In today’s day and age, an increasing number of people are looking for healthier, natural alternative ways to improve their health and well-being. And with that, essential oils have quickly taken the spotlight, becoming a major topic of conversation amongst natural health enthusiasts everywhere.
In the following blog post, we’ll be taking a look at essential oils; what they are, where they come from, how they work, and how they can benefit you.
Then, we’ll review some of my favorite essential oil brands.
Let’s get to it!
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are a form of alternative medicine, where plant extracts are used as a natural way to help support health and well-being. They are often used in aromatherapy, but can also be found in skin, hair, and bath products.
These highly-aromatic oils are extracted from various parts of certain plants, which includes the leaves, roots, stems, or flowers, but not necessarily all of these from each plant.
Essential oils are made either through the process of distillation or by cold-pressing the plant component in order to extract their natural scent, or “essence”. Once extracted from the plant, these aromatic chemicals are sometimes combined with a carrier oil to create a finished product.
Each plant’s unique compounds give its essential oil its own characteristic essence, as well as a range of natural healing properties.
However, for an essential oil to be considered 100% pure, it shouldn’t contain any additives whatsoever, including a carrier oil. Alternatively, essential oils that are made using a chemical process are not usually considered to be true essential oils.
Cheap prices are also usually a good indication that an oil has been synthetically reproduced. These are pretty much a cheap way of imitating the aroma of a plant, but they seldom include all the trace compounds found in a given specimen of plant material.
Synthetic oils are commonly used in the commercial industry and are not suitable for therapeutic use.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
By far, the most common way to use essential oils is via aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is when essential oils are used by being inhaled, either by being diffused into the air or by being applied topically to the skin in order to be inhaled.
Some essential oils may also be taken orally. But there are many precautions to be aware of when using essential oils for oral consumption.
For instance, there is a fairly high risk of stomach irritation or upset. And whether using an essential oil orally or topically, make sure that you never use them undiluted, as this poses a significantly greater risk of reaction.
Personally, I don’t support the ingestion of essential oils. Therefore, it’s best not to ever consume essential oils, unless directed to do so by a qualified practitioner, who is licensed to prescribe natural medicine in this way.
When applied to the body, the natural compounds found in essential oils are said to stimulate certain areas of the brain, including the limbic system, which plays a major role in human behavior, emotions, and long-term memory.
These compounds can interact with the body in a number of ways, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety or to provide a range of other beneficial health effects.
The Benefits Of Using Essential Oils
Although essential oils have yet to be studied in-depth, each essential oil has its own unique benefits/effects on the body.
Some of the most common benefits are their ability to help:
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Relieve headaches and migraines
- Help with sleep and insomnia
- Reduce inflammation in the body and on our skin
- Provide the body and skin with antibiotic and antimicrobial properties
However, it’s important to understand that not all essential oils are going to provide the same health benefits.
It’s also important to understand how to use each essential oil properly, and to know about their potential side effects.
For instance, there are several essential oils, such as rosehip and frankincense, which are known to offer a range of anti-aging properties that help reverse the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Whereas, other essential oils, such as thyme, tea tree, and neem are known to help with acne-prone skin.
Additionally, there are other essential oils, such as lavender, rosemary, and peppermint, which can be used to promote hair health and growth.
These essential oils are excellent for nourishing and stimulating the scalp, which ensures your hair will have that healthy shine, all the time.
However, this isn't to say that using essential oils doesn't come with any risks or potential side-effects.
The Potential Side Effect Of Essential Oils
Although essential oils are generally safe to use, it’s important to know that their use does present a few potential side-effects.
For instance, caution should always be taken when using essential oils around pets since most tend to be highly toxic to felines. There’s also some evidence to suggest that dogs and young children may experience adverse side-effects around essential oils.
Although there haven’t been many studies on how essential oils may interfere with prescription medications, some evidence also suggests that the concentrated compounds found in essential oils might have adverse side-effects on certain medications.
