Essential oils have been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Essential oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, bark, seeds, and roots of a plant, and they give a plant its unique aroma. The oils also protect the plant from predators and disease and aid pollination.
As well as being beneficial for plants, oils are very beneficial to us. They are packed with active compounds that give them many healing and health-giving properties. Ancient cultures like the Egyptians and Greeks used them in medicines, perfumes, cosmetics, and perfumes, and it seems as if they were onto something.
How Are Essential Oils Made?
The most common way to extract essential oils from plants is steam distillation. Some experts believe that this is the best way to get great quality oil.
During steam distillation, the parts of the plant are put into a still, then pressurised steam is concentrated on them. The plant parts then become saturated, which causes their cell walls to burst, and the scent molecules come out. The vapour that is left behind passes through a tube and is splashed with cold water.
The water and oil then separate, as oil is lighter than water, so the oil floats to the top. A skimmer is moved over the top of the liquid to remove the film of oil. This is the essential oil.
Steam distillation can be tricky, as the steam has to be at the correct temperature to extract the oil without destroying the plant material.
The process produces a by-product called floral water, which is basically a very diluted essential oil. The floral water has the same properties as the essential oil, except it’s not as concentrate, so it’s a good choice of ingredient for skin care products for people with sensitive skin who might find that essential oils cause irritation.
Steam distillation is the most common method of extracting essential oil, but citrus oils tend to be extracted by a technique called cold pressing, where the fruit peelings are pressed until the oil comes out.
Amazing Ways to Use Essential Oils
Inhale Them from the Bottle
Hold the essential oil bottle in front of you, and move it closer to your nose, but by bit. Breathe in the scent, and inhale deeply. When you inhale the scent of an essential oil, the molecules trigger the scent receptors in the nose, which carry the molecules to the part of the brain that governs memory, emotion, and mood. This is why oils are so effective at lifting the mood or reducing anxiety. Some oils have stimulating properties, some have relaxing properties, and some do both. The molecules can also enter the body through the walls of the lungs.
Inhale Them from Your Hand
Put a few drops of oil onto the palm of your hands, rub them together, and cup your hands over your mouth and nose. Just like when you inhale oils from the bottle, breathe the oil in gently, then breathe in deeper. Make sure you don’t get the oil anywhere near your eyes. If oil does get into your eyes, dilute it fast with a carrier oil, don’t use water as this won’t work.
Apply Oil to a Terracotta Pendant
Put a drop of oil on the pendant, fasten it around your neck and enjoy the scent of the oil as you go about your day.
Create an oil-diffusing salt bowl
Put ¼ cup of Epsom salt in a bowl, add 10-15 drops of oil onto the salt and keep the bowl next to your bed. The salt helps the oils to disperse more slowly, and the bowl acts as a diffuser so you get all the benefits of your chosen oil while you sleep.
Do a Steam Inhalation
Add your chosen oil into a bowl of hot water. Put a towel over your head, close your eyes, and breathe in the vapour. The steam vaporises the oil so it can be absorbed quickly into the throat, sinuses, and bloodstream. This method can really help if you are suffering from congestion caused by a sinus infection, cold or flu.
Use Them in a Diffuser
An ultrasonic diffuser uses air, water, and vibrations to diffuse oil into the air. The diffuser creates a fine mist which is released into the room. The oil will generally be less concentrated since it is mixed with water, and the oil is released into the air where it will remain for quite a few hours without losing any of its therapeutic qualities. You can mix complementary oils together, especially if they enhance the other oil’s healing properties.
Diffuse Oils in Your Car
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get the benefits of essential oils on your way to work? Well, now you can. You can get oil diffusers especially for cars (lavender or chamomile will help to calm any road rage!) or if you don’t have a diffuser, apply a few drops of oil to a ball of cotton wool, stick it in the car’s air vent, and enjoy the aroma.
Use Them in a Massage
Dilute the oil with a suitable carrier oil like coconut oil or sweet almond oil. Massage them into the skin using the desired pressure. Try to make applying oils to the skin as safe as possible by carrying out a patch test on the skin of your upper arm before you use them. Wait 24 hours and if there is no skin reaction, the oil is likely to be safe to use. Massage is great for reducing stress, treating headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle aches and more. The act of massage increases the absorption of the oil through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Apply Oils to the Soles of Your Feet
Massage a few drops of your chosen oil into the soles of your feet before bed. The soles of the feet contain some of the largest pores in your body, so the oils are very easily absorbed and can enter the bloodstream in mere minutes.
Ingestion is not generally recommended unless you are ingesting the oil under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Some oils are very toxic when ingested, and they can damage the liver or be converted into toxic substances as the body breaks them down.
Add Them to Your Bath
Add a few drops of your chosen oil to your bath. Add a few tablespoons of milk or coconut oil to help the oil disperse, then relax in the bath for 30 minutes. A bath is both a topical and aromatherapy treatment. If you are using oils that are known to be irritating like citrus oils, make sure that you dilute them as much as possible and mix the oil and water well, so the oil doesn’t just sit on top of the water and irritate the skin. Rinse the tub afterwards.
Use Them as a Perfume
Perfumes may smell gorgeous, but they contain synthetic fragrances and chemicals, so why not combine your favourite essential oils and apply them just as you would a perfume; on your pulse points, behind your ears, on your collarbone, and on your neck. You’ll smell great and you’ll be getting all of the health benefits.
Essential Oil Safety
Always dilute an oil with an appropriate carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Applying oils directly to the skin can cause a reaction. If your skin does react, don’t try to wash the oil off with water as water can push the oil deeper into the skin.
