Essential Oils and Antioxidants Explained: What Are Antioxidants and Why Do You Need Them?

Posted on February 25, 2014 | In Educational
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Berry Sunday!Written By Becki Andrus

You have probably heard the term “antioxidants” and know that they are good for your health, but do you know why they are so essential for health and wellness? Many research studies have been published that show the countless benefits of antioxidants, and it has become a popular topic that companies often use in their marketing to increase sales. A lot of people that I talk with have heard of antioxidants and they know that antioxidants are good for the body– but they don’t understand exactly what antioxidants are and why they are so essential for a healthy lifestyle.

My goal with this blog post is to help you understand what antioxidants are, why we need to have antioxidants, how they will benefit you, and how to include antioxidants with your everyday habits.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances that can be found in certain types of plants. These molecules are essential for the body to heal, repair and grow. According to merriam-webster.com, the definition of antioxidant is:

A substance (as beta-carotene or vitamin C) that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals.

So, simply put… antioxidants are substances that work to prevent bad things from happening inside your body. There are different types of antioxidants found in different plants, but they all work to prevent disease and promote health.

Why Do We Need Antioxidants?

Animal tissue (ie the human body) goes through a process called “oxidation” which is a normal process– but it can be damaging to the cells. This oxidation causes aging, illness, and wear-and-tear on the human body.

The oxidation process is very normal and natural, and the body is constantly replenishing itself by creating new cells and getting rid of the old, damaged cells. Most of the time, the body is able to efficiently manage the old cells, but there are times when some of these cells are damaged and they become “free-radicals.”

Free radicals can lead to unwanted molecular changes, because those free radicals can hurt healthy cells. Studies have linked higher levels of free radicals to diseases such as cancer, parkinsons, arthritis, aging, and heart disease.

Free radicals can also occur when you are exposed to toxic substances such as cigarette smoke, high levels of alcohol, pesticides, chemicals, and pollution. And these toxic substances can be found everywhere in our modern world, including in pollution, chemical based products, and many of the unhealthy foods that people eat. Increased levels of exposure to these toxic substances results in higher levels of free radicals in the body.

The problem is that these free radicals can cause a reaction within the body, which will lead to disease and a decrease in health. Some doctors refer to it as a chain reaction, because the free radical cells will begin to take over so that they healthy cells are unable to function as well.

Now, don’t be too alarmed about the free radicals in your body, because they can be cleaned up by providing your body with enough antioxidants. In fact, your immune system is naturally designed to fight against free radicals and other unwanted elements within the body– so a healthy immune system can help you to avoid the effects of free radicals, and antioxidants play a big role in the “clean-up” process. Make a goal to provide your body with good antioxidants so that it can effectively fight the free radicals and prevent disease, it is one of the most effective ways to support your health and prevention disease!

When you are getting plenty of antioxidants, those substances are able to stop the chain reactions that are occurring from the free radicals. Antioxidants clean up the free radicals, and they can even reverse the effects of the free radicals!

The Benefits of Antioxidants

When you are getting enough antioxidants on a regular basis, you are providing your body with the necessary supplies and tools that it needs to prevent disease and reverse damage. The human body naturally works towards optimum health, but it is absolutely necessary to provide the important building blocks in order to be healthy.

As the antioxidants are working in your body, they identify free radicals and neutralize them. Antioxidants also work to reverse the damage that has occurred from the free radicals. As the antioxidants work on the free radicals, they become oxidized themselves—so it is necessary for the body to get rid of them through normal processes of waste removal.

And since the antioxidants have already been used, it is necessary to continually provide your body with new antioxidants so that it can keep working to prevent the disease and damage that occurs from the free radicals.

Antioxidants are able to prevent disease and damage by locating the free radicals before they are able to damage the healthy cells. Neutralizing those free radicals immediately is the best way to stay healthy and avoid serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Antioxidant Measurement: The ORAC Scale

The ORAC scale (which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a way to measure the free radical absorption of various substances. The ORAC scale considers both the degree and the time of the inhibition of free radicals.

Below, I will show you some of the ORAC scores of fruits and vegetables, as well as common essential oils. The ORAC numbers listed below will help you to see the realative value in power of antioxidants in various foods and essential oils:

Antioxidant (ORAC) Scores for Selected Fruits and Vegetables

  • Carrots  210
  • Oranges  750
  • Beets  840
  • Raspberries  1,220
  • Strawberries  1,540
  • Blueberries  2,400
  • Wolfberries  25,300

Antioxidant (ORAC) Scores for Selected Essential Oils

  • Sandalwood  1,655
  • Juniper  2,517
  • Rosemary  3,309
  • Rose of Sharon (Cistus)  38,624
  • Cinnamon Bark  103,448
  • Thyme  159,590
  • Clove  10,786,875

Reference: Healing Oils of the Bible, David Stewart, PhD

It is astonishing to see how high the essential oils ORAC scores are! For many years we have heard that we should be eating berries for their high levels of antioxidants– it is definitely good to get those healthy foods in your diet, but many people don’t realize that they can also use essential oils for their amazingly high levels of antioxidants.

How To Include Antioxidants With Your Everyday Habits

There are different types of antioxidants, including vitamin E, vitamin C, flavonoids, beta carotene, zinc, and selenium (to name a few). Each of these nutrients work in different ways, so it is essential that you are getting all of them on a regular basis. The best approach to getting high levels of antioxidants is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and use essential oils!

Everyday I like to focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain healthy eating habits, and I also like to include the use of essential oils. Remember that 1 drop of essential oil is very powerful, and it is an easy and cheap way to support your body and immune system.

There are many types of essential oils to choose from, and I use a variety of oils on a regular basis. Clove oil is definitely a good choice if you are looking for a high ORAC score! Click here to read more about clove essential oil, and also check out this link with information about one of my favorite essential oil blends that includes clove.

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Do you have any questions about essential oils? Feel free to comment here on this blog post or contact me and I will get back to you as soon as possible!

With love,

Becki :)

 

Photo credit: mischiru

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