About Essential Oils

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The following is a speech my daughter gave in class at the University of Wisconsin - Madison:

Essential oils are 100% natural and have been used for thousands of years, and yet people today do not know very much about them. In the following, I will tell you a little bit about the history of essential oils, give you more information about what they are, show you a few ways you can use them, and give you a few simple examples of common problems you may currently be experiencing.

Let's start at the beginning. The history of essential oils dates back thousands of years, tracing back to Egypt over 6,000 years ago. Valerie Worwood, author of The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, quotes Hippocrates as saying, "the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day." Survivors of the plagues in Europe from the 14th to 16th centuries were those who used or worked with aromatic substances. Essential oils have long been used for healing practices, but were not studied scientifically until about 100 years ago.

Now that you know a little bit about the history of essential oils, let's explore more about them. "Essential oils are like a plant's hormones: they control its biochemical reactions and relays messages between cells; they also protect the plant from parasites, bacteria, and fungi" (holisticonline.com). Essential oils are liquids that are extracted from the roots, leaves, flowers, and other parts of some plants, with about 300 of them being used regularly today. There are 10 that Valerie Worwood says are the most useful and versatile, including Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon, and Clove. Most essential oil are too strong to be used directly on your skin, and must be diluted in a base oil, such as sweet almond, jojoba, or soy bean oil. Essential oils are very penetrating, absorbing quickly into your body. Dennis Hauck wrote "an essential oil placed on the foot will be distributed to every cell in the body in 21 minutes." Among essential oils, there are some differences that affect price and rarity. For a plant to yield essential oils, it may have very sensitive growing and picking conditions. For example, according to Valerie Worwood, jasmine blossoms must be handpicked the day they open, before the sun becomes too hot. Different plants yield different amounts of essential oils. In some cases, it may take hundreds of pounds of the plant, such as with rose oil, to extract a small amount. Other plants, like eucalyptus, have an abundance of oils to relinquish. According to Valerie Worwood, essential oils have a great variety of benefits, including physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic. More technically, they can be antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antidepressant, stimulating, or a sedative, among many others.

Now that you know more about essential oils, let me show you some of the most common methods of using them. There are three basic methods of using essential oils. Dabbing the oil on a tissue and inhaling it directly is a very effective way of gaining the therapeutic benefits. You may also want the oil to be diffused throughout the room. You can use an aromatherapy machine or a room diffuser, which lets the oil diffuse slowly into the air. Heat intensifies the scent of essential oils, and they can be used to scent candles, like
this soy wax candle, or warmed in other devices, like a tart burner. A second method of using essential oils is adding them to water. You can add a few drops of oil to your bath or hot tub while you soak. You can also buy sea salts scented with essential oils. Finally, you can apply the oils directly to your skin to receive the therapeutic benefits. You can have someone massage you back and shoulders, or use the oil only on specific target areas. You can also buy lotions or perfumes scented with essential oils.

Now we can put those methods to work! Here are a few examples of easy remedies for some common problems. If you receive abrasions, burns, cuts, or rashes, lavender will soothe, while helping to heal and greatly reducing scarring. If you are coming down with a cold, tea tree oil, eucalyptus, thyme, and lavender will help boost your immune system. If you are prone to headaches, lavender and peppermint is an excellent combination. If you are feeling a little blue, geranium, lavender, and bergamot will help fight depression. Finally, if you suffer from muscle pain in your back or shoulders, ask someone for a peppermint, rosemary, and basil essential oil massage.

In conclusion, while essential oils have been around for thousands of years, people today do not know very much about these all-natural remedies. Essential oils are extremely beneficial substances that can be used for a great variety of purposes. With regular use of essential oils, you will notice their natural benefit over introducing potentially harmful chemicals into your body.