Essential oils have become an essential part of my life. Their applications are diverse and have a wide variety of benefits. Considering a greater demand on industry for less harsh chemicals and synthetics in personal care products, society is looking at taking a more natural approach.
What is an essential oil? “A natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted”, as said directly from Oxford English Dictionary (online, American English ed.). To expand, it is a hydrophobic liquid (repels from water). Whoa science! It is called essential not because it is necessary but because it is from the essence of the plant source.
The mastery of using and harvesting essential oils has been thousands of years in the making, with dozens of cultures and individuals contributing to the art of distillation and purification. As far back as 4500 B.C., the Egyptians used oils gathered from plants as perfumes, medicine, and beyond. From Persia to China, the knowledge was passed along to improve health. Essential oils were even used to successfully treat cases of Bubonic Plague when antibiotics were ineffective. (Source: http://healingscents.net/blogs/learn/18685859-history-of-essential-oils , an excerpt from their aromatherpay guide)
Can I make essential oils? Sure! However to get a pure sample, it takes the right equipment (distillation), finesse, patience, and of course a lot of plant matter. Click here to watch a great video of steam distillation.
I became curious about essential oils when I started my program at Red River College. My curiosity exploded when I saw a Canadian company come to Winnipeg to open a retail store, Sage Natural Wellness. My program had an entire class dedicated to Nutraceuticals where I truly got to know the science behind the traditional remedies including essential oils.
***Fun fact about essential oils is that many are naturally antimicrobial!***
Now, in my office, home, and honestly everywhere I go, there are members of my little wellness team of essential oils. Working in an enclosed space, I face the problem of no sunlight as well as no true air movement. These conditions wreak havoc on my skin and especially my sinuses. I brought my ultrasonic nebulizer (just the name is exciting) to my desk. It works as a humidifier and you can add your favourite – or most needed – essential oil blend to the water well. As the vapour is quietly dispersed into the air, it purifies and deodorizes the space. I’ve had numerous people come in and say they feel they can breathe easier or how they notice the atmosphere of the room is more positive. My sinuses are happier, and I’ve had no nose bleeds since I brought it to work!
The aromatherapy aspect to essential oils is likely their biggest use. I find, however, when using products like the nebulizer that you don’t have such an overpowering aroma. In addition to aromatherapy, essential oils can be used topically. Rubbing a special blend on temples can relieve even the most pesky headaches. And, applying a small amount to tender muscles can allow them to release that tension and pain. Adding lavender to your evening soak can aid with restlessness and make for a more peaceful sleep. These are just some examples of the variety.
If you are looking for the right essential oil for your ailment or just curious of the variety of uses here’s a list I found very helpful.
***Please note: These products do not replace the expertise and care of your Doctor. Always consult your doctor when looking to take natural health products, especially when on other medications as they may cause a negative reaction. Some medications already contain compounds from these healing plants.
Here are some places where I purchase my favourite products in Winnipeg!