6 Scents That Have The Power To Heal
Essential oils aren’t a magic fix but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the healing effects of these oils—all you need is to choose them wisely and use them carefully.
From quick-fix solutions to special blends for curing ailments and alleviating pain, essential oils boast to do a lot of things. But are any of these promises legit? Is there science behind it? We’ll come to it.
But first things first: If you’re wanting to experiment with essential oils to self-heal, consider talking to a certified aromatherapist. Aromatherapists offer informed guidance based on your medical history, and nuances of the plant and educate you about safe practices. Essential oils are volatile, potent chemicals with bottled oils being 50 to 100 times more concentrated than the oils in the plant itself, not using them correctly can have certain side effects such as skin irritation or headaches, says the paper General Toxicity.
But once you have a solid understanding of what oil you’re using and how to use it safely, essential oils can be a fantastic aid in relaxation. From allowing you to be calmer to helping ease a cold, essential oils offer many benefits. As per a 2020 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, some of the individual components of the essential oils, possess antimicrobial, antiviral, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties as well as purported psychogenic effects such as relieving stress, treating depression, and aiding with insomnia. Further, because essential oils are quickly absorbed by smell receptors that are linked to the limbic system, they immediately impact your emotions, and physiological functions, says the paper.
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What essential oils do to your body
When you use essential oil, its strong scent molecules activate your smell receptors that work in tandem with your limbic system which controls behavioral and emotional reactions. Your limbic system controls different important bodily functions such as stress, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. The scent molecules from the nose travel to the nerves of the brain to cause effects such as the release of dopamine or serotonin. That said, depending on the composition of the oil and its specific properties, you feel a range of sensations such as the alleviation of pain and feeling sleepy to cure headaches. Here are a few examples of how different healing scents help your body.
1. Ginger oil for nausea and vomiting
Smelling ginger or lemon to control nausea or vomiting has been an old wives’ tale. While it might feel like a placebo effect, there is some science behind it. Zingeberols are a phytochemical which possesses characteristic aroma and antiemetic properties, says a 2016 study published in Integrated Medicine Insights Journal. A quasi-experimental study published in the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 2014 also confirms that ginger aromatherapy reduced nausea and vomiting sensations in post-operative patients.
2. Lavender for relaxation and sleep
From inducing relaxation to treating parasitic infections, burns, insect bites, and spasms, lavender is traditionally known for its therapeutic and curative properties. But also it helps people with sleep issues. A randomized controlled trial on 79 college students with sleep issues found improvement in their sleep quality when they wore a patch with 55 μl of lavender essential oil during the night. Lavender oil contains linalyl acetate and linalool, chemicals that are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and tend to have a sedative effect, says a paper titled Lavender and nervous system.
But, if you are not a fan of the scent of lavender essential oil, you could get similar nervous relaxation with sandalwood essential oil, says the journal Nursing Clinics of North America, 2020. Sandalwood is made up of a major component called Santalol that has a sedative effect on the central nervous system, finds the Japanese Journal of Psychopharmacology. Researchers performed an investigation on the effect of sotalol on the sleep-wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats. When inhaled at a concentration at a specified concentration, santol caused a significant decrease in total waking time and an increase in total non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time.
3. Eucalyptus for easing cold and cough
“The primary use of eucalyptus oil includes the treatment of cough, cold, bronchitis, and symptomatic relief of colds and catarrh (build-up of mucus in the nose or throat) of the upper respiratory tract,” finds the paper Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 2015. Eucalyptus has cineole, a major component that acts as a mucolytic agent to treat inflammatory airway diseases. How do you use it? Either add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to 30 ml of carrier oil and rub the composition onto the chest and throat or add the diluted eucalyptus oil to the boiling water and inhale the steam.
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4. Peppermint oil for tension headaches
One of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches and migraine attacks is peppermint oil. It contains menthol, which alleviates pain and relaxes muscles. A study conducted on 41 patients with tension-type headaches found a significant improvement when they used peppermint oil across the forehead and temples. “A 10 per cent peppermint oil in ethanol solution significantly reduced the clinical headache intensity just after 15 minutes of application,” finds Der Nervenartz, a German journal. There are several ways to use peppermint oil to treat tension headaches some of which include putting a few drops in the bath, inhaling peppermint oil with steam, and adding it to your massage oil. To begin with, you should start out using peppermint oil in a diluted ratio of 1:4 with carrier oils such as sweet almond oil, argan oil, or jojoba oil.
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5. Tea tree oil for acne
As per a paper in the American Society of Microbiology, tea tree oil has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that help treat inflammatory acne lesions, such as pimples. In a study when the participants applied tea tree oil to their face twice daily for 12 weeks, they found a significant improvement in mild to moderate acne with no serious side effects, finds Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 2017. However, the sample study being small (17 participants), more studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of tea tree oil for acne. One thing’s for sure, while tea tree oil might not be a cure-all solution, its application may help see some visible differences. It’s worth a try after talking to your dermatologist.
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6. Lemon oil for wound healing
Lemon is packed with antimicrobial properties, and thus accelerates the wound healing process, finds Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, 2021. In a study, when 20 injured rats were treated with 10 per cent lemon pepper ointment, the researchers noted a significant contraction (healing) of the wound concluding that the lemon pepper ointment had the potential to accelerate wound healing activity. Another study that looked at how Ag-NP (Silver nanoparticles) ointment with citrus lemon leaf aqueous extract affected the healing of cutaneous wounds discovered that Ag-NP ointment was successful in treating various types of wounds in people, particularly cutaneous ones. But, it is always safe and advisable to talk to a physician and conduct a patch test before using any kind of lemon oil on the skin.
Safety Guidelines To Using Essential Oils
- Never take essential oils orally. Because pure essential oils have a high concentration of chemicals that can burn or irritate the skin. Instead, they should be diluted into a blending oil or lotion.
- One of the best ways to use essential oils is to start with diffusers. No diffuser? You can add a few diluted drops to a cotton ball and inhale.
- Don’t leave the diffuser ‘on’ all day. A quality diffuser should be able to fill the room in about 30 minutes.
- Keep the essential oils away from babies, children and pregnant women as these are more susceptible to potential toxicity.
- Always follow the instructions on the bottle, and if you are taking any medications or have a chronic health condition, ask your doctor before you start practicing aromatherapy.
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