Whether it’s for the sake of smelling good or helping us sleep, we use essential oils for pretty much everything. And while there are *plenty* of scents out there worth adding to your arsenal, here is a list of the best essential oils that everyone should have on deck.
1. Lemon oil
Lemon oil is commonly used in the kinds of commercially available products you encounter every day. If you walk down the aisles of any grocery store, you’ll find everything from household cleaner to hand soap to flavored sparkling water with the essence of lemon. As is the case with many citrus oils, the scent closely mimics that of the fruit from which it’s derived: bright, light, zesty, and clean.
Diluted lemon oil can be wonderfully effective when it comes to skin care because of its high concentration of D-limonene, a compound that assists in diminishing the appearance of wrinkles, promoting circulation, and toning the skin. In fact, recent research showed that D-limonene has skin-repairing and anti-inflammatory properties.
The scent of lemon oil has also been shown to have a powerful effect on mood. One study’s findings suggest that lemon oil vapor has antidepressant qualities. Another compelling study found that the scent of lemon oil boosted participants’ moods, a finding confirmed through self-reported data as well as empirical data.
2. Cinnamon oil
If lemon oil is bright, cool, and invigorating, cinnamon oil is its opposite: sweet and spicy, musky and warm. For me, cinnamon conjures up a distinct mixture of sexy exoticness and cozy familiarity, which makes sense because it’s both a Far East import and a spice drawer mainstay.
In aromatherapy, cinnamon essential oil can be used to help clear up chest colds. Applied topically, it can soothe muscle aches and pains, thanks to its antispasmodic and analgesic properties. It’s also an antiseptic and makes a powerful natural preservative. It is both antibacterial and antimicrobial, as well as being anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving. Some studies have shown that cinnamon oil contains powerful antioxidants and could potentially be useful in fighting neurological disorders and heart disease.
3. Lemongrass oil
Google “lemongrass” and your search will most likely garner a bunch of hits for Thai restaurants in your local area (yum!). I’m all for a killer curry, but I’m even more into the plant’s essential oil.
Lemongrass essential oil is derived from the steam distillation of the plant and, true to its name, it possesses a mild, sweet, lemony-yet-herbal aroma. I like to use it for its cheerful, energetic scent alone, but there also happens to be plenty of evidence that it possesses powerful medicinal and pharmacological properties, including the potential to slow the growth of cancerous cells and tumors.
Research also shows that lemongrass essential oil is antibacterial and anti-fungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and can be a potent insect repellent. Its antifungal properties are especially helpful in combating the nasty yeast associated with dandruff. One study noted that participants who used a dandruff tonic with a 10 percent concentration of lemongrass oil saw a significant reduction in dandruff in as little as a week.
4. Clary sage
Clary sage possesses myriad beneficial properties for the skin: It’s antibacterial, astringent, antiseptic, and can help improve circulation. I like the uniquely sweet herbal aroma of clary sage, which helps to cut through some of the more pungent ingredients used in natural skin care, too.
Clary sage has been lauded for its reputed ability to regulate hormones, and its scent is thought to have antidepressant effects. A 2014 study of twenty-two postmenopausal women in their 50s—some of whom were depressed—showed that breathing diffused clary sage helped to alleviate participants’ depression by lowering cortisol levels and improving thyroid hormone levels. And a 2012 study revealed that clary sage—along with lavender and marjoram—makes an effective massage treatment for alleviating menstrual pain and cramping.
These are four essential oils and their wondrous benefits.