5 Essential Oils for Health and Well-Being

Essential oils are a natural alternative to synthetic chemicals in cleaners and other beauty products. They’re also good for treating a variety of issues like stress, anxiety and headaches.

But before you use them, remember that they are highly concentrated and can cause irritation if applied directly to the skin. They should always be diluted first.

1. Lemon

This uplifting citrus oil has antibacterial properties and can help reduce fever. A 2017 study found that lemon essential oil effectively treats fungal overgrowths such as athlete’s foot and thrush when used topically.

It’s also known for its mood-boosting and energizing effects when inhaled. Research suggests the terpenes in lemon oil may relieve labor pain and nausea, and promote mental clarity and emotional wellbeing.

When buying lemon oil, look for one that’s chemical-free and has undergone distillation or mechanical cold pressing. It’s best to choose a reputable brand that’s transparent about its ingredients and processing. And since the volatile compounds in these oils can react to sunlight, be sure to purchase yours in a dark glass bottle.

2. Orange

Orange essential oil is one of the most popular natural cleaning oils and can be used in place of chemical cleaners throughout the home. It’s also a great antimicrobial and works especially well in a spray to disinfect countertops, floors and toilets.

When applied topically to the skin, orange oil can brighten and hydrate it. This makes it a popular beauty ingredient in products like lotions and facial cleansers.

The relaxing effect of orange essential oil can help reduce anxiety and stress. It can even stimulate creativity and concentration.

3. Tea Tree

Tea tree oil boosts immune function, fights infections, eliminates airborne bacteria and soothes the skin. Its decongestant and expectorant properties help reduce or relieve sinus pressure, headaches, and congestion caused by the common cold or flu. It also heals skin conditions, including itchy bug bites, while clearing dandruff and refreshing the scalp.

When used in a bath, it relieves the inflammation that causes sore muscles and joints, while its antiseptic properties eliminate bodily toxins, disinfect pores to prevent clogging, lighten scars, and replenish skin’s natural oil balance. Added to shampoo, it fights dandruff and helps clarify the scalp.

Although the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate essential oils, reputable manufacturers will identify their product ingredients by Latin name and the extraction process they use. Before using, do a skin patch test to make sure you aren’t allergic.

4. Peppermint

The oil contains menthol, which helps ease pain and relax muscles. It’s also thought to boost energy, balance hormones and improve mental focus.

Its expectorant properties help relieve congestion, and its stomachic effect may promote a feeling of fullness. It’s also used as a natural mosquito repellent.

When using essential oils, make sure to dilute them, and avoid ingesting them or applying them directly on your skin. Always read the label and look for a company that offers a purity guarantee. It’s also a good idea to talk with a state-licensed medical expert before starting any new treatment, including aromatherapy. Johns Hopkins has a wide range of integrative health experts who can answer questions about your holistic treatment options. (2)

5. Rosemary

An essential oil with antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. When inhaled, rosemary oil can help fight respiratory infections, including the common cold, the flu, and bronchitis. (2)

Rosemary oil also has a powerful effect against bacteria that cause acne. Research shows that the monoterpenes in this oil have a strong antibiotic activity against Propionibacterium acnes, one of the most common causes of acne in people.

As with all essential oils, it’s important to use them correctly to avoid skin irritation or toxic effects. Always dilute them with a carrier oil before applying to the skin, and never use undiluted on sensitive areas of the body. It’s also important to note that essential oils are not a substitute for medical care or advice from a licensed healthcare practitioner.