11 Best Essential Oils You Need to Know About – Health Benefits and Uses
1. Lavender Oil - lavender essential oil natural health benefits anxiety insomnia period pain
An old folk remedy for insomnia is to sleep on a pillow stuffed with lavender flowers. Research has confirmed that lavender oil is an effective sleep aid.
It seems to work by slowing the activity of the central nervous system. Inhaling the scent of lavender has a relaxing, soothing effect which can also help improve symptoms of anxiety.
The scent of lavender has even been used to calm fearful patients in dentists’ waiting rooms. Lavender oil also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that allow it to be used as an effective pain reliever.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota investigated the impact of lavender oil on 79 students who reported having sleep issues. All of the participants filled in questionnaires that asked about their quality of sleep and general well-being. They were also taught to practice good sleep hygiene.
In this randomized controlled trial, half of the students received a lavender inhalation patch and half received a placebo patch to wear on their chest in bed. After 5 nights of sleeping with the patches, the participants repeated filling in the questionnaires. Compared to the control group, the lavender oil group showed a significant improvement in scores for sleeping well, feeling energized and having vibrant senses, as well as an overall improvement in well-being.
A controlled clinical study published in the journal Phytomedicine tested the efficacy of a lavender oil supplement for patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD affects 6.8 million adults in the United States. It is characterized by excessive and persistent worrying and frequently expecting the worst.
GAD is often treated with benzodiazepine drugs which induce sedation and can be addictive. Researchers randomized GAD patients into 2 groups. One received a common benzodiazepine (lorazepam) and the other received lavender oil capsules. All participants completed a standard anxiety symptoms rating scale before and after the treatment.
After 6 weeks, both groups had an almost identical reduction in overall anxiety scores: 45% for the lavender oil group and 46% for the lorazepam group. Physical and psychological anxiety symptoms both decreased to a similar extent in the 2 groups. The lavender oil supplement was shown to be just as effective as the drug treatment with no risk of addiction or drowsiness.
A clinical trial examined the effects of aromatherapy massage with lavender oil on menstrual pain and cramps in 80 nursing and midwifery students. All of the participants rated their pain on the first day of their periods as six out of ten or above.
The patients were instructed to phone the researchers when they were feeling pain at the onset of menstruation. They then received a 15-minute abdominal massage with either lavender oil (diluted with almond oil) or with a placebo oil. They rated their pain both before and after the massage.
The next month, each patient received the alternative treatment. Pain scores were significantly lower following the lavender massage compared to the placebo massage.
Another study found that simply inhaling the scent of lavender oil significantly decreased period pain compared to inhaling a placebo oil.
Kidney disease patients experience severe pain when large needles are inserted at the start of every dialysis session.
A crossover study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine tested the effects of lavender oil on 34 dialysis patients. The intensity of pain for each patient was measured with a numeric rating scale during the insertion of arterial needles under 3 different conditions.
In one session, there was no intervention. In another, 100% lavender oil was applied to the skin at the needle site. In a third session, a placebo was applied to the skin. Lavender oil significantly reduced patients’ intensity of pain compared to no intervention or placebo.
2. Peppermint Oil - peppermint essential oil natural health benefits indigestion ibs hair growth
Peppermint has long been used to soothe an upset stomach. It has an antispasmodic effect which calms the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and allows food and digestive gas to pass through the system more quickly.
It also helps the body to digest fats by increasing the flow of bile. Research has shown that peppermint oil capsules are an effective treatment for dyspepsia and IBS.
When applied topically, the menthol in peppermint oil stimulates cold receptors in the skin. This sensation helps soothe itchy, irritated skin, making peppermint oil a good home remedy for insect bites or hives.
Topical peppermint oil has another, somewhat surprising use. It promotes hair growth by stimulating the dermal papilla and increasing blood circulation to the hair follicles.
Dyspepsia is a common condition caused by impaired digestion which may include symptoms such as discomfort after eating, abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, nausea or belching up food.
A German study compared the effects of a peppermint oil supplement to cisapride, a drug which increases the speed of digestion and is used to treat gastric reflux.
Researchers randomized 118 outpatients with dyspepsia into 2 groups. One group received capsules containing 90 mg of peppermint oil and 50 mg of caraway oil. The other received the recommended dose of cisapride.
Pain scores were measured before and after 4-weeks of treatment. Both groups of patients had a statistically equivalent reduction in intensity of pain, frequency of pain and other dyspeptic symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A systematic review published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology assessed the safety and efficacy of peppermint oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers analyzed data from 9 randomized placebo-controlled trials including 726 IBS patients.
Peppermint oil was found to be significantly superior to a placebo in improving overall IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. Side effects of peppermint oil were mild and transient. Researchers concluded that peppermint oil capsules are a safe and effective treatment for IBS.
