We hear a lot about essential oils, but we never know how to use them properly. Lorena is an aromatherapy consultant and her mission is to teach people to use therapeutic grade essential oils in their daily lives for preventative health, as a natural substitution for a medicine cabinet, and to avoid harsh toxins in everyday products such as cosmetics and cleaning products.
What are essential oils?
An essential oil is difficult to explain because when you hold a plant, you cannot see it. It’s the immune system of the plant, which gets distilled by vapour or pressure (always cold processed, otherwise it will lose the therapeutic properties) and the result is a liquid similar in texture to oil and not soluble in water. There’s references to essential oils in the Bible (for instance, two of the gifts to baby Jesus were frankincense and myrrh), and throughout history they have been used for their medical properties, especially renowned in Egypt (for cosmetic purposes, for embalming the dead…) and in ancient Rome (the roman baths would have essential oils for their skin healing properties, to help with cold symptoms, with antibacterial properties to stop spreading disease…). It seems like somewhere between the Middle ages and nowadays, probably due to the development in modern medicine, this knowledge was put out of mind. In the last century this knowledge was re-discovered by the father of modern aromatherapy Gatefossé, who actually healed his own burn scars from an explosion in his lab with lavender essential oil.
Why is it so important for us and our health?
I believe modern society is at a point where we are reaching back to our ancestors for inspiration on a more balanced life, as an opposition to the fast pace of life in big cities. More people choose to live a slow life, move to the countryside, grow their own vegetables, and work on preventative health as opposed to heal symptoms once they appear. Aromatherapy and therapeutic grade essential oils go hand in hand with preventative care. These oils can be absorbed through the skin and reach every cell in the body within 20 minutes, working organically to help the body heal itself. Generally, a medicine has one or two active principles and works on a symptomatic level, which can lead to secondary effects. Therapeutic grade essential oils can go to the root of the problem and solve it from within, can be used also to prevent the problem from reappearing, and if used well should not have secondary effects. For example, I suffered 10 years from eczema that covered me from my chest to my ankles. Dermatologists and specialists both in Germany and Spain could not help me other than prescribe cortisone, which has side effects and should not be used long term. Within 3 days or using lavender and frankincense, my problem disappeared. That’s when I decided to learn everything I could about them and help other people learn how to use them.
Does this mean you don’t encourage traditional medicine?
Not at all, I think modern medicine is a wonderful resource and should be used well. Unfortunately, there are too many minor ailments that doctors don’t seem to be able to heal long term without the dreaded secondary effects. Every pill comes with a long list of what it can cause to your body. I was given a medicine for muscular pain which caused me a severe allergic reaction, my face swelled up to the point were I was barely recognizable. Instead, now I use essential oils for the same kind of pain. I am not anti-vaccine, I do trust traditional medicine when it is necessary and I think a healthy balance can be reached between traditional and alternative therapies.
What to do with them/how to use them correctly?
It is important to choose well when you use therapeutic essential oils. Just to be clear, these are not your run of the mill oils you can buy at the Bio-Laden 🙂 Pure therapeutic grade essential oils mean they are 100% natural, organic, unadulterated, and distilled in a way that guarantees their pharmacological properties. Unfortunately, the European Union does us no favour as the regulation lacks the standards that would make consumers trust the labels (since it’s deemed only for cosmetic purposes, they are allowed to label something as 100% pure organic essential oil even if it’s adulterated or, even worse, synthetic). So please choose something that offers you a certification of what is in the bottle! A few easy ways of knowing right away if this is a high quality therapeutic grade essential oil: the price (EOs are costly to produce, low price means low quality and probably tons of unknown ingredients to fill up the bottle), whether it’s recommended to use on a burner (heat will kill any properties, if it has any to begin with), and whether it’s apt for topical use and/or ingestion (if it isn’t, it’s probably just a synthetic fragrance).
What effect do they have on us?
It would take too long to provide this for every EO I work with. We’ll do lavender, because everyone knows it but also because it’s such a great example to see how one essential oil can be used for many things. The lavender EO I use is grown in Provence, France, under the ideal conditions for this plant. It is not the entire plant but just the flowering top that is used for distillation, and this is done by steaming. Just to give you an idea of how costly the process is: to make one bottle of 15ml (approx. 25€) they need 2.5square meters of lavender. So if you’re paying anything less, it’s a small percentage of pure EO filled up with other ingredients the company has no obligation to inform you about. Lavender EO can be used for all sorts of skin problems: burns, scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, psoriasis, nappy rash… It can help with anxiety, depression and insomnia, as it reaches the lymphatic system (emotional brain) where it calms down your nerves and helps you reach a deeper level of sleep. It can be used on wounds and cuts as a disinfectant, and will also help heal quicker. It has anti inflammatory properties, so it’s great to use on a headache or muscular pain, I use it on my partner’s shoulders after he’s been working on the computer for long hours. It’s a wonderful remedy for many menstrual related problems such as cramps, bloated abdomen, migraines, breast pain… It can be used for allergies since it has antihistaminic properties, and it helps improve blood circulation. And these are just some of the uses!
Which oils to use for cold seasons?
The ones we are currently using the most at home (also with the little one) are the blends Thieves (perfect to boost immunity and resist the cold and flu season) and RC (this one will get rid of nose congestion and help expectorate, kind of like a natural Vicks Vaporub), and also Purification (for a cough or a sore throat). This time of year is perfect for learning about EOs! We started over a year ago and we’ve seen such a difference with previous winters already.
Lorena is born in Mallorca with british and uruguayan roots, adopted by Berlin in 2011. I first became a foodblogger and later merged it with my essential oil teachings. Her mission is to help people integrate therapeutic grade essential oils in their life for preventative health, to avoid toxic chemicals and to protect the environment. She organises workshops in Berlin and also does online consultations.
Do you have experience with essential oils? Write us about it!