Did you know that essential oils have miraculous effects and build a protective shield for the well-being of the whole body, whatever problem or condition affects us, provided that we strictly follow their use protocol? The logical question is therefore whether it is possible for essential oils to replace medicinal products. How about analyzing these issues in more detail?
Where do essential oils come from?
Essential oils are the sap from a plant’s heart, and their effects on health and well-being are countless. Natural plant extracts, i.e. essential oils, contain the deep aroma and chemicals of the plants from which they are extracted. Their scent and aroma can be delicate and strong at the same time. If you have ever felt the smell of a rose, made a walk in a lavender field or felt the scent of freshly cut mint, you have already experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. However, the use of essential oils is not limited to their enticing scent, as they have been used since ancient times in certain cultures for their beneficial properties for health.
Essential oils are obtained by distillation (through steam and/or water) or by mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. Once the aromatic substances are extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a ready-to-use product. The way oils are manufactured is important, since chemically obtained essential oils are not considered genuine essential oils. Cold pressing is a method whereby pure essential oil is obtained. This complex process is both an art and a science, and requires collaboration between experienced growers and distillers to obtain a high quality product. The use of essential oils is extremely simple and yet it is able to change our lives.
Impact of oils on health
Since ancient times, people have been using oils and parts of plants to improve their well-being and health. The use of essential oils for health benefits has become extremely popular, as it allows the user to customize the experience according to his/her specific desires and needs.
Emotional benefits of essential oils
Due to unique chemical structure, each essential oil has a variety of benefits for each user. Some essential oils have calming, toning and stabilizing properties, while others are known to be energizing, reviving, and providing a feeling of warmth or renewal. Since our bodies go through a series of emotions and physical conditions throughout the day, essential oils can help us manage and maintain the well-being all along the day.
How to use essential oils
You do not have to be an expert to know how to use essential oils, as fortunately, they are versatile enough to offer a wide range of benefits to anyone who uses them. Some people may think that special training is needed to use essential oils, but with just a basic understanding of how they work, anyone can easily include the oils in their daily routine. All methods of use, including aromatic, external and internal, are safe if properly applied.
- Aromatic method — The smell is a tool that can trigger strong physiological, mental and emotional responses. Essential oils are rapidly absorbed by olfactory receptors, which are directly linked to the limbic system through the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is the part of the brain that supports a variety of functions including the sense of smell, emotions, behavior and memory.
- External (local) method — Since essential oils have low molecular weight and are soluble in lipids, they easily penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they remain in the area where they were applied, providing local benefits. To reduce the likelihood of the skin being sensitized, in particular in the case of young or sensitive skin, a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil) should be used to dilute more potent oils or when testing an oil for the first time. The recommended dilution ratio is usually one drop of essential oil to three drops of carrier oil. The areas where you can apply essential oils are: neck, forehead and temples, chest and abdomen, arms, legs, soles.
- Internal method — Some essential oils have a rich culinary history and can be used as dietary supplements that relieve a lot of ailments. When you sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal, taste a cup of mint tea or add some fresh basil leaves to spaghetti, you actually consume volatile aromatic compounds from essential oils. In concentrated form, essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for potent and specific effects on health. Internal use is a very safe and effective method of application due to sophisticated physiological processes in our bodies.
It is important to note that proper dosing, as recommended by labels and other professional guidelines, must be strictly followed to avoid toxicity.
The most famous essential oils
There is an enormous variety of essential oils; therefore, it is impossible to make a top rating as each of them is so wonderful and provides so many possibilities in every drop that any appreciation would be subjective. There are more than 90 types of essential oils, and each of them has its own unique scent and potential health benefits. We tried to list the most well-known and most widely used essential oils:
Bergamot essential oil is a calming, relaxing oil, extremely useful in fighting against depression and anxiety. It helps creating a springy, light, optimistic and relaxed atmosphere, and when diffused in the rooms, it dispels oppressive anger and frustration. Anyone using this oil will feel light, bright and confident. It is a very precious oil both emotionally and physically, as it has compounds with proven analgesic, antispasmodic and carminative effects. It is also known for its notable effects on the genitourinary system. It has been proven that bergamot has an antibacterial effect on several parasites, fungi, monocytes, molds and pathogens. Being a powerful antispasmodic, it can be helpful in eliminating abdominal cramps and in digestion as a whole. The two types of applications mentioned above make bergamot a real support for people with digestive problems due to stress and anxiety.
