We are surrounded by nature which provides innumerable and diverse solutions and remedies to alleviate all sorts of ailments and for everyday use. Essential oils fall in this category. They are concentrated volatile aromatic liquids obtained from the fruits, flowers, bark, stems, roots and leaves or other parts of the plant. A true essential oil should be indigenously grown, properly distilled and unaltered with no additives. They are used as alternative medicine and therapy alongside allopathic treatments and are commonly used in aromatherapy treatments. The oils can also be diffused and the vapors inhaled for aromatic treatments. One thing to note, however, is to always dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil such as; coconut oil, almond oil, vitamin E oils, rapeseed oil and so on, as their potency is highly concentrated and a few drops go a long way.
We will look at some essential oils that host a world of benefits for improved health and wellbeing as part of our holistic series.
Lavender Essential Oil – it is a versatile oil that can be taken orally, applied topically, and inhaled through aromatherapy. It promotes relaxation and eases anxiety which is needed in our day to day lives and further helps with insomnia for a good night’s sleep. Topically, lavender oil helps to kill bacteria and can be used to help treat acne as well as heal scars. It contains soothing and moisturizing properties that improves conditions such as dry skin, eczema and psoriasis as well as boosts hair health. This oil is full of antioxidants that protect your skin and face from free radicals that form wrinkles. Its anti-inflammatory nature helps to treat painful inflammation from burns, sunburn, bites and stings. Lastly, this sweet-smelling oil helps to repel insects and keep you free from stings.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil – did you know that the vapor rub we’ve all rubbed on our chests contains this essential oil? It is a very effective decongestant and provides relief from coughs while clearing the mucus from your chest. Inhaling the vapor from this oil is a tried and tested remedy for cold and flu relief as well as for asthma and sinusitis to help you breathe easier. It is also used to treat inflammation and disinfect wounds to promote healing and soothe cold sores. Another effective use of eucalyptus oil is to relieve joint pain especially from conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. To keep the bugs away, a simple mix of this oil with a carrier will do the job. Packed with bacteria-fighting capabilities, eucalyptus oil is used as the main ingredient in oral hygiene products to freshen breath and prevent plaque buildup.
Clove Essential Oil – this spicy scented oil contains eugenol and is a powerful pain reliever against toothaches and muscle pain. It contains molecules that are effective at preventing dental erosion and inhibiting cavity-causing organisms. Cloves oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties effective at killing Staph bacteria and Candida albicans. When inhaled, it provides relief from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, influenza cough and asthma. Topically, clove oil is most effective in relieving itchy skin as well as effective in the treatment of anal fissures by promoting rapid healing. In vitro, clove oil was found toxic to breast cancer cells and stopped the growth of several cancer cell lines, including but not limited to cervical and colon cancer. This essential oil packs a punch and needs careful consideration when used.
Cinnamon Essential Oil – this lush scented oil smells like freshly baked rolls but has so much more to offer in terms of health benefits. It is derived from the bark or leaves of several types of trees, including the Cinnamomum verum tree and the Cinnamomum cassia tree. It contains antibacterial and antifungal properties that have shown great effect in killing drug resistant bacteria, Streptococcus mutans and Candida spp biofilm. This supports oral hygiene by preventing formation of cavities and fighting oral infections. It is also a non-chemical alternative as a disinfectant which preserves products and increases their shelf life. Cinnamon oil stimulates circulation, reduces stress, relieves pain, improves digestion, and protects against insects. If you like the aroma of cinnamon, the oil is suitable for flavouring your food as well as toiletries such as toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, and body lotion.
Peppermint Essential Oil – this cooling and refreshing oil that contains menthol and menthone is made from a hybrid mint that’s a cross between spearmint and watermint. The sharp scent has shown benefits in the reduction of nausea as well as migraine and headaches when inhaled in aromatherapy or applied topically on affected areas. Peppermint oil also brings relief to itchy skin conditions and can be mixed with a carrier oil for this purpose. For those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, peppermint oil capsules help to relax the smooth muscles of the GI tract and have an anti-inflammatory effect. In addition, it affects the types of bacteria that naturally live in the GI tract and decreases the pain sensation. For the minty fresh flavor, this oil can be used to add freshness to toiletry products like mouthwash, toothpaste and soap.
