What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils have been used historically for a variety of alternative treatment methodologies, but they are also now being sold for home users in mainstream retail outlets, bringing what was usually a less common treatment option into a new light for the average person. These oils can be used both topically, ingested with direction from a professional, and for aromatherapy through inhalation purposes.
Essential oils are concentrated aroma compounds that are plant-based. They are sometimes called “ethereal oils” or “volatile oils”. The reason they are called essential is because they carry the “distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant”. The oils are collected through steam distillation. Mainstream uses of essential oils are in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, to scent cleaning products, and to flavor drinks and foods. They are also used in alternative care practices for their many medicinal applications. Because some oils could have pesticide residues, many aromatherapy practitioners will only use oils that are organically produced for the ensured safety of their patients.1
Why Use Carrier Oils?
Carrier oils help dilute the essential oils, as some can cause skin irritation in their “undiluted or neat form”. There might be allergic reactions as well, so carrier oils do need to be blended in. Carrier oils are vegetable-based, and they are typically olive, almond, grapeseed, and hazelnut, as these are more neutral oils. The general ratio is “0.5-3% (of) essential oil disbursed in a carrier oil”. Carrier oils often come with their own natural health benefits, which are added to the already helpful aspects of the essential oils. Patients do have to mention any allergies that they have that could affect treatment, for their own safety. Both carrier oils and essential oils might be made of properties that could cause an allergic reaction in patients who already had an allergy to them, though this only happens in some cases.2
Alternative and Chiropractic Uses for Essential Oils
Aside from being the base of flavoring or scenting in commercial products, essential oils are used in the field of aromatherapy. They could also be placed in carrier oils and used in massage, candles, incense, or diffused in air nebulizers. Essential oils are not typically meant to be consumed orally, as many of them can be dangerous when they are concentrated. Patients should consult their massage or aromatherapist for advice when it comes to the consumption of these concentrated oils.
The most popular essential oils in medicine are menthol, capsaicin, anise, camphor, and eucalyptus oils. They could assist with medical problems such as bronchial and respiratory problems, as decongestants and expectorants, and as local anesthetics. Other oils, such as agathosma and juniper are used as diuretics. Camphor and turpentine oil can create a numbing sensation on the skin, while menthol is reported to have a cold/heat sensation. Clove and eugonol may also be local anesthetics; they and thymol are also known as antiseptics. Lavender is popular in aromatherapy for relaxation. In fact, it is so relaxing that lavender aromatherapy is used to both calm humans and dogs, especially in times of stress for the canines such as during a thunderstorm or fireworks. Rose oil is a common scenting agent.
Medical advice should be consulted in the case of using these concentrated aroma compounds during pregnancy and with epileptic patients, and some of these oils, such as those that have a citrus base, can be toxic to the pets of patients during an aromatherapy session at home. Some oils, such as the aforementioned citrus, are “photosensitizers”, which can increase the risks when skin is exposed to sunlight.3
Because chiropractic is one of the fields that is based on the body’s ability to heal itself, some chiropractors may use or recommend essential oils. The range of uses includes massage, skincare, vaporization, hair care, foot/hand baths, compresses, and air freshening. Of course, there are many recipes patients are able to use at home to create products with these oils, and safety recommendations can be provided.4 Essential oils may also be used during yoga sessions, both in the morning and in the evening. Peppermint, spearmint, and oils with similar properties are invigorating and an energizing way to start the day, especially when paired with yoga. In the evening, lavender might be used to help calm the patient down, lowering their heart rate and working with a cooldown yoga to help the patient get more restful sleep for recovery from the day.
Research on Essential Oils
Dr. Robert Pappas, an essential oil chemist, founded Essential Oil University, EOU, which tests essential oils analytically in order to report their breakdowns. Dr. Pappas provides an “online chemical reference database” for these oils. The hope is that this free resource will not only educate people on essential oils, but that development of “therapeutic grade” standards can be achieved.5 Dr. Pappas has published research on some of the essential oils in recent journals.6