A Question on Oils

This morning, there was a question of oils. It evolved from using pure food grade oils (sesame, coconut, and the like) and Ayurveda herbal oils using Ayurvedic principles to essential oils. Essential oils are not the same as Ayurvedic Herbal oils (this confuses people a lot). Purists would actually argue that you can not substitute essential oils (even diluted) and use them Ayurvedically. Purists would say that you must use the formulas in the classical texts of Ayurveda.

What is the difference?

Ayurvedic Herbal Oils are herbs cooked in a base oil (through a long and wonderful process) until the beautiful constituents of the whole herb are extracted into the oil for easy digestibility through the skin into the bodily tissues.  Herbal Ayurvedic oils allow the body to digest, assimilate, and eliminate the oils. It feeds the tissues. It draws out gunk from the tissues. It can lubricates a dry system (including a dry, anxious nervous system). Oils with certain herbs can be used to target specific tissues and because of the easy digestibility of the herbs, the body recognizes it as “food” and absorbs and utilizes it. Specific herbs for specific tissues are used to manage imbalance.

Want to learn how to make an Ayurvedic oil? Come see me! Be sure you have a lot of time!

Essential oils are not recognized by the body as “food”. They are so refined, that they are no longer easy to digest and in many cases are not digestible at all through either the gut or the skin.

Essential oils go through a process to break down the herb or flower into its most potent, usable form (the byproduct is hydrosols, which are lovely). Pounds and pounds of herbs go into a drop of essential oils. This is really potent and why essential oils are primary used for aromatherapy or diluted (a lot) into a carrier oil. Pure essential oils are so hard/impossible to digest, that it can kill a cat and make a dog extremely sick. Pure essential oils are not meant to be ingested or placed undiluted on the skin. The point of an essential oil is that it is so refined it is incredibly potent and powerful. Don’t eat it and it does not dilute in water; oil and water don’t mix.

Dilute it. Smell it. Respect it.

Respect it. Note that I said pounds and pounds of herb goes into a drop (yes, I said a DROP) of essential oil. Because of this too, essential oils must be used with respect and care. Those of us who use herbs as medicine have a responsibility to care for and honor these plant allies. To carelessly use a bottle of essential oils or to excessively use essential oils denotes a lack of respect for the power and beauty of these plants. I have very big concerns about essential oils and the environment. I cringe when I hear of endangered plant essential oils being touted as the end all and be all. An endangered or at-risk plant should only be used when all other plant allies have been exhausted as an option. When these plants are gone, they’re gone, and with them the incredible healing actions of them. Our actions matter. Respect our plant allies.

If you’ve never done it, it is possible to make an essential oil in your kitchen. Look up the recipe (hmm, there might even be one on my website, hang on, here it is) and make a batch of essential oil. I strongly recommend this to anyone who is using, selling, or suggesting the use of essential oils. Making a batch really lands what is going into a single drop of essential oil. Both as in what you are putting in or on your body and also a respect for the amount of plant involved in making an essential oil.

For personal use:

If you’re going to eat an herb, try a mug of tea first. This is often enough. The ritual of making tea is magic in and of itself. If you need something more potent, graduate to a decoction.

If you’re going to use an herb on your skin, if it’s an essential oil, dilute it well or use an Ayurvedic oil. Ayurvedic oils are lifesaving. Truly.

If you need an herb to nourish and balance your subtle body, try an herbal/flower essence (apparently, I need a post on how to use and make essences) or smell your essential oil.

Start with the lowest, safest way of taking in an herb and graduate from there. You never know if a cuppa tea is just what you need if you jump to an essential oil first…

If you’re falling in love with Ayurveda (who isn’t?), use “cooked” oils and commit to a daily Abhyangha or Snehana. I have limited body treatment appointments available these days. I am also offering Ayurveda 101 this fall (it’s in conjunction with Yoga and Ayurveda Teacher Training; contact me for details, hours, and to reserve your spots-space is super limited).

This is not to say that EOs are not beautiful when used appropriately and wisely. This is to educate and give you something to think about.

Banyan Botanicals offers some amazing Ayurvedic Oils. If you’re new to oils, try a Daily Massage Oil. For joints: Mahanarayan. Sleep: Sleep Easy. Mental Clarity: Brahmi Sesame. If you know your unruly dosha: try a dosha specific oil….Free Shipping…happy shopping.

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