What are essential oils?
An essential oil is the concentrated oil or aroma component of a plant. If you are a chemistry geek (like me), you may be interested to know that essential oils mainly consist of terpenes (mono-, di- and sesque-), ketones and aldehydes. The unique property of these chemicals is their relatively small size:
Not many substances can pass through the blood-brain barrier, but essential oils can. So, you can take the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and apply them to the brain, and if they can reach the brain, they will effect the rest of the body as well – as they effect various parts of the brain that regulate various functions in the body – from hormone production, adrenal support, memory storage, emotional balance, and on and on. So you experience physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental benefits. - High Country DoterraEven if you're not interested in the chemistry, my interpretation is that it makes sense that the chemicals in essential oils influence our bodies and our moods. This influence may not always be beneficial. This brings me to two important points:
- Essential oils are potent, they should be used carefully and judiciously, to ensure that the affects are beneficial. Just because they are natural, does not mean they necessarily safe to use in all situations and at unlimited dosages.
- In some situations a herbal preparation may be more appropriate than an essential oil to make a more gentle change to body chemistry, reserving the power of essential oils for more serious conditions.
|sore old paws|
Man and Beast
I had made up nearly two cups of udder balm, and we had so much left, I put a little in a jar in case we needed it inside. I used some on our dog Cheryl's front paws because they looked stiff and sore (she is twelve years old). And then when Pete had a sandfly bite I put it on him and the bite stopped itching. So I have written "for man and beast" across the top of the jar. I have used it myself as insect repellent and when my arm was sore. Generally these oils have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, so in some ways it is a multi-purpose balm.
Essential oils have their place as a natural medicine, but they should not be abused. Multi-level marketing schemes encourage people to over-sell the benefits and understate the cautions. Do your research, preferably from sources that are not trying to sell you oils, and use essential oils sparingly as part of a healthy lifestyle. Invest in good quality oils, organic if possible.
Essential oil overviews
What do you think? How do you use essential oils? How do you research which essential oils to use?
You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy
Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture
Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow
Interview with Rose Petal
Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Interview with Ohio Farmgirl