If you've ever heard anyone talk about essential oils, and you aren’t sure what they are, I think it’s safe to assume you imagined something natural, maybe something that smells good and quite possibly something kind of hippie-ish. At least that’s pretty much what I had thought when I first heard the term. And to be honest, the hippie-ish part of it sort of turned me off. I may be a lot of things, but hippie is not one of them. In fact, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s ever met me in my life that would say I have even one molecule of hippie in me. So let me tell you what essential oils actually are, and how this non-hippie, fashion-forward & accessory-obsessed, high-strung New York City girl became semi-obsessed and now can’t live without them.
In a nutshell, essential oils are aromatic compounds found in the flowers, stems, seeds, roots, bark and other parts of plants. They occur naturally and are what give plants their beautiful, fragrant and distinctive smells. They also play an important role in protecting plants and in plant pollination. In addition to these benefits to plants, essential oils have been used for health-care practices, beauty treatments and even food preparation for hundreds of years.
Fast forward to today, where essential oils are used for a wide variety of emotional and physical wellness applications. I was first introduced to them by my sister…she is one of those people who live a really healthy lifestyle out west: vegan, master Pilates & yoga instructor, competitive triathlete. You get the idea. Whereas I’m the one who was living the complete opposite lifestyle in NYC. Fast-food on the go, rarely exercising, crazy high-pressure job as a TV producer working insane hours, raising two kids as a generally harried single mom.
I first agreed to try the essential oils my sister raved about because I had recently gotten divorced and yearned for a good, solid night’s sleep. I mean, who doesn’t? I bought a diffuser and two bottles of oil – lavender (because even I had heard about how lavender was supposed to be calming) and a blend called Serenity, quite possibly just because I loved the name (and maybe also because it reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where George Costanza was yelling “serenity now!”) I admit that I was surprised they worked: I actually did experience a sense of calm once the diffuser was on, and I also began sleeping better.
It wasn’t long before I was hooked and using essential oils more and more in my daily life, for myself and my kids. I was seeing results that just couldn’t be denied, and while I hated to admit that my earth-mama Grateful Dead-loving sister might be right about these things, I was secretly really enjoying them!
And that brings us to today. I’ve come to love and use essential oils so much, in all aspects of my life – including beauty and health, that I have quit my 20+ year career in TV, and have joined my sister in teaching others about the uses and benefits of essential oils. Crazy? Maybe. But don’t knock it til you try it.
How to Use Essential Oils:
There are three ways to use essential oils: aromatically, topically and internally. Aromatically is basically utilizing the benefits of the oils through the sense of smell. A great and easy way to do this is by using a diffuser – you generally just add water and a few drops of oil(s) and it mists out into the air. I love having diffusers all around my home, so that I can have different scents depending on what’s needed: for example, I love using calming and relaxing oils in my bedroom to create a feeling of peacefulness (Lavender, Serenity, Peace, Ylang Ylang) and clean, citrus oil in the kitchen to keep things smelling fresh (Lemon, Lemongrass, Wild Orange, Purify). I use different oils in the kids’ bedrooms (Balance is a favorite) and generally mix things up when I’m working to keep myself motivated (Elevation, Citrus Bliss, Motivate).
Even if you don’t have access to a diffuser, you can still easily use essential oils aromatically by just putting a few drops right into your hands, rubbing them together and cupping them over your face while inhaling deeply. If you’re in your car, put a drop on a cotton ball in your air vents, or you can combine oils and water in a spray bottle and use on your sheets, furniture and carpets.
Using essential oils topically means pretty much what it sounds like. You literally apply the oils topically to your body. The bottoms of your feet are a very common place to apply the oils, because of the pores and how quickly the oils can be absorbed into your body. A general rule of thumb is, when in doubt, apply to the soles of your feet. But if you are using oils to help relieve or support something specific, say digestive discomfort, head/neck tension or tired achy muscles, you can literally use the oils right on your stomach (DigestZen is a favorite in our family), forehead/neck (Peppermint, PastTense) or legs, shoulders or back (Deep Blue). Other topical uses can be adding a few drops to a bath or your daily lotion/moisturizer, or putting a few drops in water and soaking a cloth or towel to make a cold compress.
Essential oils can also be used and taken internally, and they offer many health benefits along with their flavoring, including as dietary supplements. My daily vitamins and supplements are infused with essential oils, so I know I’m already getting just the right amount to offer me the health benefits I’m looking for without having to measure out dozens of oils drop by drop, but I do like to add a drop or two to my smoothies or a glass of water throughout the day, for a little something extra. Because essential oils are so potent, if you’re manually adding them to food, it’s important to start off with just a drop – one drop can go a very long way. To put things in perspective, when I bake brownies (which I basically started doing just so that I could try adding oils to see what kind of delicious flavors I could make), I add about 8 drops of peppermint oil to an entire batch. That’s enough to flavor them all! Or if you’re cooking and want to use oregano or another more potent oil, for example, it’s recommended that you dip a toothpick into the oil and start with that, then add more depending on taste.
So in a nutshell, there are numerous therapeutic and health benefits to essential oils - plus many of them taste good, to boot! The expression we advocates like to use is, "no matter what the problem is, there's an oil for that!" And it's totally true!
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