Photo source from: https://www.aromaweb.com/articles/dilutingessentialoils.asp
Essential oil is now a must have for those who are extremely cautious about their health and benefit. They are often used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine that employs plant extracts to support health and well-being.
However, some of the health claims associated with these oils are controversial.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants.
The oils capture the plant’s scent and flavor, or “essence.”
Unique aromatic compounds give each essential oil its characteristic essence.
Essential oils are obtained through distillation (via steam and/or water) or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing.
Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a product that’s ready for use.
The way the oils are made is important, as essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not considered true essential oils.
How does essential oil diffuser work
Photo Source from: https://aromessential.com/best-oil-diffuser/how-it-works
Ultrasonic diffusers disperse their essential oils into the air by being carried in tiny micro-droplets of water vapour.
The water is converted from liquid into water vapour using ultrasonic vibrations. These ultrasonic vibrations are actually produced by a vibrating disc that produces sound waves at an ultrasonic frequency which we can’t actually hear.
The waves churn the water within the reservoir of the diffuser – which also contains the essential oils – at such a high rate, it actually converts the water to vapour, or mist, which then disperses throughout your room.
The ultrasonic waves also disrupt the oil bubbles within the water and trap them inside the water droplets, which is how the smell and therapeutic effects of the oils are carried throughout your space.
Common types of essential oils
There are more than 90 types of essential oils, each with its own unique smell and potential health benefits.
Here are the top 10 most popular essential oils:
- Peppermint: used to boost energy and aid digestion
- Lavender: used to relieve stress
- Sandalwood: used to calm nerves and help with focus
- Bergamot: used to reduce stress and improve skin conditions like eczema
- Rose: used to improve mood and reduce anxiety
- Chamomile: used to improve mood and relaxation
- Ylang-Ylang: used to treat headaches, nausea, and skin conditions
- Tea Tree: used to fight infections and boost immunity
- Jasmine: used to help with depression, childbirth, and libido
- Lemon: used to aid digestion, mood, headaches, and more
Health benefits of essential oils
Despite their widespread use, little is known about the ability of essential oils to treat certain health conditions.
Here’s a look at some of the common health problems that essential oils and aromatherapy have been used to treat.
Stress and anxiety
It has been estimated that 43% of people who have stress and anxiety use some form of alternative therapy to help relieve their symptoms
Regarding aromatherapy, initial studies have been quite positive. Many have shown that the smell of some essential oils can work alongside traditional therapy to treat anxiety and stress
However, due to the scents of the compounds, it’s hard to conduct blinded studies and rule out biases. Thus, many reviews on the stress- and anxiety-relieving effects of essential oils have been inconclusive
Interestingly, using essential oils during a massage may help relieve stress, although the effects may only last while the massage is taking place.
Headaches and migraines
In the ’90s, two small studies found that dabbing a peppermint oil and ethanol mixture on participants’ foreheads and temples relieves headache pain.
Recent studies have also observed reduced headache pain after applying peppermint and lavender oil to the skin It has also been suggested that applying a mixture of chamomile and sesame oil to the temples may treat headaches and migraines.
Sleep and insomnia
Smelling lavender oil has been shown to improve the sleep quality of women after childbirth, as well as patients with heart disease
One review examined 15 studies on essential oils and sleep. The majority of studies showed that smelling the oils — mostly lavender oil — had positive effects on sleep habits.
It has been suggested that essential oils may help fight inflammatory conditions. Some test-tube studies show that they have anti-inflammatory effects
One mouse study found that ingesting a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils helped induce the remission of colitis. Two rat studies on caraway and rosemary oils found similar results
However, very few human studies have examined the effects of these oils on inflammatory diseases. Therefore, their effectiveness and safety are unknown
Antibiotic and antimicrobial
The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has renewed interest in the search for other compounds that can fight bacterial infections.
Test-tube studies have investigated essential oils, such as peppermint and tea tree oil, extensively for their antimicrobial effects, observing some positive results
However, while these test-tube study results are interesting, they do not necessarily reflect the effects that these oils have within your body. They don’t prove that a particular essential oil could treat bacterial infections in humans.
How to choose the right essential oils
Many products claim that their oils are “pure” or “medical grade.” However, these terms aren’t universally defined and therefore hold little weight.
Healthline has suggested a guideline to choose high-quality oils
Keep the following tips in mind to choose only high-quality oils:
- Purity: Find an oil that contains only aromatic plant compounds, without additives or synthetic oils. Pure oils usually list the plant’s botanical name (such as Lavandula officinalis) rather than terms like “essential oil of lavender.”
- Quality: True essential oils are the ones that have been changed the least by the extraction process. Choose a chemical-free essential oil that has been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing.
- Reputation: Purchase a brand with a reputation for producing high-quality products.
Safety and side effects
Plants and herbal products contain many bioactive compounds that may harm your health, and essential oils are no different.
However, when inhaled or combined with a base oil for use on your skin, most essential oils are considered safe. Be sure to consider others in your environment who might be inhaling the aroma, including pregnant women, children, and pets.
Nevertheless, they may cause some side effects, including:
- asthma attacks
- allergic reactions
While the most common side effect is a rash, essential oils can cause more serious reactions, and they have been associated with one case of death.
The oils that have most commonly been associated with adverse reactions are lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and ylang-ylang.
Oils that are high in phenols, such as cinnamon, can cause skin irritation and shouldn’t be used on the skin without being combined with a base oil. Meanwhile, essential oils made from citrus fruits increase the skin’s reaction to sunlight and burns can occur.
Swallowing essential oils is not recommended, as doing so could be harmful and, in some doses, fatal.
Very few studies have examined the safety of these oils for pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are usually advised to avoid them.
Adapted from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-are-essential-oils