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By: Alyssa Elbogen

To understand essential oils, also known as volatile oils, we must first discuss herbal medicine.

Under the auspices of herbal medicine, the medicinal aspects of various plants (roots, berries, leaves, bark, etc.) are extracted and administered to respective patients. Usually, herbal medicine is administered in teas, tinctures, or capsules. Tinctures, the most well-known way of administering herbal medicine, may be extracts in a medium of alcohol, vinegar, wine, or glycerin.

The practice of herbal medicine is widely practiced throughout the world. Its meticulous nomenclature has allowed botanists worldwide to categorize and better understand herbs, their families, and usages.

At this point, countless herbs have been categorized. A true herbalist is one who knows how to combine various herbs to just the right effect in order to create customized medicines for each person.

For example, one may suffer simultaneously from a dry cough in the upper lungs, dry skin, watery eyes, and a foggy mind. An herbalist will take pains to create a well-blended tincture that serves as personalized medicine for that person. True, it can be difficult to find a proper herbalist these days – those willing to put in the time it takes to truly get to the bottom of a person’s issues and create fresh tinctures for him. Still, this is a wonderful form of medicine and we should be encouraged to reconsider it.

As we know, the antidote to a poison can be found near the poisonous plant itself. So, too, even in the cities, there are medicinal weeds and trees that creep into our communities as the antidotes to many of our problems. If we learn to recognize and associate with the plant world around us, we are sure to find free, bountiful medicine just waiting to be discovered.

Essential oils are a very pure form of herbal medicine because there is no medium into which the medicine is extracted. Rather, the volatile oils of the herb are extracted in a number of possible ways, each being a complex and delicate process. Just like with tinctures, there are many levels of purity, strength, and freshness within the plants, and their respective therapeutic essential oils vary.
There are many, many brands of essential oils claiming to be pure, organic or therapeutic-grade, however, only when tested in a laboratory and compared with other oils, are their true potency revealed. Still, as I remind my customers here at Organic Circle, “It’s better to have frozen wheatgrass than none at all!” Meaning, as long as the product is organic and pure, it is better to use that than to use nothing at all. The best course of action, though, is to find responsibly sourced, organic, dependable essential oils.

To clarify, I do not recommend the ingestion of these essential oils, which are incredibly potent. Instead my suggestion is that they be used in one of the following ways in order to reap the medicinal aspect of various herbs:

Bath/Inhalation –Use in the bathtub or dispense a few drops in a bowl of very hot water and inhale deeply. This is excellent for mental or emotional issues, as the volatile oils will reach the brain when inhaled.

Massage –Blend a few drops with a carrier oil such as olive, almond, or grape seed and massage into the skin. The oil will get absorbed into both the muscles and the bloodstream. This is especially effective for internal issues such as muscle pain.

Perfume –Because your goal is to inhale the oil, try using it as a perfume, smelling it throughout the day for relaxation purposes.

Diffusers –Electrical, candle, and other types of diffusers can fill the immediate environment with the smell of essential oil, giving off the medicinal aspects of plants.

Wishing us all blessings and guidance on the path toward vibrant health.

Alyssa Eliza Elbogen is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner specializing in Detoxification. She holds a B.A. from U. Haifa in Jewish Thought and English Linguistics. Alyssa began her career in Israel, organizing and teaching on Detox Retreats. She currently works at Organic Circle in Brooklyn, NY as a Resident Health Coach.