Essential oils are natural compounds which are extracted from the essence of a plant; from the seeds, barks, stems, roots, leaves, or flowers by a process of distillation. Essential oils give the plants their fragrance and assist in pollination.
Aside from this, essential oils have a rich history of being used in cooking, in beauty products, and as medicines.
They are useful in aromatherapy, as the oils travel through the air and are easily absorbed by the smell receptors in the nose. These receptors carry the scent to the brain, where mood, emotions, and behaviour can be affected.
Essential oils can be used alone or as a blend depending on what the user wants to achieve.
- 1 How to use an essential oil
- 1.1 Here are the most common ways of using an essential oil
- 1.2 Inhalation
- 1.3 Topical application
- 1.4 Ingestion
- 1.5 Allergies
- 1.6 Common allergies
- 1.7 Symptoms of an allergic reaction
- 1.8 Treating severe allergic reactions
- 1.9 Treatments for allergies
- 1.10 Antihistamines
- 1.11 Decongestants
- 1.12 Lotions and creams
- 1.13 Steroid medication
- 1.14 Immunotherapy
- 1.15 What causes allergies?
- 1.16 The best essential oils for allergies
- 1.17 Peppermint oil
- 1.18 Lavender oil
- 1.19 Chamomile oil
- 1.20 Tea tree oil
- 1.21 Lemon oil
- 1.22 Lemongrass oil
- 1.23 Bergamot oil
- 1.24 Eucalyptus oil
- 1.25 Sandalwood oil
- 1.26 Thyme oil
- 1.27 Final Thoughts
How to use an essential oil
Here are the most common ways of using an essential oil
We know that the smell receptors in the knows have a link to a part of the brain that processes memories, behaviour, mood, and emotions. This is why certain essential oils can have a beneficial effect on mood. Some oils are used to lift our mood and some are used to gain a calming effect. The oils can be put in a diffuser so they can fragrance a room, or you can simply put a few drops on a handkerchief or in the palm of your hand and inhale. You can also make a mist by mixing the oil with water, or using it to clean surfaces in your home.
Essential oils are easily absorbed into the skin, and this is what makes them ideal for massages. Always dilute oils with a carrier oil before you use them on the skin, and it’s a good idea to test them on your upper arm to see if your skin reacts. Even if your skin doesn’t react, start off using a small amount of oil. You can add some oil to your bath, to a hot or cold compress, or add some oil to your favourite body lotion. Always avoid broken or damaged skin, the delicate eye area, and the ears.
Some essential oils are used in cooking or as dietary supplements. In cooking, they can add flavour and aroma, and when taken as a supplement, they can deliver targeted health benefits. The body can only handle a certain amount of the oils though, and as some can be toxic at certain levels, always make sure that you follow guidelines on dosage. You can add essential oils to water, smoothies, milk or tea.
Allergies are the body’s reaction to a substance. It might be something in the environment, something we eat, or something we apply to our skin. Allergies are quite common and they can affect one in four people. They are common in children, as their immune systems aren’t yet developed enough to react appropriately and proportionately to perceived threats. Adults can develop allergies in later life however, even if they weren’t previously allergic to the substance in question. Allergy symptoms can be troublesome, if they are mild, but severe allergic reactions can be life threatening.
The most common allergies that people suffer from are:
grass and tree pollen which causes misery every summer for sufferers.
foods such as nuts, shellfish, and milk
insect bites and stings
latex which is present in gloves and contraceptives
mould spores in the home
chemicals in detergents and hair dyes
Symptoms of an allergic reaction
Allergic reactions usually happen fairly soon after exposure to an allergen. If you have an allergic reaction, you may notice that you experience some or all of the following symptoms:
a runny or blocked nose
red, itchy, watery eyes
wheezing and coughing
a red, itchy rash
Though most allergic reactions are mild, occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. This can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical treatment.
