lately. Depending on how closely you pay attention to vitamin labels, they're starting to appear on brands all over the place. "Contains essential oils!" "No essential oils!" Confusing right? It doesn't have to be.
Risks and Warnings
Simply put, essential oils are oils extracted from plants. The name comes from the idea of the oil being the "essence" or the spirit of the plant. This would include its health benefits, life-force and fragrance. This is rightfully confusing to those familiar with the term "essential nutrients" which are nutrients the body needs but can't produce on it's own. This might not be a problem for overseas customers that may or may not have different names for the two but in English-land we have issues.
Luckily, it's easy to identify essential oils. They're usually named after the plant they come from. Most are clear but some can take on tints (pink grapefruit is a yellow hue). Another telling trait is that essential oils aren't used the same way essential nutrients are. While some oils are okay to be digested, essential oils are typically used topically or for aromatherapy. This is where their benefit really comes through.
Our sense of smell has gotten the short end of the stick as far as senses go. We tend to value our other senses more because we perceive to use them more. Catherine de Lange, writer for New Scientist, explains how that's not always the case. In her article
, she talks about several studies that showcase just how impressive our sense of smell really is. Scents trigger chemical reactions in the brain, even if we're not consciously aware of them. This can, supposedly, impact our mood and behavior. Real estate agents have been using this trick at open houses with freshly baked cookies and other homey scents for years.
It makes sense then to use these scent receptors for our own benefit. And we have been, for nearly 6,000 years. Essential oils have been used in ancient societies in herbal medicines, perfumes and cosmetics just as they are today. So let's look at how they can help you out.
What To Treat
Try these essential oils for specific problems. Don't be afraid to blend.
Anxiety - Lavender, Rose, Orange, Bergamot, Lemon, Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Chamomile, Cedarwood, Clove, Frankincense Stress - Bergamot, Petitgrain, Lavender, Chamomile, Ylang-Ylang, Sandalwood Headaches and Migraines - Green Apple, Jasmine, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Melissa, Peppermint, Rosemary Menstrual Problems - Marjoram, Clary Sage, Lavender, Geranium, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Cinnamon, Peppermint, Motherwort Depression - Bergamot, Chamomile, Grapefruit, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass, Mandarin, Melissa, Orange Blossom, PetitgrainEnergy and Alertness - Peppermint, Orange, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Mint, Cedarwood, Ginger, Rosemary
Essential oils are used in three different ways:Ariel Diffusion - dispersing the scent into a wide areaDirect Inhalation - breathing in the scent directlyTopical Application - applying to the skin like in the form of massage oil, bath oil or a compress
Each way has its merits but like everything in medicine and life, the method depends on the outcome you want. Aerial diffusion is great for filling an entire room with fragrance and setting a mood. Jasmine is a great scent for calm and relaxation
and is recommended by sleep.org
to promote restful sleep. Or you could keep a party awake and happy with a fresh citrus scent
gently wafting through the air. Citrus scents have been known to wake up and energize.
To disperse the scent, all you need a diffuser
. Some burn the oil, much the way a candle releases scent when it burns. You can also use reed diffusers
that contain some magical wood-science I'm not going to begin to explain. You could always add a few drops of oil to a warm light bulb and there are always cold diffusers
(great for people with pets and kids). They require no heat source so they're safer.
If you're looking to decongestant or cleanse your respiratory system, then direct inhalation is key. This is what steamers and humidifiers accomplish, often with a few drops of eucalyptus oil
. Chances are, you didn't even think that was an herbal remedy. But it's true and eucalyptus is the great nostril equalizer. Add a few drops to a tissue or handkerchief to keep with you at work when you need a little relief of that sore throat. Or add a few drops to your pillow to help you fall asleep at night.
You can also use a self-steaming technique with hot water, a small bowl and 2-3 drops of oil. Simply add hot water and oil into the bowl and stir. Then cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl. You've got an instant and private steam room. Inhale deeply up to 2 minutes.
If you've ever gotten a massage you're probably already familiar with the oil
they use. Or maybe you've pampered yourself with a great-smelling bath complete with that rose oil. You might not have relaxed just because of the warm water but because of the scent as well. Even if we don't always recognize the scent or realize we're smelling something, our brain still registers and reacts. Many oils seem to have effects on skin, which is why they're used in many cosmetic products. It's important to read warnings, however, as diluting pure oils may be needed before applying directly to skin.
It's important to know the risks and warnings when working with essential oils. Be especially cautious and consult your doctor before using any essential oil if you have:Nut AllergiesAsthmaSkin Conditions, such as PsoriasisPregnancy or LactationEpilepsyHypertension
It's also no surprise then that they tell sufferers of migraines to look out for certain smells that can set them off. I myself get a headache whenever I'm around vanilla too long. So while aromatherapy can be used to help sooth headaches, it's also important to be aware of your triggers.
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