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About Essential Oils, Part 1

Thousands of years of alchemy and science


The foundation for every Deer Heart Solutions product is essential oils. We view aromatherapy as the practice of harnessing the unique aromatic and therapeutic qualities of various plants. And we do this through essential oils, carrier oils, and other botanical extracts.


Essential oils are concentrated liquids that were biosynthesized in and extracted from plants using steam distillation, enfleurage (wax embedding), solvent extraction, and cold pressing. These liquids are made up of bioactive chemical compounds - the essence of the plant at an atomic level. There are around 300 different chemical compounds identified in essential oils. A single essential oil can contain well over 100 compounds.



A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Varying types of botanical extracts and plant aromatics have been used medicinally for thousands of years. There is extensive evidence of this from the Neolithic period (when man began to cultivate plants, 7,000 - 1,700 BCE). The Bible has multiple references to Frankincense which, at the time, was worth more than its weight in gold. Records of the use of aromatic oils goes back to 2600 BCE in China, to 3,000 BCE in India, and 4,500 BCE in Egypt. But these all feel like yesterday compared to the evidence discovered in the Lascaux Caves in France. These caves house cave paintings depicting the use of medicinal plants, and these paintings have been carbon dated to 18,000 BCE. Plants as medicine is a major part of human history and they are the building blocks for modern medicine.


The Federal Food & Drug Administration does not recognize essential oils as anything other than cosmetic. And they really don't like it if you make medical claims about essential oils in your marketing. They have the power to shut down facilities of companies that make such claims. This contributes to why essential oils are often ascribed to the vague and derided world of "alternative medicine" and said to "heal with their aroma" - because that's the only way we are allowed to talk about them.


Essential oils are much more than healing smells. And they're not woo-woo plant magic practiced by doctors who used leeches or alchemists who tried to turn dust into gold, though they seem to be treated that way. The number of scientific studies done on essential oils is growing, exponentially. Just a few years ago, research papers and articles in science publications tended to state things like essential oils are not pharmaceuticals and should never be considered as such. Or these papers would state "more research needs to be done," regardless of the result of their study. Now, there are never ending studies on the biochemistry of essential oils (like this study on how essential oils showed 100% inhibition of the H1N1 virus or this study on how essential oil of black pepper can squelch nicotine cravings.) Now, studies and articles are popping up which claim essential oils are an unexplored source for drug discovery. And that's just the overt references to essential oils. There's also the science of every day life that shows the acceptance of the science of essential oils. One example is turpentine, which is made through the steam distillation of oleoresins from pine trees.

HOW ESSENTIAL OILS WORK

Modern science is beginning to accept the ancient knowledge we've carried with us for 18,000 years - plant medicine is real. The bioactive chemical compounds in essential oils have pharmacological and physiological effects on the human body - some good and some bad. Essential oils can be toxic or sensitizing. This is why many essential oils should not be used topically, why we will never promote ingesting essential oils, and why it is vital that essential oils be diluted before applying to skin. But, when used in a safe manner at safe levels, essential oils can be invaluable in improving the health of our skin and hair as well as our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.


Essential oils are hydrophobic and have a very small molecular structure. This allows them to easily pass through skin to interact with the different systems of the human body. This is also why several essential oils can be effective antimicrobial agents. The essential oil's compounds are so small they can pass through cell membranes. And when they interact with bacteria, fungal spores, and viruses, these compounds can disrupt the microorganisms' cellular structures, which ultimately kills them off.


Their molecular size also explains how essential oils impact our mental and emotional well-being. The aromas of essential oils have been shown to be useful in alleviating stress, anger, and sadness, countering the symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma, and strengthening memory and focus. It's well-accepted in the aromatherapy world that inhalers are one of the quickest ways to experience the benefits of an essential oil. When we breathe in the fragrant aromas of essential oils, the bioactive chemicals enter multiple systems in our body, almost instantly. The compounds interact with our respiratory system through the bronchioles and alveoli in our lungs. And, when the compounds move through the mucous membranes in our nose, our olfactory system almost instantly delivers these compounds to our limbic system - where our brain processes emotions and memory. Many essential oils have shown to be anti-inflammatory. When they enter our brain, they ease inflammation on our neural pathways, which is one way they reduce anxious feelings and stress and improve memory and cognitive function.


Scent, memory, and emotion are intertwined...


TO BE CONTINUED...




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