What are ESSENTIAL OILS - A practical and complete GUIDE

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Humans have used essential oils for thousands of years. In fact, in ancient Egypt they already used them, that is, we already discovered and used them for at least 4,000 years BC… And if you have come this far, it is because you want to know them well, right?

It is important to know exactly what they are, how they act, what properties they have, etc., before starting to use them. For example, they should not be confused with aromatic oils for cooking, although essential oils can also be used, very specifically, for cooking. Other more common uses are those directly related to the physical and mental health of people and animals, cosmetics and even for the home.

In Green Ecologist we help you to know What are essential oils and we talk to you in depth about them.

What are essential oils: simple explanation

All aromatic vegetables contain essences and pure essential oils are the most powerful extract of essences. Thus, essential oils are extracted from aromatic trees and aromatic plants, both from their stems and roots, as well as from their leaves and flowers.

The smell that the different parts of an aromatic plant give off, especially the flowers and fruits, is the essence itself. It contains aromatic molecules, which are the ones that confer the odor itself, and other molecules that make up chemical substances with different properties and not just odorous ones. Thanks to this, pure essential oils contain a variety of properties that can help us if we know how to use them well. These same properties are those that protect the plant against attacks and, in this way, can protect itself against fungi, bacteria, viruses and other pests or even close a lesion on the stem or leaves faster.

How essential oils work in our body

As we have indicated, pure essential oils They are contained in vegetables and, thanks to their composition, they have a variety of properties that we can take advantage of. But how do these oils work? The truth is that they manage to function in our body thanks to the complex and powerful chemical composition they have, since they have a great diversity of molecules that confer different properties, since some are more effective against bacteria, against viruses, etc., and thanks to this composition and in adequate doses, we can benefit by improving the immune system, improving the circulation, etc.

They can act easily in our body because can easily penetrate our skin and thus enter the bloodstream and reach the different organs.

Essential oils for aromatherapy

You've surely heard of the use of essential oils for aromatherapyBut what is aromatherapy? It can be defined as the use of these therapeutically, that is, to cure or alleviate conditions and health problems or to keep the body in balance. In fact, the essential oil obtained from vegetables is the concentrated essence and, therefore, it is a very active product and with a small amount it can achieve a great effect on the body. It is for this reason that you have to know what the uses of essential oils and how to use them well taking into account certain precautions and knowing the doses, for this reason it is necessary to use them under the indications of a specialist.

We can also indicate that more specifically, aromatherapy is considered as a branch of phytotherapy, that is, to the use of the different parts of the plants with therapeutic purpose. These can be used in different ways such as including them in food, infusions, teas, macerates, essential oils, etc.

Properties of essential oils

Essential oils have an immense variety of properties and each of them has several. However, in general, all are antiseptic, although some much more than others, since their main function within plants is to protect them from external agents such as parasites, viruses and other diseases.

These are some of the main ones according to the properties of essential oils What are we looking for:

  • Essential oils with relaxing properties: lavender, lavender, rosewood tree, exotic basil, frankincense or frankincense, mandarin orange, Roman chamomile, marjoram, bitter orange, sweet orange, camphor rosemary, ylang-ylang, etc.
  • Essential oils with anti-cellulite properties: juniper seeds, bourbon geranium, lemon, tangerine, camphor rosemary, clary sage, thyme linalool, etc.
  • Essential oils with anti-wrinkle properties: rosehip, rosewood tree, sticky rockrose, lemon, tangerine, etc.
  • Essential oils with analgesic properties: cloves, lemon, marjoram, Roman chamomile, lavender, lavender, bitter orange, camphor rosemary, wintergreen, peppermint, clary sage, etc.
  • Essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties: Roman chamomile, marjoram, bitter orange, peppermint, clary sage, wintergreen, etc.
  • Essential oils with antibacterial properties: tea tree, thyme thymol, linalool thyme, rosemary, cloves, niaouli, garlic, sticky rockrose, lemon, tangerine, blue eucalyptus, eucalyptus radiata, laurel, etc.
  • Essential oils with antifungal properties: garlic, lemon, tangerine, niaouli, thyme thymol, thyme linaol, tea tree, blue eucalyptus, eucalyptus radiata, laurel, etc.
  • Essential oils with antiviral properties: tea tree, garlic, sticky rockrose, lemon, thyme thymol, thyme linalool, ravintsara, bay leaf, niaouli, etc.

