How Do They Work

Essential Oils: How do they work?

How Do Essential Oils Work?
Essential oils enter the body in three ways. They can be:
  • Applied to the skin
  • Inhaled
  • Ingested
How does skin application work?
Essential oils can be applied topically to the skin. Common examples include applying a blend that contains black pepper (Piper nigrum) or ginger (Zinziber officinalis) essential oil to help with soreness associated with normal exercise, or applying German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) essential oil to help ease dry skin.
How does this work?
Our skin is somewhat permeable. The active chemicals in essential oils are absorbed by the skin.
Factors That Increase Skin Absorption
Different factors can affect the absorption of essential oils through the skin. If you massage the area first, it will increase circulation to that area, thereby causing an increase in absorption of essential oils. Heat will likewise increase circulation and thus enhance absorption.
Some researchers report that essential oils may be more readily absorbed from skin locations with greater concentrations of sweat glands and hair follicles, such as the head, soles, palms, and armpits (Battaglia, 2003).
How do I inhale essential oils?
Another way that essential oils enter the body is inhalation through the nose or mouth. Common examples include inhaling eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules, E. radiate, or E. smithii) essential oil to support a healthy respiratory system or inhaling peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil to provide an overall feeling of energy. (Note: Often, essential oils are put into a diffuser for inhalation.)
The Olfactory System
The olfactory system includes all physical organs or cells relating to, or contributing to, the sense of smell. When we inhale through the nose, airborne molecules interact with the olfactory organs and, almost immediately, the brain.
Molecules inhaled through the nose or mouth are also carried to the lungs and interact with the respiratory system. Thus, inhaled essential oils can support the body through several systems and pathways.
Interaction with the Limbic System (Emotional Brain)
During inhalation, odor molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites, one of which is the limbic system, which is commonly referred to as the “emotional brain.”
“Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.” Helen Keller
Do people ingest essential oils?
The third way that essential oils enter the body is by ingestion (swallowing). The only essential oils that should ever be ingested are 100% pure, cold-distilled, organically grown, essential oils. The only absolutely pure essential oils that we are aware of are Young Living Essential Oils.
Did you know an essential oil can be labeled as “pure” as long as no less than 5% of it is actually pure? That leaves 95% of the remaining bottle to be whatever (fillers, additives, etc.)! Find a company that guarantees the oil to be 100% pure! Remember, not all oils are okay to ingest, even 100% pure oils.
Works Credit:
Parts of this post were adapted from the University of Minnesota’s article.