Fragrances have been known to have a dramatic effect on people’s moods. To dive deeper, fragrances not only can affect your mood, but your health as well. Enter essential oils, or aromatherapy, which is “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit,” according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
Here’s the 411 on essential oils and how to add them to your wellness routine.
What are essential oils?
“Essential oils are the kind of volatile liquids that are distilled from plants, so that could be things like seeds, bark, leaves — things like that,” says applied clinical nutritionist and herbalist Meg Dwyer.
Typically utilized in holistic practices, essential oils are used in aromatherapy to treat/ease symptoms such as stress, insomnia, stomach issues, menstrual cramps, respiratory issues and more, as well as increase someone’s overall health and well-being.
Why should someone use essential oils?
From easing headache tension to aiding sleep, essential oils are an excellent resource for natural healing.
“Essential oils are natural, relatively safe, affordable and readily available for you to use at home with confidence,” says holistic nurse and aromatherapy expert Valerie Cooklsey. “They are a botanically-derived medicine that is not only pleasurable to use – but also are easily absorbed, less toxic to the body, do not create bacterial resistance and have the ability to effectively stimulate the immune system.”
Even though so many people adore three-wick autumn-esque scented candles, essential oils are healthier and much more beneficial to the human body.
“Essential oils are not magical or mystical things, nor a ‘new age’ practice. They are not the overpowering fragrances and synthetic chemicals found in malls or what is being marketed as aromatic products,” Cooksley says. “There is a world of difference between a scented, synthetic candle and several drops of genuine essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser.”
How do I use essential oils?
Essential oils are capable of balancing, rejuvenating, invigorating and relaxing the body, says Cooksley. While oils are typically used in a diffuser, there are many other ways people can get the most out of these natural oils. Cooksley suggests using them during a shower, for a massage, in masks for the face and body, in a hot or cold compress, for a body wrap, in a bath and even as a rinse to gargle with for your throat.
One unique way to apply essential oils is to apply a small amount to the bottom of your feet, says Dwyer. As there are so many nerve endings in the feet that the oils are absorbed better and more efficiently.
What are the best essential oils to use for fall/winter?
In the fall, Dwyer says people tend to utilize essential oils that will help boost their immune system, respiratory health and have a calming feeling as the time of year typically is accompanied by cold and flu season. A warming blend Dwyer recommends is cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary.
This time of year typically calls for calming and grounding. Some essential oils that accompany the season change include cedarwood, ginger, frankincense, clove, cinnamon bark and pine.
Will essential oils and/or aromatherapy work for everyone?
“Because essential oils act directly on bacteria, viruses and fungi, you can expect good results for specific infections. However, if you are dealing with pain, one essential oil may work better for one person and not so well for another,” says Cooksley.
As we all know, every “body” is different when it comes to treatments and how people can respond in a variety of ways. Cooksley emphasized that this is why aromatherapists will create certain blends specifically for an individual, as some people could have negative or positive memories associated with different scents.
“I think that it definitely has an opportunity to help a lot of people, but I absolutely couldn’t say that it helps everyone,” Dwyer says. “Some people have a mental block there or they just don’t believe in it, but I do think that there is an opportunity for everyone to try it and see what experience they have.”
If someone is just starting to treat chronic symptoms or illnesses with essential oils, Cooksley says that people should practice patience as long-term issues will take longer to ease.
“With anything, there is no cure-all. People can definitely benefit from adding some beautiful essential oils to their everyday lives,” says Dwyer. “Try some and play and see what happens!”