For centuries in history, cultures all over the world have been using natural, organic compounds extracted from plants for a variety of purposes. Ancient Egyptians referred to these compounds as the “nectar of the gods.” Today, we call them essential oils. Essential oils have astounding healing properties and have become extremely popular in recent years.
When used for healing purposes, we commonly refer to the use of essential oils as “aromatherapy.” Benefits of aromatherapy include improved physical health, as well as mental and emotional wellbeing. Essential oils are also often used for relaxation, beauty, household cleaning agents, shampoos, lotions, perfumes, etc. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Some of the most popular essential oils like tea tree oil, frankincense, lavender, peppermint, and lemon have significant healing properties and are great to keep on hand, in your “natural,” or holistic, medicine cabinet so to speak. These oils alone can:
- Reduce cold and flu symptoms, and shorten the length of the common cold
- Promote whole-body relaxation and heal sore muscles
- Quicken the healing time for skin cuts, abrasions, rashes, etc.
- Provide pain relief
- Balance your mood and hormones
- Improve digestive health
- Get rid of wrinkles, cellulite, and eczema
- Replace harsh chemical household cleaners
- Replace chemical beauty products like lotions and perfumes
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are obtained through the extraction of plant oils from leaves, flowers, bark, fruit, seeds, shrubs, etc. A single drop of essential oil is extremely powerful since it is highly concentrated. The extraction process used is typically steam distillation, which is very efficient at capturing the “essence” of these plants and leaves you with a pure plant oil.
To give you an idea of how concentrated essential oils are, it takes 50 lbs of rose pedals to get a single 10 milliliter bottle of rose essential oil.
Normally, these compounds naturally protect these plants from insects and other predators, and allow them to thrive in harsh environments. Using essential oils yourself allows you to take advantage of the same healing and protective powers of these plants.
On a molecular level, essential oils are made up of extremely tiny molecules that are capable of penetrating the cells of your skin and enter into your blood stream. Other oils like vegetable oils used in cooking have very large molecules in comparison, and cannot enter your body in the same way. That is why essential oils have such a profound therapeutic effect.
History of Aromatherapy
We can’t pinpoint exactly where aromatherapy originated, but we do know that they have been used all over the world by the Chinese, Egyptians, Jews, Indians, Romans, and Greeks. All of these cultures used essential oils not only for their natural healing and medicinal uses, but as perfumes and cosmetics as well.
In somewhat “recent” history, there was a French chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. His re-discovery of essential oil happened when he experimented by using lavender oil in an attempt to heal a skin burn on his hand. Upon further analysis of the lavender oil, he discovered that it could also be used in the treatment of all types of skin abrasions, wounds, infections, burns, etc.
At this point, essential oils and aromatherapy had found their place in the “modern” world. At first they were used to aid soldiers during World War I when they got injured. Alternative medicine practitioners in Europe like beauticians, cosmetologists, massage therapists began to include essential oils for their clients.
It was not until the 1980s when essential oils and aromatherapy started it be used in the United States. They were commonly used as additions to shampoo, lotions, soap, candles, and home fragrance products. Eventually their use spread over to physical therapists, nutritionists, doctors, massage therapists, and eventually the role of the Aromatherapist was born.
Essential Oils Used in Medical Hospitals
Traditionally, essential oils (at least in the United States) have been viewed as a form of alternative medicine, but they are now being recognized as effective treatments in the rest of the medical world. They have the benefit of being non-invasive forms of treatment that can be safely used simultaneously and in combination with other therapies.
For example, Vanderbilt University Hospital has started using essential oils in their treatment of emotional problems like depression and anxiety, as well is to combat infections in hospital patients.
In 2009, there was a study performed that analyzed the use of lavandin oil in pre-operative patients who were going to be receiving surgery. The results showed that patient who were treated with lavandin oil displayed less symptoms commonly seen in pre-operative patients like anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Other essential oils being used in hospitals to help with anxiety now include lavender, neroli, and sandalwood oil.
In 2007 there was a study that looked at midwives, and measured symptoms such as fear and anxiety before and during childbirth. The results of the study, found in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that women who were treated with aromatherapeutic techniques involving lavender oil experienced less pain – and as a result were able to go through their childbirth using fewer pain medications (which is very positive).
Aside from their emotional medicinal uses, some essential oils have significant anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Tea tree oil is one of those oils, and is commonly used in the treatment of skin conditions like abrasions, cuts, scrapes, rashes, and burns. Other essential oils offer benefits for things like digestive health, immune system function, and insomnia to name a few. There is even research that suggests essential oils can aid in the treatment and prevention of certain types of cancer. Frankincense has been shown to have beneficial effects on neurological conditions and brain tumors.
Top 15 Uses and Benefits of Essential Oils
Every single essential oil has a unique profile of plant compounds with their own therapeutic, healing, and health benefits. Below is a list of the most popular essentials oils and their associated benefits and/or usages.
- Clove oil is packed with antioxidants and has anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties.
