The use of essential oils for spiritual, ritualistic, therapeutic and hygienic purposes originates from a number of ancient civilizations thousands of years ago, including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who used them in cosmetics, perfumes and drugs. Modern users of this ancient tradition experience a balance and harmony of body, mind and spiritual wellness they may never have dreamed possible.
What is an Essential Oil?
In his book, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple: God’s Love Manifest in Molecules, Dr. Stewart answers this question: An essential oil is the volatile lipid (oil) soluble portion of the fluids of a plant containing odiferous compounds produced by steam distillation of vegetable plant matter. Plant matter can be any part of a botanical species including stems, branches, fruits, flowers, seeds, roots, bark, needles, leaves, etc. During the distillation process, the vapors are condensed, collected, and separated from the condensation water. The residual water, containing traces of oil constituents, is called a “floral water” or “hydrosol,” and has therapeutic applications of its own.
The purest essential oils are far more powerful than the botanicals from which they were extracted. They are powerful medicines.
The Role of an Essential Oil
Dr. Stewart describes the role of essential oils, their regulation of bodily functions, and how they create homeostasis in plants and in humans:
Essential oils have been called “the life blood of a plant.” They circulate through plant tissues and pass through cell walls, carrying nutrition into cells and carrying waste products out.
When essential oils are applied to people, they do the same thing, carrying oxygen into cells and carrying waste products out. In fact, essential oils are one of nature’s best body cleansers. They can cleanse our cellular receptor sites of pharmaceutical drugs, petrochemicals, and other disruptors of intercellular communication. They can also chelate heavy metals and other toxins, helping to remove and flush them through the liver, colon, sweat, lungs and kidneys. They can also increase our ability to absorb vitamins and other nutrients.
Tips for Using Essential Oils
- Use only high quality essential oils, and not oils that were intended for perfume or flavoring. Only the highest quality essential oils have the capacity to promote healing. The plants that are used as the raw material for essential oils must be healthy and clean. The processing methods must preserve the natural qualities of the essential oil. The essential oil that results must be 100% natural and 100% pure. Nothing should be added and nothing should be removed from the essential oil after it is processed.
- Dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil before use. Because they are so highly concentrated, it is not often recommended that you apply essential oils in their pure form directly to the skin. You will experience better results if you use small amounts of the oils diluted in water or with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil or unscented massage lotion.
- Diffusing the Oils into the Air. There are essential oil diffusers, which are designed to distribute microscopic droplets of essential oil into the air of a room. This method has many benefits. First it cleans the air of a room and can provide a pleasant fragrance. This is a very healthy alternative to the artificially scented toxic products that are sold to “freshen” the air. Diffusing certain essential oils can be helpful for people when they have respiratory congestion. Some oils can sharpen thinking, relax emotions or reduce stress. Some can help with sleep. Since some essential oils are highly antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal, they can be safely used to disinfect one’s environment without harming human health.
- Taking Essential Oils with Food or Beverages. Many essential oils have a very pleasant flavor and can be added to food or to water. A single drop of peppermint added to ice water makes a very refreshing drink. You can also add spearmint, lemon, orange, tangerine, or grapefruit to hot water and enjoy the fragrance as you drink it like tea, or add them to ice water.
Applications of Essential Oils
- Baths: Adding essential oils to your bath is an easy way to benefit from their health benefits. Simply add a few drops to the bathwater and blend it before submerging yourself. The aroma will trigger your olfactory sense, which will in turn enhance your circulation and help to bring about physical balance.
- Massage: Blending drops of essential oil with carrier lotions (almond, cocoa butter, shea butter, etc.) can affect the body both psychologically and physiologically – depending on which essential oil you use. Peppermint is known to energize the senses whereas lavender is a known relaxing agent. The olfactory sense is triggered using essential oils during massage, and some oils are absorbed into the skin and ultimately the blood stream to produce healing effects.
- Vapor Inhalation: Since many essential oils are thought to alleviate sinus or respiratory issues, steam inhalation is a very popular application method. A rule of thumb for many essential oils is to add five drops to steaming water and inhale the aroma using a towel tent (place the towel around your head so the aroma doesn’t escape while you inhale it).
- Lotions: Add a few drops of essential oil to your favorite carrier lotion, massage oil or cream (cocoa butter, shea butter, any unscented lotion base to create your own fragrant blend) to stimulate healing properties.
- Compress: Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil to a bowl of warm water. Dip a washcloth into the blend and wring out. Using the washcloth as a compress, apply it to areas of the body that need pain relief, such as muscles, forehead or stomach. Warm essential oil compresses are great for menstrual cramps as well.
Essential Oils for Balance
- Create deep spiritual awareness. Incense and essential oils from plants have always played an important part in spiritual and religious ceremonies, helping participants to transcend the trivial and connect with something larger than themselves. To enhance your spiritual practice, dilute and apply meditative, empowering essential oils directly to wrists, feet, and behind the ears, or diffuse in a quiet space. Frankincense, sandalwood, rosewood and lavender are great essential oils for spiritual focus.
- Emotional Wellness. Essential oils have the ability to directly access and affect the brain’s limbic region, the center of emotion and memory. Many oils can be used to create a positive emotional state, help soothe grief, create an environment of relaxation at the end of a long day, and much more.
- Stress Relief. Sometimes a busy schedule and the demands of daily life can make it nearly impossible to relax. Chronic stress can bring a host of health issues, including poor digestion, insomnia, weight gain, headaches and more.
Essential Oils for the Home
- Cooking. Looking to add variety and flavor to your cooking? Make room for essential oils in your spice cabinet! Their rich, bright aromas can add a delicious kick of flavor to your favorite recipes. Try adding a drop or two of lime to fresh salsa or to your favorite Mexican-inspired marinade, peppermint to hot cocoa, or basil and oregano to homemade pasta sauce. Get creative and enjoy all the culinary possibilities of essential oils. Peppermint, basil, lemon and nutmeg are popular essential oils for cooking.
- Natural cleaning. Harsh chemical formulas aren’t your only home cleansing option. Enjoy peace of mind without compromise when you polish countertops, clean sticky messes, and cleanse dirty surfaces with the gentle but effective power of essential oils. Popular essential oils for cleaning include: lavender, lemon, pine and cinnamon.
- Purify your home. Keep your home smelling great and clear of stale odors by using essential oils as natural air fresheners.
Essential Oil Mood Blends
How to use: Add a few drops into a diffuser, a pot of hot water or simply to a cotton ball to achieve the desired effect. Do not apply drops directly to your skin; blend with carrier oils or lotions if you want to apply it that way.
- Stress Relief: Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Patchouli, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang
- Anxiety/Fear: Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood
- Self Esteem: Bergamot, Cypress, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Orange, Rosemary
- Sadness/Grief: Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Clary Sage, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang
- Fatigue: Basil, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood
- Agitation: Chamomile (Roman), Lavender, Mandarin, Sandalwood
- Isolation: Chamomile (Roman), Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Rose
- Memory Boosters: Basil, Cypress, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary
- Aphrodisiac: Clary Sage, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang