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    Alternative medicine enthusiasts have subscribed to the power of essential oils for years. But with their increasing availability (and claimed health benefits), they’re going mainstream.
    “Essential oils are fantastic. They have many benefits,” says integrative medicine specialist Yufang Lin, MD. “The problem lies in how people use them.”

    Here’s information on 11 essential oils, their benefits and how best to use them.

    What are essential oils?

    Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts.

    “Plants are made of structural materials and phytochemicals. These chemicals have properties that not only benefit the plant but benefit people, too,” explains Dr. Lin.

    It takes a tremendous amount of plant material to make essential oils, which can make some of them expensive. For example:

    About 250 pounds of lavender flower make 1 pound of lavender essential oil.

    About 5,000 pounds of rose petals or lemon balm make 1 pound of rose or lemon balm essential oil.

    “Because it takes so much of the plant to make an essential oil, it’s a powerful botanical medicine,” Dr. Lin says.

    Benefits of essential oils

    Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy, a kind of complementary medicine that uses smell to improve your health or applied topically to the skin.

    Studies have shown that essential oils may help:

    Boost mood.

    Improve job performance through reduced stress and increased attentiveness.

    Improve sleep.

    Kill bacteria, funguses and viruses.

    Reduce anxiety and pain.

    Reduce inflammation.

    Reduce nausea.

    Relieve headaches.

    Here are some common essential oils and their benefits:

    Lavender oil

    Lavender is Dr. Lin’s go-to oil. “It’s gentle and has a lot of benefits. You can use it in a variety of ways,” she says.

    Try adding it to a bath or diffuser as aromatherapy, adding to water to make a room spray or body spritzer, or combining with a base oil to make body oil.

    Lavender can help with stress, pain and sleep. “Before the discovery of antiseptics, lavender was also used as a cleaning agent in hospitals,” Dr. Lin says.

    There have also been studies that show using lavender oil (and tea tree oil) can potentially disrupt hormones in young boys.

    Tea tree oil

    Dr. Lin says most people use tea tree oil as an antiseptic, antimicrobial or antifungal. You can also use it to help with:

    Acne. “Take a cotton swab and dip it into tea tree essential oil. Then, apply it directly on the acne — this is one exception where you don’t have to dilute it,” says Dr. Lin. “It can help resolve acne faster.”

    Athlete’s foot and ringworms. “Dilute it with a carrier oil (a base or vegetable oil like coconut or jojoba oil that helps dilute essential oils) and put the blend on the affected skin.”

    One note of caution: Since tea tree oil can be neurotoxic, Dr. Lin says you shouldn’t diffuse it if you have small children or animals at home.

    What Are Essential Oils, and Do They Work?
    Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine that employs plant extracts to support health and well-being.

    However, some of the health claims associated with these oils are controversial.

    This article explains all you need to know about essential oils and their health effects.

    What are essential oils?

    Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants.

    The oils capture the plant’s scent and flavor, or “essence.”

    Unique aromatic compounds give each essential oil its characteristic essence.

    Essential oils are obtained through distillation (via steam and/or water) or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing.

    Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a product that’s ready for use.

    The way the oils are made is important, as essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not considered true essential oils.How do essential oils work?

    Essential oils are most commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy, in which they are inhaled through various methods.

    Essential oils are not meant to be swallowed.

    The chemicals in essential oils can interact with your body in several ways.

    When applied to your skin, some plant chemicals are absorbed.

    It’s thought that certain application methods can improve absorption, such as applying with heat or to different areas of the body. However, research in this area is lacking.

    Inhaling the aromas from essential oils can stimulate areas of your limbic system, which is a part of your brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviors, sense of smell, and long-term memory.

    Essential Oils Blending Guide
    This is the first question you might be asking yourself. If you’ve already got a favourite essential oil fragrance, like lavender, that you just love adding to your homemade products, then the idea of blending it with other oils might seem a waste of time. However, creating blends can be a really fun way of making your own unique and signature fragrances that draw in notes from other oils and actually add to, rather than take from, your favourite.

