Essential oils for health and wellness have been recognized in this world far before time; it’s been in the Ayurveda medicines. It has been in use not only for medicinal purposes but also for spiritual and aesthetic areas in our life. 

We all might have come across a situation when you pass by a shop, and there is this wave of aroma that hits your nose, and you think, “I want that for my home,” well, most of the time, it’s an essential oil that is used.

 But it does not end there, although the essential oils are well in trend for its aromatic properties it also has the power to enhance our well-being and our lifestyles in ways you can’t imagine. The essential oils for health and wellness are the way it should be known for.

Whether essential oils are something that you have newly discovered or recently experienced in your home, our understanding of it is quite limited, and there is more to it than just smelling good.

People who have used it can’t get enough of it, and if you are a newcomer, then let me guide you through the unknowing facts and history of essential oils. You might just get startled by the unknowing power of essential oils for health and wellness. 

This article will guide you through the unknowns of essential oils; it will give you a comprehensive overview of essential oils, its benefits, and much more. We will get to know the magnitude to which these oils can affect our lives’ wellness and expand our understanding of its actual uses.

Here I have listed down the main topics that we will cover in this article:

  • What are essential oils
  • How are essential oils made
  • Components of essential oils
  • How do essential oils work
  • Types of essential oils
  • Benefits of essential oils
  • Applications of essential oils for heal and healing
  • How to use essential oils
  • Side effects of essential oils
  • Quality features of essential oils required for the consumer
  • Take away note
  • Common question

Let’s see what all you need to know about essential oils, be its benefits or uses, but the let’s start with the basics of all of it –

WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?

Essential oils were first known to be used by the Egyptians. They incorporated its use in various fields like that of medicinal, religious ceremony, cosmetics, and also for embalming the dead. Later on, its use was spread in the world, and almost in the same era as that of the Egyptians, the Chinese and Indians also started to employ them in medicines such as Ayurvedic medicines.

Just like human beings who can produce a few essential vitamins and essential amino acids that help us grow and maintain our system, plants can also do such activities, and essential oils are the compounds that are made by the plants.

Although plants’ purpose for producing volatile compounds such as essential oils are mainly for its protection from various insects, there have been around 400 plants that have been identified as the producer of essential oils and are thus cultivated today all around the world for commercial sale[1].

Essential oils have a specific taste and odor that are distinctive to a particular plant species. These are compounds extracted from plants.

The oils that are extracted from these aromatic plants are called the “essence” of the plant and, thus, this potent oil carries the essential healing properties of the plant in it.

Most of the time, these are available in a concentrated form, and the concentrated form of the essential oils are very strong in nature and have a higher level of active components in it. Thus, the use of essential oils for health and wellness needs to have some basic knowledge of what they are, how they work, and how to use them.

HOW ARE ESSENTIAL OILS MADE

The making of essential oils actually deferred from company to company, and thus there is no hard and fast rule to use just one necessary process, the most common methods to extract the oils from the plants are :

  • Distillation- This is the most commonly used process for the production of essential oils for health and wellness.

This is used very frequently by the majority of the companies. It involves the use of steam, which carries the essential oils from the plant, and then the steam is filled by the method of distillation.

There are various kinds of distillation processes, as well as steam distillation, hydro distillation, water, and steam distillation.

  • Solvent extraction- This extraction method is used for sensitive and delicate plants or oils, such as Jasmine, Linden, etc. The distillation process is a bit harsh can degrade the compounds.
  • Cold pressing- Cold pressing is also another popularly used method of extraction. They are usually used for essential oils extracted from fruits or seeds of the plant, such as orange essential oils, lemon, and grapefruit.

The process involves using mechanical pressure on the seeds or fruits to pierces it and thus ruptures the cells so that the essential oil oozes out from them.

  • Chemical extraction- This basically involves the use of chemicals to extract the essential oils from the plant parts.

There are about 90 different types of essential oils present today in the market.

The type of process used to recover the essential oil for the health and wellness of our body is quite necessary as it gives us an idea which method is more effective and which would provide a more pure form of the product [2].

For, e.g., the chemical method of extractions is not preferred as the other methods, and thus there are times when the chemically obtained essential oils are not considered as pure essential oils.

COMPONENTS OF ESSENTIAL OILS

There are about 100 different chemical components of an essential oil[], the main categories under which these components fall into are:

  • Alcohols
  • Ketones
  • Phenols
  • Aldehydes
  • Esters
  • Trace elements

Some essential oils may contain more or less than 100 but majority of them have 100 components

HOW DOES ESSENTIAL OILS WORK

The use of plants in this world goes back to the origin of humanity, and since that time, plants have been our way to deal with all the problems of our life. 

