But their uses have also since transcended the realm they were most associated with and now essential oils have become known for their multifaceted uses in beauty as well as home-cleaning products.
This makes essential oils a “must-have” in home medicine cabinets and a booming product industry for New Age spas.
Nowadays, millions of people, disillusioned by Western medicine, are turning increasingly to these plant-based oils as alternative or complementary therapies to treat certain diseases.
This form of treatment is known as aromatherapy, with different kinds of plant oil extract used to trigger mind, body and spiritual healing.
Dr Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine, says: “We know essential oils are some of the most powerful forms of plant-based medicines in the world and whether you’re struggling with hypothyroidism, chronic bronchitis, a cold or flu, adrenalin fatigue or a number of other health conditions, essential oils can be used as therapy to help naturally heal the body.”
According to a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, the popularity of these oils “came into existence after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils”.
The oils penetrate the skin and system through rubbing into the skin and baths, and through inhalation, where the aroma of the oil stimulates a natural way of healing.
But experts warn against using the oils directly on the skin as their high concentration could cause an allergic reaction.
They advise that the oils should be diluted with either water or a carrier oil such as almond, coconut or jojoba.
We have compiled five of the most common and widely recommended essential oils listed in the study and by other experts, so you might want to consider stocking up on them and trying them out.
Belonging to the family of Myrtaceae, the oils from this evergreen plant have been used to regulate and activate various systems such as the nervous system for neuralgia and to counter headache and debility.
This oil is said to boost immunity against measles, flu, cold and chickenpox.
Throat infections, coughs, bronchitis, asthma and sinusitis, which are associated with the respiratory system, may be countered by the oils of this plant, while it also acts as an insect repellent and treats skin problems such as wounds, herpes and cuts.
Arguably the best-known oil, mostly for its relaxation properties, many use this oil by dripping a few drops in a bath or on pillows, to aid sleep.
It is also used to improve the sensation of well-being, support mental alertness and suppress aggression and anxiety.
The literature on clary sage essential oil suggests its various therapeutic properties. “It’s a boon for women as its tonic is used for problems associated with the womb and uterus, and it also regulates menstrual periods, eases tension and muscle cramps, along with a seductive and aphrodisiac activity.” It helps control production of sebum and can be used for dry and oily skin and for the treatment of acne, wrinkles and for controlling cellulite.
Its oil has a marked action on the digestive system, relieving the symptoms of indigestion, constipation and colitis. It works as a liver and gallbladder tonic. The oil also acts on the cardiovascular system. It regulates blood pressure and retards the hardening of arteries.
Tea tree possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, insecticidal and immune stimulant properties.
Aromatherapy uses a mixture of lemon, blue gum, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and ginger for the treatment of different ailments. The oil is used in the treatment of herpes, abscesses, blisters, acne, cold sores, burns, insect bites and dandruff. It’s also used widely in the treatment of respiratory problems such as tuberculosis, cough, bronchitis, asthma, catarrh and whooping cough.