Essential Oils: An Intro for Beginners
I think essential oils are something I just kind of fell into. I started seeing more and more oil diffusers pop up online and in stores (some of them looked real fancy), and I wanted to see what they were all about. Plus, I tend to frequent the beauty section at Whole Foods and not gonna lie, their impressive essential oil collection definitely caught my eye. Once I got myself a diffuser and some oils to try, man I was hooked
What are essential oils?
An essential oil is simply a highly concentrated plant extract. Some come from seeds while others are extracted from leaves. Because essential oils are so concentrated they are amazingly powerful and a little bit goes a long way. Although they seem to be trendy right now, essential oils are by no means a new thing. In fact, they’ve been used by myriad cultures around the world for centuries.
Cool factoid for ya: The earliest evidence of human knowledge of the healing properties of plants was found in Lascaux, located in the Dordogne region in France. Cave paintings found there suggest the use of medicinal plants in every day life that have been carbon dated as far back as 18,000 B.C.E!! Pretty groovy, huh?
What are the benefits of using essential oils?
There are many therapeutic and health benefits associated with essential oils. Different oils have different properties, but here are some examples of what they can be used for:
Boost immunity and cold & flu symptoms
Support (and even improve) digestion
Improve mood and boost energy levels
Reduce emotional stress and anxiety
Relax your body and soothe sore muscles
Clean your home
Heal skin conditions
Promote restful sleep
How do you use essential oils?
Aromatically. I think the easiest way to get started using essential oils is with an oil diffuser (I have this one, but there are a ton of options depending on your budget and what size/look you want). Not only is this a great way to add an aroma to a room (in a non-toxic way), but you also benefit from the specific properties of whatever oil you use - diffusing certain essential oils can be stimulating while diffusing others can be calming and soothing. Try adding lavender to an oil diffuser to relieve stress and improve sleep, or use grapefruit oil to improve mood and relieve depression. In addition to emotional benefits, diffusing essential oils can purify air of some airborne pathogens.
Topical. Another option? Apply a diluted essential oil to your skin. It’s not recommended to apply essential oils directly to your skin unless diluted first because they are so highly concentrated and may cause irritation. I buy essential oil blends that come in rollerballs for easy application (you can also find empty rollerball bottles and make your own blends. If you decide to go the DIY route, you do need a carrier oil such as jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil or grapeseed oil in addition to your essential oil(s) of choice. Using a rollerball, you can apply your oil blend directly to your skin. Some popular spots are: wrists, behind ears, temples, neck, crown of head, soles and top of feet, ankles, over vital organs, abdomen, upper back and crown of head.
Add to other products. If you make any of your own household or beauty products, essential oils are a great way to add a nice scent and additional benefits. For example, I love to make my own household cleaner and add a few drops of lemon oil because a) it smells fresh and clean, and b) it’s naturally astringent, detoxifying, antiseptic, disinfectant and anti-fungal. I also like adding peppermint oil to a bath or foot soak because it reduces muscle and joint pain, and since it contains menthol it creates a very nice and soothing cooling sensation.
What are my favorite essential oils?
So glad you asked. I like to switch it up, but my favorites are lemon and lavender. I always have a bottle of each of those on hand. Some of my other go-to's are:
Eucalyptus: Improves respiratory issues like bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies. Also invigorating and purifies the body.
Peppermint: Supports digestion, boosts energy, fever reducer, headache and muscle pain relief.
Oregano: Powerful antimicrobial properties, can kill fungus and help you kick a cold fast.
Sandalwood: Natural aphrodisiac that improves libido.
Rose: Incredible for reducing skin inflammation and for creating glowing skin.
Some final tips for newbies
OK, so now you know what essential oils are, what the benefits are and a little bit about how to use them. If you are ready to jump in, great! I suggest starting with a diffuser. These guys range in price from $20-ish dollars to a couple hundred, and different diffusers can permeate different size spaces. Choose what you like and what you think you need... but honestly there is no need to dish out a lot of money. The less expensive ones work just fine.
And then the fun part: pick your poison. For newbs I think all you need is maybe 1-3 oils (don't go too crazy when you are starting off). If you are using them for mood and room scent, it's nice to maybe pick a daytime oil (something energizing, invigorating and one that will boost mental clarity/brain function) and an evening option (something relaxing, calming and one that will aid in restful sleep).
Unfortunately, not all oils are created equal and sometimes it's hard to know what you're really getting. The goal here is to buy truly "pure" products in order to reap the therapeutic benefits. Click here for some tips on what to look for when buying oils.
For people already into essential oils, how do you like to use them and which ones are your personal favorites? Please let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!