Essential Oils 101

In a nutshell, essential oils are compounds that have been extracted from various plants, and these oils encapsulate the flavor and scent of those plants, which amounts to their essence. Essential oils all have their own unique aromatic appeal and are frequently instantly recognizable by that scent. Once an essential oil has been extracted from a plant, it is combined with a carrier oil which creates a product that will be ready for immediate usage.

How Essential Oils Work

For the most part, essential oils are used in conjunction with aromatherapy, whereby they are inhaled using a number of different methods. When essential oils are applied to your skin, some of the plant chemicals are quickly absorbed, but the more common usage is through inhalation. When essential oils are inhaled, they can stimulate some areas of the limbic system, which is a section of the brain involved in behaviors, long-term memory, emotions, and the sense of smell.

The fact that the limbic system is strongly involved in the sense of smell, as well as memory formation, might explain why some smells can instantly trigger emotions or memories. The limbic system is also involved in other bodily functions such as your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, which means that essential oils may also have an impact on your body's physical operation.

Health Benefits

To this point, there hasn't been a great deal of research conducted on the actual health benefits of essential oils, although many individuals claim that they have experienced significant improvement in medical conditions with regular usage of essential oils. One very common usage of essential oils is for the relief of stress and anxiety, and this is one of the areas which is strongly supported by research. A number of studies have shown conclusively that using essential oils in conjunction with traditional therapies can be very effective at relieving stress.

Another area where positive results have been documented show that people who have headaches and migraines have experienced relief when using a mixture of peppermint oil and ethanol on the forehead and/or temples. Lavender has been used for the relief of migraines and headaches, and chamomile has also been used with success in treating headaches.

Lavender oil has been shown to be at least somewhat effective in overcoming insomnia and poor sleeping habits. Studies have shown that inhaling lavender oil has improved the quality of sleep for a number of women after childbirth, and for patients who are afflicted with heart disease. Other studies have shown that essential oils have anti-inflammatory effects, and can relieve inflammation of the joints and tissues. More research is needed to confirm initial results, but a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils have shown promise in reducing inflammation, and the usage of rosemary and caraway oils have also produced positive results in this area.

Another area that has yielded positive health benefits is in the area of fighting bacterial infections, with peppermint and tea tree oil showing strong capabilities for their antimicrobial effects. While research into the area of health benefits has been limited thus far, there's no question that a great many people have derived relief and great personal satisfaction from regular usage of their favorite essential oils.