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Praise for THE HEALING POWER OF ESSENTIAL OILS “In The Healing Power of Essential Oils, Dr. Z provides a cutting-edge and evidence-based approach to using essential oils. He astutely portrays how to prepare a variety of remedies. His well-written and detailed information makes this book a must-read for every essential oil user. Well done!” —STEVEN MASLEY, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS, author of The Better Brain Solution “If you’re confused by conflicting claims about essential oils, pick up this book now and get the unbiased, evidence-based information you’re seeking. The Healing Power of Essential Oils will become your favorite go-to guide if you’re serious about using these health-boosting oils safely, smartly, and effectively.” —KELLYANN PETRUCCI, MS, ND, New York Times bestselling author of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet and The 10-Day Belly Slimdown “Amazing, captivating, and practical! This book is a must-have addition to your family health library. Not only does Dr. Z give us the history of essential oils, he gives us the recipes to help with ailments from A to Z. If you want to know how essential oils can help your family with pain, infection, fatigue, digestion, and many other chronic ailments, look no further than this essential oil bible!” —DR. PETER OSBORNE, author of the international bestseller No Grain, No Pain “Simply put, this is the best, most honest, clear, trustable, scientifically sound, and spiritually uplifting book on essential oils that you’ll find. Dr. Eric Zielinski has done the near impossible. Armed with a researcher’s mind, a caring heart, and an unstoppable faith, he has taken this beautifully important yet complex topic and made it accessible for everyone. Indeed, if you have been at all intrigued by essential oils, you have probably noticed that there is so much confusion and so many conflicting viewpoints put forth by experts. The good news is Dr. Z is a refreshing and compelling new thought leader in the time-honored field of aromatherapy. The Healing Power of Essential ; Oils clears things up and brings it all together—body, mind, heart, and soul. The science geek in you will be very satisfied, while the home-based healer in you will love the easy-to-understand and practical recommendations. You will know so much more about these special medicines than you ever knew you needed to know! So whether you’re a professional or one of the countless numbers of people who’ve been captivated by the magic of essential oils, please consider this your cornerstone book, reference manual, and inspirational how-to guide all in one. I couldn’t recommend The Healing Power of Essential Oils more highly.” —MARC DAVID, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and author of Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet “We’ve come full circle in medicine and are beginning to understand the incredible potency of plants. The essential oils of a plant are the true treasure of nature and Dr. Zielinski has brought this wisdom forth in a salient and accessible way. This book should be in every house and be used frequently.” —PEDRAM SHOJAI, OMD, founder of Well.org and New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time “Essential oils are everywhere these days; unfortunately, solid, evidencebased information on how to properly use them isn’t as easy to find. Dr. Z is not afraid to dive into the research and tackle the hard and often confusing topics, which is exactly the reason I have come to look to him as one of my most trusted sources of natural health information. This book is sure to become one of the most dog-eared members of my essential oil library!” —JILL WINGER, ThePrairieHomestead.com The information contained in this book is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice and care of your physician, and you should use proper discretion, in consultation with your physician, in utilizing the information presented. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained in the book. Copyright © 2018 by DrEricZ.com, LLC All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. crownpublishing.com Harmony Books is a registered trademark, and the Circle colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Zielinski, Eric, author. Title: The healing power of essential oils / Eric Zielinski, D.C. Description: First edition. | New York : Harmony Books,  Identifiers: LCCN 2017046123| ISBN 9781524761363 (paperback) | ISBN 9781524761370 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Aromatherapy—Popular works. | Essences and essential oils—Therapeutic use—Popular works. | BISAC: HEALTH & FITNESS / Alternative Therapies. | HEALTH & FITNESS / Healing. | HEALTH & FITNESS / Aromatherapy. Classification: LCC RM666.A68 Z54 2018 | DDC 615.3/219—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017046123 ISBN 9781524761363 Ebook ISBN 9781524761370 Cover design by Alane Gianetti Cover photographs: (top to bottom) bigacis/Shutterstock; Daniel Hurst Photography/Moment/Getty Images; Inga Spence/Photolibrary/Getty Images; Botamochy/Shutterstock v5.2 a Sabrina Ann, if it weren’t for you this book would not exist. You are one of the most talented people that I have ever met, and your contribution to this book was priceless. You are also one of the most giving people that I know, and I can think of no one else I’d rather do life with. Esther, Isaiah, Elijah, and Isabella—thank you for your love, support, and patience during all of those long days and nights when Daddy was away working on this manuscript. My hope and prayer is that you come to realize it was all worth it because of the people we were able to help (together)! I am eternally grateful to God for giving you all to me. CONTENTS Preface Introduction Part 1 Essential Oils Revolution Chapter 1 Fundamentals of Aromatherapy Chapter 2 Basic Tools and Techniques Chapter 3 Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet Chapter 4 Quick-Start Guide to Using Essential Oils to Change Your Life Chapter 5 Getting Started: Your Essential Oils Daily Practice Chapter 6 Expanding Your Medicine Cabinet Part 2 Dr. Z’s Recommended Oils for Nearly Every Occasion Chapter 7 Basic Recipes Chapter 8 Heal Yourself Chapter 9 Personal Care Products Chapter 10 Around the House Chapter 11 Essential Oils for Athletes Chapter 12 Using Essential Oils with Your Animals Part 3 Women’s Health Chapter 13 Premenstrual Syndrome Chapter 14 Fertility, Pregnancy, Labor, Postpartum, and Nursing Chapter 15 Candida Chapter 16 Autoimmunity Chapter 17 Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause Conclusion Acknowledgments Notes Recommended Resources About the Author P R E FA C E Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people…” —ISAIAH 6:8–9 I’ ve always been that guy to step up and do what needed to be done. I can remember being a kid and helping my elderly neighbors by shoveling their snow, not because my parents forced me, but because I wanted to. It made me feel good. And it still does. If I see a need, I try my best to fill it, especially when it involves people. When I became a Christian, this part of me got amplified. Early on, I stumbled upon Isaiah 6:8–9 and I remember raising my hands in prayer, mimicking the prophet’s words: “Here I am, Lord, send me!” I cried out, “I don’t care what it is, I just want to do my part!” That prayer has proven to be the impetus for my biblical health ministry, my career, and notably my focus on educating people how to use essential oils therapeutically. I’m actually a late bloomer when it comes to using essential oils. In fact, my wife, Sabrina, who has been using them since the early 1990s, tried to alert me to their power several times before I finally had my epiphany. I’ll confess, as recently as a few years back I marginalized essential oils as the “smelly stuff” that Mama Z used every morning. Thankfully, back in 2013 a client commissioned me to write a series of public health reports about essential oils. Supporting myself as a medical writer at the time, I was forced to take a second look. That’s when I had my “aha” moment. I got lost in the literature. On studying countless peer-reviewed studies, I was floored when I read the clinical research that supported the efficacy of essential oils as a viable option to treat chronic conditions like cancer, hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, not to mention mental illnesses like addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress. Whoa! Suddenly, all of those too-good-to-be-true stories I had read online started to sound more plausible. Excited about my newfound research, I told Mama Z about the potential role that essential oils can play in healing the body and preventing disease. She looked at me with those all-too-familiar “I told you so” eyes, and I knew that I had some catching up to do. So the journey began. FO U R I N VA LUA B L E L E S S O N S As I pored over the research, it became glaringly clear that the articles I read in the blogosphere discussing essential oils and the information in the medical journals didn’t jibe. Additionally, the blogs conflicted heavily with one another. Truthfully, it’s a confusing mess out there, which explains the sheer number of people who regularly come to me unsure about how to use essential oils in the right way. Millions of people visit my website and social media pages every year to learn about essential oils. There are four reasons why I suspect this is so. First, a vast majority of bloggers are simply not trained as public health researchers, medical writers, or aromatherapists and have no business teaching about the therapeutic nature of essential oils. Telling your personal healing story is one thing. Presenting yourself as a trained expert is quite another. Second, most of the information in the blogosphere is woefully biased. As a public health researcher, I’ve been trained to sniff out bias a mile away— especially when there’s a potential financial incentive at play. It’s challenging to find statistically sound articles about essential oils without seeing banner ads for the very product that is being written about all over the website. Third, there are huge chasms separating different factions of the essential oils industry, and things have a tendency to get ugly. These are the main players in the field: • Aromatherapists • Bloggers • Chemists • Governing agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) • Health care providers (MDs, DOs, etc.) • Network marketers • Researchers • Suppliers and manufacturers Examples of these conflicts abound: Aromatherapists and multilevel marketing distributors are continually at odds with each other, disagreeing about the most fundamental principles of how to use essential oils therapeutically; chemists are often in disagreement with clinical researchers because they view essential oils through differing lenses; and consumers are always concerned as to whether manufacturers are supplying high-quality, pure oils. Moreover, governing agencies increasingly restrict the use of specific language across the field because essential oils are not approved “drugs,” and therefore organizations and individuals that sell them for profit cannot make claims that they can heal the body, cure disease, or even have an effect on the structure/function of the body. Finally, I observed that many doctors and pharmacists are leery of advising their patients about how to use essential oils, which makes patients nervous about potential contraindications and drug interactions. It would be untrue to say that medical doctors and pharmacists are not in favor of using alternative therapies, but because aromatherapy is not a topic that they learn about in school, they have no basis for discussing it with their patients unless they have studied the topic on their own. As I mentioned earlier, essential oils have yet to be approved by the FDA to prevent or treat disease, thus placing medical professionals in a sticky situation. They can neither confirm nor deny the therapeutic use of essential oils because it is out of their scope of practice. DISCOVERING MY CALLING The more I learned about the friction within the essential oils industry, the more I yearned to bring together thought leaders representing each group to lay aside their differences. With my friend Jill Winger from ThePrairieHomestead.com at the helm as my cohost, the idea behind the Essential Oils Revolution® online summit was born in June of 2014. We decided to host a free online conference, commonly referred to as a “telesummit,” so