The actual term “essential oils” comes from the shortening of the words, “Quintessential oil.” This term comes from the belief that matter is composed of four elements, which include fire, air, water, and earth. Quintessence is considered to be the fifth element, being the spirit and life force. In order to remove spirit from a plant, distillation and evaporation needs to occur. Dr. Brian Lawrence states that, “for an essential oil to be a true essential oil, it must be isolated by physical means only. The physical means used are distillation (steam, steam/water and water) or expression (also known as cold pressing)…”
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, Aromatherapy is defined as, “…the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.” In 1910, the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse discovered the benefits of lavender essential oil. After burning his hand while conducting an experiment in a perfumery plant, he dunked his hand into the closest bucket of liquid, which happened to be lavender essential oil and had positive healing results.
So, what is the problem with nice smelling stuff? The problem with essential oils is claims that are made by aromatherapy practitioners. Claims are often confusing, ambiguous, and unsupported by evidence. Some broad claims include: “Smell is the most direct route to the brain,” but, in reality, smell has no faster access to the brain than any other sense. “Essential oils can help your memory,” oils can serve as context clues, but so could other things, such as colors or chewing gum. Could this be an example of subliminal self- help? Can essential oils really help with wrinkles, sprains, memory, fear, asthma, depression, insomnia, and stress?
After being apart of the yoga community for a while now, there is a common belief that essential oils can fix anything that needs to be fixed in the body. I personally have my own collection of essential oils and use them everyday for different things. I use lemon essential oil in my water for detox, peppermint for headaches and any muscle aches, and lavender to help me fall asleep. After learning about how the benefits of essential oils could be apart of my own subliminal self-help and psychological beliefs, I really started to question my use of them. Essential oils are not cheap and all though I swear by them, I started to realize that my belief in them is solely based off of what I have learned and heard from other people in my yoga community.