Words by Tanesha Balgobin
We’ve written this post to inform of some the benefits of using essential oils and the effect they have on the body and general well-being.
The popularity of essential oils has increased alongside the surge of interest in alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, massage, meditative practices and Reiki. They can be blended or used individually in many different ways to maximise the multitude of benefits of each type of oil.
How do our bodies take in essential oils?
To put simply, you reap the benefits of essential oils through your own bodily senses, namely through your nose, skin, and through taste (though not commonly recommended). This simple concept in itself promotes a sense of mindfulness.
Exploring the senses...
How do we take in essential oils through our noses?
Using diffusers, oil burners, hot baths, pillow/ home spritz, candles, reed diffusers
When an essential oil is inhaled, the molecules come into contact with an olfactory mucous membrane inside the nose. Densely packed with receptors, contact with this membrane typically leads to a chain reaction in the body. Firstly, a sensory response is stimulated in the body, amplifying signals that activates an area in the brain involved with both emotional and psychological responses.
Our brains classify these scents and associate them with our life experiences and memories, this why certain scents sometimes make us feel quite calm, happy, sad - think of that bottle of perfume that reminds you of holiday season!
This area, known as the limbic system, will proceed to stimulate further physiological responses, having a widespread impact in body from influencing hormones, to digestion, to muscular relaxation.
How do we take in essential oils through our skin?
Facial serums, body oils, carrier oils, toners, cleansers.
Once applied to the skin, essential oil molecules gradually pass through the layers of the skin and enter the bloodstream. The oils are absorbed by the skin, hair follicles and sweat ducts, which are all permeable to fat soluble substances. The speed of which this happens can depend on the area of the body, i.e. where skin is thinner (temples, wrists and behind the ears), oils are absorbed at a faster rate. Circulation and the warmth of the skin can also increase the skin’s ability to absorb the oils. This is why the act of massaging products into the skin can really increase the efficacy of the oils used.
Essential oils gently regenerate the cells, restore damaged skin and help calm inflammation and soothe dryness. Abrasive chemical-based skincare can quite often be too harsh for our skin due to a desire for quicker results, but using natural skin care with a more careful
approach will allow oils with beneficial properties to permeate deeper layers of the skin.
How do we take in essential oils internally?
Cooking, supplements, gargling
Although it is generally not recommended, there are some essential oils which have been approved for internal use - these will be labelled as food grade. Once taken into the body, they follow through regular digestion and metabolisation until they are absorbed into the blood stream.
What to look out for when buying essential oils:
- Consider the sensitivity of your skin, seek advice and cautiously use essential oils if you have any skin conditions. Though essential oils are not toxic, they do contain allergens, and it is possible to develop reactions to essential oils.
- Essential oils should not be used independently, they should almost always be diluted to ensure safe use. Generally, a ratio of 1:10 drops of essential oil to carrier oil is recommended.
- Essential oils will likely be labelled with their Latin/ botanical names (e.g. Lavender’s botanical name is Lavandula Angustifolia). Some plants have different species that may produce different oils. It is important that the Latin names are distinguishable against their common names as the therapeutic effects of the oils will be different.
- Store your essential oils well! Some oils can react with UV light, so they're best kept in the dark. The volatility of oils vary, so to prevent them from evaporating they need to be kept tightly shut.
- The method of extraction of the essential oil will affect its properties, most commonly, essential oils are extracted through steam distillation or expression, and would be labelled as cold pressed.
Please comment with your favourite essential oils and how you use them, we would love to hear from you :)
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