Essential oils have become more mainstream in recent years, and more people are discovering their many benefits. If you’re seeking a quick guide to essential oil uses for both aromatherapy and medical uses, you may be surprised at how potent they can be.
And this isn’t just old wives’ tales and folk medicine. Scientists have taken some in-depth looks at the many essential oils uses and applications. The prevailing thought is that many can reduce bacterial and fungal infections more effectively than previously realized. If true, this means that we won’t have to overuse antibacterials and antibiotics. The overuse of these medications has meant the development of a number of resistant strains of disease.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the results of extracting the natural bio-active components from plants. Manufacturers use a variety of methods to remove these volatile oils, including steam or water distillation or mechanical extraction as in cold pressing. The process uses no heat or chemicals, both of which can damage and dilute these delicate oils.
How Are Essential Oils Used?
Most frequently, practitioners use essential oils for aromatherapy. They’re also used topically on the skin to treat rashes or wounds. Your body can also absorb them and their chemical constituents through the skin.
In aromatherapy, patients inhale the volatile compounds of the plants into the respiratory system, where the odor affects the brain, and more specifically, the limbic system. This is the part of the brain that controls emotions, memory, and behavior. Many researchers have studied the effectiveness of aromatherapy for a wide range of conditions. For example, a study of aromatherapy for the relief of depressive symptoms showed it was effective. But it also revealed that massage with the essential oil was even more helpful.
Aromatherapy can also help alleviate the fatigue, depression, and even reduce pain for those undergoing cancer treatment. Lavender oil has shown to be particularly useful for post-traumatic pain and anxiety. In one trial, orange essential oil was shown to reduce nervousness in children receiving dental treatment.
Topical Essential Oils Uses
*Most frequently, research has revealed that essential oils are most effective in topical use. By topical, we mean application to the skin. Various oils of different plants and flowers have shown them as quite effective against a number of skin conditions. Also, your skin can absorb the essential botanical constituents, where they often affect the underlying subcutaneous tissues and are dispersed into the bloodstream.
The most effective essential oils uses involves topical application to the skin. Many have shown antibacterial properties that help heal a variety of skin wounds and abrasions. Researchers have identified over 90 essential oils useful for dermatological use, in a mind-blowing 1,500 combinations.
Scientists mainly attribute the antibacterial effects of essential oils to their terpenes and terpenoids. With as many as 200 different types identified, these naturally occurring constituents in plants have medicinal qualities. For example, carvacrol, a chemical found in oregano, thyme, and wild bergamot, has proven effective against several strains of Staphylococcus
For example, carvacrol, a chemical found in oregano, thyme, and wild bergamot, has proven effective against several strains of Staphylococcus
*The essential oil of the Australian Melaleuca plant, or tea tree, has long been a favorite oil for the treatment of acne. Its actions are comparable to that of commercial benzoyl peroxide solutions. And although it didn’t work as quickly as the commercial preparations, patients suffered fewer side effects from tea tree oil.
Research has shown essential oils are an effective treatment against various viral infections of the skin, including Herpes simplex 1 and 2, both oral and genital herpes. Essential oils uses for cold sores include topical preparations prepared with extracts of hyssop, eucalyptus, lemon balm, and sandalwood.
Meleuca can even prevent influenza from entering host cells, making it a vital sick-room essential to add to hand wash or for cleaning infected surfaces.
Another arena where research supports essential oils uses is for fungal infections of the skin and nails. The most common of these is Candida albicans with a wide range of possible solutions. These include common essential oils such as thyme, cloves, rosemary, oregano, and geranium.
Although more research should be done to be conclusive, researchers have discovered that some essential oils may help prevent skin cancer. A study on mice revealed that turmeric essential oil uses reduced the cancerous mutation of skin cells. Rosewood oil also seems to exhibit anti-cancer effects. When researchers applied rosewood essential oil to human carcinoma cells, they found that it selectively killed both cancerous and precancerous cells. Other essential oil uses for the prevention of skin cancer may include the topical application of Mediterranean cypress oil.
Many researchers have tested essential oil uses for healing wounds. A 2015 study showed that a combination of thyme and lavender essential oil was highly effective in treating episiotomy wounds.
Some potential essential oils uses include treating pain, through either the violate oils themselves or the effect the aroma has on pain perception. For those suffering from neck pain with some degree of disability, a combination of marjoram, black pepper, peppermint, and lavender showed significant improvement after only four weeks of topical use. The researchers tested the patients’ pain threshold and range of motion in both a control and test group.
Internal Use Of Essential Oils
Don’t use essential oils internally without consulting your physician. But note that some have been shown to improve outcomes for a number of conditions. These results may make it worth your time to discuss with your doctor.
For example, curcumin and fennel essential oils produced symptom relief in patients with irritable bowel syndrome after 30 days of treatment. The oils reduced abdominal pain, and in up to 25 percent of cases, left patients symptom free.
