Essential Central: Essential Oil Basics

Essential Oils are all the rage right now. Humankind has been using them for thousands of years for both health and beauty reasons, but it appears as though they've just exploded into westernized cultures. 

I personally have been using E.O.'s now for about three years, and I absolutely love them! I love what they've done for my health and the health of my family, and I love what they've done for me therapeutically. 

But before we dive head first into the oil pool, let me preface this by reiterating that I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist, botanist, biologist, or Essential Oil expert. I'm just a chick who's passionate about researching the products I put in, on, or around my body.

Part of my Young Living oil collection

I plan to keep this new series, Essential Central, going periodically. With it, I want to discuss the benefits of certain oils, the risks associated with certain oils, and how best to use oils altogether. But for this introductory post, I wanted a more basic, cliff notes version of what Essentials Oils are and what they are not.

For starters, not all essential oils are created equally. 

There are things called Fragrance Oils, and then there are true, therapeutic-grade Essential Oils. Fragrance oils do exactly what their name says; they are meant to be fragrant. Fragrance oils are cosmetic-grade, or perfume-grade oils. They are already diluted, so much so that they really hold no therapeutic or medicinal value. Most fragrance oils are still considered nature-derived, and can be found in beauty products claiming that their added fragrance is "all natural." However, many fragrance oils are still cut with chemicals, so even if the packaging says it's "all natural," that doesn't necessarily mean that it is.

True Essential Oils aren't actually oils, because they don't contain fatty acids, like coconut oil or avocado oil. Essential Oils are essentially (see what I did there?) the life essence of the plant they are derived from. Unlike animals, plants can't defend themselves with claws and teeth, so they have internal defense mechanisms that protect them from environmental stresses and dangers. Essential Oils are basically a plant's defense mechanisms in a highly-concentrated liquid form.

There are only a small handful of companies who actually make effective, therapeutic-grade E.O.'s. Young Living, the only company I personally trust and use for my E.O. needs, makes therapeutic-grade oils and food-grade oils. 

Food-Grade Oils

Not all E.O.'s are made to be ingested. Most aren't, actually. There are many that you can use topically, and then there are some that are only meant to be used aromatically. The Young Living Vitality line of E.O.'s can be used for ingestion, meaning you can use them orally for medicinal reasons, or you can use them in your cooking. They are less concentrated than the therapeutic grade E.O.'s, and therefore much safer to consume. 

As you can see, I have both oregano and peppermint vitality oils. I much prefer fresh or dried herbs for cooking, so I don't know yet if I'll use these in any recipes. I would, however, use them for medicinal reasons and take them orally. Oregano oil can do wonders for you if you feel a cold coming on. I actually learned that trick from one of my favorite bloggers, Lauryn of The Skinny Confidential. Peppermint can help with headaches and upset stomachs, not to mention it awakens the senses.

Aromatherapy Oils

Most true essential oils are going to be therapeutic-grade, meaning they can at least be used for aromatherapy. We have two diffusers in our house, and I'll combine different oils from time to time depending on what mood I'm in. 

Young Living Essential Oils
Mood-enhancing Oils

Sometimes, I'm looking to calm down, de-stress, and relax. Other times, I just like the smell of a certain oil, like Pine, and I just want whatever room I'm in to smell good. Whether you're actually looking for an oil to effect your mood, or you just want to improve your mood by improving your atmosphere, using E.O.'s for aromatherapy can do wonders for you.

Healing Oils

Lastly, there are oils that I use for healing. For example if I'm achy after a workout, or I've got some tension in my shoulders, I'll use these topically to help with the pain. But if you have sensitive skin, or you don't yet know how you'll react to a certain oil, ALWAYS dilute. That's where fatty oils will come into play. You can use olive oil or coconut oil, or almond oil to dilute E.O.'s for topical use. 

I also use healing oils aromatically. During cold and flu season, I like to diffuse Thieves (my favorite E.0.) because it has antibacterial and antiviral properties. 

Pro Tips:

1. Never put E.O.'s on babies and children without diluting them with a carrier oil. And only use ONE drop. E.O.'s are extremely potent.

2. NEVER use any E.O.'s containing peppermint on or near babies, small children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. This includes Peppermint, Wintergreen, Spearmint, and any other variation. Peppermint can cause upper-respiratory problems in babies and small children.

3. ALWAYS do your research before trying a new oil. And if you're going to use it topically, always do a patch test first.

There you have it, Pals. The very basics of using Essential Oils! I know this probably sounded like one long ad for Young Living, but I can assure you, it wasn't. This post isn't sponsored, none of these oils were given to me for free, and I'm not even a part of the YL Distributor program. Use or try whichever brand of oils you want, just do your research first.

Do any of you guys use Essential Oils? If so, which ones and what brands? If not, are there any posts you'd like to see in the future with more info on E.O.'s? Let me know!

Have an awesome weekend!

LesLeigh J.