Essential oils are so much more than just a way to practice aromatherapy. Holistic ways to increase whole body wellness are becoming more popular as people look to increase their self care and well-being naturally.
But do they actually work? And how can you best use them? Learning a little bit more about essential oils can help you decide if they are right for you.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are an extract obtained from either a whole plant or parts of the plant like its flower, seeds, or roots (that is believed to have beneficial properties for either physical or mental health. These extracts are thought to be so powerful because they are able to retain both the natural flavor and smell of the plant that they come from, but in a concentrated form. For instance, to make a single pound of lavender essential oil it takes 220 pounds of whole, lavender flowers. Pretty impressive, right?
Every essential oil has its own, unique chemical composition, which affects how it works, smells, and is absorbed by the body. This can even vary between two plants of the same species, and even from plant to plant depending on where and how they were grown.
To be considered a “real” essential oil, it must be derived from a plant and not produced synthetically.
Is There Research Available?
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence available by the thousands of happy essential oil users out there, it’s nice to also have scientific research to back it up.
Essential oils, as a whole, haven’t been subjected to a lot of general research. However, what is out there is impressive and creates a pretty optimistic picture of how they really can help with so many different issues we all suffer with from time to time.
For instance, lemon oil has been researched and found to help reduce agitation in people with severe dementia. This helps to increase their quality of life while also being safe, which is everything we want in a treatment, right?
It has also shown to help treat acne in mild to moderate cases, help with hair loss, nausea, inflammation, etc. The more research that is done, the more we learn about how amazing essential oils really can be.
How Can I Start to Use Essential Oils?
Just like the many essential oils out there, there are plenty of different ways that you can integrate essential oils into your self-care and wellness routines. They really all come down to two ways of getting the essential oil into the system - inhalation or absorption.
It’s important to understand that essential oils should always be mixed with a carrier oil (like virgin coconut, jojoba, olive, etc), especially if they are being used directly on the skin. Essential oils are incredibly strong and need to be diluted before being applied topically.
When it comes to inhalation, aromatherapy is one of the most popular, because there are so many different ways that it can be used. It can be placed on a pillow to help you sleep, added to a diffuser, used in the bath, or just inhaled. It’s amazing how just smelling an essential oil can boost mood and reduce anxiety. We like using aromatherapy candles when taking a bath, where you can add additional essential oils to ramp up the benefits. It’s just a great form of self-care.
When essential oils are inhaled, they affect the limbic system, which is responsible for the body’s moods, emotions, memory, and mind. The way that the limbic system is affected varies depending on the essential oil that was used.
Many people also use essential oils in their beauty routines, mostly by the absorption method. One of the best ways that people do this is by using essential oils (with a carrier oil) on a facial skin roller. This helps take the benefits of each product to the next level, and makes the face more radiant and youthful. The facial roller alone promotes a firmer, brighter complexion, while the essential oil can help reduce wrinkles and create a youthful glow. Just a few drops of essential oil in a supportive carrier oil can really improve the overall skin on your face, so that you can radiate beauty from the outside and the inside.
There are also other topical ways to be able to use essential oils. Many people use them in lotions, shampoos, and conditioners to help get them specifically to where you need help while also diluting them enough to reduce the risk of skin reactions.
What Are Common Essential Oils and What Are They Good For?
- Lavender - Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils, most because of its well-known ability to help calm and soothe the nerves. However, it is so much more than that! Lavender essential oil topically applied can help with skin rashes, minor burns, insect bites, acne and fungal infections. It can also help promote good, quality sleep, and give your skin a natural glow.
- Tea tree - Tea tree essential oil has said to be helpful for a huge variety of common ailments. It may help with cold sores, acne, nail fungus, warts, insect bites, dermatitis, dandruff, and even flea treatment! Some parents even use tea tree essential oil to help treat lice.
- Lemon - The smell of citrus is associated so closely with the home. But lemon essential oil isn’t only useful as a furniture polish. It can also be used for bad breath, as an antimicrobial, and to help relieve anxiety and pain. Some even report that it can be helpful to ease morning sickness.
- Peppermint - Peppermint essential oil is another of the most commonly known and used. While many use it strictly for nausea, it can also be used to kill bad odors, for tick removal, and even to help with chest congestion. It’s incredibly versatile.
- Eucalyptus - Another essential oil that is great for chest congestion, to eliminate germs, and reduce pain. While its benefits are not as well known as its recognizable smell, eucalyptus essential oil is a great one to integrate into any wellness practice.
- Clove - Not only has clove been used for dental care for a long time (specifically gum disease, toothaches, and canker sores), it is also great for bruising, fungal infections, ear aches, and insect bites. However, clove essential oil is very strong so people with sensitive skin may experience irritation.
- Chamomile - Chamomile is excellent for soothing and calming the nerves and anxiety. It is also very beneficial for cuts, bruises, acne, dermatitis, dry skin, and boils. It’s also a well-known tea.
- Frankincense - Frankincense essential oil is perfect for helping reduce scar tissue, cysts, cuts and scrapes, and warts. It also has significant antimicrobial properties and may even be able to boost the immune system.
These are just a sample of the over 90 different essential oils out there. The more you learn about essential oils, the more you’ll feel comfortable branching out and trying other ones. There’s likely an essential oil for nearly anything you’re dealing with.
What To Look For In An Essential Oil
Because essential oils are not monitored by the FDA, it’s important that you know what to look for when purchasing them.
Start by choosing a brand that has a good reputation. Online reviews as well as personal reviews from people who know who have actually used them are great ways to find out which companies sell quality products without trial and error. It’s easy to find plenty of information through a quick google search that can better help you make your decision.
You should also look for products that have gone through GC/MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) testing. This isn’t mandatory, due to the lack of FDA regulation, but it is considered an industry “gold standard” for verifying that the essential oil is pure and doesn’t contain outside pollutants.
And finally, a quality essential oil will always have the scientific name on the bottle.
Are There Any Downsides?
Nothing is perfect and essential oils, just like everything in life, have their downsides.
Before starting any essential oil treatment, make sure to always check with your physician to verify that they won’t interact with any medications you may already be taken. It is also best to make sure that they are a safe option for you.
Most essential oils are safe and non-toxic when used appropriately. However, in larger doses or if not mixed with a carrier oil, they can cause skin irritation, nausea, headache, rashes, and even allergic reactions. Always use essential oils with caution.
Essential oils have the potential to help with a wide variety of different common ailments, like pain and inflammation, nausea, hair loss, skin radiance, etc.
While the research is still on-going, due to their popularity it is likely that they will soon get the attention they deserve.
We’re all about natural ways of practicing self-care, and essential oils are definitely capable of that, and so much more!