Essential Oils

I think back to the time before I used essential oils and I am truly horrified. OK, perhaps that’s a smidge farfetched, but what I mean is that they are such an integral part of my wellness routine these days that I can’t imagine not having them in my life now. They are natural, versatile and enjoyable gifts from nature. Plus, there are so many to experiment with. Effects range from uplifting to soothing to relaxing to, ahem, sensual and if you study your oils, you’ll soon get to know the best combination for whatever ailment or requirement you have. Failing that, let your nose guide you. It seems to know what’s needed, somehow. Call it intuition or simply nasal mystery. Yes, I’m making that a thing.

Essential oils are derived from aromatic plants found across the globe. They may be harvested from the flowers, leaves, roots, woods, seeds or fruits. Extraction occurs through steam distillation, pressing or by solvent extraction. While there are many ways to use essential oils, it is worth knowing that they are not water-soluble, but can be readily carried in a base oil. Base oils are the thicker oils used for massage and typically include coconut, avocado, almond, jojoba and the like.

So how do they work? When inhaled, essential oil aromas trigger the nerves in our noses and give direct feedback to the brain. This is why they are able to make us feel certain things, such as relaxed, soothed, uplifted etc. But their benefits stretch further than this. Essential oils have good skin penetration and can heal damaged cells, increase cell turnover and make our skin more elastic. They can cleanse and detoxify us and aid in the healing of conditions such as eczema, acne, dehydration and psoriasis. But in addition to all this, they are excellent for their antimicrobial capabilities, making them an integral part of any skincare formulation.

Essential Oil Beauty

The Oils

So, let’s break it down. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are some oils and what they can do for you:

Anise – Used in massage, can help indigestion & colic

Basil – Vapourised or used in a chest rub recipe, helps with sinus congestion and asthma. Emotionally, it clears the head, strengthens memory and increases alertness (use if you’re studying for an exam!)

Bay – Massage onto the scalp to clear dandruff

Benzoin – Vapourised or used in a chest rub, helps to expel mucus and calm chesty coughs

Bergamot – Emotionally uplifting and calming. Used in lotion recipes, great at healing acne breakouts. It can also be applied neat to treat cold sores.

Black Pepper – Massage for increasing circulation and soothing achey muscles (post-workout essential)

Cajeput – Inhale to relieve congestion, or vapourise to keep insects at bay.

Cardamom – Massage for helping with indigestion, bloating and heartburn

Chamomile Roman – Use in a DIY cream for soothing irritated, sensitive and dry skin. It’s great for soothing wounds and sores too. A relaxing aroma, it’s can also relieve depression and tension.

Carrot Seed – Use in creams to restore elasticity to aging skin (hello DIY gift for mama!)

Cedarwood – Another scalp-massage soother for clearing dandruff and relieving itching

Celery – Massage for helping with high blood pressure and relieving arthritis

Cinnamon – Vapourise for healing cold and flu symptons, and massage for cramps

Citronella – Excellent antifungal and deoderant for topical skin conditions. It’s also well-known for keeping insects as bay during the warmer months. Dilute in a water spray and use as required.

Clary Sage – Massage for deep relaxation and vapourise for relieving anxiety and tension.

Cypress – Use in DIY deoderants or body sprays to help with excess perspiration. Emotionally, it is soothing in times of change or grief.

Eucalyptus – Vapourise for a decongestant aid, as well as chest and throat infections

Fennel – Massage for body detoxification

Frankincense – Vapourise for asthma relief, or massage into the skin for anti-aging properties

Geranium – Use in a massage formula or cream to treat menopausal inconveniences like hot flushes. It is also a great emotional aid for depression and anxiety.

Ginger – Ideal for travel and morning sickness when inhaled, it can also be used as a massage aid for increasing blood flow.

Grapefruit – Vapourise or add to a bath for uplifting and mood-boosting benefits. Or, massage to relieve water retention.

Hyssop – Vapourise prior to meditation to clear the mind, or inhale to relieve cough and bronchitis

Jasmine – Heady and exotic and slightly sedative, it can aid sleep when vapourised or massaged and also promotes skin elasticity.

Juniper – Massage to treat UTIs and kidney inflammation

Lavender – Massage or vapourise to calm the nervous system and aid a good night’s sleep. It can also be applied neat for any kind of skin inflammation, burns, scars or insect bites

Lemon – Use in DIY beauty to brighten the complexion and mood

Lemongrass – Use in DIY deoderants and vapourise in your home to clear out unpleasant cooking odours

Lime – Vapourise or use in the bath to uplift the mood and kick depression in the booty

Mandarin – Use in DIY body products to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. Also known for soothing and calming, so great massaged or used in the bath.