we could provide interviews with these experts to a mass audience. Similar to live streaming YouTube videos, we created a website that acted like a conference meeting space. People from all over the globe could join for free and, from the comfort of their home, watch a series of interviews from experts representing nearly every sector of the essential oils community. Online health summits have been around for a while, but none about oils had really taken off because they tended to be a sales pitch to sell essential oils. To remedy this, we eliminated what public health researchers call financial or “brand bias” and ensured that every interview we conducted was nonbranded, meaning that even the slightest mention of the interviewee’s favorite essential oil brand(s) was not permitted. We set out to do what people told me was impossible because of the overwhelming animosity within the essential oils industry. With the exception of my loving, supportive wife, nearly everyone I spoke to said that we wouldn’t be able to convene aromatherapists, bloggers, chemists, researchers, and health care professionals under “one roof” to talk about essential oils. After nearly a year of rejected offers, criticism, and negativity from countless leaders within each camp, Jill and I proudly launched the Essential Oils Revolution on May 11, 2015. We carefully selected panelists to offer insight on different subjects related to their particular expertise and covered a gamut of topics from safety guidelines to cooking with oils to a myriad of health conditions, including cancer, autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, and weight loss. More than 165,000 people from more than twenty countries participated in that first summit, which proved to be one of the largest online events of its kind. We received thousands of comments and emails from our online followers, and it became clear that most essential oil consumers were looking for an evidencebased, nonbranded resource to teach them about essential oils for their health concerns. People were not only desperate for help, they were uncertain where to go because of all the bias and conflicting information out there on the Internet. The love and appreciation that came through those emails literally changed my life, and the experience of hosting the summit and helping folks improve their lives with essential oils actually shifted the entire focus of my career. Truth be told, I had never intended to leave my career as a public health clinical researcher and medical writer. I never set out to be the online “essential oil guy.” After seeing the obvious need, however, it seemed pretty clear that God was calling my wife and me to be that reliable resource that people were so desperately seeking to prevent and treat disease. The book you are reading is the result of this calling. What you’re holding in your hands is the best-of-the-best from my telesummits and literally thousands of hours of personal research and study. This book was crafted to be your go-to resource for all things related to using essential oils safely and effectively, and to empower you to approach the primary common health concerns affecting most people today. I invite you to join me as I continue my journey to master the art and science of essential oils. I hope you enjoy the personal anecdotes as well as validating scientific research, and find my DIY hacks and recipes useful in your own quest to experience radiant health! Introduction The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. —JOHN 10:10 W e know more about nutrition and health now than we ever have before. Yet nearly every single American is taking a supplement and/or a pharmaceutical medicine. Why, if we are so advanced in our health knowledge, are we also unhealthier than ever? Put simply, it’s because we’ve left nature out of the equation. God has provided us with what we need to be truly healthy. Need more vitamin D? Go out in the sun! Lacking vitamin C? Eat some limes! Need to improve your digestive health? Eat fermented foods! Have a cold, headache, or back pain? Use plant-based medicine such as essential oils! There is a verse in Revelation (22:2) that reads: “Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” I can think of no other substance on earth that epitomizes this Bible scripture more than essential oils, and I have come to see essential oils as a fundamental tool for achieving biblical health. They are the very essence of trees and plants, and they are vehicles of healing. And, in my opinion, they are also a cornerstone of a truly healthy life. A C L O S E R L O O K AT H E A LT H Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.1 —WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION Do you consider yourself a healthy person? I’m not talking about the mere “absence of disease,” as the World Health Organization (WHO) puts it in its definition of health. I’m asking if you are really well—physically, mentally, and socially. Biblical health is not a list of “thou shalt nots.” It’s an overarching concept that it is your God-given right to have and enjoy the abundant life that Christ refers to in John 10:10. Having an abundant life means that you enjoy the fullest expression of health in all areas of your life: spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, financial, occupational, and social. Every area of your life is connected to all the others. Like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your physical body isn’t performing how it should, it’s going to weigh you down emotionally and cause strain in your relationships. If your job isn’t going well or you aren’t working to your full potential, it’s going to impact your financial health and your mental health by raising your stress levels. Again, let me ask you: Do you consider yourself a healthy person? Consider writing your answer in the margin here or in your journal if you’re taking notes as you read this book. Periodically, go back to this question and answer honestly. I’d be curious to see how your response changes as your understanding of health and healing evolves because of what you learn in this book. At its core, this health journey is about balance. The foods you eat, the drinks you consume, the supplements you take, the medicines you use, the thoughts you think, the emotions you carry around, the feelings you have about your job, your financial practices, the stressors you allow in your life—all of these contribute to or diminish your experience of an abundant life. You want to find a point of equilibrium in each of the seven areas so that you don’t feel off-kilter. Interestingly, I have discovered that using essential oils can help you find this balance, and I will show you how throughout this book. M Y PAT H T O W E L L N E S S As a kid, I never dreamed that I would one day be helping people restore their health. I didn’t think much about health at all, honestly, apart from considering myself pretty healthy because I didn’t suffer from any serious, life-threatening conditions like cancer. As I look back on my life, however, I see a different picture because I certainly didn’t enjoy the “complete physical, mental and social well-being” that the WHO refers to. My health issues surfaced soon after birth. At just a few months old, I was so “chunky,” as my mom lovingly puts it, that my pediatrician advised that she feed me 2% milk because the formula I was exclusively drinking was making me fat. I haven’t checked the Guinness Book of World Records to confirm, but I’m confident that I would have earned the dubious distinction of being one of the youngest people ever to be placed on a “diet”! This was the beginning of a childhood marred by misguided advice from medical professionals for seemingly normal health concerns. My mom tells me that I started to get sick when I went to preschool. Like many children today, I had frequent bouts of tonsillitis and numerous rounds of antibiotics, which led to a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy when I was in elementary school. About that time I also started to develop anxiety and to battle stress and a variety of fears. To address a chronic stammering condition that worsened as my social phobias progressed, I began a seven-year relationship with a speech therapist in first grade. By the time I reached middle school, I started to withdraw inwardly. My social awkwardness skyrocketed as cystic acne scarred my face. My dermatologist suggested a solution: take Accutane, a drug that was originally developed for chemotherapy but later commonly prescribed for skin conditions—and that has been linked to birth defects, depression, and suicidal ideation. In high school, chronic pains in my joints started to develop and recurring gastrointestinal issues like gas and indigestion made my life quite uncomfortable nearly every day. Insecurity and fear prevented me from chasing a childhood dream of moving out of state and going away to college. Taking the easy way out, I chose to attend a local university and studied English literature because it came easy to me. At one point during my college career, it dawned on me that I wasn’t living my own life. I was letting other people’s expectations of me and the status quo determine how I lived. This caused a deep sense of purposelessness that I’ll never forget. It was like I was falling into a black hole, and every single day that went by, the light around me got dimmer and dimmer. Not long thereafter depression settled in and I fell into the habit of taking over-the-counter medications, alcohol, and street narcotics to numb the pain. As I stayed out until all hours of the night partying and masking my inner torment with reckless living, my energy levels plummeted, and I got to the point where I needed a pot of coffee and a pack of cigarettes to get through the day. And I wasn’t even out of college yet! By the time I was twenty-two, I had reached rock bottom and started to ponder taking my own life. It was then that I put my faith in a higher power, and my life was forever transformed. The day that I asked God to free me from all of my addictions seems like yesterday. After I had failed numerous times to quit smoking and drugs, God delivered me overnight. No withdrawals. No detoxing. Nothing. It was like my body was given a second chance. Like I was literally born again. Depression and suicidal ideation disappeared, and I had a renewed vigor for life and a hope that I truly had a purpose to fulfill on this planet. To be clear, not every symptom immediately evaporated, as if God had said, “Poof! You’re healed!” The litany of health issues that I described—the gut issues, the aches and pains, and the acne—still lingered. At first, I was confused. “Come on, God,” I negotiated. “You healed me of the other stuff; why not these?” You see, if I had been healed of everything all at once, I don’t think that I’d have the appreciation for health and wellness that I do today. Hitting my rock bottom and then fighting my way back to health one issue at a time helped me develop patience, character, and perseverance—qualities I value in myself and try to instill in my children every day. E X P E R I E N C I N G Y O U R O W N T R A N S F O R M AT I O N I learned that my health was my own responsibility—not that of my doctor, my spouse, or anyone else. I was empowered by the revelation that health is an act of self-love and not something that I should focus on merely to be free of sickness. I also realized that I couldn’t take anyone’s word at face value. Paul’s admonishment to the Thessalonian church to “test all things and to hold fast to that which is good” became my guiding principle. Lastly, I came to see that we’re all under construction and that I needed to give myself grace whenever I missed the mark. In his book From Within I Rise, T. F. Hodge puts it this way: “You cannot build a dream on a foundation of sand. To weather the test of storms, it must be cemented in the heart with uncompromising conviction.”2 I urge you to find your own conviction to become truly healthy, whatever that inspiration may be, and act on it. Even if you don’t feel that conviction at this very moment, get started today on improving your health. As you learn how to do that in these pages, focus on the low-hanging fruit—do those things that are easiest for you to implement right away to get some quick wins, which will increase your conviction. Take it line by line. Here a little, there a little. If you use the fundamental principles of this book to adopt an essential oils–based, holistic health lifestyle, you will never look back. GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THIS BOOK Are you overwhelmed by all of the information out there about essential oils? You’re not alone! Many of the sources that you may be reading use fear tactics or overstate potential therapeutic efficacy to convince you to follow their advice (or buy their products). This misguided and often conflicting information leaves a trail of bewildered consumers who are confused about how to use essential oils safely and effectively. It’s with this in mind that I offer you four strategies to get the most out of this book: 1. Don’t overanalyze. 