The Benefits of… Essential Oils
Essential oils have become one of my most favourite things in the past few months. They are most commonly used in Aromatherapy and Perfumery but these natural botanicals, when used with proper guidance, are nature’s little “miracles” in a bottle.
I have so been enjoying learning more about them and experimenting with different combinations in my electric burners. Yes I now have 2! One for the living area and another really gorgeous Scentstation from Aromatic Apocathery in my newly redecorated “boudoir” (more on my bedroom transformation in a future post!). The amazing ambience created by the smells is one thing but I have also noticed a definite calming or invigorating influence when using certain oils. I thought I might share some of my findings as well as some of the multiple uses with an informative article.
Aseyah from Aseyah R kindly contributed towards this interesting article…
Although there has been a resurgence in complimentary treatments in recent years, the use of aromatic plants is nothing new. Plants and herbs have been used throughout the ancient world – by the Greeks, the Romans, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Chinese and all native cultures, for various purposes. These include medicinal, culinary, meditation, cosmetics and perfumery. In the 1930s, the term aromatherapy was coined.
An essential oil is just one of the tools employed by an aromatherapist to effect a positive change. They are used for their therapeutic properties, which differ from oil to oil. For example due to its chemical composition, lavender lavandula angustifolia essential oil, has the following therapeutic actions: analgesic, anti-convulsive, antidepressant, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericide, carminative, cicatrisant (promotes formation of scar tissue), cytophylactic (encourages growth of skin cells), decongestant, deodorant, diuretic, fungicide, hypotensive, nervine, restorative, sedative, vulnerary (prevents tissue degeneration and promotes healing of wounds). Now that is something worth learning more about!
“The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage everyday” – Hippocrates
So, why use pure essential oils? It is not fully understood why plants produce essential oils, but it is thought that one of the reasons is give themselves immunity from invading pathogens. It is these immune enhancing properties that we want to bring into our bodies and environment to enhance our well-being. Choosing the right essential oil for the right job is vital and the result can be a more relaxed you and a home free of toxic chemicals that can negatively impact your health.
There are various ways in which one could easily incorporate essential oils into your life.
Massage: used in a treatment, essential oils help to bring the body back into balance, thus enabling it to heal itself. Circulation is stimulated, lymph drainage is facilitated, range of motion is addressed and the immune system is strengthened. Blend 10-12 drops of essential oil to 30ml of carrier massage oil. DO NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS NEAT (except Lavender)
Baths: helps to alleviate physical ailments and encourages relaxation – bath salts are great for this! Generally add no more than 10 drops of essential oil to running bath water.
Inhalations: for congestion and relief from stuffy noses and hayfever symptoms
Vapourisers: using a vapouriser in your home will help to spread the anti-microbial molecules of essential oils into the atmosphere, thereby helping to kill off airborne microbes. To scent a room, mix three or four drops of essential oils with a little water in the dish. Then switch on the electric burner or light the tea light candle underneath. An oil burner is known as a “vapouriser”.
Room sprays: a natural alternative to the artificial fragrances found in a can these days and with added therapeutic benefits. Add two drops of essential oil to 150ml warm water in a clean spray bottle.
Body products: body oils, creams, ointment, toothpaste, shampoo, handwash, soap and gels – for pampering and wounds. To use as a body lotion add five drops of essential oil to 10ml of a neutral, unscented body lotion. To use as a facial moisturiser add two drops of essential oil into 4ml of neutral, unscented lotion.
Pain relief: a good blend for localized topical application can help ease body aches and pains.
Cleaning products: bathroom cleaners, laundry powders, counter tops and floors.
Here is what some of the most popular essential oils can do for you:
Basil – Uplifting, awakening and soothing.
Bergamot – Powerfully uplifting for stress and depression.
Camomile – Very relaxing and soothing. Sleep-inducing.
Cardamon – Restorative. Alleviates fatigue and apathy.
Clary sage – Soothing and restorative. Clears the mind.
Cypress – Revitalising, astringent and decongestant.
Eucalyptus – Antiseptic and highly decongestant. Respiratory aid for colds, also healing.
Frankincense – Restorative, calming and relaxing
Geranium – Relaxing and antidepressant. Mood-lifting and relieves aching muscles.
Grapefruit – Cleansing, refreshing, detoxifying and purifying. Relieves nervous tension.
Jasmine – Very soothing, aphrodisiac and antidepressant. Boosts self-esteem, lifts depression.
Juniper – A powerful diuretic, antiseptic and astringent that is revitalising and detoxifying.
Lavender – Highly antiseptic, soothing and healing. Treatment of burns & bites.
Lemon – Astringent, healing, reviving and uplifting. A mood booster.
Lemongrass – Antiseptic and antibacterial. Purifies the air, relieves headaches. Insect repellent.
Lime – Uplifting, reviving, refreshing, antiseptic. Helps relieve anxiety.
Mandarin – Calming and relaxing.
Majoram – Strongly sedative, warming and comforting. Combined with lavender to ease insomnia.
Myrtle – Detoxifying and decongestant.
Neroli – Profoundly uplifting, also antiseptic and regenerating. Calms nerves.
Orange – Calming and antidepressant. Skin tonic and a hair strengthener.
Patchouli – Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and antiseptic. Treats skin disorders.
Peppermint – Antiseptic and stimulating. Relieves pain.
Pine – Energising, decongestant and toning. Clears out respiratory tract.
Rose – Astringent, anti-ageing, aphrodisiac and relaxant. Relieves stress, restores confidence.
Rosemary – Stimulating, revitalising and antiseptic. Clears the mind and aids concentration
Sandalwood – Balancing, aphrodisiac and antiseptic. Helps with coughs and sore throats
Tea tree – Antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and invigorating. Treats skin problems (especially acne).
Ylang ylang – Relaxing. Tones skin and induces a sense of well-being.
Tips for the safe use of essential oils
- Store all essential oils in dark glass bottles and keep them out of direct, because they are damaged by heat, light and humidity.
- Essential oils should not be taken internally, they are only for external use.
- Care should always be taken when using essential oils and it is not advisable to use them neat – always in dilution. Blend essential oils with a carrier oil or a neutral, unscented lotion before applying to the skin. (Lavender is the only exception to this rule as it can be applied undiluted to soothe insect bites and stings as well as burns and spots.)
- Do not let essential oil get into your eyes. If this happens by accident, rinse with milk or vegetable oil and go and see a doctor immediately.
- Many essential oils are photosensitisers, which means that they increase the skin’s reaction to the sun, making it more likely to burn, For this reason, you should not apply essential oils before going into the sun esp citrus oils.
- Certain essential oils may also irritate sensitive skins. If irritation occurs, stop using the oil immediately.
- Is is not advisable to use essential oils for a prolonged period of time, because they can build up in the body.
- Essential oils should be kept out of reach of children.
- Essential oils are flammable and should therefore not be used near naked flame. For this reason, candles and oil burners (vapourisers) should be placed on heat-resistant surfaces and should not be left unattended. Avoid using metal candle- holders and burners that get very hot.
- Pregnant women should not use essential oils, without first consulting a doctor.
- Aromatherapy massage should not be performed on people who are ill or who have torn muscles or broken bones.
- Always ensure that you use pure essential oils and not fragrance oils, which have no therapeutic benefit.
Please note that this article is in no way medical advice and you should contact your health practitioner for advice on treating serious medical conditions.
Aseyah is a well-known aromatherapist based in Cape Town. She owns her own aromatherapy shop called Aseyah R in Plumstead where she sells essential oils to therapists and the public.
References: The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second edition – Savatore Battaglia
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