Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What’s So Great About Essential Oils?

A photo of three small bottles filled with oil. The bottles are surrounded by plants and flowers.
Image: Shutterstock
Essential oils? What are they? They must be important, right? 

Essential oils are not the same as vegetable oils, which are commonly used for cooking. Essential oils are incredibly concentrated non-water soluble compounds distilled from the various leaves and roots of flowers and plants. They are extremely potent due to their high concentration levels. Because of this high concentration, improper use can lead to irritation and discomfort. However, when used correctly, essential oils provide a variety of benefits depending on the plant that they are derived from.

The best way to use essential oils is through aromatherapy and topical use. The small molecules of the oil are either absorbed through the skin or more gently through the air and into the respiratory system. If applied topically, they should be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil. Essential oils should never be ingested.

While most people use essential oils in place of candles or air fresheners, certain essential oils have can be used for health purposes. For example, mixing peppermint oil into steamed water is a great way to clear up congestion. Peppermint oil can also be used to increase mental alertness. Meanwhile, lavender acts as a natural disinfectant. Lavender is also known for relieving migraines and aiding in relaxation. Citrus oils, on the other hand, provide an uplifting feeling when used in aromatherapy. As a topical treatment, citrus oils are astringent and antiseptic. Tea tree oil is also known for its antibacterial properties and works great when mixed with lavender or citrus as a natural cleaning product. Tea tree oil is also commonly used as a treatment for acne.

Incorporating essential oils into your lifestyle can help you cut down on the amount of chemicals you are using. This is important for two reasons: for one, it reduces your carbon footprint. For two, it limits the amount of toxic chemicals your body absorbs. However, make sure you use essential oils with caution. Improper use can result in allergic reactions. And remember: essential oils are not meant for consumption.