If you have a working internet connection or a smartphone, it is very likely that you have heard of essential oils. They have become massively popular in recent years. Many people, from sales representatives to influencers, are touting their allegedly endless benefits.
But do you really know what essential oils are? Or how to use them in order to really see benefits? Have you ever wondered whether a simple oil is truly capable of doing everything that people say?
It is very important to rely on evidence-based science and do research before trying out a new treatment. Scientific studies might seem complicated, but they are the most trustworthy source of information when it comes to health, medications, and alternative medicine.
There are several essential oils that can be very useful to treat some ailments. However, not all claims about essential oils are correct. With so much information floating around on the internet, it is easy to feel confused when it comes to these products.
Recognizing these false claims can help you maintain and protect your health – and your bank account! Using essential oils in an attempt to treat conditions that they can’t improve can make you lose money and it can even worsen your health. Even though essential oils are natural, using them incorrectly can still lead to negative health consequences.
Let’s talk more about which essential oils are effective and what they should be used for.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are natural compounds that are extracted from aromatic plants. Essential oils are hydrophobic (meaning that they repel water) and volatile (meaning that they evaporate easily). These oils are called essential because they contain the “essence” of the plant.
These compounds are extracted from the plant through mechanical methods, such as cold pressing, or through distillation in water or steam. The quality of an essential oil largely depends on the method chosen for its production. Oils produced through chemical extraction methods are not considered to be true essential oils.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
When inhaled, essential oils can stimulate your nervous system and produce different effects. This is the most common way to use them.
Inhaled essential oils can affect the limbic system. This portion of your nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It is also involved in the formation of memories.
Essential oils can also be diluted and applied directly onto the skin. When applied this way, certain compounds are absorbed by the skin.
Popular Types Of Essential Oils
Many different types of essential oils are available today. Each oil has different properties and therefore, they should be used to treat different ailments. Some of the most popular types of essential oils include:
- Tea tree
- Clary sage
10 Best Health Benefits of Essential Oils
Benefit #1. They are a very effective way to beat insomnia without having to take medications.
Insomnia is one of the most common indications for aromatherapy. Many different oils have been found to be very effective in treating sleep problems. Essential oils such as lavender, cedarwood, bergamot, and chamomile have all been shown to improve sleep.
Benefit #2. Essential oils can be used to induce powerful relaxation and relieve stress and anxiety.
Aromatherapy is also a powerful way to combat stress and anxiety. The best essential oils for this purpose include lavender, bergamot, lemongrass, neroli, orange, lemon, yuzu, frankincense, and ylang-ylang.
You can also combine aromatherapy with other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, to achieve better results.
Benefit #3. Some essential oils have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve pain.
Thyme, rose, clove, peppermint, bergamot, and fennel oils have all been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. These oils can reduce the production of certain pro-inflammatory substances inside our bodies. Thyme, in particular, is very effective for this purpose.
Other oils that can relieve inflammation include Helichrysum, roman chamomile, turmeric, basil, ginger, primrose, frankincense, and patchouli. Lavender oil has also been shown to relieve pain in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis.
Benefit #4. Certain oils have antimicrobial and antifungal properties that might be effective in treating skin infections.
Oils like oregano oil and tea tree oil have powerful antimicrobial properties. Citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, and patchouli oils have also been found to be effective against different types of fungi and bacteria.
These oils have been used to treat skin infections for thousands of years. Tea tree oils are particularly effective as a spot treatment for acne.
Benefit #5. Aromatherapy can relieve nasal congestion and other symptoms of a cold.
Eucalyptus oil has long been used to treat colds, sinus infections, and nasal congestion. In fact, many commercially available products for these conditions contain eucalyptus oil or extract.
Peppermint oil contains menthol, which is another compound that can relieve congestion and cold symptoms. It can also decrease mucus production, resulting in clearer airways. Lavender, tea tree, clary sage, rosemary, and oregano also have benefits that can help fight off colds and other respiratory infections.
Benefit #6. They can be beneficial in the treatment of headaches and migraines.
Migraines are a common health problem for millions of people around the world, especially women. Lavender, rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, and eucalyptus oils have all been found to help relieve migraines and headaches. You can use these oils with a diffuser, or apply them on your temples to find relief.
Benefit #7. Some oils have been shown to relieve nausea
Scientific studies have shown that orange and peppermint essential oils can significantly improve nausea. Lavender, ginger, spearmint, peppermint, cardamom, and fennel oil all have nausea-reducing properties.
These oils can be used to treat nausea that is caused by postoperative anesthesia, anxiety, pregnancy, and infectious diseases.
Benefit #8. They are a great way to repel insects that can cause diseases.
People who live in tropical areas know just how important it is to repel insects. This is also very important if you are planning on taking a trip to an area where insect-transmitted diseases are common.
You can use lemon eucalyptus, citronella, clove, juniper, and galangal oils to repel insects. Remember to dilute the oils in a carrier oil before applying them on your skin. It is also important to reapply the repellent oils periodically since their compounds can evaporate easily.
