Essential Oils For Health
The health world is saturated with new trends, fads and almost obscene ideas for staying healthy and preventing disease. We are shown images of people purposely standing in below freezing air (cryotherapy), eating liquid chicken that was pureed in a blender for extra protein, or lying in enclosed salt-water tanks for relaxation purposes (I admit, I love sensory deprivation tanks). So when it comes to understanding which new trend will be the trick to get you back into a healthy lifestyle, what do you choose? And what are those essential oils that your patchouli loving cousin overuses on a daily basis?
Essential Oils Aren’t So New
When it comes to new trends and fads, especially those of the health variety, it’s easy to disregard their value as the new favorite Gwenyth Paltrow Goop story. However, essential oils are different. Essential oils can be traced back more than 4,000 years, which would indicate anything but a trend. I’d say this long history would indicate something useful and effective…no? Oils and aromatherapy were born out of herbal medicine, a tradition of at least 5,000 years originating in ancient China. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved perfumery and essential oils and later discovered they could be used medicinally as well as aromatically.
From Egypt to Macedonia, Israel to Italy, Persia to France and eventually the rest of the world, essential oils have a long history and an overachieving caseload.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are herbs, or botanicals, that are distilled down into liquid form. It can take hundreds of pounds of one particular plant to create a 10mL bottle of essential oil. Very little goes a very long way, and one drop contains a wide assortment and quantity of chemical constituents. And why are these chemical constituents so healthy? Well, it comes down to biology and the plant’s ability to protect itself from predators and nature. The very compounds that protect a plant from insects and animals, or attract bees, or protect the plant by their anti fungal and antimicrobial nature are the same compounds that keep us healthy and thriving. A plant’s defensive mechanisms equate to a human’s health supplement.
The chemical constituents in these oils have been found to have numerous health benefits from their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral properties to their ability to reduce pain, stop headaches, promote sleep, regulate hormones, reduce stress and anxiety, lower rates of depression, aid in wound care, boost fertility, and more. The list goes on and on, and if you didn’t believe in their efficacy before, why not read that list back to yourself again.
How To Use Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used a variety of ways including aromatherapy, topical application and ingestion (I do not recommend ingesting essential oils!). Probably the most popular method of use is aromatherapy. Placing several drops into an essential oil diffuser will disperse the aroma and oils into the air and provide a Martha Stewart approved scented home. But this is only the beginning. While breathing in your favorite lavender or peppermint scent you are also breathing in their benefits. It’s believed that the inhalation of the essential oils stimulates the part of your brain connected to smell, otherwise known as the olfactory system. A signal is then sent to the limbic system which controls your emotions and memories, and then you feel relaxed, calm and enlightened (well, maybe.)
When used topically, the oils are absorbed into your skin and bloodstream, much like the popular nicotine patches or hormone creams. Anything you apply on your skin will eventually be absorbed into your body, so you might as well make it of medicinal value. However, you must be careful. Due to the strength and potency of essential oils, you may find yourself allergic to some. It’s generally recommended to mix the oils with what’s called a carrier. Carrier oils are used as a safeguard against the potential harm an essential oil may have on your skin. Carriers which work well include coconut oil, almond oil, and even olive oil. Mix 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil with around 1 teaspoon of your favorite carrier. Voila! You’ve just made a hemorrhoid cream!
Ingesting a few drops of essential oils here and there is another popular method which I do not at all endorse. This should be left to the experts, and novices should stay far, far away. The potency of the oils are too dangerous and can cause a variety of allergic reactions. If you don’t know how you’ll react, just don’t do it! If you really want to ingest these oils, find an expert who knows their stuff, it’s serious business.
Essential oils are a fantastic way to prevent disease and promote health. A daily regimen of aromatherapy, creating creams and salves, or even using your favorite essential oil as a cleaning product can elevate your health to another level. We live in a time where we have literally everything at our fingertips, excessive amounts of information, and a deluge of facts. But when it comes to our health it seems like going back to nature is the safest and most effective preventative health measure. So why not take a chance? Side effects include; smelling better, cleaner air, and better health.