Herbal Oils: Beginner’s Guide to Natural Herbal Oil Use

Herbal Oils GuideWhile you can make your own herbal oils, it is certainly easier to purchase them from your local health food store or online. Herbal oils have a number of benefits and uses such as for cooking, as a topical application, or for the purposes of aromatherapy.

2 Types of Herbal Oils

The most commonly used herbal oil is essential, though oils can also be infused. Essential oils use a large quantity of the plant’s material and require dilution before use. They are concentrated so essential oils should not be used directly. However, infused oils contain a small amount of the plant’s material, thus can be used in direct application.

  • Essential oils are frequently used with carrier oils for topical applications such as in massages, beard oils, and hair applications.
  • Concentrated essential oils can be used in aromatherapy, bathwater, diffusers, or in a compress.

How to Determine Quality of Essential Oils

Before purchasing herbal oils, it’s important to ensure that you are purchasing high quality products. To achieve the maximum healing effects from your oils, you must verify the quality of what you are buying.

Oil Production

Essential oils are generally extracted by mixing them with alcohol, oils, fats, and other solvents. There are varying methods, which are dependent on the type of plant and its chemical makeup.

Pure essential oils, though, are usually extracted via steam distillation. The plants are picked and suspended over boiling water, allowing the steam to draw out the oils. The steam rises and is captured and pushed along tubing. When the steam is rapidly cooled, it condenses back into water. As essential oils and water do not mix, they separate allowing the essential oils to be collected.

Quality Characteristics

As a product of nature, the quality of essential oils can be affected by the species of plant, growing conditions, the technique used to extract the oil, storage, and additional factors. In some cases, the temperature, cloud cover, and even the soil type can have an effect on the oils.

In order to determine essential oil quality, there are three characteristics to consider:

  • Grade
  • Purity
  • Integrity

Buying Tips

It might sound like a difficult task, but it only takes a bit of practice to determine which oils are of good quality. Until you are able to easily do that yourself, you will need to rely on the brand. An essential oils company decides on what quality of oils they produce. Some companies only sell cheaper grades. As consumer, you don’t generally get a choice as to what products are stocked, but using price alone as a guide is not the way to proceed.

Don’t be fooled by labels stating therapeutic grade or pure. Any company can claim this and it doesn’t give you an indication of the oil’s quality. Additionally, if the label says fragrance oil, it is simply an artificial scent as opposed to an essential oil. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for oils labelled organic, or wildcrafted.

Brands such as Young Living, Essential Vitality, Mountain Rose Herbs, Aura Cacia, and doTERRA all have excellent reputations in producing high quality oils.

Storage Requirements

How you store your essential oils is just as important as the rest of the process it has gone through to end up in your cabinet. You should always store oils in glass containers, as many of them can actually dissolve plastic. Because of this, your oils you could be contaminated by the plastic, even if it’s only a temporary storage solution.

Additionally, essential oils should not be stored in dropper bottles. This is because the squeeze bulbs and rubber seals can melt. The color of glass bottle you choose for storage isn’t important, but you should keep them away from heat sources and away from direct sunlight. Heat can affect the potency of essential oils. If you have room in your refrigerator, it is an ideal storage option.

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