Essential oils and their health benefits have been used by people since the dawn of time. Long before modern medicine became reliant on chemicals, ancient people used herbs, plants, and the oils from them to aid in everything from upset stomachs to cuts, bruises, and difficult pregnancies. Essential oils are widely used to relax, de-stress, support indigestion, boost immunity, and as a sleep aid.
Before exploring the health benefits of essential oils, it’s important to understand what exactly are essential oils.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are derived from various herbs and plants parts, most commonly their leaves and bark. Most citrus essential oils are derived from the risk of the citrus fruit.
The oils are extracted via steam distillation or through cold-pressing, which involves pressing the plant part between thin wax bricks. The oil that is extracted contains the therapeutic benefits of the plant or herb in concentrated form.
Inhaling the aroma of an essential oil stimulates areas of the limbic system in the brain, which influences emotions, behaviors and long term memory. The limbic system also controls some physiological functions, such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Different essential oils affect different areas of the limbic system, triggering off a different reaction. Some essential oils may make you feel calm, and relaxed, while others help you stay focused and energized, and still, others boost the immune, digestive, or respiratory systems.
A Look at the Benefits of Using Essential Oils
As we said earlier, essential oils have a wide range of benefits depending on which area of the limbic system they affect.
These are some of the top health benefits of essential oils:
- Reduce Emotional Stress, Anxiety, and Depression – The ability to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression is one of the more commonly known benefits of essential oils.
- Promote Restful Sleep – Several studies have shown that inhaling the aromas of some essential oils has a positive effect on combating insomnia and sleep deprivation.
- Boost Immunity – Essential oils with immunity-boosting capabilities are very effective for keeping dangerous viral, bacterial, and fungal infections at bay.
- Reduce Aches & Pains – Essential oils can reduce aches and pains when applied topically on and around the painful area.
- Increase Energy Levels – Inhaling the aroma of stimulating essential oils can leave you feeling re-energized and more focused. Support Digestion – Lemon and ginger essential oils are known for their ability to support digestion by reducing constipation, indigestion, and ulcers. Improve Skin and Hair Health – Essential oils contain several properties that are beneficial for the skin and hair, from reducing acne to thickening the hair.
- Alleviate Headaches and Migraines – Essential oils get to the root of the problem when relieving headaches and migraines without any side effects.
- Balance Hormones – Studies show that there are essential oils that balance progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, estrogen and cortisol levels in the body.
Some people use essential oils for helping them relax, de-stress and get better sleep. Others use them for pain relief or to stay focused. Listed below are some of the more commonly used essential oils and what they may be able to help you with:
Lavender - Used as a staple in body products such as lotions and natural perfumery, lavender essential oil promotes a feeling of calm and centered energy. It helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Soaking in a warm bath to which a few drops of lavender essential oil have been added is known to promote muscle relaxation, a sense of calm, and a good night’s sleep.
Tea Tree – A natural anti-fungal oil, tea tree essential oil is very effective for reducing different types of skin issues such as psoriasis or dandruff. This essential oil is helpful for people with acne-prone skin, as it helps balance sebum production and reduces scarification. Tea tree oil can also help reduce swelling after an injury.
Sandalwood - Sandalwood essential oil is used often in natural perfumery. It promotes a sense of calm and well-being. Sandalwood is popular to use for meditation, and numerous forms of sandalwood incense, from sticks to cones to essential oil blends. It can be used to help balance chakras in the body and to promote mental clarity and concentration.
Rosemary - Most often used in cooking, rosemary enhances a positive mental outlook and can help people feel more awake and mentally clear. Rosemary essential oil is also useful in helping clear dandruff and healing dry, flaky skin. Jasmine - Another natural perfume staple, jasmine essential oil is used to enhance good feelings and a positive mood, as well as promote mental clarity and enhance your overall energy.
Peppermint – Peppermint essential oil promotes alertness and mental clarity, and help with concentration and mental focus. It also helps with digestive issues. Using a diffuser is one of the easiest and most popular methods of getting the benefits of essential oils. Another popular method involves relaxing in a warm bath to which a few drops of essential oil are added.
Precautions When Using Essential Oils Topically
While essential oils offer huge benefits for the skin and hair, you must be careful with topical applications. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can irritate when applied as is. Before applying essential oils to your skin, you will first need a carrier oil, such as jojoba, grape seed, or olive oil.
The carrier oil dilutes the essential oil and prevents major allergic reactions. People who have very sensitive skin must be extra careful and test for possible allergic reactions. If you do have sensitive skin, before using any essential oil it is a good idea to do a patch test before topical application. To do this, apply just a drop of the oil on the inside of the wrist and wait a while. If the skin turns red or starts to itch, you could be allergic to that particular oil.