Anaphylaxis affects the whole body within minutes of exposure to an allergen.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
swelling of the throat and mouth
blue skin or lips
collapsing and losing consciousness
Treating severe allergic reactions
People who are at risk of anaphylaxis are often given medication in the form of adrenaline in an EpiPen. In the event of a reaction, the adrenaline must be injected into the thigh as soon as possible and then medical help needs to be sought.
Treatments for allergies
Medications can help to control the symptoms of allergies. You will probably be prescribed the following medications if you suffer from an allergy.
These prevent the immune system from reacting so extremely, which is what causes the unpleasant symptoms.
These come in tablet form, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids and they can reduce the symptoms of a blocked nose which can occur with allergies.
Lotions and creams
These can reduce skin itching and sensitivity.
These come in sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets and they can help to reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction
For more severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be used. This involves exposing the patient to small amounts of the allergen over a period of years, so the immune system gets used to it and does not react so extremely.
What causes allergies?
Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a substance as if it is harmful to the body. Many people with allergies also suffer from asthma or eczema. More people suffer from allergies now than ever before, and there is a theory that this is down to the fact that we live in a much cleaner environment now, so our immune systems aren’t as sharp as they might have been. They simply haven’t had enough germs to deal with to develop immunity.
The best essential oils for allergies
Peppermint oil can help to clear blocked sinuses and nasal congestion caused by allergies. The oil is an expectorant which means that it can clear your airways and reduce any inflammation. Inhaling peppermint essential oil can help you breathe easier.
Studies into the anti-allergy effects of peppermint oil have confirmed that it reduces inflammation in the respiratory passages. The European Journal of Medical Research found that the menthol oil in peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers concluded that menthol is effective for conditions such as asthma and hay fever.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that peppermint oil acts as a relaxant on the respiratory muscles and can soothe coughs.
You can add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a diffuser to treat allergy symptoms or you can mix some with a carrier oil such as coconut oil and rub it on your chest.
Lavender works as a natural antihistamine and will help to reduce allergic reactions. Lavender is especially good for treating skin reactions and insect bites. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory.
The Life Sciences journal found that the anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil can treat asthma. The anti-inflammatory compounds in the oil help to inhibit the production of histamine which dampens the inflammatory response.
A 2003 study found that lavender soothed skin irritation and speeded up healing.
People with allergies may find that their symptoms are worse at night, as the airways tend to be narrower, and lying down it bed can make it feel more difficult to breathe if you have congestion of the airways. Lavender helps to relax you at night and promotes a good sleep. Try putting a few drops on your pillow or inhale some oil before you go to bed.
Chamomile essential oil can treat a range of allergic reactions. It is known for its soothing properties, so if you have skin irritation, it will give you some relief.
Inhaling the oil can also help to reduce inflammation in your respiratory system if you have blocked sinuses. The soothing effect can also settle digestive discomfort such as bloating, brought on by food sensitivity.
Research into the medicinal effects of chamomile found that it is an effective anti-inflammatory treatment and that it can help to treat bacterial infections.
Topical application of chamomile oil mixed with a carrier oil can help to relief eczema. A study from 2010 also found that chamomile relieved dermatitis as it appears to have an anti-histamine effect on the skin.
Tea tree essential oil can help to soothe and treat allergic skin reactions by reducing inflammation and preventing the skin from becoming infected. The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can kill mold, fungi, and bacteria particles too so it can be used around the home to get rid of potential allergens.
A Swiss study found that the oil has strong antimicrobial properties and is effective against a wide range of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Other studies have demonstrated that tea tree oil is potent anti-inflammatory and appeared to act like an antihistamine on the skin.
You can use tea tree oil mixed with coconut oil to reduce allergic skin reactions. Tea tree oil is also an effective decongestant.
Lemon oil can treat respiratory problems associated with allergic reactions. Lemon is a natural antioxidant that can boost the immune system and help the body to react proportionately to allergens. You can also use lemon essential oil mixed with water to make a spray to disinfect surfaces and remove allergens from your home.
Research has found that a nasal preparation made from lemon essential oil helped to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. The remedy helped to reduce nasal mucus and helped treat inflammation in the mouth and throat.
