Essential Oils 101
Common Essential Oils Questions Answered
New to essential oils? We asked our resident aromatherapist to answer some of the most common questions about essential oils and the history of aromatherapy.
What is the History of Essential Oils?
We have been benefiting from the use of medicinal and aromatic plants for thousands of years, from their use as a medicine to their use in luxurious baths. Steam-distilled essential oils can be traced back to the 11th century Persia through the work of the famous physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna), who invented the cooling coil still used in modern day distillation. Because his invention led to more refined methods of extracting essences of plant material, there was more of an emphasis placed on essential oils and how they can be used to support overall wellbeing. Then, René Gattefossé, a French perfumer and chemist, coined the term "aromatherapy" in 1937, to describe the therapeutic use of essential oils. This in part stemmed from when he burned his hand, and as a result developed severe gas gangrene. He was amazed at how the use of small applications of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil helped support the healing of those infected areas. Since then the use of essential oils has significantly grown. We are now rediscovering the power of these ancient essences and hope to demystify essential oils for you.
What is an essential oil and how are they made?
An essential oil is produced starting from gland secretions found in the leaves, seeds, roots, fruit rinds, wood and flowers of medicinal and aromatic plants. Then they are transformed by steam distillation, hydrodistillation, and cold expression into essential oils.
How do I use essential oil?
There are many ways to safely use essential oil. Below are some of the most common ways.
Inhalation: Add the recommended number of drops of an undiluted essential oil or an essential oil blend on a tissue, cotton ball or to the wick of a blank nasal inhaler. Deeply inhale for 2-4 minutes and alternate between nostrils every minute. Do not continuously inhale longer than 30 minutes. Wait at least 1 hour between sessions. Use as needed.
Diffusion: Bring the power of nature indoors and enhance your wellbeing with an essential oil diffuser. Create your own aromatic blend by adding the recommended number of undiluted essential oils drops to an ultrasonic diffuser, or waterless nebulizer (our favorite type).
- Passive Diffusion: Add the recommended number of undiluted essential oil drops onto lava rock, handkerchiefs, rocks, or clay for the natural aerial diffusion of essential oils.
Local Massage: Add the recommended number of essential oil drops to a carrier oil and massage over a specific and localized area of the body.
Full Body Massage: Add the recommended number of essential oil drops to a carrier oil and gently massage over the body. Be careful to avoid the eyes and mouth if the massage also includes the head and face.
Bath: Add the recommended number of essential oil drops to a carrier oil, or with an emulsifier and/or Epsom salts. Add the recommended amount of the diluted blend to a bathtub that is filled with enough warm water up to the waist, and soak for 5-10 minutes. Don’t forget to inhale deeply!
Compress: Add the recommended number of diluted essential oil drops to a bowl of warm or cool water. Place a small hand towel into the water and wring out excess. Place the compress on the specific area of the body for 30 minutes. Wait at least 1 hour between applications.
- Steam Inhalation: Add the recommended number of undiluted essential oils drops to a bowl of hot water. Cover head and bowl with a towel and deeply inhale steam. Intermittent inhalation: 3-5 minutes on and then 2 minutes off. No more than 25 minutes of inhalation per session. A minimum of 1 hour between sessions.
Spot Application: There are some scenarios where undiluted essential oils may be used topically (i.e. neat application) - for example in the case of insect bites; however, this practice should only be carried out by professionally trained and certified clinical aromatherapists. Using undiluted essential oils can increase the risk of skin reactions, systemic toxicity, and drug interactions.
How to dilute an essential oil?
Opposed to neat application of essential oils directly applied to the skin, diluted essential oils are those mixed with carriers (e.g. vegetable oils, gels) at various percentages according to one’s health history, condition, and safety considerations. When diluting an essential oil, add the recommended number of essential oil drops to the applicator, and then add the carrier.
What is a carrier oil?
Essential oils used in topical applications require a carrier oil. Essential oils are potent (50 to 100 times more concentrated than the plant itself) and are therefore more safely and best used on the body with the aid of a vegetable oil. Carrier oils allow for even distribution of the essential oil across the area of the body being treated, and better permeation through the skin. An example of a carrier oil is jojoba oil (fun fact - jojoba oil isn’t really an oil, but a wax!).
How do I know the dilution rate?
