A short history into Essential Oils & their uses

Essential Oils

In ancient days, as far back as 3500BC Kings, Queens and Pharaohs would have kept Essential Oils in their medicine chest as they were used for ailments as well as beauty.  In those days Essential Oils were often more expensive than Gold and Silver. When King Tut’s tomb was opened they found 350 liters of Essential Oils in alabaster jars.  Essential Oils were used by Moses and referred to in the bible.  In the book of Exodus, the Lord refers to the holy anointing oil as a specific formula recommended by God.

In the book of Numbers 16, Moses recommends burning Essential Oils for anti-bacterial properties, to stop the plague and protect people.

Hippocrates used Essential Oils a few centuries before Christ, to enhance massage. Even the three Kings brought Frankincense and Myrrh as a gift for the birth of baby Jesus, Frankincense as a perfume and to support the immune system and fight infection and Myrrh as an anointing oil and to support hormonal health. Essential Oils are mentioned 264 times and 33 different ones are talked about in the bible.

During history, Essential Oils were transferred by civilizations from Greece to Rome.  After the fall of the Roman empire, they were moved to Persia where the distillation process was perfected.  The Dark Ages brought disdain to the healing methods of Hippocrates, but the Catholic church continued to use Frankincense and Myrrh probably to keep the odours of the people at bay without realizing that they were also anti-bacterial.  However, monks continued to use Essential Oils and herbal remedies in their monasteries, but at that time folk medicine was deemed as witchcraft and many herbalist were either persecuted or burnt at the stake.

Then came the Renaissance who resurrected herbal medicine and Essential oils where Paracelsus treated life-threatening illnesses such as leprosy successfully.

In 1937, the modality ‘Aromatherapy’ was coined after Rene Maurice Gattfosse badly burned his hand and used the first salve that came to hand which was 100% pure Lavender Essential Oil. This immediately alleviated the pain and healed the burn without infection or scar.  Because of him, Essential oils were used to treat wounded soldiers during World War II.  The first person to prescribe essential oils was Marguerite Maury, who treated nerve endings along the spine with Essential oil combinations/blends.

 

How do Essential Oils work?

The skin, being the largest organ of the body allows the small molecules of Essential oils to penetrate the pores where some of the compounds of the oils can even cross the blood-brain barrier.  These small molecules differ from the fatty oils we find in vegetables and nuts which come from large molecules that stay mainly on the skin and can clog up pores because they cannot penetrate the cells and soak right into the skin in the same way as Essential Oils do.

Essential oils are so powerful, they have great health benefits.  They can be used to massage the skin, they can be inhaled or taken internally (but this is with caution and always under the guidance of a fully trained Aromatherapist).  The volatile compounds of Essential oils can pass from the air into your olfactory system, which is your sense of smell, which in turn is connected to your brain.  Therefore what you smell goes directly into your brain and bloodstream.  That’s why burning essential oils or using a diffuser has so many benefits.  Just think of peppermint oil in a burner, when your child has a cold, it eases the respiratory system and allows for a good night’s sleep. Or adding Clove or Oregano and Frankincense to clean the air around a sick person and help stop other people getting infected. Once these oil compounds are in your bodily system, they can protect and heal your body.

Essential Oils are extracted typically by distillation from bark, leaf, flower, seed, fruit or root from a plant or tree.  The distillation process separates the oil from the water-based compounds.

100% Pure Essential Oils should never be used neat, always dilute them.  The rule of thumb for safely is adding 10 to 12 drops of Essential Oils to 10ml of carrier oil or flower water, then you have made your own blend. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, Lavender and Peppermint essential oils can be applied neat.  Should you suffer from a headache, place one drop of each of Lavender and Peppermint oils on your middle finger, rub together with your other middle finger and massage this blend on your temples and forehead, The headache should lift very soon.

Therefore, it is important to buy Essential oils extracted by steam distillation or cold pressed without using chemicals.  They should be 100% pure, Certified therapeutic grade, if possible organic and be bottled in dark glass to protect from sunlight and oxidation.

Today Essential Oils are celebrating a comeback both for medicinal use and beauty.   There are so many suppliers selling essential Oils and it’s sometimes difficult to choose if you are just beginning to use them.  ….

It can be daunting to know which oil to use for what purpose.  We recommend you start with experimenting with 2 to 5 oils to begin with and slowly increase your cabinet with more oils as you go along.

Also, always use a good quality carrier oil.  Many people use almond oil but if you suffer from a nut allergy, Almond oil is out of the question.  A good oil to start with is either Grape seed oil or Sesame seed oil, both are light and don’t have an odour.

Are you ready to add these essential oils to your health routine, but aren’t sure where to start? Diffusers and spritzes are some of the easiest ways to add the benefits aromatherapy oils to your daily life.

When adding Essential oils to your bath water, never add directly into the water, the oil will simply float on the surface Instead, add them to a tablespoon of a carrier oil of your choice, shake well so the oils are well mixed and then add little by little to the running water.  The water should not be boiling hot because the oils will lose their potency, add to lukewarm water, mix around with your hand and then add hotter water as required.  It is also advised to take extra care getting in and out of the bath as the bath may be oily and slippery.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this introduction to Essential Oils. We’ll go more into detail which oils can be used and for what purpose in our next post.

Written by Anna

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