Researches have been studying plants, its healing properties and now even essential oils

The therapeutic effects of the oil are limitless and go beyond herbal medicine; These essences are used for healing and mental calmness of our body.  

One of the most common uses of essential oils for health and wellness is by the practice of aromatherapy, which involves inhalation of the essential oils using various methods.

  • It is said that inhaling these essential oils which are full of concentrated active compounds can stimulate our limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions, thereby improving the health of the brain and its networking system[3].

Smells, in general, have always been associated somehow with our memory, either reviving our memories or triggering a cascade of memories and emotion[4].

  • Along with this, the limbic system also has other functions in our body that are involuntary actions such as heart rate, blood pressure.
  • Thus if essential oils somehow improve the health of the limbic system, it indirectly helps to regulate the functioning of the limbic system as well that justifies the claims that are said for its health and physical benefits [5].

Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC program director of integrative medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital once said that:

“When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.”

-Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC

The other prevalent essential oils for health and wellness are its topical use on skin. The science behind the claims of healing acne or treat pain and aches is due to the fact that:

  • As soon as we apply the essential oils on our skin, it being so concentrated and volatile in nature gets absorbed quite easily in our skink and then eventually reaches our bloodstream, the blood carries the active, potent compounds and reaches the liver where they are metabolized, which are beneficial for the body function.
  • Another reason is the potential of the essential oils of being antimicrobial in nature; thus, they can be used to remove any acne infection caused due to microbial growth. 

The research on essential oils can be a bit difficult because, as we know that they are extracted from the parts of the plant, and due to the difference in the soil and nature of the environment all around the world, the composition of the plants can change.

Thus there are no standards of essential oils to work with. The actual nature and cause of the benefits of the essential oils are not yet well explored and need more information; thus, it is necessary to know that there are no scientific facts that have well explored the field yet.

Having said so, there are also works and studies that say otherwise and show the beneficial nature, so it is not totally worthless. Some reviews say that lavender essential oil induces sleep and improves sleep cycle [6].

TYPES OF ESSENTIAL OILS

As mentioned above, there are about 90 different types of essential oils today present in the commercial market, each having its unique features and properties [7].

As it’s not possible for us to go through all the 90 types, here is a list of the top 15 potent essential oils for health and wellness purposes that are well known.

Lavender essential oils are extensively used for its calming effects.
  • Lavender-derived from the lavender plant, they are most prominently used for skincare and also known for its sleep-inducing properties[8]
  • Rosemary- promotes hair growth.
  • Peppermint- good for tooth and gum problems [9]
  • Lemon- acts as an antiseptic, disinfectant, calming agent.
  • Eucalyptus- good for cold and cough.
  • Tea tree- treats acne and skin problems
  • Cardamom- has antioxidant property and helps in digestion
  • Chamomile- helps to relieve pain and distress, fights against anxiety.
  • Rose- to treat skin problems, reducing signs of aging
  • Sandalwood- gives a feeling of relaxation and offers calming effects
  • Ylang-Ylang- helps with inflammation and also acts as an insect repellent
  • Basil- improves digestion and helps with a sore throat
  • Lemongrass- reduce headache and common cold
  • Orange- acts as an antioxidant.
  • Thyme- antimicrobial effects.

Although these are few of the properties that these essential oils are known for but they come along with many more. Their use is countless, and each one of the essential oils are associated with benefits some way or the other.

They are widely known for its health benefits and so let’s see what the applications of essential oils are.

BENEFITS OF ESSENTIAL OILS

There are many applications for essential oils such as some that have properties to help calm down the body; some are believed to cure skin problems; few can boost our immune system, and few used to clean things up.

So, let’s just dive into this big ocean to know what are the benefits you can expect while using essential oils.

Essential oils can be used for four main health problems:

  1. Essential oils for emotional purposes essential oils are known to improve our emotional status and make us keep more enthusiastic and energetic. They help to fight stress, anxiety as well as depression. They are also known to be helpful for restlessness, mood swings, and trauma.
  2. Essential oils for Life enchantmentThe state of our mind also improves with the use of essential oils. Our mindfulness, consciousness, confidence everything starts to improve with the incorporation of essential oils. One can feel happiness and an increase in self-confidence and esteem as well.
  3. Essential oils for children and teenagers- Essential oils have properties that can solve children’s issues like sore throat, constipation problem, fever, pain, infections, head lice. Whereas in the case of the teenagers, the essential oils come to the rescue for acne problems, depressions, hair problems, etc.
  4. Essential oils for aged people- People in their maturing age suffer from various troubles, and their incapacity to fulfill their tasks due to health conditions may cause disturbances in sleep, emotional trauma, inflammation, etc.

