What Are Essential Oils?

As a Holistic Practitioner and Certified Aromatherapist I am asked this question more times than not.  Many times we take for granted that everyone knows what we know, which in itself is not fair.  That doesn't mean that you're any smarter than the next person, only means that you have access to more information than the other person.  That being said, the purpose of this post is to make sure that everyone that I come in contact with understands what are essential oils and how they can be beneficial for you and your family.  The article is the first of four articles on this topic.  Stay tuned for upcoming articles.

An essential oil is a natural product extracted from a single plant species. Not all plants produce essential oils, and in the plants that do, the essential oil may be found in the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits.

What is the difference between "aromatherapy" and "essential oils"?

 Basically, these terms "can" be used interchangeably but the definition and benefits of essential oils go much further than the aroma effects. We think the term "aromatherapy" is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that all essential oils smell nice. On the contrary, there are many essential oils that do not have a pleasant odor. While smell is very subjective, German chamomile is an example of an essential oil that does not appeal to many people. However, German Chamomile is a very powerful essential oil with many healing properties.  Also, the name "aromatherapy" implies that smelling, or inhaling, essential oils is the only way to get therapeutic benefit, but there are actually a number of ways to use essential oils. 

While we think the term "essential oil therapy" is a more descriptive name for this topic, we refer to it as "aromatherapy" because it currently has better name recognition.  Essential Oils have been in existence since the beginning of time; just as plants have been in existence since the beginning of time.   The plant kingdom was created for healing and nourishment for all of us.

How Do I Choose and Use Essential Oils?

The essential oil that you choose will depend on the purpose—do you want it to help elevate your mood or do you need something to treat a burn? There is no definitive list that specifies which essential oil is used to treat which health condition. For example, while the essential oils of lavender, chamomile, basil, Frankincense, are generally found to have a calming effect and may help with anxiety and bergamot and peppermint oil are stimulating and can help those with depression, this is somewhat individual. So you need to be proactive about doing research and talking with qualified aromatherapists or other individuals with training in using essential oils.

Be sure to pay attention to cautions for each essential oil and application method and also note that all essential oils are not created equal.   Many of the essential oils that you find in local stores are heavy diluted and chemical laden and can cause more harm than good.   So be sure to only purchase your oils from trust and recommend sources.