Essential oils have been used for medical purposes and in healing rituals for thousands of years. The people in the ancient cultures who used them did not have access to painkillers and over the counter remedies as we have today, so they turned to using what mother earth gave them. And they were really onto something. If you could get a medication that treated depression, stress, bacteria, viruses, colds, urinary infections, arthritis and much more, it would be considered a wonder drug, right? What makes oils an even more attractive proposition is that they are completely natural products, so we aren’t loading our systems with toxins when they need to be brought back into balance. We have probably all encountered essential oils at some point, whether in a bath or body product, when getting a massage or as a food ingredient, but how much do you really know about them?
- 1 All about essential oils
- 1.1 Essential oils aren’t oils as such
- 1.2 Most available essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal potency
- 1.3 The skin easily absorbs essential oils
- 1.4 Studies have demonstrated that some essential oils can have positive effects on the brain
- 1.5 A ‘fragrance oil’ is not an essential oil
- 1.6 It takes a huge amount of plants to make essential oil
- 1.7 As they are so concentrated, most oils can’t be used directly on the skin, unless they are diluted
- 1.8 Essential oils will last for at least 5 years (if not 10)
- 1.9 If you have an allergy or intolerance, this can apply to the oil
- 1.10 How to use essential oils
- 1.11 The power of citrus oils
- 1.12 What Is lemon verbena oil?
- 1.13 The benefits of lemon verbena oil
- 1.14 Weight loss
- 1.15 Reduced muscle damage and increased stamina
- 1.16 Reduced joint inflammation
- 1.17 Boosts immunity
- 1.18 It boosts digestive health
- 1.19 It reduces fevers
- 1.20 It can calm anxiety
- 1.21 It can help with congestion
- 1.22 It’s a potent antiseptic
- 1.23 It’s a great skin emollient
- 1.24 It works as an insecticide
- 1.25 It has aphrodisiac qualities
- 1.26 It’s a great ingredient for cosmetics
- 1.27 Final thoughts
All about essential oils
Essential oils aren’t oils as such
They are the essence of a plant, they come from the flower, roots, leaves or bark of a plant. They aren’t made up of fatty acids like the oils we are most familiar with.
As well as making them great for health, this makes them very effective cleaning agents for your home. Oils which are effective cleaners include lemon, grapefruit, tea tree and rosemary. Natural cleaning products are better for your health and better for the environment.
The skin easily absorbs essential oils
This makes them an ideal ingredient in body care products. They soften and nourish the skin, and unlike man made products, they don’t accumulate in the body and cause adverse effects.
Studies have demonstrated that some essential oils can have positive effects on the brain
One study showed that participants who inhaled the scent of rosemary oil did better on tests and had better recall. Similar effects were achieved with lavender. Inhaling different scents has been shown to alter mood, lift depression, and promote relaxation.
A ‘fragrance oil’ is not an essential oil
These oils are synthetic and you won’t get the benefits that you can get from the pure essence.
It takes a huge amount of plants to make essential oil
For example, 4000lbs of Bulgarian roses only make 1lb of essential oil. This explains why the oils are so concentrated and sometimes expensive.
As they are so concentrated, most oils can’t be used directly on the skin, unless they are diluted
The oils should be diluted either with water or a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil. If you use them neat, you may have an adverse skin reaction. A few oils are safe to be used in small amounts on the skin however, including lavender, tea tree and sandalwood oil. You can check for possible sensitivity to an oil by diluting it with a carrier oil and applying it to the skin on the inside of your upper arm. If there is no redness or irritation after a few hours, it is most likely okay for you to use.
Essential oils will last for at least 5 years (if not 10)
A little oil goes a long way, so a little bottle will last you a long time. They will retain their potency if you store them in a dark glass bottle and keep them out of direct sunlight.
If you have an allergy or intolerance, this can apply to the oil
If you come out in hives when you eat lemons for example, any lemon based oil will have the same effect.
How to use essential oils
Even though essential oils are natural products, they need to be used with caution, especially where you have an existing health condition or you are on medication. Always seek appropriate advice about usage and dosage. Many oils are not suitable for use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and most oils need to be diluted prior to use or you risk a nasty skin reaction.
