Essential Oils 101: Benefits, Uses And Side Effects

Essential oils are a growing trend among people of all ages all across the globe. As interest in alternative medicines continues to grow, as do the sales of the full range of essential oils along with their many promised health benefits. 

The current aromatherapy market is set to grow by 8% between 2017-2024. The rise of Instagram functional life coaches, YouTube wellness influencers, and Netflix documentaries are pushing the alt medicine and wellness industry forward. 

But, how much truth is there to the health benefits of essential oils and are they really worth the money? Which essential oils do what? Is there any scientific evidence behind them?

Essential Oils 101: What Are They, Which Are The Best, and Do They Work? 

Photo by Mareefe from Pexels 

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are potent concentrated plant extracts that have been obtained via multiple extraction processes. Most commonly, these methods include steam distillation cold pressing or resin tapping.

The oil is designed to capture the scent of the natural source it came from. The source is most commonly a type of wildflower, but you can also get essential oils from trees. Once the aromatic scent is extracted from the source, it is then blended with a carrier oil to create a physical product you can buy off the shelf.

It’s worth noting that some essential oils are extracted via chemical processes, these are not considered to be authentic essential oils. People use essential oils for many purposes, including perfume, diffusion, massage, inhaling, baths, orally, and topically as part of their skincare or health routine.

It’s believed that each essential oil carries different benefits from stress relief when inhaled to soothing back pain when applied topically to the area. 

Types of essential oils

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of essential oils available on the market. Here are the most popular uses by people around the world and their claimed benefits.

Lavender Oil 

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Lavender is by far the most popular essential oil on the market. Which is not surprising as it’s main benefits when inhaled is to evoke feelings of calm, relaxation and can aid in good sleep. In our ever busier modern lives, it’s no surprise people are in the market for natural stress relievers.

Lavender oil has been used for millennia by various civilizations around the globe. People have been using lavender oil historically to treat mental health issues, anxiety, insomnia, depressions, headaches, and much more.

Does it work? Many people swear by lavender oil as an effective way to calm themselves, relax after a busy day, reduce feelings of anxiety and ensure they get a good night’s sleep. Women report that lavender oil also helps reduce the pain of menstrual cramps.

Research has found that lavender oil can also help alleviate headaches and reduce the itching and swelling from bug bites. 

Lavender Oil Uses

  • Orally for stomach discomfort and adding flavour to foods and drinks.
  • Diffusion or aromatically for reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, depressions, and for a good night’s sleep.
  • Topically with a carrier oil for moisturizer and lip balm.
  • Add to shampoo or conditioner for hair health.
  • Dab for beautifully sweet-smelling perfume.

Lavender Oil Dangers

  • Lavender oil is not known to have any severe side effects.
  • It may interact with prescription medicine, consult with your doctor before using.
  • Keep oral use to a minimum (80-160mg) to avoid gastrointestinal issues.

Rose Oil

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Many people like to inhale the sweet and aromatic scent of rose to reduce anxiety. Research has confirmed this benefit when trialling rose oil with 772 participants. They found rose oil was beneficial for relaxation, and relieving symptoms of depression, and anxiety.

Rose oil is also rich in antioxidants. Many users have reported that rose oil has effectively treated their acne. Again, research has been conducted to confirm this benefit. 

Further studies have concluded that rose oil may help to ease pain, give relief to menstrual cramps, hold antibacterial and antifungal properties, and even stimulate sex drive.

Rose Oil Uses

  • Aromatically for reduced stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
  • Diffusion for an increase in libido and reduced pain from menstrual cramps.
  • Topically with a carrier oil for acne and general skin health.
  • Dab for beautifully sweet-smelling perfume.

Rose Oil Dangers

  • Do not ingest rose oil.
  • Always use with a carrier oil when applying topically to the skin.
  • Side effects are rare for those without allergies.

Roman Chamomile Oil

Photo by Semen Borisov on Unsplash

Roman Chamomile is another aromatic and floral scent that is strongly associated with relieving stress and reducing anxiety when inhaled. Research has backed this claim up, finding that most participants had their anxiety reduced at some level.

This essential oil has also been strongly linked to aiding individuals who suffer from eczema or mild inflammation. The study found that topical applications of roman chamomile were around 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream. In a randomized study, they also found a cream containing Roman Chamomile oil was superior to a 0.5% hydrocortisone cream after 2 weeks of topical application.

