Essential oils have their place secured in a natural beauty routine: They’re natural, chemical-free alternatives to everything from traditional cosmetics to potentially toxic fragrances. But many can do a lot more than just smell good: While we can’t say with authority the 10 oils highlighted here are miracle cures, throughout history they’ve been credited with treating problems including digestion issues and acne; increasing concentration; killing germs and much more.
The bright scent of peppermint does more than freshen your breath: It is also used to soothe nausea and other stomach issues, help stop itching, and cool overworked muscles (thanks to the menthol).Add drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam to fight congestion, or rub diluted oil into sore muscles. And that’s not all: Peppermint is a key ingredient in oil mixtures that fight PMS, act as an all-natural alternative to VapoRub, cool sore throats, and quiet headaches — and it’s often credited with increasing concentration, so ideal for a mid-afternoon alternative to coffee pick-me-up.
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For Anita Boen, who runs an organic farm that provides herbs and oils to upscale spas, lavender is a go-to oil for almost any situation: Not only is it one of the few oils that is gentle enough to use undiluted, it’s a “virtual first aid kit in a bottle.”The antibacterial properties allow it to fight germs (which is why it’s also such an important ingredient in many all-natural cleaning products for home and body), and, like peppermint, it’s often credited with aiding digestion and helping fight headaches.
Lavender oil’s soft scent is said to help calm the nervous system, improve sleep quality, combat joint pain, and fight everything from urinary disorders and respiratory problems to high blood pressure and acne.
Sesame oil may be best known for its moisturizing qualities, which make it a favorite ingredient for hair and skin treatments.But the health benefits go beyond beauty: Sesame oil has a slight SPF factor, contains fatty acids believed to lower stress and blood pressure, and has been shown to help slow the growth of cancer in cells.
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This rose by any name will smell as sweet: Look for it labeled as Rose Otto, rose oil, or rose essential oil, and choose oils produced in Bulgaria and Turkey for the highest quality. These slightly-distilled oils won’t have the strong scents of oils used for perfumes, but they are more popular with aromatherapists. Nature’s Gift calls rose oil “the ultimate woman’s oil,” because it has a reputation for improving hormone balance, treating PMS and menopause, counteracting problems in the bedroom, and improving the look and health of your skin.
Planet Green suggests including geranium oil as an ingredient in a PMS-fighting solution, but it’s also well-known for its astringent properties — which allow it to refresh skin — and its styptic aspects, which calm inflammations and stop hemorrhaging.You can also use geranium oil to treat acne, and oily skin, boost circulation, and decrease bloating. The oil can reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes, get rid of body odor, and contract blood vessels to diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
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The sharp tang of pine oil may call up Christmas trees and rugged aftershaves, but this tree’s needles also offer antiseptic, antibacterial, and analgesic properties that make it a favorite of holistic health experts.Pine oil is said to help treat skin issues — including psoriasis, eczema, and pimples; speed up metabolism; act as an antidote to food poisoning; ease joint pain and arthritis; kill germs; and battle respiratory problems that go along with cough and cold season.
Spicy clove oil is one of the main ingredients in Tiger Balm, an all-natural remedy said to temper hangover headaches — but holistic health practitioners find other uses for it, too.It’s a popular choice for dental issues, including tooth and gum pain, and some sites recommend using it for bad breath (although whether you’d rather have your breath smell like cloves is up to you).
Clove oil is also antiseptic, so diluted versions can treat bug bites, cuts, and scrapes; other suggested treatments help clear up earaches, digestion problems, nasal congestion, stomachaches, and headaches. As an added bonus, it’s an aphrodisiac — and therefore a popular form of stress relief.
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It might not be as sweet-smelling as the more floral entries on this list, but black pepper oil still has its place in your natural health arsenal.Pepper had its day as one of the world’s most valuable spices, in part because of its healing properties, which include aiding digestion, undoing cramps and convulsions, warming muscles to ease joint pain and arthritis, and curing bacterial infections.
Lemon balm essential oil, also known as Melissa essential oil after the plant’s Latin name, Melissa officinalis, doesn’t look like much, but it has plenty of benefits. It’s an antidepressant, it keeps your nervous system working smoothly, it calms anxiety and inflammation, it counteracts insomnia, it heals ulcers, it fights bacterial infections, and has been credited with treating herpes, headaches, and high blood pressure.
By Blythe Copeland, TreeHugger