Es­sen­tial oils: LUXE, PO­TENT, VI­TAL

They have spe­cial mol­e­cules that de­liver pow­er­ful health ben­e­fits, new re­search shows. Here’s what to know so you get the most out of ev­ery lus­cious drop.

Shape (Singapore) - - Live Healthy -

Once con­fined to yoga classes and mas­sages, es­sen­tial oils have of­fi­cially en­tered the main­stream. Made up of su­per­con­cen­trated aro­matic com­pounds that have been dis­tilled and ex­tracted from plants, the oils surged in pop­u­lar­ity when sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered they have com­pelling and wide-rang­ing ef­fects on our health, thanks to sub­stances known as odourants. “More than 50 odourants from es­sen­tial oils have re­cently been iden­ti­fied and shown to do things such as im­prove sleep, re­duce anx­i­ety, lower blood pres­sure and even ac­cel­er­ate skin re­gen­er­a­tion,” says Hanns Hatt, a pro­fes­sor in the de­part­ment of cell phys­i­ol­ogy at Ruhr Univer­sity Bochum in Ger­many, who is pi­o­neer­ing much of the re­cent re­search on odourants. Pow­er­ful es­sen­tial oils are catch­ing on, and they’re pop­ping up all over – in beauty products, drinks, de­odor­ants and clean­ing so­lu­tions. Here’s your guide to ev­ery­thing es­sen­tial oil.

HOW THEY WORK

Es­sen­tial oils can be ap­plied to the skin, in­haled or in­gested in drinks such as tea. The odourants in them are dis­trib­uted through­out your blood­stream, Hann’s says. From there, his re­search shows, they at­tach to and ac­ti­vate your ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors and branch out to your skin, heart, kid­neys, in­testines and lungs. Depend­ing on the type you use, es­sen­tial oils can do things like help ease a mi­graine headache, boost skin-cell turnover to pro­mote wound heal­ing, and make you feel more alert.

Some es­sen­tial oils have even been shown to re­duce bac­te­ria and viruses. Thy­mol, an odourant in thyme es­sen­tial oil with an­tibac­te­rial prop­er­ties, is used in many dis­in­fec­tants and house­hold clean­ers. As you re­move germs from your sur­faces, thy­mol is re­leased into the air, where it may sup­port the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem, says Cher Kauf­mann, a cer­ti­fied aro­mather­a­pist and the au­thor of Na­ture’s Es­sen­tial Oils.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

You can pur­chase products with es­sen­tial oils in them, such as skin creams and clean­ing so­lu­tions. You can also buy the oils pure to use in a dif­fuser or add to un­scented lo­tions. But be­ware: Some com­pa­nies put syn­thetic fra­grances in their oils, which may not have ther­a­peu­tic qualities, Cher says. To en­sure you’re get­ting a pure prod­uct, look for the plant’s Latin name on the bottle, an in­di­ca­tor that it’s the real thing, she says. The bottle should be dark-coloured glass, which pre­vents light ex­po­sure and doesn’t de­grade like plas­tic. Be­fore you buy, Cher says, check the com­pany’s web­site to make sure it does gas chro­matog­ra­phy–mass spec­tron­omy (GC-MS) test­ing for qual­ity as­sur­ance.

FIND­ING THE SWEET SPOT

These oils need to be used in mea­sured dosages. Over­do­ing them is a com­mon mis­take, and high con­cen­tra­tions – the amount you’d get if you let a dif­fuser run all day, for ex­am­ple – will over­load the body’s sen­sory sys­tems and over­stim­u­late the trigem­i­nal nerve in your brain, lead­ing to headaches, nau­sea and dizzi­ness, Hanns says. To use the oils safely, run dif­fusers for no more than 30 min­utes at a time, then take a break for an hour or two, says Cher. Or look for a model with an in­ter­val mode, like Stadler Form Lea ($188, www.lazada. sg/blue-orange-re­sources-pte-ltd), which dis­perses oil for 10 min­utes and then shuts off for 20 min­utes. Run it for an hour or two, then take an equal amount of time off.

If you’re ap­ply­ing an oil top­i­cally, al­ways di­lute it to avoid skin re­ac­tions. If you have sen­si­tive skin, start with a 1 per cent con­cen­tra­tion, which is the equiv­a­lent of seven to nine drops of es­sen­tial oil blended with roughly 28g of a neu­tral oil such as jo­joba, ar­gan and grape­seed. Di­lu­tions of 2 to 3 per cent (12 to 27 drops of es­sen­tial oil to about 28g of neu­tral oil) are safe for gen­eral use, Cher says. But al­ways try a small, di­luted amount of the oil on your fore­arm be­fore us­ing it all over, and switch oils ev­ery two to four weeks so you don’t be­come overly sen­si­tised to one. Fi­nally, check the bottle for ad­di­tional cau­tions. Many citrus oils, for in­stance, can in­crease your re­ac­tiv­ity to UV light.

In­gest­ing es­sen­tial oils is much trick­ier and should be done only with the guid­ance of a cer­ti­fied aro­mather­a­pist or aro­matic medicine prac­ti­tioner, Cher says.

LIQ­UID GOLD Es­sen­tial oils can im­prove di­ges­tion, skin health, mood and more.

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