What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of plants. Leaves, roots, bark, flowers, and other parts of plants can be used to create essential oils. Essential oils can be extracted by a variety of processes. Some of the best essential oils are steam-distillation, cold press, and carbon dioxide extraction. You may be surprised to know that it takes hundreds, and sometimes, even thousands of pounds of plants to produce one pound of essential oil. That big price tag makes sense now, doesn’t it?
Essential oils have become beauty routine must-haves since gaining popularity. They are also excellent household cleaners. They’re becoming must-haves in the medicine and cleaning cabinets, but how effective are they?
The demand for essential oils was quick scientific research to back their use is still catching up. Still, essential oils’ potency and effectivity are evident in their use in modern medicine. They are very common in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies. Check the ingredients list, and you’ll find oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint. These oils are known for their ability to clear nasal passages, ease breathing, and breaking down mucus.
Digestive supplements and remedies also contain essential oils. Peppermint oil is also known to ease stomach upset. These days, doctors are recommending it for IBS and other digestive issues. Skin treatments abound with essential oils, too. Rose and tea tree oils are often recommended by medical professionals for clearing skin and keeping a healthy glow.
Are essential oils legit?
Although the medical world has been recommending oils and products containing them for some time, there is still a need for scientific, peer-reviewed research on their efficacy and safety.
The reason for the lack of study so far has been the sheer difficulty essential oils present in lab studies. In order to measure their efficacy, there would have to be a placebo group. Placebos are easy enough to involve when they are pills, but a smell-based placebo is a challenge to create.
Despite the lack of scientific research on essential oils, medical professionals are confident that their benefits are more than simply psychological or relaxation-based.
How do I use essential oils?
There are many ways to use essential oils. You can apply them topically, inhale them, diffuse them, and there are a few you can ingest. You will always want to be sure to stick to the label’s instructions, whichever method you choose.
For topical application, you will need to use a carrier oil. Using a carrier oil will save your skin from rashes and other poor reactions to the potency of most essential oils. A good carrier oil is usually coconut oil or olive oil. However, you can use another oil as long as it is completely pure and natural, such as almond, jojoba, argan, or neem oil. If using neem oil, be sure to combine it with another carrier oil because of its potency.
When you’re ready to apply your essential oils, mix a few drops into the carrier oil. There will usually be a specific ratio on the label of your essential oil. This is because some essential oils are stronger than others. Generally, it will be at least a couple of drops of essential oil into 1-2 tbsp of carrier oil. You can then apply the oil to your skin. The best place to apply essential oils depends on your issue. For stress, you can apply it to your temples. For breathing, under the scapula is the right spot. For digestive trouble, try applying them right to your abdomen.
There are several ways to inhale essential oils. Of course, you can inhale it straight from the bottle. You can also put a few drops on a cotton ball, and let it sit near you as it diffuses into the air. This is great if you’re using oils for relaxation, especially while you’re in the office. Inhaling essential oils through steam is a very calming and therapeutic experience. You can add a few drops to steaming hot water, and simply let yourself hover over it while inhaling deeply for a few minutes.
Diffusing essential oils allows you to smell them all day long. There are many options for diffusers. Some are electric and others work through simple candle heat.
If you choose to ingest oils, always check whether the label says “for external use only,” or “for topical use only.” If it is safe to ingest, you can add a couple drops to coconut or olive oil inside of a fillable capsule.
Essential oil safety
Essential oils can be toning, cleansing, and healing from the inside out. Still, you must always be sure to practice essential oil safety. Some oils can induce allergic reactions and phototoxicity. Citrus and spice-based oils are known to be skin irritants when used too potently. They must be very well-diluted. You should also do a very small test-patch before liberally applying essential oils.
How do I choose the right essential oils?
When choosing essential oils, there are two things to keep in mind: source and purpose. Getting a high quality, pure essential oil is key. Of course, the price of high-quality oils makes it tempting to want to settle for a more affordable product. Yet, what you save in value you compromise in efficacy. With quality in mind, you want to make sure to purchase therapeutic-grade essential oils.
You can purchase these through a supplier who can tell you exactly what you’re purchasing, how it is made, and even how to use it safely. Choose an oil that is organic and that the label has the plant’s scientific name on it.
You should also remember to have realistic expectations about your goals when choosing an essential oil. Some medical professionals suggest that they are excellent in conjunction with conventional medicine. That is, as supportive treatment. You should never use essential oils as a self-treatment for acute conditions, infections, etc.
You should also be on the lookout for side effects, especially if you plan to apply the oils directly to your skin. Always read the label on your oil to be sure you are using it safely. Many oils are safe for topical use, and some for internal use. Just be sure you check the label to be sure you’re practicing essential oil safety. Their potency is what makes them so effective, but it also means that you need to be cautious.
You may consider choosing essential oils in order to combine them in an elixir. How do you know which essential oils blend well? You can usually look on the label for suggestions. For instance, mildly calming herbs are lovely in combination. Lavender and chamomile, or eucalyptus and peppermint.
Myths about essential oils
Many people assume that because a product is natural, it is beneficial and can be used liberally. Essential oils are certainly beneficial for many issues, but must be used with care and caution. Individual reactions can vary greatly.
Aromatherapy may be effective, but the science of how essential oils work still needs evidence. The best advice is: enjoy, but always consult a professional. Always buy the best quality oil from a good and verifiable source.
Top 5 essential oils
Tea tree oil is a classic skin treatment. It is an antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It a very common acne treatment and works very well as a spot treatment. For a luxurious skin treatment, you can mix tea tree oil with coconut oil as a carrier, and even honey.
Lavender oil is a wonderful anti-stress treatment. It is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. You can use just about any carrier oil with lavender, but coconut oil enhances its pleasing aroma and luxurious quality. It is an excellent topical treatment. You can use it as a facial toner, face wash, body wash, and/or moisturizer. Using lavender oil in the shower is a healing and rejuvenating experience. The steam makes it an at-home spa treatment which is great for body and mind alike.
Peppermint is a powerful digestive aid and promoter of relaxation. Used topically, it can help to relax tense muscles and relieve headache. Ingested, it is very effective in treating stomach issues. Just make sure to read the label for ingestion instructions, and be conservative with your dosage the first few times you try it. For relaxation, try adding a few drops to a bowl of steaming water. Then, hover over the bowl and cover your head with a towel to trap in the steam. This will calm you while giving your skin a treat from the herbal steam.
Lemongrass is on this list because it is a great oil to use outside of your beauty routing. Lemongrass is excellent for giving your home a clean, fresh feeling. Personal health is often overlooked when it comes to cleaning your home. Chemical-based cleaners are effective, but can be harmful to your respiratory health. Try cleaning with essential oils like lemongrass and you’ll do your whole family a favor. You can diffuse it while you clean so that the air is fresh, lemony, and bright. Or, you can add it to a homemade cleaner. Try mixing a couple drops with water and vinegar for a disinfectant. It will leave your surfaces clean and smelling natural, unlike chemical-based cleaners.
Frankincense oil is ancient and has long been associated with spiritual life. It certainly promotes a calm environment, but frankincense has medical benefits, too. It has been proven effective for treating respiratory concerns and inflammatory disorders. It is effective for arthritis when applied topically to the pain site. Simply inhaling frankincense will help to clear your airways and promote respiratory health.