2. Quiet the noise. 3. Focus on the low-hanging fruit. 4. Remember biochemical individuality. 1. Don’t Overanalyze Two phrases I learned during my short stint in the sales world were “paralysis by analysis” and “ignorance on fire.” We were taught not to overthink things, which is a surefire way to feel that you’re not prepared to approach a customer and to make you freeze up before you ever get the chance to land the sale—in other words, paralysis by analysis. The most successful salespeople, on the other hand, tend to act before they think through all of the potential objections and have a much higher close rate— demonstrating ignorance on fire. I have observed that many online health consumers fall into the paralysis by analysis trap. They have a tendency to agonize about the details and quickly become overwhelmed—and then are too afraid to move forward. To be fair, I can understand why. Health is a serious issue and people’s lives are at stake. Not to mention that the information out there in the blogosphere is anything but consistent. What’s the solution? Don’t overanalyze! I don’t mean that you should try essential oils willy-nilly. Commit to educating yourself, but learn at your own pace and implement the recommendations offered in this book only as you’re comfortable. This isn’t a race. 2. Quiet the Noise When you first start using essential oils it can be tempting to read everything you can get your hands on—from your new essential oils distributor to your favorite blogger, your medical doctor, and even your Facebook friend who fancies herself an essential oils expert. Maintaining a scientific focus is important, but feeling that you must read everything you can and interrogate everyone you know, until you’re completely overwhelmed, can be counterproductive. A practical way to move forward is to limit your teachers to just two or three when you’re first starting out. This is not to say that you shouldn’t get a second opinion, but resist the urge to get a fourth, fifth, or sixth opinion, or else you’re likely to hear such conflicting information that you won’t know what to do. Do your research and vet your sources by making sure they have valid credentials. When I first started learning about essential oils, I didn’t follow food bloggers. I sought out aromatherapists, chemists, and health care professionals with ample experience using essential oils in their research and practices. When you find a quality resource, let your guard down and receive what’s being shared with you, just as a student does with her teacher. Then, when you have the basics down pat, you’ll be better prepared to venture into the Wild West and comb through the vast array of Internet resources! 3. Focus on Low-Hanging Fruit Implementing essential oils into your daily routine is more than a fad; it’s a way of life. Even though the journey to health is a marathon, not a sprint, quick wins are a must because they create confidence, which is the foundation for long-term success. This is why focusing on the lowest-hanging fruit makes the most sense. Set aside the advanced aromatherapy concepts and formulas until a later date when your knowledge and confidence are built up. Do something quick and easy first, like the Essential Oils Daily Practice in chapter 5 (this page). It’s all there, easily spelled out, ripe for the picking. Making your own hand sanitizer is another great place to start. Everyone seems to be using the commercially produced stuff, and yet it couldn’t be more toxic. Want a quick win? Toss the hand sanitizer and make your own. You can get everything you need on Amazon, it costs only a few bucks, and it will take you just a few minutes to make a dozen batches. Check out my recipe on this page. 4. Remember Biochemical Individuality By far the hardest concept for new essential oil users to grasp is biochemical individuality. In a nutshell: What works for me, a thirty-seven-year-old Caucasian male with Polish and Sicilian ancestry, will not necessarily work for a seventy-five-year-old African-American female. Our physiologies are as unique as our fingerprints. There simply is no one-size-fits-all approach to health care. There are always multiple ways to achieve the effects you seek, just as there’s more than one way to paint a wall. This trips people up because we’ve been indoctrinated by the medical community to believe that a standardized approach to health care is ideal: Are you sick? Take this pill that everyone else is taking. You all have the same sickness, so why shouldn’t you all take the same remedy? This seems logical, but don’t forget that it presupposes that all the variables are the same. You may all have the same sickness. But is everything else the same? What about your weight, race, gender, comorbidities, and contributing factors like stress, diet, and drugs you are currently taking? We all have different biochemical makeups, and you need to find what works for you. Lavender is the perfect example. Traditionally a sedative, this popular oil can have the opposite effect on certain people and act more like a stimulant. This is why I’ll always suggest that you try multiple oils before giving up and running to the pharmacy—you never know what will work for you. You need to give your search time, and it takes practice. Resist any claim that says, “There’s an oil for that.” This isn’t true, because we’re all different! A GIFT TO HELP YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY The therapeutic use of essential oils doesn’t have to be complicated. Yes, you could dive into some advanced concepts, like chemistry, blending, and interpreting scientific studies, but you don’t have to worry about any of that with this book. I have painstakingly taken out all of the guesswork and have tried my best to distill everything down to manageable bite-sized pieces. Remember, learning a new skill takes time and practice, and digesting the material presented in this book is no exception. Let me suggest that you make a hot cup of herbal tea, cozy up in your favorite chair, and begin the wonderful journey. Trust me, it’ll be worth it! To help you along the journey, I have created a series of demo videos showing you how to prepare several of my essential oil blends. Each of the videos also contains extra insight into the strategies and information covered in this book. You can access those videos for free at HealingPowerOfEssentialOils.com. Part 1 Essential Oils Revolution I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. —MOTHER TERESA U sing natural therapies such as essential oils is about so much more than physical healing. It’s about empowering yourself to transform yourself and your life. Throughout my life, being sick was a constant for me and, like many people today, I was a victim of misguided medical advice. I was woefully unprepared to manage my own health. In fact, I felt that my only problem was that I needed more antibiotics and other prescription drugs—I literally expected (and often requested) drugs every time I visited my primary care physician. Evidently, I’m not alone. A Medscape report shares a shocking story of one physician who blames patients for the misuse of medical treatments because of the sheer volume of people “who flood urgent care centers seeking care for run-of-the-mill ailments such as ‘simple ankle sprains, sore throats or diarrhea for one day, sunburns—the list goes on. None of us would even consider seeing a doctor for such common and trivial matters,’ the physician stated in an interview. ‘I see about 50 patients a day, and easily 75 percent of them have no business seeing a physician. And 80 percent of those patients are expecting antibiotics.’”1 Can you relate? At its core, my work to spread research-backed information on essential oils is designed to educate families that they don’t need to visit their health care provider for every little ailment. At the very least, you’ll be armed with enough information to question your health care provider about alternatives before taking a prescription drug or having a procedure done. Hopefully, you’ll have a natural solution or two in your tool belt so that you can handle some things all by yourself! Even better, thanks to the preventative effect of essential oils, perhaps you’ll have fewer ailments that need remedies in the first place. This is one of the many reasons I’m so passionate about essential oils—they empower us to manage our own health. With essential oils, you can finally get a better night’s sleep, reduce stress, boost your mood, clear brain fog, balance your hormones, and ease pain—and that’s just the beginning! Are you ready to get started? 1 Fundamentals of Aromatherapy Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, Your name is like purified oil; Therefore the maidens love you….How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, And the fragrance of your oils Than all kinds of spices! —SONG OF SOLOMON 1:3, 4:10 I magine yourself walking through a beautiful garden. After brushing up against a rose, you faintly smell the floral scent. You bend over to get a better whiff and encounter an aroma that stops you in your tracks. This, my friend, is the essential oil. Or, imagine making homemade lemonade as a refreshing treat after working in the garden on a hot summer day. When you’ve finished cutting all of the lemons and juicing them, you are pleasantly surprised to find your kitchen permeated with an uplifting, citrus aroma. This, too, is the essential oil. Essential oils represent nature in its most concentrated form. They are extracted directly from the bark, flowers, fruit, leaves, nut, resin, or roots of a plant or tree, and just one drop contains a complex network of molecules that deliver myriad effects to the body. They are entirely, utterly natural. Used medicinally for thousands of years through a variety of nonconcentrated forms, the true power of these oils is not in facilitating one-time therapeutic effects (as drugs do), but in addressing physiological disharmony and helping your body achieve the inner balance it needs to heal itself. And their power to facilitate healing is so effective that the scientific world has begun to take note—thousands of peer-reviewed articles published in databases around the world discuss their efficacy. L AY I N G T H E F O U N D AT I O N Before you dive into the therapeutic use of these precious plant-based compounds, you need to understand the basics. I welcome you along a journey that I hope will prove not only insightful but also empowering. Think of growing your understanding of essential oils as a project similar to building a house. If the foundation isn’t set properly, the entire structure will soon crumble, particularly when a storm hits. And storms always seem to hit at the most inopportune moments, don’t they? Using essential oils requires patience, study, and practice and should never be seen as a “quick fix” for your health problems. You need to learn how to use them properly. If you’re not armed with the foundational principles of essential oils, you won’t know what to do or where to turn for answers if the results aren’t what you expect. You might give up on using natural solutions far too soon, or fall back into the prescription medication trap, even though many drugs have long-term consequences, including, for some, a risk of addiction. When you take the information and instruction in this book to heart, I trust that this will never happen to you. SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. —MATTHEW 2:11 While it’s not an exhaustive study of the subject, consider this section my very best attempt to distill six thousand years of recorded use of essential oils down to a Reader’s Digest version of aromatherapy history. Are you ready? OK, let’s put first things first with a myth-buster that may shake up your essential oil theology: Jesus didn’t use essential oils. It’s actually one of the more pervasive delusions among lay people and students of biblical health. