks. The sunlight will help extract the oil from the flowers and infuse it with the base oil.
  • After three or six weeks, pour the oil through your cheesecloth and into a sterilized bottle.

How Does Lavender Oil Work?

Lavender oil’s effectiveness is said to be brought on by the psychological effects of its soothing and relaxing fragrance, combined with the physiological effects of its volatile oils on your limbic system.

Lavender oil can be applied topically or inhaled as a steam vapor. Although dried lavender flowers are can be made into lavender tea, I advise against ingesting the oil, as it may lead to side effects, such as difficulty breathing, burning eyes and blurred vision, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Is Lavender Oil Safe?

I believe that using natural oils like lavender oil is one of the best holistic tactics that you can incorporate in your life. However, there are a few important guidelines to remember when using lavender oil.

Using diluted lavender oil topically or in aromatherapy is generally considered safe for most adults, but may not be recommended for children. Applying pure lavender oil to your skin (especially open wounds) may also cause irritation, so I recommend infusing it with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil. Dissolving it in water also works.

Be careful not to rub lavender oil in your eyes and mucous membranes. If this happens, wash it out immediately. Lavender oil may also cause allergic reactions in people with unusually sensitive skin, so do a spot test before using it. Simply apply a drop of lavender oil to your arm and see if any reaction occurs.

Side Effects of Lavender Oil

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to the lavender oil. There are also instances when people experience side effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and chills after inhaling or applying the oil topically.

I advise pregnant women and nursing moms to avoid using this oil, as the safety of lavender oil for these conditions hasn’t been identified. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) also warns against using lavender oil when taking medications like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and chloral hydrate, as it may increase their sedative effects and cause extreme drowsiness and sleepiness.

Aromatherapy Healing ~ Aromatherapy Techniques

In various subtle ways, you probably already use aromatherapy. When you make a tea made from a fragrant herb {such as peppermint or chamomile} or toss such herbs into your bath, you are extracting the herb’s essential oils into the water. Likewise, when you make recipes from this website that use fragrant herbs, you are using aromatherapy.

Because essential oils are so concentrated, the safest way to use them is to dilute them in a vegetable oil base and then rub them into the skin as you would a liniment. Essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream because their tiny molecules pass through the skin. Compounds from lavender essential oil have been detected in the bloodstream only 20 minutes after a lavender massage oil was rubbed on the skin. {You can test this at home by rubbing a piece of cut garlic on the bottom of your foot. Its essential oils will travel through the sole of your foot and within 30 minutes you will taste garlic!}

Essential oils are especially effective when you apply them to the skin over an internal region where they are needed. For instance, a massage oil designed to ease a stomachache can be rubbed over the abdomen. I will provide a chart at the end of this series that details the best proportions to use in creating aromatherapy products.

The most effective way to use aromatherapy is to make the fragrance so subtle that it is barely perceivable. Blend several scents together, as a perfumer does. Use your nose as your guide, and do not be afraid to experiment. I know nurses and other health care professionals who dab scented oil on the backs of their hands before seeing patients.

The most refined way to fill a room with fragrance is by using an electric aromatic diffuser, a glass apparatus that pumps a consistent, light mist of unheated fragrance into the air. {If you decide to purchase one, be sure to get a model with a quiet pump.} A simpler alternative is to dab a few drops of essential oil on a light bulb or, for a more lasting effect, on one of the special ceramic or metal rings designed to be placed on a light bulb {these rings are available at stores that sell essential oils}. When you turn on the light, the heat causes the scent to fill the room.

A simmering potpourri cooker, heated with either electricity or a candle will also scent a room for hours. You do not even need the potpourri; you can simply put a little water in the cooker and add a drop or two of essential oil. Or you can heat a pan of water containing a few drops of essential oil on the stove, then turn off the heat and allow the scented steam to fill the air.

