There is a huge movement toward using essential oils in the home and for healing, but this has only been so prolific in recent times.
The use of essential oils and resins has been around for thousands of years, with cultures such as the Egyptians, Ancient China and Persia being some of the earliest documented, although many of them were still using the whole resins, dried plants and infused oils.
But in today's take-all society, few of us have stopped to consider where our bottled oils may be coming from, and whether or not their use is as safe as they believe it to be...
Consider how much plant product it takes to make a bottle of essential oil. Did you know it takes 4 tonnes of rose flowerheads to distill 1kg of Rose essential oil? Or that 500kg of Tea tree produces around 5kg of oil? Now have a think about the volume of essential oils we consume as a society! Thats a lot of plants in not too many bottles!
I personally don't use many essential oils for a few reasons, first and foremost how concentrated they can be. Essential oils are so potent, that if used over a prolonged period they can actually destroy your intestinal flora- the stuff we work so hard to support! Essential oils are well documented antiseptics. They wont be selective between pathogenic and beneficial!
Plants are made up of a whole lot of constituents and components, and things like the fibre, fat and protein components (all of which are in tact in whole herbs), all work to balance the delivery of the volatile and 'essential' oils of the plant. By removing these and concentrating the oils, you have immediately changed what nature had perfected.
In my topical remedies such as salves,i prefer to use infused oils over essential oils- oils and fats which have been slowly infused with the whole herb, over time. Slow herbalism if you prefer. I like to use this traditional method because the medium in which you infuse the herb can help carry the volatile oils and resins, and deliver them into the body (via the skin) with the necessary lipid-soluble nutrients that can optimise healing. It is a slower delivery of more nutrients, if you like, and can be particularly effective at maintain the delicate pH balance of the skin.
I see time and time again in clinic, the OVERuse of essential oils cause rashes - and im not referring to a contact rash, im referring to a secondary hive-like rash that comes about from two things;
1- A killing off of the gut flora and sudden spike in inflammation, and
2- A concentration of salicylic acid (in the essential oils) reaping havvoc on the liver's detoxification system. Once again resulting in inflammatory condition of the skin and intestinal tract.
Keep in mind that, generally speaking, essential oils are too concentrated to use on babies or in pregnancy for a prolonged period of time. Of course, acutely they can be amazing! But try and remember too, that the original forms of aromatherapy-type healing was done by using the WHOLE herb, and not a pharmaceutical grade extracted essential oil. Yes it is more subtle if you use the whole herb, but if you plan on using a lot of herbs in your life, try and stick to the more natural forms and extracts.