Essential oils are volatile compounds that are extracted from the different parts of plants. The oils have many healing properties, which make them very effective for benefiting physical and emotional health.
Oils have been used for over 5,000 years by people of many different cultures as natural medicine. They are still as popular as ever today, and you will see them used in massage, body care products and cleaning products.
Oils are extracted from plants by a distillation process. They are very concentrated and have a very strong aroma. The oils have a role to play in plants. They protect them from insects and other predators, and help them to survive in harsh environments.
- 1 The History of Aromatherapy
- 2 How to Use Essential Oils
- 3 Topical Application
- 4 Inhalation
- 5 Ingestion
- 6 In Your Own Personal Care Products
- 7 All about alcohol
- 8 Alcohol Content of Popular Drinks
- 9 How alcohol affects the liver
- 10 What is a hangover?
- 11 How to Prevent a Hangover
- 12 How can you treat a hangover?
- 13 Essential Oils for Hangovers
- 14 Fennel Essential Oil
- 15 Ginger Essential Oil
- 16 Lavender Essential Oil
- 17 Lemon Essential Oil
- 18 Black Pepper Essential Oil
- 19 Marjoram Essential Oil
- 20 Peppermint Essential Oil
- 21 Spearmint Essential Oil
The History of Aromatherapy
Oils were used by the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, as cosmetics, in perfumes, as medicines, and in healing rituals.
A French chemist discovered that lavender oil could be used to treat burns, then from there, oils were used to heal the wounds of injured soldiers during World War I. The use of oils became widespread, then scientists developed methods whereby they could extract active compounds from plants and turned them into medicines. Some of these medicines form the basis of some of the drugs we are familiar with today.
From the 1980’s, oils were added to body lotions and candles, and today, the use of essential oils is becoming popular as an adjunct treatment to conventional medicine.
How to Use Essential Oils
Here are the most common ways to use essential oils to boost your health:
Essential oils contain very small particles so they are easily absorbed by the skin. They can be applied directly to wounds, or they can be used in massage, which boosts the circulation and aids absorption. Remember to always dilute essential oils as they are very potent, and do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to check for sensitivity.
There is a lot of evidence that essential oils are readily absorbed into the lungs and then the bloodstream when you inhale them. They are also able to have an effect on emotions and mood by acting on the limbic system of the brain. You can inhale them from the bottle, from a handkerchief, in a steam inhalation treatment, or from a diffuser. Beneficial oils to use include lavender for reducing stress, tea tree to cleanse the air in a room, orange to boost your mood, and peppermint to increase your focus.
Essential oils are generally not recommended for ingestion, unless you are doing so under the supervision of a qualified professional. Some oils can be highly toxic, so always err on the side of caution. If you are ingesting oils, usually only 1-3 drops is needed. Oils like peppermint can soothe the digestion, and lemon can cleanse the system and benefit the skin.
In Your Own Personal Care Products
There are some great recipes for making homemade personal care products that will boost your health as well. Many people try to avoid using too many chemicals, and if you are one of them, try making your own shampoo, body butter, toothpaste, or insect repellent from essential oils and other things that you are likely to have in your cupboards at home.
All about alcohol
Alcohol is a drug, albeit it seems, a socially acceptable one. It is classed as a depressant, which means that it slows down some of your bodily functions. This is why you might notice that it causes you to feel unsteady and slur your speech, and it slows your reaction times.
It can also reduce the ability to think rationally and it affects judgement.
It is the amount of alcohol you drink that determines what effects it has on you. Someone might have a glass or two of wine to ‘wind down,’ but when alcohol is drank to excess, it affects coordination and control.
There are different types of alcohol. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is the only alcohol used in beverages, and it is produced by the fermentation of grains and fruits.
