As I focus on my meditation practice and always look for new tools to engage in a deeper, more spiritual awareness, I find aromatherapy to be an essential instrument to my practice and overall daily living. But with so many brands, schools of thought, and opinions, how do we discern the true meaning and benefits of aromatherapy? Being new to aromatherapy, I’ve reached out to our Mind Key member Danielle Rose, whose expertise in aromatherapy and essential oils provides valuable information.
The first question I asked her, and possibly the most important question when learning about essential oils, is what are they exactly? Additionally, how do you know we’re buying pure and authentic products?
Danielle explains that essential oils are derived through distillation of plant material–usually the flowers or other fragrant parts of the plant. A large amount of plant material is required to make a small amount of oil. The distillation process is most often done via steam distillation. The term “essential” is used because these oils carry the essence of a plant’s fragrance, and the term should not be confused with essential fatty or amino acids, which are called as such because they are required by the body for life.
It is important to read the bottle carefully. They should indicate that they are 100% pure and if it lists any other ingredients, such as perfume, the oils may not be purely distilled. Essential oils work best when blended with a carrier oil such as almond or olive oil. Sometimes these blends are sold as such, and are not “pure” essential oils. That does not mean that the product isn’t quality, but reading labels carefully will ensure you know what you are purchasing. Are you surprised at the high price tag for such a small bottle of essential oil? This is due to the quantity of the plant material used to create the distilled oil.
Before all else, the product should be 100% essential oil but there are also varying grades of oils. Essential oils can be cosmetic or therapeutic grade. Cosmetic grade is still 100% essential oils and can be used topically or in diffusers, as well as cleaning products. They should not, however, be ingested.
Therapeutic grade oils are a higher quality, and are best used for healing, especially from acute disease. Many therapeutic grade oils can be used internally, drunk, a drop at a time, in a glass of water, or as otherwise instructed by the company or aromatherapy professional. As with any medicine or food, be careful to know what you are putting in your body and any side effects it may have. Always be aware of your own body and consult a professional.
Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy and topically. What are the benefits of such use?
Each oil is beneficial in its own unique way and the benefits of aromatherapy differ from oil to oil. Aromatherapy doesn’t just provide amazing plant fragrances, but the diffused oils we breathe in are also very beneficial to our health. Because of the different plant properties, many oils aid with respiration, insomnia, and much more. Some essential oil of a plant with antibacterial properties will have antibacterial properties and can be used as such in a cleaning product or healing remedy. Mint tea is good for digestion, and so mint essential oil is as well. Although therapeutic grade oils can be used internally, the beauty of essential oils is that they can be used topically, or in the air to provide the user with the plant’s inherent benefits. It’s important to read what each oil is designated to do as to achieve the desired effect.
Many spas claim aromatherapy treatments. How do we ensure the facility is using pure essential oils and safe aromatherapy?
A good spa should provide what they are offering. If they advertise aromatherapy treatments, they should be utilizing 100% essential oils. If you are uncertain, always ask. Do not accept a treatment with oil that is not a 100% essential oil. Practitioners should always be willing to show you their products in the original bottles. If you have sensitive skin or known allergens, be sure to ask what essential oils and carrier oils are being used in the treatment. You can also ask for a patch test prior to receiving a direct skin treatment. These tests should be done 24 to 48 hours in advance, so you may want to visit your spa ahead of time to get a patch test done on your skin.
Where can we purchase reputable oils?
Many commercial essential oil distributors are reputable. Asking at your health store is a good way to know what you are getting. From there you can order online or directly from the company. Companies such as Young Living or doTerra offer therapeutic quality oils at affordable prices, and their distributors are well trained and often members of your own community. Check Facebook or do a local search to find one near you. Distributor for doTerra Jane Morba tells us that there are a number of good diffusers on the market. The doTerra kit comes with a diffuser, which has a soft sound and illumination, and is good for people with children. The key is to use a pure and certified essential oil, regardless of what diffuser is purchased.
With this information we can truly make 2016 out healthiest year yet. Nature has always provided us with a way to heal and renew. Aromatherapy is one of its many tools. This year, why not resolve to come closer to nature and discover one of the many ways we can enrich our body, mind, and soul?
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