    When essential oils blend they actually start to work together in synergy, complimenting each other by balancing out the weaker parts of each compound. So, get your lab coat on, grab a notebook and play aromatherapist for the day by trying to find the right balance between oils and experimenting with different volumes of each.

    Let’s start by looking at properties of essential oils and the impact each might have on your mood. This is a useful starting point for anyone wanting to create a blend that serves a specific purpose, whether it’s an energising soap for the morning shower or a relaxing diffuser blend to help you unwind.

    Because we want this to be a relatively simple guide to essential oil blending we’re not going to get too hung up on the individual therapeutic benefits of each oil. Search our site for any specific essential oil and you’ll find some great information about how it can be used and what type of effect it can have on your mood.

    The best carrier oils for essential oils
    Carrier oils are a key part of aromatherapy, which is a complementary therapy that involves using essential oils to aid physical and emotional health. Carrier oils dilute concentrated essential oils so that people can apply them to the skin without experiencing side effects.

    People practice aromatherapy to help with a wide range of health issues, from acne to asthma.

    This article examines what carrier oils are and how people can use them alongside essential oils.

    People make essential oils through the distillation of the aromatic leaves, flowers, barks, and roots of plants. If they apply these oils directly to the skin, however, they can cause reactions, such as severe irritation, flushing, or burning.

    Carrier oils dilute the essential oils and help “carry” them into the skin. People also sometimes use aloe vera gels and unscented body lotions as carriers.

    Carrier oils are usually vegetable oils, such as coconut oil or avocado oil, derived from the seeds, kernels, or nuts of a plant.

    Many people obtain these oils through cold pressing. In this process, a person presses or crushes a plant without subjecting it to heat. This minimal processing can help preserveTrusted Source bioactive substances in oils.

    Although some are odorless, most carrier oils have a faint smell that is sweet and nutty. Unlike essential oils, they do not evaporate.

    Is Coconut Oil Good for My Beard?
    Coconut oil is known for its ability to soften your hair while protecting its outer layers. There’s also a belief, based mostly on anecdotal evidence, that coconut oil stimulates hair growth.

    It can also be used to soften the skin on your face. When the skin on your face is healthy, moisturized, and free of obstruction — like flaking, clogged pores, or dead skin — your beard grows in evenly and is less prone to razor bumps.

    Coconut oil has been researched for use as both a hair softener and cosmetic ingredient for your face. Virgin coconut oil may decrease the formation of split ends, as well as protect and nourish your skin barrier.

    It also promotes healing if your skin is irritated, and it works as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent.

    All of these properties seem to point in favor of using coconut oil on your beard.

    According to Dr. Owen Kramer, a dermatology resident at the University of Illinois at Chicago, there isn’t a lot of clinical data supporting the use of coconut oil as a beard oil.

    Having an allergy to coconut oil is extremely rare. You may still experience some skin irritation even if you’re not allergic to the oil.

    “[Coconut oil] is comedogenic,” said Kramer. That means it’s a substance that’s extremely likely to clog your pores. “From an acne standpoint, any product that lists coconut oil has the potential to cause acne,” he said.

    Kramer pointed out that while not everyone who uses coconut oil on their face will experience a breakout, those who want to try coconut oil to groom their beard should certainly be aware of this possibility.

    If you have any predisposition for acne around your beard area, you may want to opt out of using coconut oil as a beard oil.

    Remember that it’s better to start with too little and add more to your beard than to overwhelm it with coconut oil.

    Start by rubbing a teaspoon’s worth of coconut oil together in your palms. This will warm the oil enough for it to melt, making it easier to apply.

    Slowly massage the oil directly onto your face, stroking the oil in a downward direction to tame stray hairs and shape your beard.

    Finish by putting emphasis on the very bottom of your beard, massaging leftover oil into the ends.