You may have wondered why essential oils are gaining popularity nowadays. People claim that using these provides instant relief from body aches, stress, and other ailments. According to Jon Johnson, essential oils are concentrated extracts of various plants. Alternative therapy practitioners use them in natural and alternative health practices, such as aromatherapy and naturopathy. But what really are these essential oils and what are they made of? Is there any truth to these therapeutic claims?
Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine that employs plant extracts to support health and well-being according to Helen West, RD. These are concentrated plant extracts that retain the natural smell and flavor, or “essence,” of their source. How do they work? Essential oils are most commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy, in which they are inhaled through various methods but are not meant to be swallowed.
There are different ways that manufacturers extract essential oils and these include steam or water distillation and cold pressing. For steam or water distillation, the process passes water or hot steam through the plants pulling the essential compounds away from the plant matter. For cold pressing, the process works by mechanically pressing or squeezing plant matter to cause it to release essential juices or oils.
Among its many uses is the thought that application of these can improve absorption, such as applying with heat or to different areas of the body. However, research in this field is lacking according to Sonja Schmitt et. Al. There are more than 90 types of essential oils, each with its own unique smell and potential health benefits. But there are a few essential oils that are very popular, and these are Peppermint, Lavender, Sandalwood, Bergamot, Rose, Chamomile, Ylang-Ylang, Tea Tree, Jasmine, and Lemon.
Despite their widespread use, little is known about the ability of essential oils to treat certain health conditions. According to a study conducted by Damião Pergentino de Sousa et. al, it has been estimated that 43% of people who have stress and anxiety use Essential Oil as a form of alternative therapy to help relieve their symptoms. In the ’90s, two small studies found that dabbing a peppermint oil and ethanol mixture on participants’ foreheads and temples relieved headache pain based on research conducted by H Göbel. Furthermore, smelling lavender oil has been shown to improve the sleep quality of women after childbirth, as well as patients with heart disease. They also have anti-inflammatory effects as supported by test-tube studies.
Essential oils also have other uses as well. Many people use them to scent their homes or freshen up things like laundry. They are also used as a natural scent in homemade cosmetics and high-quality natural products. Furthermore, the properties of essential oils indicate that some of them could be used industrially for extending the shelf life of foods. Indeed, essential oils do have some interesting health applications and beneficial uses. However, more research and further studies are needed. In the meantime, just enjoy the relaxing scent it produces as it really clears our mind from stress and comforts our body. Truly, it is an aromatherapy!
PNFP-ZDS Marie Claire A. Gaas
- Everything you need to know about essential oils
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP — Written by Jon Johnson on October 18, 2019
- What Are Essential Oils, and Do They Work?
Written by Helen West, RD on September 30, 2019
- Variation of in vitro human skin permeation of rose oil between different application sites
Sonja Schmitt, Ulrich F Schäfer, Leonhard Döbler, Jürgen Reichling
- A Systematic Review of the Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Essential Oils in Animal Models
Damião Pergentino de Sousa, Palloma de Almeida Soares Hocayen, Luciana Nalone Andrade, Roberto Andreatini
- Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters
H Göbel , G Schmidt, D Soyka