Flowers are not just pleasing to look at and smell. They also offer medicinal benefits that help improve skin and overall health. One of the most effective ways to reap the health benefits of flowers is through the use of essential oils. These volatile oils also play a powerful role in promoting wellness.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are potent, highly concentrated oils, extracted from botanicals, such as flowers and plants. Some botanicals store their volatile aromatic compounds in their leaves or flowers, while others store them within their rinds, seeds and other parts. Essential oils have been used for centuries as remedies that can treat different ailments and conditions. More recent studies show that essential oils aid in elevating one’s mood, lowering anxiety and easing heartburn. Ensuring the use of essential oils safely and effectively require basic knowledge about what they are, how they work and how they can be safely incorporated into one’s daily routine.
How do essential oils work?
Certified aromatherapist and licensed massage therapist Cher Kaufmann in Nature’s Essential Oils: Aromatic Alchemy for Well-Being, wrote: “Essential oils work in such a way that they respond to biologically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. They have the power to change our relationship with our environment and ourselves.” Sarah Villafranco, MD, an emergency-medicine doctor originally from Washington, D.C., who created her own essential-oil-based skincare explained the neurological theory behind aromatherapy. “We know that smell is connected to the limbic system, which is an area in the brain that deals with emotions and memories. Because your sense of smell is so uniquely connected to emotion and memory, aromas have the power to transport you back to a particular moment.” says Villafranco.
Many essential oils are screened for their antibacterial activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, along with antifungal properties.
Existing data on a number of essential oils show that its noncytotoxic concentrations result in anti-inflammatory properties.
Essential oils possess good antibacterial activity and antioxidant properties.
The process of extracting essential oils & scents from flowers
Extracting essential oils and scents from flowers may be done in your own home or garden in five easy steps:
Step 1: Pick flowers early in the morning. This is the time when their oils are at their peak. Avoid flowers that are in full bloom, as their scent has already begun to fade.
Step 2: Remove the petals from the flower and place them in a sealed food storage bag. Tap it lightly with a wooden mallet to “bruise” the petals and to allow release of the fragrance of the oils.
Step 3: Place the petals in a glass jar and cover them with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or sweet almond oil. Shake the jar to distribute the oil.
Step 4: Choose a sunny area and place the jar, in order to allow the flower petals to soak in the oil for 24 hours. Shake gently and strain through a double layer of cheesecloth. Discard the old petals, but keep the oil. Repeat the first three steps using the same oil for 3 days, until you achieve your desired fragrance strength.
Step 5: Store your fragrant oil in a glass bottle, but this time, in a cool, dry place.
Voila! Your homemade essential oil, infused with flower essence, can now be used as massage oil, added to your bath routine, as scent potpourri or added to your line up of homemade beauty products, such as soap or lotion. It can also be applied directly to the skin to treat various ailments, such as rashes, bug bites and sunburnt skin.
Top 7 floral essential oils for aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that makes use of essential oils as its major therapeutic agent to treat several diseases. The name Aromatherapy was derived from the word aroma, which means fragrance or smell and therapy which means treatment. Ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China and India have been using aromatherapy as a natural way of healing a person’s mind, body and soul. It eventually became known as another form of therapy, after scientists discovered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils.
In aromatherapy, essential oils are initially used to treat physical and psychological symptoms, bringing about a state of balance. Inhalation, local application and baths are the methods used in aromatherapy, to make sure that the essence of the oils penetrate the skin’s surface. Once the oils are in the system, they work their way to treat the affected area.
Aromatherapy gained a lot of attention in the late 20th century and became even more popular in the 21st century, ever since it established its relevance in treating a wide array of complications and conditions. Overall, essential oils play a relevant role in aromatherapy, because of therapeutic, cosmetic, aromatic, fragrant and even spiritual uses.
Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, known as the founder of modern aromatherapy, has used essential oils to massage patients during surgery.
Inhalation of essential oils result in enhanced emotional wellness, calmness, relaxation or rejuvenation of the human body. This is because the release of stress is correlated with pleasurable scents.
In psycho-aromatherapy, certain states of moods and emotions can be obtained by essential oils, as they give the pleasure of relaxation, invigoration and a pleasant memory.
The top 8 floral essential oils used in aromatherapy are:
Has a spicy, citrus scent that improves feelings of depression and anxiety, giving a calming feel to the mind. It is also known to boost the immune system.
Aside from being known as “the calming tea,” it also soothes the mind, tones down irritability, reduces discomfort and eases an upset stomach.
This essential oil is soothing, uplifting and known to relieve stress and anxiety. It also helps diminish feelings of hormonal imbalance.
This essential oil has a rich, sweet fragrance and is known to reduce fatigue, soothe stress and balance emotions. Helichrysum also serves as a pain reliever.
Its warm, intoxicating and exotic smell makes it an aphrodisiac and antidepressant. It helps instill an optimistic outlook, boosts energy and inspires confidence.
This is a well-loved essential oil, commonly used to promote a sense of balance and calmness. It is known to induce sleep, relieve tension, calm nerves and lessen the symptoms of headaches and migraines.
This essential oil stimulates a poor appetite, alleviates anger and brings about a sense of clarity and peace.
This familiar scent is a potent stress reducer, that brings about feelings of harmony and helps in dealing with feelings of grief, fear, and nervousness.
Useful tips in using essential oils
Each essential oil carries the distinct characteristics of the flower from which it was obtained. It is important to take note that since they are concentrated and highly potent, extra care should be taken when using different essential oils. In general, the use of essential oils are considered very safe but it is still best to maintain caution, especially when preparing your own essential oils.
To ensure proper and safe incorporation of essential oils as part of your daily routine, here are some useful tips:
Never apply undiluted essential oils directly on your skin as this may lead to allergic reactions. Essential oils must always be diluted with carrier oil.
Test the oil’s purity. Place a drop of essential oil on a piece of white paper. If a grease stain appears within 24 hours, carrier oil has been part of the mixture.
Choose organic. Certified, organic oils give the assurance that you are not exposed to pesticides and herbicides.
Pick the right tools. Look for diffusers that are made specifically for essential oils. These diffusers are designed to break up the particles of an essential oil in a way that makes the vaporized oils easier for the body to process.
Create oil blends. Oil blends are more personal. Rotating the use of oils also helps prevent overexposure and sensitization.
Do not ingest essential oils without the guidance of a certified practitioner. Ingested oils can lead to significant harm, so it is always necessary to consult a practitioner who is certified in medical aromatherapy.
Do not expose to sunlight. Some essential oils, particularly those with citrus scent increase the risk of sunburn or phytophotodermatitis. Thus, these oils must not be used when exposed to sunlight.
Essential oils for flower longevity
Interestingly, essential oils have also helped increase the lifespan of flowers. A drop of melaleuca essential oil to a flower water mix helps kill bacteria that usually contributes to mold growth. Yet, it is still important to follow other procedures in caring for flowers, such as avoiding exposure to direct heat and light, so as to keep the beauty of the flowers.