Essential Oils: An Introduction
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile plant extracts – essentially the essence of plant – that contain aromatic and therapeutic properties; derived from parts of plants (e.g. flowers, fruits, roots, woods, leaves, etc.). Incredibly potent, just a drop of an essential oil has remarkably powerful health-enhancing benefits.
The oils are perfect and affordable healthy lifestyle tools that can enhance your entire family’s well being when used correctly. Essential oils have gain so much popularity with millions of users worldwide because they are natural remedies that can be easily used daily without negative side effects.
Generally, because pure essential oils are extremely potent and powerful; usually in form that is around 50 to 100 times more concentrated than the plant where they are extracted from, essential oils require dilution or they can cause potential adverse reactions such as skin irritation and so forth. These situations can be entirely avoidable if you know how to use the oils safely. Certain oils may not be suitable for certain age groups such as babies or elderly, and some may have to be avoided during pregnancy or nursing.
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS SAFELY
There are two main methods of using essential oil: aromatic (inhalation) and topical (external application).
Let’s first start with a few basic safety rules for beginners:
1. Always keep the oils out of reach of children.
2. Store your bottles of oils with lids tightly closed in cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
3. Do not allow oils to come into contact with your eyes.
4. The oils are highly flammable. Use extreme care around fire.
5. Never use essential oils undiluted directly on skin, or neat.
6. Perform a skin patch test prior to every first topical use of essential oil.
7. Do not take the oils internally unless under supervision of licensed medical practitioner.
Diffusion and Inhalation [AROMATIC]
The easiest and safest way of using essential oils is to inhale the essential oils with a diffuser. Aromatic use is by far the most common way for beginners to experience essential oils where you do not need to worry about diluting them.
Aromatherapy comes from the words ‘aroma’ and ‘therapy’. Aside from enjoy the pleasant aroma, aromatherapy in the form of inhalation of essential oils can provide such profound physical, physiological and psychological benefits thanks to the direct connection olfactory system has to the limbic system.
Essential oils are thought to have therapeutic effects by stimulating the olfactory system (responsible for our sense of smell), which is connected to the limbic system of the brain (the “emotional brain”). During inhalation, the odour molecules travel through the nose though a variety of receptor sites and affect this part of the brain that controls our emotional responses, memory, hormonal balance, stress level, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and survival instincts.
It is typical to enjoy the therapeutic effects of oils aromatically for about an hour. Diffusing for longer periods of time may not carry a significant risk but it does not have additional therapeutic benefits. We love to diffuse for 30 to 60 minutes then turn it off for the same amount of time, and find that this process is more effective on our nervous system to help us receive more benefits than long period of diffusion.
External Application [TOPICAL]
The key to topical use of essential oils is dilution. Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly on to your skin. It is that simple. The most common cause of adverse reactions with topical use is negative skin reaction when using neat oil (undiluted oil) on skin.
People can still have bad reaction to essential oils that are relatively safe simply because the oils are used neat or undiluted. Dilution and risk are directly linked. Hence, with appropriate dilution, you can safely avoid skin irritation, sensitization and phototoxic reactions.
Diluting essential oils for topical use is pretty easy as it simply involves mixing them with a carrier oil such as our Carrier Oils Complex or lipids such as:
• Coconut oil or fractionated coconut oil
• Sweet almond oil
• Apricot kernel oil
• Jojoba oil
• Any other quality vegetable oils
You can also mix the oils into your personal care products such as shampoo, lotion or other skin care products.
How much to dilute an essential oils depends on:
1. What you plan to use the oils for
2. Who is using the oils
Refer to the dilution charts below for the ideal dilution range based on the types of applications, users’ age groups and the approximate values of dilution rate corresponding to the number of drops.
A good rule of thumb is:
1% Dilution = 1 drop of essential oil per 1 teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil
Do take note that some essential oils such as oregano and cinnamon are highly sensitizing to the skin and likely to cause skin reactions than others. These oils can still be used safely if they are heavily diluted or diluted properly.
In cases where one’s immune system has been primed to trigger an allergic reaction to a particular essential oil, then that oil has to be avoided indefinitely. Allergic skin reaction is different from acute skin irritation in the sense that the former involves an immune response.
Skin Patch Test
It is essential that anyone with sensitive skin should perform patch test on small area of skin first especially at first use. This testing allows you to identify if the oils or oils blend are possible irritants or sensitizers before you apply them over a larger skin surface.
You can test your skin by applying essential oils diluted at a 1% dilution rate
1 drop of essential oil in 1 teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil
Observe any negative skin reaction (e.g. skin irritation, skin sensitivity, etc.) within 24 hours. Wash the test area with soap and clean water immediately if any undesirable reaction occurs.
Some citrus oils are renowned for their bright summery scents, but they can also potentially cause photosensitivity:
That is because of the compound, furanocoumarins, found within these oils can greatly increase UV sensitivity. Some of the negative skin reactions that may result from photosensitivity are:
• Redness or inflammation
• Skin discoloration
So, what should you do if you like to use a photosensitive oil topically?
You can avoid the sun, tanning beds and any UV lights for 12-18 hours after applying the oils on your exposed skin (If skin is covered and not exposed to the sunlight, you will be protected).
However, if these oils are properly diluted based on their respective maximum dermal use level, you can still safely use them whilst in the sun without getting any phototoxic reactions.
Essential Oils and Children
Certain essential oils may or may not be safe or suitable to use for toddlers and children. Essential oils have to be diluted more when being used on children.
Hence, our certified aromatherapist has formulated kids-safe blends that are safe to use around children to help with various health concerns our little ones deal with from time to time. They are absolutely safe for children, and they work just as effective for adults too!
Essential Oils during Nursing/Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a beautiful journey towards motherhood and undoubtedly the happiest moment in a mother’s life. It gets challenging with self-care more important than ever on your not-so-easy-ride carrying your baby bump right up to taking care of yourself after birth.
Responsible use of our properly diluted synergy allows pregnant mothers to navigate a relaxed, happy and healthy maternity. Whilst some mothers prefer to avoid essential oil use in the first trimester, the choice is personal and often, taking into consideration if you had history of a previous loss or premature labour.
Less is more with pregnant and nursing mamas and repeated intense daily use is not suggested. Essential oils can still be very helpful and effective when used aromatically. Always listen closely to your body.
Bellary Nature’s MAMA range of essential oils roll on and blends is carefully formulated to naturally and safely support and care for the changing needs of expecting and nursing mothers. Typically, mothers who are pregnant and breastfeeding should keep to a maximum dilution rate of 2%.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE UNDESIRABLE REACTION
As mentioned earlier, if you use essential oils undiluted or improperly diluted, there is a chance that you may experience undesirable or adverse reactions such as redness, itching, burning, blisters, hives or pain.
Do not mistake these symptoms as signs of detoxing.
Here are what you can do when having an adverse skin reaction:
• Apply soap or skin cleanser on your skin and wash your skin carefully.
• Remove your clothes that have been exposed to the essential oil.
• Do not apply more any other essential oils. It can make things worse.
• Avoid the sun and let your skin ‘rest’.
• Be careful about using the same essential oil because the skin reaction is a tell sign that your immune system may be primed and it is likely that you can still experience similar reaction in the future.