- Cypress oil can increase circulation and reduce the size of varicose veins. Emotionally it increases confidence and and aid in the healing of broken or fractured bones.
- Eucalyptus oil is extremely beneficial for the respiratory system and can help with allergies, sinus problems, bronchitis, coughing, and lung function. It is very rejuvenating and purifying for the entire body.
- Frankincense oil supports brain function, helps fight cancer, increases immunity, reduces inflammation, helps reduce the appearance of skin aging spots, and enhances spiritual awareness.
- Ginger oil also reduces inflammation, provides joint support, aids in digestion, and prevents nausea.
- Grapefruit oil supports a healthy metabolism and can help reduce cellulite.
- Lavender oil promotes relaxation, lifts mood, balances hormones, and helps heal skin condition.
- Lemon oil works as a fantastic natural cleaning agent and helps with lymph node health.
- Myrrh, along with frankincense, helps maintain beautiful skin, reduces the appearance of stretch marks, is a natural antiseptic, and helps cure and prevent infection.
- Oregano oil is very aromatic and has very powerful anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties. It is very effective in quickly getting rid of a cold.
- Peppermint does wonders for digestive health, reduces fever, headaches, and migraines, is a natural energy booster, and increases concentration and focus.
- Rose oil reduces skin inflammation and can give your skin a natural, healthy glow if you add a few drops to your normal face lotion.
- Rosemary oil (not to be confused with rose oil) has been found to thicken hair and even promote hair regrowth. It also supports health brain functioning and increases memory.
- Tea tree oil has amazing anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can also help boost your immune system and remove foul odors.
- Sandalwood oil is a natural aphrodisiac! It can improve sexual health and libido, with increased energy.
As you can see, there is a very wide variety of the different types of benefits to be had from using essential oils. They can even be blended together to create unique aromas and added to shampoos, lotions, and used during massages.
How To Apply Essential Oils
Now that you know a little bit about what essential oils are and what they can do for you, you’d probably like to know how you can get started using them. Here are the most common methods of using essential oils for healing, health, and wellness:
It is commonly accepted in the world of science that any compound with a molecular weight of 1000m or below can be absorbed by the skin. Essential oils fall into this category. This means that if you rub these oils anywhere on your body, they will be absorbed to some degree. Different parts of your body will absorb essential oils more than other — for example the bottoms of your feet are particularly effective at absorbing these healing oils.
Even inhaling (i.e. smelling) essential oils helps to transfer the molecules into your body and blood stream. Your lungs contain a large amount of blood vessels that are capable of absorbing whatever you breath in, and then your blood can circulate these molecules throughout the rest of your body. Diffusing essential oils is even more effective than simple inhalation because it vaporizes the oils and makes them more bioavailable for your lungs to absorb. The same goes for personal steam inhalers.
Some common oils used in this way are lavender oil which reduces stress, tea tree oil (also called melaleuca oil) because it is a great cleanser with anti-microbial properties, orange essential oil which is a hormone balancer and mood stabilizer, frankincense because it can provide increased spiritual awareness, and peppermint since it helps maintain focus and concentration.
Essential oils, especially pure oils like (like Avenir Oils), are very potent, powerful, and concentrated. The FDA maintains a list of which essential oils are considered to be generally safe for consumption, but we do not generally recommend eating or drinking essential oils. Using them in toothpaste works great because you do not eat toothpaste. The same goes for using peppermint oil in a mouthwash, since you do not drink mouthwash.
Beauty, Personal Care, and Household Uses
The last main way to take advantage of essential oils is for skin, beauty, in your home, and for personal care. There are plenty of do-it-yourself ways to create lotions, creams, ointments, shampoos, perfumes, toothpaste, insect repellents, household cleaners, and more. This is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to use essential oils.
One thing you need to know about when it comes to essential oils is: carrier oils. Since some essential oils are very concentrated, and they can simply be too harsh to be used directly on your skin. Gentle oils like lavender can be used by most people directly on the skin without dilution, but some people will still need to dilute even the most gentle of oils if they have sensitive skin.
In order to use the more powerful essential oils (no matter how sensitive your skin is), it is a commonly accepted practice to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil. These are larger oils (on a molecular level) that mix well with the smaller molecules in essential oils. While diluting an essential oil decreases its concentration, it actually helps in a few different ways:
- It helps the essential oil stay on your skin for a longer period of time
- It increases the absorption of essential oil into your body
- It increases the surface area the essential oil is covering on your body
It is a common myth that diluting an essential oil in a carrier oil makes it less effective. This is not the case at all. Diluting many essential oils will make it less concentrated on a molecular level, but it will actually increase the effectiveness of the oil and help you reap the health and healing benefits of essential oils.
Note: When you purchase essential oils, they should be PURE and UNDILUTED. It is up to you, the user, to dilute the oils. Do not be tricked into buying anything less than 100% pure essential oils.
