Essential Oils 101
By Amy Baker
Here at Community Pharmacy and Community Wellness Shop, we find ourselves constantly amazed by the healing power of plants. There are countless ways we can use them to support the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our families and our communities. For many, essential oils are an ideal way to get started.
Essential oils are the aromatic and volatile chemical compounds produced by a plant’s immune system. These powerhouses do amazing work for the plant, warding off bacteria, fungi, viruses and pests, deterring herbivores and attracting pollinators necessary for reproduction. The very same oils that protect plants can also be used to enhance our overall health. Select essential oils can offer immune system support, stress relief, non-toxic home disinfecting and much, much more. And they smell so good!
Why to buy Organic
Once difficult to find, essential oils are now readily available, even at grocery stores. But, not all oils are created equally. Essential oils are highly concentrated. It takes 50-60 million rose blossoms to produce just 1 liter of rose essential oil! With such a concentrated substance, any toxins that are in the plant (whether taken up through contaminated soil or
via pesticides sprayed on the leaves) will be concentrated, as well. Additionally, when pesticides are applied, the plant no longer has a need to develop a fortified immune system; therefore, the potent essential oils go undeveloped. Non-organic essential oils, prepared from plants that have been chemically treated, will lack the aroma and immune-supporting attributes we buy them for. As a result, many such oils are then enhanced with substances derived in a lab. You can see why it’s imperative to buy only the highest quality, certified organic essential oils. At Community Pharmacy and Community Wellness Shop, we can guide you to safe, high-quality selections.
Get Started with Essential Oils
Essential oils are easy to use, economical and versatile. In most cases, you’ll use only a few drops at a time, making that tiny bottle really last! There are many oils to choose from, and while we love creating blends with multiple oils, we often find ourselves using just one or two at a time. The following are a few of our favorites — all would be good starting points as you build your collection! — as well as our favorite ways to use them. Remember that both of our Madison and Middleton locations have samples that you can try out before you buy.
Inhale — Place 1-2 drops in the palm of your hand and rub hands together. Then, cup both hands over your mouth and nose and take five deep breaths. Massage excess oil into neck and shoulders.
Diffuse — Use a fine-mist, ultrasonic diffuser filled with distilled water and 4-6 drops of essential oil of your choice. Keep in mind that there are some oils that aren’t recommended for diffusion. Stop into one of our locations for a complete list.
Massage — Add 1-2 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil (you can use any high-quality, neutral oil, like almond, apricot, jojoba, fractionated or melted coconut oil).
Beautify — Add a drop or two of one of the skin-nourishing essential oils to your facial oil, beauty serum or moisturizer.
Bathe — Add a few drops to a carrier oil of your choice, or to a cup or two of epsom salts. Enjoy a long, hot bath as the oils release their aromas.
Clean & Disinfect — Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a glass spray bottle. Add 15-30 drops of selected essential oil. Shake well. Use to clean all non-porous surfaces throughout your home.
SOME OF THE MOST USEFUL ESSENTIAL OILS
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is likely the most versatile essential oil. Gentle enough to be applied topically undiluted by most people, it can be effective for cuts, scrapes, burns, bites, and bruises. Long turned to for its emotionally comforting and stress management properties, lavender is ideal at bedtime to promote restful sleep, or whenever you need to wind down. Suitable for all applications listed above.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) is used in aromatherapy for its antifungal and healing properties, as well as to help enhance prayer and meditation. It is also known to promote healthy, vibrant skin. Suitable for all applications listed above.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) is a rare and precious essential oil highly regarded for its ability to improve the appearance of bruised and aging skin. Helichrysum is also commonly referred to as Immortelle, because its blooms retain their vibrant golden color after harvest. Add to facial oil; apply topically to help improve the appearance of minor bruises and scars. Do not apply to open wounds or abrasions. Not recommended for diffusion.
Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) is known for its warm, smooth, woody aroma, which is said to be calming and comforting. Pranarōm, one of our favorite companies and the source of sandalwood and many of our essential oils, sources this from Australia, where it is sustainably grown. Suitable for all applications listed above.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) has a cool, invigorating aroma with herbaceous undertones that can help promote mental focus as well as provide relief for mild digestive upset. With its high concentration of menthol and menthone, peppermint provides a cooling, analgesic sensation when applied topically. Suitable for all applications listed above.
Lemon (Citrus limon) has a zesty, cheerful aroma that lifts the mood and lends itself well to home cleaning as well as skincare. Lemon essential oil exhibits antibacterial and antiviral effects, and it is also regarded as a digestive tonic. Suitable for all applications listed above.
Note — a few precautions:
- Essential oils should not be used during the first 3 months of pregnancy, and some should never be used while pregnant. Please consult with your practitioner.
- Wash hands after massage or skin application of essential oils
- Essential oils should never be given intravenously
- Those with allergies should take a precautionary patch test
- Pure essential oils should never be applied to eyes, nose or auditory tract
Amy Baker is a gardener, teacher, wild-crafter, herb enthusiast and an award-winning writer. She has studied herbal medicine with various teachers in Chicago and Madison, and earned her certification as a Culinary Nutrition Expert and Instructor through the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Amy has enjoyed creating plant medicines, natural beauty and cleaning products, and all manner of tasty, nutritious, healing recipes for decades.