What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are volatile, aromatic chemicals obtained by steam or hydrodistillation of various
parts of plants, including seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruit. They are highly concentrated, beneficial secondary metabolites that serve as the defense mechanism of the plant. Although plants do not have an "immune system," to thrive they must be able to resist the challenges of bacteria, fungi, viruses and be able to defend themselves against herbivores. They must attract pollinators, thus they are also the communication system of plants. Many feel that essential oils have proven to be far more potent than dried herbs.
Essential oils can help balance and support the body to heal itself. Research has shown that essential oils help us fight infection, contain balancing compounds and aid regeneration. They possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD wrote, "Essential oils do not act as weapons but as agents of interaction. They are a key ingredient of life itself, strengthening its fabric and preconditions." 1
The molecules of essential oils are lipid soluble and relatively small, giving them the ability to easily penetrate the cells and travel throughout the body in a matter of minutes when topically applied to the soles of the feet or elsewhere. They can cross the blood-brain barrier and access the central nervous system.2
Essential oils have their own individual character or "blueprint" – an absolutely unique identity. Their potency allows them to be used in a small quantity for beneficial and effective results. Using the sun's energy, soil, air and water, a perfectly balanced blend of complex chemicals is created. The combination of numerous elements gives each oil its individual fragrance along with its particular beneficial and healing properties. It is impossible to synthetically reproduce an essential oil in its exact form.3
There are four basic ways to take essential oils: through the lungs (inhalation), through the skin (massage), through the digestive tract (by mouth) and through the absorbent tissues of the body orifices (suppositories or orally absorbed – not swallowed). Holding a drop of a suitable essential oil in the mouth allows them to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Swallowing the oils results in a major portion being destroyed by the stomach acids, so a greater amount of oil is required when swallowed than when simply held in the mouth, but since some oils are too strong to be held comfortably in the mouth, and when internal usage is desired, swallowing oils in a capsule is an effective alternative. The choice of the usage should best fit the need.
We are very enthusiastic about the use of essential oils because we've seen how wonderfully they have worked in our lives and for our family members and close friends. Our desire is to share what we know and have experienced and to help others as we have been helped. Of particular interest will be the numerous testimonies provided for you in our Health Care Testimonial section. If you ever have a testimony to share, please send it our way so we can share it with others.
We feel in awe of what the Lord has given us in these oils and a great deal of respect for the call we feel to help others learn about using them. We've been privileged to witness some amazing results of using the oils guided by the Lord through prayer.
We want to be sure that at every step, from growing the plants, harvesting and distilling, that the utmost care is taken to ensure that the quality of the essential oil is not compromised. It is imperative to only use high-quality essential oils grown and distilled without chemicals, harvested at the optimal time, distilled with the appropriate heat to produce the highest quality oil possible.
Heritage Essential Oils uses only the highest quality oils available. All our essential oils are 100% authentic and pesticide free. Before purchasing each oil, we verify its quality and will not purchase an inferior oil even if we must wait until the next harvest or longer.
For more detail on quality, see our Statement of Quality.
Safe Use of Essential Oils for Health Issues
For those new to the wonderful world of using premium-quality essential oils for health issues,
the subject of safe usage is of top importance. There are varying schools of thought about essential oil usage, and discerning the viewpoint of the author usually helps bring understanding to conflicting information. In some books you may find dire warnings about the use of Cinnamon and Clove oil, which admittedly can be *hot* but nevertheless highly effective antimicrobials and top choices for someone fighting viral or bacterial infection. When used diluted as needed, we can effectively use a few drops of Cinnamon Bark or Clove to help end a debilitating condition rather than be fearful of unmerited warnings. According to chemist, aromatherapist and author Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, "Most warnings [about essential oil usage] are derived from industry-funded dermatological tests with limited relevance for aromatherapy."4
For those seeking natural, healthy alternatives to conventional medications, we can embrace a peaceful perspective about the use of these amazing, healing oils and quickly gain an understanding of the relatively short list of cautions.
