Nature has always provided the basis for what is needed to survive. Since early times, people have used plants to heal the body and calm the mind. Today, natural oils from plants offer a toxin-free alternative to manufactured products. Be prepared for common, everyday ailments by keeping the following three essential oils in the house.

Inhale Lavender to Relax and Sleep Better

The vibrant purple flower lavender has calmed and given a sense of well-being for thousands of years. The Phoenicians and Egyptians used lavender for perfume. The Romans bathed in lavender and also cooked with it. The lavender flower, believed to have originated in Greece, is now found throughout France, Spain, Italy, and England.

Distilled from varies species of the flower, a little lavender oil can go a long way. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians suggests adding a few drops of lavender oil to a warm bath for “sedative” and “calming effects.” Spritz lavender on pillows for a more relaxing sleep. A few drops in a vaporizer or humidifier can also create a soothing environment and may help ease upper respiratory infections and coughs. Insects are usually repelled by lavender’s strong aroma, so rub a small amount of the oil on the skin or in the hair for a nicer smelling, and all natural, bug repellent.

Fight Bacteria and Fungus with Manuka

The manuka plant is a flowering tree or shrub native to New Zealand and Australia. The Maori people were among the first to know the benefits of manuka and have used parts of the plant for a variety of ailments. For instance, they boiled leaves and bark together and applied the warm liquid to stiff joints, burns, and bruises. Manu Natural Remedies reports that manuka was also used as a diuretic, sedative, and painkiller. Captain Cook, who visited New Zealand in 1769, wrote in his journals about boiling manuka leaves to make tea that had an “agreeable bitter taste and flavour.” He dubbed manuka “tea tree.”

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Manuka oil can be used to help address a range of problems, including acne, eczema, skin rashes, dandruff, athlete’s foot, cuts, insect bites and stings, sunburn, and joint and muscle aches. A dab of manuka oil on the temples may help relieve stress. Manuka honey also has healing qualities. The Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology reported that manuka honey can be used successfully to help heal wounds, and has potential for a therapeutic role in treating gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Sip Peppermint to Calm an Upset Stomach

Roman naturalist Pliny wrote in the first century A.D. that Greeks and Romans flavored their food and wine with peppermint because of its strong essence. Peppermint was on the list of plants brought to the New World, and by the mid-1700s, Western Europeans recognized its medicinal benefits.

Peppermint contains menthol, an antiseptic and anesthetic, which is why it works well in soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and antacids. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that many studies support using peppermint for indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. A few drops of peppermint oil in a glass of water can relieve nausea, upset stomach, and motion sickness. Peppermint oil may also be used as a skin refresher and dandruff remover.

Avoid peppermint before bedtime, as it’s been known to cause insomnia. Also, peppermint may cause heartburn in some people. Those who have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or hiatal hernia should not take peppermint.

Use Essential Oils with Caution

Essential oils are recommended as an alternative way to help treat common ailments. Results will vary, however. More scientific studies are needed to substantiate the medicinal merits as well as determine the effects of essential oils’ interaction with prescription drugs. For ongoing symptoms, seek professional medical advice. Pregnant and nursing mothers should speak with their health care providers before using essential oils. Also, essential oils should not be given to, or applied to the skin of, infants or small children.

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Use lavender, manuka, and peppermint oils in moderation and as needed to stay naturally healthy. Stock up on these and other essential oils through stores such as GNC, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Whole Foods.