Cary Caster is the founder and creator of 21 Drops Essential Oil Therapy®. She's also a botanist, Licensed Massage Therapist and Clinically Certified Aromatherapist and has over 30 years of practical application of custom-blended essential oil solutions. She recently checked in with us to share her expertise on using essential oils every day. Here's what she had to say:
When did you become interested in essential oils? How have they changed your life?
I found out about essential oils over 30 years ago when I was traveling the world on a botanical expedition for graduate school. My degree in Botany helped me to realize how precious these products were and how powerful they can be in the healing of our emotional, physical and spiritual bodies. I immediately began incorporating them into my daily life, but they were most useful when wanting to raise my three children naturally without medications and when dealing with the emotional grieving of my mother's passing over 20 years ago.
What is aromatherapy? How can it be used?
Aromatherapy is the art and science of utilizing extracted essential oils from various plant parts (leaves, flowers, resins, seeds, roots, etc.) to bring health and balance to many systems of the body. Essential oils can be used in a multitude of ways to effect many conditions. One would select the best form of administration, depending on the condition they were addressing; i.e. a pain salve for strains and sprains, a chest rub for bronchial conditions, a full body lotion for calming and de-stressing, or an inhaler for a quick whiff for focus and concentration.
What is your favorite essential oil? Why do you love it?
My favorite essential oil, at the moment, is Cardamom (Ellettaria cardamomum). Its sweet spicy aroma is emotionally balancing and physically invigorating while instilling feelings of warmth and comfort.
How can essential oils be used to improve health and wellness?
There are endless ways for essential oils to bring about health and wellness, depending on the particular concern one is addressing. The active components naturally occurring in essential oils help to tonify the body and support the overall function of all bodily systems if used properly. Each essential oil has its own unique chemistry and properties that make them beneficial for different purposes. Their wide variety of uses can support physical, mental and emotional states. Some examples are ginger to aid digestion, eucalyptus to help clear the lung, sweet orange to lift the emotions, peppermint to awaken, refresh and reduce fevers ... the list is endless.
What do we need to know about shopping for essential oils?
When shopping for essential oils, it's important to know that it is easy to replicate scent molecules in the laboratory, so there are a lot of synthetic adulterants that mimic the scents of essential oil, without being 100 percent pure. The only way to know exactly what you are getting when you purchase essential oils is to ask your source or supplier whether their company provides "batch specific" GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry) testing (not a COA or MSDS sheet, which only provide general information and nothing about that specific oils' quality).
Even if you don't know how to read a GC/MS report, it is the only testing that provides full transparency for the actual make up and purity of an essential oil against international standards. When using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, this testing is a must!
What are some best practices for using essential oils safely?
The most important factor to consider when using essential oils safely is dilution!
It takes 200 pounds of lavender flowers to create just one pound of essential oil, so this extracted liquid is highly concentrated in it's active components. Thus, one needs to safely dilute all essential oils in a "carrier" cream, lotion, oil, etc., to apply them safely to the skin without risking sensitization or irritation. Usually 1 to 5 percent essential oil is all one needs to be effective in creating an outcome. Due to the powerful nature of these molecules, it would be wasteful to use more than the necessary amount needed to bring about results, as well as risking the bombardment of excess on the systems of the body affected.
There are many factors to consider when safely diluting essential oils. Anyone with a basic knowledge of administering essential oils for therapeutic purposes would take the following into consideration: the age of the person, if they are pregnant or nursing, their overall health or any current or prior medical conditions, skin sensitivities, allergies and whether they are on any medications. It is also important to note that taking essential oils internally is not recommended unless prescribed by a Clinically Certified Aromatherapist. Aromatherapy, while it can be used safely by anyone who does some basic safety training, is a science and should be treated with proper education and caution.
What is your daily routine with essential oils?
When I wake up a bit on the groggy side, I will inhale our 21 drops® Invigorate blend that contains the essential oils of Rosemary, Juniper, Black Pepper and Cedarwood that help awaken and stimulate me and get my fire started for the day.
I play tennis most mornings and keep our 21 drops® Focus blend in my tennis bag to apply right before hitting the tennis court. This helps me to stay focused on the ball and has had a noticeable benefit to my game over the last 20 years.
During the day, I apply the 21 drops® Detox blend quite a bit because our bodies' systems work all day, every day to rid the body of toxins and waste products. The oils in this blend, Juniper, Geranium, Lavender and Cardamom help to fortify and nourish the cleansing systems of the body. In the evenings, while I rarely have problems falling asleep at the end of a long, hectic day, I use the 21 drops® Sleep blend when needing assistance traveling through time zones. The rest of the time I use the various blends as needed, Digest for a stomachache, Decongest when I shave congestion, pain relief when I have sore muscles, etc.
How do use them to treat common ailments (colds, headaches, etc.)?
Essential oils as a whole tend to be highly antimicrobial by their intrinsic chemistry. 80 percent of all known essential oils contain some percent of linalool, which has been studied extensively for it's ability to attack common bacterial cell walls such as those that cause colds, staph and stomach upset. When I feel the first tickle in my throat, I immediately start rolling on our Immunity Blend, filled with antibacterial EO's of Eucalyptus, Ravintsara, Ho Wood and Lavender, to my pulse points and right under my nose so that inhaling the active molecules go right to work on clearing the lungs and nasal passages. Our Headache blend has refreshing and cooling Peppermint, soothing Lavender and Ho Wood, that contribute analgesic properties, as well as the ability to calm nerves that are often the source of headaches. Rolling this blend on ones temples, the back of the neck and inhaling deeply will provide most with immediate relief. If one is using single oils that they have on hand, these can be incorporated into compresses, lotions and salves to address many common ailments.
What's been your mantra over the years when people ask you why they should try using essential oils? What do you find yourself repeating over and over?
Essential oils definitely work! They are precious oils extracted from plants for their therapeutic effects. I am constantly explaining that our current medications are derived from synthesized chemicals that were first found in live plant parts.
James Duke's "The Green Pharmacy" spells this out most clearly. Thousands of years of "trial and error" knowledge of indigenous cultures have been exchanged with modern science replicating these active constituents in the laboratory. We are organic human beings who evolved on the planet with plants, and they hold the source to our wellness. The educated use of 100 percent natural essential oils have little to no adverse side effects when used safely, whereas the isolated compounds that are created synthetically and put into pill form in mega doses tend to have many potential adverse side affects, as well as having additional additives and fillers that the body needs to process. I always vote for natural solutions first when trying to heal the body.