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History of Essential Oils and How They Support Your Body
The History of Essential Oils
In ancient times, essential oils were used in aromatherapy to aid people with their physical and emotional health. In the past, they have been used by many people all over the world and in different cultures to do this. The history of essential oils is a long one. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese used plants with aromatic qualities for healing. Although these plant substances were used in the medical practices of the day, they had not yet been distilled into essential oils.
The Egyptians, and perhaps also the Persians and the people of India, were the first to make distillation machines. Oil of cedarwood, distilled with such machines, was used along with myrrh, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg oils to embalm the dead.
The Egyptians were concerned more with the sense of smell than with any of the other senses. They believed that it was the most important and dominant sense. They incorporated the essential oils they made into their medicine, cosmetics, and fragrances.
The use of essential oils was taken up by the Greeks next. Hippocrates did an ancient form of aromatherapy. A Greek named Megalleon invented a perfume called megalleon. This substance was used in aromatherapy and as an anti-inflammatory essential oil to heal wounds. A Roman named Discorides wrote on the uses of over five hundred different plant substances and distillations that were made of many of them. However, these distillations didn't produce essential oils. Instead, they made floralsmelling waters.
Avicenna was a Persian philosopher-scientist who refined the process by inventing a distillation machine with a coiled cooling pipe. This allowed for more effective cooling. Eventually, the focus shifted toward an emphasis on true essential oils and their therapeutic uses.
Paracelcus was a fifteenth-century doctor who began using the term essence. His emphasis was using essential oils for medicine. During this time, many new essential oils were being produced. Among them were juniper, rosemary, rose, and sage. During the sixteenth century, people would go to their apothecary to get essential oils for many different uses. Around this time, the advent of new essential oils flourished. In the next few centuries, essential oils changed little except in their use in perfumes.
In the twentieth century, the major chemical ingredients of essential oils were identified. Scientists started becoming more interested in the subject of essential oils, which became a problem for those interested in the use of true essential oils.
Much of twentieth-century science had been consumed with creating synthetic versions of essential oils. However, an early twentieth-century Frenchman named Gattefosse became increasingly involved with the study of essential oils and their medicinal values. He was the first to use the term aromatherapy. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils was not well known in English-speaking countries. Robert B. Tisserand changed all that. He wrote the first English book on the subject, along with many other books and articles.
As the years went by, people were becoming more and more interested in natural ways of doing things. They wanted to find ways to soothe their minds and comfort their bodies without synthetic drugs. Essential oils gave them a way to do it.
Historically, there has not been significant evidence-based research done on humans. Most of the evidence-based research has been done on animals, and some has been done internally at very high doses. It is important to keep this in mind when you are looking at essential oils to support your well-being. Just because something works well or causes issues in an animal does not mean we will see the exact same results with humans. It is for this reason that we use this research as a guide to taking a safe approach when using essential oils. Western cultures have been somewhat resistant to using essential oils as complementary medicine but are starting to become more open to the benefits that come from their use. More and more studies are being conducted and will most likely continue over the years. Canada, Australia, and many European countries have used essential oils in their medical treatments of patients for many years with some powerful outcomes. Currently, in the United States, the FDA has not evaluated or approved any essential oils for treating or curing any medical issues. It is vital that you remember that essential oils are not a cure or quick fix for anything, but they can help support your body in its natural healing process back to a state of well-being.
How Do Essential Oils Work to Support Our Bodies?
To have a more complete idea of how essential oils work in your body, you need an understanding of how your body works to support itself on a daily basis. The body is a complex system comprised of cells, tissues, organs, systems, and organisms. This book is not designed to be an anatomy and physiology lesson, so I aim to keep things simple as they relate to essential oils.
The cell is the smallest living unit in our bodies and also the basic unit of life. Cellular health is vitally important to the overall well-being of every human. Cells of similar composition join together to make either areolar, adipose, or fibrous tissue. Tissue joins together and then becomes an organ, such as a kidney and liver. These organs make up different systems in our body, including skeletal, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and muscular. Our organs interact with each other to maintain a balance in our body, which is called homeostasis. These systems make up the organism that we call the human body.
The human body is made up of various chemicals. We do not think of our bodies as housing for chemicals, but in essence, that is exactly what it is. Three main chemicals that make up our bodies are oxygen at 65 percent, hydrogen at 18 percent, and nitrogen at almost 10 percent (these percentages are by mass, not by fraction of atoms).
