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The use of essential oils as complementary and alternative medical treatments has gained popularity in recent years. This is no surprise to long-time believers in essential oils, which have been used for thousands of years. But for those who are new to the practice, there is much to discern.  

Healthline is a site dedicated to making health information understandable, to assist people in making the best possible health decisions. According to Healthline, essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that interact with the body in several ways, but more high-quality studies are needed to validate their effectiveness. Since essential oils are products of an unregulated industry, their quality and composition can vary, and educating yourself before using the products is recommended. While essential oils can be effective remedies for common ailments, there is little evidence that their use can prevent or cure illness.

Aromatherapy (Essential Oils Therapy) Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties, Maryland, explains that essential oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, bark, roots, stalk, and rinds of plants. Once the plants’ aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier (usually olive, jojoba, or coconut oil) and then inhaled or applied directly to the skin. Before using essential oils, consult with a doctor to determine if they are helpful and safe for your health condition.    

Most commonly, essential oils are used in aromatherapy and are inhaled through various methods including diffusers, scent pillows, baths, and massage. The aromas of essential oils are believed to stimulate the limbic system. The limbic system is the section of the brain associated with memory, emotions, behaviors, and the regulation of physiological functions including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. 

Healthline has a curated list of popular essential oils, What Are Essential Oils, and Do They Work? and the health claims associated with them. Common associations include peppermint to aid digestion, chamomile tea at bedtime for relaxation, and lavender baths to relieve stress.  

When purchasing essential oils, be sure you have done your homework. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns that synthetic essential oils  are not considered true essential oils. Check the purity, quality, and reputation of the product. Pure essential oils contain only plant compounds. Quality essential oils have no chemical additives and have been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing. Always use a brand with a reputation for high-quality products. Integrative medicine: Find out what works – Mayo Clinic cautions essential oil users to be aware of the following red flags: products that make big promises, products that call themselves a “cure-all”, and/or products that offer testimonials rather than scientific proof.

Charles County Public Library has many resources to assist with your essential oil research. Search for “essential oils” or “aromatherapy” in our COSMOS Catalog to see a list of available items. Here are a few titles to get you acquainted with essential oils basics.

Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide by Stephanie Tourles 

This helpful book includes a list of suggested supplies and reputable suppliers, as well as profiles of essential oils and recipes for specific uses. The book is a practical guide for beginners rather than a scientific reference.  

Nature’s Best Remedies: Top Medicinal Herbs, Spices, and Foods for Health and Well-being by Nancy Hajeski 

A guide to the world’s most therapeutic foods, herbs, spices, and essential oils will allow the healing power of nature to energize your body and enrich your life, providing a surefire path to good health and well-being. This authoritative guide to the foods, herbs, spices, essential oils, and other natural substances that alleviate common ailments will enhance your life–from treating illness to sharpening the mind, losing weight, cleaning the home, enhancing pregnancy, and reducing the effects of aging. Divided into two sections–Nature’s Cures and Nature’s Pharmacopoeia–this beautifully illustrated guide provides up-to-date information on such timely topics as the perils of packaged foods and the benefits of phytochemicals, how to achieve major results with minor alterations in your food choices, the soothing benefits of essential oils, and the most effective methods for maximizing such natural home helpers as salts, vinegars, oils, and more. Innovative recipes offer easy, effective dishes that utilize multiple herbs, spices, and fresh foods for powerhouse results.

The Essential Oils Apothecary: Advanced Strategies and Protocols for Chronic Disease and Conditions by Eric Zielinski, DC and Sabrina Ann Zielinski

Dr. Eric Zielinski, author of the bestselling primer on using essential oils for general health, The Healing Power of Essential Oils, and his wife, Sabrina, affectionately called Mama Z, now bring their masterful and authoritative knowledge to the complexities of chronic illness. The Essential Oil Apothecary shares more than 100 research-backed and easy-to-prepare formulations, from an Immune Boosting Blend to an Anxiety-Busting Body Oil, to help with symptoms of twenty-five common chronic conditions, including fatigue, pain, anxiety, and addiction. It also offers two life-changing tools that their fans have been asking for: an essential home makeover to remove toxins that may be making you sicker, and self-care rituals (including Mama Z’s beauty rituals) that help you feel better when navigating any chronic illness.