A Well-Oiled Approach

3rd August 2018

If you think essential oils exist just to make your bath smell nice, think again. Within plant structures, they provide protection against predators and disease, and also play a role in plant pollination. They’re seriously powerful. And when they’re extracted – either by distillation or cold-pressing – their potency carries forward and can be used for a myriad of purposes. Natural healers have turned to aromatherapy – the therapeutic use of essential oils – throughout history, for the many antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and mood-enhancing effects the oils offer. Lisa Botwright tells us more…

1. They make us cleverer…
For centuries the ancient Greeks and Romans exalted rosemary, and, in the village of Acciaroli, Italy, consuming it has even been linked to longevity. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says,“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance,” and we now know that rosemary oil reduces cortisol levels in saliva and calms the nervous system. As rosemary increases the blood flow to the head and brain, it improves concentration and stimulates mental activity. It also has an uplifting effect on mood. Add three drops of rosemary essential oil to a diffuser steamer for mental clarity.

2. They aid healthful hygiene…
For an all-purpose kitchen cleaner that will also fill your home with a heavenly, healthful scent, mix ten drops of sweet orange oil and ten drops of lavender oil in a spray bottle filled with distilled water. Similarly, improve your bathroom-cleaning experience (nobody really likes being stuck in an enclosed space with acrid chemical fumes filling the nostrils, do they?) by making a natural soft scrub for baths, tiles and toilet: combine 250g bicarbonate of soda with125g non-iodised salt, 125g soda crystals and 6 drops sweet orange oil. Mix all the ingredients together into a bowl, place into a jar and shake.
Once a week, dampen your bathroom surfaces slightly, sprinkle your mixture generously and let it sit for ten minutes. Scrub with a brush (or old toothbrush for those hard-to-reach crevices) and rinse.

3. They make make travelling easier…
If you’re planning a long-haul holiday or business trip, it’s worth thinking about using essential oils to encourage the body back into its natural rhythms. Jet-lag is caused when you fly over two or more time zones, and the body’s circadian rhythms get thrown off balance so your internal time clock does not match up with external time. Using sedative oils such as lavender can make sleeping much easier and more restful – add a few drops to your travel pillow. When you wake, to zing your mind into daytime recovery, massage a blend of carrier oil and peppermint oil into the back of your neck. Peppermint oil can also be used to combat travel sickness: add a few drops onto a tissue and inhale to help clear your head and settle your stomach.

4. They make brilliant first aid essentials…
Before you reach for the paracetamol or an over-the-counter antiseptic cream, think about using essential oils to build a natural first-aid kit with a difference. Lavender oil and tea tree oil have powerful anti-bacterial properties and can be used to clean up cuts and grazes. Mix with a carrier oil first, or add a few drops to the bath. Both these oils can also be used to sooth insect bites and stings – add to some aloe vera gel for extra-potency. For headaches, combine equal quantities of peppermint oil, lavender oil and a carrier oil (coconut, olive, sweet almond or argan) and massage into the temples.

5. They make us happier…
Is the secret to happiness under our noses? Aromatherapy oils and massage are known to improve your mood, so why not give it a go? If you need a pick-me-up, try sniffing citrus, the scent of oranges and lemons – those vitamin C-packed fruits that are believed to be uplifting – for a boost of energy and alertness. Sweet orange oil is is naturally revitalising and helps with low-mood, nervous tension, stress, anger, fatigue, and anxiety. Start your day with an inspiring dose of citrus by sniffing a drop or two from a tissue or adding five to six drops oil into a diffuser. Geranium essential oil is another mood-stabiliser, said to restore emotional balance, relieve stress and alleviate mood swings and irritability.

6. They repel nasty bugs and creepy crawlies…
Scared of spiders? Did you know that they hate peppermint oil? For a kinder way to deter the creepy arachnids, fill a spray bottle with water, add 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil, and spray the peppermint water in the cracks and gaps where spiders can enter your home. Alternatively, add one or two drops of peppermint oil to cotton balls and place these on your windowsills. Similarly, citronella essential oil is a known mosquito deterrent. Combine several drops with your chosen carrier oil and spread it on your body like lotion, or add some to a spray bottle with water and cover your skin, hair and clothes.

It takes large amounts of raw materials and painstaking extraction processes to obtain tiny amounts of essential oil. Needless to say, this is reflected in their price. If the cost of an essential oil sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and it won’t have the same efficacy as a quality product. Use a trustworthy brand that offers pure, ethically sourced oils, such as Sanatio Naturalis (sanationaturalis.com). The advice, according to the Professional Association of Complementary Health Professionals (complementaryhealthprofessionals.co.uk) is to choose a reputable supplier and get to know what quality oils smell like.

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