Essential Oils: Are They Essential for You?

Story by Lexi Carter
Photo by Anne Langan

Take a second right now to remember your high school history classes. There was probably a time, very briefly, when you and other students learned about European apothecaries who used oils to help cure diseases. It was something easily brushed over, and you probably didn’t pay much attention – why would anyone ever believe that rubbing oils on anyone would cure them? But now, that’s a whole different story.

The buzz around essential oils is all over the internet and Grand Central is itching to get to the bottom of the craze. While oils are a nice aroma therapy and make your room smell nice, they are also said to be used for a multitude of other reasons. Coming in hundreds of different scents and used as an alternative form of medicine for aches and pains, people look towards the oils to help improve moods and overall health.

While scientifically there is little proof for the health benefits to essential oils, it shouldn’t stop you from conducting your own trial and trying them out.

So, what are essential oils?
Essential oil is the natural oil that is usually obtained by distillation from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark or root of a plant. Usually distilled by steam or water, the fragrance of the plant or source from where it was extracted gives aroma to the oil.

An essential oil can contain more than 100 different chemical compounds that all contribute to the effects of the oil, which is why essential oils can be used for a wide range of remedies.

How Are Essential Oils Used?
When using essential oils, it is recommended they be massaged into the skin or inhaled after a carrier oil is added (olive oil, almond oil) to dilute the essential oil, dulling its potency. Inhaling it directly is known to work faster than directly applying it to the skin because of all the layers it has to go through to reach the bloodstream.

Essential oil users also utilize the oils for home remedies such as lavender to relieve headaches, eucalyptus to relieve congestion or ginger for nausea.

It’s also common for consumers to put oils in a diffuser, sending scents into the air, which is said to work as well as applying to the skin or ingesting directly.

Whether or not you believe the hype of essential oils and are still questioning if they are essential to your daily lives, it doesn’t hurt to try it out and see if it works with calming, soothing or even healing your headaches. If you’re looking for a way to reduce the amount of medicine you are taking and interested in trying a supposedly natural route, essential oils may be right for you.

Worst case scenario, your room smells great from diffusing peppermint or citrus.