The 3 main ways that essential oils are used include inhalation, application to the skin and ingestion. Whichever method you are using, start off with a small amount as oils are very concentrated.
Oils can be inhaled either by putting them in a diffuser or oil burner. The diffuser creates an evaporated mist and disperses the scent of the oil into a room. Inhaling the oils is effective for altering mood. For example, oils like lavender can relax you and promote good sleep. You can also inhale a few drops of oil from a handkerchief or add a few drops to a bowl of hot water, sit over the bowl with a towel covering your head and inhaling the vapour. This method is excellent for clearing nasal congestion associated with colds and flu. Take care to close your eyes to avoid stinging though and don’t use boiling water.
If you want to apply the oil topically, remember that most oils require dilution with a carrier oil or water before use. Only a few can be applied to the skin neat. Oils are easily absorbed into the skin, so they can be targeted to where you have a health complaint. For example, rubbing peppermint oil into the abdomen can treat digestive problems.
Some oils can be ingested; however, this should only be done under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Some oils are present in food products, such as mints and chewing gum in small amounts.
The power of citrus oils
Citrus oils are known for being immune boosting, invigorating and uplifting. They have a pleasant, fresh scent and are used in a lot of cosmetics and other beauty products. Oils such as lemon, lime, mandarin and orange fall into this category. The oils are extracted from the rind of the fruit. The oils are beneficial to health, though these oils can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight so take care not to apply them prior to sun exposure. Lemon is a very popular oil. It blends well with eucalyptus, geranium, peppermint and sandalwood. It has antiseptic, antibacterial and immune boosting properties. Research has shown that the oil can kill staphylococcus bacteria in 2 hours. The oil can also boost mental health. It can boost energy, lift the mood, and relieve depression. As well as being great for health, lemon oil makes an excellent cleaner. Add 20-30 drops of the oil to a spray bottle and top it up with water to make an effective bathroom and kitchen cleaner.
So, lemon oil and its scent can be beneficial to health. But let’s go back to oils derived from plants, and see how an oil from the same scent family can benefit us. Let’s get acquainted with lemon verbena oil.
What Is lemon verbena oil?
Lemon verbena oil comes from the lemon verbena plant which is native to South America. It is mainly found in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. The plant came to European shores in the 17th century, then in the 18th century, it was being grown in the Mediterranean and North America. The plant has long leaves and can grow as big as 16ft tall. The main use for the plant was for cooking, to add flavour to dishes. It can be added to tea and to give a lemon flavour to cakes and ice cream. The oil is pale yellow and has a fresh scent. It is commonly used in perfumes and cosmetic products, and the dried leaves are an excellent choice for pot pourri or for use as an air freshener.
The oil is extracted from the leaves and stems of the plant by a steam distillation process. It takes a lot of plants to make the oil, and the oil yield is low, which makes the oil quite expensive.
The oil contains antioxidant compounds such as citral, geraniol and nerol which boost immunity and the functioning of the body’s systems. The oil is commonly applied to the skin (always dilute it first) or added to a bath
As with all citrus oils, lemon verbena oil can cause photosensitivity, so don’t expose skin to the sun after you have used it. The leaves of the plant can cause stomach issues. Always seek advice on usage if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have kidney disease, avoid using this oil at all. If you have any health condition or you are on medication always consult a doctor before you use any alternative remedies. Remember the mantra; natural does not mean safe.
The benefits of lemon verbena oil
Lemon verbena tea appears to be effective for weight loss. The tea has only 2 calories per serving plus the compounds in the plant appear to be effective for reducing appetite. The lemon has a stimulating effect on the metabolism which may help you burn fat more efficiently.
Reduced muscle damage and increased stamina
If you supplement with the oil or use it topically, the antioxidants can protect your muscles from damage during a workout. The less achy you are and the less damaged your muscles are, the stronger they will become. So, use the oil if you’re a gym bunny!
Reduced joint inflammation
Arthritis, injuries and general wear and tear can be bad news for our joint health and mobility as we age. Lemon verbena has been shown to reduce swelling and aching in the joints thanks to its impressive antioxidant content.