How to use essential oils

Next we will tell you how to use essential oils for our benefit, as there are different ways to do it. They can be used both externally and internally:

  • Inhale them: For this, you can make steam or hot water vapors with a few drops of the chosen oil or you can use an essential oil diffuser to be able to breathe these beneficial substances more regularly.
  • Ingest them: they can be taken ingested with other foods. However, it must be taken into account that they do not mix in water, so it is better to take the indicated drops in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, for example olive, or a tablespoon of honey.
  • Apply them topically with massages: this is one of the best known ways to use them. Apply the product to the skin to massage or rub. This is a very useful way to use oils for muscle aches, for relaxation, to improve circulation, to treat cellulite, among other uses.
  • Toilets: Adding a few drops of these products to bath water is another very effective way to apply them, especially for relaxation and to soothe the skin. In this way they act both by penetrating the skin, through a massage, and by inhalation, for example using an essential oil diffuser.
  • Compresses on the skin: This other way of using these products is good for treating specific areas of the skin. It is best to apply a few drops, alone or mixed with a vegetable oil, on a sterile compress or a very clean cotton cloth, to give gentle touches to the affected skin.
  • Geles, creams and lotions: This last way of using them is suitable for when you want to apply these products more regularly on the skin or hair. By adding a few drops of what we need in a cream, a gel, a shampoo or a lotion that are neutral, we can benefit from the properties of essential oils in a simple way, on a day-to-day basis, while hydrating the skin even more. dermis or hair.

Uses of essential oils and their dosage

In general, these are the recommended doses, however, we must always consult with the specialist who monitors our health.

  • Bath: To use them in the bathrooms, a dose of 10 drops mixed in a tablespoon of vegetable oil or milk for the bath. This option is good for treating skin conditions, muscle aches, joint pain, breathing problems, stress, and anxiety.
  • Intake: in this case you have to use in each shot 2 drops 3 times a day mixed with a food base, such as olive oil, honey, jams, a little sugar, etc., but never with water, which can be taken after a few minutes but not at the same time. Adults can take up to 8 drops daily, in four doses. They are used like this for digestive disorders, intestinal problems, pain, stress, sleep problems, respiratory problems, and so on.
  • Inhalation: if you do dry inhalation, that is, without mixing the product and using an essential oil diffuser, you must use 2 drops in a handkerchief to smell it or, in the pillow to inhale while sleeping. If you want to do with wet inhalations, you have to mix 6 drops in warm or hot water, but never boiling, to breathe near the bowl for about 10 minutes and then leave it to moisten the environment by evaporation. In this case, it can be done up to 3 times a day. This way of use is good for respiratory problems, stress, lack of sleep, to reduce fever, to relax, and so on.
  • Massages: you have to mix 6 drops with a tablespoon of vegetable oil if it is for an adult and 4 drops if it is for a child. Used in massages, they are effective to treat the skin, muscle and joint pain, to alleviate digestive problems when massaging the belly, sleep problems and stress, improving relaxation, to improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and so on.

How to make essential oils - extraction

The extraction of essential oils is not easy, because you need specific machines and tools and know how to use them very well, in addition to the raw material in greater or lesser amounts depending on a variety of factors. For example, we may require an essential oil distiller and know well how it is used in order to obtain the essence of the desired plant or vegetable.

A) Yes, how the extraction of essential oils is carried out? Well, there are a variety of ways to do it, since depending on the raw material that is going to be used, one method or another is more effective. These are the different methods:

  • Steam distillation
  • CO2 extraction
  • Solvent extraction
  • Expression
  • Flowered
  • Maceration

Where to buy essential oil

At this point, you may already wonder where you can buy essential oil. The truth is that it is very easy to buy essential oils, because you can buy them through physical and online stores such as pharmacies, parapharmacies, natural product stores, herbalists and herbalists, among others.

