13 Health Benefits of Essential Oils
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Similar to other natural health approaches, discussions on essential oils have gained a lot of prominence in recent times.
This has happened as more people become aware of the negative effects associated with modern conventional living and medicine. But use of essential oils dates back hundreds of years.
There is evidence that cultures from different regions of the world including Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Persia have used essential oils for various purposes for thousands of years.
While these applications were based on folklore, research has established that essential oils are actually beneficial. Essential oils have lots of health benefits without the toxic effects of some chemicals used in conventional household and healthcare products.
In this discussion, we will look at the health benefits of essential oils. But first, let us get a little background on essential oils.
What Is An Essential Oil?
Essential oils give some plants their aromatic essences. They are in fact responsible for the characteristic aromas of plants like rosemary, lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, cedarwood and tea tree among others.
It’s probably these aromas that attracted the first users of essential oils. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have used essential oils to improve their lives in a variety of ways.
To date, essential oils are used to flavor food, in perfumes, in bath water and to enhance health including treatment of some health conditions.
Recent studies have found that essential oils have health enhancing properties. Many of them have antibacterial, antiviral and detoxifying properties.
Besides, because of their aromas, they are used in aromatherapy and to simply give a sweet smell they are used in perfumes and to give a good smell to clothes, houses, cars and other environments.
Which Are The Most Popular Essential Oils?
It is estimated that there are nearly 100 well known essential oils. However, many of these are rarely used and are therefore not very popular. Following are some of the most popular essential oils:
How Essential Oils Are Produced
Essential oils are extracted from the source part of a plant through distillation. The plant material used in this process may include leaves, flowers, peels, barks, roots and resins.
During distillation, the oil and oil soluble constituents of the plant material are separated from the water soluble constituents. It is worth to note that a large amount of plant material is used to produce a small quantity of essential oil.
This is the reason why pure essential oils don't come cheap. But the price is worth it.
How To Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are used in several ways including the following:
Application on the skin
In bath water
In a diffuser
Note that essential oils are highly concentrated. Therefore only a small amount is used at any one time.
Essential oils are also typically mixed with carrier oils before use. When purchasing essential oils, read labels so that you know the level of purity of the product.
Benefits of Essential oils
Besides the sweet smells, essential oils are packed full of benefits. The benefits range from health and lifestyle improvement to household and environmental support.
Here are some of the more prominent benefits of essential oils:
Certain essential oils including ginger, peppermint, black pepper, fennel, marjoram and juniper berry are known to improve digestive function. They also help to relieve digestive issues like indigestion, stomach spasms, nausea, diarrhea and IBS.
Essential oils work by stimulating production of digestive enzymes which enhance digestion and improve absorption of nutrients.
This clears the stomach and enhances excretion of waste thereby reducing the incidence of indigestion, constipation, and abdominal pain. According to this study (1), using ginger oil helps to reduce gas, nausea and abdominal pain.
Another study involving people with IBS found that by using peppermint essential oil, it is possible to reduce symptoms of IBS by as much as 19.6 percent within 24 hours and by up to 40 percent within four weeks. (2)
Essential oils have many health enhancing properties. They are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic. This means that by regularly using essential oils, you can protect yourself from many attacks by environmental pathogens.
According to a number of studies, essential oils are effective against many bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens. (3, 4) They are even effective in fighting pathogens like helicobacter pylori, candida albicans and staphylococcus aureus, some of which are resistant to ordinary conventional medications.
Some of the best essential oils for improved immunity and protection against infections include cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus, oregano, ginger, myrrh, lemon and frankincense.
According to some studies, oregano essential oil has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties, and actually inhibits growth of many types of bacteria. (5)
Hormonal imbalances are a major cause of conditions like infertility, PCOS, PMS, menopause and even stress. But you can get significant relief by using essential oils.
Some essential oils like geranium, rose, thyme and sage can help balance your hormone levels and thereby give you relief from suffering. By balancing the levels of estrogen in women undergoing perimenopause and menopause, essential oils can offer significant relief and improve quality of their life.
