Essential oils are liquids packed full of natural compounds and they’re extracted from plants by a process of steam distillation, or in the case of fruit oils, cold pressing. Essential oils are not ‘greasy’ like other oils, like vegetable oils, they absorb easily into the skin. The oils can be extracted from different parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, bark, seeds, leaves, and flowers. Plants produce oils for different reasons; they protect the plant from disease and predators, aid pollination, and can even stop competing plants from growing too close to them. But the oils don’t just benefit plants, we can also benefit from their healing and health-giving properties. Oils have been used for thousands of years by different cultures, and it turns out, they knew a thing or two.
Where Did Essential Oils Come From?
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, and Chinese all used essential oils in perfumes, body care products, medicines, rituals, and cosmetics. The Egyptians are credited with inventing the first oil distillation method, from which they created oils infused with herbs. The Greeks then became interested in the use of oils for therapeutic reasons, and adopted some of their methods.
In the early 1900’s. a French chemist suffered a burn in his lab, applied lavender oil to it, and was amazed at how quickly the skin healed, and it didn’t even scar. This led to an increased interest in the healing properties of oils and from here, oils were used to treat the wounds of soldiers in the first world war.
Essential oils began to be used in massage, the beauty industry, and in many personal care products, and foods. There is an increased interest in how oils can treat health conditions, as people turn away from medicines with side effects and a high price tag.
Many medical professionals don’t recognise essential oils as a treatment for illness, and one of the reasons for this is that many of the existing studies on essential oils have been done on animals, and there aren’t many human studies. Nevertheless, some of the findings have been promising, and studies have even suggested that some essential oils can inhibit the growth of tumours.
The Health Benefits of Essential Oils
There are many different chemical compounds in essential oils, and some of these have been recreated in labs and included in modern medications. Synthetic compounds can have side effects that the oils don’t however, and this is a big part of why some people have turned their backs on conventional medicine to treat their everyday health concerns.
Research has shown that most essential oils have compounds in them which provide the following benefits. They are known to be:
Essential oils are very versatile and there’s an effective essential oil for every condition you could think of. Remember though, that ignoring symptoms, and trying to self-diagnose and treat an illness at home can be very dangerous, so it’s important to get worrying symptoms checked out by your doctor. Essential oils should never replace proper medical advice and treatment.
The Difference Between Essential Oils and Conventional Medicines
Western medicine is heavily based on a medical model, where the drugs companies hold a lot of power, so whenever we go to see our doctor, we simply get prescribed a medication to treat the symptoms. These medications don’t treat the cause of the problem however, they simply mask it.
Conventional medicines also have unpleasant side effects, so when you start taking a medicine, you may actually need to take another medicine to counter its effects. Side effects are a common reason why people might discontinue a medicine before it gets the chance to take effect.
In complementary medicine, of which essential oils are a part, the body is treated as a whole. It’s not just the symptoms that are treated, but the cause of the symptoms. If the body is not in balance, illness and disease will occur. Essential oils help to balance the body and help it to function optimally, which reduces the occurrence of any health problem. Essential oils are certainly not a cure all, but they can help the body to get to a point where it can heal itself. Modern life can make it difficult to keep our bodies in balance, but it’s not impossible. We just need to go back to basics.
How Safe Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are natural, but this doesn’t mean they are safe. But they can be very beneficial if used correctly. Follow these tips to ensure safety when using essential oils:
- Always dilute oils with a carrier oil like coconut oil to reduce the chance of skin irritation. Oils are very concentrated and very few of them can be used neat on the skin. Carry out a patch test on your upper arm, with a small amount of your diluted chosen oil if you are still unsure.
- Some oils can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, and if you expose your skin to sunlight after using them, you risk skin redness, burning, and irritation. Wait up to 48 hours before going out in the sun after you have used oils.
- Use a pure oil, rather than one with cheaper oils or synthetic fragrances added to them, as there is more chance of an adverse reaction with these kinds of oils.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, seek your doctor’s advice before using oils. There is a lack of safety evidence for use during pregnancy, so the general advice doesn’t.
- If you have a medical condition, or you are on medication, ask your doctor if it is safe and appropriate for you to use oils. Some oils can interact with medications, and might even make your health condition worse.
How to Judge the Quality of an Oil
As essential oils aren’t regulated, companies can claim that oils are pure even if they aren’t. Many things determine how pure an oil is, including where the plant is grown, how it is harvested, and how the oil is extracted. The less pure an oil is, the less effective the active compounds will be. Some companies might also add synthetic fragrances or cheaper oils to some oils to make them go further which reduces quality and increases the risk of a reaction. Always do your research on an oil before using it, especially if you haven’t used oils before. Learn how to use it, what dosage to use, and pay attention to any special warnings. If an oil is pure, it should smell fresh and clean. If the smell is pungent, the fragrance may be synthetic.
How Can You Use Essential Oils?
Here are the main ways that you can use an essential oil:
This is probably the most common method of using oils. The tiny particles in the oil can be absorbed through the skin very easily where the oil can get to work on treating your symptoms. Massage is a very effective topical method of use, as massage stimulates the circulation and further increases the absorption of the oil. Otherwise, you can add oils to your bath, apply them to a hot or cold compress, or add them to your favourite creams and lotions. Remember to always dilute oils before use on the skin, and don’t apply them to the eyes, ears, or on any areas of damaged skin.
Even though you can get oils in supplement form, ingesting them is generally not recommended unless you are doing so under proper supervision. Some oils can be very toxic if ingested and can cause damage to the liver and other organs. You will note that essential oils are used in items like chewing gum and mouthwash, but there are not routinely swallowed.
