How Essential Oils Work – All You Need to Know

Essential oils have become a popular addition to many people’s daily routines. But before getting started with essential oils, it is best to understand the basics of how they work. This will help you maximize their benefits while enjoying and using them more often.

Below is a guide to how essential oils work and all you need to know before using them.

How Essential Oils Are Made

Essential oils are oils extracted from the various part of plants. Depending on the plant, this can include flower petals, bark, leaves, seeds, roots, and fruits. For example, lavender oil comes from the fresh flowering tops of the plant. In contrast, cinnamon oil is extracted from the bark of the plant.

It is important to remember that essential oils are concentrated liquids. As a result, they are very potent and even a single drop can have a drastic effect. This is why it is usually recommended to dilute them before applying to the skin.

There are several methods of extraction used for essential oils. This depends on the type of plant, quality and yield required.

One of the most common methods is steam distillation where parts of the plant are steamed to separate the oil. This yields oils of high quality and purity.

Another method, often used for citrus oils, is cold pressing. In this method the rind of the plant is pressed, or squeezed, to extract the concentrated oil. This is a similar process to extracting olive oil.

Why Do Essential Oils Work

There is a lot of complex chemistry behind the workings of essential oils. Each essential oil has its own individual makeup and can contain hundreds of chemical constituents. These constituents and their proportions will determine the properties of an oil and why they work a certain way.

Some of the properties an essential oil may have include:

  • Essential Oil ChemistryAnti-inflammatory
  • Antiseptic
  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Antimicrobial
  • Immune Stimulating
  • Anti-infectious
  • Analgesic

It is possible for an oil to have many properties, but be more effective in one than another.

How Do Essential Oils Work On The Body

Essential oils have four modes of action when they are working on your body.

  • Physiological – the effects of chemical changes when an essential oil enters the bloodstream and reacts with hormones, enzymes etc.
  • Physiological – the way an essential oil affects the systems of the body e.g. whether they are stimulated or sedated.
  • Psychological – the individual response to the inhaled aroma of an essential oil.
  • Holistic – the body’s total response to an essential oil including the responses above.

As a result, essential oils not only affect your physical body, but also the emotional and spiritual aspects as well. They smell wonderful with the added bonus of remarkable medicinal properties.

How to Apply Essential Oils

The two main ways for applying essential oils to your body are aromatically or topically.

Aromatic Application

Essential oil diffuser and candles

Aromatic application involves inhaling the oils as a fine mist or vapor. The most common inhalation methods are diffusion, direct inhalation or steam inhalation.

Inhaling essential oils affects the brain. When breathed in, essential oils enter the body via the olfactory nerve cells. These connect directly to the brain’s limbic system. As a result, inhalation triggers memories, influences emotions and impacts behavior.

Inhalation can also have a physical impact on the body. It directly affects the sinuses and respiratory system.

Topical Application

This involves applying the essential oils directly to your skin or other part of the body. The oils are absorbed through the skin and ultimately enter the bloodstream. Once in circulation, the healing properties of essential oils get to work where needed. They can directly impact organs and body systems as required.

Remember, essential oils are very potent and may irritate the skin. It is very important to dilute them before application by mixing with a carrier oil.

When to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are used as a natural or holistic remedy for many ailments and conditions. There is a long list of things they can help with from migraines to skin conditions. They are not meant to replace medical treatment but can be a complement. Here is a short list of uses:

  • Insomnia
  • Snoring
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Chronic pain
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Cuts, scrapes and burns
  • Signs of aging and wrinkles
  • Anxiety, stress, and depression

Apart from physical benefits, the emotional benefits of essential oils are enormous. Using them singularly or in blends can help in many ways to support the ups and downs of day to day life.

Safety Guidelines for Essential Oils

While using essential oils is a great idea, and highly recommend, there are some precautions to take. It is mistake to think that they can’t be harmful. At all times remember they are potent, concentrated oils. It’s important to understand that even natural components, overused, can cause side effects and issues. Here are some safety guidelines:

  • Dilute before applying – many oils can be harmful to skin if not diluted first with a carrier oil. There are some exceptions – lavender, tea tree oil – but as a general rule, always dilute before applying.
  • Be careful with citrus – they contain photosensitizing molecules so if citrus oils are applied to the skin, avoid direct sunlight for up to 12 hours.
  • Watch for proper labeling – When you buy essential oils they are required to have the name of the oil and the country from where it came. If they don’t choose another product.
  • Store as medicine – Don’t leave essential oils within reach of pets and children as they can be dangerous and deadly just like medicine. Also, essential oils need to be stored in a cool dark place to maintain freshness and effectiveness. Learn more about how to store essential oils.
  • Do your research – Don’t use essential oils without reading about them and learning first. When you discover new oils, find out how to use them before trying.
  • Don’t ingest – Some people do ingest essential oils, but it’s not safe to do so without experienced direction and supervision. Use common sense if you choose to ingest essential oils and stick with obvious choices e.g. lemon, peppermint.
  • Avoid the eye area – Don’t put essential oils near the eyes or other mucus membranes
  • Keep away from flames – Don’t put essential oils near flames as they can explode and are very flammable. For example when using them with a candle, only pour on the hot wax, not the flame.

While there are some precautions, using essential oils is safe and effective when used in moderation in the right way.

Taking the time to do your due diligence is ideal if you are to get the most out of essential oils. Learn about the right methods and best treatments for various health issues before trying them yourself.

The above information is a starter guide on how essential oils work. Now it’s time to have fun experimenting and using these natural powerhouses.


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