As a wellness tool that comes directly from nature and has medicinal properties, essential oils have many benefits for the body and mind
The first reports of the use of plants and their oils date back thousands of years. In India, for example, there are medical documents referring to the use of cinnamon, myrrh, and ginger in treatments. Today, essential oils can be found in most cosmetic products, in syrups, pomades, and even detergents. Although they are mostly known for their fresh aromas — and, therefore, widely used in air fresheners — they are also used in aromatherapy to help fight several illnesses and prevent many symptoms, just as our ancestors did.
Essential oils are volatile and aromatic compounds extracted from leaves, flowers, bark, roots, seeds, trees, or fruit pulp. They are essentially the sap of a plant, so pure and natural that they can be up to 70 times more therapeutic than the plant itself. “It’s nature’s gold, as we call it,” says Vasco Furtado, who is trained in aromatherapy and manages the Elefante Turismo brand, created in 1989, in Monchique. At a time when essential oils were not widely known here, Elefante Turismo began producing eucalyptus oil. Today, the brand has over 20 varieties of imported oil and around 30 years of experience in aromatherapy.
Essential oils have countless uses: “All the chemical products we have at home can be replaced or complemented with the oils,” explains Lisete Afonso, reiki master and brand representative for doTERRA, in Loulé.
The most common use is through diffusers, as in air fresheners. Diffusing the oils refreshes the atmosphere, whilst opening the airways and influencing our mood, as they are absorbed by the respiratory and circulatory systems. “By inhaling an essential oil, in a fraction of a second, a person changes their mood because [the aroma] directly influences the central nervous system,” explains Vasco Furtado.
Another common use is applying it directly on the skin. The soluble fat is absorbed into the bloodstream and the oil penetrates the cell nucleus. Some oils can also be ingested through digestible capsules or with a few drops in cooking, such as orange or lemon oils, which can be mixed into drinks or cakes.
But each oil can have its own purpose. Cedar oil helps clean furniture, and lemon oil is a natural disinfectant that can detox the body and also works as a perfume or deodorant. Peppermint oil goes great with a chocolate mousse and helps with digestion and heartburn, nausea, and stomach aches; it can also be rubbed on your temples to ward off migraines, along with being a natural source of energy when rubbed on the neck in the morning. Rose oil helps rejuvenate the skin and fight ageing, whilst melaleuca oil improves scarring in wounds. Meanwhile, rosemary oil has properties that seem to stimulate hair growth.
During the pandemic, when stress and anxiety levels are higher than ever, both Lisete Afonso and Vasco Furtado recommend lavender oil, which helps focus the mind, fosters a peaceful sleep and helps you relax. The drops can be placed on the pillow, on the feet, on the chest or on the facemask.
Something else both specialists agree on is that, at no point, should essentials oils replace medical consultation. “They are complements that help and benefit us, but going to the doctor’s is essential. I work with cancer patients and, in reiki, I use some essential oils but only when doctors allow for it,” says Lisete Afonso. “Oils can help flush out the toxins and negative effects of chemotherapy, for example, and there are even oils suitable for cell renewal.”
Vasco Furtado adds: “If someone has health issues, I always say that a visit to the doctor is a must before using oils, because aromatherapy, although natural, is highly powerful. Before using any oil, we should always seek advice from trained specialists.” Specialists such as Vasco, who gives online training and personalised advice. All of Elefante Turismo’s essential oils can be found on the brand’s website, which explains in detail the benefits and properties of each oil.
The doTERRA essential oils, meanwhile, can also be ordered through the brand representative via the social networks with prices for all wallets. Lisete Afonso also provides massages with essential oils, reiki sessions, creative meditation and workshops.