Essential oils are extracted from aromatic plants, as well as from grasses and different types of trees. They are also known as “essences” or “volatile oils”. They tend to accumulate within the plant fibres and it is believed that their function is to help with the pollination process as well as to prevent attacks from potential predators.
Plants are potent – they have essences – usually these essences are used as a means of attracting insects for pollination purposes. Other uses for these essences are for wound healing (i.e. when trees and shrubs undergo damage from extreme winds etc).
Essential oils are extremely concentrated products and a lot of them can show some degree of toxicity even at relatively low doses.
The mantra in aromatherapy, as in homeopathy, is that “less is more” and research has shown time and time again that applications that are diluted are often as effective, if not more effective than stronger based ones.
Essential oils are used extensively throughout aromatherapy. Their uses are numerous and wide ranging, however, they must be used with care and by a properly qualified aromatherapy practitioner who understands how these oils work and is aware of their powerful properties.
Particular care must be taken when using essential oils on the young (especially babies) and the elderly as these two age ranges have less developed mechanisms
for detoxification purposes. Further, the very young and the elderly are probably more likely to be sensitive to essential oils. Some oils, especially eucalyptus and or peppermint oils can cause respiratory problems if used too close to the baby’s nostrils. Lavender or neroli oils would be a much safer option to use on a small child, however and can be applied in a small amount in a baby’s bath or for massage purposes.
Essential oils have to be kept away from contact with the eyes. If you get some essential oils in your eye – you must wash your eye out with irrigated sterile isotonic solution. In fact, any place where you are having your aromatherapy treatment should have an emergency eye-wash station.
Wash your eye out for 15 minutes then seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If an essential oil is accidentally spilt on furniture, then it is likely to remove the finish on the furniture due to its terpinic nature. So, you must endeavor to remove it as fast as possible with a tissue.
Although essential oils can be dangerous taken internally (depending on which oil it is) – there are some which can be used to gargle with i.e. for a sore throat or respiratory problem. A few drops of Fennel or tea tree oil completely dispersed in a glass of water should benefit these ailments considerably.
Essential oils don’t last forever – a maximum of two years usually. Keep your oils in bottles with tightly closed lids and out of direct light – oxygen is known to degrade oils and in so doing causes them to lose some of their beneficial properties and possibly even turning some constituents into irritants.