Benefit #9. Essential oils can help relieve many uncomfortable symptoms produced by menopause.
The hormonal imbalances caused by perimenopause and menopause can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms. Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause hot flashes, mood swings, headaches, sleep problems, amongst many other symptoms.
Clary sage and peppermint oil can help reduce dreaded hot flashes. Lavender oil might help relieve perineal discomfort, sleep disorders, and mood swings. Meanwhile, geranium, citrus, and basil oils might help regulate your hormonal levels and reduce physical symptoms.
Benefit #10. Some oils can promote skin healing and reduce scarring.
When applied topically, essential oils such as lavender, geranium, chamomile, tea tree, and Helichrysum oils can help promote wound healing. Many of these oils also have antimicrobial properties, meaning that they prevent infections which can delay healing. They have also been found to minimize skin scarring after an injury.
Uses of Essential Oils
These oils are very powerful and concentrated. You should never inhale them directly from the bottle or apply them onto your skin without diluting them first. Undiluted essential oils can cause rashes, burns, and allergic reactions.
If you want to inhale an essential oil, the best way to do so is by using a diffuser. These devices disperse small amounts of the oil into the air, filling the space with beneficial aromas. And if you want to use an essential oil topically, try diluting it with a carrier oil before applying it on your skin.
You should also always do a patch test before trying out a new oil. In order to do a patch test, simply apply a small amount of the diluted oil on a small patch of your skin – for example, the inside of your wrist. Then, wait a few minutes to see if you develop a rash or another allergic reaction. If your skin doesn’t become irritated, you will know that it is safe for you to apply the oil to larger portions of your skin.
Common uses of different essential oils include:
- Lavender: relaxation, sleep promotion, anxiety relief.
- Eucalyptus: nasal congestion, common cold symptoms, anti-inflammatory.
- Lemongrass: anxiety
- Peppermint: nausea, menopause symptoms, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial.
- Rosemary: skin and hair health.
- Clary sage: hot flashes, sinusitis.
- Cedarwood: sleep promotion.
- Tea tree: skin infections, acne.
- Oregano: fungal infections, skin healing,
- Chamomile: sleep, nausea, cold symptoms.
Choosing Essential Oils
It is extremely important to make sure that you are buying your essential oils from a trustworthy provider. Poor-quality essential oils might be ineffective, and worse, they might be diluted with other substances. Additives can cause allergic reactions or adverse side effects.
The method used to extract oils is also important. Like we stated above, essential oils should only be created using mechanical or distillation methods. Oils that are extracted through chemical methods are not considered to be true essential oils and they might not be effective.
High-quality essential oils will usually have the scientific name of the plant on the label (for example, Lavandula officinalis), rather than the common name (essential oil of lavender extract).
Are Essential Oils Safe?
Just like with any other type of alternative therapy, there are certain things you need to keep in mind when using essential oils. While essential oils can be very useful, we also need to know their limitations and contraindications.
It is very important to remember that even though essential oils are natural, we can still develop negative side effects after using them. After all, the human body can be allergic to pretty much anything – even if it is natural.
Essential oils shouldn’t be taken orally since they can interact with medications or other substances. They are also more likely to cause adverse side effects, such as allergic reactions when consumed orally. People who have consumed large amounts of essential oils have reported symptoms such as vomiting, palpitations, tachycardia, and even seizures.
Essential oils shouldn’t be used on children without consulting a doctor first. Children’s bodies are more sensitive to the compounds found in essential oils and they can suffer from negative side effects more easily. Research has shown that essential oils can also irritate children’s’ respiratory tract and even alter their hormone production.
It is also very important to research the evidence behind the oil that you want to use. In the past, some essential oil companies have made unsubstantiated claims, such as advertising essential oils as a way to prevent ebola or “cure” autism. We should always look for scientific evidence before trying out a new therapy.
If you are taking medications for any health condition, you should consult with your physician before using essential oils. Although natural, essential oils can interact with medications. You should also never stop your treatment and replace it with an essential oil against medical advice. In many cases, essential oils can be safely used to boost the effectiveness of traditional medical treatments.
Final thoughts on the Health Benefits of Essential Oils
Essential oils are powerful natural substances which can be useful in the treatment of several different conditions. When used correctly, they can be a wonderful way to treat ailments that range from insomnia and stress to fungal infections.
However, consumers need to be wary of unsubstantiated claims about these oils. Certain companies have been known to sell essential oils using statements that haven’t been proven by scientific studies. In these cases, using essential oils can result in delayed treatments and adverse side effects.
You should also be careful about the quality of the oils that you purchase since this will determine their effectiveness. These natural oils can be a wonderful way to relieve many different symptoms, and they can even be used alongside more traditional medical therapies.
Andrea, M.D is from Valencia, Venezuela. She is passionate about sexual health and education, and public health and global health. Additionally, she enjoys researching and learning about beauty, skincare, and cosmetic innovations. She has also volunteered in several NGOs in Venezuela. In her free time, Andrea enjoys reading, drinking copious amounts of coffee, making desserts for her family, going to the beach, and spending time with her dog, Dorito.