How to Identify and Use Essential Oils

By Kacey Kroh, Abshier House, Abshier House

Ethereals, more commonly known as essential oils, are the oils derived from any plant. Throughout time these oils were created for many applications including aromatherapy, cleaning, eating, insect repellant, and in some cases medicine.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/botamochi]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/botamochi

While these oils are technically not essential for health, they provide an alternative to the more modern synthetically made products today. People who are sensitive to chemicals or people who prefer an “all-natural” lifestyle, swear by the benefits brought on by the use of these oils. Due to a lack of scientific research and the variety and intensity of many ethereals, very little real documentation shows that the different oils do as they promise.

True nonsynthetic essential oils are extracted by one of two processes: either they are extracted through distillation or through expression.

Synthetic oils are made with charcoal carbon compounds in which the chemical makeup of the charcoal is tampered with in a laboratory to make different scents similar to the original oils they aim to mimic.

Distillation of essential oils

Through distillation, steaming of the plant debris in a still or distillery is performed, where the chemical compounds of the plant break down and output both liquid and oil. The oil collected is packed full of vitamins and other essential plant compounds and, therefore, referred to as essential oils. Known as “absolutes,” the water collected is less potent and commonly used in fragrances and other beauty applications.

Distillation processes are usually performed when the plant is unable to produce enough oil or liquid from expression.

Some distillations use chemicals to aid in more abundant oil output. Avoid these semi-synthetic forms since no long-term research has been done to prove the chemicals used don’t cause a plethora of side effects.

Expression of essential oils

Through expression, pressing, squeezing, and grinding is performed, in which the “juices” of the organic material are simply just squashed out of the plant. Both oil and liquid is extracted.

Expression is usually performed only on plants that are high in oil content due to the amount of work needed to collect the oils. For instance, imagine trying to squeeze oil out of a root, or tree bark!

Buying ethereals and absolutes

When considering a purchase of essential oils and/or their derivatives, take note of the following:

  1. Make sure the company is reputable for quality and labeling.

  2. Make sure the oil or extract is all-natural and nothing synthetic is added. (Especially if you are going to heat or eat the oil.)

  3. Check the label for things such as ingredients, date of harvest, country of origin, potency, and toxicity. (If this info is not on the label, do not buy it!)

  4. Avoid any plant oils that you may have allergies to, since the potency is usually 75 to 100 times more concentrated than in its original form; it may cause severe allergic reactions.

Using essential oils

Ethereals can be used in a huge variety of ways. From aromatics to cleaning and even vermin control, the main use nearly always stems back to the aroma the oil gives off. Only in applications in which the oil is eaten is the amount of scent the oil gives off not important.

Keep in mind that very few essential oils can be eaten and most are considered toxic if ingested. This information often can be found on the label, and if it is not listed as “edible” or “food-safe” do not ingest the oil. Since being poisoned through the skin can occur as well, avoid using the oil as a tincture unless it is labeled as food safe.

Aromatherapy uses for essential oils

The most common use of essential oil is in the aromatherapy field in which each oil is given a distinct set of characteristics or attributes. The attributes then become active when the oil is heated up . . . this can be done in many ways, such as adding a few drops of oil to a hot shower or bath, or by using an oil warmer, diffuser, or even oil saturated incense.

A little oil goes a long way! For example, when taking a bath if you add too much mint oil, you may feel a cooling sensation at first and then an overwhelming freezing feeling causing teeth chattering shivers and the false notion of body temperature drops. In fact, you are still the same temperature, but you trick your brain into thinking it’s freezing by confusing your skin sensors. This sensory overload can sometimes take hours to wear off!

