According to Grand View Research, the essential oil market was valued at nearly 22 billion globally, and it’s anticipated to grow at a rate of almost 8% from 2023 to 2030. Essential oils were first documented by the Egyptians as early as 4500 BC. China and India’s records of using essential oils medicinally date to between 3000 and 2000 BC. These plant extracts have been used commercially in cosmetics and ointments, as a natural preservative in a variety of products, and for health benefits.
Aromatherapy involves using essential oils for health benefits. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that can be made by steaming or squeezing/pressing plant parts to capture the compounds responsible for making the plant’s unique fragrance. Plant parts used can be flowers, bark, leaves, fruit, or even roots. Some essential oils are easier and cheaper to make than others. For example, to make one pound of essential oil from each respective plant, you would need 250 pounds of lavender, 1,500 lemons, or 10,000 pounds of rose petals. The more plant material needed to make the oil, the more expensive and labor-intensive production is.
Aromatherapy is an up-and-coming topic of research as the oils have been found to have positive effects on a variety of health concerns. This therapeutic modality can be helpful with mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, sleeping difficulties, pain management, gastrointestinal concerns such as nausea or vomiting among others. They are anti-inflammatory and certain oils such as chamomile may help reduce pain and swelling. All essential oils have strong antioxidant and antimicrobial components. Research shows oils can help inhibit the growth of several different bacteria and fungi.
There are many different essential oils on the market. A few examples include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, lemon balm, and sweet orange essential oil among many others. For aromatherapy, you can get a diffuser which allows you to add a few drops of oil to be spread throughout the air of a room. Essential oils can also be used in detergents, candles, and/or natural cleaners. These oils can be taken internally via commercially made supplements to support overall health. Please note essential oils should be stored in their original container in a cool, dark place.
If you haven’t used essential oils before, it’s strongly recommended you see a holistic healthcare professional who is familiar with them. Otherwise, there are classes you can take in person and online if you aren’t close to an aromatherapy-literate practitioner. Schools approved by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) have more comprehensive aromatherapy programs.
It’s important to realize essential oils can be a powerful tool when used correctly by educated people. The vast majority of oils should not be used “neat” on the skin, meaning they should be diluted with a carrier oil instead of being placed directly on the skin. As essential oils are concentrated, they can be very irritating to the skin. Do not use essential oils if you are allergic to the plant being used, if you tend to have chemical sensitivities, or are prone to allergies unless you are working with a holistic doctor. Aromatherapy can cause chemical burns and can be toxic depending on the oil and dose. Caution should be used with children, elderly, or pregnant persons.
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