10 essential oils and their benefits
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What are essential oils?
If you’ve ever been curious about the benefits of alternative medicine and particularly aromatherapy, you should know that essential oils are an important component. So what are essential oils exactly? They are compounds that are extracted from plants which capture the plant’s scent, flavour, and overall beneficial qualities—in other words, their “essence.” Aromatic compounds vary in their natural makeup and produce their own individual essence.
You may be asking how are essential oils made? Essential oils are obtained through processes of distillation by way of steam and/or water or mechanically via cold pressing. Most often, the aromatic chemicals that are drawn out are then combined with a carrier oil. The purpose of the carrier oil is to dilute the potency of the essential oil so that you may “carry” or apply it onto your skin without the risk of irritation. In some cases, undiluted oil can be applied but only to specific localized areas. The common uses of undiluted oil or “neat” application is for the treatment of acute conditions (acne spot treatment, minor skin traumas and infections, migraines, etc.) and reflex/acupressure.
How to use essential oils
Now to answer the question how do essential oils work. As mentioned above, essential oils are most commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy. They are not meant to be ingested, however the oils can interact with your body in various ways. For instance, some essential oils found in plants may be applied directly to the skin for absorption by diluting it with a carrier oil. Others are absorbed into your body via inhalation using a diffuser or humidifier. Inhaling the aromas from essential oils can trigger areas of your limbic system—the part of your brain that deals with three key functions: emotions, memories, and arousal (or stimulation).
It is important to note that there are over 90 types of essential oils and the benefits they carry are unique to each type. This can be overwhelming to a beginner so to help answer any remaining questions regarding what essential oils are used for and what kind of benefits they possess we’ve provided a handy list of 10 of the most popular essential oils as well as the health claims associated with them:
10 types of essential oils and their benefits
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Arguably the most popular type, lavender essential oil has a myriad of health and wellness benefits. Lavender is a sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral. It also contains antioxidant properties, boosts the immune system, and helps with anxiety. Not only does the floral scent make it one of the best smelling aromas, it’s a very mild and safe bet so it’s perfect for beginners. However, if you are applying it onto your skin, be sure to test a small amount first to ensure that you are not allergic to it.
2. Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon is one of the oldest essential oils known to date. According to a medical text that dates back to 1550 BC, the Egyptians used this oil extensively. It is known to help treat chest colds. If applied directly to the skin, the oil can help with muscle pain by soothing the area because of its analgesic and antispasmodic properties. Along with being antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, some studies have claimed that it could assist in preventing heart disease. If you diffuse it into the air, it will help promote healthy blood flow to the brain and help reduce headaches. Since this oil is more potent, it should be added to a carrier oil. Once the oil is diluted, it can be applied to sore joint to help relieve pain.
3. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon oil is used in many of the household products you already purchase like hand soap. Of course these days, many of the flavours and scents that we consume and inhale are artificially manufactured, however lemon is still associated with cleanliness. Why is that? Because lemon oil is equal parts antiseptic, astringent, and antibacterial. Worried about the effects of aging? Lemon oil also has beauty benefits like reducing the appearance of wrinkles, toning the skin, and promoting healthy circulation. Furthermore, the scent of lemon has a proven positive effect on the psyche. In fact, one study found that lemon oil vapor contains antidepressant properties.
4. Tea Tree Essential Oil
You may have noticed an effusion of products like cleansers and creams containing tea tree extract in your local drug store. That’s because tea tree is enjoying some much-deserved spotlight in the beauty world right now. The tree grows exclusively in Australia; however, it grows in such abundance that scarcity is not an issue. Indigenous Australians use tea tree leaves specifically to treat all kinds of ailments like sore throats, coughs and colds, and heal skin wounds. As for the oil, it is antiviral, antibacterial, and can be used to treat mild to moderate dandruff as well as gingivitis. Just remember to use a carrier oil if you intend on applying it topically.
5. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus is one of the stronger oils. You’ll recognize the scent even if you’ve never directly inhaled it. The scent is similar to camphor and a little minty—closely resembling Vick’s VapoRub. Inhaling it through a diffuser will do wonders for clearing up your airways, so it’s perfect if you are feeling congested. Eucalyptus works in the same way as a pesticide so it’s capable of killing bacteria, fungus, insects, and weeds. Eucalyptus is anti-inflammatory and will boost your immune system. It will also help reduce a fever, eliminate headaches, and relieve muscle pain.
6. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary oil smells like the herb that you use when cooking. Not only does it have skincare benefits, it can also extend the shelf life of other products as well. Since rosemary is a stimulant, it can increase respiratory rate, blood pressure, and heart rate. It also has been shown to boost memory and mental clarity, and aid with digestion. Adding a few drops of Rosemary essential oil to a carrier oil will help relieve sore muscles. If inhaled through a diffuser, rosemary is calming and will reduce fatigue and tension. However, you should avoid rosemary oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
7. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
Sweet orange oil smells wonderful and it reduces anxiety and slows down pulse and breathing rates. This oil is effective in lifting your mood and promotes healthy mental wellbeing, but its benefits extend beyond that. Sweet orange essential oil boosts the immune system, can disinfect your household (add a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and you can use it as a freshening spray and counter disinfectant!) and helps reduce inflammation.
8. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint is one of the most common smells because it’s used in virtually everything—gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, etc. Peppermint oil is composed of mainly menthol and menthone and here are a few of its health benefits: antispasmodic, antiviral, anti-fungal, antioxidant. It is highly effective for healing headaches. In fact, one study reported that patients experienced a significant reduction in the pain of tension headaches within 15 minutes of using peppermint oil. You can use it in a cool mist humidifier to ward off colds in the winter, place a few drops in a carrier oil to massage it into sore muscles, or add a drop to a glass of water to use as mouthwash.
9. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Ylang Ylang is excellent for reducing anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, and stress. Also it has been reported to contain aphrodisiac qualities that boost libido to enhance sensuality. The oil can be used both cosmetically and topically in order to balance the production of oil in both skin and hair. Ylang Ylang reduces irritation and inflammation, and promotes healthy circulation which encourages the growth of new skin and hair. Medicinally, this oil is highly effective in heaing wounds and enhancing the wellbeing of the nervous system.
10. Frankincense Essential Oil
Though frankincense is on the pricier end, it goes a long way. In addition to using it alone, it works well when blended with other oils like CBD oil to achieve a combination of health benefits. Along with stress reduction, boosting the immune system, and healing wounds, Frankincense balances hormones and promotes a heathy sleep cycle. You can diffuse it into the air, or apply it directly to your skin to help prevent wrinkles and dark spots.
Where to buy essential oils
Now that you’re more clear on what essential oils are used for and the many benefits that are associated with them, you may be clamouring to start building your very own collection of oils. Due to their growing popularity, it is easier than ever to get your hands on your preferred oils. Everyone from big general department stores to more specialty stores carry essential oils. There are also many online retailers that you can purchase from. If you are interested in buying local oils, a quick search including the words “near me”, “nearby”, or city/location is a surefire way to yield many results. For example, “CBD oil Toronto” will show you a list of stores that sell CBD oil in Toronto. However you choose to get your hand on your oils, be sure to compare the composition and pricing. Finally, hearing other people’s testimonies might help you decide whether an oil is right for you so don’t hesitate to look up reviews and do your own research.