Essential Oils – How essential oils can benefit your health and wellbeing
26 Oct 2017
Essential oils are natural oils that are created from extractions of flower, bark, leaf, fruit, seed or root of a plant or tree. They are typically extracted through the process of distillation, which separates the oil and water-based compounds.
They are highly concentrated oils – compacting the healing compounds of a plant into single oil; for example, in order to create one 15ml bottle of rose extract, 65 pounds of rose petals are distilled.
Countries have been using essential oils to treat a variety of health conditions for over 5,000 years. Common ailments they are used for include cold and flu symptoms, skin conditions, digestion issues, sore muscles and pain, but they are also widely used as a toll for relaxation.
“Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plant material of a single, named botanical species, which can be said to constitute the very essence of the plant”, comments Kay Tomlinson from Absolute Aromas, “Plants have been used for their healing and fragrant properties for centuries and essential oils are today widely used in all sorts of products, from skincare to sleep remedies.
Each and every essential oil contains exclusive compounds and chemicals that offer unique healing and therapeutic benefits. When we inhale these naturally occurring chemicals and compounds they provide triggers to our brain, which can have an effect on our emotions.
“Essential oils have powerful healing properties and can have a positive effect on the emotions”, confirms Sarah Watson, director of Natural by Nature Oils Ltd. “For example, some are calming (lavender), uplifting (bergamot and orange), can clear the mind (juniper and lemon), aid concentration (peppermint), lift the mood if feeling angry (chamomile or petitgrain) or depressed (rosemary)”.
Essential oils can be used to support the entire spectrum of emotional states. If you’re feeling angry try jasmine, orange or patchouli; anxious try lavender, clary sage or rose; sad or depressed use grapefruit, lemon or sandalwood; or exhausted use basil, black pepper or peppermint.
Each one has unique properties, provoking a particular emotional response. Not only do they have the ability to affect out emotional responses, they can also affect the physical conditions of our bodies too.
“Essential oils are complex, powerful, natural substances with each oil having many different therapeutic properties”, explains Nicole Barton, consultant aromatherapist at Base Formula, “including antiseptic, antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anti-viral, decongestant, detoxifying, emollient, immune-stimulant and sedative.
“They are very ‘balancing’ in their effects, heling the whole person – not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
In terms of physical health, Barton explains how essential oils can help: “It is thought that when the body is in an imbalanced state, it can lead to illness, therefore using essential oils to naturally re-balance the mind, body and soul helps to improve general health and wellbeing, as well as the condition of your skin”.She adds: “Unlike synthetic drugs or skincare ingredients, there wonderful substances are completely natural, so you can treat a whole range of health issues or skin problems, without overloading your body with harmful chemicals”.
Essential oils can be used as part of treatment for a number of health issues, the most common ones being stress, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, aches, pains and skin conditions, but they can also be used as a preventative method – another way to help our bodies stay healthy.
“Essential oils can be beneficial for our lymphatic, immune, respiratory and digestive systems,” explains Watson. “Cleaning and detoxifying oils (fennel, celery, juniper and rosemary) can help support the lymphatic system, which drains and disposes of toxic waste from all parts of the body by improving the lymph circulation.
“Lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree and chamomile can promote immune stimulation, whilst clove, eucalyptus, tea tree, cinnamon, rosemary and bergamot have antibacterial and antiviral properties – which can help the body fight bacteria and viruses.
“The respiratory system (nose, throat and lungs) are prone to infection; essential oils have excellent antiseptic properties and are effective treatments for respiratory problems. Bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, cold and flu and other respiratory conditions can be improved with frankincense, pine, eucalyptus, camphor, peppermint and benzoin.
“Different digestive complaints such as indigestion, constipation, flatulence and colic, can be alleviated using oils externally either by compress over the abdomen area or back massage over the lower spine area. Rosemary, lemon and peppermint are all good for these types of conditions.”
Essential oils are also widely used in skincare and beauty products and more people are turning to them as part of their daily skincare routine.
“Essential oils have good skin penetration, they can help rejuvenate the tissues and improve the elasticity of the skin, promoting the elimination of old cells and increasing the production of new cells,” comments Watson.
“They are also useful for treating specific skin problems such as acne, eczema and psoriasis (chamomiles).”
Barton agrees: “Essential oils are excellent for general skincare, with oils to suit every type of skin. Geranium, lavender, lemon and tea tree are great for balancing oily skin and for treating blemishes. Whereas neroli, rose and frankincense are ideal for nourishing and rejuvenating dry or mature skin.”