With some basic information and discernment (common sense), one can safely explore many uses of essential oils for almost any health issue. Even an unpleasant experience is usually short-lived and the knowledge gained becomes helpful for future applications. A temporary irritation from an improperly diluted essential oil pales very quickly when I think of the untold senseless deaths and side effects caused by conventional medications. There is plenty of room to comfortably and safely explore essential oils and potential applications without causing harm.
"To get out from underneath these layers of trumped-up concerns, the whole safety and toxicity discussion needs to be turned upside down. Instead of perpetrating mantras about imaginary dangers, the inherently benign nature of essential oils needs to be recognized." He notes that many aromatherapy "rules" are not "justified by any perceivable reality."4 - Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt
While many texts warn that essential oils should never be used undiluted, a growing number of aromatherapists and essential oil users find that quite a number can be safely used neat (undiluted) on the skin or a drop neat on the tongue. Schnaubelt points out that some of the oils designated as "forbidden use" are among the most therapeutically useful, and "even the safety of essential oils during pregnancy discussion seems to abate due to the stubborn absence of reports of any adverse effects." Schnaubelt goes on to say that "the much-feared potential of Rosemary oil to induce seizures has so far failed to throw all of Britain into a collective state of epilepsy."4
When one uses essential oils by the drop, you quickly develop a sense for any real side-effects, such as skin irritation or detox symptoms. Simply applying additional carrier oil should immediately reduce the unpleasant irritating effect on the skin, and adding more carrier oil or backing off usage abates detox reactions.
Essential oils may linger in a health body up to eight hours, but generally it is felt that they are mostly metabolized and eliminated in 1-2 hours, so reapplication every couple of hours may be desirable for an acute need.5
If you are new to using essential oils, start slowly and remember that they are highly concentrated, and a little will go a long way. If you are using a new oil or blend for the first time, test on a very small area first to be sure your dilution rate does not cause skin irritation. Some people test oils at the bend of the arm opposite the elbow or on the wrist. In some cases, the essential oil may be tolerated initially but can cause dermatitis reactions with subsequent use. Cinnamon and Clove statistically have the capacity to sensitize more than others, but interestingly, "these effects are related to topical application; it appears, from experience in the aromatherapy community, that the internal application does not carry the same risks."6
Carrier Oils: Using 'carrier' oils when applying essential oils is a time-honored tradition used when working with pure essential oils. It is felt by many aromatherapists, that because of the molecular structure of essential oils, the carrier oil enhances the trans-dermal delivery of the properties of the essential oils. They believe there is rarely a reason to use essential oils neat (undiluted) when applying topically, although there are definitely exceptions, such as using Lavender oil neat for burns, which is remarkable.
Jojoba oil is an excellent choice as a carrier, as it has no scent and has antioxidant properties, although there are a number of vegetable/nut/seed oils that can be used as a carrier. Virgin coconut oil has larger molecules that may interfere with the skin's absorption of essential oils, yet it is regarded for its moisturizing properties and is chosen for use as more of a moisture barrier than to facilitate absorption of essential oils, whereas Fractionated coconut oil has smaller molecules and is structurally different from unrefined coconut oil making it a good choice if absorption is desired.
Carrier oils are used to dilute or "extend" essential oils. Using a carrier oil lessens the intensity of *hot* oils (dilutes the effect), so when applying *hot* essential oils to the skin, we suggest that you dilute 1-2 drops in about a tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply to a small area of the skin first to see how your skin responds. For other essential oils, dilute 14-20 drops to 1-ounce (2-tablespoons/30-ml). You can adjust with more or less carrier oil once you see how your body reacts. Dr. Pam Taylor, a practicing naturopathic physician, feels that there is a power released from the essential oil when it's diluted or extended. She explains "that certain molecules rearrange into less active forms when they are present in high concentration. The molecule curls up because it sees too many of its own kind. Diluted, it sees more molecules from other [carrier] oils and it relaxes into a more stretched out and active form."7 By adding a carrier oil, we can extend the application surface area and possibilities of the essential oil and/or dilute a potentially skin-irritating oil.
If an oil can be extended (diluted) and still be effective to meet the need, we may as well extend it. When we use a hot oil such as Oregano, we dilute it. When we use Lavender after a shower, we extend it and apply it as a skin moisturizer, or we extend Eucalyptus and apply it over our chest and back for a respiratory ailment.
