“What Are Essential Oils?”
Essential oils are oils derived from plants. They’re called “essential” because they retain the taste and scent of that plant — in other words, they capture its purest “essence.”
True essential oils also hold onto the “essential” chemical structure of the plant itself. So, as WebMD puts it, the best oils are distilled or pressed from the plant organically, without using other chemicals or changing the chemistry of the plant.
Did you know that essential oils have been used for thousands of years, across countless cultures? Historically, many essential oils were part of celebrations or rituals. In places such as ancient Egypt, for example, fragrant oils were believed to have significant religious and spiritual properties.
More than that, they were believed to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits, as well. In Egypt, for instance, perfumed oils were used as a type of rejuvenating medicine, and were employed by people to help beautify and protect their skin in the harsh desert climate.
Today, essential oils are still hugely popular. People use them in all sorts of ways, from making cleaning solutions, to mixing beauty and skincare products, to helping our homes and offices smell great.
And like the ancient Egyptians, we still use essential oils for their remarkable health benefits. But now, we have an even better idea of how they work.
“What Are the Health Benefits of Essential Oils?”
Besides being useful around the house, essential oils are immensely popular for their purported health benefits. Over the years, there have been numerous studies that have connected different types of essential oils to all sorts of healthy effects, including:
- Relieving the symptoms of stress and depression
- Treating headaches and migraines
- Improving sleep quality and curbing insomnia
- Reducing inflammation and chronic pain
In particular, essential oils have become extremely popular for use in aromatherapy.
In this practice, people take in the healthy benefits of different essential oils by gently inhaling their scent. You can release essential oils for aromatherapy in any number of ways, from adding them to a balm or cream for the skin, to adding a few drops to your bath to scent the water, to releasing them throughout a room using an air diffuser.
“What Type of Essential Oil Should I Use?”
Now, there are dozens of types of essential oils out there, from all sorts of plants.
Some are more popular or more widely used than others, naturally, but calling any essential oil the “best” would be a bit of a stretch, since so many different oils have such different uses.
It would be like, say, comparing eating an apple to eating a steak. They both have their pluses and minuses, but, at the end of the day, they’re basically totally different experiences, with totally different effects.
So, instead of thinking in terms of “what’s the best essential oil,” it might be better to think in terms of “what’s the best essential oil for my needs?” Your answer to that question will come down to you — your preferences, your unique health needs, and what you’ll be using the oil for.
Looking for some inspiration? To get you started, let’s run down some of the health benefits and common uses of seven popular and powerful essential oils:
1.) Lemon Oil
Over at Well + Good, writer and botanicals expert Adina Grigore sings the praises of lemon oil, which she notes is “a powerful antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic agent.” That means you can put it to work around the house for cleaning and sanitizing, without having to rely on harsh chemical cleaners. At the same time, lemon oil’s zesty scent has also been shown to boost people’s moods, and it possesses antidepressant qualities. That really puts a fresh spin on getting work done with a smile, doesn’t it?
2.) Tea Tree Oil
While its name may make you think of oolong or Earl Grey, tea tree oil is actually derived from the leaves of a plant known formally as Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil has been shown to have many different uses and health benefits. Studies show that you can put this versatile oil to work as a topical antiseptic, as a natural deodorant and hand sanitizer, and as way to relieve skin irritation, dryness, or fungus.
3.) Peppermint Oil
Derived from the peppermint plant, peppermint oil has a sharp, clean smell. It might happily make you think of candy, or bring up cozy wintery memories, but the uses for this oil don’t stop there. People use dietary supplements with peppermint oil to treat symptoms like indigestion or heartburn. Others add peppermint oil to creams and lotions or oils that they then apply on the skin to help treat common cold symptoms, relieve headaches and muscle aches, and more.
4.) Lavender Oil
Fun fact time: Did you know that it takes more than 200 pounds of lavender flowers to make just one pound of lavender essential oil? That’s a lot of work, but it might just be worth it given the many uses that people have found for lavender oil. Lavender oil has been shown to help foster relaxation and deep sleep and relieve pain. It can also be put to work as a skin and hair care product, promoting hair growth while reducing skin inflammation and preventing bacteria and fungi from forming.
5.) Rosemary Oil
Grigore loves rosemary oil for its use in topical skin treatments and as a tool for aromatherapy. In particular, she notes that rosemary oil, when inhaled, acts like a natural stimulant. It has been shown to increase brainwave activity, decrease stress by lowering cortisol levels, all while giving the immune system a boost.
6.) Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus is an essential oil with a powerful scent — and some equally potent health effects. Inhaling the scent of eucalyptus has been proven to help clear the sinuses and airways, which can get rid of some of the symptoms that go along with a sinus infection or cold, like a stuffy nose or pressure in the head. At the same time that it’s helping to clear your sniffly symptoms, Grigore notes, eucalyptus may also be working to boost your immune system and get rid of inflammation. And around the house, she loves that this oil can help banish bugs, bacteria, and fungus — all of which, when left unchecked, can get you sick.
7.) Clary Sage Oil
Have you ever heard of clary sage? This flowering herb plant is native to the Mediterranean, and can grow fairly easily in other warm weather climates. As an essential oil, clary sage is notable for its use in relieving stress and symptoms of depression. For women, studies suggest that clary oil may also help relieve pain from menstrual cramps and help alleviate symptoms from menopause.
Finding What Works for You
Keep in mind that we’re not endorsing any particular essential oils here, or claiming that you’ll always see health benefits by adding them into your wellness regimen. It’s also worth keeping in mind that different essential oils may have some side effects, so it’s always worth doing some research and consulting with a qualified medical professional before you make any decisions that could impact your health.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for you.
And now, the Enrollment Specialists would love to hear from you. Drop us a line on Facebook to let us know if you have any essential oil tips, tricks, or secrets that you think our community should know.
Wherever your wellness journey takes you, it’s important to have insurance coverage that can keep up. If you have any questions about finding a health insurance plan to match your active lifestyle, the Enrollment Specialists are here to help. Led by health insurance superhero Matt Peebles, our team can assist you with:
Don’t hesitate to get in touch today to keep the conversation going.