How Essential Oils "Work"
Posted by Kat Powers on
What Essential Oils Can Do
The production of essential oils from a plant or resin can preserve and deliver certain properties of those plants and resins. For example, some mint family herbs can increase circulation topically or open airways via the inhalation route. That's where we get the menthol and other components of cough drops and pain or cough relieving skin creams.
Essential Oil of peppermint might function in the same way, palliating symptoms of muscle pain when applied to the skin or easing cough when diffused or sprayed. Essential oils are aslo believed to be capable of healing on an energetic level.
Limitations and Cautions
Continuing with the above example, one must keep in mind that even though peppermint essential oil can help open the lungs, it is not a substitute for medical treatment. Some practitioners with extensive herbal knowledge might recommend very specific oils for very specific conditions, but other therapies may also be needed.
Massage therapists, acupuncturists, and naturopaths have been known to recommend essential oils for their patients, but no one with any valid medical license will suggest to you that essential oils provide any kind of definitive cure to illness. They are intended as a supportive addition to a therapeutic treatment plan.
Commercial Vs Artisanal Processes
Artisan distillation yields oils that are more bioactive and therefore better able to perform therapeutically. The artisan extraction process also allows the plant to more fully express an authentic, rich fragrance. Their purity can sometimes allow for ingestion of absolutes in moderation, and the gentle steam distillation can allow for energetic properties of the substance to come through into the oils.
Larger, more commercial collection facilities may hire part-time harvesters that might confuse plant species or neglect to separate weeds. These factors can lead to the creation of a final product that is not as pure or effective, with an aroma that might seem a bit off. The more industrial processes are generally concerned with producing volume rather than preserving specific therapeutic benefits.
The plus side of commercial products is often the cost. Depending on the brand, it may smell pleasing enough to apply topically or diffuse. Cheaper products can certainly be good enough to set a mood and enjoy.
We carry the Snow Lotus brand, which is artisan made. They have absolutes available, but many of their products come pre-mixed with jojoba oil so that you don't have to mix them with a carrier oil before applying topically. This a favorite brand for many Chinese medicine providers because they have a licensed practitioner on staff overseeing product selection and blend creation.
Check out our most popular essential oils!
Diffuser crowd pleaser: Citrus Bliss
Can help with headaches: Head Ease
Photo credits: cover, hand and purple, orange