The antioxidant compounds in the oil can combat damage done by free radicals which lead to disease. Research has demonstrated that the oil acts on the immune system and that there were more white cells that fight infection evident in individuals who used it. The oil can improve liver function which will further boost health by removing toxins from the body, plus it sustains the healthy function of the digestive and respiratory systems.
It boosts digestive health
Lemon verbena oil is soothing on the stomach and is useful for treating digestive complaints. The oil is known to be an antispasmodic so it can reduce bloating and cramping associated with conditions such as IBS. If your digestive system is working well, you will feel much healthier overall.
It reduces fevers
Traditionally, the stimulating effect of the oil was thought to promote sweating so it relieved fevers and promoted recovery from illnesses. The antiviral properties of the oil will help fight any illness causing a fever too.
It can calm anxiety
The oil can balance the hormones in the body which reduces stress and anxiety. Inhaling the oil to lift the mood and boost positivity is effective, plus it’s useful as a massage blend to get the dual effect of a relaxing oil and a relaxing massage.
It can help with congestion
The oil is a natural expectorant, which means that it can calm a cough and clear congestion caused by a cold or other respiratory infection. If the body can get rid of phlegm more easily, there is much less scope for developing complications or further infections.
It’s a potent antiseptic
The oil is often used as a natural disinfectant and as treatment for bacterial infections.
It’s a great skin emollient
The oil’s emollient properties make it an excellent skin nourishing moisturiser, and it is often a key ingredient in cosmetics and body care products.
It works as an insecticide
The antibacterial characteristics of the essential oil make it a very effective insecticide, and the lemon fresh scent is far better that than the unpleasant whiff of DDT!
It has aphrodisiac qualities
The stimulating and invigorating properties of the oil make it an excellent aphrodisiac. Say goodbye to low libido, especially if it related to stress or anxiety.
It’s a great ingredient for cosmetics
It’s a perfect massage oil if mixed with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil. Its fresh scent and skin beautifying properties means that it is a common ingredient in aftershave, perfumes, and soaps.
Ancient cultures used natural products to cure a whole host of ills, and they were on to something. They did not have pharmacies or drugstores, or access to numerous drugs to treat illnesses, but they did have what the natural world provided them with. Natural products come without adverse side effects and without a hefty price tag. They work in harmony with our bodies and restore balance just when it is needed. Illnesses disturb the balance of our bodies and it makes sense that the products that restore the balance needed for good health are just what we should be using.
Most of us have probably came across an essential oil at some point, though we probably never fully understood exactly what these wonderful natural products are capable of. These oils can cure numerous mental and physical complaints which we tend to just struggle on with every day. We suffer needlessly with complaints which drain our energy and make us feel below par, when the answer could lie in a small glass bottle.
But natural or not, be aware that natural does not mean 100% safe. Everyone is different. If you have an existing medical condition or you are on medication, it is unwise to start taking anything which might make your health condition worse or interact with your medication. Even if the product is natural, it has active compounds which do affect your system, for better or for worse. Always seek advice from your doctor or another qualified practitioner before starting any alternative therapy.
If you are okay to use them, you will be on your way to gaining countless health benefits, and who doesn’t want to feel healthier and more energetic? Who doesn’t want a natural way to feel calm and relaxed, instead of turning to things like alcohol which will only make us feel worse in the long run?
The humble lemon verbena oil is versatile, though it can be expensive as it takes a lot of plants to produce a relatively small amount of oil. Remember though, that a little oil goes a long way and a bottle might last you at least 5 years. When you consider that, plus the amount of potential conditions that the oil can treat, it really is a worthwhile investment. Some people can be skeptical about alternative therapies and products, though often these therapies are negated by those who have a personal stake in drugs companies. Natural products are effective and have negligible side effects, and the drugs companies don’t want you to know that! It’s time to take control of your health, and get clued up on what is best for you.
The wisest thing to do is to get good advice and do your research on whether essential oils are appropriate for you. You might just discover your perfect aching muscle rub, decongestant, air freshener or bathroom cleaner and what’s even better, it will be completely natural so you aren’t applying chemicals to your skin or breathing them in.