5 Popular Essential Oils and What They’re Used For

5 Most Commonly Used Essential Oils

  • Lavender
  • Clary Sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Ginger

Essential oils may strike some as a relatively new concept, but humans have been exploring and utilizing naturally occurring plant sources for millennia. When investigating the most popular or most widely used oils, it can be difficult to narrow it down to only five contenders, because each substance has a specific catalog of benefits. However, there are those with multiple applications and a long history of human use.

1. Clary Sage

In dietary doses, this close relative of the garden sage is considered safe. It’s also used as a fragrance, so even those unfamiliar with the uses of essential esters and oils will likely have had contact with it at some point. As noted, the oil can be ingested in small amounts. However, it does increase the soporific effects of some drugs and should be used cautiously. Primarily, it is thought to be efficacious in the treatment of digestive and renal complaints when taken orally. Topically, holistic adherents use it to treat minor skin complaints, tumors, eye inflammation, splinter removal, and other adhesions.

2. Eucalyptus

This essential oil has a long history of human use. Today, many over-the-counter cold remedies and skin care products include it. According to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, it’s strongly indicated for children with respiratory complaints because of its mildness. The ancient cultures that included it in their pharmacopeia recognized its benefits as an anti-microbial, insect-repellant, and deodorizing substance. Those properties are still valued, along with its demonstrable qualities as an anti-inflammatory and decongestant agent. The oil contains volatile compounds that render it astringent and make it a potent disinfectant. Many who utilize hair and skin care products, cold- or flu-easing remedies, and natural deodorants or soaps are familiar with the invigorating and sharply green scent.

3. Ginger Root

While it’s a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines and featured as a whole food in many Eastern medicinal traditions, the oil itself can be utilized in both dietary and topical applications. All lily rhizomes are edible, but the ginger lily is the most historically popular. It bears antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties when used in hair or skin products. But its claim to holistic fame is its benefits to the digestive system. Like peppermint, it calms an upset stomach, and may even bolster natural resistance to minor gastrointestinal complaints. It also reduces intestinal gas and bloating, making it uniquely attractive.

4. Rosemary

While this unassuming culinary herb can be found in many kitchen gardens, it also has a long history as a topical medication. In the millennia before modern shampoos, individuals who lived in the climates it calls home found it useful for bathing. Volatile esters contained in the oil have an anti-microbial property and also kill or discourage common lice and other unpleasant insects that enjoy living in human hair. Its sharp scent is also useful as a decongestant, and rosemary has been used to ease the symptoms of bronchitis, colds, and flu by many cultures.

5. Lavender

Human groups residing in the Mediterranean Basin (Northern Africa, the Levant, and Southern Europe) have been utilizing lavender for millennia. In fact, all languages influenced by Latin use some form of the name itself in their words for washing, because the Romans used lavender in their baths and other purification activities. It is antimicrobial, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory when applied topically.

When ingested in dietary doses, it reduces gas, acts as a mild soporific, and may even help to settle minor digestive complaints. The pleasing floral aroma of leaves, flowers, and oil make it a natural choice for ancient perfumes. Cultures from Persia to Celtic Gaul used lavender to perfume bathwater and ritual cleansing ablutions, wrap the dead, burn during rituals, and strew on the floor to provide a pleasing aromatic experience.

While Western pharmaceutical medication cannot be equaled for efficacy in many cases, the regular use of botanical substances has a time-honored place in human cultures. Many oils effectively treat skin conditions or settle upset stomachs, sooth menstrual cramps or drive away unpleasant pests. Organic chemistry is now used to verify these claims as well as those that assert various oils will elevate or sooth the human emotional state. In many ways, western chemistry is validating thousands of years of human practice and use of essential oils, which may render them even more popular.