By Laurie Bechler - Professional Blends LLC
Essential oils are potent plant extracts that should be handled with knowledge and care.
Two important points to remember:
- Essential oils are highly concentrated
- They are volatile or highly evaporative
First, their concentration:
Essential oils are on average 50 to 70 times more potent than their herbal counterparts. One example of this is rose essential oil. It takes about 60 roses to make one drop of rose oil, but one drop is all you need. If you use too much it can have a negative effect.
How do we harness the power of essential oils and use them safely and effectively? Nature gives us the answer. Carrier oils to the rescue! These marvelous botanicals derived from nuts, kernels, and seeds of plants are perfect companions to essential oils due to their high lipid content. Carrier oils like almond, coconut, and avocado, just to name a few, dilute the powerful essential oils and help “carry” them safely through our skin and into our bodies taking along with them their own wonderful health benefits. At Professional Blends as much thought goes into the choice of carrier oils as the essential oils we use in our mixtures, and we’re going to help you do the same by following some simple suggestions we outline in this article.
Second, their evaporative nature (volatility):
Carrier oils to the rescue again! If you love essential oils you love scent. That glorious scent wafting through the air is actually the aromatic molecules our olfactory receptors are craving. The receptors in our nose will “sniff” some of these molecules and get our limbic system going but the rest just go up, up, and away. Lipid based carrier oils are NOT volatile, they ground the evaporative nature of the essential oils and direct their beneficial phytochemicals into our bodies instead of into the air.
Please, always use a carrier oil when using essential oils. Essential oils used “neat” (undiluted) directly on the skin is not recommended. Their high concentration can possibly cause irritation or skin sensitivity which is an allergic reaction that can result in itching, redness, and swelling. If you have a reaction to an essential oil DO NOT USE WATER to wash it off, remember water and essential oils don't mix. Apply a carrier oil over the area or rinse with milk.
Essential oils are not a food, and as mentioned, they do not mix with water. I do not recommend ingesting them and there is really no need to do so. Our bodies have very efficient means of getting the power of these botanicals to the places they need to go through topical application and inhalation techniques.
How to choose:
In my 17 years of being an aromatherapist one thing I have seen is the nose knows! Clients almost always LOVE the scent. Head to your nearest health food store and put your nose to work, “sniff” the essential oil testers, the scent you love is the oil you need.
Choosing a carrier oil is a bit trickier. They have little to no scent. Carrier oils are derived from food sources like coconut, apricot, avocado, etc. What do you like to eat? As we mentioned in the first article in the series, we are drawn to a specific food for a reason.
Another way to choose the proper carrier is to think about why you are making the blend in the first place, do some research. As an example, if your blend is for stress, research carrier oils that are good for stress: coconut and hemp are good choices. Research like this will narrow down your selection and make it easier to choose the right one.
Time to make your blend:
Choose your bottle *(see footnote). Colored glass is usually the first choice. Start by putting a small amount of the carrier oil into the bottle and slowly add drops of the essential oil you’ve selected. Essential oils vary greatly in the amounts needed to make a blend. Oils like cinnamon, clove, and oregano will only need a few drops added, but orange lemon, and grapefruit will need much more. Take your time, add your drops slowly, let your nose be your guide. When it smells just right it usually is. When your desired drops have been added, fill the rest of the bottle with more carrier oil and seal. Roll the bottle between your hands to mix and you’re ready to go.
If your plan is to use a certain essential oil only a time or two here are some simple solutions:
One way is to cup your hand and literally in your palm add a small amount of carrier oil and a drop or two of the essential oil, mix, and apply.
Another way is a layering technique. The layering technique requires applying the essential oil “neat” topically then IMMEDIATELY follow with a carrier oil layered over the top of the area of application.
If you’re looking to diffuse an essential oil you want to make sure their evaporative nature is intact DO NOT USE A CARRIER OIL. Closely follow the manufacturer's directions for the diffuser you are going to use. Research the essential oil you’ve chosen to make sure it’s the right one for the job.
In future articles we will discuss the practical application of essential oils to help with issues that arise in our day to day life. In the next article we will focus on how essential oils can keep tattooed skin happy and healthy.
Essential oils, though powerful, are nothing to be afraid of. Properly used, they put the power of plants in the palm of your hand bringing a world of benefit to you and your family.
The proper bottle: colored glass, especially amber glass, is usually the best choice for essential oils. I do NOT recommend dropper bottles because essential oils will break down the rubber which may compromise the oil. There may be occasions where a plastic bottle is preferred. If this is the case make sure the bottle is made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. Essential oils will not break down PET plastic.