How do Essential Oils Work?

This is a question we get from clients all the time. Along with “Do essential oils actually work?” Today, we’ll take some time to talk about what essential oils are and how they work. We’ll talk about science and, because I can’t help it, we’ll talk about some of the more “woo-woo” ways essential oils work.

Essential oils are the “juice” from plants all around the world. Think about taking an orange rind and squeezing it so hard that an oily substance came out of it. This substance would be orange essential oil. It is the essence of the plant. Oils can be extracted from the root of the plant, the stems, leaves or flowers. There are many ways to extract the oils. Pressure (like squeezing the orange rind) and steam distillation are the two most common extraction methods.

Oooh, the other question we get a lot of is “What is the difference between essential oils I can buy at the grocery store and the super expensive oils my friend sells?” In short, quality and purity. A quick disclaimer….we do sell Young Living products in our clinic. I am not here to sell you Young Living products. I have used the store bought oils, I’ve used higher end brands in lush bath stores. I’ve bought oils from Rocky Mountain Oils and Doterra. I’m not as concerned as where you buy them as I am that you know what you are buying.

I do believe there is a difference between the store bought oils and the higher end brands (i.e. Rocky Mountain Oils, Doterra or Young Living). These oils typically have a higher measurable quality of oil including things like purity and extraction method. So I do think you should always use a higher quality oil over a store bought oil, but I have not experienced a significant difference between the higher end brands. (Just my $0.02).

So how do these oils work? Well, we can use essential oils three ways. We can inhale them, put them on our skin or ingest them.

Okay I’m about to get a little sciency on you. Stay with me. When we inhale a smell, small particles that make up that smell enter our nose, those particles make contact with our olfactory nerve. Here’s where it gets cool. Your olfactory nerve changes those physical particles into electronic impulses that are sent to the limbic system in your brain. Seriously? How cool is that…..your body can change physical particles into an energetic impulse in your brain.

In terms of evolution, the limbic system is among the oldest parts of your brain which govern emotions, behavior and long term memory. So as you inhale essential oils, you’re directly effecting the area of your brain that governs your emotions, behavior and memory. It is why when we smell lavender we feel calm, or when we smell peppermint, we can clear our brain fog and get focused.

So what happens when we put them on our skin? Our skin is our largest organ of elimination, this is why things like dry brushing, steam baths and sweating is so good for you. Our skin also absorbs most of what we put on it. Essential oils are small on a molecular level. They penetrate the skin and underlying tissue and enter the blood stream where they work their magic. This is where the anti-fungal, anti-bacterial qualities come in handy for your health. Not only do we get the benefit of absorption when we put oils on our skin, but we get the additional benefits of inhalation.

Speaking of, let’s talk about what makes essential oils “magic”. Essential oils are made of a combination of naturally occurring alcohols, aldehydes, alkenes, esters, ethers, ketones, phenols and phenylpropenes. All science, no magic. Each of theses substances have specific qualities. Oils high in aldehydes such as cinnamon, lemongrass and lime are known for for being calming, supporting healthy skin and supporting cardiovascular, digestive, immune and nervous system health. Oils high in phenols, such as thyme, oregano, clove or basil, are aromatically invigorating and have antioxidant properties. If you want to geek out on science a bit more check out this ebook.

Finally, you can ingest oils. I’m not going to spend much time talking about ingesting essential oils as this can be dangerous as not all essential oils are safe to ingest. Please make sure you do your own research or are working with some one with training in ingesting essential oils before ingesting anything.

Alright…and now the “woo woo” part. Even this part is pretty sciency. Science has discovered that everything has a measurable frequency. Chicken pox has a frequency, joy has a frequency, the food that we eat has a measurable frequency and essential oils have a frequency.

I’m sure it’s no surprise but things like chicken pox, a cold or flu, cancer……these all have pretty low frequencies. Even joy or elation, which have higher frequencies are low compared to the frequency of essential oils. When we smell essential oils, put them on our skin or safely ingest them, we are absorbing the frequency of that oil. As we bring that frequency into our own body, our frequency starts to raise. High frequency states are states of health, ease, abundance, joy….you get the picture.

We’d love to hear your experience with essential oils or answer any questions you have. Comment here or follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more health and wellness information as well as massage deals and classes.