What Are Essential Oils, and Do They Work?
Essential oils have for many years been used as a form of alternative medicine in aromatherapy where natural plant extracts are used as a way of helping to support health and well-being.
We have put together some helpful facts to help you understand more about essential oils and their positive health effects.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are natural compounds that have been extracted from plants. During the extraction process the essential oils capture the natural scents and flavors of the plant and this is often referred to as the “essence”. Each different essence is unique and these aromatic compounds are what gives essential oils their distinctive scent.
Essential oils can be made through several different processes - they can be obtained by cold pressing (a mechanical process) or by a distillation process using water and/or steam. When these natural aromatic chemicals have been taken out, they are mixed with a carrier oil to make the oil.
It is important to know how each oil is made because if they have been made through chemical extraction they are not regarded as true essential oils.
An essential oil is made from concentrated plant extracts that keep the flavor and natural smell of their original source.
How do essential oils work?
You will find that essential oils are used in aromatherapy and they are inhaled by several different methods. It is important to know that essential oils should not be swallowed.
Essential oils have chemicals that interact with your body in lots of different ways. Some of these plant based chemicals can be absorbed when they are applied directly to your skin. It is thought that some application processes can help to improve the absorption. This may be by applying the essential oil to different parts of your body or by applying it with heat.
When you inhale the scents from natural essential oils they are able to stimulate parts of your limbic system. This is the area of your brain that plays a major role in sense of smell, long-term memory, emotions and behaviours.
Research has shown that the limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for forming memories. This is thought to be why emotions and memories can be triggered by familiar smells. Scientists also think that the limbic system also plays a part in controlling many unconscious physiological functions, such as blood pressure, breathing and heart rate. It is because of this that many people believe that essential oils are able to exert a physical effect on people’s bodies.
You can dilute essential oils and apply them to your skin or you can inhale them. As a result of this they may have positive medicinal effects when you absorb them and they may also be able to help stimulate your sense of smell.
What are the benefits of essential oils?
Essential oils have been used for hundreds of years and are thought to be beneficial in the treatment of certain health conditions. Le Sol have put together some helpful information about some of the most common health issues that essential oils and aromatherapy can be used to treat.
Stress and anxiety
It is thought that over 40% of people who suffer from anxiety and stress have opted to use some type of alternative therapy to help them relieve their symptoms. Studies have shown that with aromatherapy many essential oils may have been able to work alongside traditional methods of therapy to help treat anxiety and stress.
Headaches and migraines
Some people like to rub a small mixture of peppermint oil and ethanol onto their foreheads and temples to help relieve headaches. Another popular essential oil that can reduce headache pain is lavender oil. For migraines you can try applying a mixture of sesame and chamomile oil to your temple.
Sleep and insomnia
Insomnia is a big problem for many people and lavender oil is thought to improve the sleep quality. Some women like to use lavender oil after childbirth to help improve their sleep.
Eucalyptus essential oils have been shown to help reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. The best ways to use eucalyptus oil for reducing inflammation is to add a few drops to warm bath water or to inhale it directly.
Lavender essential oils can help to reduce depression, anxiety and pain, and it can also be diluted with almond oil and be used for joint inflammation.
Basil essential oils are known to contain many different therapeutic compounds which have anti-inflammatory effects.
Antibiotic and antimicrobial
Studies have shown that peppermint and tea tree essential oil have excellent antimicrobial effects.
What other uses do Essential Oils have?
Essential oils are not just used for aromatherapy. They are very popular for candle scents, reed diffusers and also laundry scents. You will also find essential oils in homemade cosmetics.
How to choose the right essential oils for you
Le Sol have put together a great range of natural essential oils. Remember that all essential oils are not equal and the expression “you get what you pay for” is very true with essential oils. When purchasing essential oils you must check on the following:-
- Purity - Make sure that the essential oil that you buy does not have any synthetic oils or additives in them.
- Quality - When you buy essential oils ensure that you are buying a chemical-free essential oil. Also check that it has been extracted through a mechanical cold press or distillation.
- Reputation: Buy from a reputable brand like Le Sol that has an excellent reputation for high quality oils.
Remember to buy only high quality essential oils that are made up of pure plant compounds that have been extracted by cold pressing or distillation. Do NOT use essential oils that have been mixed with chemicals and synthetic fragrances.