You may have noticed shelves of essential oils invading your local, natural health store as of late. Though it feels like a recent trend in the wellness world, the utility of essential oils really dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Plants, citruses, and flowers can be expressed, cold-pressed, or as of the eleventh century, distilled to leave behind their inherent essence (hence the name “essential”). So, what is it about these aromatic molecules and the respective plants they come from have so many of us adding oil diffusers to our Amazon shopping carts? We’ll take a look at what this is all about, how to safely and properly utilize a diffuser, and what to look for when picking essential oils to diffuse.
Diffusing Essential Oils
Let’s consider one of the most popular essential oils to diffuse, both for its fragrance and calm-inducing effect: lavender oil. Whether at home, the office, or even in the salon – lavender oil is being diffused to naturally deodorize rooms, leaving behind that intensely pleasing, signature scent. The appeal does not stop there, though. Lavender oil is so widely chosen, because of the alternative remedies and benefits within.
You see, when essential oils are diffused into the air and inhaled, the aromatic molecules rise to the top of our noses where they meet the olfactory membrane. Here, there are thousand of receptors waiting. When your nose catches the scent of lavender, absorbing those molecular compounds, the sensory stimulation travels to your brain where it can help mitigate migraines, headaches, depression, nervous tension, or emotional stress. Its impact on the autonomic nervous system has been proven to assist with both the duration and quality of one’s sleep. As another example, rosemary oil improves concentration and assists with depression, but it has long been considered to strengthen the immune system. Regularly diffusing rosemary oil means the immune-supportive properties of the rosemary plant can be inhaled and put to good use. Surely in the case for your own wellness, every little bit helps!
Essential Oil Diffusers
While there are different types of oil diffusers, by in large they accomplish the same thing – breaking up a few drops of an essential oil into tons of microparticles that are dispersed into the air. Some diffusers do so with or without water, some with heat like a humidifier, or some via evaporation. It is important to do sufficient research on the different diffusers available, and what your needs may be (such as large room size coverage, humidity control, a program timer, etc.).
While a humidifying diffuser may seem attractive, you’ll want to make sure the oils you select won’t cause deterioration of the water reservoir or build up as a result of the heat. Ultimately, you’ll be breathing in whatever’s inside the diffuser’s tank; purity is always a primary factor. The fragrances and the therapeutic abilities of different essential oils are unique to each plant, and can have varying physiological and cerebral benefits. When used correctly, an essential oil diffuser can soothe and release stress, improve depression symptoms, stimulate the body and mind, provide relief to sore muscles, or even clear up a cough.
Beginner Essential Oils
There are so many benefits to each variety, it can almost be overwhelming when determining which to take home! Lemon oil naturally removes harmful pathogens from the air, not to mention it kills odors famously well. Ylang-ylang oil is considered the love aroma, balancing romantic energies, while also acting as an aphrodisiac. Diffusing peppermint oil can relieve congestion and stuffiness, while lemongrass oil repels pesky insects. For the sake of time, we’ll move on – but simply put, there are a great and many restorative and boosting essential oils to diffuse. It’s incredibly important to know what you are diffusing, which applies doubly to store-bought blends. If someone in your home is allergic to rosemary, be sure the blend you just bought does not contain rosemary oil!
Shopping For Essential Oils
When shopping for the right essential oils, it’s good practice to check for a few details. First, we want to find bottles with informative labels.
An exemplary label should include the following:
- the true Latin name of the source plant
- country of origin
- method of extraction (steam distilled, evaporated, or expressed, etc.)
- farming quality
The first three points on the label are self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that farming quality is incredibly important. Chemicals and pesticides are not fit for your breathing air and should be avoided! It may be as simple as labeling that reads “Wild Harvested” or “Organically Farmed”, but it makes all the difference.
Secondly, you’ll want to find brands that employ the Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) test. There is currently nothing stopping an essential oil company from printing ‘100% pure’ on the bottle, even if they have used synthetic fragrances or lesser oils to save costs. An example is using litsea oil in place of lemongrass – this is called adulteration. The GC/MS test analyzes the compounds of the oil to determine purity. Some companies may be passing un-pure oils on to customers when bypassing testing. Buying batch tested oils from trustworthy companies is another vital step in responsible diffusing. There are some very real health risks in inhaling synthetic fragrances; purity is a big, big deal.
Storing Your Essential Oils
The last detail to keep in mind is the storage of the oils. Dark glass containers kept in cool places will ensure the best shelf-life for your oils. These volatile compounds can break down quickly in the heat, excessive sunlight, or too much exposure to oxygen. Many labels will let you know how long an essential oil will keep its potency, but some do not. You may find it helpful to write down the date a bottle was opened.
So remember, essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from the seeds, bark, stems, roots, and flowers of plants. When diffused, these small organic molecules interact with sensors in our nose where the aroma and inherent benefits of the plant are absorbed. A household filled with the calming fragrance of lavender is magical, but it is important to remember that diffusing essential oils is not merely about their scent. They have therapeutic properties, the ability to impact our brain function, and also very real safety implications. It is important to ask the right questions from your healthcare professionals, read all labels, and be mindful of recommended dosages and quantities. When properly utilized, diffusing essential oils is a blissful and simple addition to anyone’s wellness regimen. Happy diffusing!
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