A dilution rate will vary depending on many factors including age, health, the condition being addressed, whether the condition is acute or chronic, prescribed medications, the location of the condition, and the overall safety profile of the essential oil(s) of choice. On average 2-2.5% dilutions are used with the exception of 0.5-1% dilutions which are reserved for facial conditions, people on heavy medication, infants and small children, pregnant women past the first trimester, women breastfeeding, and in some cases for people suffering from chronic conditions. Always consult a professionally trained and certified clinical aromatherapist to ensure the right dilution for you.
How do I store and preserve my essential oils?
Minimize their exposure to air by keeping the lid on the bottle when not in use, always keep the lid on essential oil bottles tight, and store in cool places out of direct sunlight and heat. The Soli® bottles were designed to allow for visibility of the oil at the base to showcase the unique beauty and diversity of color and viscosity between each oil, that pairs together with a reclaimed wooden base designed to protect your oil from UV light, and to serve as a holder to keep your bottles safely and securely displayed. The reclaimed wooden base can also be used as a passive diffuser by applying a few drops of your favorite essential oil or essential oil blend to use at home, or on the go.
What is a GC/MS Report?
Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), also known as a chromatogram, is a report that quantifies percentages of each chemical constituent of an essential oil and therefore can help with species authentication and reveal the purity of an essential oil. Soli® provides GC/MS reports for each of their pure essential oils on their website, specific to each batch that is bottled
What is a Flight?
Soli Flights are curated as an experiential celebration of the biodiversity within species and ecosystems. Our Flight Collection takes you over the world to countries like Bulgaria, France, Kenya, Oman, Somaliland, and Peru where you will be introduced to some of the purest and unique essential oils sourced from those regions. Get a narrated tour of a Soli Flight with Dr. Ablard:
Your Scenting Flight Guide: Sacred Forest
What are the best oils to start with?
Start with oils that are generally safe, you naturally resonate with, and/or when used in various combinations help to support your overall well-being! Some popular ones are lavender,frankincense, geranium, sweet lime petitgrain, white grapefruit and ylang ylang.
Can you ingest essential oils?
Essential oils are 50 to 100 times more concentrated than the plant material itself. Ingestion of essential oil is unsafe and should not be done. If you are seeking to ingest essential oils, please consult with a medical practitioner first.
Are essential oils safe for pets?
When using essential oils, bear in mind that most pets are very sensitive to their scents, and that pets differ physiologically compared to humans. In other words, pets and people will, in many cases, have different behavioral and physiological responses to the same essential oils. Therefore, never use essential oils on your pets without consulting first with a certified animal aromatherapist. When using essential oils in your home, diffuse or blend in rooms that don’t have caged animals (e.g. birds) and always ensure pets have a means of going into a scent-free space.
What does AOP mean in Lavender? organic Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil which originates from the Haute Provence region of France, and is the only lavender recognised by the quality certification AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée - controlled designation of origin) or AOP (appellation d’origine protégée - protected designation of origin).
Why aren't all the oils organic?
Organic doesn’t always mean an essential oil comes from a sustainable and legal source, or that the oil itself is unadulterated and pure. And in some cases the only difference between wild-harvested trees and organically certified trees, is just a certificate - which is the case for a lot of frankincense oil. Also organic certification is very costly and it facilitates large scale agriculture and a greater profit margin for producers and wholesalers. Soli ensures their oils are unadulterated and pure, whether or not they are organic. Soli works on a scale that supports local artisans and smaller operations who are conscious about protecting biodiversity, and are actively regenerating the landscape, regardless of a certificate.
What does ‘wild harvest’ mean? Per Lawinsider “plants or portions of plants that are collected or harvested from defined areas of land which are maintained in a natural state and are not cultivated or otherwise managed.” For instance our palo santo is wild harvested from broken and fallen branches found on the first floor.
How do you harvest but at the same time preserve highly precious species such as Rosewood?
Trees like rosewood are under threat because it is the mature heartwood of the tree used for essential oil commonly traded on the world market and therefore this has led to it being overharvested and completely cut down with little to no signs of regeneration. Instead of using mature heartwood, Soli rosewood essential oil comes from the low hanging lateral branches of the tree and leaves the tree intact. In addition our rosewood oil is CITES permitted (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which guarantees regeneration of the species is actually occurring. For more information visit: https://cites.org/eng
Still have more questions? Ask us here, we are always happy to demystify aromatherapy and the benefits of aromatic botanicals!