Of course, the oldest way to scent a room is with incense {if you do not mind the smoke it produces}. Potpourri, sleep pillows and scented bed linens, clothes and stationary offer ways to share aromatherapy with others through fragrant gifts. Aromatherapy can even improve some of your mundane household tasks. Try placing a cotton ball scented with a drop of essential oil in your vacuum cleaner bag.

A fragrant plant often contains less than 1 percent essential oil, but that small amount can be highly aromatic. The oil is extracted from the plant by methods such as distillation or pressing. Once extracted from the plant, these pure essential oils are highly concentrated and must be used with care. Do not use them straight; always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, alcohol or water before putting them on your skin.

Aromatherapy/Essential Oils for Anxiety

Anxiety refers to the mental and physical signs experienced in response to perceived danger. When events, people, or even our own thoughts threaten us, our bodies experience a physiological and mental arousal that helps us cope with the threat. Some of the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety—such as nausea, rapid breathing, and heart rate, trembling, fear, dread, and worry—can be soothed using aromatherapy or essential oils.

Which Essential Oils Help Anxiety?

A number of essential oils are used individually or in blends to relieve anxiety. Several essential oils appear to have an effect on the neurotransmitters in the brain that play a role in anxiety. Sampling includes:

  • Bergamot: This essential oil is best at relieving stress and depression that can accompany anxiety.
  • Clary Sage: It alleviates the stress and exhaustion that often accompany anxiety.
  • Lavender: Commonly found in massage products, it has a calming effect on the mind as well as muscle tension that can accompany anxiety.
  • Patchouli: This oil also relieves stress and fatigue.
  • Roman chamomile: It is often used in an herbal tea, but is also commonly found in massage products due to its calming effect. Like lavender, it is helpful when anxiety is accompanied by insomnia. It also helps relieve nausea.

Other essential oils used to soothe anxiety include cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, mandarin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, and vetiver.

Using Aromatherapy/Essential Oils to Relieve Anxiety

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for psychological and physical healing. Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, or blossoms of plants. These oils, also called essences, can be used as inhalants, applied topically to the skin, and, in some cases, ingested to relieve symptoms of a variety of health conditions including anxiety.

Essential oils can be used in a number of ways. They can be added to massage oils or creams, or to a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a cold-pressed vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts. Examples of carrier oils are olive oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, and apricot kernel oil. After an essential oil is mixed with a carrier oil, it can be applied directly to the skin or added to a bath. The hot water of a bath complements the relaxing effects of the essential oil, providing additional benefit to someone suffering from anxiety.

You can also inhale essential oils by the process of diffusion. To diffuse essential oils, you disperse them so that their aroma fills the area with natural fragrance. Many methods exist for diffusing oils into a room, such as sprinkling a few drops of an essential oil on a tissue or adding drops of oil to a bowl of boiled water. Commercial products for diffusion include lamp rings, clay pots, candles, and electric diffusers.

How Do Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Work?

Essential oils are the pure essences of plants. They contain the plant’s own mix of active ingredients, which determines the healing properties of the oil. The naturally occurring chemicals found in essential oils work in synergy with one another. A synergistic essential oil blend, or one in which the healing properties of one oil complement the properties of another oil, is considered to be greater in total action than each oil used independently. Because essential oils are volatile substances, meaning they evaporate quickly, their molecules are easily inhaled. The oils provide triggers to our brain. These triggers affect our emotions and also provide physical benefit.

Is Aromatherapy Safe?

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be harmful if not used carefully. By following the guidelines listed below, you should be able to safely use aromatherapy to treat anxiety.

  • Essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin due to potential allergic reactions (there may be exceptions made by experienced aromatherapy users and practitioners). To test the oil, dilute only 1 drop of the essential oil with the carrier oil and apply the mixture on your skin, and cover with a bandage. Wait at least 24 hours to see whether irritation occurs.
  • Some essential oils, particularly those from the Citrus family, may cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. These oils include lemon, lime, bitter orange, grapefruit, and neroli, mandarin and bergamot listed above. Therefore, wait at least 5 hours after using them and before exposing your skin to ultraviolet sun rays, otherwise, your skin might redden and burn.
  • Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy or by those with asthma, epilepsy, or other health conditions. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions should avoid inhaling essential oils. Those with high blood pressure should avoid various essential oils, including sage, rosemary, eucalyptus, thyme, and rose, which is listed above to address anxiety.
  • When using essential oils, use the smallest amount of essential oil needed to soothe your senses and reduce anxiety. Only a few drops are needed for the oil to bring about a balance to body tissues and emotions.
  • Not all essential oils are suitable for aromatherapy. Wormwood, pennyroyal, onion, camphor, horseradish, wintergreen, rue, bitter almond and sassafras are some of the essential oils that should only be used by qualified aromatherapy practitioners due to their toxic effect if used excessively.
  • Keep essential oils away from children, and never let children use essential oils without adult supervision. Treat the oils with the same caution that you would use with medicine.
  • Essential oils should only be taken internally after receiving a detailed consultation and prescription from a trained aromatherapy practitioner.
  • Essential oils are flammable. They should never be stored near fire or an open flame, or burned in a diffuser without water. They maintain their therapeutic effect if kept out of direct sunlight in cool, dark places or in a refrigerator.

The U.S. government does not regulate the use of the word “aromatherapy” on product packaging, labeling or in product advertising so any product can be marketed as a product suitable for aromatherapy. There are many products on the market that contain unnatural ingredients, including fragrance oils, which claim to be aromatherapeutic. It is important to look at the ingredient label when seeking true aromatherapy products.

How Essential Oils Are Produced

All plant aromas can be attributed to the presence of essential oils, which perform vital functions in the life cycle of plants. Some aromas produced by essential oils serve to attract pollinators. Some aromas repel pests or discourage grazing animals from eating the plant. Others protect plants against infection by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

For commercial use, huge amounts of plant material are needed to produce small quantities of essential oils, which explains why some essential oils are so costly to buy. For example,  3 to 6 pounds of eucalyptus leaves are used to make 1 ounce of its essential oil. Ten to 20 pounds of lavender flowers are used to make 1 ounce of its essential oil. Production of 1 ounce of jasmine oil requires 160 to 280 pounds of flowers. And, 2,000 rose petals are needed to make a single drop of rose oil.

Several different techniques can be used to extract essential oil, depending on the plant.

Steam Distillation: 

Approximately 80 percent of plant essential oils are obtained by steam distillation – a process that uses steam, heat, and condensation to separate a plant’s essential oils from its solid and water components. This technology uses no solvents, so the product is very pure. Essential oils produced this way include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus.

Solvent Extraction:

For very delicate plants easily damaged by heat, other extraction techniques are available. Solvent extraction uses liquid solvents to dissolve and extract essential oils from the plant; the solvent is then evaporated under pressure. The initial product, called a concrete, is a sticky substance that contains plant waxes and pigments in addition to essential oils. The concrete can be sold as is or further refined to create a product called an absolute. This process is expensive, so it’s generally used only to extract desirable and costly fragrances {like jasmine} that can’t be produced through distillation. Solvent – extracted concretes and absolutes can contain traces of the solvents used to make them; so they aren’t appropriate for therapeutic use but are fine to use as perfumes.

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide {CO2} Extractions:

This newer technology uses carbon dioxide gas under low heat conditions to extract essential oils. Because less heat is used, the aroma of the essential oil is very close to that of the original plant. The final product is also free of solvent residues and is considered very pure. But the equipment needed for CO2 extraction is expensive, as are the oils produced.

Two types of essential oils are produced through CO2 extraction using slightly different technologies. One, called a selective extract, is a liquid composed mainly of volatile compounds. Oils produced this way include frankincense and myrrh. The other type, called type, called a total extract, contains volatile components as well as fats, waxes, and pigments with medicinal properties. This technology is used to produce essential oil extracts of carrot seed, calendula, chamomile, and vanilla. It’s also used to manufacture high-quality herbal extracts.

