I get this question asked pretty frequently because after all, exactly, what are essential oils and why the need to use it?
Plants are so amazing, not only do we feed on them but we also use plants to help us heal in sickness and we use plants now of recent ages to beautify ourselves. One important way plants help us to heal is through the usage of essential oils – aromatherapy. By definition, essential oils are volatile molecules produced by plants and are kept protected in secretory granules in the plants. These essential oils are produced for survival reasons; either to help the plants to protect them from the predators (defense), or to attract insects for pollination (growth) – very much similar to how we humans use essential oils, if you ask me.
Long ago, before modern medicine as we know it today came about, healers of all kinds use plant medicine to heal sick folks. As we progressed and things become more systematic, we were able to isolate certain chemical components in plants, modify the chemical component to stabilize and patent it, and manufacture in high dosages in one single pill. Along the way, as this branch out into modern medicine, aromatherapy was then only used for cosmetic purposes, as a lot of us know aromatherapy today.
Essential oils are made up of multitude of naturally occurring chemical components and it is exactly these chemical components that give each essential oil its therapeutic value. Take for example, Lavender. Lavender is known to be able to help in one’s sleep. Exactly why Lavender is able to help one have better quality of sleep is really because of a chemical component called linalyl acetate. It has been researched over the years and has been shown to reduce our stress hormones and promote better sleep. So really, there is a lot of scientific research now behind these essential oils.
Essential oils are not harsh, nor is it forceful, if used correctly. Aromatherapy serves to support what our body already does; that is to heal on its own. For example if a person is down with a cold and is having a runny nose, a lot of times, we try to stop the symptoms of cold, as we find it bothersome and want to have quick simple solutions to it. Truly, your body is producing the mucus, as a natural mechanism to get rid of the germs in its own way and to stop it entirely out of convenience may not be the best solution. In aromatherapy then, we use essential oils to promote the expulsion of mucus, to protect the person from other infections and to help this person have a more restful sleep so the body can better fight the infection on its own. I find aromatherapy beautiful in that sense, not to suppress but to support.
Unfortunately, essential oils have received a bad reputation of recent years, due to the unregulated industry and companies commercializing it without proper understanding of aromatherapy. It is so important to know what is the correct, safe and proper usage of essential oils in order to fully enjoy its benefits that it brings to us and thus I find it really vital as an aromatherapist, to keep on educating the public at large about it.
So why should we all use essential oils? Because it is Mother Nature’s beautiful gift to us.
Kuan Nee is a Certified Aromatherapist with the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy in the US and currently runs havaroma. She is passionate about educating the community about aromatherapy with workshops and is particularly interested in using aromatherapy to help people manage stress more effectively.