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “If it’s good enough for Baby Jesus, then it’s good enough for me!” Truth is, the magi gave the Christ child gold, frankincense, and myrrh resins. How do I know this? Because essential oils as we know them didn’t exist back then—the essential oils that we use today require highly advanced distillation techniques that weren’t yet invented. Of course, crudely distilled alcoholic beverages have been around since our earliest recorded history—museums have three-thousand-year-old terra-cotta distillation apparatuses on display—but the likelihood that anyone could have extracted essential oils from plants is slim to none. What we do know is that virtually every culture dating back to the beginning of time used aromatic plant materials in their sacred rituals as incense, in their body care as ointments and perfumes, and in their medicine as poultices, salves, and tinctures. Could Mary have created a healing salve or ointment from the frankincense resin that the magi gave her? Certainly. But she didn’t use a drop of myrrh essential oil to cure Jesus of a sore throat. Big difference! THE CLIFFSNOTES VERSION OF THE HISTORY OF A R O M AT H E R A P Y Moreover, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant calamus two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hint. You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. —EXODUS 30:11–25 Burning leaves, resins, and other aromatic plant materials for incense has been a religious tradition throughout recorded history. As far as we can tell, these practices ushered in the dawn of aromatherapy. The first records of essential oils as we know them today come from ancient Egypt, India, and, much later, Persia. Both Greece and Rome conducted extensive trade in aromatic oils and ointments with the Orient.1 It’s safe to assume that these products—not unlike the holy anointing oil recipe that God gave Moses—were extracts prepared by soaking flowers, leaves, resins, and roots in various fatty vegetable oils like olive and sesame. It is presumed that fatty oils and alcohol were exclusively used to extract the essential oils from aromatic plants up until the golden age of Arab culture (eighth–thirteenth century AD), when a technique was developed using an alcohol solvent.2 History tells us that Arabs were the first to distill ethyl alcohol from fermented sugar, which could have been used to replace vegetable oils to create aromatic extracts (more on the difference between extracts and essential oils to come). The history books are in disagreement over the exact dates and to whom we should give credit for first inventing hydro (steam) distillation, but it seems fair to say that we can thank Arab alchemists from the ninth century AD. One of the first dated references to the “quintessence” of plants (i.e., essential oils) dates back to The Book of Perfume Chemistry and Distillation by Yakub al-Kindi (803–870).3 Many credit Ibn-Sina, more commonly known as Avicenna (980–1037), for discovering distillation, but that’s still debated. In either case, he has gone down in history as being the one of the first to document using essential oils in his practice, including an entire treatise on rose oil!4 Fast-forward to early-twentieth-century France, when the renaissance of aromatherapy was birthed after chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé suffered a laboratory explosion and stumbled upon lavender essential oil as the remedy to heal the gas gangrene that ensued on his hand. Gattefossé devoted the remainder of his life to researching the therapeutic nature of essential oils and reported using many—such as chamomile, clove, lemon, and thyme, which were also used to disinfect surgical equipment and to treat infected wounds—on his patients during both world wars.5 The science of aromatherapy was recorded in print with his seminal work Aromatherapie: The Essential Oils—Vegetable Hormones. Commonly misunderstood today to refer solely to the inhalation of essential oils (i.e., diffusing, nebulizing, enjoying their aroma), the term aromatherapy is more properly defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils. S C I E N C E Y I N F O R M AT I O N F O R E S S E N T I A L O I L G E E K S Let’s take a moment to walk through a couple of key terms, starting with the most fundamental of all: fixed oils and essential oils. You may wonder why the essential oils you’ve come in contact with don’t seem all that, well, oily. That’s because there are two different types of oils, which have different chemical (and, therefore, therapeutic) properties. • Fixed oils. Also known as expressed or fatty oils, fixed oils are derived from both animals and plants. Common examples are cooking oils, including coconut, olive, and other vegetables oils that you see at the market. They contain fatty acids such as triglycerides, as well as certain phytochemicals, including vitamins, minerals, and a host of others. In contrast to volatile oils (aka essential oils), fixed oils do not evaporate (they will leave a stain on an absorbent surface), and thus cannot be distilled. Obtained by expression (the act of squeezing or using pressure) or extraction (drawing out using a solvent), fixed oils vary in consistency depending on the temperature and can be solid, semisolid, or liquid.6 • Essential oils. Also known as volatile oils because they evaporate readily, essential oils are the lipophilic (“fat loving”), hydrophobic (“water hating”) volatile organic compounds that are found in aromatic plants. Meaning, they have the tendency to dissolve or combine with fats or lipids, while repelling or not mixing with water. Somewhat of a misnomer, essential oils aren’t “oily” like the fixed, culinary oils just described, and they usually do not leave a residue when applied to your skin. They are generally insoluble in water but soluble in alcohol and fixed oils, and can dissolve fatty materials such as grease. Unlike fixed oils, they do not contain any nutritional content like vitamins or minerals. Let’s clear up another common misconception: Once referred to as “essential” because they were thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor, essential oils are not “essential” for life at all.7 However, though they may not be “necessary” for life, I can think of no other substance on the planet that I would consider essential to have in my medicine cabinet! What gives these precious plant compounds their healing powers are the more than three hundred different aromatic molecules found in each bottle, and chemists are continually identifying more. These compounds contain physiological and pharmacological properties that affect nearly every organ and virtually every function necessary to human life.8 The amount of oil in each plant varies considerably—it takes more than three hundred pounds of rose petals, thirty pounds of lavender flowers, or forty-five lemons to fill just one of those itty-bitty 15 ml bottles of essential oil that you have in your home. Just think about how many tons of plant matter it must take to supply the world’s growing need for these precious plant-based compounds! The compounds contained in an essential oil are affected by how the oil is extracted and what part of the plant is used. While you don’t necessarily need this information to buy and start using essential oils, reading it can help expand your understanding of these potent healers. And since this is a book that can live on your shelf for years, as you’re ready to deepen your learning about essential oils, you can always revisit this section. Thankfully, we are continually perfecting the manufacturing methods necessary to extract the volatile organic compounds from plants. U N D E R S TA N D I N G E S S E N T I A L O I L M A N U FA C T U R I N G T O HELP YOU PURCHASE THE RIGHT PRODUCTS Have you noticed that your favorite bottle of vanilla is not labeled as an oil, but an “absolute”? Yep! Same with jasmine and other plants that are too delicate to steam distill. Or, have you seen the term CO2 on your bottle of turmeric or frankincense? These bottles look and even smell like essential oils, but they are different products because they were not steam distilled. And, because they were extracted differently than essential oils, they contain unique chemical properties, which lead to different therapeutic benefits and safety considerations. The obstacle that all essential oil users have to overcome is that some companies mislabel their bottles and some sellers misrepresent their products. Even worse, I’ve encountered dozens of studies written by scientists who refer to the wrong products in their research. Bottom line: Absolutes, CO2 extracts, and essential oils should not be used interchangeably. Most of the research we have is about essential oils, which is why I don’t cover the medicinal uses of CO2 extracts in much detail in this book because they are still considered experimental. So, to help you understand the differences among the various products on the market today, here is an overview of the primary extraction methods to be aware of before you start purchasing essential oils: • CO2 extraction. Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) uses supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2), which is a fluid state where CO2 is held at or above its critical temperature and critical pressure. Not to get too deep into chemistry here; you’re most likely familiar with CO2 being a gas at standard temperature and pressure (STP), or dry ice when frozen. In its supercritical, fluid state, it has an uncanny ability to perform as a commercial and industrial solvent. Unlike other commonly used toxic solvents, like hexane, CO2 is safe and environmentally friendly. The resulting extract is currently all the rage in the aromatherapy community. • Distillation. Primarily produced with steam, essential oils can also be water and steam distilled as well as steam vacuum distilled. Let me help you visualize the process: Steam from boiling water comes into contact with biomass (lavender flowers, sandalwood, cinnamon bark, etc.), softens it, and breaks up the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Now loose, the lipophilic/hydrophobic (nonpolar, or nonsoluble in water) VOCs then pass through a condenser wherein the steam separates them from the biomass that originally contained them. Also traveling with the steam are the lipidphobic/hydrophilic (polar, or soluble in water) components of the plant. In the condenser, the steam is cooled and the polar constituents separate from the nonpolar constituents while sitting in a tube. The water is then separated from the oil, and what’s left are hydrosols (“floral waters”) and essential oils. If you’re keen on trying to do this yourself, you can pick up a home distiller kit for a few hundred bucks. It takes a little getting used to, but you’ll find that you can make some high-quality oils from many of the herbs, shrubs, and trees you have in your backyard! • Enfleurage. One of the most expensive ways to extract volatile organic compounds, enfleurage is used for fragile flowers such as jasmine. This is a labor-intensive process that is rarely used today; however, it is still interesting to note because of its historical significance. Enfleurage can take weeks to complete and essentially uses animal fat (pounded and coated onto glass) to extract the essential oils from delicate flowers. The end result is an oil/fat mixture known as a pomade that needs to be washed with alcohol to remove the fat. After the fat is removed, an extract containing volatile and nonvolatile principles is left, so it’s referred to as an absolute. • Expression. Primarily reserved for citrus peels, mechanical pressing (aka cold pressing) literally squeezes the volatile organic compounds out of the rind of a fruit. At one point in history, this was done by hand using a sponge to collect the oil, but those days are long gone. Citrus oils can also be steam distilled, but the aroma has a tendency to change considerably and the therapeutic properties are much different. • Solvent extraction. A type of liquid-to-liquid extraction, this is what our biblical ancestors utilized to extract minuscule amounts of frankincense essential oil out of the resin by placing it in olive oil for a short time. Today, it is used for delicate flowers, such as rose, jasmine, and mimosa. The process has been expedited and much more of the volatile organic compounds can be extracted by using petroleum ether or chemical solvents like ethanol and hexane, all of which have safety concerns for us and for the environment. For this reason, safer alternatives like CO2 extraction are becoming