All About Essential Oils

January 21, 2020

Essential oils have been around for ages, but they’ve gained popularity in the health and wellness sphere in recent years. These oils can be used for countless reasons, from decreasing stress and anxiety to lowering blood pressure to boosting moods and helping with sleep. If you’re considering using essential oils, here is what you should know before getting started. When in doubt, research reputable companies or talk to an aromatherapist before buying essential oils.

“Aromatherapy and essential oils can benefit people with chronic conditions or progressive illness, those who are recovering from injury or surgery, as well as healthy individuals in many ways. These therapies can help manage and moderate pain, nausea and anxiety; reduce overall stress; and contribute to a sense of well-being,” says Kelly Briggs, RN, NE-BC, MBA, administrative director of Integrative Health & Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health. “What is especially exciting is that these therapies were once considered on the fringe of health care but are now an important component of reducing the need for drugs and medications. And you can discuss them with your physician as part of your treatment plan or wellness regimen.”

How to Use Essential Oils Safely

Essential oils can be used in two ways: through inhalation and topically.

  • Essential oils are too potent to be inhaled directly. Instead use an aromatherapy diffuser to release the oils into the air. Diffuse for 30- to 60-minute intervals only.
  • Essential oils are too strong to be applied to the skin without diluting. Otherwise you risk dangerous results, such as chemical burns. To dilute essential oils, combine them with carrier oils—fatty oils such as olive, jojoba and avocado—before rubbing on your skin.
  • Never ingest essential oils because some are toxic (wintergreen, for example). Keep oils out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental swallowing.

When to Exercise Caution With Essential Oils

When used appropriately, essential oils are generally safe. However, certain people should take caution and speak to their health care providers before using some oils.

  • Pregnant women. The topical application of essential oils can potentially harm the fetus, particularly within the first three months of pregnancy. Certain oils are generally safe during the second and third trimesters, including lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang. Others should never be used while pregnant, such as cinnamon, clove, rosemary and clary sage.
  • Young children. Children are more likely to have side effects from essential oil exposure. If you use them around your children, oils need to be diluted at a weaker concentration than for adults. But some oils should never be used around children. For example, camphor oil can cause seizures
    in children under 5.
  • People with serious medical conditions. Some oils can cause adverse reactions with medications or supplements, as well as trigger or worsen underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease. If you are taking medication, talk with your doctor before use.

What Essential Oils to Buy

Follow these general guidelines when purchasing essential oils.

  • Only buy bottles that are blue or brown glass. Sunlight can penetrate clear glass and affect the oil, and oil can degrade plastic. Also, pay attention to expiration dates.
  • Check labels for 100-percent natural or organic oils, as well as labels that include the Latin names of the plants.
  • Some oils are more difficult to produce than others and, therefore, cost more. Beware
    of brands that price each oil the same.

Hackensack Meridian Health Integrative Health & Medicine offers other holistic tools, including aromatherapy, to help you relax, manage tension, and improve mental and physical health.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.