Essential oils are known to affect positively these problems, especially insomnia and inflammation

Now let’s explore a few of these benefits in details :

ESSENTIAL OIL FOR ANXIETY AND CALMNESS

Essential oils have been used as a calming agent for ages, and it is said to have the properties to make someone relief from pain, stress, and anxiety.

There are few essential oils that are mainly used for this property; they are used during meditations and also while taking a bath or during spa therapy.

 Scientific reports:

  • There are techniques that one can follow to inhale essential oils; this is called aromatherapy, and studies have shown positive results of using essential oils for someone’s anxiety and stress [10].
  • A study in 2006 showed that the use of essential oils was evaluated on its effect on stress and blood pressure of patients, and they found that the use of the essential oils lowered the stress response and the cortisol levels in the blood [11].
  • There was another study that stated that the use of essential oils during massage showed stress relief signals from the client, and the person felt more relaxed and stress less [12].

Some examples for these benefits:

  • Chamomile
  • Sage 
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Ylang-ylang oil

IMPROVES SLEEP PATTERN

Essential oils are known for its sleep-inducing properties. It helps to improve our sleep pattern and also deal with insomnia. Thus essential oils for sleep is well known.

In today’s day, with all the work pressure at home or office one lacks proper sleep and this inadequate sleep can affect their physical health as well, spas and therapy centers are known to use essential oils to massage and put people fall asleep but in a few minutes.

Scientific reports:

  • A report in 2015 showed that researches tried to investigate the effect of lavender essential oil in sleep quality; the use of aromatherapy was done. Random 60 patients from ICU were taken, and the results showed that the essential oil was able to increase the quality of sleep and reduce anxiety in the patient [13].

Researchers have also studied the same effect of lavender on different categories of people.

  • Such as a study 2015, April showed the investigation of the same on postpartum women as it is difficult to get sleep; thus 158 mothers were assigned for the task, and they were inhaled lavender oil 4 times a week for 8 weeks, and it showed better improvement in sleep for the test mothers as compared to control [14].

Few of the essential oils that are used for this benefit are:

  • Lavender 
  • Sandalwood
  • Bergamot
  • Frankincense

HELPS WITH HEALTHY HAIR AND SKIN

Essential oils for health and wellness have more profound meaning than you thought; due to its antimicrobial properties, they are good to get rid of acne or infection and even dandruff from hair.

They are known to hair growing properties and also to get rid of dandruff. Essential oils are highly used in the skincare routine, they not only help to soften our skin, but essential oils like lemon oil have brightening properties.

Scientific reports:

  • Scientists examined the effect of particular essential oil on the growth of hair on mice; they found that with 1% of essential oil, the results were better and concluded that the Z. jujuba essential oil had the potential to promote hair growth [15].
  • Other reports have shown that tree oil or the peppermint oils are extensively used for antimicrobial study, and a pilot study investigated the effect of using tea tree essential oil products on facial acne. The test was done for 12 weeks, and the result showed that the true tree oil had. A significant role in improving acne [16].
  • Another study in 2011 showed how tea tree oil was effective against three different kinds of microbes responsible for most acne [17].

Essential oils used for hair and face care:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Rosehip oil
  • Lemon oil
  • Lavender oil

HAS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES

Essential oils are used for various kinds of inflammation in our body; they help to reduce the irritation and inflammation problem on skin. 

 Scientific reports:

  • Studies have evaluated how essential oils from Zizyphus jujuba have inhibitory properties against inflammation, and it showed a significant decrease in the swelling[18]. [19]
  • Few studies have shown how the effects of essential oils are beneficial for inflammatory diseases [19].

Few examples of essential oils used for inflammation:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Turmeric oil
  • Basil oil
  • Thyme
  • Ginger
  • Effect on the central nervous system

ESSENTIAL OILS ARE SAID TO HAVE MANY ROLES IN OUR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM

Researchers have done an array of studies on the effect of essential oils on memory, brain, stress, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.

There are condescending remarks for the same and yet not well researched; thus, more work has to be done to conclude appropriately what is the mode of action of the essential oils for health and wellness.

Effects of essential oils of the central nervous system were studied based on:

  • Its Analgesic Action– that being an alternative medicine for reducing pain and stress
  • Anxiolytic Action – as medication for reducing anxiety. Thus essential oils for anxiety was studied.
  • Influence on Learning, Memory, Attention, and Arousal 
  • Action on Relaxation, Sedation, and Sleep
  • Anticonvulsant Action- for reducing and claim down seizures
  • Action on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

These are a few of the studies that have been tested and worked on by many pieces of research, the effect of essential oils on our CNS.