Here are some common carrier oils you can use with essential oils:
- Almond oil
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Pomegranate seed oil
A good rule of thumb is a 10% dilution rate. This means using 5 drops of essential oil with 1/2 teaspoon of carrier oil.
Using Essential Oils for Skin and Beauty
Most consumer products in the skin and beauty industry are created with harsh chemicals, hydrogenated oils, and toxic fillers and additives that (believe me) you do not want in or around your body. Fortunately, you are able to create your own lotions, shampoos, soaps, moisturizers, etc. by using essential oils. Below we will list the common essential oils used in homemade skin and beauty products.
- Lavender and roman chamomile oil are great for sensitive and/or irritated skin
- Frankincense works wonders for removing age spots
- Rosemary and sage are known for thickening hair and giving your hair more volume
- Helichrysum and myrrh are commonly used in creating homemade sunscreens and sunblock
- Tea tree oil (melaleuca) and rose geranium both work really well at getting rid of acne
Here are just a few examples of do-it-yourself essential oil recipes:
Hair Growth and Thickening Recipe
This is for both men and women – essential oils can help prevent hair loss and even cause regrowth in areas where you’ve already lost hair. In particular we will be using lavender oil, rosemary oil, and sage essential oil. These will both thicken your hair and stimulate the hair follicles in a safe and natural way.
Sage and lavender both work by helping to balance estrogen levels (remember lavender is a powerful hormone stabilizer?) while rosemary plays a special role in inhibiting DHT production to prevent further hair loss and thinning. So if you want to thicken your hair, regrow hair, or prevent hair loss in the future, then this recipe is for you:
- In a small dish place 1 teaspoon of coconut oil along with 4-5 drops of lavender oil and 10 drops of rosemary oil.
- Mix well and massage this into your hair for 2-3 minutes. Really work it into your scalp.
- Immediately wrap a hot towel around your head and let this work its magic for 20 minutes.
- Wash your hair with your normal shampoo (tea tree oil infused shampoo works well)
Repeat this 2-3 times per week, and alternate between sage essential oil and lavender essential oil for best results.
Natural Homemade Bug Spray
Instead of using those store-bought bug sprays that have toxic chemicals, you can create an all-natural bug spray on your own using essential oils. This works for mosquitos and all kinds of flying insects that like to buzz around and bite you.
In a spray bottle, fill it up with mostly water and then add:
Spray this over your body and clothes like you would with a normal bug repellent. Shake it well before spraying.
Natural First Aid and Medicine Kit
You never know when you or your child is going to get cut, scraped, or wounded in some way. You might encounter sore muscles, migraines, get badly sunburned, or stung or bitten by an insect. Essential oils are extremely versatile healing compounds and come in handy for the treatment of all of the above conditions.
Here are some of the must-have essential oils for every natural first aid / medicine kit:
- Frankincense oil is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and aids in the healing of bruises. It can also reduce the appearance of scars and ease a headache or migraine.
- Peppermint oil is great in relieving joint pain, sore muscles, digestion problems, sinus issues, asthma, bronchitis, any respiratory issues, as well as headaches.
- Lavender works well in treating burns, cuts, abrasions, scrapes, rashes, or other skin wounds. It can also reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and increase the quality of your sleep.
- Tea tree oil (melaleuca) is known for having anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. It can be used on skin wounds to reduce the chance of infection, treat toenail fungus, get rid of athletes foot, and cleanse the air to rid your environment of airborne pathogens and mold.
Lose Weight With Essential Oils
As everyone knows, the key to losing weight is diet and exercise. However, you can still use essential oils to help boost your weight loss efforts. Instead of resorting to stimulants like caffeine, unsafe supplements like drink powders, or the newest weight loss pill – look no further than essential oils to enhance your weight loss efforts.
Here are the best essential oils for weight loss. Use these with a personal steam inhaler.
- Grapefruit oil is fantastic because it has something called d-limonene (which comes from the peel). Supplementing with d-limonene has been shown to boost metabolic enzyme activity levels.
- Peppermint oil can help to both decrease your appetite and suppress cravings, while also aiding in digestive health.
- Cinnamon oil has been shown to be a natural blood sugar stabilizer. Balancing your sugar levels will help regulate your appetite, and keep your metabolism healthy.
- Ginger oil has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body when the steam is inhaled. It also creates a thermogenic effect in your body which aids in the breakdown of fat, and helps you sweat it out.
People Who Shouldn't Use Essential Oils
Despite all of the amazing healing benefits to be had from using essential oils, remember that they are very powerful and must be used safely and wisely. There are certain circumstances in which you should proceed with caution:
- Pregnant women should consult with their doctor before using any essential oils.
- Anyone currently using a heart medication or blood thinner should also consult with their physician before using essential oils.
Essential oils are a great, all-natural way to enhance you life through improved health, while also providing an alternative to chemical-based beauty products and household cleaning products. There are nearly endless ways that essential oils can be used to improve you wellbeing, and they come with very few to zero side effects.