Cold Expression:

The essential oils of citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, oranges, and limes are found in special oil glands in the rinds of these fruits. These oils are often extracted through a process called cold expression, which involves crushing the rinds to press out the oil, much like the way olive oil is produced. Citrus oils can be also be produced through distillation.

Enfleurage:

The oldest method for producing essential oils, rarely used today, is called enfleurage. The procedure involves placing fragrant blossoms on solid sheets of animal or vegetable fat and allowing the scent of the flowers to permeate the oil. When the fragrances in the blossoms are exhausted – having been absorbed by the fat – they are removed and replaced with fresh flowers. This process is repeated until the fat is saturated with volatile oils. A solvent can be used to extract the oils from the fat, or the fat can be used as is, in the form of an enfleurage pomade. Before the advent of solvent extraction, enfleurage was the only method available for extracting essential oils from delicate flowers such as rose, jasmine, and tuberose. This is a very old system of extraction that traces its origins to ancient Egypt, where fragrant flowers were extracted in animal fat and used to perfume the body.

essential oil room sprayHydrosols:

Hydrosols – true “flower waters” – are by-products of the steam distillation of essential oils. A hydrosol is the water component left behind when a plant’s essential oil is separated out in the distillation process. Hydrosols contain water-soluble compounds that make them fragrant and soothing to the skin.

Two of the best known and most popular hydrosols are orange water and rose water. Both have traditionally been used in cosmetics and for culinary flavorings. Hydrosols also make refreshing, aromatic body mists and skin toners, and these are sold in spray bottles. Some commercially available hydrosols include lavender, geranium, chamomile, rose, neroli {or orange blossom}, and rosemary. When purchasing a hydrosol, look carefully at the label to be sure it is a true hydrosol and not aromatic water, which is a blend of water and essential oils.

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Dilutions for Common Use of Essential Oils:

Essential oils are extremely concentrated. You can benefit from just a few drops diluted in water or a carrier oil, lotion, or cream. Good carrier oils include sweet almond, grapeseed, and olive oils.

Use and Dilution

  • Use: Aromatic water {body mist} – Dilution: 10 drops per 1 oz. water
  • Use: Bathwater – Dilution: 3-6 drops per tub
  • Use: Body or facial oil – Dilution: 6-8 drops per 1 oz. carrier oil
  • Use: Footbath – Dilution: 5 drops per basin of water
  • Use: Massage oil – Dilution: 6-8 drops per 1 oz. carrier oil
  • Use: Room spray – Dilution: 15-20 drops per 1 oz. water
  • Use: Skin cream or lotion – Dilution: 6-8 drops per 1 oz. lotion or cream
  • Use: Steam inhalation – Dilution: 3-5 drops per 1 quart steaming water

Introduction To Essential Oils

Using Essential Oils

Two of the most popular ways to use essential oils are by inhaling them {smelling them} and by applying them to the skin {in a massage oil or facial oil}. To obtain the benefits of aromatherapy, essential oils can also be added to bathwater, skin creams, and lotions; used to scent bedding, clothing, and laundry; and incorporated into homemade air fresheners. A diffuser {a device specially designed to disperse essential oils into the air} can be used to fill an entire room with fragrance.

Inhaling Essential Oils:

Add a few drops of essential oil to a piece of cloth or a cotton ball. To make a steam inhalation, add three to five drops of essential oil to a pot of steaming water. Steam provides a vehicle not only for inhaling essential oils but also for carrying the essential oils to your skin. Position your face about 12 inches over the steaming water, drape a towel over your head, and breathe the steam for a moment or two. Remove the towel and take a few breaths of fresh air. Repeat the process for a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes.

Applying Essential Oils to Your Skin:

To protect your skin from irritation, always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil {a vegetable or nut oil} such as sweet almond, grapeseed, sunflower, olive, jojoba, apricot kernel, kukui nut, or hazelnut oil.

Aromatic waters are another easy and pleasant way to use essential oils on your skin. To make aromatic water, add 10 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of water in a spray bottle. To use, thoroughly shake the mixture, then mist your body and face, being sure to close your eyes before you spray.

