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.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Massage – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 2%
- 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