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Published on September 01, 2020

closeup of woman smelling essential oil

Essential Oils: Just the Essentials for Beginners

Essential oils are more than just beautiful scents — they can offer a variety of health-related benefits. Aromatherapy is the medical term for using essential oils as part of a treatment strategy.

Certain scents are effective in calming the discomfort associated with:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Back or knee pain

They have also been known to soothe pregnancy symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatment.

However, the world of essential oils might be daunting and expensive if you aren’t sure what to look for, the differences between oils, what tools are necessities, and what items aren’t unnecessary.

“Essential oils are not a replacement for normal treatment, but a tool that can enhance your health journey,” explained Dawn Flickema, MD, a physician of alternative medicine at Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine in Sioux Falls.

For example, if you struggle with anxiety and depression, a lavender scent should never replace a prescribed medication and behavioral health counseling. One chosen essential oil scent can offer a multitude of benefits (of course, honing in on the most-needed area).

How Essential Oils Work

When the scent molecules enter the nose, it hits the olfactory nerve. The stimulation sends electrical pulses to the brain. The brain then sends out a message in the bloodstream toward the affected area. The chemical message is absorbed on a cellular level, enacting the desired change.

Once in your system, the calming effects can last between one and three hours. Slip the small bottle into your purse if you need a whiff in the middle of the day.

Best Essential Oils to Get Started

Avera carries Whitmyre products, which offer good products at a modest cost. For an effective outcome, it’s unnecessary to buy the most expensive oils on the market, although the cheapest might be less concentrated.

The best brands use the name of the plant, with the genus, species and country of origin found on the bottle. Also, look for those labeled “pure” in colored bottles which prevents breakdown on the molecular level.

Applying Essential Oils

There’s a variety of ways of how to use essential oils. Hold the little bottle under your nose for the best and quickest result. Even one or two drops on your collar works, but use a pure variety; essential oils in a carrier oil (labeled as “jojoba oil”) will leave a grease stain on clothing.

“A little goes a long way,” said Flickema. “If you’re facing a stressful day, more drops on your collar won’t help. Just stick to the normal amount.” It may, in fact, bypass the sweet spot and cause a headache.

You may also dab a little on your skin, such as your wrists or neck. If you do this, use an essential oil diluted in jojoba oil. Without the carrier oil, you might experience skin irritation.

Or, try a diffuser in your home, but the good news is you don’t need one to enjoy the basic benefits of essential oils.

Whether you’re facing cancer, or just need to calm anxious thoughts, visit Avera.org/integrativemedicine to learn about alternative therapies that complement your normal treatment plan.

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