Essential oils are one of the most popular natural remedies used today. Essential oils are concentrated substances derived from plants and flowers, and they contain a wide range of active compounds that can offer a range of health benefits. Using essential oils is a safe and natural way to improve your physical, mental and emotional health, so it’s no wonder they’re becoming so popular.
In this article, we’ll look at the basics of essential oils, so you can decide if they’re right for you.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are natural, fragrant compounds extracted from different parts of a plant, such as leaves, flowers, stems, bark, roots or fruits. The part used can vary from species to species. Most essential oils are steam distilled – the process of passing steam through the plant material to extract the oil. Other methods like cold pressing are also used to extract oils from citrus fruit peels.
Essential oils have been used throughout history in various cultures for their medicinal and spiritual benefits. They can be inhaled directly or diluted in a carrier oil and applied topically on skin or taken internally in capsule form. The chemical composition of different essential oils can vary depending on when they were harvested and where they were produced – making it important to buy high quality oil that is pure without any additives or synthetic ingredients. Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits due to their abundance of active compounds that promote physical and mental wellbeing.
Benefits of using essential oils
Using essential oils for their therapeutic and cleansing properties has become increasingly popular over the years. Essential oils are highly concentrated substances that come from plants, with their strong odor and medicinal qualities. These natural oils can provide a wide range of health and wellness benefits, while offering a pleasant aroma in your home or workspace.
Essential oils can be used to gain relief from physical ailments such as colds, headaches and muscle pain, as well as psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. They also have antiseptic properties which make them ideal for cleaning surfaces and providing a pleasant scent in your environment. Depending on the type of oil selected, beneficial outcomes may include:
- Elimination of toxins from the body
- Improvement in concentration
- Stress relief
- Relaxation of sore muscles
- Fragrance improvements that reduce anxiety
- A boost in energy levels
- Increased immunity against illnesses
- Reduced inflammation
In addition to the many therapeutic benefits possible through using essential oils, these also offer a variety of beauty benefits such as moisturizing skin, reducing redness and age spots or even preventing wrinkles or acne breakouts. They are used in aromatherapy massage to relieve stress or muscle tension. Some essential oils can also be added to food items like tea or smoothie recipes to enhance flavors while providing powerful health benefits at the same time.
Types of Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great way to add a burst of natural flavor to your day. There are a variety of essential oils available on the market that can be used in different ways to treat different ailments. From aromatherapy to topical skin treatments, essential oils have a myriad of uses.
This section will explore the different types of essential oils and their uses:
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts derived from plants, and they have been used for thousands of years in many cultures as part of traditional healing practices. There are hundreds of species from which these oils are extracted.
The oils extracted from these plants contain a variety of active chemical constituents – such as terpenes, phenols, and aldehydes – that interact with the body differently depending on the type of oil selected. Natural essential oils can provide many health benefits when used aromatically or topically, such as balancing hormones and providing relaxation. They are also believed to improve digestion, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, fight bacteria and virus’, and improve cognitive functioning.
Aromatherapy is the medieval practice of using essential oils to promote well-being in mind and body by affecting moods and stimulating emotions through their scent. Different types of essential oil offer different therapeutic effects – some are sedative or calming while other can be stimulating or uplifting. Commonly used aromatherapy oils include:
- Lavender for relaxation;
- Lemon for alertness;
- Peppermint for clarity;
- Rosemary for stimulation;
- Cedarwood for grounding;
- Sandalwood for clarity;
- Eucalyptus for healing respiratory issues;
- Chamomile to soothe anxiety;
- Bergamot to reduce stress levels – there are endless combinations with which one may choose from.
These essential oils can be used in various ways – aromatic diffusers or steam inhalation allows the user to inhale the molecules directly into the lungs where they can interact with cell membranes throughout your body more quickly than other types of inhalation such as burning incense sticks or smoke-based therapies. Topical application on skin is also popular due to it being a method by which the molecules can penetrate quickly into tissue where they will bind with proteins accordingly depending on its chemistry.
Essential oils can be used in many different ways, but one of the most common and beneficial methods is through the skin. This type of application is called topical use, and it has a number of advantages. By applying essential oils directly to your skin you can experience relief from tension, stress, and other physical ailments.
The topical effects of certain essential oils vary with each person, but once you find the right oil or blend for your needs you will be able to experience results quickly as well as safely and naturally. Different essential oils have specific uses depending on their chemical makeup, so you may have to experiment a bit in order to discover what works best for you.
Suggestions for topical use include:
- Massage blends
- Shower gels
- Sports creams
- Vapor rubs
- Balms & salves
- Bath oils & scrubs
- Footbaths & soaks
Ingestible essential oils are those which can be safely consumed in food, beverages or as dietary supplements. These types of oils can help balance emotions, improve digestion, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Ingestible oils tend to have a much milder flavor and scent compared with those used for topical application and aromatherapy.
