Plants have built-in defense and repair mechanisms. These are commonly found in the plants' oils. For example, camphor, citronella, menthol and limonene can be toxic to plant predators. However, they have beneficial applications for human use when utilized correctly. Distillation is commonly used to obtain the oils. The oil sourced in this manner is highly concentrated.
Aromatherapy utilizes essential oils in many different ways, not just for olfactory (scent) use. When used for an effect via smell, essential oils carry out that effect by working on the limbic portion of the brain.
As a simplified example of how essential oils may work in the brain, when you smell lemon oil some of the molecules dissolve into the mucus that lines the roof of the nose. It then stimulates smell (olfactory) receptors. Then, olfactory neurons take the signal from the receptors and eventually reach the olfactory cortex. This allows you to smell the lemon's tart scent.
But, mitral cells do not stop at the olfactory cortex: they carry signals from the scent to areas of the brain's limbic system. Some mitral cells connect with the amygdala, which is associated with learning and with memory. This may explain why certain smells make us remember certain events in our life.
Essential oils contains active chemical compounds that, when applied to the skin, enter the bloodstream and support the body in many ways. For example, many essential oils contain anti-inflammatories which exert a marked effect on the body. Over 99 different chemical constituents have been identified to date in Boswellia cerrata (Frankincense) alone.
For application to the skin, the essential oils should be diluted into a carrier oil (such as olive oil, grapeseed and other beneficial oils). Some individuals vary in their tolerance to certain oils. It is best to test a small amount before using. For example, three drops into a teaspoon of a carrier oil such as olive oil can be a way to start testing tolerance. Apply to the inner crook of the elbow and allow several hours to pass. If there is no reaction, you can gradually increase the essential oil concentration until you reach the desired scent or effect level. Any internal use should be under the direction of your healthcare professional.
To see the pure essential oils we carry, please see our Oils Category.