Frequently Asked Questions
What are essential oils?
Have you ever smelled the crisp, refreshing scent of a fresh cut lemon? If so, you may have already experienced the power of essential oils and not even know it.
Essential oils are responsible for the fragrances you smell. They’re also the nutritional compounds inside many plants and herbs. And once extracted from the plant or herb, they bring many of the same health-giving benefits to the table. One reason they’re so powerful is because they’re the “essence” of the real plant or herb, only in a highly concentrated form. In fact, one small, 15mL bottle of lemon essential oil can contain up to 45 lemons!
In short, essential oils are often referred to as the “life blood” of plants and trees. They are the concentrated oils of herbs, plants and trees, including the bark, stems, flowers and other parts.
How are essential oils made?
Wondering how those great smelling essential oils are made? Turns out, essential oils aren’t “made” at all. They ARE “extracted” from plants, herbs and spices. But just because they are extracted from plants doesn’t mean the way they’re sourced is all the same. In fact, the way they’re extracted from the plant or herb can have a big impact on the quality. Here’s a quick rundown of the two primary ways essential oils are extracted from the plants.
Steamed Distilled: The most common method of extracting an essential oil from the plant is through steam distillation. The steaming process separates the oil and water-based compounds of a plant.
Low temperature and low pressure play an important part of collecting the highest quality essential oil. When plant matter is placed into a chamber and steam is injected, the plant’s essential oil is released into the air. The steam and essential oil are carried out of the chamber and cooled. The oil and water are then allowed to separate for collection.
Cold Pressed Extraction: Cold pressed is a method where the essential oil is pressed from the plant. This is the most common method of extraction for the citrus oils. The peel of the citrus plant is pressed and the essential oil is then filtered from the plant matter.
The method of extraction directly affects the essential oils’ quality by way of pressure and temperatures applied.
Be sure to check out an oils guide to see how essential oils were extracted prior to purchase and use.
What are carrier oils?
The short answer is: Carrier oils help “carry” essential oils to their destination. While carrier oils don’t contain the same elements that essential oils do, they are important for using topically applied oils.
Essential oils’ molecules are extremely small so they can pass through the skin and into the body quickly. They can also evaporate quickly. But if you want to keep the oils on your skin and dilute them to create more gentleness on the skin, you can combine them with carrier oils.
These larger molecules found in carrier oils can increase the length of time the essential oils stay on your skin. Some people may think using carrier oils reduces the effectiveness of the oil, but that’s not so.
Dilution with carrier oils often increases the surface area of absorption and, with certain oils, can downplay potential sensitivities.
Common carrier oils include:
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Olive oil
- Pomegranate seed oil
How are carrier oils used?
Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils when they are being used topically; they help to carry the essential oils into the skin. Many lotions and skin care products are made with carrier oils, which are vegetable oils derived from the fatty portion of the plant, such as the nuts, kernels or seeds. Unlike essential oils, carrier oils do not evaporate easily and do not give off strong aromas.
Unfortunately, carrier oils often have a defined shelf life. Each carrier oil is different. Some are more aromatic than others, and the color and shelf life will differ as well.
What is a diffuser? Do I need one?
Diffusion is the process of dispersing essential oils so that their aroma fills a room or an area with the essential oil fragrance. Therefore, a diffuser is a device that diffuses the essential oil into the air. There are several types of diffusers available on the market in 2018, and many have reviews that may help you decide which one may be right for you, if you are interested in getting a diffuser.
However, you don’t have to have a diffuser to experience the aroma of essential oils. This is a popular option due to the ease and wide range of great smells it opens your home to. But by no means is it required.
Another option is to add 10 drops of essential oil to two cups of water, and then heat until it steams—and enjoy the aroma!
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils, including essential oils and their volatile aromatic compounds, for psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy, which also goes by “essential oil therapy,” is defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences of plants to “balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.”
You can often refer to an oils guide to learn more about essential oils and aromatherapy uses.
What are some popular essential oils?
Essential oil users often have their go-to essential oil. Some people can’t go two days without Bergamot diffusing in their household while others keep Lavender and Lemon on tap. With that said, there are a few essential oils that are more popular than others, either because of their wide variety of uses and benefits or their great aroma.
There are many popular, quality essential oils, including those that are Certified USDA Organic, therapeutic grade and 100% pure—with no fillers, bases or additives. For example, being Certified USDA Organic is important for some people because the organic certification can be traced back clear to the seed and plant. Every handler of the product must be certified as well. Additionally, no prohibited pesticides or other toxins are used for Certified USDA Organic products.
Essential oils that are not Certified USDA Organic can’t say that.
Also, pure essential oils that are therapeutic grade go through a rigorous process, such as being distilled without using chemicals and being more costly to produce because they often require 100s of pounds of plant material to make a single pound of oil. They’re also sourced from indigenous regions where plants grow in their natural environment.
Being organic, therapeutic grade and pure are what make many essential oils popular, but here are some popular essential oils:
- Lavender oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Rose oil
- Peppermint oil
- Patchouli oil
- Sandalwood oil
- Lemon oil
- Rosemary oil
- Lemongrass oil
- Bergamot oil
- Geranium oil
How are essential oils used?
When using essential oils, it’s always best to refer to the oils guide that accompanies your essential oils and to use the essential oils according to the directions therein. However, generally speaking, there are a few ways to use essential oils.
Aromatic use: Our sense of smell is a powerful one! Essential oils are quickly absorbed by smell receptors, and can influence our physiological, mental and emotional states. Some essential oils have uplifting effects, while others have energizing or calming effects. Diffusion is one of the easiest ways to use essential oils aromatically; however, as mentioned earlier, you don’t have to have a diffuser to enjoy the aroma of essential oils.
Topical use: Another effective way to use essential oils is topical application, since essential oils easily penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they stay in the areas where applied. While essential oils are easily absorbed, using a light massage motion can help increase the blood flow to the area in which essential oils are applied. Likewise, using a carrier oil can also help increase essential oil absorption, especially for dry or flaky skin.
In case there’s any skin sensitivity, it’s recommended to use a carrier oil to dilute more potent oils (one drop of essential oil to three drops of a carrier oil) when using them for the first time.
Of course, everyone’s different, so the amount can vary based on a person’s size, age and overall health. Nevertheless, it’s advised to start out minimally and carefully.
Internal use: This one is often debated in the essential oils world. Some say to never use them internally, while others say that some are okay to use internally—depending on the oil, the amount, whether it’s organic or not, etc.
Since certain essential oils have been used historically in foods, internal use is often considered safe for certain oils. However, there are some essential oils that should not be ingested.
It’s important to note that the body is equipped to handle only appropriate amounts of certain essential oils. That’s why proper amounts according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines should be strictly adhered to in order to avoid toxicity.