With numerous types to choose from, multiple ways of using them and a myriad of potential benefits, essential oils bring enough mystery to keep some people’s head spinning.
Jennifer Jordan, co-owner of Southaven’s Wholesale Nutrition, is a big believer in them, having offered them in her store for 15 years. “I have used them, myself and seen the benefits – and felt the results,” she says. These five essential oils are some the most popular on the market.
The Scent of Healing
Demystifying the eclectic world of essential oils.
Story by Michael Ward | Illustrations by Ashley Dos
This resin, which comes from Copaifera plants before being distilled into oil, copaiba can carry multiple health benefits, Jordan says. “It’s really good for pain,” she notes, adding it is often used for both muscle and joint pain. When used with a carrier oil on thin skin – such as the chest or wrists – copaiba oil can help lower high blood pressure, she says. Other uses Jordan lists for the oil include a mood enhancer, an antifungal agent for ailments such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus and a urine stimulant for detoxification.
One of the original essential oils – along with peppermint, lavender and orange – at Wholesale Nutrition 15 years ago, lemon oil remains a popular citrus choice. “It’s one of those uplifting oils,” Jordan says, pointing out its use in stress and anxiety relief in aromatherapy. The oil can also be used to create a natural air freshener. Derived from rinds, lemon oil is particularly useful as a cleaning agent and can be added to soap for use as a degreaser, used to create an all-purpose cleaner, added to laundry detergents, and be used as an ingredient in wood and silver polishes. Dealing with a gummy or sticky residue? Lemon oil can take care of that, as well. “Lemon oil is also good for the immune system,” Jordan, says. The oil is also used as a digestion aid and to help reduce fever and ward off infections.
Another popular oil noted for its distinctive scent, lavender, too is used in a variety of ways and is extracted from certain types of lavender plants. “This is my personal favorite,” Jordan says, adding lavender is “probably our second-top seller behind peppermint oil.” If you’re in need of a little rest and relaxation, Jordan says lavender oil is a great go-to, as it aids in both stress and tension relief, while also helping combat insomnia and anxiety. For topical use, Jordan says, lavender oil is often mixed with coconut oil, which moisturizes, or aloe, which heals, to help treat a variety of skin ailments. “It helps with skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis,” she adds. Aside from its potential mental and physical benefits, lavender oil is also sought out by people who just want their homes, offices or other areas to smell a little nicer.
Known from its biblical reference as a gift, along with gold and myrrh – another essential oil – from the three wise men to the baby Jesus, frankincense is a resin obtained from Boswellia trees, which is distilled to create the oil. “That’s usually the first thing people think of,” Jordan says of frankincense’s mention in The Holy Bible. Jordan has primarily seen frankincense oil used for its healing properties for ailments such as colds, the flu and other viruses. “(Frankincense) is really good for relieving coughing,” she says, noting some users will apply the oil to a handkerchief and carry it with them onto a plane while traveling. While she doesn’t encourage taking essential oils directly by mouth – which some customers choose to do – Jordan says there are people who will mix frankincense in with their toothpaste as a way to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Jordan hails this one as a big seller, noting the versatility of the mighty mint leaf’s oil. Applied to cotton balls and placed near windowsills or doors and in attics, peppermint oil can help keep away pesky rodents and insects in the home. When used with an aromatherapy diffuser to release the oil’s scent, peppermint has been linked to improved mental focus and mood. “I use this in my home a lot. I spray it in the vent returns,” she says. Jordan notes peppermint can be applied topically when mixed with carrier oils such as coconut, almond, grapeseed or jojoba to assist with physical conditions ranging from tight muscles and digestion issues to headaches and fibromyalgia. “You want to dilute them with a carrier oil, because they are extremely potent,” Jordan says of all essential oils. “There are different dilution rates depending on how you use an oil.”