An essential oil is the volatile, versatile liquid that is extracted or distilled from a particular plant. The oil is usually derived from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark or roots of the plant, and is known as the lifeblood of the plant. Essential oils have been used throughout history in medical applications, to provide therapeutic benefits and more. In fact, there is evidence that healers in Ancient Egypt used certain oils in medical treatments and to aid in mummification.
The essential portion of the oil is known as the “essence,” as it is what gives the plant its fragrance. For example, lavender essential oil smells like the lavender plant and lemon oil smells like the lemon balm plant. Essential oils are used in many products such as cosmetics, soap and some foods. They are also used for aromatherapy plus have a variety of health benefits, but the popularity of use has declined since the advancement of modern medicine.
Essential oils are used in many products such as cosmetics, soap and some foods. They are also used for aromatherapy plus have a variety of health benefits, but the popularity of use has declined since the advancement of modern medicine.
Essential oils are extremely potent, so much so that they are 100 – 10,000 times more powerful than their dried herb counterparts. In addition to the therapeutic qualities that they may offer, they often provide a pleasurable sensory experience because of their fragrances and restorative natures. Essential oils have been found to have a positive impact on our brain chemistry, emotional well-being, and spiritual wellness.
Essential oils are extracted from the plant by a method of distillation, in which steam or water slowly breaks through the plant material to remove its volatile constituents, or expression, or cold pressing, in which a spinning centrifuge separates the majority of essential oil from the fruit or plant.
Uses for Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used throughout history for a variety of ailments and pleasurable sensory experiences. For example, it has been found that lavender is soothing, and aids in relaxation. Peppermint can be useful in reducing headaches and soothing a sore stomach. However, it’s important to remember that the purity of the oil is vital for the oil to work therapeutically, so know your oil’s source and the ingredients to ensure purity.
Essential oils can be used in the following methods:
Aromatically: This is done by inhaling it through the nose or mouth. Using a diffuser or inhaling directly from the bottle are the two easiest ways to use the oils aromatically. Essential oils can also be applied to the hands or another material and then inhaled or added to water in a spray bottle and misted into the air.
Topical: Applying the oils right to the skin or other body areas. Many oils can be applied directly to the skin (without dilution) while others may need to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil before topical application. Refer to references on oil recommended dilutions, as some oils can cause irritation if applied directly to the skin.
Internal: By adding to food or drinks.
Here are five of the most commonly used essential oils and how they aid in helping everyday ailments:
The calming and soothing qualities of lavender are very well known. Lavender is one of the most widely used essential oils and is readily available at any health food store. Lavender can be used as an aromatic, or you can apply the oil to your pillow to encourage a relaxed and peaceful sleep.
This essential oil is wonderful for digestive/respiratory function. Peppermint can also be added to a rollerball and applied with a carrier oil onto the temples to reduce tension headaches.
Lemon is effective in increasing energy, to freshen breath, to flavor foods, promote healthier skin tone and more!
Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and anti-fungal agent, and thus makes a great addition to anti-acne skin treatments. It also can act as an aid for healthy immune function, anti-fungal treatments, and even lice.
Cedarwood is a chemical free alternative to DEET-containing insect repellents. Cedarwood also supports healthy skin and has been known to influence a person’s emotional wellbeing.
Essential oils are resurging in the natural health field today, and many people are finding their therapeutic benefits can replace some conventional medicines. For more information on the advantages and techniques of essential oils, speak to your natural health practitioner or visit any health food store.