Best Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Essential oils, also called volatile oils, are scented oils extracted from plants. Historically, they’ve been used in medicine, cosmetics, perfumes, food, and, more recently, aromatherapy. Essential oils are “essential” because they contain the “essence” of the plant, meaning the taste or odor.

Not only are essential oils popular, they have legitimate therapeutic use and the science to back it up. Although the exact benefit depends on the oil in question, some have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Others can affect cognitive function, mood, and memory. Some can even help alleviate stiff, sore muscles and joints.

Some essential oils can be applied to the skin, others are best taken orally. However–and this is important–do not ingest or topically apply any essential oils unless you are absolutely certain that they can be used this way. Not all essential oils are safe to take internally and some can irritate the skin. Essential oils are a concentrated source of many phytochemicals and some essential oils must be diluted with an unscented “carrier oil” to be used safely on the skin.

Health Benefits of Common Oils

One of the primary benefits of essential oils is that, when used properly, they offer many benefits and have few, if any, side effects. Many essential oils are effective against harmful organisms. Some can positively affect your mood and mental state. Some essential oils can even help you reduce a headache or feelings of nausea. Aromatherapy uses essential oils to improve quality of life and reduce unpleasant side effects of aggressive therapies and health conditions. Just be careful not to spill them; some surfaces, like painted wood, may react with essential oils.

Lavender Oil

Derived from fresh lavender flowers, lavender oil is one of the most well known essential oils. It appears to slow the activity of the central nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote better concentration, and help encourage hair regrowth in those suffering from alopecia areata, a type of hair loss.

Lavender may also help fight anxiety. In one study, encapsulated lavender oil was found to be effective for generalized anxiety disorder, without sedative effects or potential for abuse.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil, derived from the leaves of Eucalyptus odorata, a smaller variety of eucalyptus tree, is a powerful biocide. It’s antimicrobial, insecticidal (kills insects), herbicidal, acaricidal (kills ticks and mites), and nematicidal (kills nematodes). It’s especially effective against the bacterial strains Staphylococcus aureusHaemophilus influenzaStaphylococcus agalactiae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Eucalyptus oil is great for respiratory health. Inhaling eucalyptus steam can help alleviate a cough and congestion. The aroma of the oil acts as an expectorant, helping to loosen phlegm in the nasal passages and lungs.

In one study, researchers found that the combination of eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil boosts cognitive performance. The same study also found the scent of these two essential oils reduce headaches and promote mental and muscular relaxation.

Peppermint Oil

 

Peppermint oil can help alleviate nausea, a headache, upset stomach, gas, indigestion, and anxiety. It works on the digestive system by speeding up the rate of elimination. Peppermint oil calms the involuntary smooth muscle of the stomach, producing an antispasmodic effect, and improves the flow of bile. It can help soothe discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and studies have shown that encapsulated peppermint oil can reduce IBS symptoms in as many as 80% of people who take it. Peppermint oil is effective because it contains menthol that interferes with the movement of electrolytes across cell membranes, stopping involuntary contractions.

Beyond digestive help, peppermint oil may offer relief for HSV-1 (Herpes simplex) outbreaks by permeating the skin and acting as a virucide directly on the virus. More research is needed, but preliminary results suggest topical application may fight outbreaks.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is another essential oil with strong antimicrobial properties. Also known as melaleuca oil, tea tree oil comes from “tea” or “paperbark” trees. In Australia, it has a long history of use as an antiseptic. Bundjalung aborigines native to Australia inhaled the aroma of crushed leaves to relieve a cough and used poultices to help heal wounds.

Today, we know that tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiprotozoal. It fights harmful organisms by damaging cell membranes. Tea tree oil also inhibits the growth and sporulation of yeast and fungus. The oil can be applied topically to cuts to discourage infection.

Like peppermint oil, tea tree oil seems to have an effect on HSV-1. One study revealed that, while topical tea tree oil doesn’t prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks, it may reduce viral load by up to 98.2%.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is derived from the seeds of the wild jojoba shrub, a small, woody desert plant native to Arizona, California, and northwestern Mexico. Historically, Native Americans used jojoba oil to help wounds heal. Jojoba oil contains unique fatty acids and fatty alcohol esters that are similar, but superior, to those found in sperm whales.

Unlike other essential oils, jojoba oil is not a volatile oil, but still offers plenty of benefits, primarily to the skin. With respect to wound healing, researchers found that jojoba oil accelerates the closure of wounds at a cellular level. To improve skin appearance and reduce acne, incorporate jojoba oil into your skincare routine. Evidence indicates that clay-jojoba oil facial masks might be an effective remedy for mild acne.

Blue Chamomile Oil

Blue chamomile oil is extracted from German chamomile. The vibrant color of blue chamomile oil is a result of the steam extraction process—the azulene content in the oil darkens to an inky blue, brilliant azure, or deep green. This color fades and turns dark yellow during storage, but, don’t worry, the oil’s benefits don’t fade.

