Essential oils are volatile substances which are extracted from the leaves, bark petals, flowers, seeds or roots of plants. Citrus oils are the exception; they’re made from cold pressing or steaming the rinds of fruits. There is a growing body of research that supports the fact that the oils contain active compounds that can treat a variety of health complaints, and bring the body back into balance. When the body is not balanced, illness and disease will occur.
Essential oils are very concentrated sources of these active compounds and they can be very beneficial for health if they are used safely and correctly.
Pure essential oils do not feel ‘oily’ and absorb into the skin very easily. If an oil’s scent seems overpowering, the chances are, it contains synthetic fragrances or cheaper oils, so it may not offer the same health benefits as the pure oil. There may be more chance of an adverse reaction too.
Essential Oils 101
Most of the benefits of essential oils can be experienced by either inhaling oils or applying them topically to the skin. Oils should always be diluted prior to use on the skin, as irritation can occur. Some oils can also increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. If in doubt about how your skin will react, carry out a patch test of your chosen oil on the skin of your upper arm and wait for 24 hours. If you experience a reaction, discontinue use of the oil.
Inhalation can benefit emotional health and physical health, as oils can lift the mood or relax you, and they can enter the body via the lungs.
You will likely notice when you start using oils, that they can really vary in quality and price, and there are many factors that can affect the quality of an oil. Where the plant is grown, the climate it was grown in, and the extraction method all affect an oil’s quality.
You can use single oils, or you can buy them as a blend of complimentary oils to enhance their benefits even further.
How to Use Essential Oils
Here are the main ways you can use essential oils to get the benefits:
Inhale Them Directly
Apply 3-4 drops of oil onto a tissue and inhale, or inhale the oil straight from the bottle or the palm of your hand.
Add some oil to hot water, put a towel over your head, close your eyes and inhale the vapour. This is really effective for clearing up congestion from a cold or sinus infection.
Clean and Freshen Your Household
Add essential oil to your bin, vacuum bag, or on cotton balls and place them in drawers to make your clothes smell nice.
Essential oils like citronella, lavender, and peppermint oil are natural insect repellents. Apply a few drops of oil to some cotton wool or tissues near the entrances to your home to deter bug.
Dilute your chosen oil with a suitable carrier oil such as sweet almond oil before you apply it to the skin. Massage boosts blood flow which helps oils to be absorbed more easily so they can be carried to where they are needed. Always keep oils away from the eyes and ears, and don’t apply them to broken or sensitive skin.
Add up to 7 drops of oil to your bath water, and mix the oil well with the water so it does not lie on the top of the water and cause irritation.
Essential oils are often used in body lotions, shampoos, perfumes, soaps, shower gels, and other body care products, as well as home cleaning products and candles.
The History of Aromatherapy
The therapeutic use of oils goes back thousands of years. The Chinese burned plants to create incense to promote emotional and physical balance, the Egyptians infused herbs and oils to make medicines, cosmetics, and perfumes, and the Greeks adopted many of the same practices as the Egyptians.
During the plague in the middle ages, essential oils and other herbal preparations were used to treat sufferers and by the 20th century, chemists were coming up with ways to separate compounds from essential oils to create synthetic medicines. This formed the basis of modern medicine.
Interest in the medicinal benefits of essential oils increased when a French chemist applied lavender oil to a burn he suffered to his hand. The oil healed the skin and prevented any scarring. Another chemist used essential oils to treat wounded soldiers during world war I and fast forward 50 years or so, and essential oils began to be used in massage, and in different products, such as body care products, perfumes, cosmetics, candles, and natural cleaning products.
Essential Oil Safety
Never use oils undiluted on the skin. Always use a suitable carrier oil, and do a patch test of a small amount of oil on the upper arm. Always keep oils away from the eyes and ears, and any areas of broken skin.
Some oils can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and if you expose your skin to the sun after you have used them, you can experience blistering, redness, burning, and inflammation of the skin. The citrus oils are known to have this effect. Wait 24 hours before exposing skin to the sun if you have used essential oils.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or you have an existing health condition, always seek medical advice before using oils, as they contain chemical compounds that can interact with medications and even worsen an existing health problem.
