Essential oils are an important part of a non-toxic care. We use them as a substitute for synthetic fragrances and they are a popular component of natural cosmetics. Essential oils are used to make the bath more pleasant or to have a pleasant scent of the interior. Last but not least, they are used in aromatherapy.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. It is a liquid oil created by steam distillation or water and steam, or water and plant raw material.The vapour in the distillation still produces a water concentrate and an essential oil. The water and oil parts are finally separated (usually by gravity). It takes a tremendous amount of plant material to make essential oils, which can make some of them expensive. For example:
- About 250 pounds of lavender flowers make 1 pound of lavender essential oil.
- About 5,000 pounds of rose petals or lemon balm make 1 pound of rose or lemon balm essential oil.
Because it takes so much of the plant to make an essential oil, it’s a powerful botanical medicine.
Oils from citrus peels are also marked as essential oils, but they are being acquired by mechanical cold pressing of citrus peels.
Essential oils can be contained in various parts of a plant (wood, bark, leaf, stem, flower, fruit, etc.) in concentrations from a thousandth of a percent to a whole percent.
What are essential oils not?
The term essential oil does not refer to the substances obtained by extraction with carbonic acid. Unfortunately, there are some products on the market that are labeled as essential oils when in fact they are not, because these are other products - resinoids, absolutes, etc.
We should not talk about the essential oil when it is:
- Resin obtained by means of a solvent (where the solvent may contain carbon dioxide, benzene, toluene, alcohol, hexane, etc.).
- Substance obtained by dry distillation.
- Substance obtained by molecular distillation.
Use of essential oils in non-toxic care
Safe use of the essential oils
There can be found many types and brands of essential oils and also many tips for their usage and for an ordinary person it might become overwhelming what amount and combination to use. Thus we believe it is always wise to find yourself a good aromatherapist and consult the usage with them.
Below we would like to mention just a few recommendations on how to use the essential oils safely.
- Because essential oils are very strong substances, it is recommended to be mindful about why and how you are using them. Only small amounts, typically just a few drops, are used.
- Do not ingest essential oils! Unless you are directed by a certified herbalist or aromatherapist, it is not recommended to use them orally. They are super concentrated and strong, so incorrect usage can be harmful with just a few drops.
- Prefer organic quality of essential oils, mainly if you would like to use the oils on your skin. In essential oils from plants coming from conventional farming can be by analysis detected significant amounts of harmful residues.
- Do not apply essential oils directly on your skin without diluting them (best in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or argan oil) to avoid skin irritation.
- Before the first use, always conduct a skin test in the elbow socket or on the inner side of the forearm and observe it for 48 hours.
- Do not apply concentrated essential oils on animals which are especially sensitive
It is also a good idea not to use them routinely and change the types, as your body can get used to them, lowering their effectiveness.
How to use essential oils in non-toxic care
Natural diffuser for a gentle laundry scenting or restroom
Try hanging a diffuser into a closet and make it smell nice! For this you can use either a ceramic plate on a string or any absorption material that you put a few drops of an essential oil on. Great materials are: hard paper (like in a perfumery), wood, wooden peels in a glass, dry pine cones, or cotton wool. All these absorb the essential oil nicely and slowly release it. But remember that natural essential oils in general do not last as long as synthetic fragrances, so you might renew the dose from time to time. This easily home-made aroma diffuser you can use also in the restroom.
Non-toxic fabric softener
During transfer to a non-toxic (household) care we recommend avoiding synthetic fragrances as much as possible (read more about why in this blog). You will realize that your smell will become much more vivid and you will become more and more conscious of different scents. It can also happen that synthetic fragrance like the one in the fabric softener and detergent will start irritating you or cause a cough. It is a normal reaction of your body when it cleanses from synthetic substances that were blocking your natural ability to smell properly (without realizing it is so!).
Non-toxic fabric softener does not smell very intensively and thus is suitable for people with very sensitive noses. After a “synthetic perfume detox” you should be able to smell this gentle fragrance of your freshly washed laundry well, but if you feel like it is not enough, use some of the natural diffusers for the closed mentioned above.
For a home-made non-toxic softener you would need:
- 1 liter of vinegar (ideally white)
- 20 drops of essential oil (either one kind, e.g. lemon essential oil or try a mixture of two kinds e.g. lavender and tea tree oil)
Use this liquid in your washing machine as a standard softener.
Relaxing bath salt
Essential oils do not dilute in water, so it is a good idea to always use a carrier (usually plant oil). It is because pure essential oil would float on top of water and might stick to your skin which could irritate the skin, so by using a carrier it will get diluted or mix with the water.
For a one bath you would need:
- 50-60g of epsom salt or seasalt
- 1 teaspoon of oil (e.g. argan oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter)
- 3-8 drops of essential oil (e.g. lavender or eucalyptus)
- optional - dried flower petals (e.g. dried lavender)
First mix essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice, then mix with the salt. For bigger amount (number of baths) just multiply the volumes above.
If you put it in a nice glass container, this natural bath salt could serve as a nice gift for a friend or a family member!
You can diffuse essential oils, which is a type of aromatherapy. Aroma diffusers serve as a brilliant tool for this purpose in interiors.
If you want to pursue a non-toxic way of living, we do not recommend using aroma laps. Essential oil is in this case too close to the candle and heats too much, and by that change their chemical properties (and also spread harmful substances into the air).
For safe ways to diffuse essential oils we consider:
- Nebulizer - a kind of machine working on ultrasound principle (not using heat or steam for a diffusion of molecules). These machines are very safe for families with kids and pets.
- Sonic diffusers (ultrasound) - release a mixture of essential oil and water, so may be used for moisturizing your room.
- Electric aroma stone - stone is made of glass and it connects to electricity. You put a few drops directly on the stone that heats up to maximum 49 degrees Celzia, what secures it does not overheat the essential oil and by this diffuses in the room.
We hope we inspired you and if you are a fan of scents, but you do not want to risk synthetic fragrances, essential oils are the perfect choice!
Are you also interested in other non-toxic topics? You might like:
Pavlistova, Pavla and Hrivnakova, Katarina. Svet non toxic: mene je vice, CPress, 2021.