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What are essential oils and what are the health benefits of using them?

November 06, 2018

What are essential oils and what are the health benefits of using them?

Essential oils are extracted from the flowers, fruit, leaf, seed, bark or root of a tree or plant. Historically, they have been used for medicinal purposes, as natural cosmetics and perfumes, or as food. More recently, they have of course been used in aromatherapy. They are highly concentrated oils that are typically created through distillation, which separates the oil and water based properties of a plant by steaming. They are called "essential" oils, because they contain the concentrated essence of the plants, you are literally separating the strongest healing compounds of a plant into a single oil.

Essential oils have been used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, Indians, Chinese and Jews for hundreds or even thousands of years.
In modern times, the French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse used lavender oil to heal a burn on his hand. He then analysed the properties of the oil, to discover how it could be used to treat burns, wounds or skin infections. With this research, the science of aromatherapy was born.

Some essential oils may be applied directly to the skin, while other oilsshould be taken orally. However, not all essential oils are safe to be ingested orally, and others may cause skin irritation, and must be diluted with a "carrier" oil to be used safely on the skin. Therefore, it is important not to ingest or apply topically any essential oil you are certain that they may be used in this way.

Here is a list of some of the most commonly used essential oils together with their health and therapeutic benefits.

Lavender oil 
Helps with relaxation, relieves stress, improves mood, improves sleep quality, promotes better concentration and treats burns or cuts.

Eucalyptus 
Improves respiratory issues such as bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies. Inhaling eucalyptus steam can help relieve congestion and alleviate a cough. The aroma of the oil acts as an expectorant, loosening phlegm in the lungs and nasal passages.

Peppermint oil
This oil can help to alleviate headaches, nausea, upset stomach and indigestion. It can help soothe discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Studies have shown that encapsulated peppermint oil can reduce IBS symptoms in as many as 80% of people who take it.
Peppermint oil may also help relive herpes simplex outbreaks by acting as a virucide.

Clove
Antibacterial, (anti parasite?) and antioxidant protection

Grapefruit
Aids cellulite reduction. Mix with coconut oil and apply topically to areas of cellulite, or alternatively, take a few drops orally mixed with water.

Ginger
Reduces inflammation, supports joints, improves digestion and helps to relieve nausea.

Tea Tree
Tea tree oil has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It also inhibits the growth of yeast and fungus and can be applied to cuts to help prevent infection. Tea tree oil also seems to have a positive effect on HSV-1. One study revealed that while tee tree oil does not prevent herpes outbreaks, it may reduce viral overload by up to 98%.

Cypress
Improves circulation, reduces varicose veins and helps lift confidence.

Oregano
This oil contains carvacrol, a powerful compound which aids in fighting harmful organisms and also promotes liver health. Oregano oil can help you to fight the common cold.

Rose
Rose oil is incredible for reducing skin inflammation and great for creating glowing skin, when added to a facial moisturizer. It contains tocopheral (a vitamin E compound), carotene and high levels of phenolic compounds.

Jasmine
While many essential oils are sleep aids, jasmine has the opposite effect. Jasmine increases alertness, vigour and may also uplift your mood and promote a sense of wellbeing.

Rosemary
Rosemary oil can naturally thicken hair. It also promotes brain function and memory.

Chamomile
Blue chamomile oil may help with cuts, bruises, burns, eczema and sores. It is also useful for its anti- inflammatory effects. Further, chamomile inhibits the effects of the stomach ulcer causing bacteria helicobacter pylor. Chamomile tea can help with insomnia and inhaling the aroma of this oil produces a mild sedative effect on the brain.

Jojoba oil
Jojoba oil accelerates the closure of wounds at a cellular level. It also improves skin appearance and reduce acne. Clay and jojoba oil facial masks may be a very effective remedy for acne.

Bergamot oil
Bergamot oil is known for its calming effects, but it may also help with maintenance of body weight and the promotion of vascular health. Researchers aren’t yet sure of the mechanisms, but bergamot oil seems to encourage healthy cholesterol levels and also regulate blood sugar.

Neroli oil
Neroli oil is commonly added to diet pills due to its effectiveness as an appetite suppressant. Another major benefit is that it helps relieve symptoms of the menopause. It also boosts the endocrine system and sooths irritation.

Lemon balm oil
Another essential oil that relieves symptoms of the menopause. It also helps to boost problem solving abilities and improves memory. Promising research indicates that it may improve memory function for sufferers of Alzheimer's.