6 Best Medicinal Essential Oils

Use the power of nature to cure common ailments with these medicinal essential oils.

| July /August 2017

  • Tea tree essential oil can be used without diluting the oil.
    Photo by PicturePartners; iStock
  • Eucalyptus essential oil fights bacteria and viruses.
    Photo by janaph; iStock
  • Only use essential oils for external applications, unless otherwise instructed by a health professional.
    Photo by bluehill75; iStock
  • Rosemary is used in aromatherapy for memory and concentration.
    Photo by Christopher Ames; iStock
  • Healing essential oils such as lavender and eucalyptus make valuable contributions to your medicine cabinet.
    Photo by vesmil; iStock
  • Lavender essential oil can also be applied without dilution.
    Photo by Gregory_DUBUS; iStock
  • Orange essential oil improves mood.
    Photo by fotoedu; iStock
  • Peppermint oil can improve athletic performance.
    Photo by kokopopsdave; iStock

Essential Oils are among the first remedies I reach for in my family’s home medicine chest for common illnesses and home-care needs. Because these natural medicines are so concentrated, they travel well and are excellent additions to first-aid kits. Essential oils comprise about one to two percent of most plants. These potent volatile oils have many natural functions, including helping plants ward off insects or combat disease.

When we use essential oils, we are “borrowing” a given plant’s healing intelligence. Because they are very powerful, it’s always wise to test your reaction to any essential oil before using it. Start by blending the essential oil in a carrier oil and testing it on a small patch of sensitive skin, such as the inside of the wrist. If you have no reaction, proceed with caution. Test any oil intended for “neat” (undiluted) use in the same way. Err on the side of caution and trust your instincts; you are the best judge of your skin’s sensitivity. Also use extreme care with essential oils around children. Keep oils sealed and stored safely to prevent spilling or ingestion, and be aware that some oils are not recommended for use on children, including peppermint oil, which can have serious side effects when applied to the face or chest of infants or young children.

Here are six excellent essential oils to add to your home medicine chest:

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

This is one of the few essential oils that can be used “neat,” meaning applied directly to the skin without diluting. Tea tree can benefit nearly every skin condition, including skin cancer. Recent research with mice demonstrated that tea tree oil stopped the growth of skin cancer, and in some rodents actually reduced the size of skin cancers. 

To Use: Tea tree is an excellent antimicrobial, meaning it addresses bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Tea tree particularly shines in treating fungal infections. To use tea tree oil for lung and sinus infections, add three drops to boiling water for a steam inhalation. To treat athlete’s foot, apply the oil to toenails twice a day for three to six months.

Caution: Only use tea tree essential oil topically. It can be used “neat” for six months after opening the bottle. After that time, oxidation makes the essential oil too caustic for undiluted applications.

Eucalyptus (globulusor radiata)

Eucalyptus essential oil fights a broad range of bacteria and viruses. It also has a special ability to increase skin absorption of anything in contact with it. In one study, 1,8 cineole, one of the major constituents in eucalyptus essential oil, increased the absorption of 5FU, a cancer drug, over 95 fold (not 95 percent, but 95 times!).

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