Essential oils are highly concentrated distilled plant material. They’re used to heal, for aromatic soothing and more. Find more information in this guide.
Essential oils are the chemicals that give each plant its specific odor and flavor, and it takes massive amounts of plant material to make these oils. It takes 220 pounds, for example, of lavender flowers to make one single pound of lavender essential oil.
Why so much? It’s this high concentration that allows you to get the greatest medicinal and therapeutic benefits from a plant.
The Healing Power of Essential Oils
These organic compounds have been used for thousands of years as holistic treatments for physical health issues, as well as for emotional and mental health ones. Frequently used scents include lavender, peppermint, citrus scents (lemon and orange, for example), tea tree, frankincense and more, including blends of multiple oils.
A typical use of essential oils is aromatherapy, which aims to alter “one’s mood, cognitive, psychological or physical wellbeing.” It may seem unlikely that smells could affect your health and mood, but several studies have shown the effectiveness of aromatherapy in treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even symptoms of Alzheimer’s and menopause. Certain essential oils can also be ingested to help digestion (always be ultra-sure whether an oil you have can safely be ingested) or applied topically to heal wounds and blemishes. They’re also prized for their ability to help people relax and used as part of beauty care and as natural cleaning products.
How to Use Essential Oils
When buying essential oils, look for therapeutic grades that are pure and steam distilled.
Always dilute essential oils in water or a carrier oil before use. Dilution makes essential oils more effective by aiding in absorption and preventing irritation or other sensitivities. Carrier oils are particularly helpful for topical applications, as they increase the surface area of the essential oil and keep it from evaporating too quickly. Common carrier oils are coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil and olive oil.
You should not use certain essential oils if you are pregnant or take certain medications. According to Dr. Josh Axe, pregnant women should avoid the essential oils of “basil, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, cypress, fennel, jasmine, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, rose, rosemary, sage, and thyme.” Those currently taking blood thinning medications should avoid the essential oils of “clary sage, cypress, eucalyptus, ginger, rosemary, sage, and thyme.”
Common Oils and Their Uses
Lavender oil is one of the most versatile and frequently used essential oils. The scent of lavender oil can reduce anxiety and help you fall asleep. Applied topically, lavender oil can help reduce muscle pain.
Peppermint oil is another versatile oil that can increase alertness, energy and focus through aromatherapeutic applications. A few drops of peppermint oil in a glass of water also makes a simple remedy for indigestion.
Ginger oil is another versatile essential oil. It is used in aromatherapy to quell nausea and mixed in water to aid in digestion.
Marigold or calendula oil can be rubbed with a carrier oil to fade acne scars and close slow-healing wounds.
Tea tree oil is used as an effective treatment for acne, dandruff and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.
Oregano oil can be used as a topical treatment for skin infections or ingested to help you fight off colds and the flu.
Frankincense oil helps to soothe inflammation and promote healing, making it a handy tool for minor injuries and bug bites.
Eucalyptus oil, when used in a vaporizer, can help clear congestion due to sickness or allergies. It’s also a topical solution to sore muscles.