Due to their recent rise in popularity, you’ve probably already heard about essential oils and oil diffusers, but you may be wondering if they can actually be effective for aromatherapy or healthcare. An article in the Huffington Post back in 2011 went into detail about the “essence” of essential oils – what they are, how they work, and the science behind it all. Since then, even more research has been done to back up these claims, and more and more people from farmers to healthcare professionals are using them in their work and everyday lives. Here are three ways you can incorporate essential oils into your home, health, and other routines:
1) For Comfort and Aromatherapy
The olfactory system is a powerful tool for delivering and storing information in the brain. Scent even plays an important role in the creation and recalling of memories, which can make certain aromas evoke happiness, nostalgia, tranquility, or positivity. In her HuffPo article, psychoanalyst and author Jane G. Goldberg, Ph.D. says there’s even more to it: 800 nerve endings pick up odors in the nose and extend far back into the brain to connect with pituitary and pineal glands before reaching the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling emotions. This may be why the most common way to use essential oils is to aid in meditation and massage, for relaxation, or simply to surround yourself with pleasant scents in your home or office. Rose and lavender are particularly well-known for aiding in sleeplessness and insomnia, while ylang-ylang can help lower blood pressure and induce calm.
2) To Fight Disease
Besides the power of fragrance to alter our moods and memories, essential oils carry antibiotic and other healing properties through the phytonutrients and other compounds contained within them. According to The Atlantic, farmers have even started using essential oils in place of antibiotics to enrich the feed provided to animals. The plant extracts do as much to fight disease and stimulate growth in chickens without creating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can spread to humans. Essential oils are able to penetrate the walls of diseased cells, damaging them and thereby fighting infection. When diffused with a spray or humidifier, certain oils can also kill the majority of air-borne microbes and bacteria, meaning you can enjoy their fragrance and fight germs at the same time.
3) To Maintain Overall Health
Beyond antimicrobial uses, essential oils can be used as a preventative medicine and to treat several common – and not-so-common – ailments, from a runny nose to staph infections. Several studies have been conducted to test the efficacy of essential oils to improve sleep, help cancer and dementia patients, reduce labor pains and post-op nausea, and even treat chronic wounds prone to inflammation and infection. Says Dr. Goldberg, “oils serve as the defense system in plants,” helping to endure weather changes, repair damage, protect against infection, and fend off vermin. When introduced to the human body, they work in much the same way: peppermint for nausea, bergamot for fever and cold sores, and clove, cinnamon and oregano to fight viral and fungal as well as bacterial infections.
In the end, given that human beings are biologically programmed to eat plants, is it really all that surprising that plant extracts provide the essential phytonutrients for optimal human health? While it may be true that essential oils have been overhyped in some cases as a miracle cure, enough evidence exists to support their use not just for pleasure, but as a revolutionary source of nutrition and healthcare on personal and even global levels. From the foods we consume to the air we breathe and the medicine we take, essential oils seem to be just that – essential to human life.