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The use of essential oils has been found for ages, and during the Covid-19, it gets more buzz for helping with everything—from headache to anxiety. But do these concentrated plant-based oils really work, and if it is safe? Unfortunately, there is not enough research to claim the medical benefit of it, but John Hopkins lab studies found that oils from garlic and several other common herbs and medicinal plants could kill a type of Lyme bacteria better than antibiotics. It is, therefore, promising.
Essential oils basically plant extracts; they are made by steaming or pressing various parts of the plant—including flower, herbs, bark, leaves, roots and fruits—to get the extract that produces fragrance. For a single bottle of essential oil takes several kilograms of plants. Take an example for lavender essential oil; for 0,5 kg, essential oils needs around 90 kg of lavender flowers! In addition to creating a scent, essential oils perform other functions in plants, too.
Essential oils are usually used as aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is known as a practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefits. When inhaled, the oils may activate certain areas in our brain, like in our limbic system, which plays a role in our emotions. They could also impact the hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. Essential oils can also be absorbed by the skin; when we do massage, the massage therapist usually adds a drop or two of lavender oil to help us relax and wintergreen oil to loosen up tight muscles.
Essential oils are a complementary therapy; there isn't any medical evidence that state it cures the disease. But experts say we can use it to support conventional treatment of the various condition. Research also shows that aromatherapy has benefits as follow:
Essential oils are so intense; hence some experts recommend being mindful of how we are using them. It only requires small doses, and remember not to use them routinely as our body can get used to them and lowering their effectiveness. And not all essential oils that available on the market are pure; sometimes, they are diluted with less expensive ingredients; therefore, we need to check the label and are not supposed to be ingested. Like any others, essential oils can cause side effects akin to irritation and mild allergic reactions. So, if you are going to use it for the first time, use it in a tiny amount to see if you have a reaction to it. Essential oils like bergamot, cinnamon bark, jasmine, lemongrass, chamomile and oregano oil are usually problematic.
John Hopkins Medicine advises not to use essential oil diffusers—an appliance that creates scented vapour—if there are other people in the house. Using a diffuser in a public area can affect people differently. For instance, peppermint is often recommended for headaches. But if you use it around a child who's less than 30 months old, the child can become agitated. It could have a negative effect. Additionally, someone with a fast heartbeat can react adversely to peppermint.
The safest way to essential oil include body oil by mixing with a carrier oil such as olive, jojoba and coconut oil—so it's not too strong—and can be massaged into the skin. Aroma stick or also called an essential oil inhaler, is also safe to use. Alongside aromatherapy accessories like necklaces, bracelets, and keychain made with absorbent materials are great options; we can apply essential oils on them and sniff them.
There are dozens of essential oils out there that contain different fragrances and chemical makeups. Which essential oils are best? It depends on what you need and what symptoms you have. Here are our favourites:
+ Words: Alvia Zuhadmono, Luxiders Magazine
Sustainable communication student | Sweden-based writer
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