more popular. Solvent extraction produces a waxy, fatty substance known as a concrete. When the concrete is washed with alcohol, the fat is separated and the remaining end product, which contains volatile and nonvolatile compounds, is referred to as an absolute. The various forms of extraction produce different types of products. I list below the most common plant products that fall within the scope of medicinal use of aromatic plants. Taking note of these differences and being an avid label reader will not only empower you to become a more informed consumer, it will also help ensure that you’re spending your money on the right products to meet your health goals. • Absolutes. A by-product of enfleurage and solvent extraction, absolutes are highly concentrated aromatic plant compounds that are widely used in the cosmetic and perfume industries as well as in the mental health field because of their uplifting aroma. The aroma generally resembles the actual plant that it was extracted from. Examples include rose, jasmine, and vanilla. • CO2 extracts. CO2 extracts are still very experimental as few clinical trials have been conducted evaluating their safety and efficacy. That said, they are quite popular now in the aromatherapy community because, unlike with steam distillation, many more (medicinal) plant compounds are extracted during the process, no potentially harmful solvents are required, the oils are sometimes gentler to use on the skin, and their aromas are truer to the original plant than those of steam-distilled essential oils. Some of the more popular CO2 extracts are cannabis, turmeric, and vanilla. • Cold-pressed citrus oils. Citrus oils that are expressed are much different from their steam-distilled counterparts. They are darker in color, they can stain clothing, and their aroma resembles the original peel much more closely. Technically speaking, citrus oils are not essential oils at all because they contain nonvolatile principals, but the aromatherapy and chemistry communities have made an exception to the rule. For more information on the safety differences (phototoxicity) between expressed and distilled citrus oils, see the list of photosensitizing and nonphotosensitizing essential oils on this page. • Steam distilled essential oils. Steam distillation often changes the aromatic compounds in the plant. The classic example is the distillation of German chamomile, when the chemical matricin is changed by the high-temperature steam to chamazulene. Not a bad thing necessarily, as both have antiinflammatory properties, but it’s important to note that the chemical contents (and therefore the specific therapeutic effects) of steam-distilled essentials oils are often different from those of the original plant. Look for labels that indicate whether the bottle contents have been steam distilled. Otherwise, you can never be sure how the product was extracted and whether or not it’s truly an essential oil! • Extracts. Similar to absolutes in that they contain volatile and nonvolatile principles, extracts are popular because they retain many of the same chemical properties of essential oils. Popular examples are cinnamon bark, clove, ginger, lemon, nutmeg, orange, peppermint, rose, spearmint, vanilla, and wintergreen. They are extracted using nonalcoholic solvents such as water, glycerin, and vinegar. • Hydrosols. Also known as hydrolats, distillate waters, or floral waters, hydrosols contain the water-soluble compounds from distilled plants and contain a minuscule amount of essential oils. They are very safe to consume, and work wonderfully as spritzers and as fragrances for body care products. After you purchase hydrosols, be careful to refrigerate and use them speedily— they have a tendency to develop bacterial overgrowth and go rancid. Common examples on the market today include lavender, neroli, Roman chamomile, and rose. • Infused oils. The by-product of submerging aromatic plant matter in a fixed oil for days or weeks, infused oil is reminiscent of what our ancestors would have used as perfume, anointing oils, or healing ointments. • Tinctures. Using alcohol as the principal solvent to extract essential oils out of plants, tinctures are concentrated herbal remedies that have a long history of medicinal use. They are very easy to make, requiring only unflavored 80 to 90 proof vodka, some herbal biomass, a mason jar, and about two months to steep. Examples include arnica, St. John’s wort, garlic, and echinacea. P L A N T PA R T S T H AT P R O D U C E E S S E N T I A L O I L S The other factor that contributes to the properties of an essential oil is the part of the plant that it was extracted from. I’ve fielded numerous questions from people about the origin of their essential oils. The following chart provides a quick overview of the plant parts that make up your favorite oils. PLANT PARTS THAT PRODUCE ESSENTIAL OILS From “The Parts of Plants That Produce Essential Oil,” AromaWeb.com. This information is not just for Trivial Pursuit buffs. It is important to consider the practical applications since essential oils derived from different parts of a plant can have very different uses and cautions. So, before you start using a particular oil to treat a specific condition, be sure you’re using the right one for the purpose. For example, cinnamon essential oil most commonly comes from the Cinnamomum zeylanicum tree. From there, either the inner bark or the leaves can be harvested for distillation. This should be indicated as either “cinnamon bark” or “cinnamon leaf” on the bottle. The bark and leaf oils each have their own chemical composition, which means they have very different medicinal properties. Cinnamon leaf essential oil, for example, is steam distilled from cinnamon leaves, is yellowish in color, and contains high amounts of eugenol (68.6%– 87.0%) and some cinnamaldehyde (0.6%–1.1%). Cinnamon bark essential oil, on the other hand, is steam distilled from cinnamon bark, is reddish-brown in color, and contains mostly cinnamaldehyde (63.1%–75.7%) and much less eugenol (2.0%–13.3%). Containing significantly more eugenol—a naturally occurring chemical with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties—cinnamon leaf is used widely to relieve pain and inflammation and to fight infectious agents. The bark is composed more of cinnamaldehyde and camphor, and its primary uses are as a potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antidiabetic.9 WHY DO ESSENTIAL OILS EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE? The function of volatile organic compounds in nature is not well understood. One obvious role is to give the plant its aroma—which attracts (or deters) pollinators, animals, and humans. Beyond this obvious benefit, the purposes that essential oils serve in nature have been debated for years. Still, we can logically conjecture a few of the other reasons why plants might be endowed with precious essential oils:10 • To protect plants from herbivores and vectors like flies and mosquitoes— essential oils are generally quite bitter and many have an exceptional ability to repel insects. • To protect plants from bacteria, fungi, and viruses—essential oils are supremely antimicrobial (a fact you’ll hear me say over and over again in this book). • To heal the plant from fungal infection, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions—essential oils are fantastic wound healers. HOW ESSENTIAL OILS ARE USED IN THE INDUSTRIAL WORLD Commercially, essential oils are used extensively as agrochemicals, fragrances, flavors, industrial cleaners, and pharmaceuticals. At first, you might be surprised to learn that the flavor industry is the top consumer of essential oils—even more than the aromatherapy community, which includes your favorite essential oil brand! But after you think about the sheer volume of colas and sodas, peppermint candies, and lemon bars that are consumed every day, this probably makes more sense. If there’s a flavor or aroma in one of your favorite foods or household items, chances are you can thank an essential oil. Here’s a breakdown of the industries that use essential oils and the approximate percentage of all the essential oils on the market that you’ll find in these products:11 • Food and flavors: 50% • Fragrance: 25% • Pharmaceutical: 20% (mostly used to flavor medicine, though menthol is used for nausea and stomach upset) • Industrial: 3% • Aromatherapy: only 2% DECIPHERING THE SCIENTIFIC NAMES ON ESSENTIAL OIL BOTTLES The botanical names on your bottles are important for a number of reasons, but mainly because they indicate similar chemical makeups among plants within the same species and sometimes genus, which can help narrow down how and when you should use certain essential oils. Essentially, it’s all about chemistry. Ready to jog your memory of the plant kingdom chart from grade school? Let’s distill it to the most important takeaways that you need to become a savvy essential oil user. • Family: The larger group (above genus) that a particular plant belongs to. The family name is capitalized but not italicized. • Genus: A group of related plants within a family. The genus is always written in italics with the first letter capitalized, and refers to the generic name of the plant. • Species: The specific name of the plant. Always written in italics; the first letter is lowercased. • Chemotype: An unusually high content of a particular chemical constituent in a plant within the same species. Let’s use rosemary as an example. • Family: Lamiaceae • Genus: Rosmarinus • Species: officinalis • Chemotype: camphor, cineole, and verbenone This is how these chemotypes (abbreviated ct.) are written and what makes them different: • Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor is rich in the chemical camphor and works as a diuretic, a muscle relaxant, and an emmenagogic (promotes menstruation). • Rosmarinus officinalis ct. cineole is rich in the chemical 1,8-cineole, which is an exceptional antifungal and anti-inflammatory agent. • Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone is high in the chemicals verbenone and pinene and acts as a reliever of muscle spasms and an expectorant.12 Can you see why knowing the genus, species, and chemotype of an essential oil is so important? There you are, an unsuspecting essential oils consumer trying to overcome inflammatory arthritic pain, so you go online and read that a topical solution of rosemary essential oil can help. Being a faithful, safe essential oils user, you remember that your favorite essential oils guru always harped on her readers to make sure that they treat their condition with the correct plant species. You purchase Rosmarinus officinalis, but inadvertently get a bottle filled with the camphor chemotype, not the cineole variety. Not only does your pain remain, you fear that it’s gotten worse and your monthly cycle gets out of whack because you’re taking an emmenagogue! It’s important to note that the chemotype doesn’t indicate the most prominent chemical in the oil. Rather, it shows which one or two components are drastically elevated. For example, the main chemical in Rosmarinus ct. verbenone is still 1,8-cineole. To complicate matters even more, biochemist Nacim Zouari, PhD, points out, “In the literature and in most cases, only the main constituents of essential oils have been considered for the chemotype’s determination. However, it is worth noting that minor compounds can play a very important role in the chemical polymorphism of a given species. In addition, the biological activity of an essential oil may be due to a synergistic action of some minor compounds. In this way, an essential oil is defined not only by its major compounds, but rather by a majority of all its compounds.”13 During my interview with chemist Dr. Robert Pappas for the Essential Oils Revolution 2 summit, he pointed out that a lack of proper education about the true chemical nature of essential oils is a fundamental problem. This is why I’m going into so much detail about the “sciencey” aspects of essential oils. “Unfortunately, [the average person doesn’t] understand the synergistic nature of essential oils, how complex the mixtures are, and how complicated they are, with hundreds and hundreds of molecules in one essential oil,” Pappas said. “There are so many interactions that are going on. You can’t just say, ‘Let’s look at pure menthol. And we have this data that says it’s this. And because the pure menthol acts this way, well, therefore peppermint must be the same.’ You can’t do that.”14 So what’s the bottom line? 1. Read the labels. 