The magic of essential oils

  • PublishedJuly 10, 2011

If you’re looking to improve your health and general well being and also relax, essential oils may be just the thing for you. These oils are mainly used in aromatherapy – which is the practice of healing and improving health using fragrant natural ingredients. The aroma the oils release is taken up by nerve endings in the nose and relayed to the brain where they have a powerful effect on mood, emotions and mental state. Essential oils are found in herbs, plants, flowers, fruits, the bark and roots of some trees. They come from different parts of the plant such as the petals, roots, seeds, nuts, leaves or the bark. The quality of an essential oil may vary depending on environmental conditions where it grows. The quality of soil, for example, may make a difference while some plants do well during rainy seasons and others are productive in hot seasons. These environmental conditions ultimately affect the quality of oils extracted.

Benefits of essential oils

Essential oils are known to have healing properties. For example, the painkiller aspirin comes from the willow tree. These oils are also used to treat skin conditions such as acne, rashes, wrinkles, dull complexions, dry and oily skins, and scars among others. The beneficial effects are achieved through a combination of nutrients, antioxidants and bio stimulants, which nourish and revitalise the skin. Ravensara, for example, is a useful essential oil ingredient for treatment of inflamed skin conditions including acne and minor blemishes. Others, which have similar properties, include tea tree oil and patchouli. Essential oils are used to make natural skin care products such as moisturisers, anti-ageing treatments, exfoliators, toners and deep cleansers. However, caution should be observed when using essential oil-based beauty products on the face, especially if you have a sensitive skin as they can irritate it. But when you know what essential oil to use on your skin, it can give you excellent results because of their skin care properties. Some of the best-known essential oils that have been used for a long time include tea tree, neroli, cypress and rose.

Essential oils are also good for massage as they combine both the smell and sense of touch. This is believed to be the most therapeutic use of the oils, as massage helps to stimulate circulation, which helps the oils to move quickly around the body. The strong smell brings a calming effect to both mind and body. For example, frankincense, when used to massage the temples and scalp is a quick and easy way to clear one’s mind and reduce tension headaches. Other good massage oils include sandalwood and fennel.

Essential oils can be used for baths. A few drops of the oil added to warm bath water gives the same aromatherapy effects. Soaking your body in a bathtub with added essential oils is one of the most relaxing aromatherapy treatments you can have. Different oils will revitalise the body, refresh tired feet, boost circulation of blood, and also soothe aches and pains. They can also help to reduce perspiration and may also aid in weight loss. Lemon, jasmine and mandarin oils are useful for adding to baths to pep up blood circulation and revive the senses.

Inhaling essential oils is one of the best ways to treat coughs and colds. Put a few drops of eucalyptus or pine oil in a bowl of boiling water and cover your head with a towel and bend forward to inhale the steam. The healing benefits of these oils make this inhalation open up the airwaves, allowing you to breath in more deeply and get rid of toxins emanating from the infection. It is also soothing to irritated mucus membranes due to inflammation or excessive coughing.

Some essential oils also work wonders on dull, lifeless or thinning hair and others help to prevent dandruff and itchy scalp.

Sage, for instance, is good for treating dandruff and flaking scalp. All essential oils should be used in small quantities, as they are highly concentrated. Lavender oil on burns, and tea tree oil on spots and pimples are exceptions to this rule. It is important to know the benefits of each essential oil before using it. If used wrongly they could do more harm than good. There are many books available in bookstores on essential oils and aromatherapy and these could prove useful. You can also ask for advice from a therapist. If pregnant, consult a doctor before using any essential oil as some should not be used during pregnancy as they can induce premature labour.

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