Sage Essential Oil – sage contains many powerful compounds that make it versatile in its use. Its antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial components help to combat different infections caused by these pathogens as well as promote healing from wounds. The potent antioxidants in this oil prevent wrinkles, sagging skin, and muscles, reduction in vision and hearing capabilities, malfunctioning of the brain, memory loss, degeneration of tissues, macular degeneration, and nervous disorders. These are caused by free radicals. Sage oil helps to eliminate scars, blemishes and stretch marks and soothes the skin from inflammation such as psoriasis. It is great for detoxing, pain relief, regularizes menstrual cycles and helps relieve obstructed menses by activating oestrogen and alleviating symptoms of PMS. Other benefits of sage oil include digestive relief from constipation and respiratory relief from cough and cold. As its name suggests, sage stimulates the brain, nervous system, liver, spleen, and circulatory and excretory systems, thereby activating and optimizing them.
Clary Sage Essential Oil – derived from a flowering herb that’s native to the Mediterranean Basin, the clean refreshing scent of this oil contains many benefits for good health. It elicits feelings of relaxation by reducing stress and anxiety and subsequently helps to lower blood pressure. It is an effective treatment on its own or in addition to traditional treatments for bacterial infections and wound healing. Inhaling clary sage oil eases symptoms of depression by acting as an anti-stressor and has been used by menopausal women for its relief in reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. By mimicking the estrogen hormone, it helps with other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes when applied topically at the bottom of the feet. For women who experience menstrual cramps, this oil has shown a significant reduction in pain when applied to the lower abdomen.
Rose Essential Oil – the oil derived from the beautiful rose flower is associated with stimulating the feel-good hormones known as endorphins in aromatherapy. This results in reduced pain as it brings much-needed relief. In the same way, it spurs the increase in sexual desire, while simultaneously alleviating symptoms of depression by increasing levels of dopamine. The increased sexual desire and sexual satisfaction were seen most among men with a decrease in feelings of depression in both sexes. Topically when massaged with a carrier oil it eases menstrual pain and discomfort by decreasing cramping. Applying rose oil to the skin reduces symptoms of anxiety by reducing blood pressure, heart rates, breathing rates, cortisol levels, and blood oxygen levels. This has shown effective relief from anxiety in women during delivery. Its antifungal and antibacterial properties can be effective against a wide range of microbes that cause infections including E. coli, as well as some strains of the bacteria and Candida albicans. This oil should not be ingested and like other essential oils should be applied topically using a carrier oil.
Frankincense Essential Oil – this oil has a woody, spicy smell and can be inhaled and easily absorbed through the skin. It prevents the release of leukotrienes, which are compounds that can cause inflammation and helps reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis without the negative side effects like those from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As an ayurvedic medicine, it has been used to treat bronchitis and asthma for centuries by improving lung function and easing bronchial muscles. It has strong antibacterial properties that may help prevent bad breath, toothaches, cavities and mouth sores. It is most effective at reducing gingivitis and bacteria that cause gum disease. In test-tube studies, frankincense oil has shown effectiveness in fighting breast, prostate, pancreatic, skin and colon cancer cells, as well as preventing them from spreading. It may also reduce the side effects of these cancers with more research being carried out in more trials. When mixed with carrier oils, it can provide extra moisturizing benefits.
Basil Essential Oil – this oil is derived from a popular ingredient used in Mediterranian cuisine offering many benefits in aromatherapy or topically. It has shown improvement in the treatment of acne and may be used as a blend with skincare products to help with this condition. It boosts wound healing with its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, inflammatory, and analgesic properties, by increasing your wound’s breaking strength, healing time, and contraction. The eugenol compound found in this oil helps lower stress-induced cholesterol and blood sugar. This treatment should be consulted by a doctor in case of interaction with other medication for the same conditions. Basil oil can be used to enhance mood, improve digestion, increase alertness, and soothe muscle aches showing its versatility in treatments. In aromatherapy, it helps with anxiety and depression, coughs, colds, and bronchitis as well as sinusitis. If you suffer from indigestion or gout, this oil brings much-needed relief. Lastly, it is an effective insect repellent.
Mint Essential Oil – this oil not only treats acne but also keeps skin oil-free when it’s hot and humid outside without having a drying effect as it is also a good moisturizer that contains a high content of salicylic acid. It is a good scalp treatment for dandruff and healing of the skin to prevent hair fall. The active oil, menthol, has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that help relieve indigestion and soothe an upset stomach. Its anti-inflammatory properties bring a soothing effect for people suffering from asthma by decongesting the airways and can be used as a relief from chest infections and headaches. Mint oil boosts alertness and decreases symptoms of stress and depression. The fresh scent eases symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. It is an effective ingredient as part of good oral health care with its germicidal properties that inhibits bacterial growth inside the mouth and cleanses the plaque deposition on teeth.