In our modern times, essential oils might be considered a new-age rage that can help do everything from calm nerves, reduce stress, get rid of any aches or pains, and beautify our hair and skin. Truth is, the use of essential oils for health and wellness has been around for centuries. In fact, Cleopatra has been known for using essential oils all the way back to Ancient Egypt. The Queen’s essential oil of choice? She’s believed to have used rose essence extensively in her skincare rituals, because after all, being beautiful was her brand.
Today the world has resurrected the desire for natural and organic products, and essential oils of all kinds have become a potent “potion” that has exploded in popularity. In our day-to-day, essential oils are infused into everything from shampoos, skincare formulations, aromatherapy, household cleaners, and more.
What Are Essential Oils?
True to its name, an essential oil is the essence of any given plant. A plant’s essence is in the details — it’s a highly-concentrated liquid or oil derived from a plant's flower, wood, leaf, nut, bark, root, seed, peel, or rind. Essential oils contain all of that rejuvenating good stuff: antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and other healing components. Once the essence is extracted from the plant, the oils can be used in dozens of therapeutic ways.
Health Benefits of Essential Oils
Many healthcare practitioners, massage therapists, and other health professionals promote essential oils in pursuit of overall well being. What makes these plant juices so healing and restorative? There is both scientific research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that essential oils have antiseptic, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Studies have also cited essential plant oils to be a natural antidepressant. Talk about upping the ante!
When it comes to physical ailments, essential oils can be a great natural elixir to alleviate aches and pains. Peppermint contains menthol, which has a cooling effect on sore, achy muscles. It also has analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Helichrysum oil can also relieve muscle spasms, inflammation, and pain.
Marjoram oil relaxes muscle spasms and tension, but it also has the ability to ease pain and inflammation. Sandalwood oil also alleviates muscle spasms, tension, and inflammation — as does rosemary oil.
Lavender isn’t only for calming and relaxing the senses, it can also soothe physical pain and inflammation. Many love to put a few drops of lavender essential oil into a bath for a most relaxing experience.
Eucalyptus oil has a cooling effect on muscles and reduces pain and inflammation. Chamomile oils can not only ease pain and inflammation, but they can also help soothe muscle tension and reduce spasms. It is also great for pain relief for conditions like back pain, neuralgia, or arthritis. Yarrow oil is also used to reduce pain and inflammation.
For added relief, even consider mixing two or three of these oils together to create a custom blend. If you’re dealing with muscle tension and swelling, cypress oil calms and relaxes muscles spasms and works to soothe inflammation.
Of course, always check with your doctor before using any essential oil or supplement. Even though essential oils are all natural, they are also extremely potent. When getting the go ahead, always use the amount suggested by your doctor or on the label and directions pamphlet.
Benefits of Essential Oils for Hair
Many essential oils have a lock on luscious locks. Some essential oils in particular can help hair grow healthier and stronger. Here is a list of essential oils for happy hair.
Hats off to jojoba because this essential oil is known for promoting faster hair growth. One study even found that when jojoba oil was applied to shaved hair, it created faster hair growth than those that did not use jojoba oil.
Some research has shown that peppermint oil can prevent hair loss better than minoxidil, the medication commonly used to treat hair loss. Studies have even found that peppermint essential oil increases scalp thickness as well as the number of hair follicles, which may be able to help promote a more rapid growth stage for hair. Peppermint oil also contains menthol, causing the blood vessels just under the skin to dilate. This additional blood flow could help to promote further hair growth.
We can’t complain about chamomile because this plant extract soothes inflammation and detoxifies the scalp — both of which are vital for regrowth. One more hair extension: chamomile can relieve itchy scalp from psoriasis.
Rosemary essential oil strengthens circulation and can prevent hair follicles from being starved of blood supply and dying off — all of which lead to hair loss. In fact, Mediterranean cultures have been using rosemary in hair rinses for hundreds of years.
Most of us have heard of how rejuvenating tea tree oil is for haircare. Many use tea tree oil for hair because of its topical cleansing, purifying, and rejuvenating properties.
Benefits of Essential Oils on Skin
Essential oils can have all sorts of benefits for skin but common questions include: “Can you put essential oils on your skin?” and “Are they safe?” It’s all about using them the right way, say medical experts. Essential oils are safe when used externally (when they’re not ingested) in low concentrations. When it comes to skin applications, that usually means concentrations no higher than 5%.
