Should You Use Essential Oils?

Essential oils are all the rage these days, to the point where it is becoming a cult phenomenon. Essential oils are a highly potent form of plant medicine so they can have an impact on your health. But are essential oils the answer to all your health complaints? Will essential oils cure your chronic condition? Will essential oils prevent disease? No. Especially is used on their own. Remember, health is a complex, dynamic experience with many factors. So essential oils will not be your miracle cure. But that can be a great part of a healthy lifestyle when used wisely and safely.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are aromatic oils extracted from plant materials. They can be extracted using steam or a solvent. It usually requires pounds of a plant to produce a small amount of the essential oil. Therefore, essential oils are highly potent and highly concentrated. The risk of toxicity is much higher with essential oils compared to other plant extracts. Therefore, it is really important to be smart and safe when using essential oils. Just because it came from a plant doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you.

Benefits of Essential Oils

  • Disinfect cuts, scrapes, and insect bites
  • Soothe wounds, rashes, bruises, and bumps
  • Promote healing of wounds
  • Increase circulation to an area to ease tension and pain
  • Relax muscles to soothe a cough, indigestion, or muscle cramps
  • Kill viruses and bacteria that can cause illness
  • Sedate the nervous system to relieve stress and promote sleep
  • Modulate your mood through smell and the olfactory nerve

How to use essential oils

Topically

Topically is the safest way to use essential oils and still get the benefits. It is important, however, to dilute essential oils when applying topically. If you apply an essential oil directly, the essential oil may damage and irritate your skin. A general rule of thumb is to add 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. You can use jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, hazelnut oil, olive oil, or many other oils.

Aromatherapy

Using a diffuser or other vaporization device, you can infuse a room with the scent of essential oils. Inhaling the scent can have an effect on your mood.

Steam Inhalation

This is a great way to ease upper respiratory tract infections. Add about 5 drops of essential oil into a bowl of hot, steaming water. Lean over the bowl, cover your head with a towel to create a tent around the bowl and breathe in the steam. You can periodically add more essential oils if necessary. The essential oils will sit on the top of the water so you will be able to see when they have vaporized. Do the steam inhalation for about 15 minutes. You can also a steam inhalation as a facial sauna to help unclog pores.

Can I use essential oils internally?

Short answer: no. Essential oils can very irritating to the mucous membranes of your digestive tract and some are just plain toxic. So don’t do it. With that said, some essential oils can be safely used internally but only under the direction of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner. If someone tells you to take an essential oil internally, here is what you should ask yourself. Has this person studied biochemistry, physiology, pharmacognosy, and the diagnosis and treatment of disease? If the answer to that question is yes, then go ahead and listen to them. If the answer is no, don’t listen to them.

Contraindications

  • If you’re currently taking medications, talk to a doctor (trained in essential oils) before using essential oils. The compounds in the essential oils may interact with your medications and cause harmful side effects.
  • If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, do not use essential oils.
  • Do not use essential oils to treat any medical conditions. Talk to a doctor first.
  • Some essential oils are phototoxic, meaning they will burn your skin when exposed to the sun, so be careful in your use of essential oils on your skin.

Common essential oils

Chamomile

  • Anti-inflammatory to soothe skin irritations
  • Antispasmodic to soothe digestive discomfort due to stress, nervous tension, headaches, and insomnia
  • Best use: topical

Eucalyptus

  • Decongestant and expectorant to aid in respiratory tract infections including sinus infections, cough, bronchitis
  • Antispasmodic to open the airways and promote breathing in asthmatic patients
  • Best use: steam inhalation

Lavender

  • Antimicrobial for skin issues such as acne and dandruff
  • Anti-inflammatory to soothe bruises, burns, eczema, sunburn and wounds
  • Best use: topical

Rosemary

  • Antimicrobial for skin issues such as acne and dandruff
  • Promotes circulation to restore hair growth, soothe sore muscles, and ease pain
  • Best use: topical

Tea Tree

  • Antimicrobial and antiviral for skin issues such as acne, dandruff, athlete's foot, and warts
  • Best use: topical

References

  • The Encylcopedia of Essential Oils

Hi!

I'm Dr. Carly and my mission is to create a health revolution. I believe that another prescription is not the answer. I believe in using natural therapies that go beyond the symptoms. And I believe that doctors should spend way more than 7 minutes with a patient. 

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