Check out the most popular essential oils and learn how they could help you.
Lavender is added to countless bath and body products, but you might be surprised when you catch a whiff of its essential oil. “It smells so green and earthy, not like the floral perfumey scent we’re used to,” says Michelle Goebel-Angel, Chinese Medicine practitioner at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern in Chicago. Lavender is highly effective for relaxation, especially when rubbed on your back or the soles of your feet, where you have large pores. But it also can be used to treat minor wounds like cuts, burns or bug bites, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties.
You’ve probably heard that peppermint tea can soothe an upset stomach. Likewise, the essential oil can be used to ease a range of discomforts. “Peppermint is a natural analgesic,” Goebel-Angel says. “I’ll use it to treat headaches in my patients, as well as nausea or digestive issues.” Place a few drops on your temples or the back of your neck for headache relief, or rub it on your abdomen to ease stomach pain.
Remember Vicks Vapo Rub, that strong-smelling goop your mom would rub on your chest when you had a cold? One of the primary ingredients is eucalyptus oil, which can be used alone to help ease the symptoms of sinus congestion. “Eucalyptus oil opens up the sinuses and brings in oxygenating molecules that help detoxify,” she says. You can apply it under your nose and on your chest like Vicks, but if you suffer your worst congestion at night, try using a diffuser with eucalyptus oil in your bedroom so you reap gentle benefits while you sleep.
There’s a reason so many household products smell like lemon—the essential oil is a natural cleanser. Pure lemon oil is a terrific, naturally “green” cleaner to use in your kitchen and bathroom, and used in a diffuser it can help purify the air in your home. It also contains antioxidants and can help boost your immune system when used in cooking. (Make sure you don’t consume any lemon oil that’s not labeled “food grade.”)
Many devotees of essential oil therapy find there are mental benefits as well as physical. “Patients often come to me initially for pain, but we end up working on their spiritual or emotional ailments,” says Goebel-Angel. Frankincense is one of the most popular essential oils for stress relief, with a warm, exotic scent many find comforting, especially when placed on the soles of the feet or the back of the neck. It’s also frequently used as a skin treatment, to heal scarring and rejuvenate cells.
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