In recent times Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils has become a recognized alternative and complementary modality for health and well-being. Increasingly essential oils are being used to support physical and emotional health. Unfortunately there is a lack of reliable information regarding safe and effective use of essential oils. It is important for those who are thinking of using essential oils to support a specific health concern to start off with a solid base of practical knowledge.
An Aromatherapy consultation serves a variety of purposes that hinge on the important principles of education and instruction. Aromatherapists do not diagnose, prescribe or treat a specific condition, but they provide educational resources, instruction and guidance about how essential oils can support the body’s natural tendency towards balance. In this effort it is important for the practitioner to impart industry recognized guidelines for the safe usage of essential oils.
An initial consult includes a discussion about the specific goal that is desired from using essential oils. A client may have a targeted concern or may just be seeking to learn more about using essential oils and the basic principles of Aromatherapy. General guidelines are shared regarding effective applications, safe formulations and recommendations for essential oils appropriate to the body’s systems to be addressed. A consult will ultimately enable the client to make informed decisions, while following safe usage guidelines. A beneficial result of the relationship between the client and the Aromatherapist is that it will provide a pathway for future access to reliable information.
Those who are new to Aromatherapy will find that starting off with the guidance of a certified practitioner will aid to reduce confusion, improve safety and ensure positive results.
Erin and I have had a busy start to our summer. We have participated in a few craft shows as vendors. It has been great fun and has provided some interesting learning opportunities. I am making products to highlight the self care aspects of Aromatherapy. My gently scented flax and jasmine rice heating/cooling pads and felted wool diffuser necklaces are examples of how aromatherapy can be used for stress relief and support. Erin’s personal care products demonstrate how essential oils can be useful in skin care products and effective in targeted blends for specific health concerns.
It has taken some research and effort to create products that are safe and that will work the way we want them to. We didn’t start off with the goal to sell aromatherapy creations but with our successes we find the need to share. Two of the products that Erin has worked on perfecting are outdoor sprays that are effective in repelling ticks and mosquitoes and other flying insects. Her formulations have gone through some reiterations but she has settled on two recipes that work well for us. We are getting reports from our students and customers that they are getting good results from both. The formulations are designed to use essential oils in a way that is safe for dogs and children, to have safe dilution rates, to be properly solubized into the mixture and to be preserved for a reasonable shelf life. We did this for ourselves and our customers who will go on to use these products. They are trusting us to provide all natural products that are safe and effective.
We have been amazed at the number of other vendors who are selling similar sprays that are just essential oils and water. Aromatherapists know that essential oils and water don’t mix without the help of a dispersant or emulsifier. The mixture of essential oils float on top of the water and provide poor coverage as well as neat undiluted doses, which can contribute to skin irritations and sensitization. This is poor practice and displays a lack of knowledge about how essential oils work. The unpreserved mixture has a maximum shelf life of one to two weeks before it starts to grow bacteria.
People at our shows are sometimes reluctant to spend money on our sprays because they think the natural sprays don’t last very long. It has been fun teaching people that there are easy guidelines to follow when creating natural personal care products. Guidelines for safe dilution rates, proper dispersion, age appropriate usage, restrictions for use with animals and awareness that some oils are contraindicated for certain medical conditions make us aware that natural is not always easy and inherently safe.
I invite you to ask your questions about specific essential oil properties, safe recipes and formulations and the most effective applications. Feel free. I am here for you.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to use essential oils is in an ultrasonic diffuser which diffuses the oils in a cool mist right into the air. If you go online and start looking for one of these diffusers you will be inundated with an endless supply of options made with many different materials, with different lighting options, in different sizes and from the very cheap to the extravagantly expensive. So how do you decide what is the best option? In our last post Kay discussed the benefits and precautions around diffusing and these are all good things to keep in mind. While most manufacturers will boast of the run-time on their diffusers, saying things like 10 HOURS OF CONTINUOUS DIFFUSION, we know that this is not ideal at all. In order to prevent over saturation of the olfactory system and habituation to the scent we should not diffuse for more that an hour at a time. For longer periods using an intermittent diffuser that cycles on and off for at least 30 minutes is ideal.
When we first started using essential oils I received a diffuser as a gift, and it worked fine but as mom started her journey to become a Certified Aromatherapist and shared what she was learning with me I found myself using it less and less. Why? Honestly it’s because I was to lazy to turn it on and off! I would tell myself to turn it off after half an hour and then forget, or not want to get up from where I was ensconced under piles of grading or cuddled up with a good book. Who cares that the diffuser was just a few steps away, I just didn’t want to bother. So I stopped using it. A few months ago I started searching for a diffuser that had an intermittent cycle so that I could use it without worrying about keeping track of time or disrupting my grading flow and I was surprised at just how difficult it was to find one! Most manufacturers are just trying to extend the diffusion time, they don’t seem concerned about the safest and most effective use of the oils, and likely they just don’t know. Some do have what they call an ‘intermittent setting’ but it is only 30 seconds on and off which is not what we want.
