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A 2014 systematic review conducted at the University of Minnesota evaluated 15 quantitative studies, including 11 randomized controlled trials that examined the effects of essential oils on sleep. Researchers found that a majority of the study findings suggest a positive effect of oils on sleep deprivation and disturbances. Lavender oil was the most frequently studied oil and of all evaluated studies, no adverse events were reported. (20)
Having discussed the many ways we can get the oils into your system, how do we know which oils to use? Firstly, it is important to think about your objectives for using essential oils. Are you hoping to become more relaxed? Are you wanting to sleep better? Do you feel like you need reviving with a boost to your immune system? Are you wanting to detox? Do you have congestion following a cold? Are you in need of an antiseptic? Do you need uplifting? Are your hormones in need of balancing? There are different essential oils for all of these different things; some of them working on several ailments at once.
There are two ways that essential oils can enter the body to create an effect: they can either be absorbed through the skin or inhaled through the nose. Through the skin, the molecules enter through the hair follicles, sweat glands and fat molecules on the skin, entering your lymphatic and blood systems to get circulated around your body, going to the places they are needed most. Inhaling an essential oil gets the essential oil molecules into your body via your olfactory system (sense of smell) and limbic system (the emotional part of your brain) – going to the brain and your respiratory system. Once in the body, they work their way to where they are needed and where they can begin to trigger healing: in a similar way to how taking a pain-relieving tablet works.
Shown to the right is a bottle with a rubber dropper top. It's okay to use a bottle with dropper top to store essential oils that are blended with carrier oils at very low dilution for a few months or less. However, do not store pure, undiluted essential oils in bottles with rubber dropper tops. The rubber will turn to mush and ruin the oil. It's okay if the bottle has a plastic orifice reducer (euro dropper) insert inside the bottle as the material can withstand essential oils.
Simple smells such as lavender, chamomile, and rosewater may help keep you calm. You can breathe in or rub diluted versions of these oils on your skin. Scientists think they work by sending chemical messages to parts of the brain that affect mood and emotion. Although these scents alone won’t take all your stress away, the aroma may help you relax.
According to a systemic review and meta-analysis published in Pain Research and Treatment, there is a significant positive effect of aromatherapy, compared to placebos or control treatments, in reducing pain. Researchers evaluated 12 studies on this topic and found that essential oils were especially helpful in treating postoperative pain, obstetrical pain and gynecological pain. (14)
While some advocate the ingestion of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, licensed aromatherapy professionals do not recommend self-prescription due to the highly toxic nature of some essential oils. Some very common oils like eucalyptus are extremely toxic when taken internally. Doses as low as 2 mL have been reported to cause clinically significant symptoms and severe poisoning can occur after ingestion of as little as 4 mL. A few reported cases of toxic reactions like liver damage and seizures have occurred after ingestion of sage, hyssop, thuja and cedar oils. Accidental ingestion may happen when oils are not kept out of reach of children. As with any bioactive substance, an essential oil that may be safe for the general public could still pose hazards for pregnant and lactating women.
I get so nervous with all the ingestion suggestions from new “reps” for the most popular MLM EO companies. A doctor and a naturopath have both cautioned me against ingesting EOs of any brand. There can be potentially devastating side effects. I’ve used EOs for twenty years, and I love what they do for my mood and health! This is great information you’ve shared. Thanks!
No single page, article or guide can provide all the details to using essential oils properly. After reading these tips, I would like to invite you to refer to AromaWeb's Guides & Articles area to read 130 articles that will help get you started on your essential oil journey. All of the articles are free, and there are no pop-ups or subscription forms to fill out.
Analysis using gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) establishes the quality of essential oils. These techniques are able to measure the levels of components to a few parts per billion. This does not make it possible to determine whether each component is natural or whether a poor oil has been 'improved' by the addition of synthetic aromachemicals, but the latter is often signaled by the minor impurities present. For example, linalool made in plants will be accompanied by a small amount of hydro-linalool, whilst synthetic linalool has traces of dihydro-linalool.