Essential oils are extracted directly from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree and just one drop can have powerful health benefits. Essential oils are typically created through the process of distillation that separates the oil and water-based compounds of a plant by steaming. Essential oils are highly concentrated oils that have a strong aroma. By concentrating the oils of these plants you are literally extracting some of the most powerful compounds of a plant into a single oil. For instance, in order to get one pound of lavender essential oil, it takes 150 pounds of lavender flowers! So essentially (pun intended) you can receive 150 times the beneficial properties from lavender essential oils than you would from using straight lavender. These natural oils in plants protect the plant from insects, shield the plant from a harsh environment and help them adapt to their surroundings. By taking essential oils, you are harnessing the protective and health-promoting powers of a plant. Essential oils are truly the most potent form of plant-based medicine. Their power to heal and cure disease is so effective that by using essential oils many people are able to avoid the need to use a plethora of drugs or have various types of surgeries.
History of Essential Oils
Aromatic plant oils are a vital component of ancient culture that dates back to nearly the beginning of time. It appears that it was the Egyptians who first made extensive use of herbs with distillation methods around 3,500 B.C. Essential oils were used in Egyptian health protocols and used in the burial of rulers and pharaohs. When King Tut’s tomb was opened, 350 liters of essential oils were discovered in alabaster jars. It’s been documented that Cleopatra, who was famous for her beauty and charm, owned the first spa near the dead sea where she used essential oils for her personal beauty treatments. Also, essential oils were used by Moses and were referenced in the Bible. In fact, in the book of Exodus when the Lord refers to holy anointing oil, it was a specific formula God recommended. This formula was used to anoint priests and kings. And, this holy anointing oil was used when someone went to the priest for healing. The oil was poured onto their head, and they were prayed for. And this wasn’t just a ritual, this oil was known to have powerful properties.
BIBLE ANOINTING OIL
Myrrh 6 kg
Cinnamon 3 kg
Calamus 3 kg
Cassia 6 kg Olive
In the book of Numbers 16, Moses tells the high priest Aaron to burn oils as incense to stop a plague. We know that these oils, especially cinnamon, have powerful antibacterial properties that can help balance the digestive tract and defend the body.1 Other essential oils used frequently during that time period include frankincense, hyssop, spikenard and cedarwood. This wisdom then sailed across the Mediterranean and evidently reached Hippocrates, who utilized aromatherapy to enhance massage techniques a few centuries before the coming of Christ. Somewhere in the midst of this knowledge transfer, China and India also started to employ herbal remedies and embraced essential oils extensively. Then, as the Bible tells us, 3 wise men gave the infant King of Israel gifts of gold to honor his royalty, frankincense as a perfume, and myrrh for anointing oil. Although there is probably some truth to this, other sources claim that the wise men from the far east were actually being more practical by giving the baby Jesus these precious, costly items that could double as potential health remedies.
“In the Bible, essential oils are referenced 264 times and 33 different types of oils are mentioned.” During that time frankincense was used to support the immune system and healthy inflammation response. Myrrh was known to help recovery after pregnancy and support hormonal health. As civilizations transferred world power, the essential oil techniques from Greece traveled to Rome which favored aromatherapy and fragrances. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Persia picked up these techniques and perfected the essential oil distillation process. Sadly, the Dark Ages brought with it a disdain for Hippocrates’ holistic approach. However, because the Catholic Church viewed bathing as inappropriate, high esteem was given to aromatics, which coincidently are also antimicrobial, to keep foul odor at bay.2 Little did they know that their perfume was also helping stave off airborne germs! During this era, it’s believed that Monks continued the tradition of essential oils and
secretly kept herbal tradition alive in the halls of their monasteries. Unfortunately, traditional herbalism was viewed as “witchcraft,” and many herbalists were either burned at the stake or persecuted. Thankfully, the Renaissance resurrected herbalism and physicians such as Paracelsus challenged his medical colleagues with testimonials of successfully using plants in patient protocols. What we know as modern “aromatherapy” was not introduced formally until French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse first coined the phrase in 1937. Although he wasn’t necessarily a natural health advocate, he became interested in essential oils after a 1910 accident where he badly burned his hand. Gattefosse used the first available salve in his laboratory — a pure, undiluted lavender oil compound that not only immediately eased the pain, but aided in wound healing without infection or scar. Because of Gattefosse’s work, Dr. Jean Valet used essential oils with injured soldiers in World War II. This led to Marguerite Maury being the first person to “individually recommend” essential oil combinations using a Tibetan technique for back massage applied to nerve endings along the spine. Today, essential oils are still used by “kings” and “priests” as well as by doctors, nutritionists and other experts along with laypeople all over the world.
Why Essential Oils Are So Powerful
Essential oils are composed of very small molecules that can penetrate your cells, and some compounds in essential oils can even cross the blood-brain barrier. They differ from fatty oils (like those in vegetables or nuts) that come from large molecules as they are more easily absorbed. For instance, most vegetable oils will stay on your skin and may even clog your pores because they are not small enough to get into your system whereas essential oils will soak right into your skin. Essential oils placed anywhere on the body are “transdermal,” which means they can actually pass through your skin and into your circulatory system and cells.3 These oils are typically used in four ways: topically, inhaled by using a diffuser, taken internally and used for personal care. Many essential oils are so powerful that when used topically or internally, they must be diluted with a carrier oil like olive, coconut or jojoba oil. Because of the incredible ability of essential oils to travel through the body and air, even diffusing essential oils can have great health benefits. Think about how powerful the scent of these oils are. An example would be if you had peppermint leaves in your kitchen. Could you smell them from 10 feet away? Probably not. But if you are diffusing peppermint, cinnamon or oregano essential oils, you can smell them throughout most of your home! That’s because the volatile compounds in essential oils can pass from the air into your olfactory system. Your olfactory system, which is your sense of smell, is connected directly to your brain and what you smell can go into your cells and your bloodstream within seconds. This is great for times when your children are not feeling well, as you can simply diffuse essential oils of clove and frankincense in the air and support their immune system through olfaction.4 Once in your system, these oil compounds have the ability to protect and support your body in various ways. Promoting health by means of your olfactory system is why using essential oils has been referred to as aromatherapy. It’s important to mention that dried herbs and medicinal tinctures also have health-promoting properties. For instance, ground ginger root, cinnamon and echinacea have many health benefits. Also, consuming healthy foods such as vegetables and fresh herbs can support overall wellness. But in terms of compounds that have the strongest concentrated health-promoting properties, none of these are as powerful as essential oils.