Top 12 Essential Oils and Their Benefits
Essential oils have been understood to have played a role in healing in ancient times in Egypt, China, and other parts of the world. They are distilled from plants and said to be the oldest form of medicine and cosmetic. This art does not involve complicated processes or machinery. Top quality essential oils were considered more valuable than gold to the ancients for both their healing and aromatic properties. Read on for our Top 12 essential oils and their aromatherapy benefits.
Do they have a purpose in modern therapy?
Besides smelling great, essential oils can promote relaxation and give relief from stress and anxiety. If used correctly they can also have other uses. Plants contain phytochemicals that are designed to help the plant. When distilled correctly they can have benefits for humans too. The large amount of plant material required to extract these chemicals makes these oils a potent natural remedy, although it does mean some oils are more costly. It takes 2 tons of rose petals to make 500g of oil! The oils are distilled either through steam or water, or mechanically cold pressed. Most are then combined with a carrier oil before they are ready to use.
Essential oils can be inhaled, stimulating the olfactory limbic system and arousing the part of the brain responsible for emotions and behaviour and affecting blood pressure and heart rate. When applied topically to the body, the plant chemicals are absorbed through the skin. It’s important to remember that not all essential oils are designed to be applied directly to the skin without dilution or taken internally.
Essential oils also have uses outside aromatherapy. They are fast becoming a popular and natural alternative around the home for their anti-bacterial and deodorising properties. Use them as a room scent or to freshen up laundry. They can also be used as a natural fragrance for home made cosmetics and bath products.
Essential oils offer a wide variety of benefits for everyday body care, home care and more, but it can be difficult to know where to start! Here’s our break down of the 12 most popular top essential oils:
Lavender has been used and cherished for centuries for its unmistakable aroma and myriad benefits. In ancient times, the Egyptians and Romans used Lavender for bathing, relaxation, cooking, and as a perfume. Its calming and relaxing qualities, when taken internally, continue to be Lavender’s most notable attributes.Applied topically, Lavender is frequently used to reduce the appearance of skin imperfections. Add to bath water to soak away stress or apply to the temples and the back of the neck. Add a few drops of Lavender to pillows, bedding, or bottoms of feet to relax and prepare for a restful night’s sleep. Due to Lavender’s versatile properties, it is considered the must-have oil to have on hand at all times.
Uses: Add a few drops of Lavender Oil to pillows, bedding, or bottoms of feet at bedtime. Keep a bottle of Lavender on hand to soothe occasional skin irritations. Freshen your linen closet, mattress, car, or the air by combining Lavender with water in a spray bottle.
Directions for Use: Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser of your choice. Topical use: Apply one to two drops to desired area. Dilute with Coconut Oil to minimize any skin sensitivity.
Cautions: Possible skin sensitivity. Keep out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctor’s care, consult your physician. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears, and sensitive areas.
In early times, it seems the leaves of this tree were infused to make tea, which is how the name came into being. Tea Tree Essential Oil is the concentrated liquid compounds steam distilled from the leaves of the tree Melaleuca alternifolia, which is native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The oil is claimed to have valuable antiseptic and anti-fungal properties due to constituents called terpenoids, and is used in many personal care products and medicines today.
The tea tree has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times in eastern Australia. The Australian aborigines are known to have been using the crushed leaves to heal cuts, burns, sores, and infections for hundreds of years. The oil from the crushed leaves was inhaled to relieve coughs and colds. This top essential oil was sprinkled on wounds and a poultice applied on it. They infused the leaves and made tea to soothe sore throats. It was between 1920 and 1930 that the essential oil of this tree began to be known and used for its antimicrobial properties in Europe.
Uses: Tea tree oil is said to be good for relieving congestion, cold, cough and flu. It has been used to heal acne, fungal infections, dandruff, vaginal infections, haemorrhoids, athlete’s foot, and is believed to soothe aching muscles and joint injuries. When added to bath water it helps control bacteria.
