On the Path to Wellness with Essential Oils

December 7, 2014

Year ends are the time to take stock and make new resolutions, and though I’m feeling introspective lately, this shall not be a blog post on what I’m hoping to do or not do in the coming year. It is, however, motivated by a desire to live well, get healthier, and stay healthy. Despite last year’s resolutions to stop testing new skincare that will aggravate my sensitive skin, I’m getting to the realization that perhaps it is not so much what I’m putting on my skin that is irritating it, but something more systemic. Late nights, too much caffeine, junk food, insufficient water, etc are all taking their toll. And so, I’ve resolved to get back on the path to wellness!

There are many aspects to living well, I’m not going to bore you with my 101 promises to self, but something that I’ve started dabbling with and reading a whole lot on, is essential oils. When I was younger, I had bought into the whole illusion that essential oils are all “natural” and necessarily superior, and invested heavily in some high-end French skincare that claimed to use essential oils in their formulation. Instead of seeing stronger, more beautiful skin, I ended up with itchy, red, patches! And ever since then, I stayed clear of essential oils, in the mistaken belief that I’m allergic to all essential oils.

It wasn’t until very recently, when I found my little bub falling sick more often than I’d like and his precious baby skin developing severe eczema, that I decided to try some other forms of natural remedies apart from Western medicine. A kind mummy friend passed me samples of lavender oil mixed in with some cream which my lil fella really enjoys massaging with and helped his skin heal faster. And when the last bout of flu bit, I mixed some eucalyptus and citrus blend in a humidifier to help him sleep at night. So what’s next?

While I’m sure there are many brands of essential oils, and products claiming to contain essential oils, it is important to be discerning. Why is it that there are some products that just freak my skin out but others work marvelously? I spent an evening with Neal’s Yard Remedies’ trainer recently, and learnt more about the art of essential oils.

Essential Oils - Neals Yard Remedies

What are essential oils?

Essential oils have been called the “life blood of plants”, and are concentrated plant essences that help the plant to adapt to external aggressors. They act as plant hormones, regulating plant functions and orchestrating the production of vitamins and enzymes. They act as messengers and supervisors within the plant that help coordinate and initiate vital plant activities. Plants produce essential oils for a variety of purposes including protecting the plant from fungal and bacterial infection, even directing the plant to grow in a certain way in develop immunity.

What are essential oils good for?

The volatile nature of essential oils make them good for aromatherapy uses, which has seen a rise in popularity of essential oils in the recent decades. Inhalation is one of the best way to get it into the blood stream via the lungs and also it goes directly to the brain through the olfactory nerves. It is also possible to absorb essential oils through the skin, but dilution with a neutral carrier oil is usually necessary to prevent burns. Massage also has relexation benefits for the body and mind. Some also advocate taking essential oils orally and administering directly into tissues.

Studies have shown that essential oils possess homeostatic intelligence, always working towards restoring and maintaining balance. For example:

Why aren’t all essential oils the same?

Just as with food, essential oils come in varying grades, and only the highest grade has the capacity to promote healing. This depends on the source of the plant and whether it has been exposed to chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. These chemicals may end up in the essential oil and render harm when consumed.

The quality of processing is also important. The best quality is produced using a low temperature, water distillation method; but very little can be extracted in this manner, raising the cost substantially. Consequently, there are lower grade essential oils in the market that are extracted using chemical processes which are more efficient, but not pure. Again, those chemical additives may end up in the end product and cause allergies or irritation. Unfortunately, there is no universal standard or regulatory body overseeing the labeling of “essential oils” on products, even synthetic compounds made to replicate the fragrance of essential oils mixed into a diluted essential oil base may be marketed as containing essential oils, so consumers have to be extra careful.

Essential Oils - customized lotion

These days, you can’t start a conversation about essential oils without someone chiming in about Young Living. I’ve tried a couple of products from the brand, and that was where this story started. But even after speaking to several close friends who are devout fans, and perusing their massive online store, I just couldn’t get into it. My biggest mental block is Young Living’s MLM business model – never had good experiences with MLM and way too many unresolved issues & complains about their business ethics and bad customer service are floating around online. Many of the people I know who are touting Young Living oils (and trying to recruit me into their network) don’t really know much about the oils they are using except through hearsay.

I’m sure there are many more options out there.  But as a novice in the world of essential oils, I like being able to walk into a store and sniffing out which oils I like and finding out which ones I have a strong aversion towards. And as it turns out, our natural response to scents are instinctive and are strong indications of what our bodies need versus potentially allergic / sensitive to. More importantly, I really enjoy the complete holistic approach towards good health and beauty that Neals Yard Remedies adopts. Every store has a knowledgeable adviser who is able to recommend products to suit your concerns, and this extends beyond just essential oils but creams and health foods too. For example, I was thinking of picking up a bottle of lavender essential oil to relief my son’s eczema, but after speaking with the advisor, I picked up a bottle of Baby Massage Oil (which is a blend of chamomile to calm, lavender to soothe, and vitamin E to heal), and a tube of calendula cream instead as the pure lavender essential oil may prove too strong for him.