It showed positive results in most of the cases where the essential oils have proven to be useful as an alternative treatment for CNS diseases such as dementia and epilepsy, sleeping disorders, pain, anxiety, etc. [20]

Having said so, still, the number of research work found to date aren’t enough to conclude anything and obviously needs more attention and studies to conclude something.

Few other essential benefits of using essential oils for health and wellness are:

Must have essential oils- there are few oils that you should consider keeping with you no matter what, such as lavender oil, tea tree oil, rosemary oil., etc.

APPLICATIONS OF ESSENTIAL OILS 

Even though the use of essential oils has been appreciated since the beginning of time, new applications come up every day. This natural form of therapy has brought in the modern era of plant-based valuables.

The medicinal properties of a plant and now as essential oils were lost in modern times, but from the last decade, its existence has been considered as a boon to human life.

Here are a few ways of application of essential oils for health and wellness:

  • Inhaling by aromatherapy
  • Used for cleaning
  • Used as an air freshener in home
  • Used in cosmetics
  • Used as an insect repellent
  • Topical use on skin and rashes
  • Can be used in home spa
  • Some are used in cooking(desserts, marinades)
  • Used as first aid kit (cough/cold, swelling, headache)
  • Essential oils for beauty oils

HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS?

As you must have read above, the applications of essential oils can be in most domains of our life skin, medicine, cooking, cleaning, etc.

So each category has specific ways to use the essential oils, but it becomes impossible to remember all the domains and their requirements, right? Thus below, you will find ways, the primary ways to use essential oils for health and wellness.

These are a few of the things that one should keep in mind before you start using it :

For topical use(on the skin)

Essential oils for skin

It becomes very important for you to understand that this little goodness of plants are highly concentrated. For any topical use on the skin, you must dilute it or use some other medium for it to be in a less concentrated form.

For this you can either:

  • Dilute it with a carrier oil(coconut, olive oil)
  • Dilute in water
  • Apply with some moisturizer

For inhaling (through smell)

The most popular and effective way to incorporate essential oils into your life would be by inhaling it.

Aromatherapy involves the usage of essential oils and diffusing them directly in the air.

Which is further handle by us, and that enters our lungs and bloodstream eventually.

For using it as aromatherapy:

  • Use a diffuser 
  • Apply concentrated drops(2-3) on your pulse points like your wrist; under your ear by this, you will be inhaling it throughout your day.
  • Don’t diffuse more than 30 mins can lead to overexposure
  • Mix oils and a bit of water and spray all over your house, car, etc.

For internal use(ingestion)

Not all essential oils are for internal use, and it being all concentrated can negatively affect your internal system.

Consuming essential oils can cause liver damage if taken in large dosage and for an extended period of time; thus, precautions should be taken, and a doctor should be consulted before its intake.

Thus for using them for internal use :

  • Consult a doctor
  • Do thorough research
  • Dilute and have it
  • Take pills commercially available
  • Take in with food if applicable(cooking, baking)
  • For cleaning purpose

For cleaning your household and make it all sanitized as well as smell good you can use the essential oils

  1. Dilute in water and clean the surfaces of your house
  2. Use it for moping

SIDE EFFECTS OF ESSENTIAL OILS

Even though essential oils are derived from plants and are considered to be so-called ”natural and safe,” it does not always mean so.

The bioactive compounds in the plant extract can be dangerous in many ways. However, the effects may vary from person to person; there are few common and relatable effects of using essential oils.

As we saw, the ways to use essential oils are many, but the most safest form of using essential oils are considered to be the by inhaling it as it does not have the direct involvement of the oils on your body.

Here are few side effects that you should be aware of before starting the use of essential oils.

