Essential oils have been used in medicine in one form or another for well over a thousand years, and there are around 3000 essential oils in use. Modern science, however, has only recently turned its eye to asking how these plant-based oils are so effective for so many uses.
Essential oils are widely used for skin care and are sometimes found in things like acne scrubs. In these products, the essential oils certainly contribute a fresh clean smell, but more than that researchers are finding that some essential oils contain strong antibiotic components. It is widely thought that essential oils are produced by plants to protect the plants from various diseases and environmental damages, so it makes sense that these same oils benefit us so greatly.
Because many skin problems, including acne, can be caused by bacteria in the pores of the skin it’s no wonder that essential oils can fight back against these conditions. In fact, some researchers are looking toward using essential oils to combat bacteria that have become resistant to other forms of antibiotics. Some essential oils have also been found to have anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties as well, making them beneficial to the health, rather than strictly cosmetic in nature.
The antibacterial properties of essential oils also make them an important preservative in foods, though food preservation and medicinal uses also benefit from the antioxidant properties of essential oils, especially those from the clove and origanum plants. Antioxidants are chemicals that slow or even prevent cell damage and are often sought after to prevent signs of aging, as well as cancer. Functionally similar chemicals, called “terpenes,” also show promise warding off cancer and even heart disease.
Some studies have also found that including certain essential oils in shampoos can promote scalp-health and ward off common parasites like lice.
The use of essential oils is not only skin-deep, however. Many essential oils are used in a variety of aromatherapy methods to relax both the muscles and the mind, aid in sleep, and prevent memory loss. The ability of essential oils to influence mood and mind may come from an ability to influence the balance of certain hormones, though this is still under investigation.
Just as the effectiveness of individual oils is still being studied, the effects of oils in combination is still being studied. While it is highly unlikely that blending essential oils would do any kind of harm, it is becoming apparent that using certain essential oils in combination may enhance the effectiveness of their healthy properties.
Whether you are a believer in essential oils curious about how they work, or a non-believer skeptical that they work at all, there is an ever-growing body of evidence to prove that essential oils are, as they always have been, tremendously beneficial chemicals with a wide variety of uses. It might be advantageous to brush up on your essential oils knowledge, as it looks that these compounds will only continue to become more and more present on the cosmetic and medical scene.