When you think of rhododendrons, I’m sure you think of the beautiful, fragrant flowers of the rhododendron plant. But did you know that this plant is good for much more than just decorating your garden? Although it is relatively new to the essential oil scene, rhododendron essential oil is a powerful healing addition to your medicine cabinet due to its ability to soothe emotions, support your respiratory system and relieve discomfort from painful muscles and joints.
History of Rhododendron Essential Oil
Rhododendron essential oil is distilled from the flowers and leaves of the rhododendron plant (rhododendron anthopogon) using the method of steam distillation. Although there are many varieties of rhododendrons, only this particular variety can be used for essential oil as it the only variety that is non-toxic.
Rhododendron anthopogon is found in Nepal, where it grows to 2-3 feet tall and has white or yellow flowers. The resulting oil is a pale yellow color and has a delightful floral aroma. If stored correctly, this oil can last for 4-5 years. 1
This particular variety of rhododendron is used widely throughout Nepal as a popular incense to cleanse the surroundings. The flowers and leaves are commonly made into a tea and used by healers in the Himalayas to increase appetite and treat disorders of the liver. The tea is also used to treat a sore throat, nausea, and headaches.
People of the Himalayas consider this plant to be sacred and often burn it in offering to bring harmony to the spirits of the earth.
Rhododendron essential oil is an antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic and a decongestant. 2 All of these healing properties are due to its unique chemical composition, which consists of:
This essential oil primarily consists of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.
Uses for Rhododendron Essential Oil
Rhododendron essential oil can be used both topically and aromatically for a wide variety of health benefits. It is important to note that this particular oil cannot be used internally.
Supports Healthy Respiratory Function
Rhododendron essential oil is a decongestant, so inhaling it is especially beneficial for the respiratory system if you’re suffering from a cough or cold. Its antispasmodic properties also help ease the lungs.
To breathe easier, diffuse this essential oil throughout a room of your house, or add a couple of drops to steaming water. By covering your head with a towel and slowly breathing in the delicate aroma, you’ll find that you’re breathing easier in no time. Diffusing this oil around your house can also help ward off a cough, allergies and other seasonal respiratory problems.
While parts of the rhododendron plant are often used in Nepal as a tea to ease nausea, the essential oil may also be used to ease an upset stomach and digestive problems. Add a couple of drops of oil into a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, or coconut, and massage gently onto the stomach for relief.
For another calming way to ease problems with the digestive system, make a hot compress with hot water and a couple of drops of rhododendron essential oil. Let a soft cloth soak up the mixture, and wring out extra water. Place on top of the stomach.
Maintains Liver and Kidney Health
Although not much research has been done on this topic, the Nepalese drink rhododendron tea to help cure disorders of the liver. To promote liver health, a massage oil can be massaged gently onto the stomach.
Similarly, it is thought that this essential oil can help to stimulate the kidneys. A study conducted by Tongji Medical College in China showed that extracts from the rhododendron root were able to help regulate kidney function. Although the oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers, it may provide similar benefits. 3
Soothes Sore Joints and Muscles
Rhododendron essential oil is especially helpful for easing sore joints and muscles after a long day. For optimum results, massage a mixture of the essential oil and a carrier oil into the affected areas, or add a couple of drops of the oil into a warm relaxing bath. If you have sore feet, consider using rhododendron essential oil in a relaxing foot bath. Simply add a few drops of the oil into warm water with Epsom salt and a carrier oil, and soak for 10-15 minutes.
Wards Off Harmful Bacteria
The antimicrobial properties of rhododendron essential oil make it an ideal oil for warding off harmful bacteria. At the University of Padova, Italian researchers studied the composition of rhododendron essential oil. They found that some of the compounds were significantly effective at killing off various strains of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus , Bacillus subtilis , Enterococcus faecalis and even fungi such as Candida.
Provides emotional support
One of the most well-known benefits of rhododendron essential oil is its ability to quiet an overactive mind. The scent is particularly grounding and calming, and its soothing properties are especially helpful for those suffering from grief.
If you’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, try using rhododendron essential oil aromatically. Diffuse the oil throughout your home, or add a drop behind your ears and to your wrists. For another, more discreet way of keeping this oil close to you, wear a terracotta pendant around your neck with a couple of drops of oil. Whenever you feel as though you need comfort, simply sniff the pendant.
How To Use Rhododendron Essential Oil
This particular oil is especially beneficial when mixed with homemade massage oils, body scrubs, and lotions, due to its antioxidant properties and the ability to soothe the emotions.
Add a couple of drops of rhododendron essential oil to a gentle shampoo and massage throughout the hair. Rinse as usual. This oil helps to naturally clean the hair and leave it moisturized and lustrous. It also leaves your hair smelling fresh and floral! 5
Its anti-inflammatory properties make this oil particularly good to adding to lotions. If you have red or inflamed skin, add a drop or two to your lotion before massaging into the affected areas.
Bath Salts / Scrubs
As an alternative to lotions, you can ease irritated, inflamed skin by mixing a couple of drops of rhododendron essential oil into a bath salt or scrub. These can be made at home with a mixture of essential oil, a carrier oil, Epsom salt, sugar, or oatmeal!
As previously mentioned, rhododendron essential oil is especially good at calming an overactive mind and easing feelings of stress. If you find that you have trouble clearing your mind for meditation, simply inhaling the scent of this grounding essential oil may help. You can diffuse it throughout a room, use an oil burner or simply dab a drop or two on your skin. By adding this to your morning routine, you may find that you are more relaxed throughout the day.
If you’d like to further the healing properties of this essential oil, you may choose to mix it with other medicinal essential oils when creating lotions, soaps, scrubs or massage oils. Rhododendron essential oil mixes well with lavender, sweet orange, geranium, clary sage, ginger, neroli, cedar, spruce, and pine essential oils.
Storing Rhododendron Essential Oil
Although this essential oil can remain potent for 4–5 years, this is only true if you store it correctly. Heat, oxygen, and light can drastically deteriorate your essential oil if you leave it exposed to any of those elements for too long.
It’s important that you keep the lid on the bottle whenever you aren’t using your oil, and it should be stored in a cool, dark place. When in doubt, your refrigerator is the perfect storage area.
Safety and Precautions
Rhododendron essential oil is non-toxic, non-sensitizing, and non-irritating, and is generally safe for both topical and aromatic use. Even so, it is especially important to ensure that you are getting oil that is distilled from R hododendron anthopogan since this is the only variety of rhododendron that is non-toxic.
Even though you cannot use this essential oil internally, it is still important to ensure that you are only purchasing 100 percent therapeutic grade essential oil. These oils are guaranteed to contain all of the beneficial properties they are known for.
If the oils are not 100 percent therapeutic grade, they can be of low-quality and may irritate the skin or contain harmful chemicals. For example, a fragrance oil of rhododendron is a synthetic oil that only mimics the aroma of the true rhododendron essential oil.
Although this oil is non-irritating, those with especially sensitive skin may still experience some adverse reactions. It’s recommended to mix with a carrier oil before applying topically to the skin. If this is your first time using the oil, conduct a patch test on a small area of skin before applying to larger areas. Never apply pure essential oil to an open wound.
If your essential oil has oxidized, you’ll likely notice a change in scent or potency. If you suspect this is the case, stop use immediately. Oxidized oils can cause adverse reactions to skin and mucous membranes.
As always, essential oils are not recommended for use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and should be kept away from babies and young children. If you are intending to use rhododendron essential oil to treat a chronic condition, it is advised to speak with your doctor before using.
When used correctly, rhododendron essential oil is a beneficial, soothing addition to your daily routine.