There's no denying it—scent plays a powerful role in our lives. But its value extends beyond just a pleasant smell. Many cultures have embraced the benefits of essential oils for years to improve their health and overall wellbeing. Today, as more people turn to natural remedies, essential oils have become stars in the wellness world. They are used for everything from medicinal treatments and skin care, to home cleaning solutions and relaxation.
If this intrigues you, here's what you should know about essential oils, plus nine awesome benefits of incorporating them into your routine.
What Are They?
Essential oils are aromatic compounds that are distilled from the flowers, leaves, bark, stems, seeds, and other parts of plants. What's left behind is the essential essence of the plant, which is a highly concentrated liquid with a strong, distinct aroma. Because the aromatic compounds are so small, it takes a lot of plants to produce even one vial of oil. For example, it takes approximately 30 pounds of lavender to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender essential oil. And while they're called oils, they may not feel like what you expect because they don't contain fatty acids.
There is a wide range of essential oils—from rosemary and frankincense to orange and lemongrass. Each offers unique properties and a noninvasive way to improve your physical, mental, or emotional health. And thanks to the antibacterial and antifungal properties of some essential oils, they also make great nontoxic housecleaning solutions. Here are nine benefits of essential oils:
They promote relaxation and sleep.
Lavender is known for its relaxing effects, which can help you sleep. Studies have found that lavender oil's sedative effects help promote deep sleep and may help mild cases of insomnia. At bedtime, add a few drops to your pillowcase or the bottoms of your feet.
They can relieve stress.
Some scents have a natural calming effect. Oils like lavender and rosemary have been shown to help decrease cortisol, the body's stress hormone. Another study found that lavender may help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in pregnant women.
They can help alleviate pain.
Aromatherapy offers a simple alternative to pain medication. In one study, aromatherapy massage reduced pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that aromatherapy with damask rose helped decrease the intensity of pain for some burn patients.
They can boost your mood.
Your sense of smell has the power to influence your mood. Studies have found that bergamot may boost mood and that lavender may alleviate emotional symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome in some women.
They can treat skin problems naturally.
The antifungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial qualities of tea-tree oil make it a good skin cleanser, blemish treatment, and infection fighter. Add a few drops to your facial cleanser or to water, and then treat the affected area.
They promote immune function.
Purifying oils, such as tea-tree oil and oregano oil, are powerful immune boosters. Oregano oil is a strong antimicrobial, which can help you get over a cold or flu. Add one or two drops to water or tea to support healthy immune function. Eucalyptus, lemon, and peppermint can also help open up your airways—welcome relief during allergy season.
They keep your home clean.
Essential oils offer a nontoxic alternative to typical household cleaners. Eucalyptus, lemon, and tea-tree oil are all good cleansing agents to use in your home. Combine tea-tree and lemon oil with water for an all-purpose cleaner, or add a few drops to a diffuser to purify the air in your home.
They improve your digestion.
There's a reason that your toothpaste is often flavored with peppermint. Oils like peppermint and ginger have been known to improve digestion and make you feel better when you have an upset stomach. To take advantage of its benefits, mix a drop or two of peppermint or ginger oil into your water or tea.
They can energize you.
Have you hit an afternoon slump? Skip the coffee and grab your essential oils. Oils like peppermint, lemon, and orange will automatically perk you up. Place a drop or two in the palm of your hand and inhale.
How to Use Them
When purchasing essential oils, look for high-quality, therapeutic-grade oil. Since they're so concentrated, applying them directly to your skin may irritate it. Instead, add a few drops to a diffuser or your bath. If your skin isn't sensitive, rub a small drop between your hands and inhale. You can also combine essential oils with almond or jojoba oil to create a massage oil. And while you usually don't consume these oils, there are some you can use with food.
Essential oils offer a natural way to bolster your health. While research on the benefits of essential oils is still emerging, there are many reasons to incorporate them into your everyday routine.