Essential Oils and Their Properties:

Essential oils are highly concentrated sources of plant compounds. Many of them have healing properties, but they should never be taken internally.

  • Herb: Carrot seed {Daucus carota} – Property: Stimulates and regenerates skin cells; good for dry and mature skin.
  • Herb: Chamomile, German {Matricaria recutita} – Property: Anti-inflammatory; soothes sensitive skin and sore muscles; relaxing, uplifting aroma; might help ease insomnia
  • Herb: Clary sage {Salvia sclarea} – Property: Eases muscle tension and menstrual cramps; helpful for oily skin; relaxing, euphoric aroma
  • Herb: Eucalyptus {Eucalyptus globulus} – Property: Antibacterial, decongestant; clears sinuses and bronchial tubes; stimulating aroma
  • Herb: Geranium {Pelargonium graveolens} – Property: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal; stimulates and regenerates skin cells; helpful for mature skin; relaxing aroma
  • Herb: Lavender {Lavandula angustifolia} – Property – Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal; general first aid; stimulates and regenerates skin cells; helpful for sensitive and mature skin; calming and relaxing, might help ease insomnia
  • Herb: Lemon {Citrus limon} – Property: Antibacterial, antifungal; helpful for oily skin; uplifting aroma; might help ease stress and insomnia
  • Herb: Peppermint {Mentha x piperita} – Property: Antibacterial; uplifting, stimulating aroma
  • Herb: Rose {Rosa x centifolia or R. x damascena} – Property: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory; stimulates and regenerates skin cells; helpful for mature skin
  • Herb: Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis} – Property: Soothes muscle aches; stimulates circulation; helpful for mature skin; stimulating aroma
  • Herb: Tea tree {Melaleuca alternifolia} – Property: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory

Can Honey and Cinnamon Help Treat Acne?

Acne is more than just a skincare concern. It can also be painful, persistent, and uncomfortable with the person who develops it.

While prescription and other medicinal treatments can work, they may also contain harsh ingredients that can dry out the surrounding skin. Those looking for more natural remedies or for something that will clean the skin more deeply may turn to mask applications.

One such mask that is rumored to treat acne is made from honey and cinnamon. While there are some things to bear in mind when creating this mask, the treatment can be very soothing and work well as a cleanser.

Benefits of honey and cinnamon for the skin

Honey is a solution that is made from sugar, mostly fructose, and glucose. These sugars contain proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.

Prescription treatments may dry out the skin so alternative and natural remedies may be helpful.

For centuries, people have used honey as a medicinal treatment. The compound has been used to treat dandruff, psoriasis, burns, and fungal infections. Honey is also added to many skin care products.
The main reason for using honey and cinnamon to treat acne is because it can help to kill the bacteria that contribute to inflamed pores.
The Proionibacterium acnes or P. acnes bacteria have been found in many red and inflamed pimples. The bacteria feed on sebum, which is the waxy substance that can build up and clog pores, further contributing to acne.

Honey has several chemical properties that enable it to kill bacteria. Examples include:

  • A high concentration of sugar, which puts pressure on bacterial cells, making them less likely to multiply.
  • An acidic environment where bacteria cannot easily grow.
  • The compound propolis that bees use to seal their hive has antimicrobial properties.

Cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties. According to an article in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science Invention, cinnamon can kill or suppress the E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Candida albican microbes.

Cinnamon also has astringent properties. Astringents help to shrink pores, which can make the skin appear smoother and evener.

Research regarding honey and cinnamon’s benefits

The benefits of using honey and cinnamon together as a face mask haven’t really been studied. The two have been separately studied, but the research is mixed on whether or not they are effective.

Honey and cinnamon
Studies remain inconclusive on the effectiveness of honey and cinnamon as an acne treatment.

