If you’re like me, I didn’t give essential oils a second thought, at least beyond them being something people used to make potpourri or candles. Nice smell (or sometimes not), but nothing more. I had NO IDEA that essential oils were valuable resources for health and wellness as well as cleaning and household needs. Yes, I’d heard the old, old story of the three wise men bringing frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus, but it just left me wondering if the wise men were really all that wise. What kind of baby shower gifts are those, after all? And what in the world would new mother do with them?
Since discovering the power of essential oils in my own life, my opinion of the wise men greatly improved. It was actually a genius idea! But what are essential oils, anyway? And why would any of us care?
Essential Oils are Naturally Occurring Aromatic Compounds Found in Nature
Essential oils are the naturally occurring aromatic chemical compounds found in plants, flowers, roots, bark and seeds. You’ve most likely experienced the aromatic qualities of many essential oils if you’ve ever enjoyed the fragrance of a flower garden, or freshly chopped herbs. But essential oils are much more than a fragrance. They actually serve to protect the plants from disease (strengthening the plants immune system) and even aid in pollination, oxygenation and regeneration.
Essential Oils are Fat Soluble and Water-Based
Essential oils (EO) are fat soluble, water-based phytochemicals. They don’t contain any fatty lipids or acids (such as are found in vegetable and animal oils), so they don’t leave a ‘greasy’ residue (or stain). They’re immediately absorbed into the skin, when the skin comes in contact with the EO. (If you’ve used an essential oil that’s left an oily stain it means that it’s not a pure oil but has been ‘watered down’ with other ingredients).
The water-based characteristics of EOs allow them to penetrate cell walls. Why this is important: Have you ever been to the doctor and been told you have a virus, so you’ll just have to ride it out? This is because viruses also penetrate cell walls, but synthetic medications can’t. Modern medicine doesn’t have a way to deal with a common cold because of this fact. But, EOs penetrate the cell wall and attack the invading issue.
(Because of their water-soluble properties, an essential oil can travel to every cell in the body within just a few minutes.)
Essential Oils are Aromatic
Essential oils, by nature, have a strong odor associated with them. Besides smelling nice (usually—not all of them have a pleasant aroma), they can clean the air, destroying both odors and toxins.
(Because humans are so affected by smells, the aromatic properties of EOs actually bring emotional health as well as physical health.)
Essential Oils Support the Body for Optimal Wellness
Essential oils have an amazing ability to strengthen the immune system and support the body for continued optimal wellness, or to fight back when there is a compromising invader, all while restoring balance to the body at the same time.
Essential Oils and the Blood-Brain Barrier
Some essential oils (such as frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh and others) contain sesquiterpene molecules which are able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. They give oxygen to cells and help erase and/or deprogram scrambled DNA codes.
The American Medical Association (AMA) determined that if they could find an agent that could pass through the blood-brain barrier, they would be able to cure several major diseases.
This blood-brain barrier passage also helps with brain trauma and helps to release emotional trauma.
Essential Oils are Complex
Essential oils are very complex. In fact, many of the chemical constituents that make up the different EOs have yet to be identified. For example, an EO can easily contain 800 different compounds, with only 200 of them identified by science.
This diverse complexity aids EOs in their effectiveness by making it difficult, if not impossible, to build up an immunity to a specific oil. (Unlike the simple compounds found in synthetic medications that easily allow for addiction and immunity build up which greatly distracts from they’re effectiveness.)
Essential Oils are Detoxifying
Essential oils aid the body not only in fighting disease and healing it, but also in detoxing the body afterwards.
Essential Oils are Don’t Expire
Unlike most medicines on the market that have an expiration date, essential oils will remain viable for years, if not forever, as long as they’re properly cared for (kept in dark, sealed bottles, out of extreme heat). How many times have you had to throw out medicines or vitamins because of their expiration? With EOs that’s not a problem! (There are a few exceptions, mainly oils in the citrus family, which will last for years, but not indefinitely).
