I feel like I’ve always been late the party – the last one to know about whatever is the latest trend. It seems everywhere I look now people are talking about essential oils. So I assumed that, once again, I was the last person to figure out that essential oils (eos) are amazing and helpful. But as I started to actually talk to friends and family about them, they hadn’t heard of eos and had lots of questions. Perhaps you do too. So I decided to write about a few basics of eos that I have learned.
I talked in my last post about Cookie about how I started with essential oils. Once I saw the difference they made in her, I started reading everything I could about these remarkable oils because I had so many questions. Naturally the first was “what ARE essential oils?” The most basic answer is that essential oils are oils that have been extracted from plants. Whatever characteristics that plant has (e.g. antibacterial or relaxing) are concentrated in that oil. Most oils are extracted through a steam distillation process; some, usually citrus oils, are extracted through cold press. The plants can come from any part of the world but properties of the plants can vary from region to region. So for instance, essential oil companies may prefer to source their lavender from areas in and around the Mediterranean and France rather than locally grown plants. The oils may come from different parts of the plant too. There is an eo made from cinnamon leaf and another made from cinnamon bark. The properties are similar yet they perform different functions when used.
Ok, so now I know in general what they are but how they different from one another? How do you know which to use? Well, I have found several websites and books to help answer these questions. Here are some that I found most informative.
The Essential Oils Handbook by Jennie Harding
This small book organizes the oils by their main function (such as muscles, skin enhancers, mood uplifters, etc).
For each oil she discusses:
- how the oil is extracted and where the plant is usually sourced
- the properties of the oil
- safety concerns
- how the oil can be used for mental and emotional health
- how the oil can be used for physical health
Another fantastic book on EOs is The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
This tome really walks you through how to start using EOs. She talks about the extraction process and how oils have been used throughout history. Then she goes into the basics of how to use them with water, carrier oils, etc. Each chapter is really about function. She starts with oils that are just important to have all the time like lavender, peppermint, tea tree, etc. Another chapter talks about using eos for sports, another for skin, another for women, men, animals, children…it’s all covered. She even includes recipes for cooking with eos which is something I haven’t done…yet.
For me, this a great resource to have on hand all the time which is why I bought the Kindle version. Any book written by Valerie Worwood is going to be great. I found ten books on amazon that she has written about oils and aromatherapy. Sometime soon I plan to get her book Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child. (I am not an amazon affiliate.)
There are a plethora of websites out there. Each essential oil company will tell you basically the same thing about the process of extraction, history, etc. There are a number of bloggers who are write just about eos and I have gotten great information from them. So I’m just going to list a few websites that I have visited for information.
Spark Naturals (an EO company with high quality, affordable oils)
Ananda Apothecary (another EO company that I just discovered)
Camp Wander (the one that started it all for me)
Essential Oil Expert (super helpful website whether your new or experienced)
Fresh Picked Beauty (information on EOs and lots of recipes for diy beauty products)
doTerra (another EO company that provides high quality oils)
Google, naturally, is a fine place to start too. It’s how I started and found these resources. I know there’s more about there. Of course, one of my favorite places is to look on Pinterest. And I have found great information and blogs there. I have a board just on EOs and other remedies that I am constantly adding to.
Now that you have some information on what oils are and a few resources, how about a few definitions? Here are two terms that I have been asked about.
Carrier oil – a carrier oil is an oil that is used to carry the EO on your body. Simple enough, right? Some EOs are just too strong to put directly onto your skin. And for anyone with sensitive and delicate skin (like children and the elderly), carrier oils should always be used. Carrier oils can be any vegetable-based oil. When I first started, I had a few EOs that I used for cleaning but I didn’t have any special carrier oils. I literally went to the kitchen and got out my olive oil. And that’s just fine. Most people will have olive oil and/or coconut oil around which can be used as a carrier oil. Now that I use eos more often, I like to use sweet almond oil and jojoba oil. They are pretty easy to find and they are great for your skin. Another carrier oil you’ll see talked about a lot is FCO or fractionated coconut oil. This is coconut oil that has the long chain triglycerides removed – hence it is a fraction of the whole original oil. Because those triglycerides were removed, the oil is more saturated and therefore has a long shelf life. It’s also higher in anti-oxidants for this reason (source: Organic Facts).
Neat – This means that you’re putting the eo directly onto your skin without a carrier oil.
Ok, Plain Jane, now I know what they are, how to find out more about them, and what some of the terms are. Now what do I DO with them? This was my biggest question, too. When I started, I didn’t have empty dropper bottles or roller bottles. So I just dropped the oils into a small prep bowl from the kitchen and guesstimated the carrier oil. Then I scooped it from the bowl with my fingers and smeared it on the bottom of my youngest’s feet. Why there? Well the pores in the bottom of your feet are larger than anywhere else on your body so the oils are absorbed more quickly.
As I used eos more and more, I did buy roller bottles and filled those so I could easily roll the oils on the bottoms of feet. But you can put the oils other places too. Depending on what you need them for, I have put them on the back of the neck (nape-area), over the heart, temples/forehead (for headaches), and directly on the area experiencing pain. My husband uses the oils on his toe for gout and on his shins for shin splints. I use it directly on my back/shoulder for pain in those areas.
Ready to start? I personally have used oils from Aura Cacia, Mountain Rose Herbs, Plant Therapy, Ananda Apothecary, Young Living, doTerra, Wyndmere, and Spark Naturals. Based on the quality, affordability, and access, I pretty much exclusively use Spark Naturals. The oils are high quality and certified pharmagrade (which means you can use some of them internally as well, if you choose). Spark Naturals is not an MLM so you don’t have to purchase a certain amount each year or whatever the requirements may be for MLM companies (I honestly don’t know because that structure is what kept me from joining other eo companies even though they have great oils). They are a relatively new company with fantastic customer service, great prices, and flat-rate shipping ($6.49!). I have used Spark Naturals for a few months now and have been quite impressed. If you’d like to give them a try, you can get a 10% discount by using “plainjane” as a discount code during check-out.
(Disclosure – I am an affiliate with Spark Naturals.)