It’s that sweet feeling that rolls over and through you when you catch a hint of roses on the breeze or when you discover the invigorating clean scent of citrus left on your fingertips after peeling an orange. These aromas seem to appeal as much to our psyche as to our physical sense of smell, often pulling up vivid memories or prompting a sigh of contentment. The distinctive scents we associate with roses and oranges come from their essential oils.
Essential oils are the natural, aromatic, volatile liquids found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. While all of these oils are fragrant—whether powerful, subtle, or intoxicating—they do much more than simply smell good. Essential oils have a long, illustrious record of being used in aromatherapy, massage therapy, emotional health, personal care, nutritional supplements, and hygiene throughout ancient history and into the present.
Essential oils are mentioned more than 200 times in the Bible. Ancient Egyptians used essential oils extensively in medical practices, beauty treatments, food preparation, and during religious ceremonies. The ancient Greeks and Romans used these oils to promote health and personal hygiene. Aromatic herbs were used by the ancient Chinese, Indian, and Persian civilizations. For many of these great nations, empires, and people, essential oils were as valuable as gold. The use of essential oils even survived through the Dark Ages as medicine and hygiene products and they helped protect many during the Black Plague.
Plants use essential oils to entice beneficial insects or to defend themselves against insects, mold, environmental conditions, and disease. They are vital for the plant to grow, live, evolve, and adapt. These same qualities of defense and well-being can readily be utilized by humans too. The use of essential oil adds natural fragrance to life, but more importantly bestows valuable theraputic properties.
These clean oils, free of the fatty acids and lipids found in other oils, are easily absorbed through the skin where they can go to work, each one useful in a myriad of aromatic and therapeutic ways. They can help with dandruff, acne, muscle pain, sleeping well, motion sickness, raising energy levels, and many more. Combining these aromatic and therapeutic qualities and blending different oils result in endless possibilities. There are also many ways to experience them.
Add 2 to 4 drops to a tissue and set them on a table or desk near you to determine what you like and find out which ones you might be overly sensitive to. Also do some research on any new essential oil you want to start using. Some can cause skin irritation or sun sensitivities and many should never be ingested.
Boil water and pour it in a bowl. Add 5 to 7 drops. Inhale the steam for colds, coughs, and flu or let the steam cleanse and refresh your face.
Mix 3 to 5 drops in a moistened clay mask and apply.
Add 5 to 10 drops to a bath. Combine with Epson salt or baking soda for extra benefits. There are oils for any type of bath you need, cleansing, energetic, relaxing, cathartic, or healing.
Apply 2 to 3 drops to a moist washcloth and rub briskly over skin before, during, or after shower.
Add 4 to 7 drops to a bowl of warm or cold water, depending on the injury. Moisten a wash cloth or small towel in the bowl and apply until it reaches room temperature and then repeat.
Fill a small water bottle with clean water. Nebulizers work best, but aren’t necessary. Add 8 to 10 drops of essential oils and shake well before spritzing in the air. Store in a cool dark area and shake well before spraying every time.
Add a teaspoon of lemon, eucalyptus, or lavender to laundry in the washer to cut odor, or add a couple drops to a washcloth in the dryer.
Several drops can be added to water or vinegar to make a potent cleanser, without harsh chemicals. Lemon, pine, grapefruit, rosemary, lavender, and tea tree or a combination of them are good choices. A couple drops of lemon oil will help with greasy dishes too.
Jacuzzis and Hot Tubs
Add 6 to 10 drops depending on size of Jacuzzi or hot tub. Avoid using oils that are known to be more irritating.
Essential oils should not be applied directly to skin without being diluted. For massage, dilute 10 drops in one ounce of carrier oil. There are many carrier oils from almond to grape oil.
Many essential oils deter pests like mosquitos. Add 2 to 4 drops of citronella, lemongrass, lavender, or eucalyptus oil to a tissue or cotton ball and set next to windows, doors, or on the table during a picnic. You can also use the spray bottle technique to spritz down clothes when hiking or camping.
Add to shampoos, creams, and lotions for extra benefits. Tea tree is a favorite for dandruff and skin blemishes. Blend oils for different beneficial effects. There are many ways to use them and a million reasons. The remedies credited to the use of essential oils deserve serious attention and study.
So, next time you pull out a stick of spearmint gum to freshen your breath, or put limes down the garbage disposal to clean and deodorize, remember those essential oils that you depend on regularly. They aren’t something exotic or foreign. They’re all around us, in many products that we take for granted. We need only learn how to fully employ the power contained in these natural oils.
Learn more about Charlie Pulsipher
(originally published July 9, 2012)