A study published in BMJ Open investigated the application of a 90 percent medical-grade manuka honey and 10 percent glycerine (honey-derived) treatment after washing the face with an antibacterial soap compared with washing the face with the same soap but not applying the honey.
The researchers concluded that adding the honey combination to the acne regimen only improved 4 out of 53 patients’ acne.
Another review looked at 70 articles about cinnamon and found that cinnamon has antimicrobial properties as well as wound-healing properties. The researchers also suggested that cinnamon may have anti-aging properties in the skin.

A review published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found that honey contains enzymes that create hydrogen peroxide, which has antimicrobial properties.

However, not all honey types have this property. An example is Manuka honey. However, Manuka honey still displays antimicrobial effects because it has a low pH level and high sugar content.

An article published in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection found that some types of honey from Iran had as much antimicrobial activity as certain antibiotics. However, the study’s authors pointed out honey hasn’t been studied as widely for its ability to kill the P. acnes bacteria that tend to thrive in pimples.

Like many natural treatments, honey and cinnamon as a skincare remedy haven’t been widely researched. People seeing a dermatologist for their acne should always check with them before using the cinnamon and acne mask to ensure it won’t affect current treatments used.

How to make a face mask

Some people who opt to make a face mask with cinnamon and honey will leave it on their skin for 30 minutes.
Others will use the mask as more of a “spot treatment,” applying it as a paste to pimples and acne blemishes. The options are truly up to the user, their skin concerns, and their skin type.
People intending to make a face mask can take the following steps:

  • Gather 2 tablespoons of honey and mix it with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon until it forms a paste-like substance.
  • Do a patch test on their hand. Apply a dime-sized portion of the mixture to the back of the hand. The user should wait at least 10 minutes to ensure that itching, redness, and swelling don’t take place.
  • Apply to skin, either to individual blemishes with a clean fingertip or cotton swab or to the entire face.
  • Rinse with warm water after leaving on overnight or rinse 30 minutes after application. People should avoid using excessively warm water as it can be drying to the skin.

One consideration is what type of honey to use. Medicinal-grade honey is available at many health foods stores. These honey have been purified and are generally free of additives. They are often the compounds used in skin care applications.

Two examples of medicinal-grade honey brands include Manuka honey and Revamil honey.

Some people prefer to use local honey, which is honey produced by honeybee farmers in their area. The idea behind using local honey is that it has compounds that may fight off illness when ingested. Some people will eat spoonfuls of local honey as a means to fight allergies.

Potential risks and alternatives

Honey is often safe when applied to the skin. It is possible that a person may have an allergic reaction to honey, however. Examples of allergic side effects can include hives, itching, swelling, and wheezing.

Cinnamon can also be highly irritating to the skin. For this reason, it is important to always use a test patch on the hand before applying the honey and cinnamon face mask to the entire face.

Other tips to help control acne

When it comes to treating acne, the goals are to keep the skin clean, moisturized, and free of pore-clogging oils and bacteria without over-drying the skin.

Many natural treatments for acne exist that can be used in addition to honey and cinnamon masks. Examples include:

  • Tea tree oil: A 5 percent tea tree oil solution can help kill acne-causing bacteria
  • Green tea extract: Applying a 2 percent solution of green tea extract lotion may help to reduce mild to moderate acne
  • Alpha hydroxy acids: These natural fruit acids can help unclog pores and encourage skin cell growth but may increase the skin’s sensitivity

An acne treatment plan can include the following steps:

  • Washing the skin twice per day with a mild cleansing soap and warm water.
  • Applying an acne spot treatment or product to any individual pimples. People who have a lot of acne blemishes may wish to apply a lotion over the entire face.
  • Applying an oil-free moisturizer to the skin, if desired. During the initial weeks of treatment, spot treatments may be particularly drying to the skin.
  • Applying an oil-free sunscreen to the skin in the morning.
  • Applying a skin-clearing treatment mask, such as a honey and cinnamon mask, once or twice a week.

Many people cannot control their acne with over-the-counter products. In this instance, they may need to see a dermatologist for a prescription for stronger medications that can fight acne blemishes.