2. The recipes in this book do not require you to seek out specific chemotypes. However, realize that the plant species doesn’t always guarantee the therapeutic nature of the oil due to the chemical anomalies that can occur. This is where chemotypes, indicated by “ct.” on the label, come in. As you become more advanced in your study of essential oils and prepare more advanced blends, be sure that you’re using the right species and chemotype according to your needs. There is an entire science devoted to the chemistry and taxonomy of plants and essential oils, which is way beyond the scope of this book. If this topic interests you, check out the additional suggested reading material I’ve provided in the resource section of this book. H O W P U R E A R E T H E E S S E N T I A L O I L S T H AT Y O U B U Y ? You know what they say: “You don’t talk about religion, politics, or your essential oils brand at Thanksgiving dinner!” There is no topic that is more hotly debated in the essential oils world than which company sells the purest oil. First off, there is no “best,” but there are several reputable companies that sell quality oils free of chemical contamination. With that said, Robert Pappas, PhD, told me during our interview for my first telesummit that he estimates more than 75 percent of all the essential oils on the market are adulterated, which means they are either diluted or contaminated with synthetic materials.15 Essential oil purity and adulteration are extremely important topics when considering which oils to buy. I’ll discuss how to choose the right essential oil brands in chapter 2. Let’s debunk two myths about purity in one fell swoop: (1) Purity doesn’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy a therapeutic effect, and (2) purity doesn’t guarantee safety. If you try an oil and do not get the desired result, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the oil is fake or not “pure.” It may have more to do with the chemical constituents that are within each batch, which may mean that you’ll need to try several different brands to find the one that works for you. And don’t believe the “detox” myth. If you apply an essential oil straight (neat) on your skin and experience a rash, bumps, or other adverse effects such as swelling or itching, this does not mean the essential oil is cleansing your body of harmful toxins. Rather, this is known as a “sensitization” response; I’ll cover this at length in chapter 2. MAXIMIZING THE SHELF LIFE OF YOUR ESSENTIAL OILS You may have heard that essential oils never expire, but don’t believe it— essential oils don’t last forever. When it comes to storing your essential oils, oxygen is your enemy. More specifically, oxidation (caused by gradual exposure to oxygen) is your enemy because it will cause the the freshness of your oils to plummet and their therapeutic potency to diminish. The shelf life of most oils ranges from two to four years. It is best to store them in cool, dark places, tightly capped, out of the sun, and away from extreme heat. This is because heat can expedite oxidation, not because heat will destroy the natural characteristics of the compounds in the essential oils. That’s another myth. Two ways to extend the shelf life of your oils beyond two to four years are to store them in the fridge and to mix them with fractionated coconut oil, which doesn’t go rancid like other carrier oils. S A F E T Y C O N S I D E R AT I O N S Did you know that more than 128,000 people die every year because of adverse reactions to drugs given in the hospital?16 Just think how high this number would skyrocket if we had data on people dying from drug reactions outside the hospital! Thankfully, no one is on recent record as dying from essential oils, but to say that they have no side effects is false.17 However, you’ll be relieved to learn that essential oils are at the bottom of the list of substances that cause moderate to serious adverse reactions from overexposure. Statistically, swimming in a pool is more dangerous than using essential oils!18 Still, safety is the primary focus of most aromatherapists, and for good reason. As much as I love my essential oils, it’s important to remember that they do not come without risks. They are still highly concentrated plant-based compounds that should be handled with great care, especially around children. Just think about it for a minute. As natural as essential oils are, they still need to be extracted using man-made techniques or else they’re virtually useless to humans. Fact is, our skin isn’t designed to come into contact with neat (undiluted) essential oils for any length of time. They are simply too concentrated and our body cannot process them properly. I’ll instruct you how to use essential oils safely and effectively in upcoming chapters (especially chapter 3), but if you want to learn more about safety, see the additional suggested reading on this subject in the Recommended Resources section. DECIPHERING THE RESEARCH As you read this book you’ll learn that there are thousands of research studies that discuss the therapeutic use and potential safety concerns of essential oils and their chemical constituents. Primarily because of the money needed to conduct research and the organizations that provide this funding, the medical literature is much more heavily weighted on the constituent side—meaning that a vast majority of the research has been done on individual, isolated chemicals that make up essential oils, and not the oils themselves. These are called “constituent studies” and they are more common because pharmaceutical companies can easily duplicate these isolated chemicals, create synthetic varieties, and include them in their drugs. A prime example is menthol and peppermint. At the time I wrote this book, there were 2,741 published peer-reviewed studies discussing the many aspects of menthol,19 whereas only 407 addressed peppermint oil specifically.20 The significance here lies in the fact that far too many blogs and books offer very detailed advice on how to use oils based on the studies of their chemical components—not of the oils themselves, which is incredibly misleading. Let’s say you’re reading a blog post about someone’s total remission of chronic migraines after applying diluted peppermint over her temples. Because the essential oil she used was high in menthol, and there are some studies suggesting that menthol can help with migraines,21 she’s now telling everyone with the same condition to use oils rich in menthol (not just peppermint) to get the same result, and her story is being shared all over the Internet. It is important to note that it is unclear whether the migraines disappeared because of the menthol or because of the cornucopia of chemicals working in synergistic harmony within the peppermint oil. In other words, straight menthol has a different therapeutic effect than peppermint, even though peppermint contains menthol, because there are other chemicals at work in the essential oil. Furthermore, relying on constituent research can cause people to become overly cautious about the oils that they use. Take, for example, anethole, the primary chemical in star anise and sweet fennel. Suppose we have an average aromatherapist who teaches about the safe, conservative use of essential oils. This person has a client who is on blood thinners and who took an oral dose of fennel oil, which is believed to prevent blood clots because it contains anethole.22 Then the client gets injured and has to be rushed to the hospital to tend to his wounds because they won’t stop bleeding. Now the aromatherapist is telling everyone taking that same drug never to use anethole-containing essential oils, and this recommendation goes viral in the online community. Again, this is an illogical conclusion because there is no way to determine whether or not the bleeding occurred because of the anethole, the fennel oil as a whole, or because of some outside variable like stress! The take-home message here is twofold. • First, we already discussed biochemical individuality, so I won’t go into that other than to say that this principle goes both ways: It applies to both therapeutic and safety aspects of aromatherapy. Meaning, what may be unsafe for one person may not necessarily be unsafe for another. • Second, one must make a significant logical leap to extrapolate data from a constituent study (whether it concerns safety or therapeutic aspects) and draw conclusions about essential oils that contain that particular constituent. You’ll hear the loudest voices in the industry (aromatherapists, bloggers, and people who sell essential oils for a living) making misleading claims by concluding that people should or should not do certain things because of information reported in constituent studies, and this is bad science. FENNEL ACCUSED OF CAUSING CANCER?!? Robert Pappas and Nacim Zouari aren’t alone in their conclusion that we cannot base safety and therapeutic guidelines on research studies that evaluate the primary chemical constituent(s) in essential oils. A brilliant article discussing the potential carcinogenicity of estragole—a chemical component found in fennel essential oil—puts things into perspective. The article, published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine by Italian researchers in 2012,23 looks back at a 1983 study that has shaped decades of practitioners’ opinions about fennel. This original study showed that estragole, a constituent of fennel essential oil, caused liver cancer in mice that had yet to be weaned,24 causing fennel to develop a reputation as a carcinogen. You can understand that no practitioner would want to recommend an essential oil that could potentially cause cancer, right? I know I can. But the study didn’t evaluate fennel essential oil—it looked only at its constituent. So does that mean fennel essential oil should be banned forever? The Italian researchers cautioned against making conclusions about essential oils based on constituent studies. “This allegation do[es] not consider [that] the remedy is prepared as a matrix of substances,” they said, “and recent researches confirm that pure estragole is inactivated by many substance [sic] contained in the decoction [the liquid that results from boiling or heating plants in water].” Isolated estragole has become a concern for some researchers, despite fennel’s long history of being used medicinally in the following ways: • Fennel oil has been used widely as a flavoring agent in a variety of foods, as well as in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. • Fennel infusions are the classical decoction for nursing babies to prevent flatulence and colic spasm. • Fennel powder is used as a poultice for snakebites. • The whole fennel herb has traditionally been heralded in Europe and Mediterranean areas for its ability to act as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, diuretic, and galactagogue (promotes lactation). Conducting a complete literature review, the Italian researchers discovered that all of the animal studies reviewed showing potential estragole toxicity referred to isolated, purified estragole. Thus, the findings gave a toxicological profile only of this one molecule and not the extremely complex phytochemical matrix that makes up fennel essential oil. Again, it is not sound science to make premature conclusions regarding the safety and risk of a plant or the essential oil extracted from said plant based on constituent studies.25 Nonetheless, you’ll see arbitrary lists on well-known blogs reporting that fennel oil is potentially carcinogenic and should be avoided in people with cancer.26 What a shame… This is why I try not to make firm conclusions about which essential oils are best for specific conditions, or which ones to avoid, unless there is definitive research on the entire oil and not just one chemical constituent. Please keep this in mind as I report what the research says about how to use essential oils safely and effectively. I do my best to present a well-balanced approach to safety and therapeutic efficacy and my end goal is to help you find your way through the maze that confuses so many people online. When I present a list of oils that could work to reach a desired health outcome, I do so to show that there are options and to steer you in the right direction. But there is no guarantee that any of those listed will accomplish the desired goal. Remember, we all have different biochemical makeups. Essentially, I’m giving you a fishing pole—to help you figure out what will work for you—and not the fish. 2 Basic Tools and Techniques Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. —MAIMONIDES