A rodent study published in Toxicological Research compared the effects of peppermint oil to the popular hair regrowth treatment minoxidil (Rogaine).
Researchers shaved the backs of 20 mice to expose bald skin. The mice were then randomized into 4 groups based on different topical applications: salt water, jojoba oil, peppermint oil diluted in jojoba oil and minoxidil. Each solution was applied to the shaved backs of the mice once a day for 4-weeks.
At the end of the study, researchers used fluorescent microscopy to observe and measure the number, elongation, thickness and depth of hair follicles.
Mice in the peppermint oil group showed the most prominent hair growth, and their hair grew back faster than mice treated with minoxidil. Compared to the other treatment groups, they had a significant increase in follicle number, follicle depth and dermal thickness. Researchers concluded that peppermint oil could be used as a therapeutic alternative medicine for hair loss in humans.
3. Melissa Oil (also known as Lemon Balm) - melissa essential oil natural health benefits stress dementia
Melissa oil, is known for its calming properties. In the middle ages, it was grown in monastery apothecary gardens and used as a sleep aid and general panacea.
Melissa essential oil contains compounds called terpenes that act on neurotransmitters in the brain to produce a relaxing effect. Melissa oil has been shown to reduce negative reactions to stressful situations and calms agitation in people with dementia.
A cross-over study investigated the effects of lemon balm on laboratory-induced stress in 18 healthy volunteers. Each participant received a 300mg dose of lemon balm extract, a 600mg dose of lemon balm extract and a placebo given in random order on 3 separate days.
They then completed a 20-minute computer test called the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS) battery. The DISS presents 4 tasks at once via a split screen and requires participants to attend to them simultaneously while their speed and accuracy is scored. The test has been shown to increase negative mood, arousal and stress.
Results showed that the 600mg dose of lemon balm counteracted the negative mood effects of the DISS, with significantly increased ratings for calmness and reduced alertness. Moreover, when participants ingested the 300mg dose of lemon balm, their speed of mathematical processing increased with no reduction in accuracy.
A randomized placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology investigated the effects of lemon balm aromatherapy on 72 patients with severe dementia. Care staff applied a topical oil to the patients’ faces and arms twice daily. The active treatment group received lemon balm oil combined with a base lotion, while the control group received sunflower oil. Clinically significant agitation and quality of life indices were monitored over the 4-week trial period.
In the lemon balm group, 35% of patients had an overall improvement in agitation compared to 11% in the placebo group. Quality of life also improved significantly for patients who received lemon balm. They spent less time socially withdrawn and more time engaged in constructive activities.
4. Bergamot Oil - bergamot essential oil natural health benefits cholesterol stress anxiety citrus fruit
Bergamot is a Mediterranean citrus fruit with a distinctive spicy scent. Bergamot essential oil is widely used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety.
Research has shown that inhalation of bergamot oil can be just as effective as the benzodiazepine drug diazepam for reducing anxiety.
In the south of Italy, bergamot juice is a folk remedy for heart problems. Research indicates that specific flavonoids in bergamot, which are not found in other citrus fruits, can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease.
A Japanese cross-over study examined the effects of aromatherapy with bergamot oil on mood and stress-levels in 41 female university students. Each of the participants was exposed to 3 experimental conditions in random order.
In one scenario, they simply rested for 15 minutes, in another, a diffuser filled the air with water vapor as they rested, and in a third, a diffuser filled the room with water vapor containing bergamot essential oil. After 15 minutes, saliva samples were collected and the volunteers completed questionnaires about anxiety and mood.
Following the bergamot aromatherapy session, the participants had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. They also had lower scores for anxiety, anger, confusion and physical and mental fatigue.
A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated the effects of a bergamot flavonoid extract supplement on 80 men and women with moderately high cholesterol. All of the participants were given a daily dose of the bergamot extract for 6 months.
At the start and end of the study, their cholesterol levels were measured with a blood test and the thickness of their arterial walls were measured with an ultrasound scan.
Six months of bergamot supplementation significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, while HDL ‘good’ cholesterol significantly increased. Small, dense LDL, the most dangerous kind of cholesterol, decreased by 67%. Arterial wall thickness, a sign of atherosclerosis, also significantly decreased.
5. Neroli Essential oil - neroli bitter orange tree white flowers essential oil natural health benefits high blood pressure menopause muscle relaxant sedative
Neroli oil is distilled from the fragrant blossom of the bitter orange tree, Citrus aurantium, which is native to tropical and subtropical Asia.
Research on mice has shown that limonene, one of the major chemical components of neroli, acts as a muscle relaxant and has a sedative effect. Neroli oil aromatherapy can help lower blood pressure and relieve symptoms associated with menopause.