When oils are inhaled, they trigger scent receptors in the nose, which carry the oil to the limbic system in the brain. This part of the brain is directly linked with emotion, mood, and memory, and this is the reason that a scent can remind you of something, boost your energy and mood, or calm you down. Oils can be inhaled from the bottle, from a handkerchief, or from your hand. You can also add them to a diffuser to create an ambience in a room.
Choosing Oils for a Health Condition or Other Therapeutic Use
Many oils can provide the same kind of benefits, so always do your research, and see what suits you. It might be trial and error but choose a few good all-round versatile oils. One such oil is cassia oil.
Cassia is a popular oil, which has antidepressant, antiemetic, antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic, anti-arthritic, astringent, antiviral, and stimulating properties. Although cassia oil is known to be a skin irritant, it does have plenty of beneficial properties and it can be used to treat fever, chills and problems with digestion.
The oil is extracted from the leaves, bark, and twigs of the Cinnamomum Cassia tree, which belongs to the Lauraceae family. The tree is evergreen, and it is native to China and Burma, and you may see it referred to as Chinese Cinnamon. It is also known as Laurus Cassia, Cinnamomum Aromaticum, false cinnamon and cassia lignea. The tree grows up to 20 metres high, has thick leaves with a leathery feel, and small white flowers. The flowers die off and are replaced by small berries that contain a single seed. The main chemical compounds in cassia oil are cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, benzaldehyde, linalool and chavicol.
Its bark is used to add flavour to food and drinks, just like standard Cinnamon, and its widely used in curries, baked goods, confectionery, and soft drinks. Cassia oil has a warm pungent smell. Chinese healers used the oil for medicinal purposes hundreds of years ago, then from here, the plant began to be used in other parts of the world.
In its dried herb form, Cassia can be effective for digestive problems such as gas, colic, indigestion, diarrhea and nausea. It can also be used for colds, flu, fevers, arthritis and other aches and pains.
It Can Get Rid of Diarrhea
Cassia essential oil is great for a healthy digestive system, and among its many benefits is its ability to cure diarrhea. It can draw water out of the bowels and reduce the frequency of episodes of diarrhea. It’s also an antimicrobial agent, so it gets rid of the germs that are causing your unpleasant symptoms. Cassia oil also contains fibre, which is key to adding bulk to your stools again, and stops diarrhea in its tracks.
It’s an Effective Antidepressant
Many oils have been found to help to tackle depression, and this oil is no exception. The oil is a stimulating oil, which boosts mood and energy. Add some to a diffuser or inhale from a handkerchief or from the bottle when you’re feeling blue.
It Kicks Nausea and Vomiting to the Kerb
We all know that familiar, and very unpleasant feeling of feeling sick, or actually being sick. Cassia essential oil can treat nausea and vomiting by settling your stomach, and the scent helps to drive away feelings of sickness.
It Can Reduce Breast Milk Production
This oil should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding for a few reasons, but especially for this reason.
It Tackles Arthritis and Any Other Joint Pain
The oil is a circulation booster and a stimulant, so it’s able to bring a warmth to the joints and provide relief from arthritis and any other muscle and joint aches and pains you might have.
It’s a Potent Antimicrobial
Cassia essential oil inhibits the growth of microbes and so prevents the spread of infections. The oil has been shown to be effective in treating infections in the urethra, colon, kidneys, and urinary tract.
It’s a Natural Astringent
This versatile oil is also a natural astringent, which means that it strengthens and tightens the body’s tissues. It strengthens the gums, the roots of the hair, and helps the skin to maintain its elasticity. It keeps the blood vessels tight too, so it can help to prevent hemorrhage.
It’s a Circulation Booster
Cassia essential oil boosts the circulation so that the tissues of the body get all the oxygen and nutrients they need. The improved blood flow makes you feel more energetic, and it helps to heal any injuries you might have, such as sprains and muscle strains.
It Kills Viruses
The oil has been shown to be effective against viruses, and it seems to offer some protection from cold, the flu, and other viral illnesses.
It Can Combat PMS
Cassia oil can treat menstrual cramps and can also provide relief from common PMS symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
It Can Fight a Fever
The oil is an antimicrobial and antiviral agent, so it can help to fight the infections causing fever and so your body temperature will reduce naturally. The circulation boosting properties of this oil also help to boost the immune system, so you’ll get less infections, and when you do get them, your body will be more able to fight them. The warming effect of cassia oil can provide relief from the chills you can experience when you’re not well too.
It’s a Stimulant
It stimulates your bodily functions, like the metabolism, hormonal secretions, your circulation and also the nervous system and the brain, thereby helping your body to function in the best way it can, and helping you feel healthy and alert.
It Gets Rid of Intestinal Gas
Cassia essential oil provides relief from trapped gases forming in the intestines and it helps to drive them out of the body.
Other Known Benefits of Cassia Essential Oil
It can be used to treat uterine hemorrhaging and other internal and external hemorrhaging due to its ability to restrict blood vessels.
It can also be used to treat lack of sexual desire and other sexual disorders such as impotence. The oil is well-known for being effective for healthy digestion, and it is frequently used to heal digestive disorders, excessive gas, colic, headaches, and muscle and joint aches and pains.
Recent research has found that Cinnamomum cassia oil has the potential to be used as a natural antibacterial agent in food manufacturing.
Cassia Oil Safety and Other Information
This oil is quite irritating to the skin and the mucous membranes, so it should not be used in massage, and it should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The oil blends very well with balsam, black pepper, caraway, chamomile, coriander, frankincense, ginger, geranium, nutmeg, rosemary, and some citrus oils
Effective Uses of Cassia Oil
In a Diffuser
Inhaling the vapour of cassia oil will help to treat fevers, colds, flu, low energy, chills and digestive problems.
In a Cream
Although cassia oil is a known skin irritant, it can be effective for arthritis and other joint and muscle pain if it’s diluted sufficiently.