Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Madeleine Steinbach

The Science of Pure Essential Oils

An ancient practice attains new prominence.

By SunWater Spa Team and Sharon W. House

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Pure essential oils are on the radar these days, especially with political tempers boiling and anxiety levels rising. Yes, Xanax and other pharmaceuticals are trending; however, more and more people are turning to pure essentials to help destress and calm.

Distilled from plants without the fat or oils found in cooking oils, pure essential oils are highly concentrated compounds that can be used in their pure form, through a diffuser or added to a hot bath. Essential oils have long been hailed by folk wisdom, and recent scientific research has caught up. A new study from Dr. Hideki Kashiwadani at Kagoshima University in Japan has found that “… sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium,” in the mice that this group studied.

Ancient pharmacists and medical practitioners from Egypt to Italy and Greece utilized lavender, Frankincense and ylang ylang to help relieve their patients’ pain and anxiety. With the scientific community beginning to validate our ancestors’ claims, according to a recent Organic Spa conference, the use of these oils will continue to rise.


One of the most recognized and sweetest-smelling essential oils, lavender can be found in perfumes, bath salts and lotions. It can also be used in its pure form on pulse points or in a hot bath. In addition to relaxing users, lavender has been shown to heal scars and relieve migraines.

Ylang Ylang

Gaining in popularity and revered for its scent, ylang ylang is extracted by steam distillation of fresh flowers of the ylang ylang tree, which is found in rainforests in a number of Asian and South Pacific Islands. Research published in June 2006 documents noted ylang ylang’s efficacy in helping to relieve depression and anxiety. Therapists are beginning to use the oil in massages and steam treatments.

At SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs, Colo., massage therapist Rachel Luplow uses seven essential oil blends in her 90-minute massage, Chakra Journey. “The concept behind this treatment is to use these essential oil blends from head to toe as each one is designed to balance one of the seven main chakras in the body,” Luplow explains.  One of SunWater Spa’s most popular deep tissue massages, the Mountain Healer, utilizes jojoba body butter, infused with sage, lavender, spearmint, arnica and other oils to alleviate sore, tense muscles.

Whether you choose to enjoy the gentle hands of a therapist such as Luplow, or luxuriate in a warm bath perfumed with lavender or ylang ylang, the destressing benefits of pure essential oils are a welcome trend that is destined to grow.



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