The hot aroma of ginger brings a lot of courage.Ginger brings dynamism, strength, vitality and stability that only a root can provide. It is certainly the oil of the will. Ginger is the bridge between idea, action and achievement. And its effect on the emotions of its user is commensurate with its strength: courage, initiative, self-confidence, fulfilment. In addition, it has notable effects at all levels, including the physical level: digestive, respiratory and osteo-articulars. In vitro, ginger essential oil has shown antibacterial activity against escherichia coli, bacillus subtilis and staphylococcus aureus.(Advancement in Medicinal Plant Research Vol. 5 (1), pp. 5-10, March 2017). Ginger is known for its antioxidant properties (Aromahead Institute). In an experimental study, the use of ginger essential oil had anti-inflammatory effects in ulcerative colitis Protective effect of ginger volatile oil against acetic acid-induced colitis in rats: A light microscopic evaluation, Rashidian 2014. Ginder’s beneficial action in chronic bronchitis as a bronchodilator provides this essential oil with expectorant potential according to the research conducted by Franchomme and Pénoël 1990 at the Aromahead Institute)
Grapefruit essential oil brings light and good mood in any room. It’s truly brilliant aroma cheers and revitalizes everyone. The sharp citrus notes intertwine majestically with the sweet, middle, orange-like notes. This essential oil has a special connection with the liver, the lymphatic system and the digestive system (bloating, constipation, nausea); it cleans and makes things to move. It has both antidepressant and anxiolytic properties, and is a perfect tonic in case of exhaustion and overwork. Laboratory tests show that grapefruit essential oil has antibacterial properties against the following bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Serratia marcescens and Proteus vulgaris. (Essential oil composition and antibacterial activity of the grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi. L) peel essential oils obtained by solvent-free microwave extraction: Comparison with hydrodistillation, Uysal 2011). It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and antioxidant effects. How does it do all these things? Cleanses, comforts, refreshes, brings positive feelings of joy, trust, connection, generosity, cooperation, spontaneity.
Lemon essential oil has tonic effects on the mind and body, and is perfect for long-term use to support the whole body and promote good health. It has cleansing effect at all levels, providing energy and good mood, so necessary in stressful times for body, mind and soul. It starts with a fresh, sharp, citrus top note, followed by sweet, fresh, lemon notes. Lemon oil has a low viscosity. It acts in synergy with amikacin (an antibiotic) in the antibacterial effects against several species of Acinetobacter (a species of bacteria that causes nosocomial infections). It has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect (Lopes Campêlo et al. 2011). Lemon essential oil can be used in skin ailments, but it is essential to take into account its photo-toxicity and not to expose the skin to sunlight after using it. In the musculoskeletal system, it can be used to reduce muscle inflammation and relieve pain from arterial causes. Lemon essential oil can be used in minor cognitive impairment (difficulty to remember things, names, events), because it ‘alerts’ cognitive functions. Due to its antibacterial properties, it is a useful base for helpful combinations during flu periods.
Lavender essential oil is one of the most well-known and used essential oils. Since it is well known that many health problems are due to stress, this oil can have a special place in the life of anyone due to its calming effects, thus providing a reliable health support. It is most often used for its support to the immune system and for its skin benefits. The aromatherapeutic effects of lavender essential oil in postoperative patients with laparoscopic interventions have also been studied. People who had inhaled lavender essential oil, have requested fewer opioids for pain control than those who have been given placebo (Treatment with Lavender Aromatherapy in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit reduces Opioid Requirements of Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding, JT Kim 2007). In induced edema, lavender essential oil has shown stronger anti-inflammatory properties than dexamethasone. (da Silva et all 2015). Jianu et. al (2013) tested, in vitro, the antibacterial effects of lavender essential oil on five bacteria. Their results showed that lavender essential oil has antibacterial effects, even bactericidal ones, against the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, shigella flexneri, escherichia coli. (Jianu et al. 2013). Lavender oil applied to the skin can have antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory effects and can heal wounds. In terms of energy, lavender essential oil helps in acceptance, melancholy, calmly inspires confidence and hope.
Physically,peppermint oil can have many features; it is the first option in case of migraines, digestive problems such as: colic, cramps, flatulence and nausea. It also has antibacterial and antifungal action, can stimulate the immune system and protect the liver. It can normalize blood circulation in areas where it is applied externally. It also has a decongestant and expectorant effect and can reduce fever. Having been studied in vitro, on herpes viruses HSV 1 and HSV 2 and HSV 1 ACV res (acyclovir-resistant), peppermint essential oil showed its virucidal effects. The study conducted by Göbel et al (2016) showed that the analgesic effect of this essential oil is due to it activating cooling sensors of the body, reducing painful muscle spasms, activating blood circulation and having anti-nociceptive effects. The in vitro studies have shown antibacterial effects and antifungal activity. ( R. Desam et al 2019, Chemical constituents, in vitro antibacterial and antifungal activity of Mentha × Piperita L (peppermint) essential oils). It can be diffused in the car if there are people suffering from car sickness (to be used with caution or not to be used at all in presence of children). It can be used in mouthwash or toothpaste to refresh the breath, relieve the symptoms of halitosis, including in the treatment of oral mycoses. When combined with rosemary in mouthwash, it can be an effective antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and oral antifungal remedy.