  • Rashes and allergies- One might be allergic to specific essential oil, and thus that might lead to a rash on your skin and mouth; therefore, it is suggested to do a patch test before using it directly.
  • Sunburn- If you use the oils on your skin and immediately go out of your house, it might result in sunburn. As essential oils are said to be photosensitive, it reacts in the presence of light (sun). Thus, sunblock or sunscreen is recommended, but the safest way would be to avoid going out in the sun once you have applied essential oil.
  • May be harmful to children and pregnant women- The use of essential oils are said to be avoided for children under the age of 12 as their internal system might not be that strong to handle it. Pregnant women are also recommended not to use it as it might lead to some health concerns such as blood pressure, low immunity unless the concerned doctor has medicated it.
  • May interact with other drugs- people who are consuming heavy dosage of different medications and have some underlying health issues may face some problems if the essential oils cause any side effects by interacting with the drug.
  • Liver damage- Ingestion of the essential oils can damage the livers; this concentrated form of the essential oils can be dangerous for our throat and intestine. Some essential oils are toxic in nature if ingested can cause problems.
  •  Nausea- Inhaling too much of essential oils for an extended period of time may make you feel discomfort and nauseated. If you are planning to mix different essential oils but are new in this domain, it is better to take a look at what the professionals have to say because mixing various kinds might not be pleasing as not all essential oils blend equally. Thus avoid mixing unless you are sure of it.
  • Eye irritation- some essential oils it comes in contact with our eyes may cause irritation and redness; thus, exposure of crucial oils to your sensitive areas should be avoided.

QUALITY FEATURES OF ESSENTIAL OILS REQUIRED FOR THE CONSUMER

With thousands of marketing strategies and companies coming up with the production of essential oils, it can be quite confusing as to which one to buy and what is authentic in nature.

Here are few of the things one can look out for before buying essential oils for the first time:

  • Make sure it’s 100% natural- The essential oils have to be labeled as 100% pure or natural; this guarantees that the product is made naturally and it is in its purest form.
  • Make sure it is organic in nature- the term “organic” here represents the fact that the product has no unwanted products or components such as undesirable minerals or pesticides in it.
  • Read the label as “for use in food” or “for pharmaceutical purpose”- based on your requirement, you need to search for essential oils as per what you are going to use it for because not all essential oils are for consumption.
  • Extraction process details- the best extraction process one should look out for is a distillation that guarantees the extraction of the essential oils through steam distillation at low pressure.
  • The company/ producer- Try to go to the mainly authentic company, and you might have used other products from it.

TAKE AWAY NOTE

Plants have always been an integral part of human beings’ wellness and health, and we have also encountered some surprising effects of plants as a medicine in many cases. Essential oils cannot yet be considered as a thoroughly proven alternative to the available drug medicines.

And thus, its use should also be monitored and should be done with all precautions to avoid any unwanted side-effects. However, if proper care is taken and guidance as well, then its side effects are harmless and can be overcome every.

It is anyways suggested to take professional advice for the use and intake of essential oils for health and wellness, its needless properties and claims for benefits are something intriguing and attacking that one can try for a change.  

This article is written with the sole purpose of seeking out the curious minds out there and should not be mistaken as professional guidance towards essential oils; consulting a doctor is always better, but one can get a general idea as to what essential oils are, to begin with.

COMMON QUESTION AND ANSWERS

  • Where do we apply essential oils?

Essential oils can be applied everywhere on your body except for the sensitive parts like eyes, mouth, ears. These areas are vulnerable, and using essential oils directly to these parts can cause harmful effects like irritation, rashes. Any concentrated essential oil should be first diluted or mixed with some other carrier oil and then applied to the body.

  • How to use essential oils on your face?

To use essential oils on your face, it’s necessary to know that the concentrated essential oil can cause side effects such as irritation and rashes. Thus, the direct application should be avoided.

One can use essential oils for face by

  • Either mixing with some moisturizer
  • Diluting with water and using as a toner
  • Using the stream method to steam your face with few drops of essential oils
  • Sometimes it can be used directly for spot treatment.
  • What are the best essential oils

The categories for best essential oils totally differs from person to person, and it depends on the purpose of its use, if some is looking for skin treatment then the oils are different for the one who would be looking out for calming and relaxing effects.

In General, the essential oils with broad-spectrum activity and uses are as follows:

  • Why are essential oils good for?

Essential oils are said to be useful in relaxing one’s body and are variously used in aromatherapy. Its use is endless, and they provide benefits for health, such as its use as a cleaner, skin and hair enhancer, antimicrobial effects, etc.

  • Can breathing oils be harmful?

Inhaling aromatic compounds has always been fruitful, and researchers have also claimed the relaxing effects of inhaling essential oils. Still, yes, there are times when it might go other ways.

Overuse of essential oils for inhaling it for more than 30 minutes is not recommended as it may give the sensation of vomit or nausea. There are also times when the oils are not mixed and blended correctly, or the dilution is not proper; it might lead to headaches and cause discomfort.

  • Is it safe to use essential oils every day

The overuse of essential oils is not right, thus using it on alternative days that too in different forms may help you more than using it regularly every day. But if all the precautionary steps are taken, then I might not be that harmful. Thus it is safe to say that with all the keynotes on how to use essential oils, one can be safe to use it every day.