I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of months now – sometimes life gets hectic and I wanted this to include some free helps. We’ll get to that. I’m releasing this as a partial blog today because…BIG NEWS – the excellent book The Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook by Rashelle Johnson is currently available for FREE (as of this writing) as a Kindle book from Amazon.com. Get your copy here. What – you say you don’t have a Kindle? No problem! There are free Kindle apps for computers, tablets, and smartphones. Read our blog about that here: http://theapproachingdayprepper.com/free-prepper-book-downloads/
Now, on to my essential oils blog. Because I’m rushing this to post, you’ll only get Part 1 today. I’ll publish Part 2 with some free downloadable helps in a few days.
Essential Oils 101, Part 1
I’ve always thought of aromatherapy as nothing more than making your house smell good. In my ignorance I considered it a waste of time and money. Then on a whim I bought a nice-smelling orange spice oil…which proceeded to make my eyes swell from an allergic reaction. Nope, essential oils weren’t for me…or so I thought.
About eight months ago I was having trouble sleeping and a friend gave me some lavender oil. She told me to rub a small amount on the bottom of my feet before I go to bed, then inhale the residual that was on my hands. Rub oil on your feet to help you sleep better? What kind of voodoo is this? With a bit of trepidation I tried it. To my surprise, I found that my sleep was consistently more restful when I used it. I convinced Phil to try it…same result for him.
Hmmm…maybe there’s something to this after all.
So about six months ago I started doing some research on essential oils. I spent a lot of time reading about them and within a few weeks I assembled a “starter kit” of oils. After looking at a number of pre-packaged starter sets, I decided that I could get a better price by buying select individual oils from a number of different vendors. Since then I’ve added a few and I’ve been putting all of them to good use. More about my starter kit in my next blog.
Now that I’ve studied the topic and applied what I’ve learned, it’s for a first blog on essential oils. It’s so hard to know where to start because there’s so much info to share. Let’s start with some Q&As.
Q. What makes essential oils a prepper topic?
A. It’s a prepper topic because essential oils are a great alternative to western medicine, and we seem to be drawing closer and closer to a time when access to doctors and medicines will not be as easy as it is now. For example, if you can’t get antibiotics for an infection, there are essential oils that may work just as well or even better. (Not to mention that the more I read about essential oils, the more I think they could be better solutions to many of our health issues than western medicine, but that’s another blog.)
Q. If I’m using the oils in a massage before bedtime, won’t they stain my sheets?
A. Good question. I was concerned about that. But guess what! Essential “oils” are not really oils at all! They are actually liquids from various parts of plants. They aren’t greasy. You will mix them with a carrier oil that really is an oil (certain types of vegetable or nut oil), but the purpose of the carrier oil is to dilute the highly concentrated essential oils and to help your body absorb them. The carrier oils you’ll mix them with will quickly absorb into your skin. No stains!
Q. Preppers store things for future use. Can essential oils be stored for long periods of time?
A. The shelf life of essential oils varies quite a bit, but most will maintain their properties for at least two years if stored properly. Some have a shorter shelf life, and since the carrier oils that you frequently mix them with are true oils, some are good for only nine to fifteen months.
Q. I’ve seen some wild claims about what essential oils can do. Can an essential oil really do so many different things?
A. As I began to study about essential oils, I was a bit put off by the many claimed benefits of various oils. For example, eucalyptus oil is a favorite of many and considered a “must have” in your first kit. I’ve read many sites and seen it recommended for the following:
- Improve the circulatory system
- Help with respiratory issues including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia
- Help with alertness
- Help eliminate congestion and coughing
- Cools your body temperature and is therefore good in treating fevers
- Its antiviral and antibacterial properties make it great for infections and for adding to cleaning products
- Helps with digestive problems and diarrhea
- Combats sore muscles whether they be from over-exercise or the flu
- A natural insecticide
- Help with sinus issues including rhinitis and sinusitis
OK, seems like we are solidly in snake oil territory. How can one oil accomplish so many different things? As it turns out, essential oils contain an average of 100 different “constituents” – components or elements that make it up. Many of these constituents have some serious therapeutic value. With that being the case, I can understand how it can do so many things.
Because each oil has so many constituents, man-made reproductions are totally inadequate substitutes. They may approximate the smell and perhaps even have a few of the qualities of the oil it approximates, but they can’t come close to the real thing.
Q. How can the same essential oil do things that seem to be exact opposites – for example, help me relax and perk me up when I get the afternoon blahs?
