Have you ever wondered how to use essential oils to improve your daily life – to boost your wellbeing and enhance your health? Find out how at this free interactive workshop organised by our Shiatsu and massage therapist Leonie Klein this Thursday 6th April at Wild Wolfs Yoga Studio (near St Nicholas Market in the centre of Bristol). For more details, and to book your place, see Eventbrite.
So what exactly are essential oils, and how can you best use them?
What are essential oils?
If you have ever enjoyed the scent of a rose, you’ve experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils.
These oils are ‘volatile aromatic compounds’ (meaning they evaporate quickly) that naturally occur in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. When you run your fingers through a lavender bush to release the smell or squeeze mint between your hands, you are breaking open tiny little sacks of essential oil on the surface of the plant. This plant produces this oil to ward off predators, protect against disease and assist in pollination.
All oils have their own unique character, aroma and therapeutic properties. As they are highly concentrated, they are extremely powerful. For example, one drop of good quality peppermint essential oil is the equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea!
Which should I buy?
The quality of essential oils can vary dramatically. Most ‘essential oils’ used in cosmetics and perfumes are actually synthetic and do not have any therapeutic qualities at all. Many essential oils on our shelves have been grown with the use of fertilisers, produced using chemical solvents and have been diluted and mixed with synthetic fillers. Without careful extraction the necessary aromatic compounds that comprise the oil may be altered or destroyed, also leaving a substance that would not be used to support health and wellness.
They may smell good and cost less but they will lack most, if not all, the chemical constituents necessary to produce the expected therapeutic results. Make sure you buy oils that have a transparent method of production you know you can trust.
What are the therapeutic benefits?
Essential oils are powerful antioxidants, helping to neutralise or quench free radicals from the body. Many essential oil constituents have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-infectious, antimicrobial, antitumor, antiparasitic and antiseptic properties. Because essential oil is made up of many chemical compounds (lavender has more than 200) each oil not only has many different therapeutic properties but is less likely to cause resistance as we’ve seen happen with antibiotic medicine. With due respect for their potency, when used correctly, essential oils can support the body’s functioning without harmful side-effects.
Despite the fact that essential oils have been used medicinally for thousands of years, it is only recently that increasing evidential research has caused the scientific community to wake up to the therapeutic capacity of plant-based oils. As a result, they are starting to receive the credibility they deserve – no longer are essential oils simply thought of as ‘nice smells in the bath’. For example:
- hospitals in the US are effectively using essential oils such as clove, oregano and tea-tree to fight MRSA and Staph infections\
- rosemary has been proven to significantly improve memory and reduce and prevent disorientation in Alzheimer sufferers
- frankincense has been found to reduce agitation and improve clarity and focus for people with dementia
- lavender is an effective remedy for burns and vetiver is proving to positively help children with ADHD.
How can I use essential oils?
Oils can be diffused, inhaled, applied topically, added to a bath or incorporated into massage.
Spending good money on quality oils and then putting them in an oil burner is pointless, as you will destroy the therapeutic compounds with the heat.
Diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. Diffusers that use cold air or water are ideal. (You can buy them for about £15 online.) However, using essential oils aromatically does not require any special diffusing devices.
You can achieve the same health benefits by simply placing a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand that is then cupped around the nose as you breathe deeply.
In the bath
Bathing with essential oils is one of the easiest and most enjoyable forms of therapy. Just before getting into a full bath, add 3-5 drops of essential oil (or blend of oils) and agitate the water to disperse fully. For a luxury version, choose an essential oil (or blend) and thoroughly mix it with a cup of coconut oil before adding it to the bath water; in this instance you can use up to 10 drops of essential oil. I also like to add a cup of magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) to relax muscles and draw toxins out of the body.
Can I use essential oils on young children?
For children younger than six, no more than 2 drops of essential oil per 10mls of vegetable oil should be used, and no more than 2 drops of essential oil should be added to their bath or vaporiser. However, if your child is younger than two years old, essential oils should be used with caution; I would advise that you seek the advice of a doctor or suitable practitioner.
When shouldn’t essential oils be used?
If you have a skin condition, are pregnant, have epilepsy or asthma, are on a course of treatment with prescribed medication, or are in doubt about any condition you may have, it is important that you seek the advice of a doctor or suitable practitioner before using essential oils.
For more information or a sample of the essential oils I use at home and in my practice, please contact Leonie Klein on 07768789661.
For more details of the free interactive workshop, and to book your place, see Eventbrite.
Follow Leonie on her Facebook page