Getting Acquainted with Essential Oils & Aromatherapy
Essential Oils... are the volatile components of plants. These substances can be released by the plant and “fly” to communicate with another plant or an animal. The word “volatile” is from the Latin “volare”, to fly. We receive these flying messages from the plant as aromas through our olfactory sense.
Aromatherapy... is the use of the volatile components of plants to effect a benefit. This benefit can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or environmental. The benefit to our bodies correlates strongly with the plant’s own objective in making essential oils.
Plants make essential oils... to communicate or as a response to environmental stress. Some of the reasons plants make essential oils is to attract pollinators, heal wounds, repel insects or predators, establish territory, conserve moisture and to cope with extremes of weather. We can use essential oils for these same benefits.
We get essential oils from plants... by steam distillation or cold pressing. We use solvent extraction to get the essential oils (along with pigment and waxes) from delicate flowers. These products are often called absolutes.
The part of the plant from which the oil is extracted is a strong indicator of its benefit to us!
- Flower oils (ex. Lavender, rose, chamomile, geranium, jasmine)
- Flowers provide the sexual function of the plant, and also reflect its highest energy. Flower oils influence the central nervous system, pain pathways, and some hormone balance.
Flower Essential Oils >>
- Leaf and needle oils (ex. Peppermint, rosemary, pine, tea tree)
- The leaves and needles of plants facilitate the exchange of gases and nutrients from the plant. These oils affect pulmonary, digestive, circulatory and immune (protective) function.
Leaf and Needle Essential Oils >>
- Citrus oils (ex. Lemon, orange, lime, mandarin)
- Oils from the rinds seem to store the cheering energy of the sun. They are uplifting to the spirit, especially in the winter. They are fresh and cleansing, and help the body break up fats.
Citrus Essential Oils >>
- Heartwood, Root and Resin oils (ex. Frankincense, sandalwood, vetivert)
- Roots, heartwood and resins ground the plant and allow it to weather wind and stress.
These oils ground our spirit and are very sustaining during physical or mental stress.
Heartwood, Root and Resin Essential Oils >>
- Spice oils (ex. Cinnamon, clove, coriander, black pepper)
- Protective bark oils repel predators with their hot taste and are germicidal against outside invaders. These oils are useful for infectious disease and are great for digestion.
Spice Essential Oils >>
Important things to know about using essential oils
- One drop of essential oil is the roughly equal to 30 CUPS of herbal tea!
- Less is more. Most applications use just 2-4 drops.
- Use is by inhalation or diluted external application.
- Learn about each essential oil before using it.
- Education is important.