Use Your Senses: Essential Oils for a Healthier, Happier You

Reader Contribution by Mike Gould
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If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get away from the usual chemical-laden perfumes, soaps and other scented products sold by big box manufacturers, essential oils are the answer. Here are a few things you should know about them, along with simple ways to use them, in order to achieve a higher level of health and happiness.

Photo by Fotolia.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts of natural plants, flowers, seeds or spices. These plant oils can be quite volatile, so you should exercise caution when using them. The concentrations are terrific, and the potency usually reflects the fact that a lot of raw material went into its creation. For example, it takes over 350 pounds of peppermint leaf to make one pound of peppermint oil. It takes 150 pounds of lavender flowers to make lavender oil. It takes thousands of pounds of roses to make one pound of rose oil.

Due to the large amount of raw materials needed and the processes used to make them, as a result, most essential oils are expensive.

Using Essential Oils Internally

This is a controversial use of essential oil, and many experts agree that it can be very dangerous to ingest them. While there is a lot of research about the efficacy and safety of essential oils being used on the skin, there isn’t much data on internal use. And, even when there is, the data is not conclusive.

Some research shows that some essential oils may be beneficial for some conditions, but only when diluted, and the amount of dilution is critical—too much dilution and it becomes useless; too little, and the oil may be toxic. Some studies also indicate that plant oils (essential oils) have the ability to cause seizures in some people.

Using Essential Oils Externally

External use of essential oils is widely regarded as safe. The FDA also labels essential oils as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). That’s good news, because there are a variety of ways you can use them, externally, to promote a healthy home and life.

On your ears:DabTools makes it easy to use essential oils on your ears for everything from controlling inflammation to treating bee stings. If you’ve ever worn cheap earrings, you know that they can be irritating to your earlobes. Some essential oils, like peppermint, will shut down that irritation quickly.

In your laundry:You could buy dryer sheets like everyone else, but if you’re looking for more natural options, then add a few drops of essential oil to a rag and throw it into the dryer with your clothes. It’ll add a light scent to them, it’s cheaper to use in the long-run, and you’re not wasting sheets and filling up your garbage nearly as quickly with dryer sheets.

For an even healthier laundry routine, add your favorite essential oils to simple, homemade wool dryer balls to keep your clothes smelling and looking like new. These felted wool balls help clothing dry faster (reducing dry times), reduce static and last for years.

In your air vents: If you have central heating and cooling, you probably have air filters that filter dust before the air recirculates throughout your home. Put a few drops of your favorite oil on those air filters and then put them back into the cold air return. Your home will smell amazing in just a few hours.

You can also use a cotton ball if you don’t want to use the oils directly on the filter element. Just put a few drops on the cotton and stick the cotton ball in one of the creases in the corner or somewhere where it won’t impede airflow.

As air fresheners: Put a few drops onto a cotton ball and then place them in a small jar in the corner of a room. Or, just toss the cotton ball behind the couch where no one sees it. It will act as a room freshener. This is a great idea when you don’t have a central air system that circulates air in the home, or when you only want to freshen-up one room in the house.

Reed diffusers are easy to find in stores, but often they’re full of synthetic fragrances. If you want to refresh a larger space, try making your own reed diffuser with essential oils.

As perfume:Mix your favorite essential oils in a bottle and add either a small amount of isopropanol alcohol or distilled water. The alcohol will make more of a perfume where the water will make a spritzer. Both are useful depending on what you want from it.

When using oils as a perfume, be mindful about mixing. Some essential oils don’t mix well and others will overpower more subtle oils. The Fragrance Shop sells “look-a-like” mixes that mimic commercial brands, and they can even deconstruct and make most scents if you have a favorite you want to try replicating. This is a great way to ensure you get perfumes that smell nice, have that classic “high-middle-finish” note scheme, and that keep things simple and natural.

Mike Gould is a yoga instructor and a classically trained chiropractor. He enjoys passing on his expertise and know-how online. His articles mainly appear on health and wellness blogs.