If you have ever enjoyed the scent of a rose or lily, you’ve experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. These naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, flowers, roots, and other parts of plants. They are named ‘volatile’ as they change state quickly and easily. Essential oils can be both lovely and powerfully fragrant. In addition to their uses within a plant, these oils have been used for food preparation, beauty-treatments, health-care practices and are regularly used in aromatherapy.
These oils have enhanced our lives for thousands of years, offering a variety of benefits from cosmetics and dietary purposes to spiritual and religious reasons.
Even with pure essential oils the composition of the oil can vary depending on the time of day, geographic location, method and duration of distillation, the year grown, and the weather. This results in making every step of the production process a critical determinant of the overall quality of the essential oil product.
The term “essential oil” is a contraction of the original “quintessential oil”, stemming from the idea that matter is composed of four elements, namely, fire, air, earth and water. The fifth element, (or quintessence) was then considered to be the spirit or life force. Distillation and evaporation were thought to be processes of removing the spirit from a plant. This can be seen within our language, as the terms “spirits” refers to distilled alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, brandy and tequila. Although now we know, far from being spirits, essential oils are physical in nature and are composed of complex mixtures of chemicals.
While essential oils are found within plants, they are constantly changing their chemical compositions, helping the plant to adapt to the environment surrounding -both internal and external.
Scientific research has discovered that plants produce essential oils for a variety of different purposes including:
To attract pollinators and dispersal agents:
Insects have been pollinating flowers for over 200 million years. Insects, like humans, are attracted to specific plants for one of three reasons: aroma, colour or physical structure. Scent appears to be the strongest of the three reasons however, with bees, butterflies and even beetles being attracted to plants for this particular reason.
To play a role in allelopathy, a type of plant-to-plant competition:
Allelopathy occurs when a plant releases chemicals to prevent competing vegetation from growing within the area or zone it inhabits. Chemicals that deter competing plants or growths, (such as terpenes) are known as allelochemicals.
To serve as defense compounds against insects or other animals:
Plants, like any other living things, need to be able to protect themselves from various other types of predators. Plants use terpenoid compounds to deter animals and insects from approaching them. For example, the Douglas fir tree will vary the composition and production of terpenes each year in accordance to the amount of budworm and in order to disallow the worms to develop an immunity.
To protect the plant by their antifungal and antibacterial nature:
Resins and complex combinations of terpenes are released by some plants and trees, such as evergreens, to act as antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial agents against a wide range of different organisms that may threaten the survival of the vegetation. Some compounds such as sesquiterpene lactones, (found in the feverfew, yarrow and blessed thistle plants to name only a few) have been established to play a strong antimicrobial role as well as a protective help for herbivores.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
If you have only one essential oil in your possession, it should be tea tree.
Tea tree oil, made from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, has a fresh and refreshingly strong scent. Health experts have referred to this particular essential oil as a ‘medicine cabinet in a bottle’, due to the antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, insecticide and stimulant properties. All wrapped into one miraculous essential oil.
As one of the most popular and widely used oils it is really no surprise why. This oil can be used to cure almost every and any topical infections and diseases. Just a few drops mixed with a carrier oil can treat, (amongst other things) toenail fungus, lice, dandruff, boils, warts, insect bites and head lice. If you do not suffer from sensitive skin then you can simply moisten a cotton swab with the oil and apply directly on the affected area, then leaving to dry.
Tea tree oil can even help with vaginal infections, clear chest congestion, eliminate bad body odors, and improve oral health too.
The healing properties of tea tree are in abundance. Not only is the oil a natural immune booster but it also fights all three kinds of infections when used in aromatherapy treatments.
Note: Never take this particular oil internally. Side effects of doing so include confusion, hallucinations, drowsiness, severe rashes, vomiting, general weakness, unsteadiness and diarrhea. Also, consult your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or want to use on a small child/ baby before use.
Although tea tree oil is not toxic, it should be avoided applying around the eyes, nose and for use on serious cuts.
