The use of essential oils as complementary and alternative medical treatments has gained popularity in recent years. This is no surprise to long-time believers in essential oils, which have been used for thousands of years. But for those who are new to the practice, there is much to discern.
Healthline is a site dedicated to making health information understandable, to assist people in making the best possible health decisions. According to Healthline, essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that interact with the body in several ways, but more high-quality studies are needed to validate their effectiveness. Since essential oils are products of an unregulated industry, their quality and composition can vary, and educating yourself before using the products is recommended. While essential oils can be effective remedies for common ailments, there is little evidence that their use can prevent or cure illness.
Aromatherapy (Essential Oils Therapy) Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties, Maryland, explains that essential oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, bark, roots, stalk, and rinds of plants. Once the plants’ aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier (usually olive, jojoba, or coconut oil) and then inhaled or applied directly to the skin. Before using essential oils, consult with a doctor to determine if they are helpful and safe for your health condition.
Most commonly, essential oils are used in aromatherapy and are inhaled through various methods including diffusers, scent pillows, baths, and massage. The aromas of essential oils are believed to stimulate the limbic system. The limbic system is the section of the brain associated with memory, emotions, behaviors, and the regulation of physiological functions including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Healthline has a curated list of popular essential oils, What Are Essential Oils, and Do They Work? and the health claims associated with them. Common associations include peppermint to aid digestion, chamomile tea at bedtime for relaxation, and lavender baths to relieve stress.
When purchasing essential oils, be sure you have done your homework. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns that synthetic essential oils are not considered true essential oils. Check the purity, quality, and reputation of the product. Pure essential oils contain only plant compounds. Quality essential oils have no chemical additives and have been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing. Always use a brand with a reputation for high-quality products. Integrative medicine: Find out what works – Mayo Clinic cautions essential oil users to be aware of the following red flags: products that make big promises, products that call themselves a “cure-all”, and/or products that offer testimonials rather than scientific proof.