Now, let's fast-forward and look at what makes up essential oils. Essential oils are made up of chemicals, primarily carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and sometimes nitrogen and sulfur. How these chemicals bond together will determine what the chemical family or constituents will be. It is the chemical constituents that provide the therapeutic properties of the essential oil. Let's take a look at nine of the most common chemical families within an essential oil to determine what areas of the body it may be best suited to support. These chemical families are monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpennols, sesquiterpenols, esthers, aldehydes, phenols, ketones, oxides, and esters. Within each of these chemical families, there are chemical components or constituents that further define the possible therapeutic properties of the oil. To determine the best essential oil to help support the body, you will need to examine the specific chemical components of the oil, not just the chemical family. This section is not intended to be a chemistry lesson, just a brief overview to introduce you to the science behind why essential oils work in supporting our bodies. Understanding the chemical families a bit better will help you when you are looking at possible safety concerns with individual oils. When I look at the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) chemical testing sheets, I look for significant percentages of these constituents when choosing which oil will be best for a particular situation. It is not an exact science, and much depends on my experience with a particular oil and the research I have found.
The first two we will take a look at come from the terpene family. A terpene molecule contains only carbon and hydrogen. Having no oxygen in these particular oils makes them volatile and susceptible to oxidization. Due to the size of these molecules, they can pass through the blood-brain barrier and be directly absorbed into the brain tissue.
Monoterpenes, in general, are known to have therapeutic properties of an antiseptic, antibacterial, and mild analgesic. In general, they have a stimulating effect and can soothe irritated tissues.
Sesquiterpenes, in general, are known to have therapeutic properties of an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antiseptic. Typically they have strong aromas. Oils in this category each have specific therapeutic effects and should be looked at on a more individual basis rather than as a broad category.
Monoterpenols, in general, have significant anti-infectious properties. They are also known for being gentle to the skin and mucous membranes (with the exception of peppermint). Long-term use can show helpful results as immune stimulants.
Sesquiterpenols, in general, have varied properties of grounding, sedative, and immune-stimulating effects. They are generally safe and gentle on the skin when diluted appropriately.
Oxides, in general, are beneficial due to the 1.8 cineole they contain. Note that not all oxides contain this chemical component. It is this 1.8 cineole that gives them their camphor aroma and gives them strong antiviral, antibacterial, and expectorant properties. Essential oils high in 1.8 cineole are contraindicated in use with children under the age of ten.
Esthers, in general, are known to have therapeutic properties of being relaxing, calming, and balancing to the body.
Aldehydes, in general, are known to have therapeutic properties of being anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory and can be calming to the central nervous system. Word of caution: These oils are skin irritating and should be used in low dilution rates (1 percent if using on the skin) to avoid adverse reactions. If you have sensitive skin to begin with, you will definitely want to do skin patch testing before using it on the body in general application.
Ketones, in general, are known to have therapeutic properties of supporting respiratory issues and assisting with wound healing. Safety concerns vary with ketones, so be sure to not generalize this chemical family.
Phenols, in general, are known to be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Just as we saw with aldehydes, these oils should be diluted to no more than a 1 percent solution when using on the skin and should be used with skin-nourishing oils to complement the blend. These oil types tend to have very powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties but should not be used for long periods of time.
An important thing to remember when blending essential oils is that not always will blending two oils with the same therapeutic properties cause the blend to have synergistic values. Blending of essential oils is a very complex art that requires research of the blending capabilities of the oils you are using. There are occasions when blending two essential oils with the same therapeutic properties will result in an antagonistic or negative effect. It is similar to taking two types of prescription pain medications. The outcome may not necessarily be more pain relief and in some cases could cause harm.
How Do Essential Oils Get into Your System?
Essential oils can be introduced into the body through injection, inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption. I will be address inhalation and dermal absorption in this book. Injection and ingestion should always be reserved for use only under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider who specializes in the area of essential oil, as these methods can be extremely dangerous.
Inhalation of essential oils has great benefit for quick response by the body. Our bodies are equipped with a filtering system in our brain, called the blood-brain barrier. This filtering system prevents potential damaging substances from directly reaching the brain and spinal fluid due to the very small size of molecules that can pass through this barrier. The chemical component, sesquiterpene, is small enough to successfully cross the blood-brain barrier. Many essential oils are high in this chemical component and when inhaled will have an almost immediate brain response to the therapeutic properties of the essential oil.
