There's no denying it — essential oils are going mainstream.
Shampoos and skincare products proudly list them as ingredients. Thousands of blogs celebrate their health benefits. And just about everybody seems to be selling them, from boutique health stores to supermarket chains.
At bottom, essential oils are just aromatic plant extracts — little bottles of fragrant liquids that smell like lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus. Depending on the plant they come from, they have different aromas and properties.
While the growing popularity of essential oils has led to a lot of hype, there's also an increasing amount of scientific research that backs up their genuine benefits. Here are 8 proven, hype-free reasons to start using essential oils today:
1. Mood Booster
Of course, essential oils smell nice, and sometimes that's all you need to feel better. But several essential oils, including lavender and orange, have been studied scientifically and shown to reduce nervous feelings, improve mood, and even lower stress hormones like cortisol.
2. Sleep Enhancer
If you are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep during the night, essential oils can help. Scientific studies have shown that oils like lavender and German chamomile reduce insomnia and promote deep, restorative sleep.
3. Relief For Aching Joints And Muscles
There's a reason why relief creams like Icy Hot rely on essential oil compounds such as menthol and camphor as their main active ingredients. These compounds, found in peppermint and rosemary essential oil respectively, reduce pain and inflammation and ease joint and muscle aches.
4. Headache Relief
This traditional use of essential oils is getting modern scientific backing. A placebo-controlled study found lavender oil to be an effective treatment for acute migraines. Other essential oils that help with headaches include ginger, peppermint, and frankincense.
Essential oils first grew in popularity thanks to their many uses in skincare products. They prevent free radical damage that contributes to skin aging, they stop the spread of bacteria that contribute to acne, they reduce skin inflammation and redness, and the list goes on.
6. Hair Care
Yes, essential oils do get added to your shampoo in part because they smell so good. But oils like spikenard and hinoki offer real benefits for your hair, making it stronger and even stimulating hair growth. Other essential oils such as tea tree keep your scalp healthy and dandruff-free.
7. Natural Cleaning Products
Most essential oils have powerful antimicrobial properties. If you would like to make your own natural household cleaning products, then essential oils, including lemon and tea tree, are the way forward.
8. Natural Insect Repellents
One of the reasons essential oils exist in plants is to drive harmful insects away. That's why essential oils like pine, eucalyptus, and cedarwood can keep you and your home free of mosquitos, gnats, and other pests.
John Bejakovic is a writer who's interested in natural ways to improve everyday health. He blogs about essential oils and the science behind them at unusualhealth.com.