Essential oils are used by many for a wide range of reasons from health and beauty to home care and more.
With so many oils to choose from, each with their own unique aroma and qualities, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you. To give you a head start, here is a list of 5 popular must-have essential oils and their benefits. Remember, as a general rule, essential oils should be diluted in an unscented carrier oil before use (not directly applied to the skin) and not consumed internally.
Regarded in ancient times as a precious commodity, frankincense essential oil is derived from the milky white resinous sap secreted by trees from the genus Boswellia, which are native to North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It has been used in religious ceremonies throughout the region for thousands of years.
While more expensive than many oils, frankincense works well blended with other oils. Its scent can be described as woody, earthy, and spicy with a fruity hint. It is used for stress-reduction, immune-boosting, skin healing, mental clarity, memory, aiding sleep and digestion, reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain.
Lavender (Lavandula spp) is one of the most popular essential oils, due to its wide range of uses spanning centuries. Its pleasant floral scent can be described as sweet and herbaceous with a woody-green undertone. It can assist with many ailments from allergies to depression, insomnia, nausea, and eczema.
It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, useful in treating minor burns and insect bites. Did you know that during World War One, lavender was widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant to treat soldiers’ wounds and sterilise medical equipment?
Perhaps one of the best smelling oils, peppermint (Mentha piperita) works as a circulatory and cognitive stimulant and has a fresh, clean and grassy-mint aroma. It is known to open respiratory channels, aid bad breath, indigestion, nausea as well as relieve headaches, migraines, and assist with mental fogginess and fatigue. It can also be used to relieve rheumatic symptoms, hot flushes, and acts as a valuable insect repellent.
Tea tree, or ti-tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), is considered by many to be ‘nature’s first aid tree’ as it is believed to be effective against all three varieties of infectious organisms: viruses, bacteria, and fungi. While its scent is not pleasant to many, its strong yet fresh, cool and energising scent can be reduced by blending with lavender or lemon essential oils.
It can be used topically to assist with conditions such as acne, athlete’s foot (tinea), lice and ringworm, as well as being an effective insect repellent. Tea tree oil may also assist with congestion and coughs due to colds.
Eucalyptus oil is known as an immune-booster, purifier and cleanser and is a common ingredient in balms, dental hygiene products, inhalers, and massage blends thanks to its soothing, yet stimulating and antiseptic properties. It has a bright, medicinal and minty scent with a hint of sweetness. It can help reduce congestion, fight respiratory infections, reduce fevers, reduce or eliminate headaches and stimulate the body and mind. It can also be used as an insect repellent.
The most common way to use essential oils for their therapeutic properties or to enjoy their scents is to add them to a diffuser or inhale them. For direct skin application, oils can be diluted in a carrier oil or if you’d like to get creative, add a few drops to the bath, or make your own body washes, shampoos and cleaning products. Some oils are contraindicated in certain conditions including pregnancy so if you’re unsure, it is best to consult with a qualified health professional before application.
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