If essential oils seem fussy or girly—so much that you’ve dismissed them as a viable health and wellness alternatives, let alone try any—this comprehensive guide is for you.
We took a look at some of the most commonly used essential oils and highlighted their health benefits and applications. You’ll be surprised to find these potent preventative and curative elixirs are, well, essential for treating everything from common irritations (colds, muscle aches, and stress) to heavyweight conditions (like heart disease and cancer).
The use of oils falls within the purview of aromatherapy, defined as "the science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit… to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process,” according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. There’s a variety of ways to reap the benefits of these essential oils, but be cautious: All 100-percent pure essential oils are incredibly concentrated, so you never want to ingest the oil (unless your healthcare provider recommends you do so).
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To orally consume any essential oil, you need to dilute it. This helps protect against internal blisters, boils, rashes, and chemical burns, and ensures a slower release into your bloodstream. You can take gelatin or enteric-coated gelatin capsules (the oil isn’t released until it reaches your small intestine), which usually have a 20/80 ratio: Twenty percent of the capsule is essential oil, and the remaining 80 percent is a carrier oil (vegetable oil, for example). You can also dilute an essential oil with hot water and honey (mix one or two drops of essential oil with one teaspoon of honey and a cup of hot water), or purchase teas that contain dried leaves from which the essential oil is extracted (chamomile or lavender). Speak to a medical practitioner who specializes in aromatherapy to make sure ingestion is safe, if there’s any chance of the oil reacting to a medication you’re on, and what dose is right for you.
To inhale an essential oil, you can utilize steam baths, a vaporizer, or humidifier. You can add two to four drops (some oils are more potent than others) and inhale the vapors to dispel headaches, insomnia, depression, and a slew of other conditions. Again, speak to a medical practitioner; some essential oils are irritating to people’s lungs and eyes when inhaled.
To apply to your skin, use a diluted blend of oils. You want one to two drops of the essential oil per tablespoon of the base or carrier oil, which can be almond oil, olive oil, jojoboa oil, etc. Take care to avoid contact with your eyes and mouth if you’re applying to your face. If you’re massaging sore muscles every day, use a one percent solution (roughly diluted as one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier oil). If you’re massaging them occasionally, use a three to five percent solution (three to five drops per one teaspoon of carrier oil).
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