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Essential Oils: Why Have They Become So Popular?

Essential Oils: Why Have They Become So Popular?

by Stephanie Blanchard

I spend a good amount of time on social media, partly for my job and partly to find out about local events and happenings. Recently, a few of my mom friends on social started selling essential oils. They frequently post about the benefits of essential oils, such as calming the nervous system.

Before writing this, I didn't have a lot of experience with essential oils, but I'm intrigued by their potential for helping various conditions. I'm pretty open to alternative medicine and therapies.

I don't often purchase essential oil, but I've tried tea tree oil to help with psoriasis and lavender oil to promote sleep. There was also a time a few months ago when I attempted to make my own skincare products. I bought a vial of orange oil for it, but that hobby was short-lived. Many of the natural products I use for cleaning and personal care contain essential oils.

Even though I’ve used essential oils, I didn’t know much about them! Researching and writing this article was a great way for me to learn more.

Alternative Medicine Has Gone Mainstream

I've been dabbling in the alternative medicine world for several years. I first visited an acupuncturist and chiropractor when I was in my mid-20s. Over the years, I've noticed an uptick in alternative therapy businesses in my area. It seems to me that more and more people are turning to alternative therapies to complement traditional medicine and take charge of their health.

With the rise of alternative medicine, people have been taking note of essential oils benefits for certain health conditions such as managing stress and anxiety.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain the smell and flavor of the plant. They're obtained by steam distillation or machine pressing. Sometimes you see "cold-pressed" on a bottle, and that's just a name for the method of extraction. Every essential oil is made up of compounds (natural chemicals) that determine how it affects the body and its fragrance.

Essential Oils are Not New

Humans have been using essential oils for thousands of years. In my research, I found some references to the Egyptians using them way back in 2000 BC. There are even biblical mentions to essential oils, including cedarwood, cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, and others.

Nowadays, you can find essential oil products in Target and Walmart—which is definitely a sign that essential oils have gone mainstream.

It turns out that my family has been using eucalyptus essential oil for many years. A common, mainstream chest rub for coughs and colds contains eucalyptus oil. When you breathe in the salve, you're inhaling its vapors. This is essentially how aromatherapy works.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is one common use of essential oils. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the scents of essential oils travel to the emotional center of the brain, which can have an effect on us.

Cinnamon, eucalyptus, frankincense and peppermint are some of the popular essential oils people use to help alleviate cold symptoms. Lavender, as I mentioned previously, is a big one in the aromatherapy world because of its potentially calming properties.

The Johns Hopkins article I referred to earlier said that using essential oils for aromatherapy is generally safe and may have some health benefits, such as boosting someone's mood or making them feel energized. However, the article cautioned against diffusing them. Apparently, peppermint, which is commonly used for treating headaches, can negatively impact children under 2.5 years of age and people with a fast heartbeat. A diffuser spreads the essential oil throughout a household and affects more than one family member.

You should also avoid applying heavy amounts of essential oils when in confined spaces with others, such as on an airplane. What you may find to be calming aromatherapy may negatively affect those around you.

The article goes on to say that the safest way to use essential oils is diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically. (More on that below!) Essential oils should never be ingested.

Essential Oils for Aches and Pains

My friend, Melissa, is a massage therapist. She told me that she adds a couple drops of essential oils to her massage creams and oils. She likes to use rosehip because it has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with aches and pains. A 2019 study suggested that rosehip oil can assist wound healing.

Melissa also recommends peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils to reduce soreness. Peppermint apparently can help multiple ailments. One study showed that peppermint can also help treat irritable bowel syndrome. A different one concluded that the herb may have a lowering effect on heart rate and blood pressure when it comes to exercise performance.

Personal Care Products and Essential Oils

Many natural skincare brands incorporate essential oils into their products. Rose essential oil can be good for moisturizing dry and sensitive skin because it has emollient and anti-inflammatory properties. Even the team at Lume appreciates rose essential oil. It is in our Jasmine Rose Deodorant along with other naturally-derived elements.

While we're on the subject of rose essential oil, a medical journal article reviewed five studies done on rose oil. The authors concluded that the essential oil had a positive effect on anxiety, pain management, relaxation, and depression. But here's the caveat: the authors concluded that larger studies need to be done because the ones they reviewed were small.

Like rose, jasmine has a beautiful smell, making it an ideal deodorant scent. I was previously unaware that that jasmine may do more than just smell good. A 2010 study suggested that jasmine essential oil has mood-booting benefits when used in aromatherapy.

Lavender Takes the Essential Oil Cake

Lavender Sage Deodorant by Lume is my favorite personal care product, and it is scented with pure essential oils.

I'm not the only one who loves lavender. It is one of the most popular essential oils. It's found in all kinds of products because it promotes a sense of calm. It turns out that studies have shown there are some lavender essential oil benefits, including treating anxiety, hair loss, fungal infections and wounds.

Sage is another promising essential oil. Studies showed that clary sage essential oil may help treat high blood pressure and might reduce anxiety. The herb also has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties, which makes perfect sense for products that fight body odor.

A word of caution: I did come across some information about using lavender and tea tree oils topically on prepubescent children. Some medical professionals warn against using lavender and tea tree oils on kids because they can disrupt hormones.

Use Pure Essential Oils with Care

While essential oils are sometimes touted as cure-alls, medical studies on them are fairly limited, and essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to my research, full-strength essential oils should never be applied to the skin. It's important to dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil. Undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation or other side effects.

Also, because essential oils are unregulated, it is important to look for a reputable brand. Be assured that Lume works with Berje, a highly regarded distributor of essential oils and aromatics, for our fragrances. We also have an Unscented deodorant if you wish to smell like nothing at all.

Lume's scented whole body deodorants and natural soaps smell really pleasant to me because they feature essential oils and other naturally-derived botanicals in their subtle scent profiles, and never include any artificial fragrances. 

Take your hygiene game up a whole new level with Lume, and your nose will thank you.

Disclaimer: Of course, like with most medicinal products, certain essential oils can have side effects. It's always good to check with your doctor before trying out a new health remedy.

Stephanie Blanchard

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