Essential oils can also lower the levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. This can lead to reduced stress and improved mood. In men, reduction in cortisol levels can lead to an increase in the levels of testosterone hormone which can improve libido as well as fertility. (6)
4.Help You Sleep Better
Most people are aware of the use of chamomile tea for relaxation. This quality comes in handy when you have insomnia or you don't feel rested enough after a night's sleep.
Putting a few drops of chamomile or lavender oil in a diffuser when going to bed can help you sleep better so that you wake up the following morning feeling well rested and ready to face the new day (7).
Besides, while essential oils help you sleep better, they have no adverse effects unlike conventional sleep aids. (8)
Some essential oils including turmeric, black pepper, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, frankincense, myrrh and chamomile can help relieve or reduce pain. This is probably due to the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of essential oils.
According to a review of a number of studies, essential oils offer significant pain relief from obstetric and gynecologic pain as well as postoperative pain. (9)
They are also effective in relieving headaches and migraines. Because essential oils are anti-inflammatory, they can also reduce the inflammation that causes joint and bone pain.
This can be quite helpful for people with arthritis and similar chronic joint pain.
To relieve pain, essential oils are used aromatically or applied topically on the affected sites.
Essential oils such as frankincense, lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and chamomile can help reduce stress and anxiety by inducing a relaxing, uplifting feeling.
A study involving women with postpartum depression found that incorporating aromatherapy using lavender and rose essential oils improved the symptoms substantially compared to use of conventional treatment on its own. (10)
Another study carried out in 2016 found that inhaling some essential oils such as rose over a period of four weeks reduced anxiety significantly in people undergoing dialysis. (11)
7.Essential Oils Detoxify
Essential oils can help detoxify your home and body. Some essential oils including ginger, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, parsley and grapefruit can detoxify the body internally.
Essential oils also help improve digestion and thereby help detoxify the body by promoting excretion of toxins from the digestive system. (12)
Using essential oils can also help reduce the toxicity that would otherwise result from using conventional cleaning and deodorizing products.
Additionally, essential oils have antimicrobial properties. This means that by using them you reduce the pathogen load and pollution within your home.
8.Improve Skin Health
You can improve your skin, scalp and hair health by using essential oils in your personal care regimes. This can lead to better skin tone, including clearing acne, reducing wrinkles, age spots and similar skin conditions.
Essential oils can also improve the condition of your scalp and hair. According to a review of various studies, many essential oils and combinations of different essential oils, reduce skin inflammation and thereby help improve skin conditions including wound healing, eczema and dermatitis. (13)
9.Promote hair growth
Besides improving skin and scalp health, essential oils can help promote hair growth. Some studies even found that some types of balding, also known as alopecia, can benefit by use of essential oil such as rosemary. (14)
Other essential oils that can also help improve hair growth include tea tree oil, myrrh, clary sage, chamomile and lavender.
10.Boost Brain Functions
The uplifting feelings brought about by the smell of essential oils affect much more than the emotions. Various studies indicate that regular exposure to certain essential oils has a marked positive effect on the brain.
Essential oils like rosemary, lavender and peppermint stimulate the brain, thereby improving various functions including learning and memory. This is especially important for elderly people faced with age-related degenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease. (15)
Essential oils are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. These properties are thought to come in handy in reducing oxidation and inflammation in the brain and thereby improve brain functions. They also help reduce agitation by inducing calm in people with dementia.
Some essential oils have been found to have energy boosting properties. It is believed that the essential oils work by stimulating delivery of more oxygen to the brain.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published a study indicating that taking a few drops of peppermint essential oil with water over a period of 10 days helped to improve performance and reduce exhaustion in male athletes. (16)
Similar results may be achieved by using other essential oils like rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon, lemongrass and grapefruit.
Essential oils such as cinnamon, ginger and grapefruit may help in reduction of body weight. This is possible because these essential oils help to balance blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
Lower blood sugar leads to reduced hunger pangs and food cravings. Additionally, by reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels, essential oils help improve insulin sensitivity which improves metabolism so that less fat is stored in the body.
The overall result is a healthier body weight.
13.Relieve Respiratory Illnesses
You are probably familiar with the use of essential oils such as eucalyptus to relieve respiratory symptoms and illnesses such as congestion. Essential oils stimulate the respiratory system to expel phlegm and thereby relieve congestion and coughing.
They may also kill the pathogens responsible for the illness.
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