Essential oils are frequently used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine that uses plant extracts to support health and well-being. Many of the health benefits attributed to essential oils are controversial.
The compounds in essential oils are derived from plants. The essential oils capture the scent and flavor of a plant, or its essence. Different aromatic compounds give each essential oil its distinctive flavor and scent. Steam or water distillation allows essential oils to be obtained, as well as mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. Essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not true essential oils. How the oils are made is also important.
Each essential oil has its own unique smell and benefits, and there are more than 90 types. The following list includes ten popular essential oils and their associated benefits:
- Peppermint: boosts energy and aids digestion
- Lavender: helps relieve stress
- Sandalwood: helps calm nerves and aid concentration
- Bergamot: used for reducing stress and improving skin conditions, such as eczema
- Rose: helps promote mental health and reduce anxiety
- Chamomile: promotes relaxation and mood improvement
- Ylang-Ylang: used in treating headaches, nausea, and skin conditions
- Tea Tree: used for fighting infections and boosting immunity
- Jasmine: helps with depression, childbirth, and libido
- Lemon: aids digestion, mood, and headaches
Here are some of the health conditions that essential oils and aromatherapy are used to treat, according to the evidence.
Anxiety and stress
According to research, 43% of people with stress and anxiety use some form of alternative therapy to relieve their symptoms. Studies on aromatherapy have been encouraging. Studies have shown that the smell of some essential oils can help reduce stress and anxiety along with traditional therapies
Migraines and headaches
In the 1990s, two small studies showed that dabbing peppermint oil and ethanol on foreheads and temples relieved headache pain. Peppermint and lavender oils have also been found to reduce headache pain in recent studies. The application of chamomile and sesame oil to the temples has also been suggested to treat headaches and migraines. Persian headache remedies use these ingredients.
Insomnia and sleep
The smell of lavender oil has been shown to improve the sleep quality of women after childbirth and of patients with heart disease. An assessment of 15 studies looked at essential oils and sleep. Many studies have shown that smelling the oils - mostly lavender oil - can improve sleep habits.
It has been suggested that essential oils may be helpful in fighting inflammation. Some studies have shown that they are anti-inflammatory. A mouse study found that ingesting thyme and oregano essential oils induced remission of colitis in mice. Similar results were also obtained with rosemary and caraway oils.