Essential oils not containing sesquiterpenes will still have great benefit through inhalation, just not by crossing the blood-brain barrier. In these such cases, the essential oils will be absorbed through the bloodstream through the lungs.
Dermal absorption can affect the body in one of two ways: it can have a local effect, or it can have a systemic effect. When we apply a lotion or carrier oil mixed with essential oils to our skin, it will be absorbed into the dermal cells of the skin. There is a barrier between the surface of the skin and the circulatory system beneath the skin. This barrier is called the stratum corneum. Some essential oils can penetrate the stratum corneum and enter the bloodstream, causing systemic therapeutic effects on the body. When the chemical components cannot penetrate the stratum corneum, the essential oil will only have localized therapeutic effects on the body, which will be isolated to the area of application.
Once an essential oil enters the bloodstream, it needs to find a manner in which to circulate through the bloodstream. Since the majority of the makeup of our blood is water based and essential oils do not mix with water, they need to find a protein to bind to in order to distribute therapeutic properties systemically.CHAPTER 2
From Seed to Bottle
In this chapter, I will take you through the process of growing, harvesting, processing, extracting, and bottling essential oils. There are hundreds of farmers around the world who grow, harvest, and distill for essential oil companies. The process before the essential oil gets into the bottle is just as important, if not more important, than the bottling itself. The information you will learn will empower you to be a better consumer when you are shopping for essential oils. You come away with a better understanding of how these precious essential oils get from the fields to your hands.
Plants grown for the production of essential oils should always be grown in their indigenous climate. Have you ever tried to grow a cactus in northern Michigan? The answer is, probably not. There are many reasons why the cactus would not thrive: improper soil, fluctuating temperatures, and lack of sufficient sunshine are just a few. You would have to build an environment that would duplicate the desert for the cactus to even survive. Chances are it might never bloom, and if it did, it might produce fewer flowers with less brilliant colors. I give you this example because this is the exact same thing that happens when you try to grow plants, trees, and shrubs for essential oil use in environments where they are not indigenous.
When plants are grown in their indigenous environment, they thrive on the nutrient-rich soil native to the area and rarely have to deal with insects attacking them. Temperature ranges are best suited for them, as well as appropriate sunlight. When plants are given these surroundings to grow in, they will develop into wonderful sources for essential oil extraction. When a plant has to deal with stressors on its system, like harsh temperatures or pesticides, it causes the plant to not be as rich in essential oils. We will not see this until the plant is harvested and the appropriate plant part has been distilled and tested for its chemical components.
Harvesting and Processing
Essential oils are derived from a variety of different parts of a plant, such as seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruit, resin, etc. This information is important when we speak about the chemical components of an essential oil. Let's use lavender as an example. The only part of the lavender plant that should be used for essential oil distillation are the flowers. It takes a tremendous amount of flowers to make a drop of essential oil.
It takes three pounds of lavender to make fifteen milliliters of essential oil.
It takes two hundred fifty thousand rose petals to make five milliliters of essential oil.
It takes fifteen lemons to make fifteen milliliters of essential oil.
You can see just how precious these essential oils are and how much plant material it takes to distill the oils. It is for this reason that the cost of unadulterated essential oils can be high.
Plants at the time of harvest are living organisms. Everything that is done to the plant from the point of harvest through distillation damages or breaks down the plant parts, which can cause the chemical component values to change. Plant parts should be handled gently, so as not to start the oxidation process, which will cause damage.
There are several methods to extract the essential oils from the plant parts, including cold distillation, steam distillation, cold press, and solvent extraction. The method used will affect the chemical components in the essential oil as well as shelf life and safety concerns. It is important to always know how your essential oils were extracted.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Heaven Scent"
Copyright © 2018 Christine Stalsonburg.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
History of Essential Oils and How They Support Your Body, 1,
From Seed to Bottle, 8,
Where to Purchase Your Oils and Who to Get Guidance From, 12,
Safe Use of Essential Oils, 16,
Carrier Oils, 29,
Essential Oil Profiles, 37,
My Favorite Recipes, 110,
Kid-Safe Recipes, 112,
Digestion Support, 117,
Stress, Anxiety, and Insomnia support, 119,
Chakra-Clearing Blends, 123,
Pain relief Support, 126,
Respiratory Support, 130,
Bath and Body, 131,
Household and Cleaning, 137,
Roller Ball Blends, 143,
Diffuser Blends, 148,
About the Author, 161,