M y mission in writing this book is not to give you a fish, but to give you a fishing pole that you can use to regain control of your health. As a biblical health educator, I’m passionate about making that fishing pole the best, most useful tool it can be—and about empowering you to know where, when, and how to use it. In chapter 1 I covered the fundamentals of aromatherapy, which includes history, extraction methods, different aromatic products, taxonomy, and general safety considerations. In this chapter, I want to cover the fundamentals of how to incorporate essential oils safely and effectively into your natural health regimen, the tools that you’ll need, and tips on how to use them. STOCKING YOUR TOOLBOX: ESSENTIAL OILS, CARRIER O I L S , D I F F U S E R S , A N D C O N TA I N E R S If I were a master craftsman (which I am not!), I could tell you how to build a house, but if you didn’t have the materials you wouldn’t get too far. Right? Same thing here. Before you can get started on your journey to master the art and practice of essential oils, you need the right tools. I promise to keep the list short and the items affordable so that you don’t get too hung up on this phase. I want you to be able to get started as quickly and painlessly as possible; but I also want you to experience noticeable benefits—and if you grab a random, nontherapeutic-grade bottle of tea tree oil off the drugstore shelf and start dabbing it on your athlete’s foot (which is exactly what I did once, many years ago), either nothing will happen or your skin will get irritated, and you will decide that all this essential oil talk is just that—talk. You can easily find all of the aromatherapy supplies for these recipes on Amazon. They are readily available and cost-effective. Please note that I don’t recommend specific brands, but I do include a detailed guide on how to choose the right brand(s) later in this chapter. TOOL #1: ESSENTIAL OILS You can purchase essential oils from several sources, including online vendors, health food stores, and natural grocery stores. I like patronizing specialty, locally owned apothecaries, as the staff who work there are often well-versed in the criteria the store uses to select the brands they carry. Some yoga studios and chiropractors also sell them. Be very careful about what you buy at national chain stores. If an oil is labeled 100 percent pure and is being sold at a dirt-cheap price, it’s probably too good to be true. For example, the lavender essential oil sold at one national chain has been proven to be adulterated with large amounts of synthetic linalool and synthetic linalyl acetate.1 Be especially careful when reading labels. With essential oils, there is nothing on the label that you can truly trust other than plant taxonomy, plant sourcing, extraction method, and chemotype. Everything else is marketing propaganda. The prime example is the all-too-common “therapeutic grade” claim that you’ll read on many labels, which is intended to imply that the oils are of a superior quality compared to nontherapeutic-grade oils. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but this is a marketing strategy and doesn’t mean much at all, because all essential oils are therapeutic if they are pure! Contaminated essential oils really aren’t essential oils at all, but a combination of synthetic chemicals, some essential oils components, and God only knows what else. Three facts to keep in mind: 1. Many companies have developed internal therapeutic-grade standards, which essentially boil down to purity. Meaning, any reputable company will have its oils tested by multiple third parties to guarantee that they are not adulterated with synthetic chemicals, fillers, or other agents. If the company can prove this, it can most likely be trusted as a viable resource for a good-quality product. Whether it “certifies” this process or calls it a fancy name really doesn’t matter. 2. That said, non-adulteration doesn’t guarantee therapeutic effectiveness— that depends on the chemical constituency. All purity refers to is whether or not the oil is adulterated with carrier oils or synthetic chemical components. 3. As for supplements and most things in the natural health space, there are no independent governing third-party agencies evaluating and certifying essential oils as “therapeutic” or “pure.” What you see on your labels is (hopefully) based on internal testing and standards that each company commits to uphold. Many companies pay third parties to evaluate their products and test them for purity, but there is no FDA equivalent in the natural health world. When your favorite brand pays for its oils to be tested by a third party, no one is forcing the company to make sure that its labeling is 100 percent accurate or that it is selling a pure, high-quality oil. Mind you, a “pure” oil can be incorrectly distilled or harvested from a cheaper species that does not contain the volatile organic compounds that a more expensive species or chemotype would contain. With that information in mind, here is how to choose a reputable oil brand: 1. Get a referral. Ask friends and family members whom you respect for a list of their favorite brands. Just be careful to not let multilevel marketing propaganda get in the way of truth. Everyone’s favorite brand is the best, right? Especially when that person is selling it! 2. Find out about sourcing. Contact the company that you’re interested in via email or phone for a report of their sourcing and quality standards. 3. Get a batch report. Ask the company for a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) report of a few oils that you’re interested in. These linear graphs are used to identify adulteration and to break down the chemical components of individual oils. This can help you determine the chemotype and potential therapeutic benefits as well as safety issues for that particular oil. 4. Sample some. Try a couple of different brands and test for yourself. Lemon, lavender, and peppermint are common, relatively inexpensive oils that should be a good gauge to see if this brand is for you. Notice how your body responds when you smell, feel, and taste the oil. If you get a headache immediately after opening a bottle of peppermint from a particular brand, it doesn’t mean that the oil is junk. Maybe the chemicals in the oil come from a chemotype or species that was harvested at a particular time that doesn’t respond well to your body. This is why you cannot rest on your laurels and must do an organoleptic evaluation (how your body perceives the oil through the six senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and intuition) every time you get a new oil just in case the constituents in the oil don’t jibe with your body’s chemistry. Keep in mind that many of the small companies get their oils from the same suppliers. They just use private labels. From what I’ve been told, the larger companies have unique suppliers, which differentiates their product from their competitors’. This doesn’t guarantee purity, but it can help put your mind to rest that they are likely proprietary. Contamination Concerns Is organic important? Not necessarily. Like our tainted air, food, and water supply, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find anything free of pesticide residues and toxic contaminants. In 2014, scientists and essential oil producers met at the International Federation of Essential Oil and Aroma Trades Conference in Rome, Italy, to share their concerns about the quality and safety of our global essential oil supply. These are some of the key takeaways as shared by the founder, president, CEO, and principal of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, Dorene Petersen:2 • Unfortunately, essential oils—even those certified as organic—can contain pesticide residues. • Passive contamination can occur even though a farmer does not actively use pesticides because of “acts of nature” such as wind drift or water runoff from a neighboring field, and from incorrect essential oil storage. • Pesticides easily dissolve in fats and lipids, making the transition to the essential oil possible. • Cold-pressed citrus oils are more likely to contain pesticide residues than steam-distilled citrus because pesticides tend to be hydrophilic, thermostable, and volatile. To check for quality, try answering these questions: • Does the company have a relationship with its distillers? • Can the company readily supply a batch-specific GC/MS report on the oil it sells? • Can the company readily provide material safety data sheets (MSDS) upon request? • What is the common name, Latin name (genus and species), country of origin, part of plant processed, and type of extraction (distillation or expression), and how was it grown (organic or indigenously sourced)? In my opinion, one of the most important factors is whether or not the oils are indigenously sourced. Meaning, are they harvested from native plants? This is important because native plants contain essential oils that act as natural insecticides to the pests in that particular area, so growers do not need to use as many chemicals as they do on nonnative plants, which don’t have these natural defense mechanisms. Even more important is the fact that nonnative plants pale in comparison to native plants in terms of nutrition and chemical constituency. My father-in-law is a retired PhD agricultural scientist who spent his career evaluating the chemical compounds in plants. He told me that native plants always have a better nutritional and more therapeutic chemical profile because they have evolved to thrive in that specific climate with the particular blend of nutrients found in the soil there. Indigenous plants: • Evolved over a long period of time to thrive in their native region. • Adapted to the local weather and geology. • Can thrive in drought and inclement weather situations. • Are environmentally sustainable for pesticide-free farming because they have developed natural resistance to native predators. • Have a positive impact on the local environment and ecosystem by forming natural “communities” with other plants. Nonindigenous plants, on the other hand: • Did not evolve but were unnaturally introduced (deliberately or by accident) into an environment. • Are not well suited for pesticide-free farming because they are not naturally resistant to native predators. • Have a negative impact on the local environment and ecosystem because they have a tendency to take over a habitat, require pesticides to thrive, and are not natural food sources for neighboring wildlife. In short, do the best you can to find the highest-quality oils. Ultimately, though, the proof will be in how the essential oils work for you. If you try an oil and don’t notice any benefits, or experience only adverse reactions, it’s time to try a different brand before you write off that oil entirely. TOOL #2: CARRIER OILS To watch my 3-part video series that covers carrier oils, dilution guides, and tips on roller bottle blends, go to HealingPowerOfEssentialOils.com. Trust me, friends don’t let friends use essential oils directly on their skin undiluted (called a “neat” application). It’s simply not needed, nor is it safe. Many essential oils are so concentrated and powerful that you need to dilute them in order to use them effectively. You do this by mixing a few drops of the essential oil with what’s known as a carrier oil—a fatty extract of a nut or seed. It might seem backwards to say that diluting a substance makes it more effective, but in this case it is true. If you apply essential oil neat, a few things may happen: • You can irritate your skin. Your skin may be sensitive to the concentrated oil, thwarting the healing benefits that you are seeking to create. • You can permanently hurt yourself. Worse yet, you may become sensitized to that particular oil if you don’t dilute it with a carrier. A type of allergic response, sensitization may prevent you from ever using that oil again. You’ll know if this happens because you’ll experience a number of signs and symptoms every time you use a particular oil: headaches, itching, hives, nausea, or a number of other adverse reactions. • You’ll waste money. Being volatile, essential oils will quickly evaporate off the surface of your skin, whereas the fats in the carrier can help prevent this and ensure that the essential oils will penetrate into your pores. • It’s not sustainable. As essential oil demand skyrockets, we will most certainly see a growing list of endangered and extinct plants unless we change our ways. By diluting in a