What are Essential Oils and How Can They Benefit Me?

We explain what essential oils are, how they work, what some of their potential health benefits are, and include resource links for further learning.

What are Essential Oils and How Can They Benefit Me?

Essential oils seem to be everywhere these days. The potent, fragrant plant extracts have made their way into mainstream health, along with aromatherapy, which refers to the therapeutic application of those plant essential oils.

Their purported benefits are wide ranging, from improving sleep and decreasing anxiety, to lowering pain and easing headaches, to easing stomach issues and fostering deeper relaxation.

Essential oils have been studied for their effects on stress, pain, nausea and vomiting, sleep, anxiety and depression among many other ailments.

Despite their long history and widespread use, scientists are still trying to understand how essential oils might work to promote health.

They have been used for centuries by many cultures for various purposes.

What’s the History of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy?

Similarly, aromatherapy, or the practice of using aromatic materials, including essential oils, for physiological and physical wellness, has likewise been used for centuries.

They were called “essential” because they were thought to represent the essence of odour and flavour coming from the plant sources they were derived.

Essential oils are made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant to capture the compounds that give the plant its unique fragrance.  The oils can then be inhaled, added to a carrier oil for direct application on the skin, consumed orally (some, not all), or used in household products to clean or sanitize.

Essential oils have the ability to affect the brain and travel throughout the body via the bloodstream.  When inhaled, the molecules in essential oils travel up the nose and interact with scent receptors, which stimulates the olfactory nerve that connects to the brain. 

It stimulates a response that typically affects different aspects of the brain and the central nervous system, specifically in regions called the limbic system. This system has a lot to do with arousal, memory, and processing emotions.

Here are a few of the potential benefits:

Relieving Nausea

Essential oils like peppermint and ginger have unique characteristics that may make them ideal for soothing nausea.

Peppermint oil for one can help relax gastrointestinal (GI) muscles and lower inflammation that contributes to nausea.  It’s also used as a medicine to help manage IBS and other functional GI disorders.

Decreasing Anxiety

Many people become interested in aromatherapy as a means of calming anxiety.  Lavender oil is thought to contain compounds that interact directly with the limbic system, as mentioned the part of the brain that regulates your emotions. When inhaled, lavender exerts a relaxing effect.

Other essential oils that may lower anxiety include lemongrass oil, orange oil, bergamot oil, and cedarwood oil.

Promoting Quality Sleep

Given essential oils’ apparent relaxing effects, it’s not surprising that they may have the potential to help people sleep better.

In one small past study Turkish patients saw significant improvements in sleep quality and decreased anxiety levels compared to patients who did not inhale the oil.

Application Methods for Essential Oils:

You can determine what application method works best for you.   There is inhalation with a diffuser, steam, bath, aroma stick, or dry evaporation.  Topical applications can be applied to the skin almost anywhere.   Check back here for more in depth upcoming articles around these topics in the near future.

Read More:

Essential Oils Directory  

Aroma Apothecary Healing Arts Academy

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