Always follow instructions on dosage and usage of essential oils, as using too much can increase the chances of an adverse reaction.
Keep oils away from children and pets, as pleasant-smelling oils may be accidentally ingested and this can cause real problems. The oils are toxic, but the liver can also break oils down into toxic substances in the body.
Oils should not generally be ingested unless you’re doing so under the guidance of a trained practitioner. Oils are present in everyday items like chewing gum and mouthwash, but they are generally not ingested when used in this manner.
Camphor oil, known as Cinnamomum camphora is a very potent oil which is known to have a number of health benefits. The oil is extracted from 2 types of camphor tree, which is native to Asia, mainly Japan, Taiwan, and China. It is also now grown in India and Sri Lanka.
The first tree is the Common Camphor tree, which has the scientific name Cinnamomum camphora, from which the oil known as common camphor is extracted. The second tree is the Borneo Camphor tree, which is where Borneo Camphor oil comes from. This tree is scientifically known as Dryobalanops camphora. The camphor oil that is extracted from both trees have similar properties, but their scent differs, as does the concentration of compounds they contain.
Camphor oil produces 3 different fractions; white, brown, or yellow oil, but only the white oil is used therapeutically, the other types are quite toxic, due to a compound called safrole.
The main compounds in camphor oil are alcohol, borneol, pinene, camphene, camphor, terpene and safrole.
Some Uses of Camphor Oil
Camphor oil is not widely used in aromatherapy, though it is an ingredient in mentholated products and creams that are designed to treat fungal infections and skin conditions.
The oil’s intense fragrance makes it an excellent natural insect repellent, and it’s often an ingredient in mothballs.
Benefits of Camphor Oil
The health benefits of camphor essential oil are due to its properties as a stimulant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, decongestant, anesthetic, sedative, antineuralgic, anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, and natural insecticide.
This oil would make a good addition to your bathroom cabinet, as it provides so many benefits. It’s an excellent massage oil for cramps and general muscle and joint stiffness, it helps to relax you, and it’s a potent decongestant among other things.
It’s a Great Circulation Booster
Camphor essential oil is a potent stimulant, which boosts the circulatory system, metabolism, digestion, secretion of hormones, and the excretion of waste products from the body. This stimulating effect helps to treat problems related to poor circulation, sluggish digestion, and underactive or overactive metabolism.
It Can Prevent Skin Infections
Camphor oil is an effective disinfectant, insecticide, and germicide. It can be added to water to disinfect it so it’s clean enough to drink if you’re in an area with poor sanitation.
An open bottle or container of camphor oil, or a piece of cloth soaked in camphor oil, will deter insects and kill germs. A few drops of the oil can help to stop grains spoiling or attracting insects if it’s mixed in.
It’s used in many medicated treatments for skin diseases, such as in ointments and lotions, and you’ll also find it in preparations designed to treat bacterial and fungal infections too. If you add it to the bath, it can disinfect your entire body and it’s particularly effective for parasites.
It Gets Rid of Gas
If you suffer from excessive gas, this oil can help. It stops gas from building up in the first place, and it helps gas to be expelled from the body and relieves any discomfort from trapped wind.
It Calms the Nerves
Because the oil reduces nerve action, it’s a very effective local anesthetic, and it numbs the nerves in the area it’s applied on. It also reduces the ability of the brain to feel pain. It can also reduce the severity of convulsions, epileptic fits, nervousness, and anxiety. It causes numbness of the sensory nerves in the area of application.
It also reduces the severity of nervous disorders and convulsions, epileptic attacks, nervousness, and chronic anxiety.
It Can Relieve Spasms
It is a very effective antispasmodic and provides fast relief from painful spasms and cramps.
It Can Boost Libido
Camphor oil, when inhaled, has been shown to boost the libido by stimulating the parts of the brain that are linked to sexual desire and arousal. When applied topically, it can help to cure erectile issues by stimulating the circulation to the affected tissue.
