Use of essential oils and the practice of aromatherapy have been around for centuries. The exact origin of these namesakes are, most likely, terms of the modern age. The associated benefits of using essential oils are, however, extremely well-documented.
Although exactly how essential oils got their name is unknown, many sources suggest the term “essential” was likely derived from essence, or the essence of a plant, and oil because when distilled, the aromatic “essence” that is extracted from the plant has similar properties to fats and oils(1.). Essential oils have one very distinct difference!
And just what is that difference? It is (quite simply) that fats and lipids possess a different molecular structure than those of essential oils. Essential oils are hydrocarbons and can contain as many as 300 different compounds! (2.)
Fats are typically derived from animals whereas oils are most often derived from plants. Pure fats and oils are colorless and odorless—it’s only the compounds that they are attached to that give them a colored appearance or smell.
What Is Aromatherapy?
A centuries old practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefits. Aromatherapy makes use of topical application of oils as well as inhalation. Once inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, affecting mood.(3.)
Do Essential Oils Work?
Numerous plants are intentionally cultivated to possess a greater percentage of active ingredients with remedial benefits. Some examples of these include chamomile, peppermint, lemon, lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, and more recently medical cannabis. While studies abound, the US FDA hasn’t authored any. Because of that, it is unusual for a physician to reference the efficacy of essential oils as a viable, alternative treatment for patients. A Naturopath doctor, on the other hand, would almost certainly reference essential oils as an effective treatment modality for various maladies.
Are they Safe?
When using any substance that is not native to our bodies, some precautions should be taken to avoid unexpected reactions. First and foremost, consulting an aromatherapist or essential oil specialist will help you avoid these. Johns Hopkins advises against using essential oil diffusers, small household appliances which create scented vapor(4.). Any oil diffusion in a public area or household with multiple members can affect people differently. If you are presently taking any prescription drugs, consulting with your physician is the best course of action. Given their history and the abundance of information available, it’s fair to say that many persons enjoy calming, soothing, and mood improvement provided by aromatherapy
Certain essential oils can be toxic in high concentrations . Chamomile, Bergamot, Oregano, Ylang-ylang, Lemongrass, and Jasmine are oils with which a greater number of persons have experienced difficulties. Persons who have had difficulty with atopic dermatitis, or using topical products previously may be at higher risk with these oils.
Purity varies in essential oils. Essential oils are liquid extracts from plants and plant parts. The processing required for preparing essential oils typically happens via distillation, a steaming process, or cold-pressing, Due to a lack of regulation in the industry, assuring that your oils are the purest you can obtain is important, as many products are cut with carrier oils, like coconut oil and others.
Which Oils Work Best?
As different oils affect each person differently, choosing popularity is difficult. Generally speaking, Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint, and Lemon oils have a very universal appeal, as we find them in so many household products already! Patchouli, Bergamot, Eucalyptus, and Orange essential oils are also popular choices.
Take time to research what range of effects can be experienced by different oils. Given the many documented and established trials, substantial relief through the regular use of essential oils and aromatherapy can provide previously unknown ways to improve your quality of life!
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