Rosemary Essential Oil
This essential oil has a strong, camphor-like aroma. Commonly used in cosmetics and house cleaning, rosemary oil has a beautiful smell. You can use as part of an aromatherapy session to give a boost to your memory, treat mood swings and other small-scale psychological problems.
Rosemary oil also has potent antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to relieve respiratory issues, reduce muscle pain, soothe digestive issues, fight vaginal infections, treat coughs and reduce headache pains among many other healing effects.
By adding a few drops of rosemary oil to a carrier oil, like tea tree oil, you can create a perfect treatment. This oil is particularly useful when applying to the scalp and massaging in, stimulating the hair follicles encouraging growth.
As this essential oil is a disinfectant, it also supports your oral health when used correctly. Add a small amount (one or two drops) to a glass of warm water and use as a mouthwash swilling thoroughly around the mouth for 30 seconds to treat issues such as bad breath, plaque build-up, ulcers and other dental problems.
Note: Avoid taking during pregnancy, if suffering from hypertension or epilepsy without first consulting your local physician. Also, do not take use if you are taking homeopathic medicines.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil has a powerful and penetrating menthol odour with sweet undertones. Due to it’s natural mint scent, it is commonly used in personal body care products and air fresheners. Peppermint oil is additionally used for flavouring items such as ice cream, toothpaste, mints, teas and chewing gums to name a few.
Peppermint oil’s qualities include being antispasmodic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic as well as expectorant properties and a whole abundance of health benefits. Helping to relieve stomach upsets, treat digestive issues alongside heartburn, cure halitosis, improve mental health, treat some respiratory problems. Emotionally it can aid in reducing anger issues, ease depression, fatigue, stress and anxiety.
To alleviate headaches rub a drop or two on your temples and forehead. Whilst inhaling regularly to boost mood and fatigue by dropping a small amount onto a handkerchief or small hand towel.
Another quality of peppermint is that this oil can be handy when wanting to deter rodents, ants or cockroaches from your entry areas, home or paths. Soak a cotton ball in the oil and place in the affected area. If the issue is within your home, place these soaked cotton balls in each corner of the room or just in the area which is most heavily suffering.
Note: Refrain from over using peppermint oil as in large quantities may cause headaches or heartburn.
Jasmine Essential Oil
Sweet-smelling jasmine is extracted from the jasmine grandiflorum, an evergreen originating in China. Jasmine has many healing effects: aiding with everything from depression to childbirth. Known mostly for it’s relaxing properties when used in aromatherapy.
Extracting jasmine is slightly different to other oils, usually being steam-distilled, this oil is obtained via solvent extraction. This results in a solid substance rather than an oil meaning the substance then has to go through further processes whereby flowers are placed over fats to absorb the fragrance. Therefore explaining why jasmine is one of the most expensive essential oils to purchase.
Jasmine has been known to ease depression, childbirth, enhance libido, help respiratory problems, reduce tension, stress and combat addiction issues. Other properties of jasmine: antiseptic, disinfectant, aphrodisiac, expectorant, emmenagogue, sedative, antispasmodic, galactagogue (consult your doctor first about using this oil if you are struggling to lactate when breastfeeding) and promotes good uterine health.
Note: Jasmine is a fairly safe oil as it is non-toxic, though like most essential oils is to be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women unless told otherwise by a qualified individual.
Rare side effects can include dizziness, irritability, nausea and headaches.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is one of the most calming and relaxing essential oils known. Having a sweet and delightful smell, many individuals enjoy this particular natural oil. It also has various physiological benefits as well as it’s calming and relaxing psychological features.
Like many other oils on our list, lavender oil is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and can be used as an antidepressant for lower grade suffers. Many people use this oil to treat a whole host of problems like: anxiety, insomnia (just add a few drops directly onto your pillow), respiratory issues, stress, minor burns and wounds, insect bites, stings, earaches, acne, hair loss and a large variety of women’s health problems.
Lavender oil is also very useful in repelling mosquitoes. Using the same method described previously, adding a small amount to a carrier oil, and the applying to the body can repel these annoying creatures.