Alcohol Content of Popular Drinks
Fermented drinks, such as beer and wine, can contain anything from 2% alcohol to 20% alcohol. Distilled drinks, such as spirits, can contain anything from 40% to 50% or more alcohol. The usual alcohol content for each is:
- Beer 2–6% alcohol
- Cider 4–8% alcohol
- Wine 8–20% alcohol
- Tequila 40% alcohol
- Rum 40% or more alcohol
- Brandy 40% or more alcohol
- Gin 40–47% alcohol
- Whiskey 40–50% alcohol
- Vodka 40–50% alcohol
- Liqueurs 15–60% alcohol
- How is alcohol metabolised in the body?
The liver is one of the busiest organs in the body. Its main function is to process toxins in the body and convert them into harmless substances before eliminating them from the body. Some toxins such as alcohol prove too much for the liver to handle if they are consumed in large amounts however.
Alcohol is processed differently than food in that the stomach and intestines do not digest it, instead it passes through the digestive system straight into the bloodstream. The liver receives the alcohol almost immediately. This is why you tend to feel the effects of alcohol quickly once you have drank it. The liver is the only organ in the body that can metabolise alcohol. Enzymes secreted by the liver cells recognise alcohol as a toxin. One enzyme in particular, acetate dehydrogenase, converts alcohol into a substance known as acetaldehyde. This is even more toxic than the alcohol itself. It can damage other enzymes in the body before it is converted into acetate, then turned into carbon dioxide and water. It is eliminated from the body through the lungs, urine, and sweat.
How alcohol affects the liver
The excessive consumption of alcohol is a factor in the development of chronic liver diseases. It can increase inflammation in the liver and cause scarring. It also increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Alcohol can also damage other organs in the body.
It is often converted into fat in the body as it has no nutrients that the body can use. This fat gets stored in the liver and can cause fatty liver disease.
What’s worrying is that liver damage, in the early stages, is not always evident. The liver can regenerate to a certain extent and damage might not be noticeable until liver damage has progressed to the point of no return.
When the liver is processing alcohol, the by-products it gives off, plus the dehydration caused by the diuretic effect of alcohol, are what causes the unpleasant symptoms we know as a hangover.
What is a hangover?
If you have ever had a hangover from indulging in too much alcohol, you will be familiar with the headache, feelings of nausea, and fatigue, which can leave you feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed.
The main cause of a hangover is ethanol, which is the alcohol in your drinks. It’s a toxic chemical that acts as a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more and leaves you dehydrated. Dehydration is another main cause of hangover symptoms.
How to Prevent a Hangover
You can reduce your chances of a hangover by following these tips:
Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach as it increases the risk of a hangover. Food helps to slow down the rate that your body absorbs alcohol, especially carbohydrates and fats.
Drink water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration. Remember though that fizzy drinks can increase the absorption of alcohol into your system.
Drink plenty of water before going to bed and keep more by the bed.
Don’t drink dark-coloured drinks, as they contain natural chemicals called congeners, which irritate blood vessels and tissues in the brain and can make a hangover feel much worse.
How can you treat a hangover?
There is no cure for a hangover but if you follow these tips, you should feel much better in no time:
As well as drinking water, drink fresh juice to give yourself a vitamin boost. Isotonic drinks (sports drinks) can also help to replace lost minerals and fluids.
If you really feel like you’re suffering, take a painkiller and an antacid to settle your stomach and reduce hangover symptoms.
Try a rehydration treatment sachet, as they can help to replace lost minerals and salt.
Eat something nutritious, such as bananas and kiwis, which are a good source of potassium. This is one of the nutrients you’ll lose when you drink alcohol. Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can give you a boost. It’s also easy on the stomach if you are feeling fragile.
Avoid drinking more alcohol. Take a break from it for at least 48 hours.
If you’ve had a heavy drinking episode, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol to give your body time to recover.
Advice on drinking alcohol
To reduce the health risks from alcohol:
Don’t drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis
Spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
if you want to cut down on alcohol, try to have several drink-free days each week
14 units is the equivalent of 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
There is no cure for a hangover, but you can treat the symptoms. Here are some oils that should provide relief from your overindulgence:
One benefit of fennel essential oil is that it may help to boost healthy kidney function and eliminate toxins from the body. It has often been used as a diuretic and to remove toxins from the blood. It is a way of naturally detoxing the body following alcohol consumption.