Roman Chamomile has been used since ancient times. Mostly it used to inhale to help with stress and anxiety. Still, new studies are finding a wide range of benefits, including anti-cancer properties, treating the common cold, improved cardiovascular health, aid with diarrhoea, haemorrhoids and gastrointestinal conditions.

Roman Chamomile Oil Uses

  • Aromatically for stress and anxiety relief. 
  • Orally for help with digestion, leaky gut, and cardiovascular health.
  • Diffusion for a quality night’s sleep.
  • Topically for eczema and acne.

Roman Chamomile Oil Dangers

  • If wanting to use orally, opt for chamomile tea over the oil.
  • May cause skin irritation for some people.
  • Some people are allergic to roman chamomile, this is more likely if you have existing allergies to chamomile, daisies, ragweed, and marigold plants.

Ylang Ylang Oil

Photo by Unknown on Wikimedia Commons

Ylang Ylang essential oil has become extremely popular in the west over the last decade, You’ll find it anywhere from moisturizers to shampoo in today’s current cosmetics industry. Ylang Ylang is reported to help with reducing anxiety and even a tool for self-esteem.

Both of these claims have been studied and strong links found with participants inhaling Ylang Ylang as part of aromatherapy treatment. According to a report in 2006, Ylang Ylang can also be used as an antidepressant.

Other research has found links between the use of Ylang Ylang improving eczema, boosting sex drive, lowering blood pressure, and aid for quality sleep.

Ylang Ylang Oil Uses

  • Aromatically for great scents (personal or household).
  • Topically with a carrier oil for “youthful glow” and general skin health.
  • Orally for heart health booster, lower blood pressure, and aid for digestion.

Ylang Ylang Oil Dangers

  • Only ever use small amounts of Ylang Ylang oil when applying topically or taking orally.
  • Those with low blood pressure issues should seek advice from their doctor before using.

Frankincense Oil

Photo by Snotch on Wikipedia

Frankincense is one of the gifts from the three kings that visited Jesus and now a popular essential oil for self-care. Frankincense has been used for millennia because it is widely reported as being beneficial for tightening/healing skin tissue, digestion, and used as an antibacterial and disinfectant.

Some research has found strong links for using Frankincense for oral health, including bad breath and toothaches. Another study has found a link in improving skin health. Other research has found health benefits, including anti-depressant, boosting the immune system, aiding chemotherapy, and preventing early signs of ageing, but these are not conclusive.

Frankincense Oil Uses

  • Bath soak for sore muscles and relaxation.
  • Natural hygiene product (deodorant, soap, or perfume).
  • Anti-ageing topical oil.
  • Ingest orally for help with digestion and constipation.
  • Apply topically for scar wounds, stretch marks, wrinkles, and acne.
  • Inhale for the common cold, muscle aches, and general relaxation.

Frankincense Oil Dangers

  • There are no severe side effects associated with using Frankincense.
  • If ingesting, only take a few drops each time.
  • On very rare occasions when using topically, some people develop a mild rash or irritation.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Myrrh is another essential oil straight out of the bible that has been used by people for millennia. Throughout history, it has been claimed Myrrh can help with a lot of health issues, but few have actually been proven. 

Research does show a link between topical application of Myrrh to help with a myriad of skin issues, most prominently as an antibacterial. Hence, another study found that Myrrh oil was useful for treating the symptoms of the fungal condition, athlete’s foot.

Other studies have also suggested that Myrrh is a potent antioxidant, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, anti-parasitic, and elevating white cells to improve skin tissue healing. 

Myrrh Oil Uses

  • Diffuse for reducing stress and anxiety or assist with symptoms of the common cold.
  • Topically when blended with carrier oils for perfume or treatment of scars.
  • Use as a cold compress for infected or inflamed areas on the skin.

Myrrh Oil Dangers

  • People with sensitive skin may develop signs of dermatitis.
  • Don’t ingest orally as it may cause an upset stomach.
  • Pregnant women should avoid. 
  • Those with heart conditions should seek advice from a medical professional before using. High doses on a continued daily basis can cause heart irregularities.

To be continued…

We will be continuing to update this article every month to cover as many essential oils as possible with their scientifically-proven benefits and uses. We will let you know when the next update is available via social media.