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The History of Essential Oils

Many years ago when I first started including essential oils in my daily life, I felt really proud of myself. I started recommending them to my friends, my hair dresser, innocent unsuspecting people standing next to me in the grocery store… anyone who would listen about these magical little oils that had changed my life!

Of course, the Ancient Egyptians had it all figured out about 5,000 years before I did.  In between building pyramids and making the earliest advances in writing, the Egyptians found some time to innovate herbal medicine with what they called aromatic oils. Their most famous herbal blend, used as perfume and medicine, included 16 different ingredients! On a daily basis the Egyptians transformed oils and pastes from plants into pills, ointments, and powders. And of course, who can forget about the Egyptian Mummies? Embalmers used Cinnamon, Frankincense, and Myrrh in the mummification process. Aromatic oils became such a holy and worshipped aspect of their culture that at the height of Egypt’s power only priests held the authority to use the oils!

 

Even without the use of Facebook and Pinterest, word spread throughout the ancient world of the limitless power of these aromatic oils. China, India, Greece, and Rome adapted Egypt’s practices for their own medicinal, cosmetic, and fragrance purposes. In fact, it was the Greek physician Hypocrites- the Father of Medicine- who in 400 B.C.E documented the use of nearly 300 plants like Peppermint and Marjoram.

But without all the gizmos and gadgets that we have today to extract the oil, how did ancient healers do it? Ever the creative problem solvers, early extractors finely grounded the bark of trees and mixed the powder into olive oil, poured and heated the mixture on a cloth, then squeezed the essential oil out of the bark powder and into the olive oil. As centuries passed, innovations like cold pressing and steam distillation were slowly developed.

Europe finally gained knowledge of herbal medicine during the Crusades, when the Knights and their armies passed on information they learned in the Middle East. The Europeans treated aromatic oils with the same reverence that ancient civilisations had, even burning Frankincense and pine to ward off evil spirits during the 14th century’s Bubonic Plague outbreak.

Fast-forward a few hundred years to the 1930’s, when French Chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé thoroughly examined the antiseptic properties of essential oils, leading him to coin the term ‘Aromathérapie’ as we all know today as Aromatherapy. However, as large pharmaceutical companies starting becoming more prominent in developed countries, the once-revered essential oils faded from common knowledge and were used mainly by those practicing aromatherapy and holistic medicine. Until now. Essential oils are regaining their reputation thanks to today’s natural wellness movement. And since we do have the internet to spread the word, everybody can learn to harness the power of essential oils!

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4 Tips To Get You Started With Essential Oils

It’s no accident that the key word in “essential oils” is essential. These small, unassuming bottles can be used for every fundamental necessity in life: physical wellbeing, cleaning, beauty, emotional health, even outdoor safety. But with so many varieties and options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start in your quest to add essential oils to your life.

Whether you’re just hearing about essential oils for the first time and feel curious, or you’ve always read about their incredible potential uses and felt hesitate to dive in, we are here to help you get started.

Tip #1: Start Small

You’ll have plenty of time to learn all about the rare, hard-to-pronounce oils (I’m talking to you, Vetiver!), so start simple with the Main Five. These five essential oils are most likely to pop up in a recipe or oil guide because they have such a crazy abundance of uses (and they smell divine, which doesn’t hurt either!)

  • Lavender – Calm, Relaxed, Relieved Bliss
  • Lemon – The Cleaning Queen!
  • Peppermint – Farewell to Pain
  • Eucalyptus – The Anti-Everything (Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory…)
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca) – First Aid For Your Skin

Tip #2: Choose Your Goals

There’s roughly a zillion or so purposes for essential oils, so picking one or two uses will help you get started without feeling the pressure to solve the health concerns of your entire family by dinner time. You could spend hours browsing the possibilities- it’s truly amazing what these oils are capable of. Here are my suggestions for useful yet simple essential oil applications that will help you on your way to becoming a professional!

  • For a Better Night’s Sleep: Blend 1 drop Lavender with a tablespoon of carrier oil (see below for more on carrier oil), and apply to back of neck or bottom of need before bed.
  • For a Sanitized Home: Mix a few drops of Lemon in a bowl of water and soak a washcloth in the blend overnight. Wipe down kitchen and bathroom surfaces to disinfect.
  • For a Clear, Acne-Free Face: Blend Tea Tree oil with a few teaspoons of Aloe Vera gel and apply directly to pimples.

Tip #3: Find a Carrier Oil

When I first delved into the essential oil world myself, the term “carrier oil” completely baffled me. I was convinced I kept hearing people wrong. Care Oil? Karay Oil? Huh!?

But now it all makes sense. A carrier oil is any liquid oil that can carry and dilute the essential oils since they are far too concentrated and potent to apply directly to the skin.

If you’re anxious to get started but have nothing except basic olive oil in your cabinet, it can work but will be a bit greasy. There’s a whole secret world of specialty oils out there that pair perfectly with essential oils. Try one of the top three below. You’ll simply mix some of the carrier oil with a few drops of your chosen essential oil(s) and voila! Use for whatever purpose you need.

  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil

Tip #4: Pick a Diffuser You Can’t Live Without

Aromatherapy- utilizing scents to promote health of the body, mind, and spirit. You definitely can’t get that from a candle (as much as some of us may love our autumn scented candles in October!). Diffusers disperse your chosen essential oils through your home so that they are subtly a part of every breath you take. This means that your body is constantly benefiting, in a totally natural and chemical-free way, all of the healing properties of the essential oils while the air in your home is purified. How does it get better than that?

A simple Google Shopping search for diffusers will leave you thinking it’d be an easier to decision to choose a new car, so here’s a way to simplify it.

  • Use a nebulizing or an ultrasonic (water vapor) diffuser so that high temperatures don’t ruin the beneficial applications of the essential oil.
  • Most diffusers are meant for home or office environments, but some smaller types for cars do exist if you’re always on the move.
  • Try one diffuser oil combination at a time to decide what you like. For example, 2 drops wild orange and 2 drops peppermint, plus any water needed for the diffuser, will increase alertness and give you a quick pick-me-up.

 

As you continue to experiment, your essential oil repertoire will steadily grow and you’ll discover just how powerful essential oils can be to health, wellness, and beauty.