Smell that? Eucalyptus is in the air. Okay, maybe not but it is in several households around the world currently! With the rise of alternative medicine and an increase in demand for natural products, essential oils have become popular in recent years. What’s the hype? We’re breaking down everything you need to know.
So, what are they, really?
Essential oils are potent oils extracted from plants with the goal to consume their scents and beneficial properties. They can be used for cosmetic reasons, or for things such as aromatherapy. Potential benefits including help with stress, anxiety, headaches, migraines, insomnia, and inflammation. Besides aromatherapy, many use essential oils to scent their home, as they are more ‘natural’ than other chemical-based options on the market.
Aromatherapy is increasing in popularity. By inhaling certain oils symptoms of stress, anxiety, pain and sleep issues may be improved. Aromatherapy include both direct inhalation and a milder diffusion throughout a room. When inhaled, the essential oil molecules travel from the olfactory nerves to the brain and impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
Make sure you follow directed guidelines for each. Any product intended for therapeutic use, treatment, or disease prevention falls under ‘drug claims,’ according to the Federal Drug Administration. As they fall under such laws, these products must get FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go to market.
Many people use essential oils for skincare and cosmetic properties. Though this is pretty common to see, a lot of side effects are still unknown. Here are some general tips if you are looking into using essential oils topically:
- Steer clear of highly concentrated oils, generally using oil with concentration levels of 5% or lower. The good news is you can always dilute them with a carrier oil.
- Patch testing: Place a patch test before trying a new oil everywhere to see how your skin reacts. Wait for a period of 24hours to be extra sure.
- Research before you rub: Not all oils are good for your face or sensitive areas. Things such as lemongrass, peppermint, cinnamon are examples. Citrus oils can also be harmful when applied and exposed to the sun.
- Toss any oil more than 3 years old. Exposure to oxygen can spoil them, and in turn cause irritation.
- They are not generally recommended to be taken orally.
Are they safe?
The terms of safety, there’s a fine line depending on several factors. Essential oils are not typically FDA regulated, so it’s important to be cautious with them for personal use. While the field is growing, more research is needed about potential side effects. Remember, just because its natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. The FDA does not have regulations defining ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ for cosmetics either, making it tougher to distinguish. On the upside, more research is currently being conducted and we are learning more and more every day. Sniff, sniff hooray!