A Korean study investigated the effects of neroli oil inhalation on 63 postmenopausal women. The participants were randomly assigned to 3 groups. One received a 1% solution of neroli oil diluted with almond oil, one received a 5% solution of neroli oil and a control group received pure almond oil.
Each woman was instructed to sit in a comfortable place, pour the oil onto a fragrance pad, hold the pad near their nose and inhale the scent for 5 minutes. The subjects self-treated twice a day for 5 days. The women took blood pressure tests and completed menopause symptom questionnaires before and after the aromatherapy treatment.
Compared to the control group, both neroli oil groups had significant improvements in physical symptoms of menopause. The 5% neroli oil group had significantly lower systolic blood pressure, and both neroli groups had significantly lower diastolic blood pressure. Interestingly, both neroli oil groups also had a significant increase in sexual desire.
6. Tea Tree Oil - tea tree oil natural health benefits essential oil lice acne athletes foot dandruff anti fungal insecticide antibacterial
Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the Australian tea tree plant. Aboriginal people used tea tree leaves for treating wounds and preventing infections.
Tea tree oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties which makes it a useful treatment for a number of skin conditions. It is also a natural insecticide and is even used in commercial head lice treatments.
A study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology investigated the efficacy of tea tree oil for treating athlete’s foot. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a 25% tea tree oil solution, a 50% tea tree oil solution or a placebo solution.
All 158 athlete’s foot patients were instructed to apply the solution to the affected area twice daily. After 4 weeks, there was a marked clinical response seen in both of the tea tree oil groups. The cure rate for patients in the 50% tea tree group was 64%, compared to 31% in the placebo group.
A randomized, placebo-controlled study examined the efficacy of tea tree oil for treating mild-to-moderate acne. A total of 60 acne patients were divided into 2 groups. One group received a 5% tea tree oil gel and the other received a placebo gel.
The patients were instructed to apply the gel twice daily for 20 minutes and then to wash it off. After 45 days, patients in the tea tree oil group has significantly less acne than those in the placebo group. Tea tree oil was nearly 4 times more effective at reducing the number of pimples and pustules and nearly 6 times better at reducing acne severity.
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology tested the efficacy of tea tree oil in 126 patients with mild-to-moderate dandruff. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 5% tea tree oil shampoo or a placebo shampoo, which was used daily for 4-weeks.
The tea tree oil groups showed a 41% improvement in dandruff severity compared with 11% in the placebo group. Patients’ self-assessment scores for itchiness and greasiness also significantly improved in the tea tree oil group.
Fungal Nail Infections
A study published in the Journal of Family Practice compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil and the anti-fungal medication clotrimazole for the treatment of fungal infections. The participants included 117 patients diagnosed with fungal infections of the toenail. The patients were randomized into 2 groups.
One received a 100% tea tree oil and the other received a standard 1% clotrimazole solution applied twice daily. After 6 months, results for the 2 treatments were almost identical with 61% of the clotrimazole group and 60% of the tea tree group showing partial or full resolution. Three months later, 55% of the clotrimazole group and 56% of the tea tree group reported continued improvement or resolution.
An Italian study investigated the efficacy of tea tree oil and nerolidol against head lice and their eggs. The substances were tested at different concentrations on 69 head lice and 187 louse eggs collected from school children. A 1% concentration of tea tree oil killed 100% of head lice in 30 minutes.
Nerolidol is a natural plant compound found in many essential oils, including tea tree. The researchers found that a combination of a 0.05 % concentration of tea tree oil and a 1% concentration of nerolidol produced the death of all head lice in 30 minutes and prevented louse eggs from hatching after 5 days.
7. Rose Oil - rose essential oil natural health benefits anxiety calm blood pressure antibacterial relaxation aromatherpy
Rose oil is steam distilled from the petals of the damask rose or cabbage rose.
Laboratory research has shown that rose oil contains the antioxidants tocopherol and carotene. Rose oil demonstrates strong antibacterial activity against several different strains. It can also be used in aromatherapy to promote a calm mood.
A rodent study compared the effects of rose oil inhalation to the effects of the anti-anxiety drug diazepam. Rats have a natural tendency to prefer hidden, closed spaces to open, exposed spaces. The more anxiety they experience, the more likely they are to hide. The researchers found that rose oil inhalation significantly increased the number of visits to and time spent in the open arms of a maze. The anti-anxiety effect was similar to diazepam.
A Thai study investigated the effect of rose oil on 40 human volunteers. The rose oil was absorbed through the skin and the participants wore breathing masks to prevent them from inhaling the scent.
Compared to a placebo, rose oil caused significant decreases in systolic blood pressure and breathing rate. Participants in the rose oil group rated themselves as calmer, more relaxed and less alert than subjects in the control group.
