There's no denying the popularity of alternative therapies and natural medicine in modern society. It seems we're all reaching for the Rx substitute in a bid to reduce common ailments and health concerns without the negative side effects. One of the most renowned treatments is aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils. From relieving stress to soothing migraines, these ancient yet potent oils have the power to calm both brain and body. Don't believe us? Let's point to the studies that prove it.
Research published in the journal Phytomedicine shows peppermint oil and ethanol has a "significant analgesic [or pain-relieving] effect," and is effective in reducing headache sensitivity. Another key study shows that lavender oil can actually improve a patient's pain tolerance after surgery. It's also associated with treating both anxiety and depression. People who breathed in the smell of lavender for three minutes had decreased anxiety scores and experienced a lift in mood afterward.
To get the lowdown on all the health benefits essential oils can offer, we tapped the expertise of Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi aromatherapy. Ahead, Panton explains what each oil is and how to use them, including her go-to oil for balancing your hormones and aiding PMS symptoms.
What it is: A multiuse feminine oil with a beautiful scent that decompresses and balances your energy. While it's technically a citrus oil (which is what makes it so energizing and uplifting), the depth of bergamot's natural base notes is what makes it so incredibly grounding. Perfect for when you want to stay alert but not too wired.
How to use it: Add six drops of bergamot essential oil to your diffuser with six drops of frankincense for a moody custom home aroma that is both grounding and incredibly alluring.
What it is: Cedarwood has been used for centuries in traditional rituals for clearing negative energy in ceremonies. It is thought to help detoxify and clear bad energy. We love using it after breakups and to help detoxify the air between seasons.
How to use it: Clear the energy and start fresh each morning by creating a simple cedar sauna experience at home. Apply five drops of cedarwood essential oil with 10 drops of eucalyptus oil onto your hands and rub briskly together. Breathe deeply.
What it is: Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves of the tall trees found primarily in Australia. Eucalyptus trees are the largest herbaceous trees in the world, and it is believed that their strength and shape is reminiscent of the shape of passages in the human lung. The leaves and oil of eucalyptus trees have been used in traditional medicinal practices throughout cultures around the world for hundreds of years to help increase the depth and improve the efficiency of breathing.
How to use it: Create a eucalyptus steam at home by adding five drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of steaming hot water. Place your face over the bowl, and drape a towel your head to create a tent over the bowl. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for two to four minutes. This will help open your pores and detoxify your skin with eucalyptus oil's natural antimicrobial properties as well as add healthy moisture and the healing properties of the oil into the lung passages.
What is is: Frankincense is one of the first traded materials recorded in the world and has been used in ceremonies dating back to biblical times. The complex resinous base note of frankincense helps establish rituals. We love using this oil when we want to implement a new wellness habit, such as a meditation practice.
How to use it: Use frankincense during your home meditation practice. Add the essential oil to meditation beads or drip directly onto your meditation pillow and breath deeply. When used consistently, it will help trigger the mind and body to get into the meditation zone.
What it is: Geranium known for helping to balance hormones, making it great for PMS, mood swings, or hormonal skin changes.
How to use it: Add two drops of geranium essential oil to your current moisturizer to help boost its ability to balance combination skin suffering from excess oil or dryness. The scent will also help balance PMS symptoms that can happen in combination with skin changes.
What it is: Vitruvi pink grapefruit oil is extracted from the peel of ripe grapefruits sourced from the USA. The super-citrus notes of grapefruit oil make it ultra-energizing and the perfect way to wake up in the morning naturally (especially if you've had a glass or two of wine the night before). The aroma is clearing and energizing, helping to increase alertness and vision.
How to use it: Upon waking, put two drops of pink grapefruit oil into the palm of your hands and rub together briskly. Cup hands lightly over mouth and nose and take three deep breaths. This is especially good for a hangover cure.