Always do a patch test of your chosen oil on a small area of skin before you use it. Apply a drop of diluted oil to the skin of your upper arm, wait 24 hours then check for a reaction. If a reaction occurs, discontinue use.
Don’t use oils near the ears, eyes, genitals, or areas of broken or sensitive skin.
Some oils can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. If you apply oils to the skin, wait more than 24 hours before you expose your skin to UV light or you risk pigmentation, burning and irritation. Most of the oils that cause this effect are citrus based, so use these with caution.
Oils should be avoided during pregnancy as there is not enough evidence of their safety. Some oils can behave like hormones in the body and can trigger a premature labour or even a miscarriage in rare cases.
Take care when inhaling essential oils if you have asthma, as doing so can trigger an attack. Use topical application instead.
People with high blood pressure or people taking blood-thinning medication should take care with some oils like ginger and wintergreen oil.
Ingestion of oils is not recommended generally unless you are working with a trained professional. There are essential oils in products like toothpaste and mouthwashes, but these generally aren’t swallowed. Some oils can cause problems if they are ingested, and they can even cause organ damage, so always err on the side of caution.
Balsam fir, known scientifically as Abies balsamea is a species of fir tree which is native to the east of North America. It is an evergreen tree and it is most commonly recognised in the western world as being the classic Christmas tree. It is the main source of Canada balsam, which can be used as a varnish, and it’s also effective for mounting tissue or cell samples on laboratory slides. The tree is a member of the pine family and it is often used to make paper.
Balsam fir essential oil is extracted by a process of steam distillation. The sap and tree have a long history of being used as medicines by the native American people, and common uses included antiseptic, a skin ointment for infections and itching, a laxative, a treatment for heart problems, and a remedy for colds and flu.
Balsam Fir Essential Oil Uses
The uplifting scent and antibacterial properties of balsam fir essential oil make it a great choice for self-care product and for use around the home. Here are just some of the most popular uses.
Use It in a Massage
Add 2-3 drops of balsam fir essential oil to 1 Tbsp. of a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond, or grapeseed oil. It has a fresh and uplifting fragrance, so you will be able to have a relaxing but equally invigorating massage. The oil also blends really well with lemon, orange and rosemary essential oils.
Add It to the Bath
For a relaxing and soothing bath, add 3-5 drops of balsam fir essential oil to warm, running bath water. Add a cup of Epsom salt to help the oil to disperse. Be sure to mix the oil well with the water and rinse your bathtub after in case the surface is slippery.
Use It in a Diffuser
The comforting scent of balsam fir oil is great for use in aromatherapy. Its antibacterial action means that if you use it in a diffuser, it will cleanse the air inside of your home.
It’s an Excellent Household Cleaner
Numerous studies back up the fact that balsam fir oil has excellent antibacterial properties. This makes it a great natural chemical free cleaner for your house. To make it, add a cup of vinegar and some water to a spray bottle, then add 10-15 drops of balsam fir oil. Shake the bottle well, spray onto surfaces like showers and sinks, then wipe clean. The scent will make your house smell nice and fresh too.
It’s Great for Skin Care
The oil has natural antibacterial properties, so you can make a natural cleanser by adding 1-2 drops of the oil to a carrier oil, massaging it into your face, then removing it with a damp cloth. Avoid getting the oil near your eyes, nose, or mouth.
It’s an Effective Air Freshener
Balsam fir essential oil can be used as a natural air freshener. The smell will remind you of Christmas trees. Add ½ a cup of water and 10-15 drops of balsam fir essential oil to a spray bottle. Mist the spray throughout the rooms of your house to get rid of stale air. Don’t spray the oil on furniture and take care if you have pets as some oils can be toxic to animals.
Benefits of Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Essential oils are not only used for their scents, they have a wide range of therapeutic properties too. Research into this oil is in its early stages, but there have been some promising findings so far. Here are just some of them.
It Has Antitumour Properties
A study carried out in 2003 found that balsam fir essential oil contained a compound called alpha-humulene, which has the ability to inhibit and kill cancer cells. This result was noted in a lab study only, and so much more research is needed before essential oils can be used for cancer treatment.
It’s a Natural Antibacterial
In one study, balsam fir essential oil was tested against different kinds of bacteria and was found to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning and other infections.
Another Canadian study found that there were antibacterial properties evident in balsam fir essential oil it was tested against different strains of bacteria and fungi. The oil’s antibacterial properties suggest that there is potential for the oil to be used as an antibacterial agent.
In a 2014 study, balsam fir essential oil was among several essential oils tested for their effectiveness as insect repellents. Balsam fir oil and tea tree, peppermint and lavender essential oils were mixed with sunflower oil and applied to the skin of cows for 24 hours at a time. The number of flies on each cow’s skin was counted at regularly.
Balsam fir oil acted as an effective repellent for up to 8 hours. Essential oils are much more natural than chemical repellents, so they are safer for topical application.
Side Effects of Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Balsam fir essential oil is considered to be quite safe for inhalation and topical use. As always, dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin.
If you are allergic to balsam fir or trees that belong to the pine family, use balsam fir oil with care. Do not use the oil if any sensitivity occurs at all.
Some essential oils are very concentrated and can be toxic if they are ingested. Do not ingest balsam fir essential oil unless you are doing so under professional supervision.
Do not use balsam fir essential oil on children, or pregnant or nursing women unless you have confirmed with a doctor that it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Where to Buy Balsam Fir Essential Oil
You can buy therapeutic grade essential oil from health food stores or online. Remember that essential oils aren’t regulated, however, so companies can add synthetic fragrances and chemicals and still call an oil pure.