Essential oils have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people seek out natural remedies for common health ailments. But what exactly are essential oils, and how can they benefit your health? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these powerful plant extracts.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts derived from the roots, leaves, stems, bark, resin, flowers, and seeds of plants. They contain the true essence of the plant they were extracted from and are said to promote both emotional and physical well-being.
Unlike fatty oils like olive or coconut oil, essential oils are volatile, meaning they evaporate when exposed to air. This allows them to give off the natural aroma of the plant. For example, lavender essential oil smells just like the lavender plant.
Essential oils are created through a distillation process where water and steam separate the plant’s beneficial compounds from the plant material. This results in a highly potent, concentrated liquid that contains the plant’s aroma, flavonoids, phytochemicals, and terpenes.
Today’s most popular essential oils come from lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree, rosemary, orange, lemon, and frankincense. However, over 90 types of essential oils are available, each with unique benefits.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
When inhaled into the lungs, the tiny molecules of essential oils stimulate smell receptors in the nose that send messages to the limbic system, the area of the brain that controls emotions and memory. This can immediately affect your mood, stress levels, and emotions.
Essential oils can also be absorbed into the bloodstream when applied to the skin for a more whole-body effect. The blood carries the oils throughout the body to provide healing benefits. This makes essential oils great for topical pain relief.
Certain oils even stimulate hormones, enzymes, and brain chemicals that promote well-being. For example, lavender oil has been shown to boost serotonin levels to help relieve anxiety and depression.
Benefits of Using Essential Oils
With regular use, essential oils offer a wide range of physical and emotional benefits, from reducing inflammation and pain to improving sleep and boosting energy. Here are some of the top scientifically proven benefits of using essential oils:
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender have been found to relieve headaches, muscle pain, arthritis, and injuries when massaged into the skin. Peppermint oil, in particular, has been shown to reduce headache pain.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Introducing calming scents like lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang into your environment through a diffuser can help decrease anxious feelings and lower stress hormone levels in the body. Several studies found that inhaling lavender oil for just a few minutes daily reduces anxiety.
Boost Energy Levels
Refreshing, energizing scents like grapefruit, lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils are great for increasing alertness. Diffusing these oils in the morning can boost your energy to start your day.
Diffusing calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile before bedtime helps spur relaxation so you can fall asleep faster. These oils also help people stay asleep longer and feel more rested.
Enhance Focus and Concentration
Peppermint and rosemary oils contain compounds shown to improve cognition, memory, focus, and alertness. Diffusing these while working or studying can heighten concentration and focus.
Fight Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Tea tree oil contains powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial compounds that have been scientifically proven to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi on the skin and in the body. Tea tree oil can be applied neat (undiluted) to areas of skin inflammation, cuts, or infections.
Immune System Support
Essential oils can support the health of the entire body. Oils like lemon, oregano, cinnamon bark, clove, and thyme contain potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immunity-boosting properties that defend against invading pathogens.
Essential oils are excellent for keeping all skin types looking radiant and youthful. Oils like frankincense, myrrh, sea buckthorn, and lavender have fantastic anti-aging benefits and can help reduce acne, eczema, and stretch marks. Apply topically to see improvements.
Many essential oils help stimulate digestion and reduce stomach upset, nausea, gas, and bloating when ingested in small doses or applied topically to the abdomen. Great options include peppermint, ginger, fennel, lemon, and chamomile.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are four main ways to use essential oils so you can experience their benefits:
Aromatherapy/Inhalation: Diffusing essential oils aromatically is one of the easiest ways to use them. Add 5-10 drops of your chosen oil(s) to your diffuser and inhale the scent. You can also place a few drops on a tissue or cotton ball and breathe in.
Topical Use: The skin readily absorbs essential oils for localized benefits. They can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied directly. Use caution, as some oils can irritate sensitive skin. Never apply them near the eyes or mucous membranes.
Oral Ingestion: Many essential oils are safe to ingest by the drop when properly diluted. Use care and only ingest oils recommended for internal use.
Household Cleaning: Add essential oils like lemon, tea tree, peppermint, or eucalyptus to homemade cleaners for extra disinfecting and antimicrobial power.
Choosing High-Quality Oils
With the popularity of essential oils rising, the market has become saturated with inferior-quality oils. To enjoy the benefits of essential oils, it’s important to choose the highest quality therapeutic-grade oils:
- 100% pure extract with no fillers or artificial ingredients
- Sourced from organic or wild-grown plants
- Extracted through steam distillation or cold pressing
- Bottled in dark amber or cobalt blue glass
- Tested by GC/MS for purity
- Look for quality testing seals from organizations like NAHA
High-quality oils may cost more upfront, but you’ll use less since they’re extremely concentrated. Avoid oils sold in plastic bottles or labeled “fragrance oils,” “perfume oils,” or “nature identical oils,” as these have synthetic additives. When possible, purchase oils from ethical suppliers that use sustainable practices.
Essential Oil Safety Tips
Essential oils are very concentrated plant extracts and should always be used with care:
- Perform a patch test before widespread use to check for allergic reactions
- Avoid applying undiluted oils directly to the skin
- Keep out of reach of children and pets
- Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes
- Check labels for possible drug interactions and contraindications
- Store in dark glass bottles away from sunlight and heat
- Dilute oils before inhaling directly for sensitive individuals
Talk to your doctor before using essential oils if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications to ensure safe use.
Ready to Experience the Benefits?
Now that you know the basics about essential oils and how to use them, you can start experiencing their amazing benefits! Essential oils from reputable companies, like Karma Living, are a great way to begin your necessary oil journey.
With responsible and informed use, essential oils can naturally transform your health and overall well-being. Just a few drops daily is all it takes to boost your physical and emotional health.