Get Started With Essential Oils
This our first guest post. The author, Carly, is an active duty Soldier, yogini and avid adventurist. She enjoys hiking, squats, and breakfast foods. You can find connect with her on Instagram @RunOnSunshine.
Bottom Line Up Front: Here is a nitty-gritty opinion on essential oils. I have been using them for just over two years. Here are my lessons learned and ideas for you to get started with essential oils.
I am sure most of you have seen a hand soap or a shampoo that features “essential oils” from lavender, citrus, rose, etc. Some may ask themselves, “What is so freaking great about essential oils?” “Gosh dang hippies and their apothecary voodoo!”
My friends, I don’t blame you. Some trends these days seem to take fire and people don’t seem to quite know what they are, but they’re in the organic, all-natural health care section….has to be great for us, right? No, I’m not hating on trying things before you know what they are; I, too, have blindly made purchases on the aforementioned statement. But I have used and learned stuff about essential oils; and I’m liking it.
I will break it out into lists, each growing in-depth; stop and go as you please.
What are they?
Essential oils are the oils from plants, herbs, citrus, etc. extracted in various ways for aromatherapy or medicinal/apothecarial (Is that a word? You know what I mean, right?) purposes. Depending on the source, the oil can be extracted by steam with distillation or cold-pressing. It all depends on the cell structure, size, etc. More on that here.
First off, here is a list of essential oils on the edge of my garden tub (this means I have used them all in some capacity – they made the cut):
- Citrus Bliss
- I just bought Clove bud yesterday; will have to wait on the verdict before I recommend it.
The first three I starred. Any combination of these are a great place to start, as they can get expensive. As a skeptic, I only had lavender for a long time to see if I would actually ever use it. Turns out, I kinda like them. All of them.
Now, how the heck do I use all of these?
Well, the same functions these oils performed for the plant while they were still in the cells will work for us too!
Lemon. A natural deodorizer and cleaner, I use this sucker for cleaning my sinks and feeling refreshed. I actually have some lemon cooking on the stove right now. I just put a few drops in any skillet with water and turn the heat on medium. Let that bad boy simmer and deodorize the kitchen after a hefty cooking sesh (now that skillet is clean too). For my sinks and toilet I usually just put a few drops in, game over. Sometimes, if I feel sluggish, or after I may have eaten things I shouldn’t have, I put a drop or two on the bottom of my feet (usually at night, too). The detoxifying properties can go to work. Now, I put it on the bottom of my feet because in various detoxifying procedures across cultures have done it. I need to research that one a bit more…. but my basic understanding of reflexology would tell me the arch of the foot is associated with the liver and kidneys, sounds pretty good place to start detoxifying to me.
There are also a bunch of DIY recipes for household cleaner that involve lemon, just Pinterest. But, usually it involves Castile soap and some sort of diluting agent. You can make your own shampoo too; I haven’t found a recipe I like, but it is Castile soap, coconut milk (full fat, friends), olive oil/coconut oil and a few drops of lemon. Shake it up, and voila! Oh, and while the lemon-oil aroma doesn’t prove to have concrete therapeutic effect
Lavender. I LOVE LAVENDER. Often used for its calming and soothing properties, I use lavender in my baths with Epsom salts, shampoo, face toner, and perfume. It has anti-inflammatory properties so works well with a blend of witch hazel and rose-water; just fill a squirt bottle with about 2/3 witch hazel, 1/3 rose water and a few drops of lavender. Boom. Now, for perfume or any other topical application of ANY essential oil it is recommended to use a carrier oil (so below advice applies to ALL essential oils and topical application). The concentration of the lavender can irritate sensitive skin and even a burning sensation (noted when adding too much lavender to a batch of toner) upon application. Preferred carrier oil for me is coconut oil or sweet almond oil (I usually live on the wild side with no carrier oil, but safety first). I have seen others who use olive oil, almond oil, argan oil (I like the argan oil too. I use that in my hair to de-frizz and shine it up). I use the sweet almond oil on my skin after a shower and then just a drop or two of essential oil in my hands and I massage it into my neck or wrists. Lavender can also be used in cleaners (with Castile that versatile devil) for a nice smell. Friends have used it to calm pets; place a few drops on a cotton ball and place it above their cage/bed/etc if they get wound up during the night or during a storm.
Peppermint. The great invigorator. I use this guy for invigoration and headache relief. Known for its cooling properties, it can be applied to temples (again with a carrier oil) and rubbed in a circular motion. Usually helps me. Also is great if you just put a single drop under your tongue, it makes me feel more alert. It also has a high concentration of natural pesticides, so if you have a garden I suppose you could make your own (I have not been in a place to have a garden or lots of harmful pests, I only once tried to start growing herbs). Again, the carrier oil would help aid as a diluter for the blend you come up with or research.
Citrus Bliss. This doTerra brand blend is my favorite as of late (shh, don’t tell lavender). I use this before I work out, in the afternoon for a pick me up, sometimes in my hair. I just love how it smells. I feel more invigorated and enthusiastic when I use it too. It has lemon, tangerine, clementine, bergamont, grapefruit and vanilla oils in it. I haven’t explored much other uses besides just right on my skin, but I know citrus is great for homemade cleaners and even carpet cleaner (deodorizer). This (or lavendar) would be great for a diffuser as well-reed diffuser, steam diffuser OR heat diffuser. All would make for some happy people.
Eucalyptus. Peaceful healer and another natural insecticide. I have only used it topically in my baths (again with Epsom salts) or in a topical cream. The cream I use on students before a yoga class is called China-gel, a topical cream with eucalyptus and menthol (among 6 other ingredients- witch hazel, lavender, aloe, etc). It works great to loosen up the muscles and alleviate some soreness.
I bought my essential oils from either a vegetarian grocery store (Down to Earth anyone?) or a local hole in the wall organic food store. The two brands I trust for quality and integrity are AuraCacia and doTerra.
Now, folks, a lot of people use essential oils in cooking/baking too. I have tried peppermint brownies (vegan of course, was with a bunch of dang yogis), humus with lemon essential oil, a mimosa with champagne and sweet orange essential oil and lavender lemonade. All were delicious and as with anything, safe in moderation. Too much essential oil ingestion can cause some serious stomach irritation. Luckily, a tiny bit goes a long way.
One last note for my yogis and yoginis out there: these essential oils can be a great tool in a yoga class. A whiff or a drop of peppermint or citrus bliss at the beginning and a cold washcloth compress for neck/resting eyes that have been soaked in a cool bowl of water with a few drops of eucalyptus and/or lavender for savasana…mmmm.
QUESTION: Have you used essential oils before? How? What is your favorite one out there? Post thoughts to comments.
References & Further Reading
- Essential Oils 101 | HowStuffWorks.com
- Aura Cacia (also found on Amazon.com)
- China-Gel (also found on Amazon.com)
- doTerra (also found on Amazon.com)