Chamomile has been used therapeutically for thousands of years by Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians to remedy everything from skin conditions and injuries to fever and insomnia. As a traditional medicine, blue chamomile oil may help with eczema, wounds, bruises, burns, canker sores, mastitis, and other conditions.

Chamomile is also appreciated for its anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that chamomile inhibits and prevents a chemical process in the body that incites inflammation. Further, chamomile seems to inhibit the effects of the stomach-ulcer-provoking bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

Chamomile tea can help with insomnia, and inhaling the aroma of chamomile oil produces a mild sedative effect on the brain, which makes you feel sleepy. Like lavender, chamomile oil offers a mild anti-anxiety effect for those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

Rose Oil

Rose oil is a floral-scented essential oil derived from the petals of several species of rose. In contrast, rose absolute is not an essential oil because the essence of the rose is extracted using a more intense chemical extraction processes. Like other essential oils, rose oil promotes a calm mood and fights harmful organisms. It contains tocopherol (a vitamin E compound), carotene, and high levels of phenolic compounds. Rose oil can make your skin more permeable so it’s often added to skin care products to improve efficacy.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil contains carvacrol, a powerful organic compound with a long list of beneficial properties, including fighting harmful organisms. Carvacrol also supports liver health.

Jasmine Oil

Jasmine oil is derived from jasmine flowers. While many of the essential oils mentioned are sleep aids and relaxants, jasmine oil has a stimulating effect. When applied topically, jasmine oil increases alertness, breathing rate, and vigor. These effects may promote an uplifted mood and better sense of well-being.

Copaiba Oil

Copaiba oil is extracted from the Amazonian plants in the Copaifera genus. Copaiba oil contains copalic acid, which seems to halt the growth of common, but harmful, dental bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenusStreptococcus salivarius, and Streptococcus mutagens. Copaiba oil also has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Unlike most essential oils, copaiba oil can be taken orally.

Bergamot Oil

Bergamot oil is known for its calming effects, but it may also encourage a healthy body weight and help with vascular and heart health. Researchers aren’t yet sure how, but bergamot oil encourages normal cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Neroli Oil

Neroli oil is derived from the blossom of Citrus aurantium, also known as the bitter orange tree, which is native to tropical and subtropical Asia. The oil goes by many names but is frequently called “orange bitters” and “Seville orange.” It’s known as Neroli because of a 17th-century Italian princess, Anne Marie Orsini of Nerola, took a liking to the scent. Neroli oil is commonly added to diet pills due to its ability to act as an appetite suppressant. One of the major benefits of Neroli oil is that it helps relieve symptoms associated with menopause and stress. It also boosts the actions of the endocrine system, fights harmful organisms, and soothes irritation.

Lemon Balm Oil

Also called valerian, lemon balm is another essential oil that helps with symptoms of menopause, especially disordered sleep patterns. Lemon balm also seems to sharpen memory and boost problem-solving abilities. Some promising research indicates that it may improve recall for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Pomegranate Oil

Pomegranate oil comes from the many seeds of the pomegranate. It’s exceptionally rich in linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. Some research suggests pomegranate oil may even delay the development of colon cancer and skin cancer. The oil also enhances the immune system.

Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil is extracted from Boswellia tree sap and has a long history of therapeutic use. Most interestingly, frankincense promotes normal cell growth.

How to Use Essential Oils

Most essential oils are safe to use, but you have to pay attention to their intended use and stick to those applications. Some oils can only be used aromatically and should not be applied to the skin or taken orally. You may have noticed that many of the oils are effective against harmful organisms. Those effects aren’t always limited to harmful organisms—they might affect gut and skin microbiota, too. Others can kill cells indiscriminately, including normal tissue cells.

There are, of course, gentle essential oils that are great for the skin. Neroli oil, for example, promotes circulation and soothes irritation. Rose oil moisturizes the skin and is used as a gentle toner. To take advantage of some of the skin benefits of essential oils, AquaSpirit® contains Neroli, rose, jasmine, and lavender oil. It encourages healthy-looking, radiant skin and promotes well-being.

Essential Oils for Treating Cold Sores

Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. They are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Cold sores can be treated with antiviral medications, which may shorten how long the symptoms last. There are various home remedies, as well, which are used to ease their discomfort.

Furthermore, a lot of studies have been done that show compounds in certain essential oils may help treat cold sores.

Essential oils might have some advantages over medication. For instance, essential oils usually cause fewer side effects than antiviral drugs.

Although they may be helpful in treating the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus, essential oils can be harmful if taken orally. When used to treat cold sores, the oils are applied topically to the skin only after they are mixed with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil.

In this article, we take a look at 10 essential oils that research suggests may be able to help treat cold sores.

