Health Hype Around Essential Oils
Using essential oils is a health practice that dates back centuries. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from various roots, leaves, blossoms, or stems of plants. For health benefits, the pure oils can be inhaled, sprayed in the air, massaged into the skin, and at times taken by mouth. Oils have been used to alleviate the symptoms of various health conditions and are also helpful for stress management and relaxation. Research studies on essential oils show their positive effects for a variety of health concerns including infections, blood sugar, pain, anxiety, depression, tumors, premenstrual syndrome, nausea, and many others.1
How Essential Oils Work
Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories. Scents can directly influence the brain’s limbic system, the main emotional center.1 That’s why smells from our childhood can bring us back immediately. Researchers believe that certain fragrances can help trigger calming or peaceful feelings, resulting in overall reduction in stress and healing. Similarly, oils may interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry.
Health Benefits of Specific Oils
There are hundreds of oils that can be used for their health benefits. Here are a few of the most popular essential oils and their researched backed potential health benefits.
One of the best-known essential oils in aromatherapy, lavender oil is known for its calming effects on the body and mind and ability to lessen anxiety. A 2009 study found that pre-operative patients who received aromatherapy with lavender oil were significantly less anxious about their surgery than controls.2 A 2008 study found that a daily five minute hand massage with a mixture of bergamot, lavender, and frankincense oil significantly reduced stress and depression in patients with terminal cancer.3
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been traditionally used for its antiseptic properties. A study compared the effect of tea tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide lotion on moderate acne. Researchers found that both tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide were effective treatments for acne, reducing inflammation, and number of lesions.4
Lemon Balm Oil
Lemon balm essential oil may help people with high blood sugar levels, according to a study published in 2015. In this study, the application of lemon balm oil for six weeks resulted in significantly lower blood sugar and improved insulin levels. Researchers found that the lemon balm upregulated various genes related to glucose metabolism.5
How to Use Essential Oils
The appealing part about essential oils is that they have a low toxicity rating. But, they are still a chemically active substance. If you have a medical condition and would like to use aromatherapy, make sure to ask your doctor or medical professional before applying any oils to your skin or taking them orally. Those with severe allergies or who are pregnant should also be careful before trying aromatherapy. Before trying essential oils, always test the oil on a small patch of skin first. Generally, they are mixed with a carrier oil like jojoba or fractionated coconut oil, since they can be quite potent. They can be used for massage or applied to the temples or wrists.
There are many different ways to use essential oils. You can diffuse them into a room to help with relaxation and stress relief. A few drops can be added to a warm bath for fragrant relaxation.
Essential oils can be an amazing complementary therapy for a variety of health ailments. Research on the healing properties of essential oils remains preliminary, but promising.
- Aromatherapy with Essential Oils- Health Professional Version. National Cancer Institute. January 8, 2019.
- Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. 2009;24(6):349-355.
- Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2008;38(4):493-502.
- Med J Aust. 1990 Oct 15;153(8):455-8.
- Br J Nutr. 2010 Jul;104(2):180-8.
- Blog Contributor