An easy guide to understand use and benefits of essential oils

We have often stepped out of a spa treatment room feeling calm, recharged and rejuvenated. It is not just the nimble fingers of the therapist that do wonders, but the mystical aromas which pervade from those comforting extracts used on the body for a restoring massage. The popular ones are lavender, rose, tea tree, vetiver, eucalyptus, blood orange, lemon, and peppermint.

Essential oils are made from aromatic plants involving roots, flowers, fruit peels, leaves, twigs or grasses. They reproduce the plant in terms of its nutrient structure, fragrance and flavour. As these are in high-concentration form, the usage must be in controlled measures as plants and herbal products, including essential oils, are known to comprise various bioactive compounds.

Did you know that more than 50 whole flowers go to create one drop of rose essential oil? With such concentration, it is necessary to inhale or apply on the skin only after diluting them in any base oil. From headaches, to sleep disorders to stinging throat, aesthetician and dermatologist Dr Bharti Magoo, owner at Golden Touch Clinic, Mumbai, suggests them only as a complementary therapy, adding further, “As you inhale these, the molecules pass through the olfactory nerves directly to the brain. This influences the emotional seat of the brain and brings on a sense of tranquillity. They are not recommended for use near the face of infants and children.”

Essential oil usage at home

Dilute the oil to water or oil and apply to the affected area for relief. Mix essential oil to water to rinse the mouth to get that fresh feel. Add drops of essential oil to the bath water for an invigorating touch. To get the aromatic finish and a palliative impact, apply diluted drops to wrist, below the ears, soles of your feet.

Offering relief from insect bites to lending a great fragrance to your space are some of the possible advantages of using essential oils. They can be absorbed by the skin and a masseur may include a drop of wintergreen to loosen up taut muscles during a rubdown.

Shraddha Lotlikar, aroma therapist and Proprietor, Azal by Shraddha points out, “It is not advisable to mix something at home unless you have thorough knowledge of essential oils and mixing proportions. These oils should always be used with caution until no adverse effects are observed.”

Dr Bharti Magoo suggests pro-tips for usage and selection:

Before topical applications, always remember to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil. Never use it in its concentrated form.

Most of the essential oils are toxic and should not be ingested.

Invest in ‘pure’ essential oils. Don’t go for perfume oils that contain chemicals. Always do a patch test to check allergic reactions.

Purity: Avoid those with additives or synthetic oils. Pure oils almost always mention the botanical name of the source (for instance mentha piperita) rather than “essential oil of peppermint”.

Quality: Go for a chemical-free, cold-pressed or distilled process extraction. This retains the true nature of the plant’s properties.

Brand value: Choose a reputed brand to ensure high grade products.

Don’ts’ to maintain shelf life

  • Essential oils are known to be combustible but each one has its own burning point, says aroma therapist Shraddha Lotlikar. Room temperature is acceptable but they must not be stored near the cooking place where heat is generally higher since it can hasten degradation of the oil’s intrinsic qualities.

  • Avoid direct sunlight which not only disturbs its constituents but also its basic colour.

  • Never store pure essential oils in a plastic container as they eat away the container due to their corrosive nature. Use ceramic jars or glass bottles.

  • Do not leave the bottle or jar open for long as oxygen can damage the oil and augment evaporation.

  • Take care not to allow water or moisture to enter the jar for it is detrimental to the oil.

Effects and how to use the following essential oils

Rose

Effects: Relieves anxiety, radiates complexion.

Usage: Sprinkle on hankies, pillows; add a few drops to facial mask; use as deodorant.

Lavender

Effects: Boots out stress/anxiety. Raises your spirits, improves sleep quality.

Usage: Spray it on your pillow at bedtime; use it as a body deodorizer during daytime.

Peppermint

Effects: Cooling, analgesic, invigorating and uplifting scent.

Usage: The steam from the shower will spread the aroma from a few drops in a cotton ball, for an energizing start to the day.

Wild orange

Effects: Boosts creativity; purifies air; guards against seasonal hazards.

Usage: Sniff it from a hanky, spray it in your living space.

Tea Tree (some people can be allergic to this oil)

Effects: Antibacterial and antiseptic, treats acne and dandruff, prevents insects.

Usage: Relieves chest congestion if added to bath tub water. Add a few diluted drops to your shampoo. Spray it on door frames to keep away spiders, ants and creepy crawlers.

Eucalyptus

Effects: Alleviates cold and congestion; relieves arthritis.

Usage: Add drops to warm bath.

Sandalwood

Effects: Calms nerves and helps maintain focus.

Usage: Dab on wrist veins, nerve points, forehead.

Vetiver

Effects: Mood booster, antioxidant, heals scars and stimulates skin health.

Usage: Apply on scars and wounds; for aromatherapy massages.

Frankincense

Effects: Astringent, disinfectant, antiseptic, no major side-effects

Usage: Mix it in water for gargle to prevent bad breath, cavities, toothaches or mouth sores.

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