As with anything, I figured it’s best to start at the beginning. So what exactly is an essential oil?
According to Dictionary.com, an essential oil is “any of a class of volatile oils obtained from plants, possessing the odor and other characteristic properties of the plant, used chiefly in the manufacture of perfumes, flavors, and pharmaceuticals.”
But what really is an essential oil?
So now you’re thinking, ‘yeah, I kind of already knew that, and that doesn’t really help me.’ Fear not, friend, this is where the useful information begins.
If you’re researching essential oils, you’re probably more interested in what they’re used for than a formal definition. Uses for essential oils fall into three major categories: Scent, Taste, and Supplement.
This is a very common use for essential oils. Since they are generally extracted from plants such as lavender, lemon, or peppermint, these oils (or more commonly a combination of oils) can be used as air fresheners or perfumes. Most of the time oils used for scent are either diffused in the air using a diffuser, combined with water or vinegar and sprayed into the air or on surfaces, or applied to the skin like a perfume (Be careful with this, as some oils are not safe for direct skin contact and can cause burns and rashes. This is why it is important to dilute oils using a proper carrier oil.)
Aside from smelling good, a lot of essential oils taste good as well. Obvious examples are lemon and peppermint, mentioned above. These can generally be added straight to food or drink for flavoring (Please be cautious! Not all oils are fit for consumption, and it is very easy to overdose because EOs are very concentrated). I personally love to add a touch of peppermint to my coffee in the winter when I’m feeling festive.
This is what brings together the trifecta of power for essential oils. There are many, many oils that smell good, taste good, and do amazing things for your body and mind. These effects can be experienced through either inhalation, digestion, or absorption through the skin. Going back to our example of peppermint, not only will diffusing it into the air make your house smell like christmas, it can improve your concentration and focus. Not to mention that ingesting it is generally believed to help regulate digestion.
Related: Peppermint Oil: Just the Facts
Can essential oils really do all that?
Yes – to some extent.
Essential oils are believed to help with everything from headaches to heartaches, boasting properties that promote calming, sleep, energy, immune strength, and even sexual desire. But how much truth is there to these claims? That’s what I’m here to find out. Through review of scientific research and personal experimentation, I’m going to clear up once and for all what’s true and what isn’t. (And what might be plausible vs what’s completely impossible).
All I can talk about right now, with certainty, is my own experience so far. The biggest reason I started looking into essential oils was because my boyfriend has chronic insomnia, and I wanted to be able to help him sleep without him having to take a sleeping pill every night. Not only can those being addicting, but they’re riddled with unwanted side effects. So I did some research and came across this blog post that then led me to Young Living, where I decided to dive head first into the world of essential oils.
Long story short, their oil blend Stress Away did the trick for my boyfriend. He now sleeps deeply through the night, whereas before he complained of waking up several times and not always being able to fall back to sleep. He likes to playfully call it witchcraft, but he won’t deny that it works.
Along with Stress Away (which also does a great job of calming me down during the day), I’ve found that peppermint lives up to many of its claims. I have a mild case of indigestion most days, and adding peppermint to my morning coffee has greatly reduced the number of bubbles in my stomach during the day. I’ve also experimented with diffusing it while studying, and I feel it contributes to helping me focus and be productive.
There are so many more oils still left to explore though! One of Young Living’s specialty blends, Thieves, is supposed to promote a healthy immune system, as well as help you get better faster once you do get sick. With the cold weather beginning to set in, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to test that out soon enough (unfortunately). Another oil I hope to try soon is Basil. This oil has historically been used to treat headaches and chest infections, and I’m hoping it will be effective on the former, allowing me to wean myself off of Advil.
One last note for everyone: Be careful when using essential oils! As mentioned in the dictionary.com definition, these oils are volatile, and not extensively studied (which is why information about them is currently so muddled). Please check each and every oil you use for directions on diluting or guides for supplementing via ingestion.
So what do you guys think? What works and what doesn’t? Have any of you experienced the benefits of essential oils? Let me know in the comments below!