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Essential Oils

The scented liquid taken from certain plants using steam or pressure. Essential oils contain the natural chemicals that give the plant its "essence" (specific odor and flavor). Essential oils are used in perfumes, food flavorings, medicine, and aromatherapy.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Essential Oils

Essential oils (also known as volatile oils) are the basic materials of aromatherapy. They are made from fragrant essences found in many plants. These essences are made in special plant cells, often under the surface of leaves, bark, or peel, using energy from the sun and elements from the air, soil, and water. If the plant is crushed, the essence and its unique fragrance are released.

When essences are extracted from plants in natural ways, they become essential oils. They may be distilled with steam and/or water, or mechanically pressed. Oils that are made with chemical processes are not considered true essential oils.

There are many essential oils used in aromatherapy, including those from Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree, lemon, cedarwood, and bergamot. Each type of essential oil has a different chemical composition that affects how it smells, how it is absorbed, and how it is used by the body. Even the oils from varieties of plants within the same species may have chemical compositions different from each other. The same applies to plants that are grown or harvested in different ways or locations.

Essential oils are very concentrated. For example, it takes about 220 lbs of lavender flowers to make about 1 pound of essential oil. Essential oils are very volatile, evaporating quickly when they are exposed to open air... Read more about Essential Oils

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Essential oils compared to chlorhexidine with respect to plaque and parameters of gingival inflammation: a systematic review

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this review is to systematically evaluate the effects of an essential-oil mouthwash (EOMW) compared to a chlorhexidine mouthwash with respect to plaque and parameters of gingival inflammation.

The long-term effect of a mouthrinse containing essential oils on dental plaque and gingivitis: a systematic review

This review assessed the effects of mouthrinse containing essential oils on gingivitis and plaque. The authors concluded that mouthrinse containing essential oils used as an adjunct to unsupervised dental hygiene provided an additional benefit on both outcomes compared with a placebo or control. This conclusion reflects the evidence of the review and appears likely to be reliable.

The effect of an essential-oils mouthrinse as compared to a vehicle solution on plaque and gingival inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review was to systematically evaluate the effects of an alcohol vehicle solution (V-Sol) compared with an essential-oils mouthwash (EOMW) and if available with a water-based control (WC) on plaque, gingival inflammation parameters and extrinsic tooth staining.

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Summaries for consumers

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®): Patient Version

Aromatherapy research with cancer patients has studied the effect of essential oils on anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and other health conditions. Learn more about aromatherapy use as a complementary therapy in this expert-reviewed summary.

Fish oils for the prevention of dementia in older people

Dementia is a progressive illness which mainly affects older people. Previous research from observational studies has suggested that increased consumption of fish oils rich in omega‐3 long‐chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega‐3 PUFA) may reduce the chance of developing dementia, while other studies show no effect. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are a rich source of omega‐3 PUFA which are essential for brain development.

Aromatherapy for promotion of relaxation and sleep, relief of pain, and reduction of depressive symptoms in dementia

Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils from fragrant plants (such as peppermint, sweet marjoram, and rose) to help relieve health problems and improve the quality of life in general. The healing properties of aromatherapy are claimed to include promotion of relaxation and sleep, relief of pain, and reduction of depressive symptoms. Hence, aromatherapy has been used to reduce disturbed behaviour, to promote sleep, and to stimulate motivational behaviour of people with dementia. Of the seven randomised controlled trials that we found, only two trials including 186 people had useable data. The analysis of these two small trials showed inconsistent effects of aromatherapy on measures of agitation, behavioural symptoms and quality of life. More large‐scale randomised controlled trials are needed before firm conclusions can be reached about the effectiveness of aromatherapy for dementia.

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More about Essential Oils

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Also called: Volatile oils, Ethereal oils, Aetherolae

Other terms to know:
Aromatherapy (Essential Oils), Smell

Related articles:
Research Summary on Essential Oils

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