To use fennel essential oil to treat a hangover, mix 1-2 drops with a tablespoon of carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, then apply it to the skin and gently massage it in.
The analgesic, energizing, anti-nausea, and liver-protecting properties of ginger essential oil make it a very effective natural detox remedy. A study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal reported that ginger essential oil was effective in reducing pain in participants with moderate abdominal pain and cramping. This can help to soothe a fragile stomach after drinking alcohol.
According to a 2005 study, ginger essential oil also may also be useful for reducing fatigue. In the study, participants who inhaled ginger essential oil had 5% increased stamina during a physical activity test. Fatigue is one of the most noticeable symptoms of a hangover, so the stimulating effects of ginger essential oil could really help you to feel your best again.
Another useful property of ginger essential oil is its ability to fight nausea. In a 2012 study, it was found that inhaling ginger essential oil reduced nausea symptoms and episodes of nausea. Ginger essential oil also supports liver health. In a recent study, researchers found that the markers for alcoholic fatty liver disease were reduced after participants were given the oil.
The headache that comes with a hangover can be one of the most unpleasant symptoms. A 2016 study found that the therapeutic qualities of lavender essential oil can reduce the severity of a headache by 50%. The participants in the study were regular migraine sufferers and they all used lavender successfully for 3 months to treat the pain.
Lavender essential oil has also been found to have sedative and pain-relieving properties that may be useful when trying to get to sleep to sleep off a hangover.
To use lavender essential oil for a hangover, add 2-4 drops to 2-3 cups of boiling hot water or a diffuser. Place it in a well-ventilated space and inhale the diffused oil.
Lemon essential oil has natural anti-nausea properties. In a recent study, researchers found that pregnant women with symptoms of nausea reported a considerable reduction in nausea and vomiting when they inhaled lemon essential oil. Lemon essential oil is considered one of the best natural remedies for nausea caused by a hangover.
Further research has found that lemon essential oil may also have natural anti-depressant-like properties. The oil is considered to be an uplifting oil, and people who inhale it often report that their mood has lifted. In tests, lemon essential oil increased levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain, and these chemicals need to be balanced for mood to be stable.
To treat a hangover and give yourself a boost, put 2-4 drops of lemon essential oil in a diffuser and inhale the aroma.
One benefit of black pepper essential oil is that it is a natural pain reliever. When applied topically, black pepper essential oil has been found to relieve upset stomachs, bloating, cramping and indigestion.
To use black pepper essential oil for stomach relief when you have a hangover, mix 2-5 drops of the oil with 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. Apply the oil to the stomach area and gently rub it into the abdomen until fully absorbed.
If an upset stomach is one of your hangover symptoms, marjoram essential oil’s properties can help to provide some relief. Marjoram essential oil has been found to reduce stomach cramping, bloating and to calm the digestive system overall. To relieve an upset stomach, add 2 drops of marjoram essential oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply the oil to the abdomen and massage it into the skin.
Peppermint essential oil has anti-nausea, pain-relieving, and stimulating properties, which makes it a very effective remedy for stomach problems and headaches caused by hangovers.
In a 2012 clinical study, researchers found that peppermint essential oil may be effective in eliminating nausea. Participants in the study were experiencing nausea due to cancer treatment. The participants who inhaled peppermint essential oil each day reported a reduction in nausea compared to those who didn’t.
In another study, applying peppermint essential oil to the temples of the forehead was found to reduce headache symptoms. The cooling effects of the oil increase blood flow to the brain, which can help to alleviate the symptoms of a headache.
Peppermint essential oil has also been hailed for its ability to significantly reduce fatigue after only 11 minutes of inhalation via a diffuser.
To make your own peppermint oil detox headache treatment, mix 2-4 drops with 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil, like coconut oil. Put a few drops onto your temples and gently rub in.
To relieve nausea and vomiting try using spearmint essential oil. Spearmint essential oil was found to considerably reduce nausea.
To use spearmint oil to treat nausea, add 1-4 drops to a diffuser and inhale the aroma.