Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal qualities. They have a whole range of beneficial properties - they can be antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, detoxifying, mood improving and stimulating. Not to mention they are natural remedies and tend to have minimal side effects. While the benefits of essential oils are endless, here are, in our opinion, four of the most handy uses.
Essential oils can help balance hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid and testosterone.
Oestrogen and progesterone levels can help conditions like Polycystic ovaries, PMS, menopause and infertility. In 2017, a study was published that showed some essential oils, such as rose and geranium, can influence the concentration of oestrogen (1). Other symptoms of low oestrogen levels include irregular periods, depression and hot flashes.
Essential oils also have the ability to lower the stress hormone, cortisol. In one studies, an experimental group were given an essential oil blend of lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, and neroli to inhale over 24-hours (2). Compared to a placebo group, they showed significant decreases in the concentration of cortisol in their saliva. The effects were both immediate and continuous which suggests that essential oils may have relaxation effects.
Essential oils have a whole myriad of infection-fighting qualities. Some studies have shown essential oils to eradicate fungus, viruses and bacterial organisms. This can be useful for fighting candida or bacterial diseases without building bacterial resistance.
Some of the most beneficial essential oils for fighting infection include oregano oil, tea tree oil and clove oil.
In one study, oregano oil was tested on 20 clinical bacterial strains of E-coli and 20 clinical strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These strains can cause many different infections, including UTIs, pneumonia and respiratory infections. Oregano oil was found to inhibit all tested strains , but was particularly effective on strains of E-coli (3).
You've probably heard of using tea tree oil (or melaleuca oil) to clear up pimples. This is because the antibacterial qualities of the oil combat bacteria which causes spots, but it can also help fight many kinds of infection. A study was conducted to test the effectiveness of tea tree oil on candida strains. It revealed that in the candida strains tested, fluconazole (the common treatment for thrush) was ineffective but were susceptible to tea tree oil (4).
Clove oil is also beneficial at combating fungal infections, but they also have a strong antiviral activity (5). Clove oil has antiseptic properties meaning it is good for wounds, cuts and athlete's foot!
The effect of essential oils on digestion has been well-researched. Essential oils can help to relieve stomach pain, indigestion and gastrointestinal conditions like IBS. Essential oils can also aid digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes that make it easier to break down food (6).
Peppermint oil is particularly effective for digestive issues. One study has shown that the oil can provide fast relief of IBS symptoms (7). Peppermint oil is also thought to work because of the menthol, which helps relax the stomach and ease digestive tract muscles. This helps speed up digestion in the stomach which can help nausea, indigestion and stomach aches.
Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for digestive ailments for centuries. As an essential oil, however, it is a concentrated and effective way to relieve symptoms and improve digestion. It has soothing properties and may help reduce bloating and gas when taken internally.
Reduce Emotional Stress and Anxiety
One of the most well-known uses for essential oils is reducing stress and anxiety. Some of the most effective oils for improving your mood and relieving anxiety include lavender, ylang ylang, peppermint, frankincense and wild orange. A study published in 2012 found that the use of aromatherapy with essential oils helped reduce anxiety and depression in postpartum women. The women were divided into two groups - one inhaled a blend of rose and lavender oils, and the other didn't receive aromatherapy. After four weeks, the first group had significant improvements in anxiety and depression compared to the second group (8).