Cautions: Tea tree oil is not to be taken internally. It is usually used only on adults and must be kept away from children and pets. Don’t use it if you’re pregnant or lactating.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil is a concentrated liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from the Eucalyptus Globulus Tree. It is usually distilled, sometimes expressed or solvent extracted. Eucalyptus essential oil is said to be antibacterial, disinfectant and an analgesic. It has been used to relieve coughs, colds, and other such respiratory troubles. It soothes muscle and joint pains, and helps to heal wounds, burns, ulcers and insect bites. In aromatherapy eucalyptus is said to promote activity, vitality, and energy.
Uses: For respiratory troubles, a few drops of this oil placed on a cloth can be inhaled through the mouth and exhaled through the nose for half a minute. It is applied directly on sores, rashes and insect bites. Add a few drops to your bath water to feel invigorated and refreshed. Soak your sore feet in a basin of warm water with 4-5 drops of this oil for relief. A few drops of oil in a diffuser is said to kill germs and airborne bacteria, a good idea for a sickroom.
Cautions: Eucalyptus essential oil is for external use only; always consult an authorised practitioner when using it as a health remedy.
Peppermint is native to the Mediterranean but is now grown in other countries in Europe, America, and Asia. Discoveries prove that peppermint has been used since ancient times in Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and Japan. According to Greek myth, a nymph called Mentha was turned, in a fit of anger, into a mint plant by her lover’s wife Persephone. According to Pliny, peppermint was used to crown the Greeks and Romans during feasts. It has been used medicinally in England for the last few centuries.
Uses: Peppermint Essential Oil is said to be good for ailments like asthma, colic, fever, flatulence, headache, nausea, chest congestion and vertigo. This oil is supposed to be excellent for mental fatigue and depression, refreshing and stimulating with its menthol content. It is good for the skin and is used in lotions to treat sunburn, itchiness or inflamed skin. It helps fight bad breath and gum infections when used in mouthwashes. When used in an oil burner it is not only therapeutic it also keeps away mosquitoes and other insects.
The Essential Oil of the Rosemary Herb is steam distilled from the flowers, stems and leaves of the plant. According to the the British Pharmacopoeia, the oil distilled from the flowering tops is superior to that obtained from the stem and leaves, which is where nearly all commercial oil are said to be distilled. The smell of rosemary essential oil is woody and herbal and is used in aromatherapy to refresh and stimulate the mind.
Rosemary was well known and used in the ancient world. It was believed to improve memory, so it became a symbol of fidelity and was used in weddings, funerals and other religious ceremonies. A sprig of rosemary was tied beautifully with ribbons and handed to wedding guests as a symbol of love and loyalty. ‘Hungary water,’ made of fresh rosemary tops soaked in wine for a few days was made for the Queen of Hungary and is said to have cured her of paralysis.
Uses: This oil is helpful to treat wounds, burns, colds, flu, fatigue, digestive trouble, headaches, asthma, bronchitis, gout, rheumatism, liver and gall bladder problems, water retention and poor circulation. For a massage, rosemary oil is often mixed with a base oil or two like almond, apricot kernel or hazelnut oil. It is good for the hair as it is said to increase circulation to the scalp and promote hair growth.
Cautions: Never use this oil internally, and avoid it if you’re pregnant or suffer from high blood pressure or epilepsy.
Ylang Ylang is a large tree native to the far eastern countries like Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia. Its yellow flowers are strongly fragrant and have long trailing petals. The essential oil made from it is available in abundance and is therefore the least expensive but is highly favoured for its fragrance in the perfume and cosmetics industries, and is also being used in the food industry today.
Ylang Ylang means the flower of flowers in Malay, and was traditionally thought of as an aphrodisiac and a relaxing fragrance, so the flowers of this tree were strewn on the marriage bed of a newly married couple in Indonesia. Muslim women used to burn this oil to scent their harems, the part of the palace reserved for women. In China, the fragrance was used to purify the robes of the mandarin. Ylang Ylang essential oil has been associated with perfumes and relaxation for a long time.
