Do you think frankincense is something from a horror movie? That patchouli is exclusively used by hippies? Do you know the difference between lemon balm and lemongrass? Ignorance of essential oils can be forgiven, but you might want to learn more about them for your own health and wellness.

The National Institute of Health says evidence of essential oil use can be traced to ancient Egypt, as far back as 4500 B.C. Since then, essential oil production and use has been documented in almost every culture around the globe. They have been used in rituals and religious customs, as well as for mental and physical wellness. Essential oils have also been incorporated into cleaning products, cosmetics and even some traditional western medications.

Essential oils are made from herbs, parts of trees, and the roots, petals, buds, and stems of flowers. Steam distillation is the most common method of extraction, resulting in a concentrated, fragrant oil. These oils can be inhaled with diffusers, diluted in spray bottles for skin or air fresheners, or dropped into hot baths for an aromatic and moisturizing experience.

Alone, or mixed into countless combinations, essential oils are still believed to have specific benefits for both home and body. Essential oils are not a substitute for medical treatment or medications, but they can certainly enhance everyday living.

Here are five of our Maine-made favorites.

LAVENDER Considered the most popular essential oil, lavender is calming and good for insomnia, skin irritations, and drawer sachets to combat closet moths and odors. Derived from English and Danish lavender hybrids, Lavender Steam-Distilled Essential Oil is grown and manufactured at the Glendarragh Fragrance Farm in Appleton. $16 for 10 ml at or the Glendarragh store at 22 Main Street, Camden

Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope made with cedar wood oil.

CEDAR WOOD Cedar wood oils also protect clothes from moths and smell great. So, it makes sense that it is the primary ingredient in Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope. This chemical-free insect repellant is safe for children and animals. Cedar oil is also used for anxiety and inflammation. Think steamy sauna. $9 for 2

PEPPERMINT AND TEA TREE Both peppermint oil and Australian tea tree oil come from the leaves of their respective plants. They are used to relax and numb sore muscles and are said to be good for breathing and circulation problems. Maine Mountains Soap and Candle Co. blends them together for their Wicked Awesome essential oil, which can be used to combat dandruff. $12 for 15 ml at

Balsam oil from Grampa’s Garden.

BALSAM The heady scent of balsam fir reminds us of Christmastime, but this essential oil is found year-round in cleaning products, arthritis creams and cooling aftershaves. Known as a grounding tool for the mind, it’s also used to regulate the menstrual cycle and for heart disease. Grampa’s Garden extracts oil from needles and pinecones for their Balsam Absolute, which they say is a mood booster. $16.30 for 7.5 ml at or 62 Park Drive, Topsham

GRAPEFRUIT Citrus oils brighten and uplift. Grapefruit essential oil is said to be good for stress and the nervous system. Also found in laundry and cleaning products, SunRose Aromatics makes Grapefruit RED Organic. $13.60 for 10 ml at

The National Institute of Heath has researched the validity of essential oils on various medical conditions with positive results, but the FDA has not evaluated any of the claims.

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