Welcome to Ask the Expert. A weekly series featuring Natural Living Experts answering your question. I have the pleasure to welcoming Lea Harris, Certified Aromatherapist, to tell us all about essential oil. Want to contribute your questions to this series? Join the discussion on Facebook.
1- Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Lea Harris, and I first got interested in essential oils one year ago this month. Confused by all the marketing hype surrounding certain brands of essential oils, I wanted to know if paying more for certain brands was worth it. My Nourishing Treasures readers also wanted to know, and together we raised funds and had 3rd party testing done. We found out that you do not have to pay a lot for a quality essential oil, and we went on to do two more rounds of 3rd party testing. (You can find the test results here.) Wanting to know more and more, I enrolled in Aromahead Institute’s Aromatherapy Certification Program, where I graduated in July of 2013, as well as the Advanced Graduate Program, which I graduated from in October.
Due to all the attention I was giving essential oils, I created a new website, LearningAboutEOs where you can find safety information on essential oils, as well as download my free ebook, Using Essential Oils Safety, when you sign up for our newsletter.
2- What is a certified aromatherapist?
A certified aromatherapist has over 200 hours of training with a NAHA or AIA-approved school. Aromahead Institute, the school I enrolled in, is approved by both.
3- For someone interested in the use of essential oils, what are some good resources for beginners?
My website is geared to beginners [http://www.learningabouteos.
Aromahead.com has a free intro course for beginners, that I encourage everyone to check out!
4- What are some of the safety rules one must observe when working with essential oils?
I get this asked a lot, and so I have created a page that I call a a safety “cheat sheet” which you can check out here: http://www.learningabouteos.com/cheatsheet My #1 rule is “Dilute, dilute, dilute!” as essential oils are super concentrated and should rarely if ever be used without first diluting.
Essential oils to use or avoid while pregnant is another question that pops up, and so I have written “Essential Oil Safety During Pregnancy.” Although I have a longer list on that page, a few of the EOs that should be avoided are: Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Lemongrass, Myrrh, Lemon Myrtle, and Rosemary. Some of the EOs that have been shown to be safe are: Copaiba, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Lavender, Neroli, and Tangerine.
5- What are your go to essential oils and what do you use them for?
Lavender is wonderful for a wide range of skin issues, and even can soothe a burn
Rosemary is one I like for stimulating brain cells.
Grapefruit and Lime I like to diffuse when I feel I need more energy.
Peppermint is great for cleaing congestion.
I like Helichrysum for bruises and burns.
Lemon is excellent for cleaning everything from your bathtub to the grease on your stove
6- There is much debate about which brands are good or bad and they all claim they have the best and purest EO. How can we be sure the essential oils are not synthetic, diluted, or adulterated?
The only way is to see a GC/MS test for the batch you would be purchasing. Not many vendors have this information available. This is the reason we performed 3rd party testing, so we, as consumers, can find out what is really in that bottle. Our last test (Peppermint) revealed two companies who’s Peppermint EOs contained ethyl vanillin, a synthetic additive.
7- Topical use of essential oil is a common practice, what about the use of essential oils internally, what oils are okay for internal use and what precautions should we exercise when using them internally?
Internal use is over-emphasized. You see suggestions from reps of various companies suggesting a dozen or more drops of random essential oil in your water daily, as a “preventative.” Certified Aromatherapists agree this is not safe practice. Very rarely should essential oils be used internally, and never without the advice of an aromatherapist who has training in this area. 100% of the essential oil you consume is absorbed, as opposed to 10% or so that is absorbed with topical use. Because of this, there is more risk involved when you do use essential oils internally.
First, you have the possible irritation or burning on your mucous membranes when you swallow the EOs floating on the water at 100% concentration. Do this daily over time, and you are risking scarring or ulcers or worse.
Secondly, the ingestion of essential oils can be hard on the liver. Although you might be able to get away with this sort of ingestion for a period of time, there is going to come a day when your body is going to say it’s had enough, and you could be facing liver failure or other negative consequences.
All that being said, there are actual clinical studies showing benefits of ingesting Lavender for anxiety, and Peppermint for IBS. The difference is the method. Instead of adding them to water, 1-2 drops of Lavender are mixed with a fat and added to a capsule. Peppermint is ingested in the form of enteric-coated tablets.
Bottom line is, do not trust the advice of a sales rep when it comes to your health. Ask the advice of a professional aromatherapist before using essential oils internally.
8- What are the best essential oils for the common cold and flu?
Peppermint can be wonderful for clearing congestion, and Tea Tree can be helpful for killing germs. Cinnamon Bark is a good choice for diffusing to kill germs, but Cinnamon Leaf is best if used on your skin. Spike Lavender and Laurel Leaf can help keep germs at bay when used in a soap or hand sanitizer. If you’re already sick, Ho Leaf , Linaloe Berry, and Black Spruce can help kill germs accelerate healing.
9- What are the best oils for preventing and relieving stress, depression, and/or anxiety?
Lavender is the idea calming essential oil. It’s wonderful for calming anxiety and adrenal stress.
Depression can be remedies by the use of uplifting citrus essential oils, such as Bergamot, Orange, and Geranium.
10- What are the best essential oils to have when starting a natural medicine cabinet?
Lavender and Helichrysum for burns, using topically and well diluted.
Tea Tree for germ-fighting, using topically and well diluted, or diffusing into the air.
Peppermint for congestion, preferably used in an inhaler.
Copaiba works well for inflammation and muscle soreness.
Lea Harris, just a mom passionate about her family’s health and well-being. Encouraging others to take baby steps in the right direction of health for their families, she believes education is power. Lea’s goal is to raise awareness of what goes into our mouths and on our bodies, providing natural alternative information that promotes health and prevents disease by using traditional foods and nature’s medicine (God-given herbs and supplements). Lea earned her Health Coach Certificate from Beyond Organic University on March 5th, 2012.