The research is in: Essential oils – natural extracts made from flower, herb, and tree parts – can help you destress and more.
Studies have shown aromatherapy can activate certain areas of your brain, like your limbic system, which plays a role in your emotions. And the best essential oil scents can have an impact on your hypothalamus, generating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. Bonus: Essential oils are said to help improve concentration, kill bacteria and even boost your immunity, too. (Take that, Covid!)
One thing to note, however: You shouldn’t use pure essential oils directly on your skin. A good rule of thumb is to dilute your essential oils to a one percent blend, which essentially means one drop of essential oil for every 5 ml. of carrier oil.
Any (ideally odourless) plant-based oils can be used as a carrier oil, including sweet almond, jojoba, olive or avocado. Or you could add drops to your diffuser or on the floor when you’re having a hot shower.
Chances are, you’ve heard of essential oils like chamomile, jasmine and lavender – some of the most commonly known ones used to lessen stress. But we’ve rounded up a full dozen of the best essential oils out there to help you relax. No chill pill needed!
1. Tea tree
Those with oily or congestion-prone skin will know tea tree oil very well. Widely regarded as one of the most effective and affordable blemish treatment, it is perfect for killing acne-causing bacteria and keeping pores clear.
It is one of the rare oils that has combined anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, and is also a very powerful immunostimulant, which makes it excellent for immune function. It can also be used on minor wounds or cuts, and you can even add in a few drop to your shampoo to help treat dandruff.
Extracted from the peel of the fruit, lemon essential oil can be found in all sorts of products, from food flavourings to air fresheners and product fragrances. And thanks to its zesty aroma, lemon essential oil is also great for reducing anxiety and boosting your mood.
Besides the uplifting fresh scent, lemon is also known for its important ability to stimulate the body’s defence mechanism against infection, as well as being a powerful bactericide which makes it another great oil for the immune system. A strong and robust immune system is essential in warding off illnesses, from simple infections to coronavirus and cancers.
For centuries, clove oil has been known for its anti-infectious properties and for the prevention of contagious illnesses, especially the plague. It’s a powerful antiseptic and also a ‘hot’ oil which means great care needs to be taken when using the oil. In some cultures, clove oil has been traditionally used as an antiseptic in midwifery.
As a strong immunostimulant, eucalyptus oil is great for those who are run down and prone to frequent colds and sinusitis. It is commonly used in formulations for the flu and respiratory infections as it is known for its powerful antiviral and bactericidal actions, which make it an effective treatment for colds by easing nasal congestion and preventing the spread of the virus. Plus, its crisp and fresh aroma also energises a sluggish mind and also helps you focus better.
Bonus: It makes for a good insect repellent. (Read about seven more oils that work as natural mosquito repellant.)
Well-known for its use in cooking thanks to its amazing flavour, it is also known to slow down the proliferation of bacteria on meat, especially before the days of refrigeration.
In addition, it can be an intestinal antiseptic, which fights against gastric infections. Actually, thyme is useful for all forms of infections as it stimulates the production of white blood cells which strengthens the body’s natural resistance.
Extracted from the resin of a tree that grows in the Middle East and Africa, Frankincense is traditionally used as an incense and religious rituals. It has a slightly sweet, woody and earthy scent and is commonly used in modern day perfumery to add silage to any scent.
It is also an oil that encourages slow and deep breaths – this cleanses the body and increases oxygenation, which alleviates stress, reduces anxiety, promotes health and boosts the immune function. Plus, it is also often used to reduce itching and swelling as well as to accelerate wound healing.
The most versatile and popular oil is undoubtedly lavender. Best known to efficiently destress, it’s often used to soothe the senses so that we will get a restful slumber. The antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic properties of lavender make it a valuable oil for the treatment of coughs and colds during a flu bout. Lavender restores the mind and body to a balanced state, so that natural healing can take place.
Beyond that, lavender also has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which explains why it is also sometimes used to heal acne and eczema.
8. Lemon myrtle
A native plant of Australia, lemon myrtle gives off a vibrant fresh scent. It is a potent oil with antibacterial, anti fungal and germicidal benefits, and has been said to be even more powerful than tea-tree oil. A great oil to diffuse when there’s a flu bug (ahem, coronavirus) in the home to promote quick recovery and to prevent the spread of infection.
Known for its antimicrobial properties, ravensara prevents and fights bacterial and viral infections. In addition to boosting the immune system, this oil is uplifting and lets you destress, which is overall very beneficial to the immune system.
Studies have shown that oregano is power-packed with compounds that fight various infections, promotes detoxification and are loaded with antioxidants as well as antihistamines. It is a fantastic immune booster and is very helpful in treating infections and allergies.
This is a very “hot” oil and great care is to be taken when using it. It is never to be used undiluted on the skin.
Often used in food flavouring, bergamot is also a popular ingredient in aromatherapy blends, thanks to its mood-balancing properties. Fresh, herbal and citrusy, bergamot lifts your mood that will let you destress and instils a sense of joy and wellbeing. Plus, you can also use it when you’re feeling under the weather and battling a bout of flu as it helps to alleviate chest congestion.
While most of us might know it as a herb, rosemary essential oil has also been used widely to soothe various skin ailments. Thanks to its powerful yet gentle cleansing properties, it is great for purification and detoxification as it improves immunity, kills bacteria and wards off insects.
It is also often used in massage oils as it helps relieve muscle and joint aches. And when inhaled, rosemary essential oil also helps to enhance your memory and improve your focus.
Originally by Nicola Watson, Anna Brewster and Joyce Cheo, March 2019 / Last updated by Isabel Wibowo, April 2021
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