Essential oils are plant extracts from leaves, flowers, roots and other parts of plants that are mechanically expressed or distilled into oils. As these essential oils are highly concentrated, they contain volatile compounds that give rise to their strong fragrances and beneficial properties.
How to use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be inhaled, ingested and topically applied.
Inhalation is one of the safest ways to use essential oils. You can put a drop of the oil on a small piece of cloth or diffuse it into the air with a diffuser. The molecules from the oils are thought to influence the nervous system, limbic parts of the brain, hormones, brain chemical and even metabolism.
Essential oils can only be applied topically to the skin. However, as some oils may cause irritation, it is recommended to dilute the oil with another carrier oil, like coconut or almond oil, before applying directly to the skin. The oils can be applied to a certain part of the body to relieve pain, such as the stomach, temples and right on the upper lip.
The oils can also be ingested in small doses with care, consumed in capsules or used in cooking. As there are so many different essential oils and some may be poisonous, it is best to consult or seek advice from a professional and follow instructions that come with your bottle of essential oil.
Benefits of Essential Oils
As essential oils enter the body through inhalation and through the skin, the molecules interact with different parts of the body - such as the respiratory system, the limbic system and our organs. For example, when interacting with the limbic system, it instantly affects the part of the brain that controls blood pressure, memory, hormone and stress levels, and triggers us to become calmer or more alert quickly.
The benefits from essential oils are myriad.
Essential oils can:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Have anti-inflammation effects
- Contain antimicrobial properties to soothe and guard against bacteria, fungi and viruses
- Improve sleep and headaches
Common Types of Essential Oils
Essential oils have a variety of different benefits attributed to its different scents. Here are some essential oils that are commonly used:
Lavender oil: Known to calm and relax the body, it can even soothe skin irritation. Add a few drops to your bedding, pillows and bottom of the feet for peaceful sleep, add to your bath water for a sumptuous soak or to your temples and the back of the neck for instant relaxation.
Tea tree oil: Distilled from Melaleuca alternifolia leaves that are native to Australia, tea tree oil is antibacterial and contains purifying and cleansing properties. Use it for acne, to treat cuts and infections, nail fungus, treat dandruff and insect bites and stings.
Eucalyptus oil: Made from the leaves of the eucalyptus plant, eucalyptus has long been used by the Aborigines as a natural remedy against colds, infections and wounds. Its menthol aroma can open up your airways and clear sinuses, relieve sore muscles and joint pains, combats bad breath and repels insects.
Peppermint oil: Frequently used for toothpaste and oral care, peppermint oil has a strong menthol content and can help with stomach upsets and clears your breathing. It can be used to perk up your day when inhaled and massaged onto your chest for congestion or your stomach with a carrier oil.
Citronella oil: Derived from the leaf of the lemongrass plant, citronella oil has been commonly used as a natural insect repellent against mosquitoes and other bugs. It also contains compounds like methyl isoeugenol which have antibacterial effects to treat cuts and scrapes. It is also frequently used as a popular scent for candles, soaps and detergents.
Rose oil: Rose oil is a highly-sought after fragrances for perfumes and toiletries, but it also is known to have anxiety-reducing effects and balance your skin’s moisture levels. Add it to your moisturiser for more beneficial skin effects or inhale the oil for relaxation and stress relief.
Bergamot oil: Extracted from the Citrus bergamia orange, bergamot oil is often used in aromatherapy as a common scent to uplift moods. It also has similar properties as grapefruit essential oils, such as antiseptic, antispasmodic and pain relieving effects. Add a few drops to your bath water or in a diffuser to enjoy this refreshing scent.
Essential Oil Items to Have
One of the fastest and simplest ways to obtain the benefits of essential oils is through inhalation. As some essential oils can cause irritation, being able to diffuse and disperse the scent of the oil can envelope your living space with a calming and relaxing atmosphere instantly.
Diffusing is easy - just pour a few drops of the oils on a piece of cloth or cotton balls to release the oil’s scent. Purchasing an aromatherapy diffuser can help you recreate a soothing spa experience in your own living space.
You may also want to buy a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil to dilute your essential oils, so you can use it safely on your skin. Do read the instructions on the bottle on how to dilute the oils and patch test on the skin before applying to a larger area.Another easy way to use essential oils is by applying them through roll-on applicators. These applicators dispense only a small amount of the oils and are already blended with carrier oils for safe use.