Oregano essential oil has two great properties: due to its high phenol content, it has very strong antioxidant and antibacterial effects. According to recent studies, oregano oil has been most effective in fighting against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Oregano essential oil has shown antiviral activity against norovirus. (Gilling et al. 2014). Also, oregano methanolic extracts have shown their antiviral activity against herpes virus (Böhme et al. 2014). Due to its antifungal properties, this oil is a great ally against candida and dermatophytes that affect the nails and are very difficult to remove. Its irritating potential and the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties make it suitable as a natural disinfectant made at home or in an ingredient used in cleaning products.
Rosemary has been known and appreciated for centuries for its culinary and medicinal uses. It is widely used in the food industry as a spice, flavoring and antioxidant. Rosemary oil has a strong, fresh, grassy, resinous aroma at first, woody aroma in the middle, ending with a symphony of smell with a grassy note. It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and carminative effects. Minaiyan et al (2011) argue that the use of rosemary essential oil may be useful in inflammatory bowel diseases, due to its antispasmodic activity proven by studies. Rosemary essential oil is known for its natural astringent properties that help regulate the oily secretions of hair follicles (Aromahead Institute). Due to its components, it is an anti-inflammatory remedy for the muscles, a pain reliever, also useful in arthritis. This oil also has miraculous effects on the respiratory system, can be used in case of whooping cough, nasal congestion, bronchitis and bronchiolitis, being diffused or inhaled from the inhaler.
Spearmint essential oil is the mildest of all menthol oils. Its action is very gentle, making it suitable for use in children aged up to three years old, unlike classic mint. It has an affinity for the digestive and respiratory systems. It is a refreshing oil, having antispasmodic, decongestant, mucolytic, antiemetic, analgesic, and antiviral properties. Spearmint is like a breath of fresh air, bringing good mood and optimism, clarity of thought and concentration. Rhind (2016) talks about the decongestant and mucolytic effects of spearmint essential oil. According to the author, this oil has a special ‘relationship’ with the respiratory system. Due to its decongestant and mucolytic properties, this oil can be an ally against respiratory viruses and influenza. Spearmint essential oil can be used in the steam bath to clean the skin. Due to its antibacterial effect, it can be a remedy against acne, dermatitis, eczema or scabies. Being inhaled, it can prevent sea or car sickness, as well as nausea caused by intestinal problems. It also has hepatoprotective properties, and therefore it can be diffused or inhaled together with: black pepper, cypress or incense.
Cumin essential oil is rich in carvone and limonene, making it suitable as a digestive support. Moreover, it can stimulate lactation and is a powerful anti-inflammatory remedy. It also has potential antihistamine, antifungal and antioxidant effects. In vitro studies on cumin essential oil have shown that it has antibacterial properties due to carvone. This compound is toxic to microorganisms, causing cell lysis thereof. This compound is also known for its vermifuge and larvicidal effects. Due to its phenolic compounds, cumin essential oil has antioxidant powers. In emotional terms, cumin inspires determination and commitment. It encourages loyalty and stability. According to Gabriel Mojay, at the psychological level cumin oil is suitable for people raised in emotionally unstable environments. Cumin helps such people make commitments and build stable and authentic relationships. This oil has a perfect message in situations where the endless search for quick and easy solutions threatens our ability to be consistent and loyal to our own beliefs, principles and intuition.
Clove oil has a strong character, providing emotional support to anyone who feels weak and needs an energy boost. When used in combination with other oils, its fierce aroma enhances an uplifting, optimistic and recomforting effect. It is known for its action on the digestive system, for immune support and analgesic effect on the osteo-articular and muscular system, warming and reducing inflammation and pain. It also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. When tested in vitro, clove essential oil has been effective against several types of candida, aspergillus and several dermatophytes. (Pinto et al. 2009). When tested on drug-induced ulcer, clove essential oil has proven its gastroprotective properties. These properties are due to the production of gastric mucus that protects the stomach and helps to eliminate gas and bloating (Santin et al. 2011). Clove essential oil is a powerful oil with irritant potential, which is why it should be used with great caution. Due to its analgesic properties, clove essential oil can be used in mouthwash or massaged on the chin, properly diluted for toothaches and infections caused by bacteria in the mouth. However, BE CAREFUL as this oil shall NOT be applied directly on the gum of newborns in case of toothache.
Wintergreen essential oil is rich in natural methyl salicylate, a compound that calms down joint and muscle pains, and is commonly found in ointments used by sportsmen. Wintergreen oil has aspirin-like effects; it is antispasmodic - soothes muscle spasms, anti-inflammatory - reduces rheumatic pains, and analgesic - relieves minor pains, inflammations and neuralgia. Wintergreen oil is used in ointments/oils with local application to relieve rheumatic pains, joint pains, neuralgia, migraines, various local pains, and to loosen muscles.
That being said, let’s return to the question of why should we use essential oils before any other remedies, even if they are natural? The answer is simple, and here we refer to the documentary ‘Old Secrets of Essential Oils’. In this documentary, Dr. David Stewart, PhD, explains very clearly what is already known about quantum physics: we, humans are energy, and our intentions and thoughts influence the matter and the reality, so essential oils are a whole ‘range of possibilities’ to be used.