Mild ingestible essential oils include:
- Fennel Seed
- Ginger Root
- German Chamomile
- Roman Chamomile
- Yuzu Fruit
More concentrated ingestible essential oils should always be used with caution, as they may cause digestive upset when taken in high concentration. Examples of more potent ingestible essentials include:
- Myristica Fragrans (Nutmeg)
Always make sure to consult the oil manufacturer’s instructions prior to taking any essential oil internally and do not exceed the recommended dosage for safety purposes.
Uses of Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for medicinal, aromatherapy, and spiritual purposes. Different essential oils can have different uses, ranging from helping with skin care issues to relieving stress. Essential oils are also used in cooking and perfumes.
In this section, we will be exploring all the different uses of essential oils and how each oil can be used for different purposes:
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to improve physical and psychological health. Essential oils, the pure essence of a plant, part or all of the plant is distilled and extracted for its fragrant oil components. These oils can be used for uplifting spirits, reducing stress, easing muscle pain, helping you relax, or to strengthen your immune system.
Essential oils can be inhaled or diluted in water or carrier oil and applied topically to the skin. The process of releasing fragrant molecules into the air is called “diffusion.” Diffusers are specifically designed to disperse essential oil vapor molecules into the air through heat and air circulation. Certain essential oils can also be combined together to create unique aromas (also known as aromachemistry).
The different types of essential oils – floral, minty, spicy Tobaccy – have various wellness-promoting benefits. Floral extractives such as lavender have calming and soothing effects on physical being while citrusy variants like lemongrass unwinds tension and invigorate energy levels. Minty extracts like peppermint are cooling so great for headaches whilst spicy extracts help clear respiratory tract gum problems in times when you simply just want to breath a little easier!
Often used in skin care to supplement the skin’s natural moisture balance, essential oils act as a humectant and help retain moisture, making them an important ingredient in many cosmetics. They can be used as cleansing agents as well, thanks to their powerful antiseptic and antifungal qualities. Essential oils are also beneficial in protecting and restoring the natural immune system of the skin, providing a sort of protective barrier that keeps the skin toned and healthy.
For example, tea tree oil may help reduce discomfort from acne breakouts. Lavender oil is known for its ability to balance both combination and oily skin types. Chamomile is often used to ease irritation and sensitivity, while sandalwood helps create even tone. Other common skin care uses for essential oils include reducing redness or itching caused by eczema or psoriasis, promoting healing of sunburns and wounds, diminishing visible age spots and wrinkles or improving dry patches or patches of flaking skin on the face or body.
Cleaning with essential oils can be an excellent and effective way to keep your home clean. Not only does the use of natural essential oils create an atmosphere of relaxation and help to freshen rooms, but using the oil in combination with water or vinegar makes for a powerful cleaning agent. Essential oils are a great addition to everyday cleaning products.
Adding two or three drops of your favorite essential oil in cold water and then spraying around the room will help freshen the space while also leaving a pleasant aroma. Combining water, white vinegar, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil such as eucalyptus, lemon, lime or tea tree can make an effective all-purpose cleaner that works great on windows, flooring and furniture surfaces.
Furthermore, adding these natural scents to laundry detergent can freshen clothes instead of using fabric softeners that contain chemicals.
Health and wellness
Essential oils have been used for hundreds of years for a variety of therapeutic and health reasons. Research has proven some benefits to using essential oils, including improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep, increased concentration and alertness, lower blood pressure, and more.
In addition to the physical benefits of essential oils, their aromatic properties provide a form of aromatherapy that can be particularly helpful in improving mental clarity and relaxation. Aromatherapy involves using natural oils in order to improve the mental state or overall health of an individual. It works via two primary pathways: inhalation and topical application. Through either method incense-like fragrances can help enhance energy levels or stimulate relaxation depending on the oil selected.
The different types of essential oils available can vary dramatically in their effects depending upon the type used. Many people take advantage of this diversity by researching the properties of each oil that they are interested in before choosing one for use. Commonly used essential oils include lavender, eucalyptus, chamomile, peppermint and tea tree oil among many others; these each come with marginally different associated effects on mood regulation and energy levels.
Essential oil use has become increasingly popular over recent years due to recognition that it can aid a variety of lifestyle issues from helping individuals stay active during cold season to providing relief from chronic pain without utilizing potentially dangerous off-the-shelf medications. Furthermore due being 100% pure plant extracts certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have potential hostile environmental impacts so essential oil based air freshening has become increasingly popular due to its low environmental impact compared traditional artificial air fresheners containing phthalates amongst other known toxic chemicals; indeed its common occurrence nowadays to walk into an indoor environment with distinct aromatic smells having been produced by diffusion from an essential oil based diffuser system rather than plain aerosols as previously adopted some decades ago.
