The recent popularity of DIY (“do-it-yourself”)–whether it’s skincare or household cleaning products—has introduced essential oils as a staple in many households, and rightfully so. Not only do these concentrated plant oils leave your house smelling like a spa, they also have amazing physical and psychological benefits for the body.
But before you run off and start mixing your favourite scents, you need to know a few things. Not all essential oils (I’m going to call them EOs) are created equal. They also pack a powerful punch and need to be used with some caution. I don’t mean to put a damper on your DIY fun or cause confusion though, so the next time you go to use or purchase EOs, first ask these four questions:
1. How will the essential oils be used?
As a general rule, all EOs used should be of the highest quality. I must stress that if you are using EOs for therapeutic use, meaning for inhalation or application on the skin, it is absolutely essential (no pun intended!) to verify purity. EOs have the ability to penetrate the skin and can enter the bloodstream quite easily (which is, by the same token, why they can be so beneficial as a therapy). As a rule, EOs should never be ingested, or used on the skin without first mixing with a carrier oil (such as grape seed or sweet almond oil).
2. Who will be using the essential oils?
EOs are often called the ‘life source’ or ‘blood’ of a plant. Since they are highly concentrated, they can either provide amazing benefits to the body, or cause adverse affects. For this reason, some EOs are not safe for pregnant women, children, and individuals with specific health conditions. Safety guidelines, certified aromatherapists, and healthcare practitioners should be consulted before use. Also note that some EOs, such as citrus or bergamot, will cause photosensitivity to the skin if exposed to sun.
3. Where did the essential oil come from?
There are many varying qualities of EOs but few regulations. For example the term “therapeutic grade” was actually coined as a marketing term and is not a regulated designation. The quality of an EO needs to be scrutinized in the same way as produce or ingredients in skincare products. You always want to ensure that an EO contains information about organic or wild-crafted growing conditions, a statement of purity, the country of origin, the part of the plant used (for example, leaves or bark), the method of extraction, and the Latin name of the plant (to ensure that the EO does not contain extenders, dilutents, or adulterants).
4. Is this essential oil approved by a trusted source?
As you can see there are many things to take into account when testing the purity of EOs, and not everyone is a certified aromatherapist (myself included). Therefore you want to purchase your oils from a trusted source. I typically look for a supplier who has a relationship with its producers, who will readily supply safety and quality reports, and is owned by a trusted aromatherapy specialist.
The following resources can be useful to help you learn more:
Ultimately, have fun! Ditch the synthetic fragrances, and try your hand at some personalized aromatherapy.