Author: Craig, Winston J
Date published: November 1, 2011
Journal code: VIL
Essential oils are derived from aromatic plants, such as chamomile, lavender, thyme, sandalwood, peppermint, bitter orange, and melaleuca (tea tree). They have a long history of safe use in a variety of situations. Today, they are used in perfumes, soaps, cosmetics, and flavored drinks, as well as for medicinal purposes.
Essential oils should not be confused with synthetic aromas which have dubious therapeutic effects and can cause negative reactions in the patient. Adulterated essential oils should also be avoided.
Common Uses of Essential Oils
Essential oils have a variety of functions and antimicrobial effects. Take a look at just a few:
* Lemongrass can be effective against ringworm.
* Tea tree oil solution is effective against vaginal yeast infections.
* Oil from common thyme is effectively used in mouthwashes and gargles for treating sore throats.
* Eucalyptus is useful as an expectorant in upperrespiratory infections.
* Peppermint and ginger oils are effective for the treatment of nausea caused by motion sickness or chemotherapy.
Oils for Relaxation, Stress Relief, and Sleep Aid
The inhalation of essential oils has been successfully used to treat depression, insomnia, sinusitis, and chronic pain. The oils are inhaled from a handkerchief or from a few drops of oil added to a bowl of steaming water. Essential oils, such as lavender, rose, and neroli, have the potential to reduce stress significantly. Similarly, pleasant odors help terminally ill patients to relax, sleep better, and better cope with pain.
For patients in intensive care, massages with lavender oil were more effective in reducing stress and anxiety than massages without lavender. Women in labor were shown to better relax and experience less pain and anxiety when exposed to pleasant aromas, such as lavender, jasmine, and rose. Anxiety and pain symptoms in cancer patients and patients with rheumatoid arthritis were also significantly lessened with the use of lavender oil.
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Winston J. Craig, Ph.D., is a professor of nutrition at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.