How essential oils work. I have a confession to make…
I’ve been an essential oils fanatic for years, but it wasn’t until my mom came over, pointed at my diffuser and asked, “What’s that thing?” that I realized I didn’t know a lot about how essential oils work.
I felt kind of silly standing there not being able to explained how these little bottles of aromatherapy heaven ACTUALLY work and the magical things they can do!
I don’t want you to have the same, “Uh, IDK,” moment that I did, so let’s talk about how essential oils work, okay?
How Essential Oils Work
Super simple: Essential oils are called “essential” because they contain the “essence of” plants.
(But yes, I think they are essential to have in your home, too! ;)
The liquid not only consists of the plant’s scent, but also its properties.
Essential oils are LITERALLY the chemical compounds of the plants they represent.
They are made by crushing the plant and then distilling it so that its chemical properties can be used when needed.
In other words, they don’t just smell good. They actually provide physiological and psychological benefits to us through their “essence”.
The tiny molecules of the plant compound activate and support our body’s own natural processes to provide better health and well-being.
See? There is actually science behind how essential oils work :)
How Essential Oils Work With the Brain and Bloodstream
There are two ways to best benefit from essential oils: Inhalation (smell ’em) and absorption (rub ’em on your skin mixed with a carrier oil – we’ll talk about carrier oils in a minute).
When you inhale an essential oil by holding the bottle to your nose or through a diffuser, the plant properties reach the olfactory system at the top of your nose.
The teeny-tiny nerves in your nose have direct access to your brain. When activated, they send a message straight to your limbic system in the brain telling it to start acting immediately.
What’s the limbic system, you ask? (What? You don’t remember from high school science class? Yeah, neither did I!)
Our limbic system is the control center for emotions, mood, mind and memory.
What the brain triggers the body to do depends on the essential oil we inhale.
For example, if we inhale Lavender essential oil, our nervous system will start to relax, providing (among other things), relaxation and a sense of well-being.
The oil stimulates serotonin release in the body, which reduces stress, promotes better sleep and gets rid of a headache or migraine. Yay!
The other way to use essential oils is to put them on the skin (always diluted in a “carrier” oil – we’ll talk about that in a minute).
When we do this, the healing properties in the oils are absorbed by our pores and hair follicles and move into the bloodstream.
Once there, the party starts and they are dispersed to the organs and systems they heal and soothe.
The best places to apply essential oils are:
- The temples
- Back of the neck
- Inside of wrists
These are where are “pulse points” are and they will absorb the oils more quickly (and work faster).
For example, if you have a headache, you could apply Lavender essential oil to your temples and the back of your neck to get some quick relief, since those are two common stress areas for headaches.
Super Important: It’s tremendously important to ALWAYS dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before applying them to your skin! Remember, these oils are super concentrated and some can burn the skin or cause skin irritation.
I once used full-strength lemongrass oil on my foot and it was red and itchy. So, make sure to use a carrier oil, okay?
There are lots of different carrier oils you can use. I typically use a recipe of 1 part essential oil to 4 parts carrier oil.
Carrier oils include:
- Sweet almond oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil (yep, the one you probably already have in your cabinet – as long as it’s cold-pressed, extra-virgin)
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
- Emu oil
- Jojoba oil
- Neem oil
- Organic, fragrance-free body lotion
If you’re a “need to know everything” person, like me… here’s a blog post that lists all the carrier oils and which oil is good for what.
Tip: Use unrefined, organic carrier oils.
The more pure the carrier oil, the better the essential oils will work to improve whatever issue you are using them for.
Refined, non-organic carrier oils are less pure and have gross chemicals that will decrease the essential oil’s chemical properties.
Speaking of purity, I need to mention the importance of good-quality essential oils.
These days, you can find essential oils for cheap at drug stores and big box store, but beware…
These inexpensive oils are most likely SYNTHETIC — they do not contain any of the medicinal properties found in the plant!
They may smell nice, but they won’t offer any benefits of the real thing because they are man-made.
The process of creating essential oils is time-consuming, which means that you get what you pay for when it comes to essential oils.
Who Has the Best Essential Oils?
Hands down, Arome. Because I know how essential oils work, I use Arome oils every day and can sniff out inferior quality oil.
They have several awesome starter/discovery kits that you can get on Amazon:
- Every essential oil junkie must have lavender, and this is a wonderful kit to start with: Lavender discovery kit (every essential oil junkie must have lavender oil :)
- This is also a fab starter kit:Lavender, Tea tree, Frankincense Essential oil kit
- Personally, this is my favorite kit: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Peppermint Essential oil kit
- Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint Essential oil kit
Okay friends, that’s all I have for you today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about how essential oils work.
Next Read: 10 Essential Oils You Can’t Live Without!