I have been hearing a lot about essential oils lately. What are essential oils and what are they commonly used for? Also, can essential oils be used internally?
A question from Jeremy of Palm Lake Arrowhead
By Clark’s Nutrition
Essential oils are very popular right now. Although the current rise in popularity has made a nice craze for the essential oil industry, a lot of these oils have been available for many years. The most common essential oils being used today are lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, frankincense and many different kinds of blends. What is an essential oil? Essential oils are the essence of plants. They are typically derived from plants with a distillation process that uses steam or a chemical extraction. This process removes the oils away from water and concentrates only the oils in one area during the distillation process. Essential oils are considered to be of higher quality when low temperature steam distillation methods are used vs. a high heat steam distillation process. Some essential oils are only available from chemical extraction processes. Further distillation of the extraction leaves behind minimal residues and a finished product of essential oils.
Remember when buying an essential oil for therapeutic reasons one should look for higher quality oils and also have some knowledge of the oils being selected. For instance lavender, one of the most popular oils is grown in different areas of the world. French lavender is considered to be one of the best for aromatherapy for a few reasons including relaxation, muscle calming and pain relief. French lavender that is grown in altitudes of 1,500-4,000 feet have more active compounds called linalyl acetate and linalool which have the relaxing qualities attributed to the aromatherapy effects that many people are looking for. Lavender grown in lower altitudes which is also known as Spanish lavender and in drier desert areas has higher amounts of camphor which is also found in French lavender but in less quantity. This Spanish lavender is nice for use in massage or pain relief but have less of the relaxing qualities. And finally lavender clones are grown in France as well but these oils are only used commercially for the perfume industry, some aromatherapy companies and food processers. So remember to ask questions about the essential oil quality, manufacturing standards to make sure you are getting the oil you want and are looking for.
Essential oil effects are seen when inhalation or direct application to the body is done. Some essential oils can also be ingested, but often times they must be diluted. A common example of this is when ingesting peppermint oil for use as a mouth freshener. Many times dilution of an essential oil is recommended. So please pay attention to any details on the instruction of the use of the oil of choice. Essential oils have a direct effect on the olfactory or smell centers which can inadvertently affecting the nervous system and organ system of the body in many circumstances. When using an essential oil for the first time and especially with children please use caution.
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