Everywhere you look today it seems like someone is touting the benefits of using essential oils, but what exactly is an essential oil, and why are they good for you? Essential oils aren’t really oils at all, as they lack fatty acids, but are compounds found within plants that have been extracted and are highly concentrated.
Essential oils are used in homeopathic medicine both topically and aromatically, and while certain oils are touted as having profound effects, the jury is still out regarding modern medicine’s view of these substances, as very little scientific research has been done regarding the purported claims.
That’s not to say, however, that no research has been done regarding essential oils. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer patients use aromatherapy to combat symptoms of anxiety and stress in relation to their diagnosis to improve quality of life. Studies show that essential oils can have calming and energizing effects on the body as well as having antiviral or antibacterial properties. Side effects have also been low during these studies, as long as the oils are used as directed, although skin irritation is a possibility if used undiluted.
Aromatherapy practitioners use various methods to incorporate essential oils into an alternative healthy lifestyle, including inhalation and topical usage such as massage. Essential oils can be mixed into lotions or dispersed through a diffuser. There are a wide number of studies showing the effect different aromas have on the human brain, and aromatherapy is one way to take advantage of these effects, as reported by PubMed Health.
Science Daily reports that essential oils such as thyme and cinnamon are beneficial in combating bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that often are resistant to modern pharmaceutical drugs. Tea tree oil has been shown to have antiseptic properties, having been used by aborigines in Australia for skin infections and bug bites, and in the early 20th century, it was sold as a topical antiseptic.
A study published in Digestive and Liver Disease showed that the use of peppermint essential oil in patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome decreased symptoms in 75 percent of the patients in the peppermint oil group, with a 50 percent reduction in IBS symptoms as compared to 38 percent of people who only received a placebo.
While the scientific research may be somewhat lacking overall, the growing interest by the general public in the use of natural remedies, and the growing concern that modern medicine no longer can treat certain medical conditions, such as drug-resistant MRSA and other harmful diseases, makes the use and study of essential oils an attractive option.
The author is a Midwestern homesteader, budding herbalist and gardener who tries to live a natural life. For more information about essential oils and other related topics, contact her through her website.