Uses: According to scientific research, Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil is a mental stimulant. In contrast, the world of aromatherapy considers this oil one of the best at relaxing the mind and the body. Simply smelling it is supposed to help lower blood pressure. Taking a bath with the oil or using it in a massage oil naturally enhances the relaxation experience. It is used to relieve stress, depression, shock, or anxiety. When used as a hair tonic, it is supposed to balance oil production.
Cautions: High concentrations of ylang ylang can cause headaches or nausea.
Clary Sage Essential Oil has sedative abilities that induce feelings of relaxation, clarity, and calmness while alleviating dizziness, anxiety, and irritability. It is also known to stimulate libido in both men and women. It has earned the nickname “The Woman’s Oil,” due to its benefits for women’s health, especially in relation to menstruation and menopause.
Uses: Clary Sage oil calms and soothes the skin. Clary Sage oil can also be applied to promote healthy-looking hair and scalp. If used aromatically, Clary Sage oil promotes feelings of relaxation in preparation for a restful night’s sleep.
Geranium Essential Oil is steam distilled from the leaves and stalks of the plant Pelargonium odoratissimum (apple geranium). It has a strong smell with a floral aroma, and hints of mint and apple. The main feature of this oil is its ability to balance and uplift, and it is used to do both on the mind and body, to ease a host of ailments.
These geraniums were believed to keep away spirits (like they did mosquitoes!) and so they were planted around houses as hedges. The plants originated from South Africa, Reunion, Madagascar, Egypt, and Morocco and were introduced to European countries in the 17th century. Although there are about 700 varieties of the plant, only 10 supply essential oil in viable quantities. The varieties planted in gardens usually produce too little oil to use for extraction.
Uses: Geranium essential oil helps balance oily and dry skin, and also brings about balance of the mind, relieving stress and anxiety. It is said to work on the adrenal cortex, which has a balancing effect on the hormone system. Geranium oil makes our top 12 essential oils as it has been used to treat acne, bruises, burns, cuts, dermatitis, eczema, haemorrhoids, ringworm, ulcers, breast engorgement, oedema, poor circulation, sore throat, tonsillitis, PMS, menopausal problems, stress, and neuralgia. Its strong smell chases away mosquitoes. Add a few drops to shampoo to get rid of head lice!
Amyris essential oil is also called West Indian Sandalwood oil because its odour is reminiscent of sandalwood. It is obtained by steam distillation from the bark and branches of the Amyris balsamifera tree. Because of its high oil content, this wood burns by itself, like a candle, and is hence called candle wood by the local population. It is a less expensive alternate to pure sandalwood. The botanical origin of the tree yielding this oil was unknown until 1886 when the main differences between this plant and true sandalwood were identified by microscopic examination of the leaves. The Amyris balsamifera tree grows wild in Haiti.
Uses: This oil has been used to clean wounds, and treat influenza, diarrhoea. It is said to be very effective at alleviating cystitis and vaginal infections. When used in a vaporiser, it helps ease anxiety and tension, insomnia, and acts as an aphrodisiac, relieving impotence and frigidity. It is used to treat coughs and colds, and bronchitis. Its calming properties are said to help during meditation. It is also a muscle relaxant and emollient.
It may be the aphrodisiac properties that placed jasmine oil in such high demand throughout history. Jasmine essential oil was used in healing and religious ceremonies because of this compelling quality. In China, jasmine oil was used in sick rooms to make the air fragrant, but it was also thought to clear the air of pollutants even before the discovery of bacteria. Ancient Egyptians used jasmine oil for headaches, nervous disorders, and to promote restful sleep.
