What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are magical for stimulating your senses and restoring the harmony of body, mind and spirit. Commonly used in beauty products and aromatherapy, these wonderfully versatile oils are also widely used as healing remedies. They have a wide variety of health benefits including relieving stress and promoting skin rejuvenation. Essential oils can penetrate your skin effectively due to their molecular structure and finding out how to use essential oils effectively on the skin is what usually turns most people from casual oil users to essential oil devotees.

The potent pure essences are extracted from aromatic plants, trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs and grasses in the form of flower heads, petals, leaves, stalks, seeds, kernels, bark, gums and resins. These living substances are captured at exactly the right time, generally by steam distillation, to maximise the effects of the essential oils to give predictable results. As it takes an huge amount of plant material to make essential oils, it’s a powerful botanical medicine, for example:

  • 1kg of lavender essential oil requires 125kg of lavender flowers
  • 1kg of rose essential oil requires 4,000kg of rose petals (it takes about 5 dozen roses to make just one drop of rose absolute)

Most essential oils are lighter than water and evaporate quickly. Due to their concentration and potency essential oils are measured in drops.

The use of natural plant oils to treat the senses, for therapy and for medicine, seems to be as old as human civilisation itself and we know that they have been used for more than 6000 years for their fragrant, cleansing, healing, preservative and mood-enhancing properties. Their desirability through history has meant that many have been treasured commodities. The use of essential oils has become an established natural alternative therapy which takes past wisdom to help us restore balance and enhance the quality of our lives in today’s hectic, stressful and sometimes confusing world. They can help improve the appearance of your skin, assist in the treatment of almost every type of ache and pain as well as relieving the symptoms of poor mental health.

HOW ESSENTIAL OILS WORK

Each essential oil’s composition is distinct and determines the colour, fragrance and volatility of the oil which results in each having its own unique set of beneficial properties. As well as providing a pleasant scent, an aromatherapy treatment using essential oils enhances both your physical and psychological wellbeing at the same time.

“Aromatherapy is more thoroughly defined as the skilled and controlled use of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well-being. Science is now confirming what has been known for centuries: essential oils have healing properties on both physical and emotional levels. Absorbed through the skin and via the olfactory-brain connection through inhalation, they have been considered among the most therapeutic and rejuvenating of all botanical extracts throughout the ages.”

VALERIE GENNARI COOKSLEY (2002) AROMATHERAPY: SOOTHING REMEDIES TO RESTORE, REJUVENATE AND HEAL.

Essential oils and carrier oils are very different. Carrier oils which are vegetable oils such as coconut, olive, grapeseed, sesame, soybean and avocado are obtained through cold pressing and are high in fatty acids, whereas, essential oils are distilled and contain no glycerol molecules. This means that they are not slippery and leave no greasy residue. Essential oils are composed of molecules that are easily dissolved in alcohol, emulsifiers and fats. They also penetrate the skin easily which makes them excellent as a natural healing remedy.

All essential oils have varying degrees of antimicrobial activity as well as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, nematocidal, antifungal, insecticidal, antioxidant properties and stimulate the immune system. When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel past millions of sensitive cells that line the nasal passages, called the olfactory membrane, directly to the limbic system of your brain. This especially impacts the amygdala, the oldest part of the brain in evolutionary terms, and the emotional centre which also controls the major functions of the body. 

When absorbed through the skin, essential oils move around the body in the bloodstream delivering a range of benefits to the nervous system, organs, muscles, blood and organs. Absorption is increased by massage as the blood circulation in that area of the body is also increased. Essential oils can help cleanse, tone and hydrate your skin, improving the health of your skin, reducing the appearance of blemishes and giving you a healthy glow. Some studies show that essential oils have properties that can fight viruses, alleviate flu symptoms and increase general comfort during the illness. You can safely use essential oils on most external parts of your body but need to be careful with the delicate and sensitive parts!

Essential oils are therapeutic used in a variety of ways including:

  • Massage using pure essential oils blended in a carrier oil or cream: dilute 3-5% (in one teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil, you would add 3-5 drops of pure essential oil)
  • Bath therapy: adding 5 to 20 drops of essential oil blended with a tablespoon of carrier oil to a warm bath – some essential oils can be added without dilution (see Topical Uses of Essential Oils)
  • Steam inhalation or vaporisers
  • Compresses
  • Creams, lotions, balms, bath products and skin therapy.
  • Candles, oil burners and diffusers.

Magical for mind, body and spirit.

We have listed the essential oils we use in our products along with their benefits. Take a look and try out some blends of your own.

Aromatherapy applications include massage, inhalation and topical applications. Essential oils can be blended together to create an alluring scent with healing benefits but a key point to remember is that pure essential oils are concentrated and most should be diluted if they’re going to be applied topically. There are some, however, that can be applied directly to your skin, for example, pure Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) can be used on the skin for cuts and minor burns and it can be inhaled to promote relaxation and sleep. For more information see our article, Topical Uses of Essential Oils.

Many people use essential oils topically for their skin-healing or pain-relieving properties but care must be taken to administer them properly otherwise rashes and other side effects may occur. There are even some essential oils that are poisonous if absorbed directly through the skin. If you have allergies, sensitive skin, are taking supplements or prescribed medication or you are pregnant, you should discuss use and potential risks with an aromatherapist or your doctor before using an essential oil on your skin.

Note: Many well-known household and beauty products such as cleansers, lotions, make-up and candles contain products that are marketed as containing essential oils but actually contain synthetic fragrances. Moonbeams products are 100% natural and contain only the purest essential oils.

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