Lemongrass essential oil can help to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract. Lemongrass essential oil is also antifungal and helps to kill off potential allergens.
The International Journal of Molecular Medicine found that compounds in lemongrass essential oil had an anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effect. Inhaling lemongrass oil was found to dampen down an overactive immune response in the body. Other studies into the effects of lemongrass found that it can help reduce skin inflammation and fungal infections when it is applied topically and when it is inhaled.
Lemongrass is also a natural insect repellent. You can mix a few drops of lemon essential oil with water and spray it on your clothing. This will help prevent insect bites that can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you are unlucky enough to get bitten, you can relieve the skin irritation by mixing 2 drops of lemongrass oil with coconut oil and applying it to the affected areas 2-3 times a day.
Bergamot essential oil can be used to treat allergy symptoms. Bergamot is a citrus fruit and the oil is full of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which can relieve allergy symptoms. A 2010 study found that the oil could reduce symptoms of asthma. Inhalation of the oil was best for this.
Eucalyptus essential oil is a natural expectorant, so it can help to clear congestion. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, use the oil with steam inhalation to unblock nasal congestion and relieve stuffiness.
You can also use eucalyptus essential oil to get rid of mold from your bathroom and kitchen. Mold spores can cause allergy symptoms and in particular, they can bring on asthma attacks.
To get rid of mold from your home, mix a few drops of eucalyptus oil, clove oil, and tea tree oil in a spray bottle filled with water. Spray directly onto the affected areas and leave it to dry. Do this daily until the mold has gone and you should find that your symptoms reduce.
You can also use the spray to remove allergy-causing dust mites from bed linen, sofas, and other fabrics. All you have to do is lightly spray the mixture onto the fabric and leave it to dry to kill off any mites. Using eucalyptus around your home will also keep it smelling fresh and free of allergens. It also means that you don’t have to use chemical products which might also bring on allergy symptoms.
If you suffer from pet allergies, dust allergies, or hay fever, sandalwood is the oil you need. It helps to reduce the effect of allergens and it helps to dampen the reaction of the antibodies in your immune system. When you breathe in sandalwood vapour, the compounds in the oil help to inhibit the allergic responses that cause unpleasant symptoms like a runny nose and congestion.
The journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that sandalwood was effective in the treatment of hay fever. An oil containing sandalwood, geranium and almond oil was massaged daily into the participant’s’ skin for 5 minutes a day for 7 days. At the end of the study, the group showed “significant improvements” in their allergy symptoms. The improvements noted were objective and subjective.
Thyme is another essential oil that has fights allergy symptoms. Thyme oil works by helping to inhibit inflammatory responses in the body and it can kill off any fungal or bacterial infections.
Studies have found that thyme extracts are effective in the treatment of respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. This is thanks to the antispasmodic, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties of the oil.
Essential oils are the essence of a plant. They are extracted from the bark, stems, roots, leaves, seeds, or flowers of a plant by a process of distillation. As well as affording the plant with protection, the natural oils give us a whole host of benefits too. They have a long history of use in medicine, beauty treatments, and cooking.
They can be inhaled, from a diffuser or from a handkerchief, they can be added to your bath, or used in a massage, or they can be added to food or taken as a supplement. There are many ways of getting the benefits from these natural wonders. Just remember though, that the natural compounds in the oils act like traditional drugs in that it is possible that they could interact with medication you are on, and many of them are toxic at certain levels in the human body. So seek advice, and start off with small amounts. This is also true if you intend to apply them to your skin. Do a patch test on the skin on your upper arm first then start off using a small amount of oil if your skin shows no signs of sensitivity.
Oils can be used for many things, and treating the miserable symptoms of allergies appears to be one of them. Allergy sufferers have to put up with a barrage of symptoms from runny noses, to itchy eyes and skin reactions. But there are some essential oils that can be inhaled, used topically, or used around the home to reduce symptoms and to keep your immune system in check. All natural solution, no chemicals required to overload an already delicate system.