Essential oils and your health

essential oils

People in the United States have been turning to essential oils more and more in recent years. Their growing popularity has made them easy to access and there seems to be an essential oil for everything. But are they really good for your health? Rachel Gustafsson, a family medicine nurse at OSF HealthCare, tells us.

“They can be used topically, aromatically, or some people take them as capsules. They can help reduce stress, nausea, anxiety, depression, headaches — there’s a wide range of reasons people use them,” says Gustafone.

There are a number of scents that have different benefits to them, but some scents in particular are more widely used than others. Lavender is commonly used to reduce stress, anxiety and aid sleep; lemon is recommended for a feeling of freshness and cleanliness; peppermint helps with headaches and nausea; and tea tree is widely used in skin care. There are also products available that combine two or more oils in one container to suit your needs.

Once you’ve determined which essential oils you’re looking for, finding where to get them can be difficult. Essential oils can be found in almost any physical store and are available on popular online platforms such as Amazon. Although they are not hard to find, how do you know which ones are considered safe and best for your health?

Whether you’re a connoisseur of essential oils or trying them out for the first time, Gustafsson says educating yourself is key.

“You have to do your research when you buy them. You want to make sure you are buying pure oils and not oils that are not commonly sold and are mixed with other chemicals. You want to make sure that you can look up where the plants are actually extracted from and that they are 100% pure essential oil,” explains Gustafsson.

You’ve chosen the scents that will be most helpful to you and even figured out where to find them. The last important step is to know what form of oil you should get. Gustafson generally recommends topical or aromatic essential oils as opposed to oral ones.

“As long as it’s not a very strong oil, you can usually apply them directly to your skin. Most of the time it’s for a more localized effect, for example if you have a painful joint and need relief there, if you have a headache you put it on the base of your neck, or for nausea you can rub it on your stomach. But you want to make sure it’s not too powerful or sensitive to your skin. If so, you should dilute with a carrier oil, such as vegetable or coconut oil,” advises Gustafsson.

Some people like the health benefits that essential oils provide, but don’t necessarily enjoy the aromas. If you think you’d prefer to consume essential oils in capsule form, Gustafson advises caution—especially if the reason you’re using them is to help relieve symptoms of an underlying health condition.

“If people are consuming these as capsules and are on other medications, I would certainly recommend discussing this with their provider, just to make sure there’s no interaction with anything they’re taking. “Essential oils really do play a role in providing a positive impact on your life and health as long as you use them safely and responsibly,” says Gustafsson.

Although essential oils can be extremely beneficial, they should be used in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, any health care plan recommended to you. Gustafsson stresses that it’s important not to rely solely on essential oils and to follow any directions provided by your health care provider.

“Whether you have hypothyroidism, hypertension, or lupus, you can use oils to supplement and help with symptomatic control—but it’s not going to change your chemistry or cure a disease process,” Gustafsson explains.

Essential oils have many benefits, but it’s important to use them safely. If you have any questions or concerns about using essential oils or are unsure which would be best for you, consult your healthcare provider.

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