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Essential Information About Essential Oils

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 in For Beginners, Green Clean, Skin & Hair Care | 2 comments

Essential Information About Essential Oils

Since essential oils are the active ingredients in many of our personal and cleaning products it is important for you to know how to determine which essential oils are safe for you to use, purchase good quality oils, and store the oils properly.

Safety Concerns

Before trying a new essential oil do your research to find out if it is safe for you to use. Many people seem to believe; “It’s all natural, so it’s OK.” When I hear this my reply is; “So is poison ivy, but you don’t put it in a salad.”

Remember, even though we are using essential oils for their positive effects on our bodies and in our homes they may also have negative effects when used incorrectly, in excess or on someone with a sensitivity. Rosemary, for example, should not be used if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant because it stimulates blood flow.

Other essential oils are known to  irritate sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin you should test an essential oil by diluting it with a carrier oil to twice the strength that you plan to use in your product. Put a few drops of the diluted essential oil on the pad of a band-aid, then stick the band-aid on the inside of your forearm. Wear the band-aid for 48 hours to see if you have a reaction.

For your safety you should only use essential oils for their intended purpose. Most essential oils are not produced in food grade facilities and are not safe to consume. Unless an essential oil is labeled as safe to ingest do not use it in food, lip balm or other lip products.

The online resource Kim and I use most for our safety research is New Directions Aromatics and we recommend The Essential Oils Handbook for your bookshelf.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for their opinion a well.

Purchasing Tips

Starting with good quality essential oils is incredibly important if you want to be successful with your projects.

First, ensure the essential oils you are buying come from a botanical source. Some “essential oils” are actually just chemicals. They will smell right, but they  won’t have the therapeutic properties you desire (antibacterial, deodorizing, etc). Check the label or web site description and if you see the Latin plant name you can be confident it comes from a botanical source.

Referring to the Latin name to identify the essential oil you want can also ensure you get the best oil for your planned use. For example, lavender essential oil from Lavandula officinalis will have a strong, floral scent but few therapeutic qualities while Lavandula dentate will have a milder scent and many therapeutic qualities.

Before you are done reviewing the product information, make sure you are buying an essential oil not a fragrance oil. Essential and fragrance oils are often packaged in a similar fashion so it can be confusing.

It is worth mentioning that the packaging for essential oils will usually be very plain if they are being sold as supplies rather than an end product for aromatherapy. Essential oils are often much less expensive when they are being sold as supplies so these are the most cost effective to buy. Whether they are sold as supplies or the end product, however, all essential oils should be in brown bottles to keep the light out because light can degrade the oil.

Since buying essential oils can be tricky, so we put together a list of reputable vendors with whom we’ve had a good experience:

Proper Storage

Store your essential oils in a dark, cool place  to extend their shelf life.  That can be a basement or an air tight container in the refrigerator. Most essential oils will last for one year with proper storage.

Nicole knows making small changes for the greener add up over time and hopes you’re inspired to make some changes of your own after reading her articles. She focuses on easy, green, homemade personal products and green living tips for city dwellers. Nicole lives in Pittsburgh, PA and you can find her on twitter at @_nlg_.

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  1. Mary Jane

    Thanks for the great online company recommendations for essential oils-I especially like New Directions Aromatics.

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