Potency and dilution: when too much of a good thing is not necessarily what is required.
I remember when I started sharing about the wonderful properties and support of therapeutic grade essential oils, some people would say to me they are too expensive! Well, your body is YOUR temple and you only have one so take care of it, as one of my friends always say.
You pay for what you get. If you are not educating yourself and learning how to read labels, you could end up using something that is more harmful than helpful. Lots of essential oils offered on the market are using carrier oils which is what we can adulteration, that is adding or removing form the original state. Furthermore, a huge percentage of essential oils are not tested for purity and potency. This is scary to me. We talked about this in my latest post.
What really made a difference for me when I decided to use essential oils as a lifestyle and preventative health option was not only the fact that they are more potent than herbs. It was also the understanding behind their making. The art and science behind essential oil production is also as important when it comes to potency and efficacy of the product.
Therapeutic-grade essential oils are most often extracted via a low-heat steam distillation process in which steam is circulated under pressure through plant material liberating the essential oils into the steam. As the steam mixture cools, the water and oils naturally separate and the oil is collected in its pure form. To ensure the highest quality oil extract of correct chemical composition, temperature and pressure must be monitored very closely. Too little heat and pressure will not release valuable oil while too much can change an extract's composition and potency. Steam distillation is not the only method of extraction. Some oils such as citrus oils are extracted through a process of compression in which the oil is squeezed from the plant using the rind.
Plant origin, cultivation and harvest
Where a plant is grown has a major impact on its constitution, which in turn determines its potency. Using local artisans who have grown the source plants for generations ensures that the plants are not only properly cared for, but also grown in an environment that maximizes the essential oils’ potential. Nowadays, it seems like everything needs to be done quickly and quality, in this matter, can be overseen. We need to go back to a slower mode of life and honor what Nature is trying to teach us. Everything will comes in due time. We need, like many cultures in countries that are by us westerners called ''in development'', have a vision of time as a value, that is, time not seen as wasted by trying to get things done faster, but more value as to make and take the time to do things right. Trusting the process of life is intrinsic there.
As important as the carefully controlled extraction process is, the careful selection of the correct plant and plant parts harvested at the right time is also required for a successful extraction. This complex process is as much art form as it is science and requires experienced growers and distillers working together to ensure a quality product. Growers have discovered over generations proper harvesting secrets that increase yield and quality of the essential oil. This information is an added value to a product that will differ positively on potency and quality. Not only are we helping communities around the world to make a decent living but we are also ensuring a future for themselves their families and for the plant material as there is a sustainable process involved.
I remember the look on people’s face when I was telling them: ‘’no, you do not need to use carrier oil with most of these!’’ They are safe enough to use neat, except for a few oils that are too hot like oregano, and thyme. People with sensitive skin or children need more caution and oils such as peppermint can be too much to handle without adding a carrier.
Dilution is a great tool though when it is time to apply an essential oil to a greater area. But there are more benefits to diluting oils than one may think of. What you need to know for safety uses is that essential oil (EO) are lipophilic, meaning they are attracted to and are soluble in fatty substances. They are not soluble in water! Do not forget this. So if you accidentally rub your eyes with oils (been there done that!) or realized you feel a tingling or burning sensation reach out to oil not water.
The most interesting fact though is that by diluting essential oils in a carrier before applying actually accentuates this property, providing a number of benefits. One of them is not only safe and effective but can be economical: Dilution requires you use less oil for the same effect.
I would still not recommend you to buy a cheaper brand with a carrier mixed in, as sometimes you want the undiluted oil. There is also the issue of carrier oils being used not being highly recommend as some are of poor quality and can actually add to your toxic load. When you want to use them for internal use the purity an unaldutterared qualities of it cannot be denied. You are better off diluting when you want it as this way you have control over the carrier you use.
Dilution varies according to the reason of uses or person involved. As an example, when I applying a digestive blend to my stomach to eliminate temporary upset or bloating, I will put 2-3 drops of oil in the palm of my hands and add enough carrier oil to spread it out on the desired area.
- When applying EO to infant use 1-3 drops to one tablespoon (15 ml) and for children age 2-5, use 1-3 drops to one teaspoon (5ml).
- If dilution is for massaging a larger area, dilute the oil to a ratio of 15% to 30% with a carrier, preferably fractionated coconut oil.
- In order to create a pleasurable massage blend for adult, 3-10 drops to one teaspoon makes it wonderful.
One note on efficacy: When it comes to topical use, layering oil on top of other rather than blending makes it more performant. There is no need to wait more than a few seconds between each oil application. In retrospect there are a few things we must learn and know in order to make the best of our essential oil use, but once it is known, we are reaping more benefit!