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Minimalist Medicine | The Essentials

November 3, 2016

Seeing my mom smoothing argan oil through her hair in front of the mirror, the faint smell of rose that seemed to always linger on her skin, or the smell of diffused lavender in our rooms are all memories that stand out vividly in my mind. I grew up in a household where natural remedies were valued highly. The same way that I was taught from an early age that I myself should be pure and authentic in my motives, moods, and disposition, I too was taught to seek out natural ways of healing and health. Although oils were used at home growing up, it wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I was introduced and really decided to dive into the world of essential oils.


Before I go any further, I want to offer up a disclaimer. I love essential oils and there are many ailments that I have found them useful in helping to heal; however, I also strongly believe that western medicine is often useful and even necessary. In addition to natural methods, I also use western medicine occasionally and when needed. I am grateful for the doctors, nurses, researchers, pharmacists, lab workers, etc. of the world and regard their work with respect and gratitude. I believe that so called eastern and western medicine doesn’t need to exist in contradiction to each other, but that they can be used alongside each other.


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So then, what are essential oils? Essential oils are the potent liquids that are distilled from different plant parts such as seeds, bark, leaves, roots, stems, flowers and fruit. Essential oils have a very strong and distinct aroma because they carry the scent of the plant part from which they were distilled. The word essential actually comes from quintessential, because it was believed that in addition to earth, fire, water, and air, every life force contained a fifth element (quintessence) which was considered the life-source. Distillation or evaporation was considered the way through which this life-source or quintessence could be extracted.

When you hear the word oil, words like greasy, slick, or fatty most likely come to mind, but although the name itself suggests that essential oils are, well oils, they in fact are not, but are volatile liquids that evaporate and, as mentioned already, contain the natural smell and characteristic of the plant from which it was derived. You can experience the difference between a volatile liquid and an oil if you put some on your hand, because the essential oil will evaporate leaving your hand smooth while the oil will leave your hand with a greasy feeling until you wash it off. These kinds of oils have a neutral scent, are derived from the fatty parts of vegetarian sources (such as coconuts or olives) or animal sources (such as emu oil), and are called carrier oils, because they can be used to dilute essential oils and “carry” them onto the skin. I will write a post at a later time going into more detail about carrier oils, but for now just know that there is a difference.

Oils have been used for thousands of years for medicinal, cosmetic, dietary, religious and spiritual purposes. If you study ancient Egyptian history you will find that oils were used for example in the embalming process, or if you study biblical literature you can also find examples of essential oils being mentioned (f.eks. frankincense given to the Christ-child). Other mentions of essential oil usage can be seen in Chinese, Greek, Roman, Israeli, Arabic or European history. Oils and essential oils specifically were mankind’s first medicine, so although lately as people have searched for convenient natural ways of healing and greater well-being there has been an upsurge and increase in popularity of essential oils, the enhancement that has been enjoyed through their use is nothing modern or new.

Most essential oils can be used either aromatically, topically, or internally and can help relieve ailments such as headaches, nausea, joint pain, PMS, mood, etc. and because of their anti-bacterial properties can even be used in cleaning and disinfecting around the house. When essential oils are either diffused through the air, diluted and put on the skin, or taken internally by ingestion, the oil very quickly enters the body through the skin, nasal passage or digestive system. Below is a summary of the three main ways essential oils are used.

  1. Aromatically. You have probably had the experience of a scent triggering a certain memory in your mind and like Helen Keller said; “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.” There is an obviously clear connection between our sense of smell and the mind and scents and aromas of essential oils are therefore incredibly powerful in stimulating our minds. When we inhale something either through the nose or mouth we are actually inhaling tiny particles of that substance that then enter our bodies and interact with the olfactory and respiratory systems. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to two parts of the brain which are involved in both memory, emotion, and mood (the amygdala and hippocampus), so when we inhale essential oil aromas, these aromas interact with our limbic system (the part in our brain that controls basic mood and is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance (Higley & Higley, 1998)) and can affect our mental state including memory, mood, and emotion.
  2. Topically. Because our skin is somewhat permeable, essential oil can enter the body if applied topically to the skin. It usually takes about 5 minutes for the oil to enter through the skin and about 20 minutes for the essential oil to take its full effect. Some oils can be very irritating to the skin (ex: oregano or cinnamon) and should be diluted before applying topically so it is important that you know which ones should be diluted and by how much to avoid any irritation!
  3. Internally by ingestion. Some oils can be taken by ingestion by either filling an empty pill capsule with a few drops and then swallowing it with water, placing a few drops directly on the tongue and then swallowing it, or in food (however, if you cook the food, the heat will break down the oils and they will no longer have the full therapeutic effect). It is important to note that not all oil companies produce pure oils that can be ingested, and some oils can even be damaging to the body if taken internally, so I suggest you do your research and consult with a professional if you want to use this method.

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The world of essential oils is vast and stretches far and wide, but I hope that this post provided some useful and interesting information to jump-start your knowledge. I look forward to sharing some more of my experiences surrounding essential oil use, so stay tuned! Also, let me know your thoughts in the comments down below and if you use essential oils yourself.

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Jeanette

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  1. Jeanette says:

    Let me know if you use essential oils, and what your favourite oil is! (Or if you have any questions, feel free to ask!)

  2. Jan says:

    First I want to say thanks a lot for this very interesting and useful blogpost!
    To be honest; I always looked at stuff like this very critically, but about 3 years ago I started trying it out as well. I began to like essential oils a lot although not forgetting about the other sources of medicine we have.
    Essential oils help the body heal itself and find its proper balance.
    Thanks a lot again for this very informative blogpost, perfect overview for beginners or potential beginners!

    • Jeanette says:

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the post, and yes, I find it important to use essential oils and modern medicine alongside each other! Thank you for your comment!

  3. Moira says:

    Well I sincerely enjoyed studying it. This article procured by you is very effective for accurate planning.

    • Jeanette says:

      Thank you for your comment! I am glad that you found the post enjoyable. There is so much information surrounding essential oils that it was hard to summarize “the essentials” in just one post, but I hope to write more in the future going into more details on specific oils!

  4. home page says:

    Wow cuz this is extremely excellentexcellent work! Congrats and keep it up

  5. Danyelle says:

    I’d need to verify with you here. Which is not something I usually do! I get pleasure from reading a post that can make people think. Also, thanks for permitting me to remark!

    • Jeanette says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad that you found this post interesting, and I hope to evoke thought with more posts in the future. Again, thank you for your comment and encouragement, it is much appreciated!

  6. Eline says:

    I love your blog and your different approach to minimalism, just one quick question, what kind of brands of essential oils or oil diffusers do you recommend?

    • Jeanette says:

      Hello Eline! Thank you so much for your kind words and for checking out my blog! I truly appreciate it! I personally use Doterra essential oils and would absolutely recommend those. I haven’t personally tried any other brands so unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to recommend anything else based off of experience. I know Young Living is also very popular and seems to be a great brand though, but personally I use Doterra. My oil diffuser is from amazon, and I don’t have any specific brand that I would necessarily recommend as far as diffusers go as of now. Maybe I will make a post at a later time discussing different brands of essential oils and diffusers! Thank you so much for your question, I hope my answer was somewhat helpful to you!

  7. This really answered my problem, thank you!

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