Essential oils for cold sores

The following essential oils may be useful for treating cold sores:

Lavender

Applying certain essential oils may help to reduce cold sore irritation.

Lavender oil has been used for years to treat a variety of issues, including skin irritation and bruises.

Although it may not have any effect on the virus, lavender oil may be helpful in reducing pain associated with cold sores. In one study, lavender oil appeared to have the potential to decrease pain and inflammation.

The first time someone uses lavender oil, they should dilute it with a carrier oil. If there is no reaction, they might be able to use a stronger mix.

Lavender oil can also be used undiluted, as it does not usually irritate the skin. One or two drops of lavender oil can be applied directly to the sore.

Peppermint oil

In one study, peppermint oil was shown to inhibit the activity of both the herpes virus type 1 and type 2. The study concluded that peppermint oil might be useful in treating recurrent herpes infections.

A few drops of peppermint oil diluted with a milder oil, such as almond oil, can be applied to the sore.

Chrysanthemum oil

Although chrysanthemum oil may not specifically treat the herpes simplex virus, research has suggested that the oil has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may reduce symptoms.

Allergies to chrysanthemum oil are not uncommon. It is best to test a small area of the skin before using the essential oil on a cold sore. Never apply directly to the skin, and always dilute in a carrier oil.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil may be useful in treating cold sores due to its anti-inflammatory ability.

A paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology indicated that eucalyptus oil could decrease inflammation. By reducing inflammation, eucalyptus may speed up the healing process of a cold sore.

Users should be sure to dilute eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil before applying it to the skin to avoid irritation. Eucalyptus is a known allergen, so people should not use it if they have a reaction.

Clove oil

The effect of clove has been studied on the herpes simplex virus as well as other viruses, including hepatitis C.

Clove may have an antimicrobial and antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus. It also may decrease pain associated with a cold sore.

Clove is irritating if applied directly to the skin. It should be diluted with a milder oil, such as coconut oil. Users should use caution when applying the mixture to the sore.

Chamomile oil

Chamomile oil interrupts absorption of the herpes virus into the cells differently than antiviral drugs, according to some research.

This oil may also be useful in treating drug-resistant strains of herpes. Again, chamomile oil must be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.

Tea tree oil

According to a review published in the International Journal of Dermatology, tea tree oil has shown the ability to stop or kill the herpes simplex virus.

The oil is strong, so it is best to use it with caution. Users should dilute it with a carrier oil to decrease the chances of a skin irritation.

Hyssop oil

Research on hyssop oil showed that the essential oil caused a decrease in viral activity.

A few drops of hyssop oil can be diluted and applied to the cold sore.

Lemon balm oil

Lemon balm oil, which is also called Melissa extract, may have an antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus.

One study indicated that the oil prevents the herpes virus from penetrating the cells.

Users should apply the diluted oil to the cold sore with a cotton swab three or four times a day for best results.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil has been examined to determine its ability to treat herpes simplex virus type 1. The results of one study indicated that the essential oil shows antiviral action against the virus.

Thyme oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil before it is applied to the cold sore.

Risks and considerations

lemon balm essential oil in glass bottle with fresh leaves
To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, essential oils such as lemon balm should be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.

When using essential oils to treat cold sores, it is important to understand the risks. Some essential oils can be irritating to the skin and may damage the skin if they are used too much.

An allergic reaction is also possible when using essential oils. Hives, redness, or itching at the site of application are signs of an allergic reaction.

If signs of an allergic reaction develop, people should stop using the oil immediately.

Diluting an essential oil with a carrier oil may be useful and necessary. Dilution means the carrier oils provide better absorption as well as less irritation to the skin.

Common carrier oils used to dilute essential oils include:

The ratio of essential oil to carrier oil may vary. Typically, a ratio of 2–5 drops of essential oil diluted in 1 ounce of a carrier oil is used.

Additional home remedies for cold sores

aloe vera dripping its gel in to glass bottle
Applying aloe vera may help to calm cold sore symptoms.

In addition to essential oils, there are also other natural home remedies that can ease the symptoms of cold sores.

Home remedies that may help ease cold sore symptoms when applied include:

  • aloe vera
  • hot or cold compress
  • zinc
  • vitamin E
  • witch hazel

Home remedies do not kill the herpes virus or prevent future flare-ups of cold sores. Instead, home remedies may ease cold sore symptoms, such as pain, redness, and itching.

Summary

Cold sores can be painful and annoying. The essential oils listed here may help decrease symptoms and treat the sores.

It is wise to keep in mind that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulate medications, do not control the use of essential oils.

It may be helpful to consult with a certified aromatherapist to find the best brands and uses of various essential oils for cold sores.

If cold sores occur frequently, it is also best to consult a doctor to work out if additional treatments are needed.