Essential oils have arguably become a core component of any self-care routine. Besides soaking up the fragrance from a diffuser, many are also now also adding them to baths and massages to take full advantage of their relaxing aroma. And many beauty products online boast having essential oils as one of their ingredients.
ICYMI, essential oils are plant extracts made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant, such as flowers, barks, and leaves. The hype around them is backed up by preliminary research that shows essential oils can also be good medicine, according to Brent Bauer, MD, the director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine program at the Mayo Clinic.
Essential oils offer many benefits—they possess antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, and they can help bust stress and even treat depression, to name a few, per a 2020 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. That said, more studies in humans are needed.
They are also not regulated, so there’s no way of knowing whether what you buy contains exactly what it claims. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the calming effects of these oils—it just means you have to choose wisely and use them carefully. Your complete guide, ahead.
Use it: To decrease anxiety
A study found that women who sniffed it during labor (a.k.a. arguably the most nail-biting experience of a woman’s life!) felt less anxious.
Bonus perk: It may help with PTSD, according to one study.
What are the health benefits of essential oils?
Every essential oil has its own thing going on, and the perks you can get depend on the oil you use, says Yufang Lin, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
- They might help reduce anxiety. Several essential oils like orange and lavender have been shown to help people be a little less anxious. Worth noting: Some research has found that the perks only happen in the moment, like when you’re getting a massage.
- They may ease headaches. Some smaller studies have found that people reported less headache pain after they applied peppermint and lavender essential oil to their skin. One study even found that there wasn’t a significant difference between using peppermint oil for reducing pain and taking acetaminophen (aka Tylenol).
- They can make your sleep better. Lavender, in particular, has been shown to boost the ability to get to sleep and wake up feeling awesome.
- They may reduce inflammation. Some essential oils might help ward off inflammation, says Dr. Lin. Research on mice and in petri dishes has found oils like lavender, thyme, and oregano may be good for this, but there still needs to be more studies done on humans.
- They can give you an energy boost. Coffee is great and all, but a little peppermint can also help stimulate you, says Dr. Ko. One small study found that men who used peppermint oil were able to perform better at the gym than those who didn’t. (More research is needed in women, though.)
- They might help your stomach issues. Lemon in particular is good for combating things like nausea and vomiting, Dr. Ko says. One study on pregnant women found that those who smelled lemon oil when they felt ill had significantly less nausea and vomiting in the days afterward than women who didn’t.