Beginner's Guide to Essential Oils
Written by Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists staff
When did everyone start using essential oils?
Essential oils have been used medicinally for centuries. Some researchers think that the application of myrrh as a wound salve was the first known use of an essential oil by ancient Egyptians in 1550 BC. Essential oils increased in popularity in the 1970’s and have been growing much more rapidly in the past few years with a rise in consumers opting for natural remedies. The trend seems to have no end in sight. In the US, the essential oils market is estimated to increase from $4.7 billion in 2019 to $7.3 billion by 2024 according to BusinessInsider.com.
What are they?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of plant material — such as seeds, flowers, stems or roots. They can be used topically, ingested, as a fragrance, and/or as aromatherapy. Each essential oil is known to have its own special effect, such as lavender for relaxation. Even though essential oils have gained in popularity, many institutions might not recognize their effects. “Essential oils are neither medicines nor drugs because the effects have not been fully assessed yet in terms of science,” says Hideki Kashiwadani, a physiology researcher at Kagoshima University in Japan.
Do they work?
There is an ongoing debate amongst experts on how effective they can be, but a recent poll found that about a third of Americans believe that they truly work for them. "Essential oils don't work for everyone, but there's no harm in trying them as long as you use them in a safe way," says Harpreet Gujral, program director of integrative medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital. "Even if they just boost your mood, it can make a positive impact on your health and well-being."
What do scientist say?
Ongoing and continuous research is being done to test the effectiveness of essential oils. Clinical studies are currently underway in Europe, Australia, Japan, India, Canada, and the United States. Many of these studies have shown positive results and describe the remarkable healing properties of various oils, but scientists have not backed the use of essential oils just yet. Since essential oils vary in variety and potency from brand to brand, year to year, and field to field, experiments are extremely difficult to replicate. The lack of a common standard makes it difficult for researchers to make a consensus statement on the effectiveness of essential oils.
How do I get started?
Here are the 3 common uses of essential oils:
• Aromatherapy – Just about any essential oil can be used for aromatherapy. All you need to do is purchase a diffuser. A diffuser is the easiest way to experience an essential oil as an aromatherapy.
• Ingesting – Some people ingest essential oils for medicinal purposes hoping to alleviate or cure an ailment, such as ginger for an upset stomach. Essential oils can be ingested by taking a capsule or a few drops on the tongue. Essential oils can be also used purely for flavoring such as adding citrus to your water or adding oregano oil to a pasta dish. You should never ingest something that hasn’t been cleared by the FDA and you never want to add too much of anything to your body suddenly. Essential oils can be very potent and excessive use of them can be toxic. Talk to your doctor before ingesting essential oils for any medicinal purpose.
• Topically - A few essential oils can used on your skin. Most essential oils are too potent to be used alone and need to be used with a ‘carrier oil’. Carrier oils, such as coconut oil, are used as a base to which you may add a few drops of essential oil. Common application sites are the wrists, palms, or behind the ears.
The following are some of the most popular essential oils and how to use them:
• Lavender Oil for Stress Relief: Lavender is a popular aromatherapy option that is said to improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety. For a relaxing evening, add a few drops to your bath, use in a diffuser, or add to a carrier oil and rub directly on your wrists. For a good night’s sleep add one or two drops to your pillow before you go to bed.
• Tea Tree Oil for Your Skin: Also called melaleuca, this essential oil is made by steaming the leaves of the Australian Tee Tree. This essential oil was used by Australia's aboriginal people for wound healing. Today, it's used on several skin ailments such as acne, athlete’s foot, and insect bites and is believed to have antibacterial components. To use, add to a carrier oil and apply with a cotton ball to the affected area.
• Peppermint Oil for IBS and Tension Relief: There's some evidence that the peppermint essential oil can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms when taken in a coated capsule made specifically to be ingested. It is said to also help muscle tension and headaches. For these uses, it should be mixed with a carrier oil and applied directly to the affected area.
• Lemon Oil for Cleansing: Many people find the scent of the lemon essential oil to be invigorating and energizing. This essential oil is known to have antibacterial components so it is commonly used as a cleanser. When ingested, it is said to help the body detoxify. All you have to do is add a drop or two of an FDA approved oil to your water. You can also use it to clean, disinfect and deodorize countertops and other surfaces by mixing 5-6 drops of lemon essential oil to one ounce of water.
This article is meant to be an educational piece on the benefits of essential oils and is not intended to be medical advice. Do not replace any existing medical treatments with essential oils. If you would like to use essential oils medicinally, we recommend you contact your doctor.