Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are You In Or Out?

There are lots of questions surrounding the use of essential oils.  There have been many books written, seminars given, and classes taught on all the ins and outs, the benefits and the dangers of oils.  I don't want to go into depth right now about what all the oils are for, which are better for what etc.  But I do want to give a couple rules of thumbs that will make it easier when navigating the world of essential oils.  Now we all know rules are meant to be broken, and what I am going to say today is no exception.  There are always going to be oils that bend the rules, people that bend the rules, and situations that bend the rules.  But none the less I hope these will help you as you start out using oils.

The first rule of thumb I have is in answer to the question "In or out" regarding which essential oils can be used internally and which ones should be used only externally.  First, of course make sure you have a high quality oil, one that is not diluted in other oils, has  not been distilled with solvents, or has perfumes or chemicals added to enhance it.  Once you determine your oil is indeed safe, follow this rule of thumb: If I would eat it in real life, I can probably eat the oil.  So, if the oil is from a plant or fruit you would consume the oil is most likely safe to ingest.  A few examples of such oils would be: lemon, lime, tangerine, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, oregano, spearmint, peppermint etc.  Now, like I said there are exceptions, some oils that you wouldn't usually go chomping down on can be very effective when used internally.  But I usually suggest you wait until you have a broader knowledge of oils before you begin branching into those oils.  And a word of caution here, don't just ingest a essential oil because someone else says you can.  Weather it is in a class, a book, or suggested to you face to face, if it is not a plant you would usually think of ingesting, take a step back and do a little research.  With the internet and the availability of multiple opinions that it brings to our finger tips, there is rarely a situation where you can't at least get several points of views on any oil and it's uses.  And of course the internet is not the most reliable source, but if the common opinion is that an oil should not be consumed, probably better to be on the safe side.

The second rule of thumb I have is in answer to the question "straight or diluted?"  Which oils are safe to apply directly to your skin or take straight internally, and which oils must be diluted.  And my rule of thumb is always dilute, unless you are sure.  Better safe than sorry on this one.  Essential oils are extremely concentrated, and even what is absolutely fine on one person could burn another person's skin.  Be very careful about recommending another person use an oil straight just because you did and had no issues with it.
When taking oils internally, diluting is a good rule too, even if it is just a little water or milk.  Oils can burn the sensitive skin inside your mouth, so diluting them, or putting them in a capsule and swallowing them is always the safest.  There are some oils that typically don't have to be diluted, but depending on where you are applying them, could cause an issue.  For example, you might not put tea tree oil straight on your face around your eyes, but you could apply it straight to a cut or scrape on your knee.  In the same way a lot of  oils that usually should be diluted, can be applied straight to the bottom of your feet.  But if in doubt, always dilute.  A few drops of a carrier oil like sweet almond, or olive oil won't hurt a thing and will help insure any sensitive skin has a protective barrier.  As you get more comfortable using oils, and more aware of how your skin and the skin of those in your family responds to oils you may be able to start using many more oils straight on your skin, but take it slow.   Being a red head, you'd think that my skin would be very sensitive, but actually my skin is like a rock most of the time!  I apply oil straight that a lot of people wouldn't dream of using without a carrier oil, but even oils that I use all the time burn my husbands skin, so just be careful.   And some oils may surprise you.  You might think lemon and orange are every day fruits and think you can apply them straight to your skin as much as desired, but they create photosensitivity in your skin, and can cause sunburns if applied before going outside.  And there are many other oils with hidden "side effects" (if you want to call them that)  so, read up on individual oils and study their properties.  Try to read books published by authors writing about the actual properties of the plants and oils, not just what the essential oil companies put out.  Books written by those who have studied and used essential oils for years, and are devoted to ancient cultures and learning the properties of each individual herb and it's corresponding essential oils usually tend to offer a more balanced perspective on the actual properties of the herbs and oils than the information put out by essential oil companies.  Not that the information essential oil companies put out is not helpful, it can be very educational, but sometimes can lean only towards all of the wonderful benefits of the oils, and not also the accompanying dangers and potential hazards of each plant and oil.  Again, essential oils are extremely concentrated, so you need to know the pros and cons of each oils not just all the pros.
Knowing the potential dangers or "side effects" will not make you more afraid of using the oils, but will free you up to use them with confidence!

And YES, in case you are wondering, I will be writing soon about individual oils that I love and use all the time, why I think they are so fabulous, and I'll be giving you recipes for things I've created over the years that I can't imagine living without, such as ear drops that will stop an infant screams from the pain of an ear infection in it's tracks and a butt salve that had mom's swearing by it long before I had my little one.  But I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't lay a bit of foundation work for essential oils first.  Educated users are always the safest and the best!  But the fun stuff is coming soon and all my blog posts won't just bee about the mundane details!
If you've found my blog posts interesting or helpful and are looking forward to what is coming next I always appreciate your comments, or likes and shares on Facebook!

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