Well, they are compounds that are extracted from plants, commonly used in aromatherapy and is a form of alternative medicine.
Why is it used?
The answer is simply because they are extremely good for your health providing many health benefits that can vary from oil to oil.
They can be obtained through - water-steam distillation or via mechanical methods such as crushing, or cold pressing.
The oils capture the scent of the plant, sometimes they are mixed with a carrier oil so that it is ready to be used. How it is extracted is very important, if the oil is extracted via chemical means, it is not a true essential oil and can have some nasty side effects.
Before we look at the benefits, you must know that essential oils are not meant to be consumed/swallowed. Doing this can be very dangerous due to a high concentration of certain chemicals within the oil, you should also NOT put neat oil on the skin as it can be absorbed, and cause severe skin irritation.
Popular oils & their health benefits:
Peppermint can be used to boost energy and can help you with digestion. It has a fresh aroma that can also do good for your immune system!
Lavender is commonly used for stress, anxiety and depression relief. It has a very nice smell that is so soothing.
Chamomile can improve your mood and promote relaxation, it does have somewhat of a sedative pain relief effect.
Sandalwood is used to calm the nerves and help improve your focus.
Jasmine used to help with depression and sexual libido.
Lemon can aid in digestion, uplift your mood, improve headaches.
Tea tree is one of the most popular essential oils, it can help fight infections and boost your immune system.
There are over 90 common essential oils, each one provides health benefits, studies have shown that they can have antibiotic, antimicrobial effects, as well as reducing inflammation around the body, improving sleep quality (especially Lavender) providing relief from headaches, migraines and reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.
It can be used to help freshen up laundry as well as scent your homes.
Important factors determining a high-quality oil include purity, it should be pure with no artificial fragrances added, no chemicals, it should be extracted by distillation or mechanical cold pressing, organic would be the best also to make sure that It does not contain large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.
Remember, just because they are natural that does not mean that they are completely safe, plants and herbs contain bioactive compounds.
Here are some side effects that they can cause: Rash, asthma attack, headaches, allergic reactions. The most common side effect is simply a rash but they can cause more serious effects.
Essential oils such as cinnamon are high in phenols which can cause severe skin irritation so it should not be used on the skin without being mixed with a carrier beforehand.
Warning: you should never take any essential oils orally and should always keep them out of reach of children. If swallowed seek medical help immediately. Never leave lit candles unattended.