A Beginner's Guide to Essential Oils, Including the Best Ones for Your Health
Essential oils are most often categorized as home aromatherapy essentials; they can transform any room into a fragrant paradise with just a few drops (and a diffuser, of course). But that's not their only function: Essential oils, which are liquid extracts that encompass the scents and essence of the plants they are culled from, have health benefits, too. "They're made by steaming, distilling, or pressing various parts of a plant (the flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance," Asti Yogi, the spa supervisor at Zemi Beach House, says.
While they can help your body and mind, they are also concentrated, highly-potent chemical compounds, so using them wisely is critical. "Essential oils give a plant its scent, protect it from hazardous environmental conditions, and even assist it with pollination, among other important functions and benefits," Marizza Contreras, the spa director at Hotel AKA Brickell, adds.
They reduce stress.
If you'd like to unwind and ease your stress levels, consider using essentials oils like peppermint or rosemary for mental focus, eucalyptus or cardamom for energy, and jasmine or bergamot for a mood boost. These iterations stimulate your nose's smell receptors, sending messages to your nervous system. "Because of this, aromatherapy is often used as a natural remedy to help relieve anxiety and stress," Yogi says, noting that she also suggests vetiver, neroli, clary sage, or geranium to aid anxiety. "Topical applications and inhalation are some common ways that essential oils can be used."
Essential oils might help fight fungal Infections.
Essential oils also boast antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and fungicidal properties, which work together to form a potent treatment for fungal infections on your skin, continues Yogi. "You can use anti-fungal essential oils topically to treat overgrowths," she says. "Choosing a mixture of two or three oils, along with a carrier oil such as coconut, gives you the best chance for results." Disclaimer: Don't apply strong essential oils directly on your skin without diluting them with a carrier oil. Contreras says Frankincense is her go-to for this purpose, as it helps reduce the appearance of skin imperfections when applied topically. This specific oil also has other benefits, too: It supports healthy cellular and nervous system function when ingested.
They can aid your sleep.
"Some essential oils are sleep enhancers," Yogi says, noting that jasmine, ylang-ylang, lavender, chamomile, bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, and sandalwood are popular picks. "Simply take one or two drops and rub them into your palm. Take a few slow, deep breaths." Diffusing your scent of choice or mixing them into a carrier oil (and apply it directly onto your skin) are two more relaxing methods.
They soothe body and muscular aches.
Vetiver, peppermint, helichrysum, pine, and chamomile can decrease pain and inflammation, note our experts. Not to mention, they also soothe tension, spasms, swelling, and soreness—and improve circulation and other health conditions, like alopecia. All in all, they simply help you feel better: "One of our wellness packages includes an herbal compress that releases the essential oils of the medicinal herbs, allowing them to penetrate the skin and enrich our guest's moods, creating a feeling of sabai, meaning happiness, ease, and balance," Yogi says.