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Aromatherapy Basics for Using Pure Essential Oils






Aromatic oils have been used since ancient Egyptian times and by numerous cultures world-wide. From the burning of resins and plants soaked in fats  to modern day distillation, fragrant plants have been utilized and valued for thousands of years. The use of pure plant essential oils goes back to around 1000 AD, when distillation was developed. The distillation of these aromatic plants results in the production of pure essential oils. They are not to be confused with synthetically derived fragrance oils. Their origins are in nature and their therapeutic properties to balance overall well being have been known for centuries. Their uses encompass cosmetic care, spiritual aid, sexual allure, and psychological and therapeutic adjunct.

Armed with some basic guidelines for their use anyone can safely and effectively utilize pure essential oils in a variety of ways to uplift the spirit, calm the mind, motivate the body and support health. The safest application is topically on the skin and as an inhalation. Both routes will provide effective outcomes in dealing with a variety of physical concerns and overall support of wellbeing. They can be safely employed to deal with first aid complaints that one would normally treat at home, such as minor burns, insect bites, tension headaches, muscle soreness, digestive upset and more, all through diluted external use. Essential oils efficiently and effectively penetrate the skin; they have a small molecular size and a low molecular weight, allowing them to enter the skin easily and provide a physiological response, depending on the naturally occurring chemistry of the essential oil. They can uplift the spirit or be effective antibacterial agents, but stress reduction is probably the most popular use of aromatherapy, and rightfully so. There are many studies that show that simply smelling something pleasant helps us relax. The simple act of  inhaling deeply also contributes to slowing us down and reducing anxiety. The sense of smell is processed in the same area of the brain that processes memory and emotion, forever linking this sense with our past experiences. Most of all, these unique plant essences can help connect us to Nature, the ultimate healer.

Following is a list of guidelines for safely using these precious oils.
 
It is best to dilute all essential oils before application to the skin. Many oils can irritate when used neat (undiluted), as well as being unnecessarily costly.  Also be aware, many of the citrus oils can cause sun sensitivity and uneven pigmentation problems when applied before any ultraviolet light exposure such as tanning beds, sunbathing or any outdoor activity. Read your cosmetic labels carefully; for instance, lemon oil should not be fragrancing a lip balm, especially if it is lacking sunscreen.

DILUTIONS

A generally accepted dilution is two percent, but even less can be effective. Follow these suggestions for diluting oils for efficient and safe application. Carrier oils (see our list of offerings such as coconut, jojoba, olive, etc.) are the medium into which your essential oils should be diluted, but unscented lotion is also suitable. More is not better when it comes to aromatherapy; consider more 'homeopathic' dosing. For instance, lavender can relax in low dilutions but may stimulate when over-used.

0.5% dilution = 2-3 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil (best for kids, elderly, sensitive skin or facial application)

1% dilution = 5 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil (suitable for most cosmetic care)

2% dilution = 10 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil (for full body massage)

3% dilution = 15 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil (spot treatment or 1 tsp in bath)

APPLICATION METHODS

Massage oil or lotion - 2% dilution is generally suitable; refer to above guidelines for exceptions.

Bath - most water mediums need far less dilution than the normal 2%. In the bath 3-8 drops of an undiluted oil may be all you need. Some essential oils can irritate the skin and should be diluted in a carrier before adding to the bath. For instance, peppermint or lemon will irritate more than frankincense or geranium.  All of the lemony scented oils such as melissa, lemongrass or citrus oils can irritate; and even though lavender will not irritate even at 15 drops in the bath, it is a waste of precious resources to use that much. An aromatherapy bath for kids should always utilize diluted essential oils. Hand and foot baths are also useful mediums for essential oil applications. Apply the essential oil mixture just before entering the water and stir well.

Inhalation - environmental fragrancing for recreation can be done with a number of options, including potpourri pots above a candle flame or misting the air (see below). For a more therapeutic application to support respiratory health, use an electric diffuser that mists the pure oil into the air, or make a towel tent above a pot of hot water (add 5 drops eucalyptus) to inhale the aromatic steam. This application works well also as a facial steam.

Misting bottle - add 10 drops of essential oil to a 4 ounce spray bottle of water. Shake well before each use as essential oils to not mix well with water. This can be used for misting the body or scenting linens. If applying to the face, use half the essential oils and keep eyes closed.
Facial mask - use only 1 drop of essential oil per full face application, mixed well into the mask medium, such as clay, yogurt, or commercial preparation.

Compress - essential oils can be used in hot or cold applications for common complaints such as muscle strain or cramps, general detoxification, increased circulation or stress reduction. Add 3-5 drops of the chosen essential oil to the water, soak a cloth, wring out and apply repeatedly to selected area.

Experience will guide you in the numerous applications where essential oils can be effective, but a reference book will remove much of the guess work.


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