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  • Understanding Essential Oils
    What if you could manage anxiety, alleviate pain, and fight colds with the help of natural oils? While it may sound like a hoax to you, millions around the world swear by the health benefits offered by essential oils. The use of plant oils to treat physical, emotional, and mental conditions goes back thousands of years. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Understanding Essential Oils

Can the scent of oils derived from plants and flowers actually improve your health and wellness? Or is it just snake oil?

What if you could manage anxiety, alleviate pain, and fight colds with the help of natural oils? While it may sound like a hoax to you, millions around the world swear by the health benefits offered by essential oils. The use of plant oils to treat physical, emotional, and mental conditions goes back thousands of years.

If you’ve ever wondered where essential oils come from, what they do, how they’re used today, whether they actually work, or if there are any dangers, you’ve come to the right place.

Volatile Aromatic Compounds

Also called natural oils, essential oils are derived from the seeds, stems, bark, flowers, or roots of plants. They're what give plants their distinctive scents (think: roses, cypress, lavender, or peppermint), which also help protect the plant and assists in pollination.

Essential oils are made of volatile aromatic compounds—organic molecules that quickly transform from a solid or liquid to a gas when exposed to room temperature. The highly concentrated oils produce a strong-smelling gas that quickly spreads through the air until it reaches your nose.

Variety of Benefits

Scientists have identified more than 3,000 types of volatile aromatic compounds, each type with its own particular scent and healing properties. With so many available, there's an essential oil out there for just about everything. A few of the more popular essential oils include eucalyptus, frankincense, cloves, peppermint, oregano, rosemary, tea tree oil, and sandalwood.

Many cosmetics and home cleaning products are made with essential oils. And aromatherapies are also used to treat all kinds of conditions including a weak immune system, hormonal imbalance, digestion problems, sore muscles, pain, fatigue, headache, inflammation, skin wounds, burns, infections, wrinkles, anxiety, depression, acne, insomnia, allergies, and even cancer.

How They're Used

Most essential oils come in small bottles, and aromatherapy can be done in various ways, from topically or aromatically to ingestion or use in personal care products.

To apply essential oils topically, the oil is typically diluted in a carrier oil such as almond, coconut, jojoba, or olive and then rubbed on or massaged into the skin. Because the oil's molecules are so small, they're able to be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Inhaling the scent of essential oils is a second form of administration. Blood vessels in the lungs absorb the oil, causing the oil to be circulated throughout the body. For this type of aromatherapy, a few drops of oil are placed in a diffuser that spreads the scent around the room.

Very rarely, essential oils are ingested through the mouth, but oils such as peppermint, frankincense, and lemon may be taken orally when diluted with plenty of water.

Essential oils are also used in personal care products for your body or around your home. If you are interested, you’re able to make your own lotion, shampoo, bug spray, house cleaning solutions, and toothpaste with simple do-it-yourself recipes.

Potential Dangers

When used as directed, essential oils come with few risks and dangers. But since they contain powerful medicinal properties, oils aren't to be misused. Some oils effect hormones and shouldn't be used by pregnant women or kids. Others should be avoided by folks on blood-thinning medications. Exposure to essential oils has been known to cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, and sun sensitivity.

All essential oils should be kept out of the reach of children. Swallowing the oils can cause poisoning or pneumonia if the oil reaches the lungs. Overexposure to certain oils can even cause liver failure, brain swelling, seizures, burns, or hallucinations.

So if you think essential oils are essential to your life, be careful!