Experience the Magic of Essential Oils
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Dr. David Hill
Dr. David K. Hill, Chief Medical Officer
A leading expert in the essential oils industry, Dr. Hill is head of the doTERRA Scientific Advisory Board.
The value of an essential oil is derived from more than its individual chemistry. How that chemistry develops and to what extent it develops within the plant are other important considerations. In addition, manufacturing processes can sometimes improve or reduce subtle but critical chemical components required for optimal health benefits. For doTERRA, it is not a single expert or singular process that determines best practices for quality, but rather a multi-faceted cooperative effort that includes experts working together for the best possible results. This unique and distinctive approach consistently enables doTERRA to offer unparalleled quality and benefit in our essential oils.
The chemical constituents of an essential oil are the analog of the macronutrients in food. Just as the fructose (sugar) composition of a banana provides instant energy and has specific metabolic effects, an essential oil rich in Limonene can provide a powerful support to your healthy immune system. The chemical constituents in an oil determine its potential benefits, what metabolites it will produce, and best ways for application.
Chemists have identified over 3,000 different molecules in essential oils to date. Each of these combinations of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms has its own unique properties. These compounds are categorized based on their chemical makeup, which refers to their function and physiological activity. Oils high in terpenes (ending in "-ene") have different properties than those high in hydroxyl alcohols (ending in "-ol") or phenols or esters and are therefore suitable for different purposes. Familiarity with the chemical building blocks of essential oils allows each user to practice aromatherapy more safely and effectively.
A carrier oil is a lipid-based substance used to dilute essential oils.
The most popular carrier oils are pure vegetable oils, including grapeseed, avocado, and almond oil; however, the most readily available carrier oils can become rancid quite quickly. I prefer fractionated coconut oil because it is stable at all temperatures and in all environments. It is also non-aromatic and therefore does not alter the aromatic properties of essential oils. Many people mistakenly believe that using carrier oils somehow reduces the effectiveness of the essential oil, when in fact there are many benefits to diluting oils. Dilution increases the surface of absorption, improves absorption by dry skin and prevents sensitization. It's never wrong to dilute, especially when using oils with more potent chemistry. Determining when and how to dilute is a personal decision that should be based on preferences for use, oil chemistry and personal sensitivity.
For many, the value of essential oils is understood and validated through personal use. It may not be a matter of which oil to use but rather determining how and how much oil to use. The three primary methods of use include aromatic, topical (on the skin) and internal application, all of which have documented benefits. Individual preference and experience will help you select the most appropriate application method to meet your personal needs. While models of use may vary, I have found that consistent application is most effective. I recommend using essential oils in smaller amounts and more often throughout the day rather than sporadically in large amounts. Consistency of use will help ensure a lasting effect and that ensures maximum benefit.
There is a lot of information available about essential oils and their biological activity in the body. We understand more about the physiological mechanisms of essential oils than ever before. We know that essential oils are lipid soluble and therefore easily absorbed by skin tissue and mucous membrane. The safety and effectiveness of each application method is well validated by scientific evidence. When determining how to apply an essential oil, it is important to use the oils in a context that is comfortable for the user. Although the effects may be less pronounced by certain application methods, each application method has powerful benefits, both local and systemic.
It is a common wrong assumption that when we use essential oils, we can only affect the body or the mind but not both. In reality, when we affect a system of the body, the effects expand systemically. The limbic system, also known as emotional control center of the body, is crucial when it comes to aroma because it is so easily influenced by our environment. What we taste, what we see, what we hear and especially what we smell influences this system. Part of the limbic system is the hypothalamus, which in addition to regulating the limbic system also has direct links to neurochemical stimulation throughout the body. So when we breathe in the scent of Lavender, it will not only soothe our mood, but will benefit the whole body. By far the quickest way to benefit from the effects of essential oils is to use them aromatically, but no matter how we apply the oils, the effects will be far reaching.
A great advantage of essential oils is that they are safe and effective at any stage of life, including pregnancy. Because of the mild, non-irritating nature of many essential oils, they can be used with confidence during this time. An important consideration during pregnancy is supporting healthy function of the entire body. Frankincense supports healthy cellular function and improves overall health. * In my experience, Ginger, Peppermint, Lavender and citrus oils can help relieve pregnancy-related issues such as nausea, emotional imbalance, and other common discomforts. * It is also important to remember that during pregnancy many women are particularly sensitive. Adjustment of quantity, application methods or dilution ratios may be required to accommodate these increased sensitivities.
Just as we can classify essential oils based on differences in chemistry, we can categorize them based on their aroma. Three main aroma groupings are: calming/restful oils, stimulating oils and grounding/balancing oils. What's interesting, though, is that we can't separate the aroma from the chemistry. When we look at oils that are stimulating, we observe the interplay between the aroma and the chemistry that allows these oils to affect the body systemically.
Diffusing a stimulating oil during the winter months can boost mood and can also be stimulating to other body systems. Essential oils that fit into this category are those with different top notes such as Basil, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and all citrus oils. One of my favorite combinations is Wild Orange mixed with Peppermint. These oils are most effectively used in a diffuser or by application to the skin.
An allergy is the result of the immune system mistaking a substance as harmful and creating antibodies to fight it, resulting in various side effects. An allergic reaction to a plant is caused by the proteinaceous materials of a plant (i.e., the actual seed, leaf, or fruit). Pure essential oils do not contain these complex molecules, which are the main cause of allergies. Although an allergic reaction is unlikely, this does not mean that one can use essential oils irresponsibly without risk. Understanding the proper use of an essential oil is always recommended, regardless of the circumstances. If you have concerns about sensitivities or interactions with other treatment plans, consult your doctor or health care provider for additional guidance.