Are essential oils help or hoax?
Written by Aaron A.Lim
If you look into the home healthcare scene long enough, you’d eventually stumble onto essential oils. These oils, which are mostly concentrates obtained naturally from herbal plants, bark, flowers or fruit, are claimed to be powerful antibacterial agents, able to detoxify skin and calm the troubled mind. Such is their reputation that they have been used in the world’s oldest civilisations as supportive therapy to cure a variety of common ailments – like migraine and body pains – and most continue to see popular use in the modern world.
Whether used as a fragrance or as a health supplement, essential oils have gathered both adoring fans and doubtful critics. What makes them so special and useful as a daily care product? Today we explore some of the most common facts and myths around these oils.
MYTH: Essential Oils are nature’s medicines
The many health claims surrounding much of the literature that promotes natural oils today have led many to call it ‘alternative medicine’ or ‘self-healing remedies’. While the natural and often herbal properties of essential oils do bring with them benefits for health, they are far from being effective replacements for the purposeful properties of modern medications.
Instead, the benefits of essential oils can be summarised in one word: relief. Instead of targeting symptoms that cause illnesses – what modern drugs do – essential oils are more effectively used as an external means to alleviate the stresses of daily life. Oil diffusers have brought the benefits of essential oil to many homes, in the shape of fragrances like lavender and peppermint, creating atmospheres many find useful for relaxation or concentration. In modern times, certain essential oils are also used as central ingredients for haircare and various other cosmetics, due to the gentle and non-abrasive nature of the substance.
MYTH: Mixing makes them less effective
Speaking of blending, many users think that blending or ‘diluting’ essential oils makes them less effective. While there isn’t any evidence that indicates that blending reduces the effectiveness of essential oils, frequent users know the need to reduce its potency, to prevent any harmful effects upon application. In other words, dilution isn’t a bad thing when it comes to essential oils, it’s an absolutely essential step to reduce the effects that concentrated amounts of oil would inflict on our health.
In some cases, dilution even helps increase the effectiveness of essential oils. Diluting and blending it with other natural oils, like coconut oil, is a key step for most oil-based health supplements. Certain properties of coconut oil ease its absorption by our digestive tract, and mixing small percentages of essential oil into coconut oil is an easy and seamless way to confer the tremendous benefits both substances can offer.
MYTH: They are best used only as fragrances
How essential oil is used is up to the customer. Generally, essential oils have long been associated with the pleasant aromas of fragrance sticks and oil diffusers – because these are the mediums that kickstarted essential oil’s rise in popularity amongst the larger consumer conscience. However, like any product out there, the use of essential oils has evolved, and many users are looking at ways to incorporate more of the natural substance into their lives.
In particular, the health, beauty and wellbeing industry is seeing a rising surge of popularity when it comes to essential oils. Most customers choose essential oils as an alternative over chemical-based cosmetic products; the natural compounds of the oils tend to produce gentler – but no less effective – results for any skin type. Today, it’s typical to find essential oil beauty products lining most store shelves, in the form of serums, creams and haircare spray. These are perfect for the busy professional, or career parents, who lead active and outgoing lifestyles but still want to obtain the benefits conferred by nature.
MYTH: They will never expire
Just like anything natural or organic, essential oils will eventually reach an expiry date where they become less effective or even rancid and unsafe to use. Just because they contain antifungal or antibacterial properties doesn’t mean they aren’t subjected to the process of decay. For those who are using essential oils for the first time and are unsure about their shelf life, leading vendors and manufacturers list expiration dates on their products for the convenience of all their customers.
There are countless other myths surrounding essential oils – some even delving into areas that are religious, spiritual or scientific. Most, however, reach the same conclusion – no matter the literature that’s for or against essential oil, its organic properties and natural health benefits have been leveraged by countless individuals across the ages, and continues to help countless more today. To ignore or dismiss it, is to wave away the goodness that mother nature has placed right at our doorstep.