Essential oils are chemical extracts of plants that contain the essence, flavor and aroma of the plant from which they are derived. Essential oils have recently become very popular in alternative medicine practices, especially because of their application in aromatherapy; a sort of therapy in which aromatic compounds are used with the intention of improving the physical as well as psychological well-being of the human body.
In aromatherapy, various kinds of essential oils, alone or in combination, are used in different ways:
- To massage the body.
- As an inhalant.
- As topical agents.
Essential oils should be handled with care as they are highly concentrated and can be toxic if consumed by mouth in their concentrated form. A carrier oil should always be used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to the skin.
Even when handled with care and used in diluted form, some essential oils can cause some side effects, such as rash, headache, allergy, and even asthma attacks. It is always advised to consult with a professional before you start using them, especially topically or orally.
Now let’s have a quick look at some examples of commonly used essential oils and their main uses in traditional medicine:
- Lavender oil – stress reliever and sleep aid.
- Rose oil – mood elevator and anxiety reducer.
- Roman chamomile oil – mood elevator.
- Peppermint oil – helps indigestion.
- Sandalwood oil – helps in keeping focus and in calming the nerves.
- Ylang-ylang oil – soothes nausea, headaches, and skin problems.
- Jasmine oil – elevates libido and mood.
- Tea tree oil – promotes healthy skin and reduces infection incidence.
- Lemon oil – elevates mood and treats headaches.
Health Benefits of Essential Oils
While most of the suggested health benefits of essential oils are based on anecdotal evidence, research has also confirmed some of the potential medicinal properties of certain oils. Some of the evidence-based health benefits of the essential oils are as follows:
Studies regarding aromatherapy for people suffering from anxiety have been very promising and it has been shown that when combined with traditional therapies, aromatherapy, and essential oils can help in relieving anxiety and stress. The use of essential oils during a massage can also help with relaxation.
Some studies were conducted on certain oils and it was found that they have anti-inflammatory effects, specifically in animals. In humans, their role in dealing with inflammation is still controversial but people use them to treat inflammatory conditions.
Oils such as peppermint, lavender, and chamomile are very well known for relieving headaches and migraines. Ancient Persians used these oils as a remedy to treat headaches.
Lavender oil has a very pleasant fragrance and is used to help a person fall asleep. Early research has shown the remarkable efficacy of lavender oil for people suffering from sleep problems.
Different essential oils have shown the potential to fight microbes in laboratory tests. It is speculated that they also have antimicrobial effects in humans, although more research is needed to confirm this.
Essential oils, when used right and in moderation, can have a very healthy impact on the body because of their soothing effect on the brain. If not the main treatment modality, aromatherapy, and essential oils can be used as a complementary treatment to help in achieving physical as well as psychological harmony within the body.
There is a lot of misinformation and inflated health claims about essential oils that many people and companies are pushing online. You’re safer sticking with reputable brands that don’t make lots of unsubstantiated claims about their products, sell pure essential oils, and don’t engage in questionable multi-level marketing schemes to promote their products to gullible consumers.