Marjoram – Massage into tired or stiff muscles

Melissa – Vapourise to settle panic attacks and hyperanxiety

Myrrh – Use in a DIY cream to speed up the healing process or wounds and reduce inflammation

Neroli – Use in DIY beauty to stimulate the production of new cells and improve skin elasticity. It’s also great vapourised to calm the mind and relieve insomnia

Nutmeg – Massage to help with rheumatic pain, or vapourise to boost the immune system during the winter months

Orange – Bright and cheery to help combat depression, or massage to relieve constipation

Palmarosa – Massage into stiff muscles, or use in DIY beauty to promote sebum production in dry skin

Palo Santo – This holy wood essence is the perfect meditation aid, while also serving to relieve stomach aches and stress

Patchouli – Vapourise for calming the nervous system

Peppermint – Vapourise for helping with indigestion, bloating, nausea and stomach aches. Use in a DIY cream for skin irritation, itching and rashes.

Petitgrain – Use in DIY beauty for breakouts, or in the bath to calm nerves

Pine – Inhale to help with colds, catarrh and sore throats

Rose Absolute – Use in DIY beauty for skin rejuvenating and regenerating properties. Vapourise to aid sleep.

Rosemary – Use in DIY hair products to promote hair growth and tackle greasy hair and scalp. Massage to soothe over-worked muscles.

Rosewood – Vapourise for headaches and nausea, or use in the bath to calm without causing drowsiness (good to use prior to a big event)

Sage Dalmatian – Inhale to help with coughs and colds, or massage to help over-worked muscles.

Sandalwood – Massage or use in the bath to calm and comfort, or use in DIY beauty to help dry and dehydrated skin.

Tea Trea – Can be used neat on skin to antibacterialise wounds. It’s also great on veruccas and cold sores. Use in DIY cleaning products for antimicrobial properties

Vetivert – Use in DIY beauty to strengthen mature skin and promote new cell growth. Also vapourise to relax and settle the nervous system.

Ylang Ylang – Use in DIY beauty on oily skin, or massage for tranquility

Essential Oil Burner

How to Use Them

So, you’ve had a read of the list and you want to give some of these a go? Here’s how to use them in various ways:

  1. Bathing – Run a hot bath and add about 7-10 drops of the oil of choice. This could be 7-10 drops of one oil, or halve the quantity of 2 oils etc.
  2. Vapourisation – Add 10-12 drops of your oil(s) to an essential oil burner, ensuring water levels are always topped up. This is a great way to alter the ambient mood, serve as an air freshener or keep insects at bay.
  3. Inhalation – Add 4-5 drops of oil to almost boiling water, lean over the bowl and cover head with a towel. Keep eyes closed and breathe deeply for about 5-10 mins.
  4. Massage – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 2%
  5. DIY beauty – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 1%

Essential oils can be found in most health stores. Some great brands include Miaroma (Holland & Barrett), Tisserand, Fushi, Natural By Nature and Neal’s Yard.

Which essential oils are you using at the moment?

Photos via Sphynx & Unsplash

 

 

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Ecover

Before I lived in this apartment, I was in a shared house. In this shared house, the communal areas were cleaned by our gracious landlady. It was great – she did an incredible job and it meant that we the housemates never fought over who’s job it was to clean. Everything really was scrubbed to perfection and it made living with so many others relatively pleasant.

The only thing was, after she’d been there would be that familiar, lingering scent of bleach all up the stairwell and into the kitchen. I get it – I do – she was just sanitising the surfaces. This is what most people do. However I loathe the smell of bleach. I think I always have, but especially after working in a laboratory where bleach becomes a cling-on on the first day.

So the house would be clean, but the bleach would be etched into the surface of my nostrils for hours post. It would almost make me want to hibernate for a little bit before venturing out of my room. It physically made me nauseous and would induce a headache.

When I moved into an apartment with Jonny, I saw the opportunity to consciously think about which cleaning products we were going to use. Hardly the most exciting aspect of moving in with the person you love, but important none-the-less. There’s nothing romantic about sharing dinner and a glass of wine if your surroundings are disgusting, right?

By the time we came to shop for essentials for our totally unfurnished space, I had compiled a list of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that I was determined to place under our new kitchen sink. It is now a year later and bleach hasn’t even tried to make an appearance. Irritation no more!

Below are my essentials. I totally encourage you to consider these if you’re wanting to make the move to products that keep agitated skin and environmental pollution to a minimum.