Most common essential oils

All essential oils can be collected from the barks, berries, flowers, leaves, peels, roots, saps, seeds, and woods of various plants. A list of the most common essential oils and their aromatic attributes are as follows:

Common Essential Oils
Oil Aromatic Attributes
Barks
Cassia — Oil of self-assurance Helps those who hold back and try to hide, replaces fear with
self-assurance
Cinnamon — Oil of sexual harmony Dispels body rejection and fear of jealousy
Birch — Oil of support Offers courage to do things alone as well as reestablish roots
with family
Berries
Allspice — Oil of life Strengthens life balance
Juniper — Oil of night Reduces irrational fears and reoccurring nightmares
Olive — Oil of hunger Dispels the feeling of hunger and excessive food wants
Flowers
Chamomile — Oil of spiritual purpose Removes feelings of drudgery and frustration
Clary sage — Oil of vision Dismisses discouragement and unblocks creativity
Clove — Oil of boundaries Dispels codependency and gives you the courage to say no!
Geranium — Oil of love and trust Strengthens all ailments and issues (catch-all essential
oil)
Jasmine — Oil of responsibility Desire to “own up” to an individual’s
responsibility
Lavender — Oil of communication Addresses fear of rejection, dishonesty, and fear of being
unheard
Ylang-ylang — Oil of inner child Reduces joylessness, grief, and sadness
Leaves
Basil — Oil of renewal Relieves stress and strengthens the body to its natural state
of rest
Cilantro — Oil of releasing control Detoxifies emotions and releases the soul from heavy
burden
Common sage — Oil of loyalty Re-establishes loyalty to loved ones
Eucalyptus — Oil of wellness Desire to escape responsibility
Melaleuca — Oil of energy boundaries Creates awareness to parasitic and codependent
relationships
Oregano — Oil of humility Helps an individual combat materialism and overly attached
pride
Patchouli — Oil of physicality Helps relieve the shame an individual has over his or her own
body
Peppermint/spearmint — Oil of a
buoyant heart
Dispels pessimistic thoughts and strengthens ones heart to
fight off depression and pain
Rosemary — Oil of knowledge Addresses ignorance and learning
Tea tree — Oil of cleansing Cleanses an individual’s mind and body.
Thyme — Oil of forgiving Removes such feelings of anger, rage, and hate
Wintergreen — Oil of surrender Strengthens the feeling of control and reduces obsessive
self-reliance
Peels
Bergamot — Oil of self-expectancy Anti-depressant that strengthens optimism and hope
Grapefruit — Oil of honor Weakens anxiety and builds strength against mental
disorders
Lemon — Oil of focus Assists in mental fatigue, and focus; dispelling confusion
Lime — Oil of zest Strengthens apathy and dissolves suicidal thoughts
Orange — Oil of abundance Helps individuals deal with work obsession, hoarding, and
envy
Tangerine — Oil of cheer and creativity Strengthens creativity in individuals as well as boosts
cheerful emotions.
Roots
Galangal — Oil of pain Anesthetic that heals pain, anguish, trauma, and wounds
Ginger — Oil of empowerment Addresses powerlessness from blaming others
Valerian — Oil of centering and decent Discourages social disconnection and strengthens apathy
Saps
Frankincense — Oil of truth Dispels fears of abandonment
Myrrh — Oil of mother earth Addresses mistrust and malnourishment
Seeds
Anise — Oil of unmasking Reignites motivation
Nutmeg — Oil of euphoria Creates euphoric feelings of love, peace, and harmony
Woods
Camphor — Oil of motion Relieves rigidity, perfectionism, and controlling
tenseness
Cedar — Oil of community Brings individuals together by opening awareness in people to
their support system
Rosewood — Oil of beauty Reaffirms beauty, while dispelling vainness
Sandalwood – Oil of sacred devotion Strengthens spiritual self

Although this list contains many of the most common essential oils and their aromatherapy attributes, any plant technically can be made into an essential oil by distilling or expressing the most oil productive part of that particular plant, and each plant may share some of the same attributes as the ones listed here.

Do not try to make your own essential oils! Unless you have an organic garden or access to large amounts of organic plant-stuffs, the amount of raw material needed is paramount compared to the meager end result of oil and can be super expensive; the distillation and expression processes can be quite time consuming as well.