Today, the essence is produced through a process called solvent extraction. At first glance, jasmine is all about scent. Its complex, floral energy is a mood-lifter for most people and often provides aphrodisiac qualities. Studies have shown that just smelling jasmine can increase alertness, hand-eye coordination, boost self-confidence, and happiness, and reduce stress.
Uses: In a therapeutic sense, jasmine can treat dry, aging skin. It is used in low concentrations to treat eczema and dermatitis. Additionally, jasmine is useful in fading scars and treating stretch marks after delivery. Jasmine can relieve anger, anxiety, and stress without acting as a sedative. Jasmine opens one up to options available through clearer thinking. This calming and balancing power can also reduce inflammation from emotional stress. There is a long history of it enhancing libido, releasing inhibitions, and inspiring sexual desire. Jasmine has properties which regulate period cycles, can reduce period pain, lethargy, and mood swings. It can also delay the onset of menopause.
Lemon Essential Oil has a sharp, fresh smell and is extracted from the fresh lemon fruit peel by cold expression. This oil is refreshing to the mind, and sharpens concentration, so it is often preferred in room fresheners for offices and banks. Lemon is believed to help with rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. It has been used to cure skin troubles like abscesses, boils, carbuncles, and acne. Also boosts the immune system and cleanses the body.
The lemon plant is native to India and maybe China, and was brought to Europe by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages. Since the fruit has a good amount of vitamins A, B and C, an ounce a day was given to sailors to prevent scurvy, eye problems, and other vitamin deficiencies. The first real lemon cultivation in Europe began in Genoa in the mid-fifteenth century. It was later introduced to America by Christopher Columbus. Spanish conquests helped spread the lemon seeds farther. Lemon was mainly used as an ornament and as medicine. It was much later that it began to be used in cooking.
Uses: When used in an oil burner (a few drops in water), the vapours of lemon oil are used for colds, laryngitis, headache, and flu. Smelling the aroma is helpful for mental hiccups like depression, irritation, stress, lethargy, and fatigue. It lifts the spirits and clears the mind. When a few drops are added to the bath or when blended into a massage oil, it is said to ease digestive problems, lack of energy, tiredness, infections, obesity, rheumatism, depression, and stress. It is also used to help get rid of hangovers.
Patchouli Oil is extracted from the Pogostemon cablin plant of the mint family and has a rich musky-sweet, spicy smell. The plant is native to Malaysia and India, where it is known as ‘puchaput’. The word patchouli is derived from Tamil ‘pachchai ilai’ meaning, simply, ‘green leaf.’ Patchouli oil is extracted from the young leaves, which are dried and fermented before steam distillation. This oil improves its fragrance and power with age. It is much valued in skin care, especially in scar healing.
It seems that patchouli was placed between Indian cashmere shawls before being sent to Victorian England to protect the merchandise from moths. Without this signature smell of dried patchouli leaves, the shawls could not be sold in England. In Europe and America patchouli oil and incense was immensely popular in the 1960s and 70s amongst hippies, since the smell of patchouli covered body odour and the smell of burnt cannabis. Patchouli was used as a hair conditioner for dreadlocks. In many Asian countries, patchouli is also used as an antidote to snakebite.
Uses: In eastern countries, patchouli oil is used in potpourris and sachets between linen and clothes for the fragrance as well as to keep bedbugs and insects away. The oil is said to have a balancing effect on the emotions and create an amorous atmosphere. When used in an oil burner it eases anxiety and depression. Used in bath water, it is believed to help skin and scalp complaints, fungal infections, fluid retention, break down cellulite and ease constipation. It has excellent tissue regenerating properties, speeds up healing and fights infections. Thus, it helps acne, eczema, weeping sores, ulcers, and athlete’s foot.
Our Top 12 Essential Oils are studiously selected, bought more often than not from primary sources, tested for purity and subjected to rigorous quality control standards. All our essential oils are certified pure, distilled through non-chemical processes and without additives or synthetic oil for the highest quality potency.