Essential oils are now so easily available in the market that we’re sure you’ve at least heard of them if not bought or used them yourself. But in case you didn’t know, essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that are made by steaming or cold-pressing different parts of a plant like fruit, flower, leaves or bark.
The purpose of this process is basically to capture the fragrance of the plant but it can often take a huge amount of said plant to create a small bottle of fragrant essential oil - and hence the price of these oils can be high as well. The way these essential oils are made matters a lot since only the ones that are chemical-free are considered to be of the best quality.
Essential oils and aromatherapy
Most commonly, essential oils are used in aromatherapy, a type of alternative medicine that has been around for centuries. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the fragrance of essential oils is believed to travel from the nose to the brain via the olfactory nerves to impact the amygdala, which is the emotional centre of the brain. In aromatherapy practice, essential oils are either inhaled via diffusers or used in massage oils. Bath salts with essential oils may also be used to create a soothing sensation.
Allergic reactions to essential oils
Despite being natural, the use of essential oils can pose some health risks too. It’s important to remember that essential oils should not be ingested directly. This apart, some people can also have an allergic reaction to essential oils on topical application. This is especially true for those who have sensitive skin or suffer from skin diseases like dermatitis. Cinnamon bark oil, oregano oil, jasmine oil, lemongrass oil and chamomile oil are some essential oils that are more likely to cause a reaction.
This is precisely the reason why it’s advisable that you dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil - or buy one that is already a bit diluted and ready for use - and first do a skin patch test. Apply the oil on a small patch of skin and wait for a few hours or a day. If rashes, hives or itchiness show up then go to a doctor and avoid using that essential oil. Usually, lavender oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil and lemon oil are considered to be safest for use.
Benefits of essential oils
Research supporting the therapeutic benefits of essential oils is scarce and yet people seem to believe there are a number of benefits associated with using them. The following are some such benefits:
- Studies show that using essential oils for a massage may help relieve stress and anxiety better.
- A traditional Persian herbal remedy recommends the application of chamomile and sesame oil can relieve headaches. A similar Indian remedy suggests the use of coconut or amla oil for headaches.
- Inhaling lavender oil via diffusers or incense sticks is often associated with better sleep quality.
- Peppermint oil and tea tree oil have antimicrobial properties and their application on the skin is associated with clearing the skin and getting rid of acne.
- Essential oils can also be used to make mosquito and insect repellants. Citronella oil, for example, is considered to be very effective in this case.
For more information, read our article on Tea tree oil.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.