Do you use essential oils, or know someone who does? It seems like essential oils are all the rage today! The truth is, essential oils have been used to treat ailments for thousands of years. Medicine (popping pills) has only been around a couple hundred years. The reason that essential oils are becoming so popular again, I believe, can be attested to the fact that medication (drugs) are a leading cause of death in the United States. As convenient as it is to pop a pill, those pills can have some serious, life-threatening side effects. However, everyone has to make their own decision in regards to what route they want to take in order to improve their health.
Not only can essential oils be used to treat illnesses, and things like digestive issues, balancing hormones and relieving pain, they can also be used to replace cleaning chemicals and personal care products. As we know, cleaning chemicals and personal care products are laden with toxins. Reducing our toxic load is critical to remain in good health.
I like how Dr. David Stewart summarizes the difference between drugs and oils:
- Drugs toxify. Oils detoxify.
- Drugs clog and confuse receptor sites. Oils clean receptor sites.
- Drugs depress the immune system. Oils strengthen the immune system.
- Drugs are one-dimensional, “programmed like robots to carry out certain actions in the body, whether the body can benefit from them or not. When body conditions change, drugs keep on doing what they were doing, even when their actions are no longer beneficial. Essential oils are multi-dimensional, filled with homeostatic intelligence to restore the body to a state of healthy balance.”
Essential Oils 101
So what exactly is an essential oil? Taken from the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) website, “The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines an essential oil as a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase. According to Dr. Brian Lawrence “for an essential oil to be a true essential oil, it must be isolated by physical means only. The physical methods used are distillation (steam, steam/water, and water) or expression (also known as cold pressing, a unique feature for citrus peel oils).”
Since essential oils are highly concentrated, they are very powerful, so it is important to learn about the various oils and the proper ways to administer them and dilute them before going clear crazy with them.
Oils can be used various ways to provide different benefits. They can be used topically, internally, diffused to provide aromatic benefits, inhaled, and added to food or products.
Not All Essential Oils Are Equal
While there are many oils on the market to choose from, they are not all created equal. It is important to shop for medicinal grade, pure therapeutic oils. Otherwise, you are just wasting your money.
Does Your Oil Make the Grade?
While there is not a governmental agency which certifies or “grades” essential oils in the U.S. From what I have researched, oils can generally be categorized as:
- Perfume grade: These oils have used extracting methods which pretty much destroy many of the plant compounds. Therefore, it renders the health properties pretty much useless. Perfume grade oils can also be diluted with other other oils. Many perfumes are synthetic. Synthetic oils are created in a lab. They might resemble an oil fragrance, but they are not an actual oil. Synthetic fragrances are also toxic. (As someone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I know how toxic these fragrances are as I receive physical reactions from perfumes).
- Food grade: These oils are approved by the FDA to be non-toxic and can be used in food.
- Therapeutic grade: I have not found a complete definition for therapeutic. I have seen the term used alone and also in conjunction with Medicinal grade.
- Medicinal grade: Medicinal grade oils have amazing health-supportive potential.
My suggestion is to do your own research when it comes to therapeutic or medicinal grade. There might be instances when you might want to use one over the other.
All Extracting Methods Are Not Equal
There are different methods used to extract the oil compounds. Some are beneficial, while others are not. Instead of me trying to explain the differences, I refer you to the NAHA for greater explanation.
There are few legal requirements for producing and labeling essential oils, but participation in the following may help to legitimize.
E.O.B.B.D. – Essential Oils Botanically and Biochemically Defined – The E.O.B.B.D. label is a guarantee of purity. This label is granted through the I.N.S.A. – (Institut de Normalization Scientifique d’Aromatologie). The I.N.S.A. is a scientific committee of independent health professionals based in Europe.
N.A.H.A. – National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. “NAHA’s mission is to advance the knowledge of the medicinal use of aromatic plants and essential oils to its fullest extent and to support aromatherapy as a truly holistic professional art and science.” This association is member based.
No matter what oil you choose to use, make sure to do your research so you don’t waste your money on oils that are less than pure medicinal/therapeutic grade.
Image courtesy of Praisaeng/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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