When applied sensibly and appropriately, essential oils are highly beneficial.
Essential oils influence and support the immune system (for example, they are anti-microbial), they are skin healing, and directly influence the Limbic System (the instinctive and emotional centre) within the brain in a way that affects mood and emotion, memory and concentration. They instigate physiological and neural responses (via olfactory receptors found throughout the body).
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils comprise of a highly concentrated mixture of various volatile chemical components extracted from plants and their derivatives (leaves, fruits, flowers, bark, roots and so on). Essential oils demonstrate similar qualities to those exhibited by the plant they are extracted from. However, removed from the plant, which contains many other non-volatile components that influence the plant or herb’s therapeutic qualities and which also support, balance, calm, or antidote irritant or toxic components, essential oils must be regarded in a different light, according to each oils unique chemical ‘fingerprint’. In isolation from the plant, essential oils are highly concentrated and as such can be mucus membrane and skin irritants.
Essential oils are hydrophobic, which means they do not dissolve in water; essential oil molecules will cluster together, float on the surface of water, or sink to the bottom of water held in a container. While they are oil-like in their behaviour (i.e. they do not mix with water) they are not ‘greasy’ or ‘oily’ in the way that fat or vegetable oil is; they are not lubricant and are, in fact, extremely drying to the skin. This is why essential oils are always blended in an emollient, such as a vegetable oil, ointment, cream or lotion, when applied to the body. Emollients can also add their own unique skin supporting qualities when carefully blended with essential oils; and create an effective skincare synergy.
When prescribed by a pharmacist or herbalist for internal ingestion, essential oils are applied in small controlled amounts, and are contained in a ‘safe to swallow’ gel-like, preferably vegetable, capsule (composed of hypromellose, a polymer formulated from plant cellulose). The animal version (gelatine) is derived from skin or bone collagen (not suitable for vegans or vegetarians). Essential oils are not recommended for internal ingestion unless prescribed and administered by a professional healthcare practitioner.
Employing their antimicrobial, and skin and tissue healing qualities, essential oils may safely be applied topically in gels, ointment and compresses to treat local conditions, such as eczema, sprains, insect bites and improve scar tissue.
They are also safely applied using none-tactile methods of application, such as, for example, vaporisation (room diffuser and/or tissues), aroma sticks (nasal inhalers), ‘therapeutic perfumes’, and steam inhalation – for example, as an ambient scent, to relieve the symptoms of a cold or sore throat, or for their psycho-emotional benefits (uplifting, calming, energising), and so on.
The following essential oils collectively form a safe and effective group (refered to as Serenity Oils) that complement each others qualities well and are ideal as a ‘starting kit’. You will find deeper detail about this essential oil in my books, Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation, and Essential Oils for the Whole Body