lifestyle

Can essential oils really help to boost your wellbeing?


How can essential oils help us? (Picture: Getty Images)

Chances are you’ve heard of essential oils and even used them at some point, whether that’s in a massage, in your bath, through an inhalation device, or even in your skincare and cleaning products.

There are lots of ways they can be incorporated into everyday life and the health and wellbeing benefits can be vast.

According to Wellness Creatives industry data, in the UK, the health and wellbeing industry was estimated to be worth around £19.6billion last year and essential oils saw a surge in popularity that hasn’t faded away.

A recent Puressentiel report, stated that last year alone, 247 kilotons of essential oils were produced globally. That’s more than the combined weight of 19,900 double decker buses and a huge amount when you consider you normally only need one to two drops of the oil to reap the benefits.

So, what exactly are essential oils and what role can they play in our wellbeing?

‘I think essential oils are a very misunderstood and under-utilised wellbeing resource,’ says Dr Chris Etheridge, a leading medical herbalist practitioner and essential oils expert for Puressentiel. ‘There’s still some suspicion about them, but if they are used in the correct way, they can potentially have huge health and wellbeing benefits’

Essential oils are concentrated, highly potent compounds derived from plants. This could be any part of the plant, from the root and stem to the flowers and leaves. Typically steam distillation is used although, water distillation and cold pressing are also common.

‘Any part of a plant that contains essential oils, or active compounds can be used,’ says Chris. ‘Plants generally make these compound chemicals by way of defence to protect themselves from hazardous, environmental conditions and to stop predators like caterpillars or deer from grazing on them. Some essential oil compounds have a bitter taste, make the mouth sting, or give off an unpleasant smell.

‘Plants spend a lot of time, effort and energy making these compounds and there is strong evidence they have antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal benefits, as well as muscle relaxing, pain relieving, calming and sleep-inducing effects.

Different oils serve different purposes (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Other compounds can enhance alertness and concentration or increase blood flow.’

Cave paintings in France suggest aromatic plants were used in 18,000 BCE and Chris credits a 10th-century Persian physician called Ibn Sina (Avicenna) as the first person to derive oils from flowers through steam distillation. So how do they work?

‘Thanks to brain scans using fMRI imaging we can now look at the brain and see what happens when someone smells different essential oils,’ explains Chris. ‘Because they are volatile [this means they are easily evaporated at room temperature], they quickly enter the nasal cavity where there are lots of little receptors called olfactory bulbs.

‘Different essential oil molecules bind to different receptors and this is then translated into a signal, which is transmitted to the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes emotions, as well other parts like the hypothalamus, hippocampus and frontal cortex, which is memory, emotion, relaxation or alertness.

‘Some of these then cause changes to brain chemistry such as the release neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline and endorphins, which can have an effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing.

‘The effect depends on the compounds in the essential oil, so lavender would be relaxing while rosemary would be stimulating. When applied on the skin, essential oils are fat soluble so they are absorbed and taken into muscles and surrounding tissue and can have warming, anti-inflammatory and healing effects, too.’

As we understand more about these incredible plant oils, scientists have discovered that they work together in synergy.

‘There is growing evidence to show that synergism between different plant components and also between different plants can have a big impact on the way essential oils work,’ he adds. ‘Combining different essential oils together can either reinforce an action, or expand the property, which basically means combinations of essential oils are more potent than one single oil.’

Dr Chris Etheridge on the three most common essential oils and how they affect our wellbeing:

Lavender oil

Lavender oil could do more than just helping you drift off (Picture: Getty Images)

‘This multi-tasking oil has been shown to increase theta and alpha brainwave activity.

‘The alpha waves are associated with cognitive performance, calmness and coordination, while theta activity is more for us in a relaxed state for daydreaming or letting our imagination wander, de-stressing and reducing agitation and anxiety.’

Chamomile oil

An ultra relaxing option (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘From the flower of the roman chamomile plant, this is antispasmodic, which means it relaxes smooth muscles and skeletal muscles.

‘There are three types of muscle in the human body — skeletal (voluntary movements like limbs), cardiac (heart) and smooth (involuntary movements like lungs and blood vessels).

‘This can help with joint issues and muscle pain when applied topically and when inhaled can soothe the gut of things like cramps, lower blood pressure as it relaxes the blood vessel muscles, and can help relax lungs making breathing easier during coughs and colds, and with asthma.’

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus helps to clear your chest (Picture: Getty Images/RooM RF)

‘There are about 700 different types of eucalyptus oils and they often have a camphor-like smell. The most common is eucalyptus globulus, which is very good for lung conditions as it’s expectorant, which means it helps you expel mucus and phlegm from the chest. It’s also mucolytic, which means it dissolves mucus.

‘It’s also antiseptic, meaning it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. Often you find this in sprays, inhalants, rubs, and cough remedies as it promotes relaxation in the smooth muscles in the lungs, which aids breathing when the lungs are congested.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


MORE : Your essential mental health workout plan to improve your wellbeing in five weeks


MORE : I moved to the UK to try to get the best possible healthcare for my daughter


MORE : Your guide to growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs from seed



How to get your Metro newspaper fix

Metro newspaper is still available for you to pick up every weekday morning or you can download our app for all your favourite news, features, puzzles… and the exclusive evening edition!

Download the Metro newspaper app for free on App Store and Google Play





READ SOURCE

See also  Rachel Roddy’s recipe for pasta soup with potatoes and sausage | A Kitchen in Rome

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more