Essential oils are the natural aromatic compounds that are extracted from different parts of a plant including the roots, leaves, bark, flowers, and stem. These extracted oils are in such potent form that one drop can equal to several teaspoons of the dried herb. For instance, a single drop of peppermint oil equals 25 cups of peppermint tea.
For centuries essential oils have been used in various cultures for ritualistic meditation, therapy, medicinal, and even spiritual purposes. Today essential oils are commonly being used for personal beauty, aromatherapy, and natural medicine remedies.
The benefits of essential oils are mainly associated with their antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, not to mention the therapeutic aromas common in many different oils.
How does Aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapy works by stimulating the smell receptors in the nose which then send signals to the brain. The brain regions that respond to smell, the olfactory cortex, are known to have a primary role in regulating our emotions and transmitting positive signals to reward sensors in the brain.
Some studies have shown that specific aromatherapy scents bring about neurochemical changes in the body that make us feel more energized, less stressed, clear minded, and also helps with managing pain.
When it comes to the emotional response to specific scents, different people will often experience a different psychological reaction. This is due to the fact that smells are processed through the same neural pathways as our memory centers, which means that smells are stored as memories.
Scent molecules are transmitted through the nasal cavity by tiny olfactory nerves to the part of the brain known as the limbic system, which in turn influences the endocrine system and atomic nervous system. This response is responsible for triggering the release of hormones in different parts of the body that regulate metabolism, mood, libido, and cognitive behavior.
Another common application is when the essential oils are applied to the skin. The healing components get absorbed into the blood stream and detected by the limbic system. The limbic system is composed of structures in the brain related to the nervous system, and deals with emotions (such as anger, happiness and fear) as well as memories.
What Are Essential Oils Used For?
1. Coconut Oil
In the Pacific regions of Asia such as Fiji and the Phillipines the coconut tree is considered the "Tree of Life."
Not only is it perfect for producing cooking oil, but coconut oil also has many other uses ranging from natural remedies to health and beauty treatments. Below are some of the common uses of Coconut oil.
Moisturizing, Anti-aging and Antiviral Properties.
Coconut oil is a very powerful moisturizer that has the ability to restore dry or flaking skin. It helps in strengthening skin tissue, unlike many other moisturizers that contain a lot of water. Coconut oil helps in eliminating dead cells while absorbing fast into your skin.
It contains antioxidant vitamin E that helps in delaying the occurrence of wrinkles. The antioxidant is also essential in protecting the skin cells from damage over time. The vitamin E present in coconut oil has a soothing effect on skin irritaions like eczema, psoriasis, and sunburns. Its antifungal and antiviral benefits can also assist in treating bug bites.
Saturated Fatty Acids
Coconut oil has three saturated fatty acids: Lauric acid, Capric acid, and caprylic acid. Each of these acids helps in killing Candida that is common for causing fungal infection on your skin.
The composition of coconut oil allows it to penetrate hair in ways that other oils are not able to, which is why some people notice amazing results relatively quickly when using coconut oil for hair.
Coconut oil is the richest natural source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), special types of fatty acid with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are very nourishing to the body. It is especially high in the C12 chain of MCFAs known as Lauric Acid.
Lauric acid is naturally occurring in breastmilk as well and is supportive of hormone health and cellular health. This beneficial property of coconut oil is also one of the reasons it can help prevent protein loss in hair (for some people).
The saturated fats available in the coconut oil have some antimicrobial properties and assists in dealing with different fungi, parasites, and bacteria that can bring indigestion. It also helps in the other nutrients absorption such as minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.
Coconut oil is also good for improving your immunity. It contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which research has supported as an effective way to deal with viruses and bacteria.
Speeds Up Healing
When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer that protects the infected area from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It is highly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues by providing hydration while still allowing oxygen to penetrate.
Oils from Eucalyptus have a strong aroma and can be used to treat a number of ailments, including flu symptoms, headache and muscle pains. It can also be used as a vaporizer and can help sinus passage and relieve sneezing, coughing and other respiratory symptoms
There are two types of Chamomile flowers known as German and Roman. While both oils possess a calming property, Roman Chamomile is more efficient at treating mental impatience, irritation, and PMS. German Chamomile is better in treating irritated skin.
Chamomile also has a calming and antispasmodic effect on the central nervous system, making it excellent for promoting relaxation. Researchers believe these effects are due to a compound in chamomile called apigenin, which can bind to GABA receptors in the brain to produce a sedative effect.
While chamomile is often consumed as a tea, the essential oil extracted from its yellow and white flowers may offer even more benefits, since its volatile compounds and antioxidants are preserved in a more stable form.
This is one of the most popular essential oils. It has a myriad of roles ranging from skin lotion and bath salts to household cleaners. When inhaled it triggers a rest and relaxation response in the brain. It's anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties makes this essential oil an excellent remedy for eczema, acne, and other skin problems.
5. Tea Tree
Majorly produced in Australia, the Tea tree is a very powerful antibacterial and antiseptic essential oil. It is very helpful when it comes to treating fungal infections like nail infections and athlete's foot. It is among the oils that can be used undiluted though it should be applied in small amounts.
Commonly used in personal body care products and air deodorizers. It is also used as a flavoring agent for toothpaste, chewing gum, tea and desserts.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic and expectorant properties, it has many health benefits too.
Rub a drop or two on your temples and forehead to alleviate headaches. Put a few drops on your handkerchief and inhale it regularly to boost your mood and reduce fatigue.
Lemon oil is a multifaceted essential oil. It helps with everything from skin irritation to digestion to circulation problems. It is a natural immunity booster and can even help reduce cellulite! Lemon oil helps to alleviate headaches and fever, and is a quick mood enhancer.
Add a few drops of lemon oil to the vaporizer or diffuser for a boost of energy. Or apply it with a carrier lotion during massage. Add some drops to your bathwater for a natural immune booster.
Essential oils have been in use for centuries by civilizations like China and Egypt. The ability to influence the body and the mind is what makes them truly unique among natural therapeutic agents. They are a perfect solution for what stress, chemicals, and poor nutrition have added into our lives.