For example, if your doctor has prescribed blood thinners, it’s best to stay away from clove, wintergreen, and nutmeg oils.
Additionally, pregnant women should also use caution when using essential oils, as should any individual currently undergoing cancer treatments.
Some essential oils have been known to increase estrogen levels in the body. Therefore, women with breast cancer or endometriosis should consult their healthcare provider before using essential oils.
Finally, it’s important to understand that essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin without first being combined with a gentle carrier oil.
It's not uncommon for undiluted essential oils to cause a reaction. So for those with sensitive skin, it’s best to do a test patch before applying the oil to a larger area of the body.
In the end, there is a certain level of risk involved with using these substances. So before attempting to use any essential oils, it’s best to make sure that you understand how they might impact your medications and current health conditions.
Research, research, research, and then speak with your pharmacist about potential contraindications.
Let’s take a quick look at a few common essential oils that have positive benefits, but when misused, they could potentially cause serious side-effects.
- Peppermint Oil - Although peppermint is often used to relieve gastrointestinal discomfort, it’s extremely important to only use the correct species. Other species of mint, such as pennyroyal oil, can be poisonous to the liver.
- Wintergreen Oil - Used in many over-the-counter skin preparations to help alleviate pain, wintergreen creates the feeling of heat by causing the blood vessels in your skin to enlarge. This makes wintergreen oil ideal for helping to reduce pain. However, wintergreen oil is extremely dangerous if consumed orally, even in tiny amounts. In fact, swallowing a small amount of oil of wintergreen is like swallowing a large number of adult aspirin.
- Nutmeg - Although nutmeg is often used in food, if it is misused, it can cause hallucinations, comas, and potentially even death.
Although my point is not to scare you away from using essential oils, I simply want to make sure that you understand the importance of educating yourself before experimenting with these substances, especially if you plan on taking them orally.
My Favourite Essential Oils Brands
If you’re interested in trying essential oils for the first time, it’s important to understand that there are literally hundreds of brands that you can choose from.
However, not all brands are going to offer the same quality of products, and despite their claims, not every brand is going to have your best interest in mind.
Personally, I’d recommend that you look for brands that sell organic essential oils, which aren’t going to contain any types of man-made ingredients. And with that, I can’t overstress the importance of understanding where your products are coming from.
There are many natural brands today that make claims about their products which simply aren’t true. So before you buy from any new brands, especially when it comes to shopping online, it’s important to learn about the companies we’re buying from.
Check out independent reviews on companies, look at their mission statements - what do they stand for? Do they source ethically? Do they test on animals? Are their products pure? Do they use additives?
Knowing the answers to these questions helps ensure that the brands you're buying from are as safe and as eco-friendly as possible.
Now, let’s take a quick look at 3 of my favorite essential oil brands to check out this year.
Now - Essential Oils
Not only is Now Essential Oils one of the most well-known suppliers of health supplements in the world, but they’ve also been around since 1968, so you know that you’ll be buying from a reputable company that has years of experience delivering a high-quality product.
Now uses only the best, raw ingredients, a gentle, non-chemical processing method, and provides its customers with an industry-leading commitment to quality.
Lastly, all of Now’s essential oils are purity tested and quality-assured to guarantee some of the best products you’ll find today.
One of the main goals behind Aura Cacia is to inspire positive change in the lives of women everywhere in the world.
Their extensive lineup of essential oils and skincare oils are always made from pure, simple botanical ingredients, which work to unlock some of the most natural ways to supplement your health.
From sourcing high-quality ingredients to testing them in their labs, Aura Cacia is a name that you can trust when it comes to purchasing and using essential oils.
As one of the best essential oil suppliers in Canada, Thursday Plantation’s products can be purchased either online or found on the shelves of natural health retailers near you.
Around for nearly forty years, they offer 100% pure essential oils that are made only from 100% natural ingredients. They may have a limited selection, but what they make is of the highest quality.