Essential oils, also called volatile oils, are scented oils extracted from plants. Historically, they’ve been used in medicine, cosmetics, perfumes, food, and, more recently, aromatherapy. Essential oils are “essential” because they contain the “essence” of the plant, meaning the taste or odor.
Not only are essential oils popular, they have legitimate therapeutic use and the science to back it up. Although the exact benefit depends on the oil in question, some have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Others can affect cognitive function, mood, and memory. Some can even help alleviate stiff, sore muscles and joints.
Some essential oils can be applied to the skin, others are best taken orally. However–and this is important–do not ingest or topically apply any essential oils unless you are absolutely certain that they can be used this way. Not all essential oils are safe to take internally and some can irritate the skin. Essential oils are a concentrated source of many phytochemicals and some essential oils must be diluted with an unscented “carrier oil” to be used safely on skin.
Health Benefits of Common Oils
One of the primary benefits of essential oils is that, when used properly, they offer many benefits and have few, if any, side effects. Many essential oils are effective against harmful organisms. Some can positively affect your mood and mental state. Some essential oils can even help you reduce a headache or feelings of nausea. Aromatherapy uses essential oils to improve quality of life and reduce unpleasant side effects of aggressive therapies and health conditions. Just be careful not to spill them; some surfaces, like painted wood, may react with essential oils.
Derived from fresh lavender flowers, lavender oil is one of the most well known essential oils. It appears to slow the activity of the central nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote better concentration, and help encourage hair regrowth in those suffering from alopecia areata, a type of hair loss.
Lavender may also help fight anxiety. In one study, encapsulated lavender oil was found to be effective for generalized anxiety disorder, without sedative effects or potential for abuse.
Eucalyptus oil, derived from the leaves of Eucalyptus odorata, a smaller variety of eucalyptus tree, is a powerful biocide. It’s antimicrobial, insecticidal (kills insects), herbicidal, acaricidal (kills ticks and mites), and nematicidal (kills nematodes). It’s especially effective against the bacterial strains Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenza, Staphylococcus agalactiae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Eucalyptus oil is great for respiratory health. Inhaling eucalyptus steam can help alleviate a cough and congestion. The aroma of the oil acts as an expectorant, helping to loosen phlegm in the nasal passages and lungs.
In one study, researchers found that the combination of eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil boosts cognitive performance. The same study also found the scent of these two essential oils reduce headaches and promote mental and muscular relaxation.
Peppermint oil can help alleviate nausea, headache, upset stomach, gas, indigestion, and anxiety. It works on the digestive system by speeding up the rate of elimination. Peppermint oil calms the involuntary smooth muscle of the stomach, producing an antispasmodic effect, and improves the flow of bile. It can help soothe discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and studies have shown that encapsulated peppermint oil can reduce IBS symptoms in as many as 80% of people who take it. Peppermint oil is effective because it contains menthol that interferes with the movement of electrolytes across cell membranes, stopping involuntary contractions.
Beyond digestive help, peppermint oil may offer relief for HSV-1 (Herpes simplex) outbreaks by permeating the skin and acting as a virucide directly on the virus. More research is needed, but preliminary results suggest topical application may fight outbreaks.
Tea tree oil is another essential oil with strong antimicrobial properties. Also known as melaleuca oil, tea tree oil comes from “tea” or “paperbark” trees. In Australia, it has a long history of use as an antiseptic. Bundjalung aborigines native to Australia inhaled the aroma of crushed leaves to relieve cough and used poultices to help heal wounds.
Today, we know that tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiprotozoal. It fights harmful organisms by damaging cell membranes. Tea tree oil also inhibits the growth and sporulation of yeast and fungus. The oil can be applied topically to cuts to discourage infection.
Like peppermint oil, tea tree oil seems to have an effect on HSV-1. One study revealed that, while topical tea tree oil doesn’t prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks, it may reduce viral load by up to 98.2%.
Chamomile has been used therapeutically for thousands of years by Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians to remedy everything from skin conditions and injuries to fever and insomnia. As a traditional medicine, blue chamomile oil may help with eczema, wounds, bruises, burns, canker sores, mastitis, and other conditions.
Chamomile is also appreciated for its anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that chamomile inhibits and prevents a chemical process in the body that incites inflammation. Further, chamomile seems to inhibit the effects of the stomach-ulcer-provoking bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
Chamomile tea can help with insomnia, and inhaling the aroma of chamomile oil produces a mild sedative effect on the brain, which makes you feel sleepy. Like lavender, chamomile oil offers a mild anti-anxiety effect for those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.
Rose oil is a floral-scented essential oil derived from the petals of several species of rose. In contrast, rose absolute is not an essential oil because the essence of the rose is extracted using a more intense chemical extraction processes. Like other essential oils, rose oil promotes a calm mood and fights harmful organisms. It contains tocopherol (a vitamin E compound), carotene, and high levels of phenolic compounds. Rose oil can make your skin more permeable so it’s often added to skin care products to improve efficacy.
Oregano oil contains carvacrol, a powerful organic compound with a long list of beneficial properties, including fighting harmful organisms. Carvacrol also supports liver health. A powerful antioxidant for healthy immune function.
Jasmine oil is derived from jasmine flowers. While many of the essential oils mentioned are sleep aids and relaxants, jasmine oil has a stimulating effect. When applied topically, jasmine oil increases alertness, breathing rate, and vigor. These effects may promote an uplifted mood and better sense of well-being.
Bergamot oil is known for its calming effects, but it may also encourage a healthy body weight and help with vascular and heart health. Researchers aren’t yet sure how, but bergamot oil encourages normal cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
A tall, perennial plant, Lemongrass has a subtle citrus flavor and is used in Asian cuisine in soups, teas, and curries as well as with fish, poultry, beef, and seafood. In addition to its unique flavor, Lemongrass essential oil promotes healthy digestion and acts as an overall tonic to the body’s systems when ingested. It’s also purifying and toning to the skin, and is frequently used in skin care products for these benefits. Lemongrass is an ideal oil to use in massage therapy. Lemongrass has a pungent, herbaceous aroma that can heighten awareness and promote a positive outlook.
Renowned as one of the most prized and precious essential oils, Frankincense has extraordinary health benefits. In addition to its notoriety in the New Testament, the Babylonians and Assyrians would burn Frankincense in religious ceremonies and the ancient Egyptians used Frankincense resin for everything from perfume to salves for soothing skin. This centuries-old knowledge contributes to the modern uses of Frankincense today. It’s soothing and beautifying properties are used to rejuvenate skin and help reduce the appearance of imperfections when applied topically. As the king of oils, Frankincense is known to support healthy cellular function when used internally. When inhaled or diffused, Frankincense promotes feelings of peace, relaxation, satisfaction, and overall wellness.
How to Use Essential Oils
Most essential oils are safe to use, but you have to pay attention to their intended use and stick to those applications. Some oils can only be used aromatically and should not be applied to the skin or taken orally. Read the directions on each product you purchase.
Essential oils are a holistic way of healing and taking care of the body. There are so many to choose from and each has its own benefits. Why not begin using essential oils today to promote a life of total body health and well-being?
Source: Global Healing Center, doTERRA