(NaturalNews) When used properly, the power of essential oils lies in their ability to deliver the beneficial healing properties of certain plants in a direct and highly concentrated form. Recognized long ago for their therapeutic properties, ancient Egyptians made essential oils by first soaking the flowers, leaves, twigs or bark in oil and then using linen as a filter to isolate the oil.
The healing applications of essential oils are many, from antibacterial defense to pain relief and emotional therapy, depending on the type of oil. From a scientific perspective, oils are effective because 50 million smell receptors inside the nasal cavity connect to the brain's Limbic System - an area responsible for emotions, memory and sexual arousal. From a human perspective, they simply smell nice and make us feel better.
Whether improving mood or overall health, a winning strategy begins with stress reduction. And for the physical body that interprets stress as pain, these five essential oils know just where it hurts:
Easily the most popular of all essential oils, lavender is known as the "universal oil." With its calming, earthy, lightly sweet and freshly floral scent, it is widely beloved for its relaxing and balancing effects on both the physical and emotional bodies. It may also be used as a pain reliever for muscles and joints, or as an antiseptic on minor cuts, burns, bug bites and stings.
With its comforting warm, exotic aroma, Frankincense's most common use is stress relief; however, it may also be applied topically to the skin to rejuvenate cells and repair scar tissue, or used to calm certain respiratory conditions such as asthma, coughing and bronchitis.
Another highly versatile essential oil, this one may be even more costly than most, due to its labor-intensive extraction process, which requires 60,000 roses for every one ounce of rose oil. In addition to providing relief from both stress and depression, the many uses of rose oil include the treatment of eczema and menopausal symptoms.
Though both the Roman and German types of chamomile essential oils are well suited for calming the nerves and supporting digestive health, there are some important differences between the two. Where the Roman variety is superior in addressing mental anxiety, paranoia and hostility, the German variety excels more in the treatment of irritated skin.
If the pure scent of warm vanilla makes you feel right at home, some aromatherapists say it is because vanilla is the closest in fragrance and flavor to mothers' milk. With the ability to both soothe in tranquil relaxation and stimulate mental clarity, this rich aroma can vary in its therapeutic effects. Vanilla essential oil has also proven effective in relieving upset stomachs and reducing cravings for sweets.
Use essential oils appropriately and with caution
The most appropriate applications of essential oils will vary, depending on which of the additional therapeutic benefits you're looking to harness. Because they are extremely potent in their pure form, essential oils should always be blended with a carrier oil, like almond or jojoba oil, before use. They may then be applied directly onto the skin, as with a massage, or onto a warm compress, handkerchief or pillow. A few drops may also be burned in a diffuser or added to bath salts for a skin-softening, muscle-relaxing bath experience. Some find that applying a small amount to the soles of the feet or to the back of the neck is also quite effective.
As always, be sure to do your own homework on the type of oil you're using, as some may react negatively with sun exposure, certain medications, medical conditions or pregnancy. Remember that 100 percent pure, organic essential oils are made from plant materials and are therefore quite different from cheaper, artificial fragrance oils. Though they may have a pleasant aroma, fragrance oils often contain synthetic chemicals, and rather than helping to heal you, breathing in those synthetic chemicals may actually harm you. And that wouldn't be very aromatherapeutic, now would it?