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In our pop-a-pill world, the idea of natural remedies is not only a foreign concept to many people, but can seem like downright voodoo magic. But just because a remedy wasn't created by a pharmaceutical company or prescribed by a doctor, doesn't mean it can't have very real benefits for your well-being.

One such natural remedy is essential oils and aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils to achieve emotional and physical wellness. Most of us probably think of aromatherapy and essential oils as fun beauty purchases from our teenage years. And while they are by no means a miracle cure, their properties can in fact help soothe our minds, bodies, and souls. So what are essential oils, and how can they benefit you?

Essential oils are natural oils derived from plants. The production of essential oils is time-intensive and involves extracting oil directly from the plant or tree source. The oil then undergoes steam distillation or cold-pressing to maintain the product’s purity; neither process jeopardizes the oil’s original chemical makeup.

Essentials oils are becoming a more recognizable way of treating symptoms, even within hospitals. Topical application of aromatic oils often have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects. Functional imaging studies in humans support the influence of odors on the limbic system and its emotional pathways. Research suggests, for example, that women who used aromatherapy during labor were in less pain and needed to take fewer pain-relieving meds. Remember this one, girls!

Due to the high concentration of the oils, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when using them. Generally, essentials oils should not be used in their undiluted form directly on the skin as it can cause severe irritation or skin sensitivities (there are a few exceptions such as tea tree, rose, and geranium, but unless you're absolutely sure, don't do it). To use the oils, you'll need to dilute them with a carrier oil. Vegetable oils such as coconut or grape seed are common carrier oils that won’t compromise an essential oil’s effectiveness. It is important that you read the directions on every oil before using it.

It is always best to seek the advice of a doctor before attempting anything you are unsure of. And test your diluted oil in small places to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction! Once you're good to go, here are five ways essential oils can help you combat day-to-day issues without resorting to meds.


To help create a calm and positive emotional state and tackle issues such as insomnia, stress, and anxiety, use lavender, orange, peppermint, patchouli, ylang ylang, or a blend of these oils. Add them to a relaxing bath or use them as part of a peaceful at-home massage.


A wealth of in vitro data now supports the long-held beliefs that tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil is often a key active ingredient in skincare products, especially to treat acne and redness. You can find tea tree oil at Whole Foods or your local health foods store. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil (about the size of a penny) directly onto the skin.


PMS is a painful and irritating issue for many women. By using diluted rose or lavender, clary sage, and marjoram oil in a 2:1:1 ratio in unscented cream, you can reduce the stress and menstrual cramps that come with it. Apply the cream onto your abdominal area in a gentle massaging motion.


The antibacterial and decongestant properties of eucalyptus oil make it useful in treating upper respiratory tract infections, ranging from cough and asthma to flu and cold. Fill a basin with steaming hot water and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the steam. Breathe in the steam for several minutes until you get relief. Eucalyptus will open up your bronchial tubes, ease congestion, and make breathing easier.


Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties to naturally soothe inflamed skin. Apply it to dry, sensitive, oily, or acne-prone skin to relieve sunburn, chapped skin, dermatitis, eczema, bug bites, scarring, and other similar skin conditions.

Whether you are believer in natural healing or not, essentials oils are well worth a try. Nature is a wonderful thing and can even provide healing. The soothing aromas alone make it worth giving essential oils a shot!