Choosing the Best Essential Oils
by Sue Hughes, MSEd, HHP, CNC
It’s always been of utmost importance to me that the supplements I recommend to my clients are not only easily absorbed by the body but also have ingredients that have been tested for purity by a trusted third party. So, I do a lot of research to make sure the brands I recommend are exactly what they say they are.
Orally-administered nutritional supplements are only one form of therapeutic support that I use in my practice. I am also a big fan of essential oils for this purpose. And, just like supplements, essential oils warrant thorough research before inhaling them or applying them topically. Unfortunately, what is on the bottle is not always what is in the bottle!
In reality there are significant differences in purity and price among the available essential oil brands out there. In the early days I tended towards the less expensive varieties, at that point ignorant of the sometimes costly process that goes into the preservation of the medicinal qualities of the plants/oils. Obviously my tendencies and essential oil preferences have since changed, and with good reason.
How Essential Oils Impact the Body
There is quite a bit of research showing that essential oils massaged onto the skin make it through to the bloodstream, with all of their components, very quickly. In fact, studies have found peak levels of the compounds of an essential oil in the bloodstream after just 19 minutes following topical application. With the skin being our largest organ, this doesn’t surprise me.
But that’s not all. What happens when we inhale essential oils? The following is an excerpt of an article by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT in Massage Today that explains it quite well:
Inhalation and the process of olfaction are well documented and understood. During inhalation, the volatile molecules of essential oils become a vapor which contacts the sensory nerves in the nasal passage. Now, the vapor is converted to an electrical charge that is carried via the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb and into the brain. (At this point, there are several theories of how the charge isrecognized.) However, it is then conveyed to the limbic region and reaches the hypothalamus, where it will continue on to either the ANS or the pituitary gland to stimulate hormone activity. Other molecules will pass into the cerebral cortex, stimulating memory, learning and emotional responses. Blood circulation is immediately accessed during inhalation via the nasal mucosa and the alveoli in the lungs.
The layperson translation of that technical-medical speak is that, when inhaled, the chemical compounds of an essential oil travel to the brain and the nervous system where they affect emotions (mood), memory and learning; they also absorb through the lungs into the bloodstream, affecting every other aspect of health. The bottom line to all of this is: whether applied topically or inhaled, essential oils travel to very important parts of our body very quickly. This makes it of foremost importance that we are certain that what it is we are massaging into our skin or breathing in through our lungs is pure and straight from the plant with no added chemicals. There are a bunch of oils for sale out there that use fillers in the form of cheap essential oils or synthetic chemicals, neither of which are specified on the label, just to bring down the price. If you use these oils, not only are you NOT getting the therapeutic health benefits that a pure product will provide, but you are actually sending toxins directly to your bloodstream and beyond! Not a good thing!!
Besides assuring the purity of an essential oil, it’s also critical that the process used to extract the essential oil from the plant did not damage the medicinal compounds within the oil. Overheating will alter or destroy these compounds, negatively affecting the efficacy of the end product.
Why I use Young Living Essential Oils
So after experimenting and researching essential oils ad nauseum, I fournd my personal preference to be Young Living brand essential oils. Here’s why:
First, Young Living maintains control of processing their oils from “Seed to Seal” – from selecting and planting the seed to cultivation to distillation to testing and sealing the product. This link explains the process in more detail: Seed to Seal This control assures that the end product is pure, uncontaminated and therapeutic grade. Most of the plants are grown on Young Living farms so you can be assured that there is no contamination by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides.
Because Young Living has its own farms, they also can control the soil, from mineral content to the use of enzymes and organic mulch, to assure proper plant development. Also, harvesting at the correct time is crucial for the end-product essential oil to adhere to the necessary standards. Then, in order to avoid contamination in transit, distillers are close to the fields and, for those oils sourced abroad, distillers are brought to the fields.
Despite being time-consuming and labor-intensive, it is a priority for Young Living to preserve all of the beneficial compounds in the oils, so they are steam distilled at low temperatures and pressures, using chemical-free spring water and food grade stainless steel distillers. Distillers are never cleaned with synthetic chemicals, and plants and oil in the distiller are discarded if ever a distillation gets too hot.
In addition to my confidence in the processing methodology of Young Living, I also like the fact that there has been a lot of scientific research performed using their essential oils. Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil from Young Living, for instance, has been studied for its incredible effect on cancer cells, stimulating programmed cell death of those cells while keeping the healthy cells alive and well! For more information on the use of sacred frankincense for cancer, visit my article titled: Healing Support for Cancer: Frankincense.
What is a "therapeutic grade" essential oil?
A “therapeutic grade” essential oil is an oil that passes independent testing prior to being sold to ensure that it is free of contamination and meets the standards set by AFNOR (Association Francais Normalization Organization Regulation). Although there are many oils that claim to be “therapeutic grade”, if AFNOR, ISO-AFNOR or EC-AFNOR is not on the label, there is no guarantee that they meet this standard. Interestingly, because of strict regulations, Young Living routinely rejects 30-40% of all plant materials offered by outside suppliers.
So there you have it – my take on the importance of essential oil quality based on the impressive ease at which these powerful substances make their way through your body!
If you would like more information on the health benefits of essential oils, or to place an order, visit http://healthybynaturehwc.com/young-living-essential-oils/
- Essential Oils: Labels, Purity and Life Force. What does it all mean?
- Labeling Aromatherapy Products for Retail Sale
- Cooke B, Ernst E. Aromatherapy: a systematic review. The British Journal of General Practice. 2000;50(455):493-496. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1313734/pdf/10962794.pdf
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