By Kylie Thompson, BS, CPT
Many of us know that antioxidants are good for us, and we may eat foods rich in antioxidants or use products with antioxidants in them accordingly, but what do antioxidants do? Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which can cause degenerative diseases, inflammatory diseases, and aging. The process of oxidative stress happens when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. If you have been exposed to a lot of free radicals through your environment or your diet, you may need to incorporate more antioxidants into your lifestyle.
When the body is in balance, free radicals can help fight pathogens and keep the body healthy. Where do free radicals come from? Our bodies produce free radicals when we exercise or have inflammation, and these free radicals are normal. However, dietary factors like eating a diet high in sugar, or environmental factors like pesticides can overwhelm your body with free radicals. Other times, when there are too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants, free radicals can cause oxidative stress. Let's go down to the molecular level to understand what is happening. When free radical atoms steal electrons from healthy atoms to replace missing electrons, they create a domino effect of electron stealing, eventually damaging entire cells. This is known as oxidative stress. The bad news is oxidative stress is harmful because it can damage protein, lipids, and DNA, thereby contributing to aging and many degenerative diseases. The good news is antioxidants fight oxidative stress! In addition to avoiding exposure to free radicals in your food and environment, you can manage your oxidative stress by incorporating more antioxidants into your everyday life. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables and consuming enough Vitamin E and Vitamin C will help you lower your body’s oxidative stress.
Now that we know a little more about antioxidants and free radicals, let’s chat about what essential oils and aromatherapy can do to reduce oxidative stress. While the best way to combat oxidative stress is by getting your antioxidants through your diet, there are studies that suggest essential oils may also function as antioxidants in the body. The results obtained in the study suggested that some essential oils possess strong medicinal activities. They found thyme, clove, cinnamon, basil, bergamot, and eucalyptus exhibited great antioxidant effects based on a series of tests that looked at antioxidant activity and free radical scavenging. Incorporating essential oils as antioxidants can be as easy as mixing eucalyptus into your epsom salt bath, using natural deodorant with added essential oils, or adding a couple drops of clove and cinnamon to your daily lotion. Be sure the essential oils you use are high quality by checking their sourcing, science and standards as there are many different brands out there today. I encourage you to take the time to research these studies yourself - I know you’ll be amazed by the amazing benefits of essential oils!