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The Benefits of Essential Oils

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Essential oils have been a major part of my life for the past 25 years. I use them for everything from maintaining my health to cleaning my house, they are part of my daily routine. Essential oils have been used since before biblical times and are still used today in many cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds extracted from plants through steam distillation or expression. The oils captured from the plant are referred to as its “essence.” Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants through steam distillation, although expression is the most direct method and involves pressing the oils from the plant’s flesh, seeds and skins.

How are essential oils used?

Essential oils can be inhaled or applied directly to the skin. Due to their high potency, many essential oils require a carrier oil when applied topically. Massage therapists understand the healing powers of essential oils and use them regularly for the benefit of their patients. Essentials oils travel through the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, and even nerve pathways. They are able to penetrate your skin, passing the blood-brain barrier and addressing issues at a cellular level; essential oils can even help regulate your endocrine system.

Inhaling lavender essential oil, for example, will slow down your brain waves and ease you into the first stages of sleep. Used for thousands of years, frankincense essential oil, when inhaled, has been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure, giving it anti-anxiety and depression-fighting abilities. In fact, when testing frankincense essential oil, it was noted that the limbic portion of the brain cooled off, allowing for more of a relaxed state. This is because fragrance circumvents the part of the brain responsible for rational thought (the limbic brain) and heads to the more emotional part of the brain where we store unresolved emotions.

Buyer beware

Not all essential oils are safe, and not all plants are beneficial to our health. There are also many fake oils claiming to be natural. Many companies say their oils are therapeutic, 100% organic and natural. These statements are sometimes false, so be careful where you purchase your essential oils and be sure to do your research as some oils may be toxic.

Everyday use

Essential oils are very simple to use as easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Inhale or use them in a massage, place a few drop in your bath or fill a room with your favorite scent using a diffuser or candles.

Is it safe to use essential oils on your pets?

When used correctly, essentials oils can provide great benefit to your pet’s life.

Cats and dogs often suffer with illness and side effects after shots from the veterinarian, from additives in their food and human chemical use. The use of certain essential oils may bring comfort from those symptoms. In my research, I’ve found that cats are more sensitive to essential oils than dogs.

My dog loves lavender essential oil; it calms her down, especially when we have thunderstorms. I also use rosemary essential oil with her dog shampoo, and she loves essential oil massages. Since pets aren’t able to express to us how they feel until it’s too late, it’s crucial to learn the best practices involved in essential oil use, before incorporating them into your pet’s daily routine. Like humans, pets may have allergic reactions to essential oils. And remember, just because you like the smell of an essential oil, it doesn’t mean your pet will.

A dog’s sense of smell is much more powerful than ours. While the average person has about five million smell receptors, the average dog, depending on breed, has 125 to 250 million smell receptors. This is just one reason why you should use lower dosages of essentials oils on your pet than for yourself.

Essential oils that are toxic to cats include peppermint, lemon, lavender, tea tree, cinnamon bark, wintergreen and thyme. Essential oils that are toxic to dogs include tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen and ylang-ylang.

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