NYR picks

What I also liked about Neal’s Yard Remedies is their strong eco-consciousness. It was the first company to produce cosmetics that are certified organic by the Soil Association of UK, and have taken it to the additional step of clearly printing on each label the percentage of organic ingredients are in each product. Ingredients are all clearly listed on their website and on product labels, with the organically sourced ones marked accordingly. The company also has a strong corporate ethos, banning genetically modified organisms and nanoparticles from their product ingredients, and removing any ingredients that have the potential to harm. They also believe in sourcing from local farmers, and was the first UK high-street retailer to be certified carbon neutral.

A lot of these sound like marketing speak, and at the end of the day, what is most important is how effective the products are, and Neals Yard Remedies may not be the only company producing great essential oils. At the same time, essential oils are not the only products that NYR carry, and I’m just starting to explore all that the brand has to offer.  But I have enjoyed what I’ve tried so far, and hope to be able to bring you more in depth reviews on specific products very soon!

xo Linda

9 responses to “On the Path to Wellness with Essential Oils”

  1. Sil says:

    This was a really informative post. I didn’t know a thing about EO. I do enjoy burning some flower oils, I find that the smell relaxes me. I hope that you’re having luck with the treatment for your son’s eczema 🙂

    • silverkis says:

      Hi Sil, i’m glad you found the post helpful. I started writing this blog hoping to do more such work, but it takes a lot of time to write, and i’m not always sure people find it interesting. I know alot of my regular readers just skip it entirely, but it’s there anytime people want to refer. Thanks for taking time to read my writing, and leaving me such sweetness whenever you can!!! BIG HUGS!!!

  2. Sunny says:

    Aromatherapy for the win! I am a believer of aromatherapy, although lately I have grown to be more cautious of slapping products with a high concentration of essential oils on my face. I’ve actually never tried anything from Neal’s Yard! Not even sure it’s available here, but I’ll look into it 🙂

    • silverkis says:

      Hi Sunny, yeah it’s not all good on the skin… so i’m still cautious. But NYR is cool… i think you can order it online!

      • Alison says:

        I report on health and know a lot about essential oils. Here are a couple of tips: Quality counts and Neal’s Yard is a reputable brand. Ordinary beauty lines that use EO’s as ingredients may not have the same quality sourcing and it does make a difference– how it was pressed, where it was sourced, what else is in the product. I also would not recommend using undiluted EOs on the face or eyes. I would also avoid products with a high content of citric oils as these are potentially reactive for sensitive people– things like lemon and orange– unless they are way down the ingredient list as a preservative. Calendula is a very healing ingredient for the skin and there are also many health lines that carry salves and other products made from him. There is also a difference in an oil used for inhaling and one used topically.From my experience, the quality of Young Living is quite good– from a sourcing perspective they are excellent. But I share your sense about MLMs. So what I do is participate just to get a better price on the specific oils I want and skip all the marketing and don’t sell to others. That is my perspective as someone who wants people to be assured that they can trust my information without worrying that I am profiting from their decision. For the same reason, I don’t ever follow affiliate links as their use taints the information in my eyes. That may be just me.

        • silverkis says:

          Thanks for your honest and insightful feedback, Alison. I’m glad to know that i’m on the right track here in terms of differentiating between good and bad EOs. I hear you on how to approach YL… I’ve considered it myself. But the need for an upfront membership fee, no matter how little, still poses a mental block for me. 😛

          • Alison says:

            I hear you. I got a free membership by ordering an intro pack by another brand at a conference. They did not have an ingredient list and lo and behold when the pack came I found that all of these other products aimed at various uses contained orange oils, a cheaper oil than many of the ones that are most helpful. That pack went right back. That being said, using essential oils as perfumes is probably healthier than many of the synthetic fragrances in use, which can be sensitizing for some people.

          • silverkis says:

            Yes you’re right, synthetic fragrances are really no good for us… especially those of us with sensitive skin. But i suppose they are cheaper to produce for the mass market.

    • Carmela says:

      Sunny. Please check out Neal’s yard it is such an amazing business Certified Organic gmo free, cruelty free, UK based soil association certified. Award winning Health and beauty products since 1981❤ here is the link please message me with any questions Love, Carmela. us.nyrorganic.com/shop/carmelatrujillo

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