Essential Oils – A Natural Remedy That Can Serve a Wide Variety of Purposes

Essential oils are a natural, plant-based remedy that can serve a wide variety of purposes. They are versatile, easy to use and highly affordable.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause a range of adverse reactions, especially when inhaled directly or applied to skin without proper dilution. They also interact with certain medications. Consult with your healthcare professional before trying them.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts with well-defined fragrances. They’re found in flowers, buds, leaves, twigs, bark, wood, roots, rhizomes and peels of fruits, plants and trees [1].

Manufacturers use them in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, air fresheners and food flavoring. They’re also being used in research on their potential to treat certain physical and mental health conditions.

Scent from these oil molecules travels from the olfactory nerves to the brain, impacting the amygdala and other limbic regions that affect emotions. When inhaled, these oils may lift mood and make people feel good. They’re also thought to relieve symptoms of some physical health conditions such as headaches, sleeplessness and sore throats. Talk to your healthcare professional for personalized advice about using essential oils based on your health status and needs. Always prioritize safety and proper dilution when using them on your skin. Also consider whether you have a sensitivity or allergy to specific oils. It’s best to dilute the oils with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba before applying them to your skin.

How do Essential Oils Work?

For centuries, natural plant extracts have been used for their calming and healing properties in naturopathic medicine. Essential oils are highly concentrated natural extracts that can be inhaled for their scent or mixed with a carrier oil to apply directly on the skin (see our dilution chart).

Hidden inside many plants—in their roots, seeds, flowers, bark and more—are powerful chemical compounds known as essential oils. These oils give a plant its unique scent and protect it from dangerous environmental conditions, among other important tasks.

When inhaled, essential oils interact with our olfactory nerves to stimulate the brain and send messages throughout the body. They can also be applied to the skin, added to a bath or shower, or used in household cleaners and sanitizers. When using them for skin care, make sure you have a high quality, unadulterated oil that is not diluted with synthetic chemicals. It is best to consult with an integrative health practitioner before trying new oils to ensure that they are safe for you.

What Are the Benefits of Essential Oils?

Essential oils are a powerful natural alternative to chemical-laden household and personal care products. They can calm irritated skin, reduce signs of aging, balance your mood, boost your immune system, improve acne and even thicken your hair. They are also a safe, effective and inexpensive natural therapy to help with a variety of health concerns.

They interact with your body in three primary ways: aromatically through the olfactory nerves, topically on the skin and internally through ingestion. Some of the most common uses are in massage, baths, aromatherapy and cooking.

With healthy caution and label instructions, anyone can use essential oils safely at home. However, not all oils are suitable for all skin types and some, such as birch and wintergreen, should be avoided in kids 6 or younger because they contain methyl salicylate which can cause serious problems. You should also avoid putting undiluted oil on any open cuts or wounds. Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your healthcare professional before using any essential oil.

How to Use Essential Oils

Whether you want to add fragrance or health benefits to your beauty products, diffuse them in the air or massage them into your skin, it’s best to start with high-quality oils and follow instructions carefully.

Essential oil quality is important because these highly concentrated plant extracts are incredibly potent. Choose organic, nontoxic options that have been carefully harvested and extracted without heat or chemical solvents. Look for labels that specify the Latin name of the plant and a process called steam or cold pressing. Avoid “fragrance oils,” which can contain a combination of different essential oils or chemicals.

For best results, use essential oils with a carrier/base oil to dilute them. If you’re putting them on your skin, test a small amount on a patch of skin first to ensure it won’t irritate. And be careful not to get the oil in your eyes, ears or anus. Also, if you have a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma or COPD, consult with a healthcare professional before using essential oils.