Essential Oils: What are they and how do they work?

Posted by on Apr 2, 2008 in Blog | 0 comments

Essential Oils: What are they and how do they work?

First you might need to know what an essential oil is. Because of the name “Oil” you might think that it is greasy and slippery. You would only be 1/2 right. The slipperiness is because the essential oil is liquid and will soon be absorbed into the skin, there is no sense of the oily feel that you and I recognize when we have olive oil on our hands. Essential oils will not clog your pores, and they can not go rancid like fatty oils can over time.

Essential oils and human blood share several common properties:

They fight infection, contain hormone-like compounds, and initiate regeneration. The oil is the life blood of the plant, as it will repel insects from the plant, protect it from disease, and produce a taste that animals do not like to keep from being eaten. Herbs are what you have left when the essential oil is taken out, the dried material such as leaves, stems, and flowers.

The essential oil (EO) in the plant works as a chemical defense mechanism. EO’s possess potent antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral properties. The ability of some EO to work as hormones helps them bring balance to many physiological systems of the human body. Oils like clary sage and sage that contain sclerol, for example, have an estrogenic action. EO’s also play a role in initiating the regeneration process for the plant, the same way the blood does in the human body. On that note…EO’s have a chemical structure that is similar to that found in human cells and tissue. This makes essential oils compatible with human protein and enables them to be readily identified and accepted by the body.

Why do they work?

EO’s have the ability to penetrate cell membranes and diffuse throughout the blood and tissues. The unique lipid-soluble structure of EO’s is very similar to the makeup of our cell membranes. Because of the extremely small size of the molecule it makes it easy to enter the cells and penetrate tissues and travel throughout the entire body in a matter of minutes. European scientists have studied the ability of EO’s to work as natural chelators, binding with heavy metals and petrochemicals and ferrying them out of the body.

EO’s have a synergistic way of communicating with our cells to bring about harmony without pushing our systems beyond what is normal. There is no build up of constituents in the tissues that does not serve the purpose of balance and health.

Today approx. 300 EO’s are distilled with several thousand chemical constituents and aromatic molecules identified and registered. The quality, quantity and type of compounds will vary depending on climate, temperature, and distillation factors. 98% of EO’s produced today are used in the perfume and cosmetic industry. Only about 2 % are produced for therapeutic and medicinal applications.

Essential oils are composites of hundreds of different chemicals, they can exert many different effects on the body. For example: clove oil can be simultaneously antiseptic and anaesthetic when applied topically. It can also be anti-tumoral. Lavender oil has been used for burns, insect bites, headaches, PMS, insomnia, stress, and hair growth.

Important to note about the components in essential oils…Because of the complexity in the oil it will not disturb the body’s natural balance. If one constituent exerts too strong an effect, another constituent may block or counteract it. Synthetic chemicals, in contrast, usually have only one action and often disrupt the body’s homeostasis.

In the human body, EO’s stimulate the secretion of antibodies, neurotransmitters, endorphins, hormones, and enzymes. Oils containing limonene have been shown to prevent and slow the progression of cancer. Other oils, like lavender, have been shown to promote the growth of hair and increase the rate of would healing. They increase the uptake of oxygen and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) the fuel for individual cells.

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils are governed by using the European Standards to identify therapeutic-grade oils called AFNOR/ISO.

Certification with this organization (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) & (International Standards Organization) certifies that the stringent standards are met and the chemistry in the oil is the same as the last batch. In the United States few companies use the proper analytical equipment and methods to properly analyze essential oils. Most labs use equipment best-suited for synthetic chemicals. Young Living Essential Oils use proper equipment and has made serious efforts to adopt the European testing standards. These standards are widely regarded as the “gold standard” for testing essential oils. Adulterated oils can be dangerous. For example if lavender which is officially Lavendula Angustifolia can heal burns and skin wounds. If you have a product that is actually Lavandin, a hybrid of lavender, you will be using a high level of camphor (12 – 18%) which can itself burn the skin. In contrast true Lavender contains virtually no camphor and has burn-healing agents not found in lavandin.

Watch for more postings on how EO’s might improve your health and beauty routine.

Terri Arden-LMT 207-749-8466

This information comes from the 4th edition of the Essential Oil Desk Reference, published by Essential Science Publishing. These statements are not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any illness. These statements have not been judged by the FDA and people taking part in Essential oil therapy should do their research into the oils they use. Therapeutic results can only come from therapeutic grade essential oils that hold up to the standards of the AFNOR/ISO.

This information is for informational purposes only.

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