It Provides Relief from Neuralgia
Neuralgia is a very painful condition caused by blood vessels swelling and pressing on one of the cranial nerves. Camphor oil can help with this condition by causing the blood vessels to contract, and reducing the pressure on the nerve. The oil is also a sedative and is very soothing, so it can help to relieve pain from neuralgia too.
It’s an Effective Anti-Inflammatory
The cooling effects of camphor oil make it an effective anti-inflammatory and sedative agent. It is very effective at tackling all types of inflammation inside and outside the body. As well as tackling inflammation, it’s great for relaxing and refreshing the body and mind. It’s a very effective cooling oil in the summer heat; add it to a foot bath to cool down hot and tired feet.
It Reduces the Pain of Arthritis
Camphor essential oil is a potent detoxifier and a stimulant for the circulatory system, so it encourages good circulation and relieves rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. It also prevents blood and lymph fluid building up and pooling in the lower body.
It Can Have a Narcotic Effect
The oil can have narcotic effects since it can temporarily dull the nerves and the brain’s pain sensors. If used in excess the oil can impact upon brain function, even to the extent of causing a loss of muscle and limb control. It has been shown to be very addictive to some people, who become addicted to the scent, or ingesting it, which is quite dangerous.
It’s an Effective Decongestant
The strong aroma of camphor essential oil is what makes it such a powerful decongestant. It quickly relieves congestion caused by colds, flu, and sinus infections. You’ll find it in many over the counter decongestant balms and rubs.
Other Benefits of Camphor Oil
Camphor oil is sometimes used in cases of heart failure, along with other medicines. It is also effective for the treatment of epilepsy, viral illnesses like coughs and colds, measles, flu, food poisoning, and urinary infections.
How to Make Camphor Essential Oil
A camphor tree has to be at least 50 years old before a steam distillation process can be carried out on it because a less mature tree might not be able to withstand the rigorous extraction process. The essential oil is extracted through steam from the tree’s chipped wood, root stumps and branches. It is then subjected to vacuum pressure and filter pressed.
During the distillation process, the three fractions of the camphor oil are separated. White camphor separates first as it has the lowest boiling point of the fractions, then the brown follows, with the yellow oil appearing last. Yellow and brown camphor oil contain a compound called safrole which is known to be a toxic carcinogen.
How Can You Use Camphor Oil?
Camphor oil blends really well with basil, chamomile, lavender and melissa oil. To use camphor essential oil therapeutically:
- Add it to your bath: Add 2-3 drops of camphor oil to your bath and soak for 10 minutes.
- Use it as a decongestant: To relieve congestion from colds and coughs, add 2-3 drops of camphor oil to a diffuser or you can dilute it with lavender or olive oil and rub it on your chest to relieve stuffiness.
- Use it in massage: Mix 5 drops of camphor oil with a teaspoon of grapeseed, hazelnut, or olive oil, and massage it into to the affected area for relief of muscle aches and tension.
- Use it to repel insects: This essential oil is a very effective insect repellent. Soak some pieces of cloth with the camphor oil, place it strategically outside your house, and let the aroma deter the bugs.
Camphor Essential Oil Safety
Children have more sensitive skins, so this oil should not be used on them. Prior to using any oil yourself, always dilute it with a suitable carrier oil and do a skin patch test to check for a reaction.
Camphor oil, or products where the oil is listed as an ingredient, should not be applied on open wounds or burns. It can interrupt sleep due to stimulating effects too, so don’t use it too close to bedtime.
People with asthma or epilepsy, and children and pregnant women, should not use camphor oil as there is no sound evidence about its safety for these groups. At the very least, speak to your doctor before you use an essential oil to check that it’s appropriate for you to use.
Possible Side Effects of Camphor Oil
It’s important to note that the yellow and brown versions of camphor oil are very toxic, and they can event be fatal at times. Even standard camphor oil can be dangerous to ingest too, and it can cause nausea, vomiting, and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. It is also known to cause damage to the liver.