Essential oils are becoming more popular again, owing to the many trending movements promoting the use of natural ingredients and normalising DIY beauty solutions. These wonder oils from nature are derived from botanical extracts. An essential oil is termed as ‘essential’ because they purportedly contain the ‘essence’ of the very plant it is derived from. These volatile compounds can be used in many cosmetic, herbal and aromatherapy preparations and products.
There are many methods to extract essential oils. Popular ways include distillation via water or steam and cold pressing. Once the plant’s scent or flavour has been extracted, a ‘carrier oil’, which is used for diluting, will be added. Essential oils can be pure, therapeutic-grade, or diluted for use in massage therapies, aromatherapy and as room scents that are diffused via diffusers or humidifiers.
Some essential oils may not appeal to some individuals. As these oils can be quite concentrated, their heavy scent may be too much for some; and for some, however, it brings great comfort and enjoyment.
Common Essential Oils and Their Benefits
- Lavender essential oil
The scent of this herbaceous perennial is one of the most familiar scents in the world. It has a distinctive, versatile aroma that feels freshly green in a calming background of flowery notes. It is probably the best-selling essential oil, with many people claiming that this oil can aid in sleep and relaxation. In aromatherapy, this is purportedly an essence that can soothe and calm the mind and body.
- Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree oil has a strong, characteristic woody, camphor-like scent that can also be described as medicinal and acrid. The prized qualities of tea tree oil is its antibacterial and deodorising properties, which makes it a good ingredient or additive for antibacterial facial wash and serums, as well as deodorants. Pure tea tree oil can be very strong and offensive to the nose, so there are diluted preparations that can be readily used on the face and body, as well as deodorise smelly household items like shoe racks and inside cabinets.
- Citrus essential oils, like lemon oil and sweet orange oil
The essential oils of citrus fruits are mostly obtained from the fruit peels which contain an abundance of natural oils. Citrus oils have a general characteristic of being vibrant, bouncy, and fresh. Lemon, in particular, smells clean and tangy, making it a popular scent for household cleaning products, air fresheners and dishwashing liquids. Orange, lemon’s sweeter cousin, has a rich, lively, fruity citrus scent that is also used in perfumes, air fresheners and soaps. Some people claim that citrus oils can relieve headaches and improve the mood. Orange oil, in particular, can also be used as a tummy soother.
- Roman chamomile essential Oil
The scent of roman chamomile oil is often likened to the sweet aroma of apple, but with a fresher, herby flavour. Roman chamomile, like lavender, is also known to improve mood and aid in relaxation. Some people also use it for putting children to sleep. Others claim that this oil can be used to treat or alleviate indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. In some countries, women use it to cure morning sickness and dysmenorrhea.
- Rose essential oil
The rich, floral notes of rose oil are perhaps a quintessential perfume chord that evokes passion and romance. Rose oil, besides being widely used in fragrances and other botanical preparations, has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Rose essential oil is also a popular skincare ingredient as it can aid balance moisture levels in the skin, reduce the appearance of skin imperfections, and promote an even skin tone.
- Rosehip essential oil
Rosehip, as distinguished from the rose plant itself, is the edible fruit of the wild rose plant highly sought for its anti-inflammatory properties and high vitamin C content. Pure rosehip oil can help in lightening and diminishing the appearance of age spots and scars caused by acne, burns, surgical operations and stretch marks. This ‘miracle oil’ also contains vitamins A, C, beta carotene and essential fatty acids that can improve skin elasticity, speed skin healing and recovery, as well as combat uneven pigmentation.
This popular oil is mainly used in fragrances, massage oils, balms and other soothing remedies against colds, sinuses and flu. The scent of eucalyptus oil is potently medicinal with a woody, green character. It also leaves a cool, calming sensation when inhaled, which makes this inexpensive oil ideal for soothing balms that decongest clogged airways due to cough or colds. Eucalyptus also has antibacterial properties, as it is used in disinfecting wounds. Some people like to diffuse eucalyptus oil in households to ‘clean’ the air and repel insects.
- Peppermint essential oil
Another familiar scent or flavour that many of us have encountered or are using in our everyday items is peppermint, a plant that belongs to the mint family. Peppermint is the characteristic ‘toothpaste’ flavour that we all know, which smells cool, clean and refreshing. Pure peppermint oil has a strong menthol odour, and it can also be used in a variety of medicinal preparations other than toiletries and food flavouring, such as topical applications for conditions like skin itching, muscle pain and headaches.
- Citronella essential oil
Perhaps the most common use of the citronella oil, which is extracted from the citronella grass plant, is to repel insects, most especially mosquitoes. Citronella oil is an ideal, natural insect repellent that can substitute chemical ones, which are mostly harmful to human health. The scent of citronella is highly aromatic and green, with lemony, earthy notes that blend well with the climate of the tropics and hot, arid regions.
- Vanilla essential oil
Another ubiquitous essence that finds its way in our food, fragrances and beauty products is the wonderful, comforting scent of vanilla. Vanilla has a complex, luscious scent that can also be described as sweet, warm and homey. When we think of vanilla, what comes to mind are delicious desserts like ice cream, cookies and cakes. However, aromatherapy practitioners also use vanilla oil or its essence to promote sleep, relaxation and happiness. Technically, there is no pure or 100% essential oil of vanilla due to the laborious process involved in extracting its oil. Vanilla oil or essences in the market are mostly food-grade (2% and below) or simply vanilla pods or extracts distilled in ethanol.
We recommend the use of these wonder oils that are naturally derived from botanicals to supplement your beauty and wellness routine, but always consult your doctor if you have any sensitivities to oils and essences. Some essential oils with highly strong essences should be used sparingly or must be diluted with carrier oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil and vitamin E oil. When using essential oils topically, make sure to do a skin patch test for 24 - 48 hours to confirm that you are not allergic or sensitive to these oils.