The use of complementary and alternative medicine has gained popularity over the past few years, with essential oils being part of them. Oils have been in existence for centuries and are derived from plants to draw their beneficial properties, scents, and flavors. The oils can be used for aromatherapy or as an addition to an individual’s healthcare, hair, and skin collection. Below is information on the best ones and their benefits.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are extracted from plants, whereby the oil captures the “essence” (flavor and scent). Each essential oil has unique aromatic compounds that give it its characteristic essence.
These are produced through mechanical methods like cold-pressing or distillation (through water or steam). Aromatic chemicals are then extracted and mixed with a carrier oil to produce the final product that is ready to use. The technique used to make essential oil is vital as oils captured through chemical processes are viewed as inauthentic.
Essential oils were first used in Persia, India, and Egypt. Originally, plants and their resin were used directly, but the Arab people transformed the world with their new method of distillation. Instead of using fatty oils, the Arabs distilled ethyl alcohol from fermented sugar, producing a new kind of solvent to extract oils from plants.
Types of Essential Oils
There are hundreds of available types of essential oils. Below we will cover the most commonly used oils and their benefits.
Lemon oil is used in most commercially available products such as hand soap, flavored sparkling water, and household cleaners. Like many citrus oils, lemon oil has a scent similar to the fruit it is derived from. Lemon is identified universally with tenderness and freshness and is a powerful antiseptic, astringent, and anti-bacterial agent.
Diluted lemon oil has D-limonene in high concentration, which is a compound that helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and promote circulation. In addition, lemon oil vapor has a good effect on mood due to its antidepressant qualities.
Tea tree oil is antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiseptic. When applied directly to the skin, it helps with acne, and in this case, it is not necessary to dilute it to resolve the acne faster. Tea tree oil helps with ringworm and athlete’s foot when diluted with a carrier oil such as jojoba, vegetable, or coconut oil and applied on the affected skin.
The oil also helps kill all bacteria and influenza viruses and heal dandruff and gingivitis. Don’t diffuse tea tree oil at home if there are animals or kids, as it can be neurotoxic.
Lavender oil has a subtle floral scent that helps with relaxation and sleep. Breathing it in helps alleviate headaches, while using the oil topically helps reduce swelling and itching from bug bites.
Lavender oil assists in reducing anxiety, making it ideal for people whose racing thoughts keep them awake at night. The oil is also linked to heart rate, lower blood pressure, and skin temperature.
Lavender contains beta-caryophyllene, a natural anti-inflammatory that helps heal sunburn. Due to its anti-inflammatory ability, it produces numbing and pain-relieving effects to soothe inflammation. In addition, the oil treats acne, eczema, dry skin, blotchy skin, and face wrinkles.
Menthone and menthol are used to make peppermint oil. The oil is an antiviral, antifungal, antispasmodic, antioxidant, and a stimulant. Peppermint has a minty herbal scent that helps relieve IBS symptoms, indigestion, and headaches.
When applied topically, it provides a cooling effect, which helps with muscle pain, itchy skin conditions such as insect bites or poison ivy, and sunburn relief. Breathing in peppermint also boosts memory and makes people more alert. But peppermint essential oil can cause severe side effects when ingested, such as an irritated esophagus, mouth sores, and heartburn.
Rosemary has been used for centuries to add flavor to different recipes. Rosemary oil is used on the skin topically and in aromatherapy with a carrier oil.
The oil has many benefits, such as promoting hair growth, improving brain function, reducing joint inflammation, and reducing stress and pain. In addition, inhaling the floral, sweet scent of rose helps to reduce anxiety.
Poor circulation, particularly in the hands or feet or cold toes and fingers, even in warm temperatures, is a common complaint. Rosemary is worth considering as it helps increase circulation by expanding the blood vessels.
Eucalyptus essential oil is not for the weak as it has a scent close to camphor (an ingredient found in Vicks VapoRub or Tiger Balm ointment). The slightly minty flavor helps clear airways quickly and freshen up a room making the air feel and smell clean.
The oil has anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal for use during the cold season to soothe the nose. Because of its antimicrobial properties, it helps to fight the herpes simplex virus and to relieve pain.
Before topically applying eucalyptus oil, dilute it. Ingesting it as-is can cause serious side effects. Eucalyptus oil is also a great closet and pantry bug and moth repellent.
Who Should and Should Not Use Essential Oils?
While essential oils do offer a variety of benefits, they are not right for everyone. Children, teens, and pregnant people should not use essential oils unless a doctor has given the go-ahead. In general, adults can use essential oils as long as they are doing so in a safe way and not too often.
Keep in mind that many oils can have side effects you might not realize. For example, bergamot makes skin more sensitive to sunlight, so do not go into the sun for at least 12 hours after applying bergamot in any form. Children should never breathe in peppermint oil. Cinnamon bark can cause people with seasonal allergies to have allergic reactions.
The important thing to remember is to use essential oils wisely and to talk to a doctor if you have any questions about side effects and use methods.
Use the Above Essential Oils to Experience Maximum Benefits
Essential oils offer many benefits, from improving sleep to relieving headaches and indigestion. Before applying essential oils to the skin, dilute it in a carrier oil to reduce the likelihood of skin irritation. Never swallow essential oils.
Don’t use these oils routinely, as they will become less effective when the body gets accustomed to them. Individuals taking medication or having severe health conditions should consult a health care practitioner before using essential oils.