You will see that there are highly variable prices between the different types of oils and their brands. The reason, apart from the value of the brand itself, is that depending on the main component it costs more or less to obtain its essential oil, that is, there are some seeds from which a large amount of oils can be extracted with a small amount of seeds and others that the opposite happens, and in the same way it happens with the fruits, the petals, the leaves, and so on.

How can you tell if you are buying a quality essential oil? Well, there are different types of stamps to indicate that they are authentic and of good quality. When you go to buy one, make sure that the initials AEQ (chemotyped essential oil), BIO, HEBD (huile essentielle botaniquement et biochimiquement defines) or indications such as 100% pure essential oil and natural essential oil. Aspects such as the Latin name of the plant are also usually indicated on the packaging, as well as the name of the part of it from which it has been extracted.

How to keep essential oils in good condition

This is another common doubt, since many products once opened require specific care to be well preserved. In the case of essential oils, in general, they are well preserved between 3 and 5 years if properly stored.

The best thing is to make sure that the jars are not open, that they are not in a very hot area and that they are not given direct light on a regular basis, which is why jars made of dark and non-transparent glass are often used. A good idea is store them in a cupboard at room temperature.

Uses of essential oils in pregnancy, in children and in animals

It is vital for health to know whether or not to use these products depending on the case. For this reason, we insist on consulting a professional before using them, but we also want to inform about the most basic cases, such as pregnancy, children or even animals.

Essential oils in pregnancy

During the first trimester of pregnancy it is totally contraindicated its use, as they are too powerful for such a delicate moment and with so many changes in the body. However, some of them can be used during the second and third trimesters, but always under the supervision and advice of the specialist. In the case of breastfeeding, the same happens, it is best not to use them at this time, but if it is done it should be towards the end of that period, when the child is somewhat more developed, and always under the prescription of a doctor or pharmacist specialized in aromatherapy.

Essential oils for children

About children can take essential oils but not of any kind or way. There are some who are prohibited for children under 6 yearsOthers even more powerful are prohibited for children under 3 months and the dose must always be adjusted according to age, something that the specialist doctor will have to indicate. The most frequent route of application of the doses in children is the skin.

Finally, many are the people who also choose to use them on their pets, in general to offer them a better quality of life and even to treat disorders or alleviate their symptoms.

Essential oils for animals

As for us, these products can also be very beneficial for animals if they are used well. Again, the dosages should be indicated by someone who is specialized in aromatherapy and in this case, who has specialized even more in essential oils for animals. Of course, it will not be the same amount of the same product for a horse as for a dog or a rabbit, since neither their organism works exactly the same nor their size has anything to do with it.

The most common ways to apply them to animals are topically mixed with vegetable oils, gels, balms and ointments. You can also use water-based sprays for the environment, for example to spray on the areas where they sleep, or to spray on their body (avoiding the face). Hydrostats and essential oil waters are also often used, as well as in people.

Side effects of misuse of essential oils

As we have already mentioned, these products are very powerful and a small amount is enough to use them well. However, sometimes they are misused due to ignorance, for example using them in greater quantities, mixing some in an inappropriate way, applying them the wrong way or using them previously suffering from any condition or condition that contraindicates it.

Thus, like any natural element, as well as any synthetic or artificial, they can have both positive and negative effects on the body. These are some of the side effects of improper use of essential oils:

  • Allergies
  • Irritation to skin and mucous membranes.
  • Changes in hormone levels.
  • Epilepsy episodes.

For this and more, we see that it is vital to be well informed and let a specialist indicate the best way of use in each case. Finally, don't miss this interesting summary video on this topic.

If you want to read more articles similar to What are essential oils, we recommend that you enter our category of natural remedies.

  • Festy, D. and Pacchioni, I., (2016), Aromatherapy Guide, Barcelona, Spain, Ediciones Obelisco.
  • Worwood, V. A., (2022), Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Madrid, Spain, Gaia Ediciones.
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