Essential oils may seem like a trendy modern trend, but these highly concentrated plant extracts have been used for centuries. Generally speaking, when inhaled or mixed with a base oil and applied topically, most essential oils are considered safe.
However, some side effects do occur and it’s important to follow label directions carefully.
Essential oils are potent plant extracts. They can be used in a variety of ways to promote emotional and physical wellness.
They can be incorporated into massages, used in household cleaners and as part of integrative complementary therapies to manage cancer symptoms. They’re unregulated by the FDA, so be sure to use them under the supervision of a trained professional.
Most people use them by inhaling the aroma, but some apply them to the skin (topical). Some, like peppermint oil, have been shown to help relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
While herbs and spices have their place, sometimes it’s easier and faster to add a drop or two of a strong-flavored essential oil. It can also take the place of an extract or artificial flavoring in recipes.
Be sure to only use oils that are labeled as food grade (see this list from the FDA’s Operation Supplement Safety). Look for a “Supplement Facts” panel on the bottle to make sure you’re buying pure, safe products.
Essential oils will evaporate at high temperatures, so they should be added at the end of cooking or mixed into a fatty base to preserve their flavor.
For a relaxing massage, consider combining essential oils with a natural oil-rich product. This nourishing massage oil from Kneipp is free of toxins, parabens, silicones, mineral oils, phthalates, and artificial colors.
This hydrating oil is ideal for those with sensitive skin. It contains sweet almond and grapeseed oil, and is fragrance-free. It also has birch and arnica oil to soothe sore muscles.
This calming massage oil includes roman chamomile essential oil, which studies have found has a soothing effect when diluted and applied to the feet.
Essential oils have antidepressant, stimulating, detoxifying, antibiotic, antiviral and calming properties. They are also effective as natural headache and migraine remedies.
You can inhale them directly from a muslin cloth or a drop mixed with a carrier oil. Inhalation allows the molecules to reach your limbic system, influencing your emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory and hormone balance.
You can add them to a bath or mix them with a carrier oil for a massage. These oils are also absorbed through the skin, so topical application can be beneficial.
5. Skin Care
Applied topically, essential oils can help ease skin irritation and discomfort. However, they must be diluted with a carrier oil (like jojoba or sweet almond) before being used to avoid over-irritation and potential allergic reactions.
Although these oils have many benefits, the science behind them is lacking. Some claims have been made, such as that citronella oil may be an effective mosquito repellent, but results in human clinical trials are mixed. Nevertheless, essential oils continue to rise in popularity.
6. Pet Care
As pet lovers know, pets require a great deal of attention and care. From cleaning up their messes to soothing their anxiety, essential oils are a natural way to care for our furry friends.
Essential oils are volatile liquids distilled from plant materials and named after the plant from which they were extracted. They contain the structural materials and phytochemicals of the plant, but the heat of distillation can alter them. When shopping for essential oils, look for quality and purity reports.
Many commercial cleaning products are filled with chemicals that can be harmful to our health and environment. Essential oils are an easy, natural alternative to create homemade cleaners.
Thyme is a natural disinfectant and is great for removing mildew. It also blends well with lavender, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, rosemary, clary sage and bergamot. Lavender is a calming oil that can help you sleep peacefully. Its balancing qualities also make it excellent for fighting stress. Eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic and germ killer. It can also fight mold and help with allergies.
A form of mental discipline, meditation is a practice that involves clearing the mind in ways that promote calmness and heightened awareness. It can be done for both health and religious or spiritual reasons.
A key component of meditation is learning to relax and focus your attention, whether on an image, mantra or a relaxed breathing pattern. The latter uses the diaphragm muscles to expand the lungs and slow the rate of breathing, which can help calm anxiety.