Can Essential Oils Really Improve Our Wellbeing?

In the world of wellness, essential oils are bang on trend. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to scroll through social media without stumbling across pretty flatlays of these tiny coloured bottles.

It’s not surprising that more and more people are seeking alternative approaches to health and wellbeing. Chronic stress has reached truly epidemic proportions ad it’s estimated that in 2015 someone in the UK was diagnosed with work-related stress, anxiety or depression every 2.1 minutes.

Encouraging people to seek help with their mental health is vitally important but at the same time, we know that pills aren’t always the only answer. The medical industry is beginning to realise that we need to take a holistic approach towards healthcare. We’re acknowledging the importance of mental wellbeing and how it affects our physical health.

A Holistic Approach

So, what do we mean by a holistic approach? Good news, it doesn’t all need to involve whale music, chanting, or becoming acquainted with our chakras!

Holistic health is about treating the whole person: both the mind and body. Traditional medicine treats symptoms in isolation, rather than the person as a whole. But our mental and physical health are intrinsically linked which is why a holistic approach makes sense.

The Importance of Stress

Stress is thought to be the underlying cause for at least 80% of all illness. The knock-on effects of stress are never-ending: insomnia, headaches, acne, arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, asthma, depression, IBS, chest pains, eczema, diabetes, cancer, back pain, menstrual problems, infertility…the list goes on.

The good news is that there are lots of things we can do to counteract stress in our lives. Prevention is always better than the cure, so it makes sense to tackle stress before it starts to seriously affect our health.

This doesn’t necessarily require scary amounts of money, time or effort. Small changes can be hugely beneficial – whether it’s getting to sleep an hour earlier, scheduling time for a daily walk outside, or using essential oils. 

How Can Essential Oils Help?

Essential oils can be a useful tool for boosting our mental wellbeing. Although often overlooked, our sense of smell is incredibly powerful. Unlike other senses, smells have the ability to bypass the thalamus (known as the ‘sensory gatekeeper’) and send a direct signal to our brain.

Smells are processed by our olfactory system, which is closely linked to the limbic system of the brain. Our limbic system deals with emotions, moods and memories, which explains why one whiff of a scent can trigger an instant emotional response. 

Catching the scent of a certain perfume instantly reminds us of the person who wears it. The smell of cooking a particular food brings back family memories. Warming blends of orange and cinnamon remind us of Christmas time.

This is why essential oils can have such a powerful effect on our mood and emotional wellbeing. We know that certain oils, such as lavender, can help us to feel relaxed – but how? Is it all in the mind?

It’s actually due to their chemical constituents. Lavender essential oil is rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, which are known to cause a sedative effect. Menthol is the main chemical component of peppermint oil, which explains its cooling, refreshing and invigorating properties. Contrary to popular belief, there IS a scientific basis to aromatherapy!

So, we know essential oils offer impressive potential for boosting our overall wellbeing. But it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, or which essential oils to use. Finding reliable advice online can be nothing short of a minefield, and you’ll see all sorts of contradictory information.

3 Tips for Getting Started with Essential Oils:

Choose your essential oil supplier wisely!

Don’t be tempted to buy cheap from Amazon, eBay or discount stores. The market is awash with cheap, fake and adulterated brands, which are not always easy to spot. Only buy essential oils from a trusted aromatherapy brand with a professional reputation. 

Start Small

Choose two or three essential oils, and take it from there. You don’t need to splash out on a full kit at first. It’s easier to learn about each essential oil individually, and gradually add to your collection over time.

Do Your Research

Sadly, there is a shocking amount of unsafe and inaccurate information about using essential oils online. Bear in mind that essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin, no matter how pure the brand. Equally, essential oils should not be ingested or used internally unless specifically under the guidance of a clinically trained aromatherapist. Be aware that many essential oils have specific safety precautions which render them incompatible with certain medical conditions and/or medications.

Easy Essential Oil Hacks

  • You don’t need to buy an expensive diffuser to enjoy essential oils at home. Simply add a few drops to a cotton wool pad and let the aroma gently evaporate into the room.
  • An aromatherapy bath is one of life’s simple pleasures. But don’t just add neat essential oils straight from the bottle – dilute 5-6 drops in a tablespoon of carrier oil before swirling into the water.
  • You don’t necessarily need to apply essential oils to your skin in order to receive a therapeutic benefit. Inhalation is scientifically proven to help with a range of emotional conditions, including stress, anxiety and depression. Fascinatingly, inhaling essential oils can even help with the perception of pain.
  • Personal inhalers are a great way of enjoying essential oils on the go. These portable sticks are easy to pop in your handbag and can be used whenever you need an aromatherapy boost!
  • Remember to store essential oils in a cool, dark place. If stored correctly, they should last for at least 1-2 years (with the exception of citrus oils).
  • Essential oils are not a magic wand for perfect health. When taking a holistic approach, it’s vital to consider all aspects of your lifestyle – such as your diet, exercise and sleeping habits. All too often we take a ‘sticking plaster’ approach by just suppressing the symptoms. Tackling the root cause is always the best way to fix a problem.

– Bloom From the Darkness

Disclaimer
Aromatherapy is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Always seek advice from your doctor if you have any medical concerns. Essential oils should always be used with caution, particularly during pregnancy and/or with children. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for professional advice.

Author Bio: ‘The English Aromatherapist’

Nuala Wilkes is a fully qualified aromatherapist with over 14 years’ experience in the beauty and holistic therapy industry. She established The English Aromatherapist blog in 2016 with the aim of promoting safe essential oil advice.

As a freelance writer, she has written extensively on the subjects of health, beauty and aromatherapy.

With qualifications in 18 different therapies, combined with years of workplace experience, Nuala offers a professional perspective on current industry issues.  

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