Essential Oils 101: What Are Essential Oils and How Do They Work

In the words of the great Ron Burgundy, essential oils are a pretty big deal. Let’s dive in, shall we?

HISTORY

Essential oils are really freakin’ old. Plants are known as our first form of medicine. Romans would use plants to build up courage before battle. Egyptians used oils to embalm their dead. In the Bible oils are mentioned over 100 times. As modern medicine began to change, the use of plants for their therapeutic properties began to dwindle. Because of those advances, the main use of essential oils at the time was to make perfumes. Then a chemist and perfumer in France by the name of René -Maurice Gattefossé changed the game; by accident of course.

René was working when he accidentally burned the daylights out of his hand. Instinctually, he shoves his hand in the nearest pot of liquid he could find. Can we all guess what that liquid was? DING-DING-DING! Lavender essential oil. He went about his business and realized something in the days that followed, his hand healed insanely fast. So much so that he spent the duration of his life researching oils and their therapeutic properties, he called it “Aromatherapy”.

WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils are the volatile liquid that lives in a plant, they’re distilled or extracted depending on the type of plant. The reason they’re called “essential” is because the oil is the essence of the plant. The life blood you could say. The oil inside of a plant is what is responsible for doing things like repelling bugs that may pose a danger to them, or attract beneficial ones.

Picture a Russian nesting doll, this is an essential oil. Each oil has hundreds of individual chemical characteristics responsible for different actions. In each of these chemical components lies trillions of molecules and no, I’m not exaggerating! Now picture administering this to your porous skin. Your body then rapidly absorbs these molecules, distributing them throughout your body, inheriting the same benefits that the plant had originally used them for. Mind. Blowing.

HOW DO THEY WORK

Back to the word volatile, it sounds scary but it isn’t. It’s actually one of the most important features about essential oils. Volatile comes from the Latin word volare meaning “to fly”. The molecular structure is so light it evaporates into the atmosphere when you diffuse it. Now in the context of the human body, this makes it super beneficial. Peppermint for instance, is great for supporting healthy sinus function. When diffused and inhaled, your mucous membranes absorb it, administering its refreshing properties throughout your sinuses.

That’s the way oils work. When applied to the skin or diffused into the air, your skin and mucous membranes absorb them quickly and distribute those flying molecules throughout your blood stream. That’s the beauty of essential oils, all you have to do is apply them and they do the rest of the work.

That’s it. Easy peasy lemon squeasy right?  Next week we’ll be talking about methods of application.

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