What are essential oils?
Essential oils are compounds derived from plants and usually used in aromatherapy, which is an alternative medicine. The oils exudes the plant’s scent and flavor, normally referred to as its “essence.” And each plant bears unique compounds that give the essential oil their distinct essence or aroma. Essential oil are known and utilized for their health benefits. They can be extracted through mechanical methods like cold pressing and distillation via hot water or steam. After extraction, they are mixed with carrier oil to create a ready-to-use product.
How essential oils work in the body
Essential oils should not be swallowed; they are smelled or rubbed on the skin. They have medicinal properties when absorbed through the skin. Besides, the aroma of essential oils inhaled can stimulate the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is a part of the brain normally associated with long-term memory, sense of smell, and behaviors. Because it plays a role in the formation of memory, it explains why some smells evoke certain memories. When inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the essential oils interact with the body. Their interactions depend on the oil inhaled or applied, and can exert physical effect on the body through the limbic system, which controls some unconscious physiological processes such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
Types of essential oils and usage
There are many types of essential oils depending on the plants from which they are extracted. They include:
- Lavender, for stress relief;
- Peppermint that helps in digestion and boosts energy;
- Sandalwood, helping with focus and calming nerves; and
- Bergamot, which reduces stress and improves skin conditions such as eczema.
- Others include lemon (helps with digestion, headaches, and mood), tea tree (boost immunity and fight infections), and jasmine (helps with childbirth, libido, and depression), ylang ylang (in treatment of skin conditions, headaches, and nausea). Rose is used to reduce anxiety and enhance mood while chamomile improves relaxation and mood.
Health benefits of essentials oils
Stress and anxiety
Essential oils are mainly used in aromatherapy to treat some health problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Some essential oils and stress can be used as an alternative medicine or complementary therapy to treat stress and anxiety.
Sleep and Insomnia
Smelling lavender oil positively affect sleeping habits. It enhances sleep quality of women after child delivery. It has also been used to treat insomnia in patients with heart disease.
Migraines and headaches
Rubbing a mixture of peppermint and ethanol on foreheads can help relieve headaches. Application of lavender oil and peppermint has positive effects on headaches and migraines. Applying chamomile and sesame oil to the temples have similar effects.
Some essential oils are can be effectively used to reduce inflammations. Rosemary oils, thyme and oregano oils can help induce a remission of colitis from a study conducted on mouse. It is believed, therefore, that it can be used to treat inflammatory conditions even though few human studies have been performed on the subject.
Cases of antibiotic resistant have renewed interest among researchers to search new effective compounds to fight bacterial infections. Some essential oils such as tea tree and peppermint oils have shown positive results for having antibacterial effects. It is clear that essential oils, being derived from some of the strongest plants, can have compounds with medicinal effects on humans and can be used to treat a variety of diseases.