8. Oregano Oil - oregano essential oil herb leaves natural health remedies antibacterial antifungal food poisoning cold cough flu
Oregano is a familiar herb used in Mediterranean dishes. The essential oil distilled from its leaves and flowers contains a phytochemical called carvacrol which has powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
A study published in the Journal of Food Protection investigated the antimicrobial activities of carvacrol against antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. Celery and oysters were inoculated with the resistant strain. A 1% carvacrol solution rapidly reduced the Salmonella population on celery to below detection. In infected oysters exposed to carvacrol, the bacteria population was 100,000 times smaller after 3 days.
A laboratory study assessed the anti-fungal activity of constituents of essentials oils against oral candida. This fungus causes an infection known as denture stomatitis, in which the area of the mouth covered by dentures becomes inflamed.
The researchers tested 10 organic compounds against 10 strains of candida collected from denture wearers. Carvacrol was classified as very active against oral candida. Researchers concluded that it might be a promising alternative for a topical treatment for denture stomatitis.
9. Eucalyptus Oil - eucalyptus essential oil natural health benefits cold cough flu fever decongestant expectorant anti-inflammatory analgesic asthma bronchitis
Many species of eucalyptus trees are used in Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of medical conditions such as cold, fever, flu and bronchitis. In the modern Western world, eucalyptus oil is commonly used as a home remedy for colds.
Cold, Cough & Flu
Eucalyptus oil is added to a bowl of boiling water. The steam acts as an expectorant and decongestant. Laboratory research has shown that eucalyptus oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Other studies have shown that it is an anti-inflammatory agent and an effective analgesic.
A study published in the Journal of Asthma tested the benefits of cineole, the active ingredient in eucalyptus oil, for asthma patients. A total of 247 patients with confirmed asthma were selected for the study. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 200 mg of cineole, 3 times per day in addition to their usual asthma medication.
After 6 months, the patients who received cineole supplements showed significantly more improvements to lung function, asthma symptoms and quality of life compared to the control group.
10. Clove Oil - clove essential oil antimicrobial antioxidant anti-fungal antiviral anti-inflammatory anesthetic pain mouthwash toothpaste dentistry oral health natural health benefits remedies
Clove oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties. It has long been used as a traditional home remedy for toothaches.
It’s major active component, eugenol, is widely used in dental materials such as temporary fillings. Clove oil is also found in oral health products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Most of the research on clove oil has been done in the context of its applications in dentistry.
A study published in the Journal of Dentistry examined whether clove was an effective topical anesthetic. A total of 73 adult volunteers were randomized to have one of four substances applied to their gums: benzocaine 20% gel (a local anesthetic), homemade clove gel, a placebo that resembled benzocaine or a placebo that resembled clove.
After 5 minutes, each subject received 2 needle sticks and rated their pain on a scale ranging from none-to-very severe. The clove and benzocaine gels both had significantly lower pain scores than the placebos. There was no significant difference in pain scores between clove and benzocaine.
Fruit juices contain acids and sugars that can dissolve dental enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, erosion and decay. Clove oil contains eugenol and eugenyl acetate, both of which are used in dental care.
A laboratory study published in the International Journal of Dentistry investigated the effect of clove essential oil on tooth erosion caused by apple juice. Human tooth specimens were treated with one of 4 substances: clove oil, eugenol, eugenyl acetate or fluoride. A control group received no treatment.
The teeth were then soaked in apple juice for 24 hours. All of the substances significantly decreased the decalcification of tooth enamel by apple juice compared to the control group. Clove oil was more effective than either of its active components alone. There was no statistically significant difference between the fluoride and clove oil treatment group.
11. Sage Oil - sage essential oil natural health benefits remedies cognitive function alzheimers disease fatigue fat metabolism cholesterol anti-inflammatory antioxidant antifungal antibacterial green herb
The name sage comes from Latin word ‘salvere’ meaning ‘to save’. The herb has a long history of medicinal (as well as culinary) use.
Sage essential oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In aromatherapy, sage oil is used to stimulate the mind and help fight mental fatigue. Researchers are exploring the use of sage for treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in sage leaves also affect fat metabolism and can help to lower cholesterol.
A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics tested the use of sage extract for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
A total of 42 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease were divided into 2 groups. The treatment group received 60 drops of sage extract per day and the control group received a placebo. After 4 months, the sage group performed significantly better on cognitive function tests than the placebo group. They also appeared to be less agitated.
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine evaluated the use of sage extract for treating high cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A total of 80 patients were randomized to receive either a 500 mg sage leaf extract capsule or a placebo capsule daily. After 3 months, the diabetics who took the sage supplements had significantly lower levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and higher levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. They also had significantly lower blood sugar levels compared to the placebo group.