Essential oils are plant extractions, which are used for the betterment of people’s health. Different research shows their attribute of having healing properties, though some claim to be false, making their use a bit controversial. So, it’s necessary to be aware of their properties and always consult with an expert before using them.
This article covers everything that you need to know about essential oils.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are made from different plant parts like stems, bark, roots, and leaves. Then they are concentrated into oil through ‘distillation’, where they capture the plant’s ‘essence.’ After the extraction of the aromatic elements, carrier oil is mixed to create the final product.
There is a wide variety of essential oils, some are used for their soothing aroma whereas some are used for their medicinal benefits and healing attributes.
Application of Essential Oils
As there is very limited research about the effects and impact of essential oils, most health professionals warn against the oral ingestion of essential oils. So, most of these oils are either inhaled or applied to the skin.
However, as there is a multitude of varieties when it comes to essential oils, scientists find it really tough to carry out the research. There has been very little research about this and those carried out are not reliable enough, as the number of participants in those studies was low. Besides, there are no set standards for this kind of product. So, it’s tough to know about its implications or a standard way to use it.
And when essential oils are inhaled via aromatherapy, compounds are absorbed through our nasal system and our sense of smell comes into play, triggering the functions of our brain.
When essential oils are applied to the skin, the compounds are absorbed into the skin and eventually enter the bloodstream, where they are then processed by the liver.
Medicinal Attributes of Essential Oils
Different essential oils have found to have an impact on various medical issues. They are not any magical cheat code to healing and they are miles short of standard medications, but they have been fond to have some limited implications. So, it’s better to view them as a short-term beneficial option rather than relying on them for long-term benefits.
For instance, rosemary and peppermint oils have been found to improve memory to a certain level. Again, lavender oil has improved sleep in some cases. Orange oil had found to have an anxiety-reducing effect on certain volunteers. And tea tree oils have a positive result on antimicrobial effects.
However, it is very important that you check with your doctor about these first, as different essential oils have different components, and the chemicals might not suit you.
Essential oils can be used for multiple purposes. It is used to scent various places, as well as a natural scent in some cosmetics including homemade lotions, soaps and shampoos. Apart from that, essential oils have been used for their medicinal synergistic abilities. Besides, they have been used in some cases to increase the shelf-life of foods. They are even used as mosquito repellents in some products.
How to Choose the Right Essential Oils?
Different brands advertise their essential oils as fully pure, natural or approved by medical authorities. In reality, none of them can be trusted as there are no standard guidelines about essential oils. And as the whole industry is unregulated, its quality and compositions vary greatly from product to product and brand to brand. So, you need to be very careful about choosing the right kind of essential oil.
So, keep in mind the following criterion while choosing your essential oil:
- Quality & Purity: The best essential oils are the ones which have experienced the least number of changes from their extraction, and especially are extracted from only aromatic plant compounds. Added chemicals and a larger portion of carrier oil reduce the actual quality or attributes of the oil. So, it is recommended to choose an essential oil with the least number of chemical elements, and that has been extracted in a guided process.
- Labelling: The purest essential oils list the plant’s botanical name from which it has been extracted, so it is important for you to check these labels before opting for any essential oil.
- Brand: It is wise to purchase essential oils from reputed brands that have a record of producing high-quality products.
Safety and Side Effects
- Natural doesn’t always mean safe, so it is essential that you are not blind-sighted by essential oils only being natural. Plants and products extracted from them often contain bioactive elements, which may pose a threat to your health.
- That is why, it is crucial to use essential oil with a base oil, fully natural essential oils might be harmful to you.
- Nevertheless, they may cause some side effects, including rashes, skin conditions, asthma attacks, headaches and other allergic reactions. The oils that have been reported with the most adverse reactions include lavender, tea tree, and peppermint.
- Some oils can cause skin conditions when applied to bare skin, so it is essential to use it mixed with a base oil. Again, some essential oils can cause increased sunburn, so it is recommended to avoid the sun while the essential oil is applied to your bare skin.
- Again, essential oils should not be swallowed without proper consultation with an expert or your doctor, as they have even led to fatal cases reportedly.
- It is recommended to keep it away from children and pets. Besides, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should better avoid it as it is not fully safe for them.
- It is better to start slowly with small drops while applying because you can always add more if needed. Again, as essential oils are highly potent, they might cause irritation to the skin, so apply vegetable oil on it immediately to dilute.
- It is very important to not apply essential oils to important and sensitive organs, as any wrong step might cause permanent damage to the organ. And it is recommended to always read the label directions before using or applying essential oils.
The Bottom Line
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts, with some medicinal benefits. They are not any substitute to general medicine but do have certain added benefits, so there is no harm in using them as complementary for minor health issues. However, there is a lack of research and evidence supporting those claims.
They are safe to use (inhale or apply to bare skin) when mixed with a base oil, however, they should not be swallowed. And they should be used only after consultation with a medical expert or doctor.