Essential oils have become very mainstream in recent years. However, it can be hard to decipher what claims are being made erroneously and what can really be expected. In addition, the quality of essential oils varies widely so the resulting benefits can easily be underwhelming or completely unnoticeable. Maybe you’ve tried a brand you picked up at the store and decided they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. I want to go over what the science says about these oils because, in my opinion, they offer a wide range of health benefits that everyone can use.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are the aromatic liquids found within shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, resins, and seeds. Some people like to call essential oils “nature’s living energy” because they contain unique constituents that provide a host of benefits.
Most essential oils are extracted from plant sources using steam distillation and are highly concentrated, making them far more potent than dried botanicals. An example of this would be peppermint. One drop of Young Living Essential Peppermint Oil is equivalent to 26 cups of peppermint tea! Essential oils are very concentrated and volatile, which means that the scent of the oil rises quickly into the air.
Our Limbic System
Many of us have had a time where a smell triggers a memory— moms homemade chicken noodle soup, freshly baked bread or grandmas pecan pie can easily take you back to positive times in your life. Essential oils are the same. When an odor molecule floats by, those fast-rising volatile molecules hit a receptor within the small hairs called cilia. It generates an electrical signal in the receptor cell and sends the signal into the olfactory bulb. The Olfactory bulb is a cranial nerve that reaches down and sits right at the base of our brain, this is where our sense of smell is encoded. Beyond that, the projections from the olfactory bulb goes deep into the most ancient part of our brain called the limbic system. These most primitive brain centers are where we can influence emotions and memories and centers where they modify conscious thought (neo-cortex).
Because of olfactory bulbs projections into the limbic system, we can use aromas to dramatically improve our emotions. One study measured the response of women who had bathed in warm water with lavender essential oil vs just warm water. The woman who had a lavender bath reported less anxiety, feeling calmer and reported sleeping better. This study was duplicated in infants and their behavior was said to include more smiling, cooing and less crying. The babies also went to sleep faster and slept longer. As a new mom, this really connected with me!
I use Frankincense during my morning meditations and while I am reciting my affirmations. I use Lavender several times a day to do everything from calming my anxiety and grounding myself but also on burns and for wound healing, as well as on my scalp for its antimicrobial properties. It is also rolled on my temples, back of my neck and wrists during my bedtime routine. I use a blend called Stress Away anytime I want to calm down and need to channel spa vibes. I use a blend called Valor to help me feel confident and Peppermint to help me feel energized. They are so versatile and I enjoy teaching people all the many ways to use essential oils!
There are so many things that companies do to cut corners and make their oil more profitable. They can distill the same plant material multiple times, which changes the chemical constituents because that plant material has already been heated so high. So that oil will not have the therapeutic benefits you were hoping for. They can add chemicals to the cookers to extract more oil. They can add chemical perfume to the oils to make them smell better. They can dilute the oil to make it cost less to fill a bottle.
I decided to dive into this world and did some research into different companies who sell EO’s. What I discovered is that Young Living is the ONLY company in the world that has what is called the Seed to Seal process. They own farms, so they are literally in control of the seeds they plant, the soil it goes into, the cultivation of the plant as it grows, the harvest, the distillation of the plant material including time, temperature, pressure, etc. All the way to testing (3rd party testing included) and bottling. They have a very open-door transparent policy that I took advantage of in my travels, and any member can visit the farms. I’ve been to 7 of the farms around the world. Beyond that, they are doing an amazing job of leading the charge for sustainability in the industry. When it takes 60-80lbs of plant matter to get one bottle of some oils, we all want our oils to come from sustainable and ethically farmed sources. I love everything about these oils and I’m currently giving the Black + Well Community $25 OFF the essential oil Starter Kit! Get started with your essential oil journey HERE.