At Bethesda Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona, the well-being of our residents always comes first. That's why we strive to give you the information you need to make good decisions about your health and wellness. If you're thinking about using essential oils, it's important to separate fact from faction. Although these oils may have some health benefits, they can also be harmful if you don't prioritize your safety.
Essential oils are oils taken from the leaves, bark, stems and flowers of plants. Many people apply oils topically by blending them with a mild carrier oil, but others carry aroma sticks or add essential oils to their jewelry. Essential oils can also be diffused in your assisted living apartment or added to natural cleaning solutions to make them smell better. Because essential oils contain compounds that can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory system, it's important to use them carefully.
It's a fact that certain oils have health benefits that have been confirmed by scientific research. Unfortunately, some less-than-scrupulous salespeople tout oils as a remedy for everything from eczema to cancer. If you're interested in aromatherapy, it's important to understand which oils have the most benefits.
Peppermint essential oil is derived from the leaves and flowers of the peppermint plant, an herb that combines spearmint with water mint. The oil has been researched extensively, with some studies showing that peppermint essential oil may help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome when it's added to capsules with an enteric coating. When applied topically (to the skin), peppermint essential oil may also help relieve tension headaches.
Potential side effects of peppermint oil ingestion include nausea, dry mouth, heartburn and abdominal pain. Because peppermint oil may cause rashes and skin irritation when applied topically, you may want to dilute it with olive oil, coconut oil or jojoba oil before rubbing it on your head or applying it to your wrists.
Many products designed to help you sleep better have lavender in them, and for good reason. The smell of lavender has been shown to help people relax, making it one of the most beneficial essential oils. In one study, researchers compared the use of lavender essential oil with the use of a prescription medication for generalized anxiety. Participants who received the lavender oil reported that they had less anxiety and experienced an improvement in their moods. To relax and fall asleep faster, consider diffusing lavender oil in your assisted living apartment, adding a few drops of lavender oil to your pillowcase or rubbing lavender oil on the bottoms of your feet after you get in bed.
You may have noticed that many cough drops and other cold remedies contain some form of eucalyptus. There's a reason for that. Eucalyptus essential oil may help relieve coughing and congestion caused by the common cold and other respiratory illnesses. To enjoy the benefits of this oil, ask your doctor if it's safe to inhale eucalyptus essential oil when you have a cough and/or stuffy nose. If you get the green light, you may want to add a few drops of the oil to boiling water and inhale the scented steam. Be careful not to spill the water on your skin or put your face too close to it when inhaling.
If you've ever heard that it's always safe to ingest essential oils, you should know that's complete fiction. Some essential oils irritate the digestive tract, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and other digestive symptoms, and others can be downright poisonous if you ingest them. According to the National Capital Poison Center, swallowing oil of wintergreen "is like swallowing a large number of adult aspirin" in terms of how dangerous it is. Camphor oil and sage oil are also dangerous when swallowed.
If you plan to use essential oils for health purposes, check with your doctor before adding a new oil to your regimen. Even if it's not safe to ingest your favorite oil, you may be able to diffuse it at your assisted living community or carry an aromatherapy stick to sniff when you need a boost.
You may see the term "therapeutic" on the packaging for some essential oil brands. Don't let that fool you into thinking the oil has been approved for medical purposes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the product has more health benefits than a non-therapeutic version of the same oil. The term "therapeutic oil" is used solely for marketing purposes, so it doesn't matter if you buy a brand that uses the term on its labels.
What you should know is that essential oils can degrade plastic bottles, so you may want to purchase brands that package their oils in glass containers. Colored glass may also protect the oils inside from damage caused by exposure to sunlight.
Essential oils smell great and may have some health benefits, but consider talking to your doctor before ingesting them or applying them to your skin. If your doctor says it isn't safe to ingest an oil or use it topically, you may be able to diffuse it in your Phoenix, Arizona, assisted living apartment.