Updated: Oct 6
April 13, 2021
People have used essential oils around their homes since ancient times. Fortunately, we don’t have to harvest and press our own botanicals to create our favorite essential oils. Today, myriad manufacturers sell a wide range of fragrant oils that can enhance your living space. If you’ve never used essential oils before, you’ll discover that they can add pleasant fragrances to your living space, disinfect your countertops, or even repel insects. And that’s just the beginning of what essential oils can do and the many benefits they offer.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oil is a concentrated liquid that contains the essence, or chemical compounds, of the plant. Manufacturers use various methods to extract the plant’s essential oils, including a steam distillation process. Other extraction methods include solvent extraction or cold pressing. Some botanicals are better suited to one method or another.
After extracting the essential oils, manufacturers can add these concentrated liquids to a wide variety of products, such as candles, soaps, cosmetics, cleaning products, perfumes, or even food and drinks. Essential oils are completely natural, of course, but many commercial products may also contain synthetic scents and perfumes, so if you’re looking for naturally scented products, check the ingredients list to make sure “fragrance,” “perfume,” or “parfum” aren’t listed.
What Are the Best Uses for Essential Oils?
You can use essential oils for all sorts of uses around the home, from aromatherapy to cooking and from cleaning to flavoring foods.
The noteworthy feature of essential oils is their fragrance. You can use essential oils to create sprays to naturally perfume your living space — try a single oil or a combination of oils to achieve your ideal scents. There are many popular oils for achieving pleasing home fragrances, including lemon, lavender, cedarwood, eucalyptus, and sweet orange. After releasing essential oils into your room, you can freshen the entire place space within moments.
While some essential oils can be ingested, others shouldn’t be. Always be certain that any oil you use for human or pet consumption is safe. That said, there are many essential plant oils that you can use when cooking but remember — these are concentrated oils, so a little goes a long way. In fact, you should dilute them in most cases so that they don’t overpower your recipes. Great essential oils for recipes include peppermint, ginger, lavender, orange, lemon, and basil. Try a hint of cinnamon oil in your hot chocolate or coffee, or add thyme oil for a new dimension of flavor in soups or stews with a spicy element.
Aromatherapy for Health and Well-Being
The scientific community has not backed the use of essential oils for many of the health benefits that are popularly ascribed to them — they can’t treat or cure cancer, measles, or any other serious disease or condition. But essential oils are safe to use for aromatherapy, and they’ve been used in this manner for centuries. When essential oils are inhaled, the scent molecules travel from olfactory nerves to the brain, particularly impacting the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Aromatherapy can help:
Reduce stress and anxiety (lavender)
Improve your mood (lemon)
Quell a headache (peppermint, lavender, clove)
Induce sleep (lavender, chamomile)
Reduce inflammation (rosemary)
Reduce nausea (peppermint)
Enhance concentration (rosemary, cinnamon
Essential Oils for Cleaning
Essential oils are highly effective for household cleaning jobs, thanks to their antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, and insecticidal properties. Typically, you’ll dilute the essential oils in water or a combination of water and vinegar in a spray bottle.
Lemon oil cuts through grease and grime, and it’s a powerful deodorizer. It’s antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic.
Tea tree oil has strong antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, and insecticidal properties and may be used to make an all-purpose cleaner to spray down countertops, the bathtub and sink, and the floors.
Lavender oil repels ants, spiders, and cockroaches and has antiseptic properties. It also has disinfecting properties.
First Aid with Essential Oils...
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