Notes: Even though lavender is safe for most adults when consumed, inhaled or applied to the skin this may not be the case for all other individuals.
Applying this product to the skin of a young male who has not yet reached puberty is possibly unsafe. This is due to lavender oil seeming to have hormonal effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy’s body. In some rare cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth -called gynecomastia.
To be avoided when pregnant and breastfeeding to be on the safe side, however there are no known side effects.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil has a mild pungent but sweet smell to it. Often used in vapor rubs, inhalers, linaments, rash creams and even mouthwashes. Also widely used in aromatherapy.
Medicinal uses are due to the anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, decongestant, deodorant, disinfectant, antiseptic, antibacterial, analgesic and can be stimulating. Eucalyptus oil even boosts the immune system and relieves many different types of muscle aches in a variety of areas on the body. Applying topically to wounds, boils and bug bites also works well in soothing the area.
To eliminate bad odors and germs, add a few drops of the oil to a spray bottle of water to use in the kitchen or bathroom.
Another feature of this brilliant essential oil is that it can be useful to add flavor to many foods. Baked goods, confectionary, meat products and beverages can all be enhanced by the use of this oil
Note: Eucalyptus oil may be unsafe for use on young children and babies, as well as pregnant mothers and women who are breastfeeding.
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile has a warm and fruity aroma, relaxing for both mind and body. Commonly used in body care, teas, as well as aromatherapy products.
Properties include: emmenagogue, antispasmodic, antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antidepressant, carminative, analgesic, sedative, hepatic, digestive, anti-inflammatory and is anti-infectious. You can use either diluted or undiluted topically for dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, bee stings, cuts or bruises.
When in it’s diffused form chamomile helps alleviate insomnia, stress, depression, anxiety, irritability and is especially useful when treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Or add a few drops to any cream when treating nappy rash, burns or sunburns.
Note: Those who are allergic to ragweed should not use chamomile.
Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli essential oil, coming from the plant Pogostemon cabin, is a widely known oil, and my absolute personal favorite in terms of smell as it is a deep sweet and earthy scent. Patchouli may be often associated with hippies who are thought to use it for it’s mood-lifting properties and powerful skincare properties.
Properties include: anti-fungal, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, deodorant, insecticidal, stimulant, tonic, diuretic and aphrodisiac.
This thick essential oil is steam-distilled after it is extracted from young leaves. By adding a few drops of the oil to your bathwater or humidifier you can aid in alleviating symptoms of depression, fatigue, reduce bloating, anxiety and stress, Or blend with a massage lotion or healing cream to combat dry skin, skin infections, cellulite and to facilitate the healing of any surface wounds.
Note: Although patchouli oil is non-toxic it is best to use the essential oil in small doses due to it’s powerful smell and effects. Over-use of the product may result in headaches, dizziness and weakness. Not recommended for use on young children, babies, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
As an evergreen, sandalwood is easily recognized by it’s distinctive fragrance. Sandalwood has numerous aromatherapy benefits.
Sandalwood essential oil is extracted and distilled by the wood chips of a mature tree. The oil can be applied to the skin in several ways, blending with massage oil and lotions, added to a vaporizer, used as an incense and even gargled when diluted.
This essential oil can help mucous membranes of the urinary tract and chest wall alike, alleviating pains. Whilst regularly being used as a relaxant for tension relief, anxiety and depression. Many yoga instructors use sandalwood during sessions for its sensual and calming effects on the inhalers.
Properties are: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, disinfectant, emollient, antispasmodic, memory booster, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), expectorant, tonic, cicatrisant and sedative.
We love all of these essential oils included on this list (my personal favourite being patchouli -I just love that smell!) and recommend using them regularly to improve any aches, pains or health issues you may have. Or just simply to improve your mental and physical well being overall!
We here at Balance Me Beautiful always look forward to hearing from our readers, so feel free to comment below which of these listed essential oils is your favourite. Or perhaps any experiences you’ve had using them!
Thanks for reading.