If you fancy yourself a fitness fan - or at least recall some of the lectures from your high school nutrition class - you probably know a bit about essential amino acids. These building blocks of protein get the "essential" name because they're naturally occurring and necessary for good health and well-being. They can't be made by the body naturally, so we have to eat them from whole food sources, like certain vegetables and lean proteins.

But what about essential oils? Are they as necessary to wellness as amino acids? What do they do? And where do you can you find them?

Essential oils are described as such because of their indispensability - making up the very essence of the plant from which they originate and are extracted. Much like amino acids, there are several of them. Here's just a partial list:

  • Lavender Oil
  • Frankincense Oil
  • Pomegranate Oil
  • Neroli Oil
  • Oregano Oil
  • Copaiba Oil
  • Chamomile Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Rose Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Cumin Oil

Experts indicate that there could be many more essential oils out there that have yet to be discovered.

As plentiful as these oils are, so too are their usages. Take lavender for example. Deriving from an evergreen shrub that's in the mint family, it's most distinguishing characteristic is its signature aroma, used in candles, hair products and even modeling clay. The scent is not only naturally pleasing but may help relieve symptoms associated with stress. A study published by the National Institutes of Health found lavender oil to be an effective all-natural treatment for various kinds of anxiety disorders by calming the central nervous system.

Peppermint oil has similar healing and self-soothing properties, and has been shown to help reduce motion sickness, indigestion, anxiety and bloating according to the Global Healing Center.

When given the option, people tend to prefer all-natural treatments over synthetic, especially when they're proven to work. Here are a few things you should keep in mind before using essential oils to improve your health.

Read the Labels
Essential oil products often contain certain buzzwords, such as "therapeutic" or "premium." But Jade Shutes, clinical aroma therapist at the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, says that buyers should be wary of these phrases because they don't really mean anything.

Instead, Shutes recommends looking for verbiage that is the Latin equivalent of the essential oil, which for lavender is "lavare." This is an indication the product is pure and doesn't contain fillers, as may be the case if the label reads only "lavender essential oil."

Lavender has many naturally occurring healing and soothing properties. Lavender has many naturally occurring healing and soothing properties.


Use For Anxiety Relief
There aren't many scientific indications that essential oils will help you lose weight or gain more muscle, but there's plenty to indicate that they can boost your sense of calm. In addition to lavender, other smells that seem to do the trick include chamomile, rosewater and bergamot. Native to Italy, bergamot is a citrus plant, whose fruit resembles that of a lime.

Be Mindful of Their Potential Adverse Effects
Essential oils can be beneficial, but they can also be harmful if misused. For instance, cinnamon bark, citronella and lemongrass may cause irritation if they're used on the skin.

Check out Health Canada's website for more information and research on essential oils and the healing properties that many of them contain.