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Discovering Essential Oils

Essential oils are versatile natural products that can be used throughout your home, and many are purported to have medicinal properties. Still, others are often used as alcohol-free perfumes. Essential oils (EOs) are derived from plants, including lavender, tea tree, ylang-ylang, and roses. Components from these plants are processed to extract their essential flavors and scents, blended with a carrier or base oil for use. Natural extraction processes, such as cold pressing and distillation using water or steam, ensure synthetic chemicals are not used, thereby delivering a higher level of purity.

In addition to essential oils’ use in cosmetics, some are believed to possess health benefits, including antimicrobial properties, when inhaled or applied topically. Aromatherapy, which utilizes essential oils and oil blends to promote well-being through olfactory senses, has shown positive physiological impacts on the human body.

Choosing Natural

If you are interested in trying an essential oil-based product, like any substance you expose yourself to for the first time, it is important to read labels, ask for advice from your doctor as needed, and test new products in small amounts.

Many essential oils have been used for thousands of years and are very rarely dangerous or toxic when used properly; however, they should never be ingested. In fact, people who incorporate essential oils into their health, beauty, or home care routines are often looking to replace potentially toxic synthetic chemicals with plant-based alternatives.

Simply put, synthetic fragrance oils, or FOs, can cause a rash, dry skin, headaches, hyperpigmentation, coughing, and vomiting. Additionally, there is a growing body of research around more serious health effects, including a study by the Environmental Protection Agency that reported that synthetic fragrances were shown to cause “possible mutagenic and by implication genotoxic effects.”

Unfortunately, fragrance oils can be found almost everywhere in your pantries and medicine cabinets, including in most mass-market cleaning products, room fresheners, personal care products, laundry soap, stationery, hand sanitizers, baby diapers, toilet paper, tampons, food, drinks, candy, toys, and so much more.

Woman Enjoying Aroma Therapy Steam Scent from Home Essential Oil Diffuser or Air Humidifier.

Backed by Thousands of Years of Use

The most likely reason fragrance oils replaced essential oils in many products is that they can be more expensive to manufacture; however, as essential oils gain in popularity, EO-based products’ costs are becoming more affordable.

Historians believe Ancient Egypt was the birthplace of aromatherapy as we know it today. The Egyptians used plant-derived oils in religious services, personal care, and medicinal purposes—distillation pots found in Egypt date back to 3,500 BC.

Around the same time, people in China and India also explored herbs and aromatic plants, an integral part of the Indian Ayurvedic medical system.

The rise of the Greek empire and its conquest of Egypt led to the use of essential oils by influential figures in Western civilization such as Hippocrates (c.460-377 BC), for whom the Hippocratic Oath is named. Hippocrates believed in treating a patient holistically and included massage with oils in many of his therapies.

But Hippocrates’ philosophy and teachings were largely rebuffed during the Dark Ages, and it was not until the Renaissance that aromatherapy found favor again in the West. Centuries later, French chemist and perfumer Réne Maurice Gattefossé coined the phrase “aromatherapy” while conducting experiments on essential oils’ medicinal uses. He used undiluted lavender oil on a burn he suffered in his lab, which he documented as helping with the skin’s pain and healing.

Topical uses to address issues such as dry skin, irritations, and sanitization remain popular today. The use of essential oils to help ease stress, anxiety, and fatigue is also gaining traction.

How Aromatherapy Works

The use of essential oils via aromatherapy can help to ease a range of health and wellness issues. Some of the most popular EOs and their potential benefits are:

  • Peppermint: boosts energy and helps with digestion
  • Lavender: relieves stress and sanitizes
  • Sandalwood: calms nerves and enhances focus.
  • Bergamot: reduces stress and eases eczema.
  • Rose reduces anxiety.
  • Chamomile: relaxes
  • Ylang-Ylang: soothes headaches and nausea
  • Tea Tree: fights infections and boosts immunity
  • Lemon: aids in digestion, headaches, and more

Aromatherapy works by stimulating your body’s limbic system, an ancient part of your brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviors, sense of smell, and long-term memory. In fact, the limbic system is heavily involved in forming memories. This likely explains why smells can trigger earlier memories or emotions.

The limbic system also controls bodily functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. As such, some people claim that essential oils work through the limbic system to impact these functions.

It is important to note that essential oil products are not classified or approved by the FDA as medicines; however, these products meet safety requirements for sale and use as directed on product labels, as are other personal care products.

We think it’s fair to say that essential oils can be a compliment or an aide to feeling well, and they are an effective and likely less harmful way to add scents to household and personal care products.

Below are a few of the EO-infused products you can find on ziggie:

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