Q&A with jane: Essential Oils

Q: Are aromatherapy and essential oils used only for scent?

A: Most people assume that aromatherapy is just about scent, but it is so much more than that! Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils for psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapists work with essential oils  because they are the pure essence of a plant and have so many amazing benefits when used correctly and safely.  

The “Aroma” part of the word aromatherapy simply means that when we inhale the oils into the lungs they are then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream causing both physical and psychological benefits.  The natural aroma of the oil stimulates the brain to trigger a reaction in the rest of the body. In Europe, medical doctors prescribe essential oils to support health or assist in healing the body. This is a specialized area of Aromatherapy and correct training is required.

Q: Can people of all ages use essential oils for therapeutic benefits?

A: Essential oils have been around for thousands of years and have been used in many different cultures and countries. However, they have gained a lot of interest lately, and I believe this is due to large pyramid or multi-level marketing companies. It is great that people are interested in using essential oils in the home and for natural healing, but there seems to be a lack of knowledge and training which is very concerning. Most people believe that because essential oils are natural they are safe and less likely to be toxic and harmful. But it is important to know that essential oils are natural chemical compounds and when not used correctly they can be extremely dangerous.  

When administered correctly, essential oils can be amazing for healing all sorts of illnesses and ailments for people of all different ages. It is just important to get the best information on dosages and dilutions. So yes, to answer the question anyone can use essential oils so long as they know how to use them safely.

Q: Are there any dangers associated with using essential oils?

A: Absolutely. There is a correct way of using essential oils and it is important to know the following things:

  1. The active constituent of each oil.
  2. The correct way to administer them
  3. The different dilution percentages.

When selecting an essential oil you need to know what it is you are using it for. Are you treating, protecting, or nourishing? Is the condition acute or chronic? Each situation has a safe, and effective method of application. Acute conditions call for the essential oil to be diluted in a carrier such as a lotion. A higher dilution rate per ounce of carrier will be far more effective over the short term.

Certain oils, like certain citrus oils, are also phototoxic and need to be used with caution because they can cause the skin to burn when exposed to UV rays. This is unlike a normal burn, and may not show up initially. However, if the skin does get affected, it is a chemical burn and can often be irreversible.

It is also extremely important to be careful when administering oils to small children and elderly people. A lower dosage in a slow release carrier (like an oil) would be more suitable to prevent any irritation or sensitivity. I would recommend avoiding using oils on or around children under 5 unless administered correctly. Some oils can damage the central nervous system of young children.