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Essential Oil Basics

Essential oils are extracted directly from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree, typically through a process of distillation. This process separates the oil and water-based compounds of a plant by steaming, and yields the concentrated protective, healing and beneficial molecules of the plant. Essential oil molecules are very small and can penetrate cell membranes, which differ from the larger fatty oils that are derived from nuts, vegetables and other fatty parts of the plant.

The use of essential oils throughout history is well documented. From medicinal to spiritual, from eastern civilization to the west, and for thousands of years, essential oils have been valued for their all-natural power in protection and healing, with minimal negative side-effects.

Each essential oil has a unique healing and therapeutic effect, dependent upon the plant from which it is derived. Some protect the body, some heal, and others promote well-being, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Some oils are known for their benefits to skin, hair and beauty; some oils help purify and cleanse. Still other oils are known for their disease and cellular damage prevention. And some oils are multifunctional.

The following are the top four ways that essential oils can be applied to the body:

1. Topically. The small size of essential oil molecules allow them to penetrate the skin and pass into the bloodstream, where they can travel to different parts of the body for internal therapeutic effects.

2. Aromatically. When essential oils are inhaled, their molecules pass through the many blood vessels of the lungs and are circulated throughout the body.

3. By ingestion. Most essential oils can be safely ingested in very small amounts. Typically, a few drops diluted in water, honey or food. Some more potent oils like clove and oregano should not be taken for longer than a week at a time.

4. Carrier Oils. Essential oils can be diluted in lotions, creams and other personal care recipes. For creams and lotions, this allows the oil to sit on the skin longer and have gentler, but prolonged effect. Common carrier oils include almond oil, alvocado oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and pomegranate seed oil.

As with just about everything, sourcing quality it important. Understanding exactly what's in your essential oils and being able to trust that it contains plant-sourced oils and not perfume or chemicals, is critical. Certified Organic oils are the highest quality available, and allow you to feel comfortable that you are getting pure essential oil.

Generally speaking, essential oils are safe and relatively inexpensive when compared to traditional medication. However, there are some situations when they can be contraindicated. When a patient is pregnant, on heart medications, and in some other instances, they should seek advice from their physician regarding the use of essential oils.

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