A. This one really bothered me. Lavender oil is a favorite of many because it can be used to help you relax (hence it’s great at bedtime) or help energize you (so it’s the great afternoon pick-me-up). OK, now we’re really talking snake oil, right? Well, no. It turns out that there are oils that are called “balancers.” Lavender is one of those oils. What they do is bring your system into balance – so it makes sense that it can either help you sleep or keep you awake in the afternoon.
Q. How can smelling something really improve my health?
A. Yeah, at first thought that didn’t make much sense to me either…but then I thought again. You may remember the anthrax attacks from a few years ago. Simply coming in contact with the anthrax spores – breathing them in or having them come in contact with your skin – can kill you. Well, if there is stuff that can kill us simply from breathing it in, I can believe there is stuff that can make me better simply by breathing it in.
As it turns out, essential oils work much more efficiently than taking a pill. Medicine that is taken orally must first go through the digestive system which (1) takes time and (2) breaks down some of the medicine’s properties. Essential oils, on the other hand, are often applied topically to the source of the ailment or are inhaled, which gets them into our membranes and blood much more quickly.
And if I still doubted that inhaling thing…I only need to remember what I do when I have the occasional asthma flare-ups — I inhale medicine through a nebulizer and almost instantly breathe more easily.
Q. Why is there such a difference in price for the same kind of essential oil?
A. That’s a challenging one. The short answer is that it’s a combination of quality, marketing, and greed. It turns out that some companies that sell essential oil at a premium advertise their products as “certified” or “therapeutic grade.” The truth is that there is no regulatory agency that certifies essential oils and there is no official category called “therapeutic grade.” These are just made up terms that have no official meaning. Some companies that capitalize on such terms are doing so to both justify higher prices and gain market position. For example, one well-known brand of essential oils is doTerra, I have no doubt that they sell high quality products, but in their marketing they use a registered trademark phrase, “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG)”. It’s just a marketing gimmick. It means whatever they want it to mean. There is no organization that has certified them but themselves. It’s a promise to the consumer that their oils adhere to their own standards, not some authoritative third party. Like I said, I have no doubt that their standards are high and their essential oils are good – I just take a bit of exception to their misleading marketing. [End of rant.]
Other companies may use the term “therapeutic grade” simply because their competition use it and they want to communicate that they provide high quality oils. Again, there is no organization or governing body that certifies oil or classifies them by grade. So if no one is doing any certifying, how do you know what you’re getting? It’s not easy.
Key words to look for are “perfumed oil” and “fragrance oil” – stay away from them. “100% pure” is a good thing, but it still doesn’t speak to where the plants are sourced from or how they are inventoried. Quality essential oils are sourced from quality plants, are processed properly, and are stored properly.
“Quality plants” – We’ll leave that for another time because each oil comes from a different plant and many times the plants are grown in many regions. If you are a tea enthusiast, as Phil is, you know that tea can have different shades of flavor depending on where it’s grown and how it’s harvested or processed and stored. Essential oils are a lot like that. If you’re just getting started, stick with reputable retailers. You’ll find a few listed in my next blog.
“Properly processed” – Generally you want to purchase essential oils that have been steam distilled with no added chemicals and undiluted with carrier oils. You can select your own carrier oils for your particular preference or application.
“Properly stored” – That’s pretty easy, at least at the basic level. Essential oils should be stored in dark colored glass bottles. Yes, glass bottles. If the place you’re buying from provides them in plastic, you’re probably not buying high quality oils – unless you’re buying in bulk. When buying in large quantities, the shipping cost for glass bottles is prohibitive so most vendors ship in plastic or aluminum. You should transfer them to dark-colored glass bottles as soon as you receive them. Store your oils in a cool place that is not subject to temperature changes and out of direct sunlight. Do not store with a plastic/rubber topped eye dropper as a lid. Essential oils do not turn rancid like vegetable oils, they simply lose their effectiveness.
Those were my top questions. If you’ve got others, post your question on our The Approaching Day Prepper Facebook page (“like” us while you’re there) or as a comment on this blog and I’ll do my best to respond.
In my next blog, I’ll share the contents of my starter kit and my own experience. I’ll also identify resources – both companies and books. And, I’ll share some of my own essential oil recipes and a set of cards I created to help me remember how to use each oil. You’ll be able to download the cards for your own use.
For now, check out the FREE (as of this posting) Kindle book.