The Truth About Essential Oils

If the wonderful woman who cuts my hair is to be believed, essential oils are nothing short of magic potions. They’ve done everything from cure her back pain and rejuvenate her nail beds to make her house smell like Thanksgiving all year long. Sounds great, right?

Before you load up on essential oils, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Essential oils can provide an exciting array of benefits for your well-being, but some of the health claims made about them have stirred up controversy.

Fact: Essential Oils Are Plant Extracts

Essential oils are aromatic compounds that are derived from plants. Sometimes they’re harvested using a cold press or other mechanical means; sometimes they’re distilled using steam. Once those appealing aromatics are separated from their plants, they’re combined with an oil for ease of use.

How that oil is made matters. When buying essential oils, stick to those that are chemical-free and list the aromatic’s botanical name, like “cinnamomum zeylanicum” instead of “essence of cinnamon bark.”

Fact: Essential Oils Are Good for Your Limbic System

One very popular way to use essential oils is to add a few drops to some water in an oil diffuser, which will disperse the scent of the oil, or combination of oils, throughout the air. Studies show that smelling these aromas can stimulate your limbic system. That’s the part of your brain involved in behavior, emotion and memory. Inhaling certain scents can have a calming effect by reminding you of cherished places and events. For example, when I mix a few drops of clove, cinnamon and orange oils in my diffuser, it takes me right back to holidays in my grandmother’s kitchen, even if I’m firing my diffuser up in mid-July.

Fiction: Essential Oils Are Good for Your Blood Pressure

While research proves that essential oil-based aromatherapy can boost your memory, the jury’s still out on whether or not it can lower your heart rate or blood pressure, or improve any respiratory functions.

Fact: Essential Oils Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

The keyword here is “can.” There’s no guarantee that inhaling essential oils will rid you of your worries, but research has shown that certain scents can reduce stress for certain users. For example, that Christmas kitchen oil cocktail I mentioned earlier often does wonders for my state of mind, but that’s because it tends to stir up pleasant memories.

Ultimately, it’s virtually impossible for researchers to do a blind study when scent is involved, so it’s been equally tricky to come to any strong scientific conclusions in this area.

Fiction: Essential Oils Are an Alternative to Antibiotics

While some essential oils, such as tea tree oil, have demonstrated antibacterial properties outside the human body, none of them have proven effective in fighting bacterial infections in people. In other words, adding tea tree oil to your homemade counter cleaner is a great idea. Taking a big swig of it after you wipe down your kitchen is absolutely not.

Fact: Essential Oils Can Reduce Headaches

While more research is needed, several studies have shown that rubbing peppermint oil or lavender oil on your temples or forehead can reduce headaches.

Fiction: Essential Oils Are Safe for Your Pets

According to the ASPCA, essential oils can be extremely harmful to some pets. It varies from animal to animal, of course, and the type of oil and the amount that the animal inhales, ingests or comes into physical contact with all matter as well.

Does this mean you need to junk your essential oil diffuser? If you have a pet bird, then yes, you probably should. They have exceptionally sensitive respiratory systems. For other pets, stationing the diffuser in an open area and out of your pet’s furry reach should be safe. If you’re worried, ask your vet.

Essential oils can be a great way to cozy up your space or take the edge off your migraine. As with any wellness product, however, you should do your homework first and read all labels.

How To Increase Skin’s Collagen Production

Collagen is your body’s secret weapon. It not only makes your skin appear more youthful but also strengthens your body as a whole. It’s the most abundant protein in your body, and when you have a healthy level of it inside, you look and feel healthy on the outside. Here are six simple, non-invasive ways to kick-start your body’s production of collagen.

Vitamin C

Is there anything vitamin C can’t do? It’s great for your bones and a healthy immune system. Adding citrus to your diet can increase iron absorption and decrease the time it takes wounds to heal. And it helps your body create collagen by synthesizing hyaluronic acid, which decreases naturally as we grow older.

To give your skin a more robust glow, pick up a hyaluronic acid concentrate at the pharmacy or load up on colorful, vitamin C-filled foods such as the following:

  • Oranges and grapefruit

  • Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries

  • Mango, papaya and kiwi

  • Watermelon and cantaloupe

  • Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli

  • Kale, spinach and cabbage

  • Red and green bell peppers

  • Tomatoes

  • Sweet potatoes

Ginseng

Sometimes helping your skin is as simple as brewing a soothing cup of tea. Ginseng, which has been used in medicine for hundreds of years, provides a handful of health benefits for your skin. It can increase collagen growth, reduce inflammation and fend off UVB rays. It’s also packed with the antioxidants you need to fend off free radicals for radiant skin. If ginseng tea turns you off, no problem. Try a ginseng supplement or tincture.

Antioxidants

Ginseng isn’t the only way to aid the antioxidants in your blood stream. Several foods, beverages and spices contain antioxidants:

  • Green tea

  • Yerba mate

  • Thyme, oregano and basil essential oils

  • Blueberries

  • Various extracts including coffee, licorice, mulberry and pomegranate

Some of these delicious flavors increase collagen production, while others simply aid your body’s existing antioxidants. Either way, you have no shortage of reasons to snack on a second bowl of fresh blueberries.

Aloe Vera

You’re probably well aware that aloe vera is great for sunburns, but did you know that it’s all because of its collagen-boosting properties? You can apply it directly to your skin or ingest it via supplement. Either way, studies show that its knack for stimulating cell growth can enhance your skin’s appearance. In fact, one study found that taking aloe vera orally caused the participants’ production of both collagen and hyaluronic acid to double.

Cilantro

I know, I know. You either love it or you hate it. I happen to love it, and not just because it’s full of vitamin C and linolenic acid, both of which have anti-aging potential. You already know that vitamin C has been found to elevate collagen levels. Linolenic acid, meanwhile, contains those helpful antioxidants your skin craves, giving you all the more reason to add an extra handful of cilantro to your salsa or pick up some cilantro extract online.

Algae

For the more adventurous of us, algae is quickly gaining steam as a popular treatment for supple skin. Here’s why: It stops oxidation, which is what happens when your skin comes into contact with environmental factors, thereby preventing pollution and its undesirable pals from stripping your skin of collagen. Odds are, you won’t be able to pick up algae on your next trip to the grocery store, but it’s a health food store staple.

Fine lines and wrinkles are inevitable as we age, but that doesn’t mean we have to welcome them! Partner any of these collagen-intensifying tips with a healthy skincare routine that’s low on UV rays to help your skin look and feel fantastic, no matter how old you are.