Okay, that’s the short, simplified list of what essential oils ARE…but how do you get from a plant to a potent oil that does all this great stuff??
How Essential Oils are Extracted?
To obtain essential oils from a plant or other natural source, they must go through a distillation process. The process itself, if done improperly, will destroy the health benefits of the oil. For example, many EOs are used in the cosmetic industry, but distilled by extreme heat (which is easier and cheaper). This process retains the scent, yet destroys any therapeutic value. The distillation process must contain low temperatures and a steam process to be effective for anything other than a nice smell.
Once the EO of the plant is extracted, it becomes a highly concentrated substance, up to 50-70% more concentrated than if you’d dried the plant or herb and used it that way. (For example, one drop of peppermint EO is as concentrated as 28 cups of peppermint tea). A little oil goes a long way. (As a matter of fact, one drop contains around 40 million-trillion molecules because they are super concentrated and extremely tiny.)
Essential Oil Grades
There are several different grades (qualities) of essential oils available on the market. The most common grade is synthetic. This is often the essential oils that are used for perfumes and other health and beauty products. This grade of oil can be a mix of natural EOs and chemicals, with other additives. The EOs are extracted in the cheapest (heat) way possible, destroying the therapeutic benefits of the oils while retaining the aromatic qualities.
The second largest grade of EOs is food grade. These oils are used for flavorings in food, without any concern over the therapeutic qualities of the oils. These also can contain chemicals and almost always are cut with a carrier of some sort, to ‘stretch’ the oil (remember, they’re very concentrated in and of themselves, so even cutting them with oil or alcohol can still makes them seem ‘strong’ to the smell).
A much smaller percentage of essential oils are considered therapeutic grade. These oils, while still potentially cut with other fillers, are much safer to ingest than the synthetic or food grade oils.
The smallest grade of oil is considered Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG), and make up only about 1% of the essential oils available on the market. These oils are certified to contain ONLY the essential oils from plant, nothing more, nothing less. Each batch of oil is tested by 3rd party labs to ensure the purity.
Why does this matter? For one, the general practices in the essential oil industry allows for things like bottle labels to say “100% pure oil” even if only 10% of that is essential oils, or even if the field of plants was sprayed with a chemical before harvesting. Because of this, if you plan on using essential oils internally, it’s important to pay attention to your source.
It often takes a massive amount of plant material it takes to obtain a pure essential oil, which is why so many companies practice diluting the oils in order to ‘stretch’ the amount of oil they have. To give you an example of quantities, consider Melissa oil, which is made from lemon balm. It takes 3 tons of plant material to extract one pound of pure essential oil. That one pound of pure oil sells between $9,000-15,000. You can see, then, how tempting it would be to double that pound of oil by adding filler oils (such as coconut or almond oil), and reducing your cost by nearly 50%. Often, there’s no way for a consumer to know if the oil they purchased is pure and un-diluted or not because the label says, 100% oil…but, what KIND of oil is it?
Where to Get Essential Oils
Because of the many ways to obtain EOs, it’s important to know the source from which you’re obtaining your oils since you can’t always trust the label.
The good news, though, is that there are companies out there with 100% certified pure, therapeutic grade oils. They, however, make up only a small portion of the oils available to consumers, so be careful who and where you buy oils from (just because you buy it at a health food store doesn’t make it safe).
Throughout history, EO’s have played an important part in health and healing and they are making a strong come back in an age where medicines are failing, health systems are failing, many are left uninsured, addicted, suffering from side effects, or in chronic pain. Although essential oils can’t ‘fix’ everything, they can help many, many things for a fraction of the cost, without side effects and sometimes with the healing people have been unable to obtain from other, traditional avenues.
Are you interested in buying certified pure therapeutic grade oils at a wholesale discount? Here’s more information.
Please note that claims made in this article have not been approved by the FDA. This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended for diagnosing or otherwise advising anyone of any medical protocol. For more information please see the disclaimer portion of this site.