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A Beginner's Guide To Essential Oils

The past year has seen the use of essential oils boom, and it is common to see friends and family tote a roller bottle or two filled with a blend of their go-to oils. Essential oils are used for relief, for relaxation, and sometimes as an aid for some common ailments.

With essential oil use becoming more and more mainstream, safe use is a concern. These oils can be pretty potent, and while it is easy to be carried away by the hype, always have safety in mind when delving into the world of essential oil use. With the number of essential oils available to purchase, it can be overwhelming and some don’t know which ones to purchase first.

In her profession as a doula, Noelle Polack works a lot with women and is very familiar with common concerns. She says, “As a doula, I am a trained professional in providing informational, emotional, and physical support to women who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, in labor, or in their postpartum period. Various essential oils can help women in all of these stages, and I wanted to be able to provide reliable, safe, and evidence-based guidance in the effort to improve their experiences.” She decided to pursue training and certification in aromatherapy, where she had to review lots of training material, stay up for real-time training sessions on another timezone, complete exams, work on case studies and make personal efforts to visit distilleries and take supplemental courses in plant communication and human physiology. Noelle shares some valuable and helpful information to ease us into the proper usage of essential oils.

 

RESPIRATORY ISSUES

With the rainy season upon us and cooler days coming, respiratory issues will become a common concern. Noelle says, “If congestion is your problem, peppermint and rosemary are good choices.” Looking for an expectorant? Turn to eucalyptus and melaleuca (also known as tea tree oil). Cypress is an anti-tussive and helps calm down coughing, while also acting as an anti-microbial agent. Others in the anti-microbial category are lemon, lemongrass and roman chamomile. The latter is also an anti-inflammatory, and shares this characteristic with lavender. If you’re looking for a balsamic oil, or an oil that soothes your lungs, frankincense does this, and also supports the immune system.

 

MUSCLE ACHES AND PAINS

Whether it be lack of exercise or an abundance of activity, our body clicks and clucks and aches in places. Wintergreen is the common choice for muscle aches and pains, but it tends to be a strong oil. There are gentler oils that can be as effective. For tension, ginger and rosemary are great relievers, while marjoram, peppermint and lavender can ease spasms. Nerve pain can be addressed by copaiba, frankincense or helichrysum.  For muscle aches and pains, your choice of a carrier oil may also help. Using infusions with calendula, arnica and St. John’s wort oil (also known as trauma oil) can aid the essential oils and elevate the blend’s relieving properties.

 

PMS (PRE-MENSTRUAL SYNDROME)

Discomfort during menstruation is something no woman looks forward to every month, and some may want to avoid popping a pain reliever. You may want to look into using clary sage. “Clary sage is an emmenagogue,” says Noelle. Emmenagogues are substances that support the release of blood. Noelle finds it is a useful oil to ease labor, which makes it also a handy oil to have during your monthly period. Other oils that can help ease the discomfort are ginger, ylang ylang and fennel. For period pain, ginger, peppermint and franckinsense are good choices.

 

INSOMNIA

When sleep is an issue, lavender is a common choice. However, while it is a relaxing oil, chronic overthinkers may find it is not enough, especially for those who are always thinking of everything they need to do. If overwhelming thoughts are the reason why you stay up all night, you may want to explore using cedarwood, vetiver, petitgrain, roman chamomile or bergamot instead.

 

HEADACHES

The headache is way too common, and relief for some does not always come in the form of a pill. Oil alternatives for relief of headaches are peppermint, frankincense and lavender. If you experience shooting pain or migraines, helichrysum, bergamot, basil or copaiba may be the oils for you.

While these provide a guide on choosing oils that will suit your everyday ailment, it is always important to get to the root of the problem to have a better understanding and make better choices. Using essential oils may be overwhelming in the beginning, but with sound research and good guidance, it can be very beneficial, even enjoyable for you and your family’s well-being.

 

SAFETY NOTES

  • DILUTION. Most situations require the essential oil to be diluted in a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed, jojoba or other similar food-grade oils. Percentages vary and depends on the person’s condition. For regular topical use, start with a 2% dilution (roughly 2 drops of EO to 5ml of carrier oil). Dilution protects against skin irritation, and helps the essential oil to be better absorbed into the skin.
  • INTERNAL USE. Whether sublingually (under the tongue) or through ingestion, internal use is a valid form of essential oil use, BUT it must be approached with proper information on dosage and the issues to be addressed. Do not rely on the internet or word-of-mouth, as the environment is chock-full of careless recommendations and recipes. It is best to have the guidance of an aromatherapist who has been trained specifically in the internal use of essential oils.
  • USE WITH CHILDREN. There are mild oils that may be used with children. It is useful to consult to know the milder equivalents of commonly-used oils. Dilution is important, as always. A percentage of 0.5% to 1% is usual for toddlers and young children.
  • PHOTOSENSITIVITY. There are oils that cause photosensitivity, and should not be used right before direct sun exposure. These oils can cause the skin to burn more easily. These are usually cold-pressed citrus oils such as lemon, bergamot, lime and grapefruit. Bergapten-free bergamot, distilled citrus oils, and cold-pressed sweet orange are more sun-friendly.
  • PATCH TESTING AND ALLERGIES. Doing a patch test is always a good idea and advisable especially for those with known sensitivities to food and various elements. When new to oils, it is better to work with individual oils first rather than blends, so that it will be easy to identify the cause of a reaction, if any occur.

 

Noelle Polack is a doula and aromatherapist. Find her on @naissence_wellness on Instagram and Naissence on Facebook (@aromatherapiemanila).