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Healthy You

How Essential Oils Can Help Improve Your Health

Essential oils are a liquid that contain compounds from plants and are usually extracted by steam distillation and cold-pressing. They are very concentrated and should be handled with care. The oils may be used topically for physical conditions (diluted in a carrier oil), diffused in the air for their aroma and may even be used for cleaning.


To help understand the basics of essential oil uses, Leslie Mendoza-Temple, MD, Medical Director of the NorthShore Integrative Medicine Program, shares which common oils can be used for what:

  • Lemon or orange can be mixed to create a natural cleaner, used in bath products or used for refreshing and calming aromatherapy.
  • Lavender can soothe minor burns topically and be used for relaxation aromatherapy when diffused or with drops added to the bath or pillow.
  • Peppermint helps soothe muscle aches and pains, as it has a cooling effect.
  • Tea tree oil soothes inflamed and irritated skin when added to carrier oils or lotions, and it may help fight acne, dandruff and fungal infections when mixed in shampoo, away from the eyes.
  • Eucalyptus relieves colds and congestion, and soothes joint pain when added to a warm bath.
  • Rose may help promote a happier mood and calm an anxious mind.
  • Ginger’s prokinetic (enhancing gastrointestinal motility) and anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce nausea and joint or muscle pain.

Dr. Mendoza-Temple’s personal favorite essential oil is eucalyptus for a cold – it helps refresh and open nasal passages. To use, you can splash some drops on the walls of the shower or add them to a very warm and wet washcloth. Breathe the eucalyptus aroma in from the steam several times a day when feeling congested.

Always make sure to read directions before you use essential oils, and check to see how often they can be used. Do not ingest essential oils unless under medical supervision from a knowledgeable professional.

What are your favorite essential oils? How do you use them?