Hope Gillerman is literally one of the most talented and credible Aromatherapists I know. I came across her products first. She creates outstanding essential oil blends that are easy to use. I took one whiff and knew that the quality was top notch. I tried her Travel Remedy on a trip to England, and was hooked. Then, I snagged a copy of her book, Essential Oils Everyday, and it was a done deal…I had to meet her! I emailed her, and we’ve since become buddies, or really, soul sisters. We speak the same language, and it’s utterly refreshing to meet an Aromatherapist who is so honest, and down-to-earth. Hope knows her stuff like no other. So, I was thrilled to sit down and have a tea and a chat with her, and to discuss how to use essential oils.
Sophie: What interested you in aromatherapy in the first place?
Hope: I am one of those people whose world is colored by scent. Since my earliest memories, I have always been drawn to distraction by beautiful aromas and upset by harsh or ugly ones. I identify each moment in my life by what it smells like. I can suffer deeply emotional reactions to scents – its not easy. I remember calling my mother when I was having a sleep over at my friend’s house to have her pick me up because there was a smell that was too upsetting me (it turned out to be rancid butter in the kitchen). I think many children react this way but once they become adults they get used to tuning out smells. I never did. As a teen I hung out in apothecaries and became obsessed with the complex scent of vintage French Perfumes. I needed my world to smell better. But my instinctual repulsion to the toxins in perfume caused a conflict. The more I delved into perfumery, the more I pulled away. The new scents repelled me especially and eventually I couldn’t tolerate perfume any more. I wanted to breathe in the glorious aromas but the alcohol felt like a barrier to the subtle notes of the blend. I was frustrated by the harsh synthetic chemical smells and the imitations aromas. I wanted the real thing. And I wanted it to feel good when I breathed it in. When I first inhaled an essential oil it felt like I was falling back slow motion into a pile of soft feather pillows. And I loved the way their aromas lingered on my body, in my clothes and in my room without smelling “off” or out of balance. But what really locked me into the oils was the comfort they offered me through their healing properties. They got rid of my pain, healed my skin, helped me with my anger, depression and anxiety and sleep and hormonal changes. Holistic health and healing is the theme that runs through everything I do and essential oils embody the spirit of healing to me: lovely, immediate and nurturing.
Sophie: Do you think there is a place of essential oils/aromatherapy in everyone’s life?
Hope: Absolutely! Many don’t realize that they are enjoying essential oils already. Essential oils are part of why we enjoy citrus fruits, vanilla, rosemary and so many more in our foods. They are the spice of life. And once you have an experience of them working for you – you are hooked. I see this often in couples where one loves them and the other is indifferent until the disinterested one experiences pain relief, asthma symptoms or their angst subsiding.
Sophie: Can you explain a little bit behind the science of how essential oils work? We know they smell lovely, but how do they work in a therapeutic sense?
The basics science you need to know is the ways essential oils particles make it into your body and how they work with the brain:
- Essential oils are highly volatile liquids extracted from aromatic plants through steam distillation. The instant you notice the scent of an essential oil, you are already ingesting some of its tiny particles into your body. They enter through the lungs and the sinuses. When you actively inhale essential oils by holding them close to your nose, you can absorb up to 70% of these particles.
- Essential oils enter the brain through the olfactory nerves in your sinuses. From the nerve endings they travel to the olfactory bulb where nerve impulses send messages to the memory and emotional parts of the brain and then on to the limbic system that controls heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, our bodies’ stress response and hormonal changes. A series of studies show that when you inhale lavender essential oil the stress hormone – cortisol – in your blood stream goes down. Inhaling essential oils can shift your mood and your psychological and sleep state. This makes them excellent solutions for mild depression, anxiety, and poor sleep.
- When you breathe in or apply an essential oil paraticles are absorbed into the highly absorbant lungs and the sinuses. From there they travel into your blood stream and into your brain, your spinal fluid, your organs and your lymphatic system. Even traces of them can found in the placenta after ingestion. Most finally leave the body through the liver and then the kidneys (some clear through the lungs).
- You also absorb essential oil particles through the skin but it is a slower process and about 10-15% is absorbed. Therefore, you will have a stronger therapeutic result at the location where you apply the oil ie. On lower back to relieve back pain.
- Essential oils, once they enter your body, have many therapeutic properties. Here are some of the ways they work: as vasodialtors and circulatory stimulants, anti-spasmotics, diuretics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, anti-bacterials, anti-virals, anti-fungals, decongestors, expectorants, sedators and stress reducers.
Sophie: Do we need to be concerned about where we source our oils?
Hope: Absolutely, low quality, adulterated, and contaminated essential oils are very common and labeling does not show if the oils has been diluted with toxic ingredients like petrochemicals or synthetic fragrance.
Sophie: If we don’t want to buy from a MLM company (your blends aside), have you any recommendations of where to buy single essential oils – and should they be organic?
First, look for certified organic essential oils which are much healthier for you and the planet. Even though some of the pesticides used in traditional farming will evaporate – there is no guarantee that the toxic pesticides are not still present at harmful levels in non- organic essential oils. Most importantly, the organic certification body is a third party regulator that provides standards and tracks the oil for you, from seed to bottle. In my experience, there is no comparison between the therapeutic results of certified organic oils and those that are not.
Second, the label should list the botanical name (latin) and the area and part of the plant the oil is sourced from.
Third, don’t expect to get high quality oils at bargain prices. Preferably buy from small online distributors who are also reputable aromatherapists.