carrier, you’re using less essential oil while getting the same therapeutic effect without the safety risks. Not to mention, you’re doing your part to help make sure our babies and grandbabies can enjoy these wonderful gifts from nature that we all too often take for granted. It’s a winwin-win! While there are some rare instances when neat is desirable—gentle oils, or oils used under the supervision of a trained professional—your best bet is to dilute essential oils in a carrier every time (see the Roller Bottle Dilution Guide in chapter 7 for more information on how to do this). Once you get the hang of it, adding your essential oils to a carrier first is hardly any extra work. I’ll walk you through the more common carrier oils, but if you run into one that isn’t covered here, take the time to look it up and learn what it is and what it does. 1. Beginner Carrier Oils: Olive and Coconut • Olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is the ideal, because it is cold pressed (not extracted using high heat or harsh chemicals) and minimally processed. It has a light green color and a heavy scent. As with essential oils, olive oil adulteration is a huge concern. Test yours at home to make sure it’s not cut with any fillers or cheaper oils: Pure olive oil will harden in the fridge. • Coconut oil. A saturated fat extracted from coconuts, this luscious oil penetrates the skin easily with very little greasy residue, conveying the oils you’ve blended in. • Fractionated coconut oil. Literally a fraction of the coconut oil (all of the long-chain fatty acids have been removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation so that the oil stays liquid at room temperature, unlike standard coconut oil), fractionated coconut oil is a lightweight emollient that is a must-have for dry or sensitive skin. It is considered to be the most costeffective oil because it will never go rancid, and helps preserve the shelf life of your essential oils when blended. 2. Intermediate Carrier Oils: Almond and Jojoba • Almond oil. Very mild in scent and flavor, almond oil is nutrient dense and versatile. • Jojoba oil. Pronounced ho-HO-ba, jojoba has a thicker consistency that’s well suited to deep penetration. Jojoba has an excellent shelf life, which makes it perfect for storing until you need it for small dilution preparations. 3. Advanced Carrier Oils These fruit-seed oils are as edible as the other options we’ve covered so far. These choices may cost a little more, but are relatively easy to find. They are readily available on Amazon and at your local health food store. • Apricot oil. Apricot oil is available as expeller pressed or cold pressed; the only difference between the two forms is simply texture so you can let preference and availability be your guide in choosing between them. • Avocado oil. Avocado oil is taken from the smooth flesh around the pit. • Grapeseed oil. Also a culinary oil, grapeseed oil is a carrier oil with a light texture and lack of residue. • Borage oil. Taken from the seeds of a flowering perennial herb, borage oil is often consumed for its gamma linolenic acid (GLA) content. • Evening primrose oil. Named for flowers that open only in the evenings, evening primrose oil is a more delicate oil that must be cold pressed and should be refrigerated. It is used in culinary preparations as well as many women’s health blends. My Go-To Carrier Oil Blend Most DIY recipes call for a carrier oil in one form or another. You can usually choose the one you like best unless a recipe calls for something specific. In our house, we like to use a combination of carrier oils that my wife devised when she was pregnant with our first child, Esther, to hydrate her skin and prevent stretch marks. She combined her favorite ingredients based on their benefits: • Unrefined, organic coconut oil for its antifungal and antibacterial properties • Sweet almond oil because it’s great for skin health and won’t mask the aroma of the essential oils you’ll add • Jojoba oil because it penetrates the skin so well • Vitamin E for its antioxidant-rich, skin-repairing ability Mama Z has had four babies so far and you’d never guess it by looking at her tummy! She’s fit and toned, and she credits her glowing (stretch-mark-free!) skin to this oil base she created nearly ten years ago. In the recipes that are scattered throughout this book, I often suggest this blend as a base for its versatility and its healing powers in its own right. (You might want to put a sticky note on this page, so you can easily refer back to it—until you’ve made it so many times that you’ve memorized the recipe!) MAMA Z’S OIL BASE We use this for everything in our home! It’s great to always have on hand and will meet most of your DIY needs. 54 ounces raw organic, unrefined coconut oil (melted) 16 ounces sweet almond oil 8 ounces jojoba oil 4 ounces vitamin E SUPPLIES Quart or pint wide-mouth mason jars 1. If you’re in a colder climate and need to liquefy your coconut oil, be sure to preserve the nutrition content by using indirect heat to warm it up instead of heating it on the stove. We have placed a glass measuring cup with coconut oil in it on a space heater or the top of our gas stove while we’re baking something in the oven to slowly melt the oil. You can also immerse a jar of coconut oil in a bowl or saucepan of warm (not boiling) water for a few minutes until the oil liquefies. 2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large cooking pot and mix using a wire whisk or a blender to reach a smoother, “whipped” consistency if desired. 3. Pour into quart or pint mason jars or other glass containers. Store in a cool, dark place, where it will last for 1 to 2 years. Notes: Once your base oil is ready, you can make your own blends; use 6 to 12 drops of essential oils for every 1 ounce of the base. This recipe makes a lot—it really is that versatile and can be used to formulate multiple healing salves and balms (that also make great gifts). Be sure to store any oil base that you aren’t using right away out of sunlight—the saturated fats in coconut milk won’t spoil, but the almond oil could get stale. You can also easily divide the recipe by a quarter to make a smaller batch. Depending on the temperature in your house, the base may go back to a solid or semisolid state (coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees). If it hardens, you can either liquefy some by rubbing it in your hands, placing it near a heating vent, or putting it near the oven when you’re cooking dinner. To watch me and Mama Z make her oil base and to learn more about carrier oils, go to HealingPowerOfEssentialOils.com and click on the “Demo Videos” tab. Why You Should Use Glass In this recipe and many of the recipes to come, you’ll notice that I often call for glass bowls and bottles for mixing and storing essential oil–based products. Here’s why: • Essential oils have a tendency to break down the petrochemicals in plastic, which can cause carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals to leach out into your home remedies. • Similarly, it’s a good idea to avoid aluminum and stainless steel containers, as essential oils can cause the heavy metals in these materials to leach out into your blends. The one category where using a glass storage container is a concern is for products you will use in the shower or bathtub. Since tile shower floors and bathtubs are often slippery, it’s easy to slip and drop a bottle. If you are concerned that this may happen, you can store your shampoos, conditioners, and body scrubs in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic as it does not contain known hormone disruptors such as bisphenol-A and is easily recyclable (it is labeled with the number 1 inside the recycling symbol that typically appears on the bottom of plastic containers). T O O L # 3 : E M U L S I F I E R S , P R E S E R V AT I V E S , A N D SOLUBILIZERS If you plan on having some DIY fun, you’ll want to have some natural preservatives and emulsifiers on hand. In a nutshell: • Emulsifiers contain a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail that help essential oils and water mix together to create emulsions. An emulsion is a seamless blend of two fluids that normally don’t mix, such as oil and water; lotions, creams, and even mayonnaise are examples of emulsions. Otherwise, your essential oils will float on top of your water-based DIY cleaning and body care solutions, which is not only inefficient but also a safety hazard. Examples of emulsifiers include aloe vera oil (not gel), castile soap, emulsifying wax, lecithin, organic grain alcohol (190 proof), and vitamin E TPGS (a water-soluble derivative of vitamin E). • Preservatives help maintain the shelf life and therapeutic efficacy of waterbased products that have a tendency to go rancid or develop bacterial overgrowth if not treated. Examples of conventional preservatives include potentially harmful chemicals like Liquid Germall Plus and Optiphen. These chemicals contain propylene glycol—a known skin irritant used to make polyester compounds and artificial smoke/fog for firefighter training and theater performances.3 Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with any preservatives that are safe and actually work for the everyday DIY enthusiast. • Solubilizers will help a solute dissolve into a solvent, which means they will literally help dissolve oil in water. Imagine drawing a nice bath at the end of the night to help you decompress after a long day at work. If you don’t solubilize the essential oils that you add to your bath, they end up floating in little isolated bubbles on top of the water—and when you sit in the tub, you may end up exposing your genitals to fully concentrated essential oils. Examples of solubilizers include solubol and polysorbate 20, which I’m not a big fan of because it can become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. Solubol is the best natural choice, but can be difficult to purchase if you don’t know where to get less common aromatherapy supplies. Factions of the aromatherapy community are somewhat at odds with one another about balancing the convenience and safety of using chemical-based emulsifiers, preservatives, and solubilizers against the obvious safety concerns of microbial contamination, rancidity, and inadvertent application of neat oils to the skin. Something just doesn’t sit right with me about using chemicals in essential oil– based products—it seems to defeat the purpose of using essential oils to begin with (seeing as we’re trying to avoid exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in our body care and home products). So what is the solution? Regarding preservatives, be sure to use up your waterbased formulations (such as spritzers and sprays) within a couple of weeks, and consider refrigerating them. Also use distilled (sterile) water when possible to reduce bacteria growth. (Note: Since hydrosols tend to become rancid fairly quickly and can be easily tainted by microbial overgrowth, I’ve chosen not to include recipes for them in this book.) To learn more about hydrosols, check out the good aromatherapy reference texts in the Recommended Resources section at the end of this book. Finding safe emulsifiers and solubilizers is not as troublesome because they are readily available online. You really can’t avoid them in your spritzers, hand sanitizers, and other water-based products or else you’ll spray straight essential oils into the air and onto your skin, which is wasteful and dangerous. Personally, I have found that aloe vera oil, castile soap, and organic grain alcohol are the best all-around solutions for my needs. TOOL #4: DIFFUSER An ultrasonic diffuser is a small machine, similar to a humidifier, that breaks essential oils down into minuscule components and then disperses them through the air, carrying tiny doses of the oil directly throughout the room and ultimately into your respiratory system. My wife and I have diffusers running at various times throughout the day and use them at night to help us get a better night’s sleep—they enhance our mood and our health, and the mood and health of our kids, too! In addition, diffusing essential oils benefits your health and saves you money by allowing you to throw away those scented plug-ins and air fresheners, which emit toxic chemicals that have been linked to cardiac dysfunction, migraines, neurotoxicity, and cancer.4 For all these reasons, I believe every house should have a diffuser in every room. Even the nursery! Not only will they help make your house smell and feel refreshing, but they also emit aromatic “vo