If you feel that you want to use an oil neat (undiluted) because it feels most helpful that way, as long as you don't experience skin irritation, then use it as you feel best meets your need. Anything can become a sensitizer, especially with undiluted or prolonged use. Risk can be affected by concentration, length of time on the skin, condition (health) of the skin and other factors.
While it is rare, essential oil constituents can combine with skin proteins to produce an allergic reaction (this is known as 'hapten'). Aromatherapist Shirley Price suggests that you put just a dab of diluted essential oil on the inner elbow to test for a reaction. A small number of people (0.1%) have a skin redness reaction to appropriately diluted essential oils.
Some people are more sensitive than others. Ultimately the user must be responsible to take precautions necessary to avoid misusing the oils or experiencing discomfort. Use special caution when applying the oils on children or those who may not be able to adequately communicate discomfort.
For babies and small children, we typically avoid the use of *hot* oils unless the need calls for it, and then we only apply to the bottoms of feet with great dilution. For the very young and elderly we use greater dilution than for adults, such as 7-10 drops to 1-ounce (2-tablespoons/30-ml) carrier oil. You can always add more essential oil once you are comfortable with application. Less dilution is needed as they mature. The skin and organs of a newborn are very tender, and it seems best to use these potent essential oils with the greatest dilution possible to achieve the desired results. With this as the basis of usage, consider the need and follow what you feel as the Lord leads. Many essential oils can be used with less dilution without any harm. Always test your application on yourself first and then a very small area on your baby to be sure their skin will tolerate it. When applying the diluted blend on babies and small children, apply to the feet, lower legs and back to reduce the risk of the oil getting into the mouth or eyes. Worst case, it will be briefly unpleasant, but certainly worth avoiding if possible.
Use a carrier oil, not water, to dilute any unpleasant effect. Water is not a good choice for diluting an irritating oil because it traps the oil and drives it against the eye or skin.
One of the best and safest places to apply essential oil is to the bottoms of feet where the oil is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. According to Jean Valnet, M.D., most essential oils can affect every cell of the body within 20 minutes. There is only one oil that I'm aware of that is not recommended topically: Western Red Cedar. Most oils can be applied to bottoms of feet undiluted. We apply 1-2 drops to the bottom of one foot and then rub the bottoms of both feet together. If fighting infection, we feel that 1-2 drops 4 times daily is more effective than 8 drops once a day.
These commonly used, potentially skin-irritant essential oils are usually diluted for topical use:
While Cinnamon Bark and Clove are notorious for causing skin irritation when improperly diluted, they don't carry the same reputation (risk) with internal use.
On a personal note, our family has used Birch, Peppermint and Rosemary undiluted. Once you gain personal experience using the oils, you'll learn which oils you need to dilute and which ones you prefer with less or no dilution. To avoid skin sensitization, consider diluting for long-term use.
Therapeutic Bath and Shower
2 cups Magnesium Chloride or Epsom Salt (or perhaps a cup of magnesium and a cup of Himalayan or sea salt)
8-10 drops Essential Oil (choose oils that are gentle on the skin that you've tested and know will be well tolerated)
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar (optional)
Combine the salt and essential oil and then add to hot running water. We like to get the bath water as warm as tolerable and then soak for at least 20 minutes for the full effect. Don't add a carrier oil to the bath, as that will inhibit the absorption of the Epsom salt and essential oils. Rather, if desired, apply a moisturizing oil to your skin after the bath.
Magnesium Chloride or Epsom Salt
pain reducing (fibromyalgia, arthritis, muscle soreness)
bronchodilator (may reduce asthma attacks)
shingles (may reduce severity of symptoms)
For the first time, start with a couple drops and apply to a small area of your skin. Once you are certain how your body will tolerate this application, then proceed as described.
After washing and rinsing, turn off the water. Apply a drop or two at a time to the feet, up the legs, abdomen, back, over the liver, chest, underarms and throat (avoid tender tissues). Ultimately you'll likely apply about 20 drops of essential oils. Turn the water back on. Continue to work the oil over your body as desired.
Essential oils for Bath/Shower
(Choose oils that are refreshing and gentle on the skin.
