Our body’s olfactory system has the unique ability to connect with the parts of our brain responsible for memory and emotional processing. Scents have the power to pack an emotional punch and take us back to some of our most memorable times, but they also can play a large role in our overall well being – especially when aromas are used therapeutically. According to the US National Library of Medicine, essential plant oil and aromatherapy studies have consistently shown that odors are able to have specific effects on human neurophysiological and autonomic function.
What are essential oils?
The International Organization for Standardization defines essential oils as a product made through a distillation process with either water or steam, or by the mechanical processing of citrus rinds or other natural materials. After the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water.
The role of essential oils within plants
When essential oils are still in the plant, they constantly change their chemical composition to help the plant adapt to it’s ever-changing environment. There are a variety of reasons why plants produce essential oils, including:
- To attract pollinators: For well over 200 million years, bees, butterflies, beetles, and more have been pollinating flowers. They’re attracted to specific plants because of their aroma, color, or physical structure – with aroma being one of the strongest attractants.
- To serve as a defense against insects and other animals: Just like any other living thing, plants need to protect themselves from a variety of predators. They use terpenoid compounds, such as peppermint or linalol, to keep insects and other animals from approaching them.
- To protect the plant by their antifungal and antibacterial nature: Complex combinations of terpenes are released by certain plants and trees, such as evergreens, to be antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial agents against organisms that could threaten their survival.
- To play a role in allelopathy, a type of plant-to-plant competition: Allelopathy happens when a plant releases chemicals to keep other vegetation from growing within its area. Certain chemicals that keep away competing growth are known as allelochemicals. For example, southern California sage bushes release eucalyptol and camphor chemicals that keep other plants from growing around them.
Top essential oils and their uses
After the distillation process, essential plant oils can serve a variety of purposes. As massage oils, lotions, and spritzers, or in baths, diffusers, or smelling salts, essential oils can help to improve your overall wellbeing. However you choose to integrate essential oils into your routine, they can be helpful in reducing stress and pains, enhancing circulation and detoxification, and stimulating alertness, respiratory function, and skin health. Check out these common essential oils and their functions:
- Jasmine oil: This oil helps with mood enhancement and attentiveness by acting as a natural antidepressant.
- Clove bud oil: Gargling with a drop of clove bud oil helps with toothaches, neutralizes bad breath, and eases pain.
- Eucalyptus oil: Inhaling steam from eucalyptus oil helps with congestion by clearing respiratory passages. It’s beneficial during cold season and helps to re-energize and clear the mind.
- Peppermint oil: This oil helps to support digestion and reduces nausea, stomach pain, and headaches.
- Tea tree oil: This oil is commonly used for acne treatment. It’s antimicrobial properties help to minimize bacteria and dandruff.
- Lavender oil: Lavender not only smells great, but it also reduces anxiety and stress. It’s calming properties also help to reduce muscle soreness, itchiness, burns, and insect bites.
- Geranium oil: This oil helps with inflammation and can aid in the correction of hormonal imbalances and nerve pain.
- Sandalwood oil: This is one of the older materials used for its aromatic properties. It helps with sedation to calm the breath and mind.
- Sweet orange oil: This stimulant has antidepressant qualities and is best known for it’s role in treating digestive issues.
- Lemon oil: Lemon is great as a cleansing spray or home cleaning product because of its antiviral and detoxing properties.
- Chamomile oil: This sweet aroma is great for it’s calming properties to help with muscle injury and anxiety. It’s also a sedative that’s soothing for children and those suffering from insomnia.
- Juniper berry oil: Juniper berry is known for it’s antirheumatic properties to help with pain, swelling, and bloating.
- Rose oil: This is one of the most widely used essential oils for perfume. It’s helpful with relaxation and is an effective antidepressant and aphrodisiac.
- Rosemary oil: This anti-inflammatory oil works as a restorative and aids in mental acuity.
Plants have a wide range of interesting and effective uses to help us live healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. If you’ve enjoyed the variety of functions of essential plant oils, consider adding a plant protein into your well being routine too! LENTEIN is a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and micronutrients that’s sustainable for our world and healthy for our bodies. Contact us today to learn more!