Aromatherapy: What are essential oils? Do they really work?

Just about everywhere we see essential oils and aromatherapy diffusers for sale, whether in stores or online, but do we really understand what they are and how to best use them?  Residences Senior Living uses aromatherapy to help calm or to help stimulate the senses based on the need of residents in our Memory Care communities. Aromatherapy works—it’s amazing and effective, but it’s most important to know about the best usage and combinations of essential oils.  

 To find out more we asked Kate Schlobohm, Reiki Master, Yoga and Meditation Instructor to help us.  We felt everyone should have the opportunity to learn as we did, so we hosted a free webinar Wednesday March 24 featuring Kate’s expertise.  Following are just a few of the tips she shared as she helped us understand what essential oils are and how they are made; health benefits and how they affect your body and mood; practical applications for personal care and household products. 

What are essential oils and how do they work? 

Certain plants produce essential oils in their leaves, blossoms, seeds, roots, bark or resin or rinds of citrus fruits to attract pollinators, repel predators, or protect themselves from disease. Each is unique with active ingredients and chemical properties. 

Essential oils stimulate parts of the brain that store emotions and memories, thus having an effect on our emotional, physical, and mental health. Molecules in essential oils are so small they pass through to the bloodstream and may also interact with hormones and enzymes in your blood. They may kill bacteria, mold, mildew, fungus and viruses. 

There are cautions everyone should be aware of when using essential oils. 

They should not be applied directly to skin, they must be used with a “carrier” oil. Pregnant women, people on certain medications or some medical conditions should discuss with their physicians before using. Some are especially toxic to cats! 

How do you use essential oils?

 Putting a few drops on a tissue or cotton ball to breathe in; mixing with water and put in a diffuser to scent an entire room; steam inhalation whether putting a few drops into a bowl of steaming  water or boiling water on your stove with a few drops will also scent the whole house. A few drops in the bath tub or on the floor of the shower, a spray mist using a few drops in distilled water, and a few drops in a light carrier oil for massage or a moisturizer are also safe to use.   

Kate provided information about carrier oils, how to use; she also provided “recipes” for cleaning and disinfectant techniques, pest repellent, and chemical-free personal care products such as powders, fragrances, hair products and even toothpaste! 

The story of the popular Thieves Oil was revealed.

Did you know there were four thieves who were able to rob homes and graves of plague victims in Europe without getting sick? They used a combination of essential oils and vinegar to protect themselves from the airborne bacteria. In today’s world there is a company that has copyrighted the name “thieves oil” but anyone can use the recipe to make it and use to clean and disinfect. 

Kate offers a wealth of information and welcomes questions. She is available for booking at events and has handouts for recipes and information. You may contact her at 

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