  1. E-cloths – These are by far the best discovery. Long-lasting, machine washable cloths interwoven with the finest of fibre threads that remove bacteria from surfaces. All you need is cloth + water to do the job. No product required. I use this for wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows and mirrors.
  2. Ecover & Method – these are two cruelty-free, plant-based brands that produce a whole array of cleaning products. When water just won’t cut it, or for bathroom cleaning products, I reach for these natural brands. Most supermarkets will stock the basics from these brands, otherwise I recommend Ethical Superstore if you want to pick up some more specialist items.
  3. Baking soda & Vinegar – When the drain is blocked, instead of reaching for those life-destroying, vomit-inducing ‘solutions’ that annihilate everything in their path, try something more fun: baking soda and vinegar. These two will clean just about anything, from a kitchen sink to a carpet stain. Check this article out for great recipes.
  4. Michael’s Original – these scourers are made from biodegradable plant fibres and do an awesome job at everything from scrubbing limescale in a shower to cleaning root vegetables. These are great because there’s nothing to throw away from them…they just wear away over time.

I feel that a home should be a safe and sacred place. Treating it with kindness and respect is a great start. I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for cleaning, by any means, but I do care about my impact on the planet. Oh, and my health. For me, it starts here.

 

Minimalism

Minimalism is the trend of the moment and it’s easy to see why. Clear surroundings equal a clear mind. A de-cluttered mind is free to create its best work. You’ll likely know the obvious ones like cleaning out your closet and donating old books, but what about the more discrete sources of clutter? I find these accumulate quietly until the hum becomes so loud that I need to stop and have a serious sort-out for my own sanity.

Lately I’ve been on a mission to rid my aura of stagnant materials. I’ve been clearing out the old that applied to a previous version of myself and making way for the new to come in. This takes peaceful practice, but is aided by a great deal of spring cleaning. See below the five ways that I’ve worked to rid the clutter from the depths.

  1. It’s really easy to accumulate a whole host of subscriber emails that you totally ignore. These ping through as your day progresses, offering nothing of any worth to you and your journey. Unsubscribe. Don’t just delete, but actually take the action step to prevent another infiltrating your inbox the next time the sender is trying to sell you something. I recently had a mass eviction of all the crap and boy did it feel good.
  2. Assess your pantry. If you like cooking and are anything like me (inheriting my mother’s siege mentality and having permanently rammed store cupboards), you’ll keep buying new items, totally forgetting about all the near-expired produce at the back. It’s a bad habit to keep layering the new stuff at the front as you are a) wasting your cash by letting the good stuff go bad and b) not incorporating good kitchen feng shui. Its horrible opening your cupboards and having a momentary panic that everything is going to fall out. Who needs that much stuff?! And if you really are the keen cook, get it organised.
  3. Go through your documents. Those of us doing adulthood with at least some clarity or care will likely have a document wallet or file – that place where all the important stuff is kept. This is where I store bank statements, insurance details, bills, contracts and all that other important but unattractive stuff. Chances are, if you have one of these you’ll keep ramming in document after document until the thing is bulging at the seams. Do yourself a favour and go through it, shredding and disposing of all the old stuff. It applies to a time in the past and not where you’re at now. Why are you still holding on to a paper statement from 3 years ago when everything can be found electronically now anyway? And on that note, if you’re really committed to the minimalism thing, see where you can go paperless and do so.
  4. Cosmetic clutter. I realise that this won’t apply to everyone because some of us are more product-junkies than others. I used to work in the skincare industry and it was at a time in my life when I was beauty-obsessed. Over the past couple years I’ve let products run their course and empty. I’ve made a point to use what I have, rather than do what I used to – and what I’ve seen so many others do – which is to purchase a product and once the novelty has worn off repeat the process with another. I’m at a point in my life now where I really only want the bare minimum, high-quality products in my bathroom and make-up bag. It’s so much more streamlined only owning what I truly adore and need.
  5. Apps & Programs. This one I find really satisfying, I must admit. It’s essentially the process of going through the apps on my phone or programs on my computer and deleting what I don’t use. This will free up storage space and stop you having to keep sifting through unwanted items to get to that which is useful for you. Digital clutter is just as bad as material clutter.

We can think of material possessions as being valuable and contributing in a certain way up until a point. After that they’re simply a burden.

Value of possessions

Photo: Flickr

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I live in the city. Whilst I am never stuck for things to do, my heart lies in the vast outdoors and I spotted a perfect opportunity for bringing a very small piece of that to me. It started with some plastic.

I work in a laboratory. That means sterile rooms, cold surfaces, toxic chemicals and an enormous amount of waste. That’s a whole issue unto itself, really. But amongst this I saw what could be transformed into something beautiful. A diamond amongst the cold, hard plastic.

Welcome to my urban babylon. I used water sample bottles, but you could use yesterday’s milk carton. You will need: bottle/container of choice, a sharp knife, a plant or two, soil/compost, catcher tray:

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