Sophie: Why are EO’s so expensive?
Because they are so highly concentrated and because there are limited quantities available in the world. Consider this: a football field of lavender will only produce 2 gallons of essential oil and 6 dozen roses will produce only one drop of rose essential oil. The plus side is that nature’s most concentrated extract can be very economical if used wisely: diluting for topical application, inhaling actively by breathing them in and putting them on your body instead on the shower floor or in a car diffuser, for example.
Sophie: What is their shelf life?
The scent of some essential oils can develop over time, for as long as 5 years. But for most essential oils you want to use them up in a year, two if you store in the refrigerator. This general guide will ensure you get the therapeutic benefits these natural wonders are so loaded with.
Citrus oils must be stored in the fridge as they oxidize much quicker. When you buy essential oils in a store they could be sitting in hot lights for a while, rendering them therapeutically weaker. I believe this is one reason some people don’t feel the full potency of the oils. Essential oils are very concentrated and very powerful. You should feel the effects right away. A good store will know how to store the oils properly.
Sophie: Do any oils pose a safety issue?
The issue of essential oils safety requires some attention though, in general, essential oils are very safe for most people. I recommend consulting your doctor first, especially if you are on medication. If they are unfamiliar recommend “Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young for an up-to-date reference for health professionals.
Some oils can irritate the skin and cause a rash, like thyme, oregano, clove, lemongrass, ginger, fennel and birch, especially if they are used undiluted or not used properly in a blend. Not everyone will have a reaction and allergic responses to essential oils is less common than to harsh detergents; but it can happen. Some oils should be avoided altogether like Cinammon Bark which can be carcinogenic and Hyssop Officianalis which is neurotoxic (however Hyssop Decumbens is safe to use). Some people can have allergic responses to a toxic ingredient added to an essential oil or essential oil product without knowing. Rosemary is contraindicated for high blood pressure though there are no studies to support this. Relative to modern pharmaceuticals, there is very little research done on essential oils. Everyone can react differently so it is best to look up the safety data on each single oil you haven’t used before and test on the crook of your elbow for a few days before using.
In general, it is better to play it safe:
- Essential oils are NOT recommended for use around infants (especiallyeucalyptus, camphor, clove, cinnamon, and tea tree) or for women in their firsttrimester.
- Women in their second or third trimester should stick to relaxing flower and citrusoils with soft aromas like lavender, orange, and rose and always dilute highly.
- When you are sick, consult your doctor first and dilute your oils more or, avoidaltogether, especially if it is a life-threatening illness. When your body is fightingto survive – essential oils can be a challenge to your system.
- Children before they are teens and the elderly need heavily diluted oils.
- Citrus oils – especially bergamot! – should not be applied anywhere on the skinthat will be exposed to the sun as they increase your sensitivity and put you at riskfor serious burns.
- Never ingest by swallowing – which can cause gastritis, reflux and worse.
- Don’t use rancid oils. Try a smell test – they often have an unpleasant or harshtell-tale aroma) Oils that come from the needles (like pine and spruce) are knownirritants if they are stored more than 2 years.
- And I concur with Sophie’s “Essential Oils 101” for your DIY products (add link)“You rarely want to apply an undiluted essential oil straight onto your skin. The dilution for adult should be approx either 1 or 2%. This would translate as either 6 or 12 drops of EO per ounce of base/carrier oil.”
Note: In my book, “Essential Oils Every Day” I profile the oils that are user-friendly and I include suggestions for safe practices and a chart on how much to dilute your oils.
Sophie: Can EO’s be used on animals?
With care, you can use on dogs but not where they would lick it off and please let them smell it first to make sure they like it – those sensitive noses must be respected. Keep off of cats and ventilate your home well if you are using on yourself. Avoid using around birds. However, your plants will love the oils in your home!
Sophie: If someone wants to create a “starter kit”, what would be the 5 oils you would recommend and why?
A starter kit should include the oils that you love. A cost-effective and easy way to start is with only 5 oils:
- a stimulating citrus oils like lemon, grapefruit or lime (orange oils are calming)
- a decongesting/immune boosting/anti-microbial oils like eucalyptus or tea tree (or yourfavorite melaluca oils)
- a calming oil flower oil like lavender, clary sage or geranium
- a wood, root or resin oil – to ground your blends and hold the scent – like Cedarwood,frankincense or vetiver
- Peppermint – to give you stamina, relax msucles, relieve nausea, anxiety, headaches andindigestion and give a fresh clean smell.
What was the thinking behind your outstanding blends, and how do we use them?
I wanted to make an appealing collection of ready-to-use essential oil remedies that would be highly effective on contact, easy to use, smell great and work for anyone who is going through a stressful time or looking to improve their health. My goal for H. Gillerman Organics was to make it possible for anyone to carry an effective essential oil remedy of choice in their bag, always at the ready,just like a lip balm, whenever they need it and they had to be time savers and a problem solvers. It took me ten years of testing and fomulating to get what I wanted!
I chose four wellness intentions to focus on:
Natural Rest (and travel) Clear Mind (and mediation)
For each intention I created * one 100% essential oils blend for inhalations in a dropper and * one 15% treatment blend for muscles in a roll-on format.
I made eight remedies in all, one meditation oil, one Mommy and baby oil, one skin care oil and one skin care balm. Coming next…luxurious diffuser oils.
Sophie: Your favorite quote? (It can be yours or someone else’s!)
We all have worries and problems and fears but that shouldn’t stop us from being from being happy, healthy and loving. Its true…. smell the roses!