Dermatologists say to look for blends created with 100 percent essential oils, and to be cautious of unregulated terms like:
- Therapeutic grade
- Fragrance oil
Of course, we always recommend speaking to your dermatologist before using any essential oils on your skin. Here are a few that will have your skin feeling renewed.
Made from the fruit of rose plants, rosehip oil contains both vitamin C and vitamin A, which can protect against signs of aging. It’s rich in essential fatty acids which can improve overall skin texture and hydration levels.
Considered one of the most versatile essential oils, lavender has a host of benefits for the skin. It’s been a tried and true treatment for acne and eczema, and reducing wrinkles. It can even be used as a natural hand sanitizer.
If you’re worried about the effects of aging on your skin, frankincense will keep the “Frankenstein” look at bay. This essential oil is what many skin experts call the ultimate elixir for dry and mature skin. We’ll take some of that fountain of youth, thank you very much!
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree takes on the skin care game as well. The naturally anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil have made this essence an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne by doing away with decreasing skin surface bacteria. Tea tree oil can be a touch abrasive on sensitive skin, so dermatologists recommend doing a patch test first.
How To Use Essential Oils
The most common way to use essential oils is to inhale them — either directly out of the bottle or by using a diffuser or humidifier. You can also dilute essential oils with a carrier oil and apply it directly to your skin. Get creative and add the mixture to a body wash, shampoo, or bath, as well.
Read on for all the ways to use and make essential oils an effective part of your daily routine.
How many drops of essential oil should we drop into that diffuser? Although you can add as many drops as you like, the general rule of thumb is to add anywhere between three and fifteen drops for a 100-milliliter diffuser depending on strength, but don't be afraid to experiment until you come up with the perfect amount for you.
We cannot stress this enough: do not use essential oils directly on your skin. Always use a carrier oil to dilute the oils! Always remember to do a skin patch test before using essential oils. Since citrus essential oils may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, these oils should be avoided if you’re going to be out and about in the sun.
Can you ingest essential oils? Essential oils are not safe to consume and can cause significant poisoning even if small amounts are ingested. Highly toxic essential oils include camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, and wintergreen oils. It’s important to be aware that in rare cases, essential oils can cause symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations, and seizures.
What Essential Oils Are Best?
Considering which essential oils to make an essential part of your well-being depends on the condition you’re looking to take care of. Peppermint is a great all-around essence that’s great for boosting energy and aiding with digestion. Lavender is also extremely popular for its versatile nature, especially for reducing stress and anxiety.
Sandalwood has been used through the ages to calm nerves and help with focus. Rose can improve mood and reduce anxiety, and of course, chamomile is celebrated for its relaxing properties. Bergamot is big for skin conditions like eczema.
Best Types of Essential Oils
We’ve rounded up a specific list of the best essential oils to keep on hand for all kinds of therapeutic uses.
Eucalyptus oil is used as a medicine to treat a variety of common diseases and conditions including nasal congestion and asthma. Diluted eucalyptus oil can also be applied to the skin as a remedy for health problems such as arthritis and skin ulcers.
This particular oil comes up time again and time again. As a multi-use oil, peppermint is praised for treating a plethora of conditions such as nausea, headaches , the common cold, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s also a great topical application for relief from itching or muscle pain.
It’s no wonder that everyone loves lavender! This essential oil has a variety of benefits. It’s used to treat anxiety, fungal infections, allergies, depression, insomnia, eczema, nausea, and menstrual cramps. Lavender is especially essential in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and rejuvenation.
Not just for skin and hair, tea tree oil is also fabulous on the home front. Diffusing tea tree oil benefits the air in your home because it purifies and freshens as it disperses. The same purifying properties in tea tree oil can also be very helpful for cleaning surfaces in your home. A homemade cleaner with tea tree oil protects against environmental and seasonal threats.
Chamomile is a common remedy for digestive upset such as indigestion, nausea, or gas. It can also be used for wound healing, ulcers, and sores. It also works as a great sleep aid.
Lemon essential oil can be diluted and applied topically to your skin, as well as diffused into the air and inhaled. Many people swear by lemon essential oil as an ingredient that fights exhaustion and helps with depression. Some more benefits: it can help clear skin, kill harmful viruses and bacteria, and reduce inflammation.
Essential Oil Safety
Do not apply undiluted essential oils to your skin.
Even undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritations so it’s best not to use essential oils near the eyes, on ears, nose, or other areas with sensitive skin. Of course, consult your doctor if you get a skin reaction.