What it is: A beautiful and effective essential oil (and a favorite for calming down before bed), lavender was known as the herb of chastity in the 1800s. Women would sprinkle their beds with lavender if they wanted their husbands to go to sleep quickly. So best to use this one if you don’t want to do anything else in bed except sleep. Our lavender essential oil is 100% organic and is sourced from southern France.
How to use it: Add five drops of lavender to a tissue and place it under your pillowcase to create a bedtime ritual that will calm you and put you right to sleep naturally.
What it is: The essential oil of lemon is sourced from Italy and extracted from the ripened peels of lemon fruit. Lemon is associated with uplifting emotions and a sense of order and cleanliness.
How to use it: Because lemon essential oil helps promote a feeling of control, order, and cleanliness, we love diffusing the oil at our desk when we need to be alert and get in the zone to finish a to-do list. For a midday pick-me-up, keep a bottle of lemon oil at your desk and take a quick smell of it anytime you want to refresh and get back in the zone.
Breathe It In
What it is: Lemongrass oil is synonymous with energizing flow yoga, the type they do in tropical Thailand.
How to use it: Lemongrass essential oil can help take a home yoga practice to the next level. Take a spray bottle and add 10 plus drops of lemongrass oil to water. Mist the surrounding air before you practice, and then mist your matt afterward to clean and disinfect your mat naturally while making your apartment feel like a Thai yoga studio.
What it is: This herbaceous and minty oil is popular for its refreshing and invigorating aroma. From digestive aid to a cleaning agent, peppermint essential oil has an incredibly fresh and bright scent that leaves you feeling more awake instantly.
How to use it: Help increase circulation and decrease water retention after an intense workout, spin class, or yoga session. Add 10 drops of peppermint oil to two tablespoons of coconut oil or jojoba oil, and massage into sore muscles, including legs, shoulders, and back. Expect a slight tingling sensation.
What it is: Best known for improving memory, rosemary plants have been recorded as being used on the desk of scholars and writers to help improve memory and strategic thinking. Beyond helping us become smarter, we love rosemary oil for improving hair growth, length, and thickness.
How to use it: Directly massage rosemary essential oil on your scalp before bed or add to your hair conditioner to help with hair strength and growth.
What it is: This is our favorite forest scent because it helps you to stay calm and improves your breathing. Spruce is also our favorite (widely unknown) oil for mediation.
How to use it: Add a drop to the palm of your hands and rub them briskly together before starting your meditation practice. Loosely cup your hands over your nose and mouth and take three deep cleansing breaths.
What it is: Extracted from the peel of Italian oranges, sweet orange oil has a lovely fresh scent that helps to make us feel happy.
How to use it: If you’re feeling a little down, try having a sweet orange bath. Blend 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil and 10 drops of bergamot oil to warm bath water. We suggest watching a funny chick flick or reading a good book while the good vibes soak in.
What it is: Tangerine helps to improve skin tone and aid in the healing of scars and stretchmarks.
How to use it: Simply add eight drops of oil for every one tablespoon of carrier oil and apply directly to the skin. Be careful to avoid clothing as it can stain due to its bright orange color.
What it is: This oil is distilled from Australian tea tree plants and has been used for centuries as a natural antiseptic and cleaning agent.
How to use it: Prevent breakouts from bacteria by disinfecting your cell phone at the end of each use. Simply take a paper towel or cloth and add seven drops of tea tree oil with a little splash of warm water. Wipe it down and have a fresh start for the next day—germ-free, the natural way.
What it is: High-grade ylang-ylang aroma is made for people who love flowers. This powdery yet exotic floral scent is known traditionally to help promote happy dreaming and is a bedtime essential oil that pairs well with lavender.
How to use it: Add three drops of ylang-ylang oil to the palm of your hand, rub together, and massage into your shoulders before going to bed. The heat from your shoulders will help the aroma diffuse into the air and will promote deep restorative sleep along with good dreams.
What is your favorite essential oil? What ailment has it helped heal for you? Share your aromatherapy experience below.