My first interaction with essential oils was a few years back, and I came to know them as oils you use for aromatherapy. It wasn’t until recently when I started seeing people online who use them for different ways that I was forced to do further research on it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of these oils that many have come to believe as the answer to many ailments that people suffer from. From headaches to migraines to digestion issues and muscle pains, the rise in popularity of essential oils has little to do with what they can do and more about social media sensationalization. So let’s take a closer look into the phenomenon of the essential oils and clarify a few key points.
What is it?
The quick answer is essential oils are oils extracted from plants. That is why for the longest time these were used for aromatherapy because most of these oils are derived from flowers. Through the process of distillation, essential oils are extracted with a few chemical carrier oils to create the product. While many oils are claiming to be the real deal, to be labeled as essential, the process of extracting the oils should not involve any chemical processes.
How it works
Like mentioned earlier, essential oils were mainly used for aromatherapy. They can either be inhaled, rubbed on the skin, or heated to produce the fragrance. They are often infused in candles that release the smell of the oils as they burn. With the popularity of these oils on the rise, more and more people have used it in other ways. It is important to point, however, that essential oils are not meant to be ingested.
The chemicals that are present in these oils interact with our body to produce different effects. For this interaction to take place, these oils are rubbed onto the skin where it is absorbed. Some people apply a little bit of heat in some regions of the body to promote absorption of the oils.
Interestingly enough, some studies suggest the use of essential oils affects the limbic system of the body. This is the system in the body that helps in creating memories, which explains why some smells and fragrance that are strong enough can trigger our memories and emotions. The limbic system is also responsible for subconscious physiological functioning of the body like our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Many have cited the connection with essential oils and the limbic system’s role as proof that these oils have physiological benefits to humans.
Different types and uses
Like all products, essential oils come in different types. There are over 90 different kinds of oils that are available, each one associated with a specific use. Peppermint is great at boosting energy and aids in digestion. Lavender is perfect for stress relief. Sandalwood helps to calm nerves and keeps you focused. Rose reduces anxiety and improves mood. Chamomile is popularly used for relaxation and to calm one’s self. And Jasmine helps reduce signs of depression, aids in childbirth, and used to increase libido.
It can be said that, much like other alternative forms of medicine, the essential oils’ effects on people vary among individuals. But its universal benefits can be summed up below.
1. Depression, anxiety, and stress
Half of the world’s population suffer from stress and some form of anxiety, which leads many people to seek out alternative ways of coping, and many turned to essential oils. As an aromatherapy agent, essential oils are quite effective at reducing one’s stress level. A few studies have shown that the smell coming from essential oils has a positive effect on people’s anxiety and stress level.
2. Headaches and migraines
Another use for these oils is in treating the common migraine and headache. A few decades back, it is common for people to put a small dab of peppermint oil on the temple to relieve stress headaches and migraines. Peppermint and lavender have also been known to reduce the pain people experience in headaches.
When used as aromatherapy, essential oils like lavender can aid in encouraging sleep in people who have insomnia, especially in women after childbirth and in patients with heart diseases. Essential oils induce better quality sleep for this group of people who regularly suffer from sleeplessness.
Essential oils have been suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties. Most of the studies that cited this used animal models in which certain types of essential oils have been introduced to lab rats. Also, they have shown to have reduced the development of colitis, or the inflammation of the colon. However, its effects on humans are still not known.
Essential oils have been used in treating wounds in the distant past. Early humans know how to grind certain types of plants and apply it on wounds to facilitate healing. Many people claim our ancestors have figured out the benefits of essential oils even before us. And they could be right. Studies using peppermint and tea tree oil were used in the laboratories to have antimicrobial properties. It is important to point out, however, that these studies were done on cultured bacterias in a test tube and not on human models. But this result is promising and could lead to human trials.
Another claim is that essential oils can boost our immunity making us more resistant to infection. Certain chemicals in these oils like esters, phenolics, and terpenes can aid our immune system in fighting off infection. A few studies have shown that certain types of essential oils can also help to ward off fungal and viral pathogens.
Lastly, people who suffer from digestive problems use essential oils to improve their digestion. Some essential oils can be used to relieve stomach aches, indigestion, and diarrhea. Essential oils can also help stimulate the growth of digestive enzymes to aid in digestion.
As an alternative form of medicine, essential oils have shown several promises. But scientific consensus is still torn and would need more research and clinical trials to substantiate all these claims. But many people have gained benefits from using essential oils and trying a few oils for yourself can’t hurt.
Eliza Brooks is a passionate blogger who loves to write about innovative ideas on promoting mental and physical health. She is currently working with TheGreenAce, one of the best online dispensary canada, which offers legal, safe access to high-quality Medicinal Marijuana.