When using essential oils, safety is of utmost importance. Ahead of using any essential oil, you should become familiar with the safety guidelines that come with its use. You should never apply any essential oils on open wounds, or ingest them undiluted. Additionally, it’s important to understand the maximum dermal limits of essential oil use, and consider any potential skin sensitivities.
Understanding these considerations is essential for safe and successful use of essential oils.
When using essential oils, it’s important to observe the accepted guidelines for dilution. Undiluted essences may irritate or even burn your skin, and can also cause a reaction if inhaled directly. Dilution with a carrier oil like almond, olive, or jojoba oil also increases the effect of essential oils on the skin and its absorption in the body.
Typically, it’s recommended to dilute essential oils at a ratio of between 0.5-2%. For example, if you’re going to use 4 ml of essential oil, you would mix it with 200 ml of carrier oil—giving you an approximate 20 drops of essential oil per ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil. It’s wise to patch test any mixture before extensive use; start with a lower dilution rate and only increase as needed for desired effects or after consulting a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.
One of the few safety considerations to note before using essential oils is the possibility of an allergic reaction. Essential oil allergies are rare but can cause anything from mild irritation to a full-body anaphylactic shock, depending on the individual’s sensitivity and intolerance.
Symptoms of essential oil allergies can vary, but commonly include skin sensitization (skin redness, itchiness, and rash), irritation to eyes or mucous membranes, headaches, nausea and dizziness.
If you have any existing allergies or heightened sensitivities, it would be wise to do a patch test before using essential oils topically or aromatically. To do so:
- Mix two drops each of two different essential oils (or one drop of one oil and two drops of another) in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil then apply on your inner arm and monitor for 24 hours for signs or reactions like itching or swelling.
- If you experience no reaction within 24 hours then you should generally be safe to use that combination without risk – but always remember to check the instructions provided on each product before use.
Interactions with medications
When used topically, essential oils can potentially interact with medications. This could lead to adverse side effects ranging from skin irritations to more serious interactions.
If you are taking any medications or have medical conditions, speak with your healthcare provider before applying essential oils topically or ingesting them. Your provider may be familiar with natural remedies and can let you know which ones are safe to use and which ones should be avoided.
It is also important to let your healthcare provider know if you’ve used an essential oil within the past few days, as some medications may interact with it up to 48 hours later. Possible interactions include reduced efficacy of a medication or a heightened risk of adverse reactions when taken together with a particular essential oil.
For instance, if you’re taking beta-blockers for high blood pressure and use an herbal remedy containing lavender essential oil, the compounds in lavender may inhibit the effect of these drugs resulting in higher blood pressure than normal. Even after discontinuing the remedy, these interactions can last for up to 48 hours unless supervised by a healthcare provider who is familiar with this type of combination therapy.
It’s always best to check back with your provider often if you choose to use an essential oil along with any standard treatments you may be receiving.
It is important to remember that essential oils are highly concentrated and, if not stored properly, can become less effective or even cause harm. To help ensure they remain at their best, it is advisable to store your essential oils correctly. Here are some key tips:
- Store essential oils away from direct heat, light and humidity as they are sensitive to environmental factors.
- Use amber or cobalt glass bottles as these will protect contents more effectively than other containers. Make sure the bottle is tightly sealed when not in use.
- Always label containers with the name of the oil, the date of purchase and the date of opening for future reference should any problems arise.
- Keep out of reach from children and pets and avoid storing near food items.
- Do not mix different essential oils together until you’re experienced enough to do so safely and understand about which components in each oil could be incompatible with another oil.
- Be aware that some essential oils may interact with medications so always check with a qualified health practitioner (e.g., a doctor) first before using any essential oils if you’re taking any type of drug medications on a regular basis.
The evidence suggests that the use of essential oils and aromatherapy for health and wellbeing is perfectly natural and safe. Essential oils have a profound impact on our emotional, physical, and mental health – but only when used correctly. A wide range of essential oils are available from several different sources, so you’ll find something to suit your individual needs.
When it comes to using essential oils, whether you are an expert aromatherapist or simply a curious beginner, it’s important to read up on safety guidelines, create blends for specific concerns or goals, and carefully store your oils away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
Above all else, listen to your body when using essential oils – if you experience any discomfort you should reduce your dosage or discontinue use all together. Regardless of the considerations you must take into account when using them, essential oils can be extremely beneficial in promoting balance in both body and mind.