Plant Therapy has their AromaFuse diffuser which has an intermittent cycle, but it’s $50… And that is more than I am willing to spend, especially since my old one still technically worked. Finally, after ages of combing through the descriptions of diffusers on Amazon I found the LED Concepts Essential Oil Diffuser. This diffuser is very similar to most that you will find in that it has a light-up feature with LED lights that can cycle through a range of colors or remain at one chosen color. The light can also be dimmed or shut off entirely. What sets this diffuser apart is that it has a 30 minute on/30 minute off cycle which means I can turn it on and not have to worry! Even better it comes with a small remote as well so I can control it without having to get up at all! And to top it all off this diffuser is only $25 on Amazon.
I’ve had this diffuser for a few weeks now and I find myself so much more likely to diffuse with it than I was with my old one. I am sure that there are others out there that have an intermittent setting but this was the only one I found that wasn’t $50+. So when you go in search of a diffuser this might be the one for you. This diffuser sets your up for success and make safe use a breeze!
Essential oils can be used topically on the skin or by breathing them in. Topical application is most effective for skin conditions, muscles and joints. When addressing goals for emotional, nervous system, cognitive, and respiratory system balance the most beneficial way to use essential oils is by inhalation. It is not necessary to dilute them with a carrier oil when using them for different methods of inhalation.
Inhalation of essential oils utilizes the sense of smell to exert an influence on emotions, mood, concentration, sleep, memory, behavior and perception. Olfaction has the greatest impact on the regulation of these states of mind because the olfactory system has direct access to the limbic system which is the part of the brain responsible for them. When essential oil molecules are breathed into the nasal passages, receptors in the olfactory mucous membrane identify an odor. The sensory stimulation is transmitted through the olfactory bulb along the olfactory nerve, crossing the blood brain barrier, to engage the limbic system in the temporal lobe of the forebrain. Nerve impulses triggered in the limbic system affect other areas of the brain that are responsible for secreting hormones and regulating body functions. In addition respiration carries essential oil molecules to the lungs where they pass into the circulatory system. The entire process from initial inhalation to corresponding body responses takes place in a matter of seconds. A simple inhalation can cause instant changes in the body.
Application methods for inhalation include steam from a bowl or shower, diffusers, nebulizers, jewelry, personal inhalers and sprays. When using a room air diffuser 1 drop of essential oil to each 20 ml of water is a good ratio. It is also important to consider who will be in the room at the time the diffuser is running and choose essential oils accordingly. Small children including infants, frail or immune compromised individuals and pets require special considerations because there are essential oils that are contraindicated for certain populations. Cats should not be in a closed room with a diffuser going because they lack a specific liver enzyme that is necessary to metabolize essential oils.
Diffusers should not be used for hours at a time unless the concentration of essential oil in the water reservoir is so low that it is almost undetectable. An intermittent schedule of 30 to 60 minutes on and 30 to 60 minutes off will prevent over saturation of the olfactory system. Habituation to an aroma occurs after about 60 minutes anyway so diffusing longer than that is not helpful. Care should be taken to place a diffuser where the mist will not be directly breathed in but allows it to work in ambient air.
Diffuser jewelry, personal inhalers and sprays may be used as needed for a more targeted or personal application where using a diffuser would not be appropriate. Using a diffuser in public places, work spaces, doctors’ offices and classrooms is not recommended. Certain scents are thought to be triggers for asthma, respiratory conditions, headaches and allergic reactions in some people.
Have you seen aromatherapy jewelry? Felt discs in pretty lockets, clay pendants, lava bead bracelets and necklaces are in right now. They are a popular way to use the benefits of essential oils in a way that is similar to using a personal inhaler. Aromatherapy utilizes scent to deliver the therapeutic properties of aromatic essential oils instantly. Inhalation is one of the most effective ways to use essential oils to manage stress, increase focus, relieve anxiety, aid sleep, boost mood and influence emotions. Many times using a whole room diffuser is not a practical or convenient method and aromatherapy jewelry can offer a targeted form of administration that is easy to access. I have come up with a neat way to use local sheep’s wool to make an interesting and practical diffuser pendant. My friend Heather taught me to make colorful felted wool balls from wool that she produced and bartered for as well. I place them in spiral wire cages and use hand sewn silk cording to hang them from. They can be worn as a necklace or used as an indirect diffuser in the car or at work where a whole room diffuser might not be welcome. My Stay Focused blend of essential oils helps to keep me alert on my long commutes though any blend or single essential oil could be used as needed. If you have questions about how to use essential oils in diffuser jewelry or any aromatherapy questions in general, shoot me an email. Happy Spring!