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essential-oils-1433694_1920Increasingly, I hear friends and relatives talking up the benefits of essential oils. So, what are essential oils, and what makes them so magical?

Essential oils are oils extracted from plants. They come from various plant parts including roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits, although not all plants produce essential oils.

Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries, and while there is little published research on them, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 160 essential oils “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) when they are used as intended.

Essential oils have a variety of purposes. They may help with:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Appetite suppression
  • Skin conditions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • … and more!

If you’re interested in using essential oils, be sure to do your research as you choose which oils to use and how to apply them. Essential oils can be applied to the skin, inhaled or ingested, but methods of application vary in effectiveness and safety from one oil to another. For example, while wound care often involves topical application of oil to the skin, some oils require dilution before topical application or they will cause irritation. Additionally, ingestion is typically not recommended in the United States; oils should not be ingested unless you are directed to do so by a qualified health care provider. If you have children at home, make sure to keep essential oils out of their reach to avoid accidental ingestion. Use extra caution and talk with your doctor before using essential oils around children, while pregnant, or if you have a chronic condition like asthma, high blood pressure, cancer or severe allergies.

If you are new to essential oils and think you’re ready to give them a try, consider starting out by diffusing a common oil such as lemon or lavender throughout a room in your home. Depending on the oil you choose, you may experience its invigorating, relaxing or uplifting aroma while also reaping certain healing properties.

 

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

 

Sources:

University of Maryland Medical Center (2011). Aromatherapy. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy.

University of Minnesota (2016). What Are Essential Oils? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-are-essential-oils.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2016). Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20.

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