This is just a sampling of choices offered by Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD.8)
Black Spruce - adrenal tonic
Cardamom - cramps
Clary Sage - relaxing
Cypress - decongestant
Eucalyptus Radiata - highly antiviral, easy on the skin
Geranium - relaxing
Lavender - relaxing
Myrtle - lungs and thyroid, easy on the skin
Niaouli - invigorating, broad reasons to use
Palmarosa - immune system boost
Petitgrain - relaxing
Pine - adrenal tonic
Ravintsara - immune system boost, nerve tonic, easy on the skin
Roman Chamomile - relaxing, easy on the skin
Rose - nerve tonic, relaxing
Rosemary ct. verbenone - mucolytic (it is very important to use the chemotype verbenone)
Tea Tree - cleansing, may be irritating to some
Thyme ct. linalool - candida (it is very important to use the chemotype linalool)
Once you are comfortable using the oils in a bath or shower, you'll discover which oils suit you best. Some people enjoy the invigorating tingle and muscle relaxing effect of using a blend such as Pain-X in their bath. Explore the possibilities slowly, and you should feel the reward.
There is some debate amongst aromatherapists regarding the safe use of essential oils internally. However, in 1996 Michel Vanhove-Geert Devlieghere spoke at the First Australasian Aromatherapy Conference: "The anxiety about internal use of essential oils is due to a lack of knowledge." It is his contention that ingestion of essential oils may, in some circumstances, be safer, or more desirable, than topical application.
Compared to the vast number of essential oils available, there are relatively few that are possibly not suitable to be taken internally, and there is controversy over that list. When an oil has produced negative reactions, it's possible that they were of inferior quality or not used within reason.
If the goal is to get the essential oil into the bloodstream, consider that topical use of essential oils becomes internal use (whether diluted or not), in that the essential oil is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and then to the rest of the body. We need to determine which application best suits the need, a drop or two internally or on the skin. We feel that the oils, unless needed in the digestion system, are equally or more effective applied topically.
When we practice common sense and moderation in the usage of essential oils and only use pure, premium-quality oils, we rarely hear of harm, and then that is only temporary. If you feel to use an essential oil internally, ensure that the oil/blend will be both effective for the presenting condition and tolerable to the digestion system.
Common Methods for Internal Use:9
If ingesting *hot* essential oils such as Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Clove, Hyssop, Lemongrass, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme or Birch/Wintergreen, use extra caution and dilute accordingly.
Generally, 1 drop is sufficient when ingesting essential oils.
1. Add 1-3 drops (depending on the need and the oil used) to an empty capsule and dilute with a carrier oil such as olive oil.
2. Add 1-3 drops to a glass of water or suitable liquid (never plastic or styrofoam).
3. Drop a single drop directly onto the tongue and hold tongue to roof of mouth for quick absorption. Alternatively, put the drop on the back of a clean hand and lick it off (avoid getting the oil on your lips or it may briefly cause discomfort). This method allows the effectiveness of the oil to be maximized by being absorbed into the mucus membranes, potentially delaying its absorption into the liver where it is metabolized and the antimicrobial, mucolytic qualities possibly lost or reduced.
4. A drop or two in a teaspoon, add a bit of honey, lick off with spoon upside down to avoid the lips and swallow. This method transports the oil to the small intestine.
5. Add a drop on a piece of bread.
Pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and lung congestion respond very quickly to essential oils when delivered by suppositories. The essential oils bypass the liver and are fed directly into the heart-lung circulatory system. Thus, they reach the lower bronchial capillaries in their original lipophilic and volatile state, still capable of eliminating pathogenic microorganisms and dissolving and expectorating mucus. If helpful, a suppository can be used every 1-2 hours as needed. A quick way to accomplish a suppository is to put 1-3 drops of Lung Healing blend, Rosemary ct.verbenone, Myrtle or another mild oil of choice into an empty capsule and fill the rest full with a carrier oil such as Olive or Castor oil. Lubricate the capsule liberally and insert. Lie down or recline for about 30 minutes as the essential oils dissolve the capsule and move into the lungs. Always test your application on yourself before you apply to your child. Adjust the dilution if needed.10
What Is a Harmful Dose?
