Does the nose REALLY know?
Today, more and more people are concerned about the food they put into their bodies – growing their own foods so they know its source, and / or demanding organic fruits and vegetables and pasture-raised / free-ranged animal meats. This is a wonderful and healthy return to a nature-based lifestyle, yet I've found that many of these same people fail to be as concerned about what they use on their skin or scalp as they are about what they eat and drink. Our skin forms the largest organ in the entire human body – very difficult to ignore!
Walking down the soap or cleaning supply aisles of any grocery store, one is quickly surrounded by “aromatherapy” products, promoted by all major brands. Hand soap, bath soap, lotion, shampoo / conditioner, laundry soap – even cleaning products – have “aromatherapy” on their labels.
Essential oils vs. synthetic fragrances.
Do not be fooled – there is a significant difference between true aromatherapy, which is the use of essential oils, and aromatic products, which are designed to smell good, but most of which use synthetic fragrances. These companies appeal to the nature-minded consumer through our sense of smell, but more often than not have nothing to do with true aromatherapy!
What are essential oils and where do they come from?
According to the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO / D1S9235.2), an essential oil is: “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. ”
There are three methods that can produce the physical isolation of the oil from the natural material: 1. Distillation (steam, steam / water and water); 2. Expression (“cold pressing”), a process used for citrus peel oils, and 3. Maceration / distillation, which is used for only a small number of essential oils, including wintergreen and bitter almond.
What are essential oils used for?
Each essential oil (EO) has different chemical properties, and may be used for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Essential oils should really be considered nature's medicines – just as herbs should be. In fact, EOs and herbs form the basis of many of today's allopathic, or Western, medicines.
Simply put, this means that we should learn as much about these natural products and how they impact our bodies as we do about the foods that we ingest.
Natural does not guarantee safe! It is important to remember that “natural” does not guarantee “safe”, so ignore claims that EO's can be used freely and without harm. Some oils can, in fact, cause unintended effects – burning, itching, or rashes, for example – when applied directly on the skin or used in quantities that are above recommended doses.
However those same EOs, when diluted in a carrier substance, such as grape seed oil or even milk, can have the therapeutic benefits without the side effects. Other EOs, depending on a person's particular health condition, should be used sparingly or not at all. And there is evidence that people can have allergies to EOs.
Ultimately, safe and effective use of essential oils – “aromatherapy” – is possible and can be quite easy. With over 300 EOs known today, it can be difficult to know where to start if you want to gain additional information.
I hope you will take the time to educate yourself about those oils that you find yourself most attracted to – let your nose lead the way!