Used internally, researchers found that lemongrass and lemon verbena essential oils were both effective against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers and gastritis. These results show that internal essential oil uses, when properly supervised, could replace many of the over-used antibiotics that have resulted in so many resistant strains of bacteria.
Essential Oil Uses For Allergies
Along with treating many skin disorders and improving healing, some essential oils are useful in treating the symptoms of respiratory allergies. Researchers used a combination of eucalyptus, sweet orange, myrtle, and lemon oils to treat allergic rhinitis. The scientists involved referred to the oils’ ability to clear sinus congestion as “dramatic.”
Essential Oil Uses In Dental Care
Thyme and menthol essentials oils improved patients suffering from gingivitis. If you suffer from bleeding or pain in your gums, you may want to try this combination after brushing your teeth. Patients using this combination of essential oils showed significant improvement during this 60 to 90-day treatment. And apparently, the same combination also works well on dogs to reduce halitosis.
Essential Oil Uses For Pets
Lavender oil can be just as relaxing for your dog as it is for you. A test of five healthy beagles resulted in a lowered heart rate when handlers applied lavender oil to their ears. However, the dogs were also more energetic when treated with lavender oil.
Oregano and clary sage have shown themselves effective against the bacteria that causes ear infections in cat and dogs, depending on the strain. Oregano and rosemary were both very effective against fungal infections in your pet’s ears.
However, consult your veterinarian before using essentials oils on your pets. Note that some oils can be toxic. For example, overuse of melaleuca oil can cause depression, weakness, lack of coordination, and even muscle tremors in dogs.
Essential Oils Uses In The Home
Because of their proven microbial and anti-fungal ability, essential oils are superior for making your own green home cleaning products that are safer to use around babies and pets.
Citrus Essential Oil Uses
Most people are familiar with lemon oil in a number of cleaning products. And it still functions beautifully as a cleaning agent. It also leaves a delightful odor, and when mixed with a neutral oil, feeds and polishes fine wood and furniture.
For an all-purpose cleaner for around the house, mix:
You’ll need to shake it before and during use, but it works to clean and disinfect kitchen counters, sinks, toilets, and other hard surfaces. Wild orange oil works well to cut grease when added to cleaning products.
You can mix up your own soft scrub formula:
This formula works great on greasy sinks and appliances.
Oregano Essential Oil
The vital constituent of oregano, carvacrol, is perfect for sanitizing food work surfaces and equipment, as it kills off human norovirus. This bug commonly causes stomach aches and vomiting. Use it on cutting boards and countertops.
Safe Bug Repellents
Some essential oils are also effective at repelling pests, A combination of cedar and geraniol, an oil found in roses and citronella, was found to be just as effective against bedbugs as the more common pyrethroid and neonicotinoid chemical mixture. One argument against using pyrethrins and neonicotinoids is their high potential for allergic reactions. They’re not considered safe for use around children and pets.
For dedicated gardeners driven indoors at dusk by mosquitoes, try turmeric essential oil. An extract of the rhizome (root) of the turmeric plant is just as effective against biting mosquitoes as DEET. Although there is no hard evidencethat DEET is universally dangerous, some people prefer to avoid this chemicals.
Aromatherapy Essential Oil Uses
Currently, most people feel quite comfortable and safe using essential oils for aromatherapy. After all, most of us recognize the uplifting effects of pleasant odors. As well as essential oils that help us relax, there are others said to improve alertness and raise energy levels. It can be difficult to determine if the effects are chemical or psychological. However, researchers and practitioners have identified many different essential oils that seem to affect the majority of test subjects in predictable ways.
Researchers used a combination of peppermint, basil, and helichrysum and tested it on 14 participants suffering from mental exhaustion and burnout. Although all participants felt their mental state improved over the course of the study, the group using the essential oils had a further reduction of stress and mental fatigue than those who did not.
Scientists have placed aromatherapy under the microscope to test its ability to improve outcomes for patients with life-altering or chronic disease. Lavender, and to a lesser extent rosemary, both improve patients’ ability to handle painful medical procedures. In one study, aromatherapy with lavender essential oil reduced pain for hemodialysis patients.
In painful, emergent kidney stones, one group of researchers tested aromatherapy along with conventional treatment using rose oil. During the trial, 10 to 30 minutes of inhaling the scent of the rose oil significantly reduced pain compared to those who received conventional treatment alone.
Putting Essential Oils To Work In Your Life
Many of these essential oil uses and their effectiveness makes it sound as if these botanical oils are wonder drugs. However, you should always exercise a great deal of caution when using potent plant medicines. Particularly before using internally, you should check with your physician before proceeding. And of course, never use essential oils on infants or small children. Consult with your pediatrician or nurse practitioner before using them topically on children under the age of 2.
Along with causing allergic reactions, essential oils can sometimes sting and burn. Because of this, you should always use them with a carrier oil like grapeseed or coconut oil. Make sure you check the label for any counter-indications. Some essential oils can interact with medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter. The most commonly used ones, lavender and tea tree oil, are generally recognized as safe, however. And so far, none have been found to be dangerous when used in aromatherapy alone.