When used appropriately, essential oils prove beneficial, but when used outside of reason, they can be harmful. As an example, water is beneficial and harmless when consumed in common amounts but can prove fatal when consumed in inappropriate amounts (Death of a Contestant in KDND Radio Contest). Both Eucalyptus and Pennyroyal essential oils, for example, have been fatal in 1-oz doses. An ounce is about 600 drops (two tablespoons) of essential oil, which is certainly an unreasonable amount of oil! Tisserand notes that essential oils, as used in aromatherapy today, have not caused a single death.11
Please Note: Essential oils dissolve plastic, so they are not suitable to be used in plastic drinking containers, humidifiers, CPAP masks and asthmatic nebulizers.
Inhalation and Diffusing
Other than simply inhaling the oils, the easiest and simplest way of putting essential oils into the air for inhalation is to use an aromatic diffuser. A cold air diffuser uses room-temperature air to blow the oil up through a nebulizer/atomizer. This creates a micro-fine mist that is dispersed into the air. The oils will then remain suspended for several hours to freshen and improve the quality of the air. The antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties of the oils kill bacteria and help reduce fungus and mold. Essential oils, when diffused, have been found to reduce the amount of airborne chemicals and metallics. Many essential oils, such as Lemongrass, Lemon and our blends of Purify, Citrus Blessing and Plague Defense are highly antibacterial and are extremely effective for eliminating and destroying airborne germs and bacteria.
Inhaled oils interact with cells at the back of the nose and can stimulate a change in the areas of the brain that control nausea and vomiting as well as sleep and mood.
Unlike candles or aroma lamps, cold-air diffusers disperse oils without heating or burning, which can render the oil therapeutically less beneficial and possibly create toxic compounds. Some claim that burned oils may become carcinogenic. Research shows that cold air diffusing certain oils may:
• Reduce and/or eliminate bacteria, fungus, mold
• Relax the mind and body, relieve tension and clear the mind
• Improve concentration, alertness and mental clarity
• Stimulate neurotransmitters
• Stimulate secretion of endorphins
• Stimulate growth hormone production and receptivity
• Digest petrochemicals on the receptor sites
• Improve the secretion of IgA antibodies that fight candida
• Improve digestive function
• Improve hormonal balance
• Relieve headaches
• Dispel odors
Cinnamon Bark, Oregano and the oils found in our Plague Defense blend were all tested by Weber State University and shown to kill 100% of the airborne bacteria present when diffused into the atmosphere.12
Diffusing typically helps eliminate allergy symptoms, and Tisserand writes that "there is no documented evidence of inhaled allergy to any authentic essential oil, the only existing evidence relates to fragrances."6
If you have a humidifier, you may be able to secure a cotton cloth sprinkled with a few drops of oil in front of the escaping mist. Keep in mind that essential oils dissolve plastic and may damage your humidifier if put inside with the water, and the cloth with the oils on it may "etch" into the plastic case, so you'll need to be careful how you attach the cloth. Essential oils may degrade plastics in CPAP masks and nebulizers used by asthmatics.
This should cover the basics of safe methods for essential oil usage. We have a PDF file available for those who'd like to print it out for off-line use (top right of this page).
It is our hope and prayer that you will experience the wonderful healing blessings of essential oils and that the Lord will bless all your efforts to help your loved ones stay healthy.
1 Schnaubelt, Kurt, Ph.D. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, Healing Arts Press, 2011, p. 31.
2 Price, Shirley and Leon, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, p. 67.
3 Stewart, David PhD., D.V.M., The Chemistry of Essential Oils.
4 Schnaubelt, Kurt, Ph.D. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, Healing Arts Press, 2011, pps. 74-76.
5 Ibid, p. 139.
6 Ibid, p. 81.
7 Ibid, p. 129.
8 Ibid. p. 124-125.
9 Ibid. p. 132-134.
10 Ibid, p. 137.
11 Tisserand, Robert, Challenges Facing Essential Oil Therapy: Proof of Safety, Presented to the Alliance ofInternational Aromatherapists (AIA) Conference in Denver, Colorado, October 18-21 2007.
12 Essential Oil Desk Reference, Essential Science Publishing, Fourth Edition 2009, p. 24.