There are certain things that trigger memories in your mind. Sometimes it’s a song or a piece of clothing. But more than likely, it’s a scent; the olfactory system has the strongest link to memory. This correlation can trigger memories of experiences and places, but it can also trigger your body into a specific state of being. Encourage restfulness, healing, increased energy, and more with essential oils.
Determining how to best incorporate essentials oils into your lifestyle can be a bit overwhelming. How do you use them? What does each scent do? And why do they work so well? Ultimately the oils might help ease the stress of it all. But in the meantime, here’s a quick-start guide to using essential oils at home.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oils extracted from plant parts such as leaves, flowers, needles, roots, seeds, resin, bark, rinds, berries, wood, and grass. “It takes nearly eight million small jasmine blossoms, handpicked on the day the flowers open, to produce just over two pounds of superior essential oil,” says Stephanie Tourles, a certified aromatherapist and holistic esthetician among other designations.
HOW DO I USE THEM?
“To capture the aromas of nature—whether it be the fresh scent of the ocean or sparkling citrus to freshen the bathroom, or heady jasmine or distinctive gardenia in the living room or bedroom—you can purchase a wide array of essential oils, which can be diffused into different machines or diffusers,” says fragrance expert Sue Phillips, founder of the Tribeca, New York City–based The Scentarium. Alternatively, you can soak cotton balls with the essential oils and apply them to cold lightbulbs, she adds. “Then when you switch the light on, the heat from the light bulbs will diffuse the fragrance and will waft in the air.”
WHAT SHOULD I NOT DO WITH THEM?
“Always dilute the oil if you’re going to apply it to your skin or someone else’s skin,” explains herbalist and aromatherapist Lisa Akers. “About 1 to 2 percent essential oil in a carrier oil like coconut, avocado, olive, or jojoba is best. Water won’t dilute the essential oils, because they don’t mix. Use an oil, glycerin, or milk to get a good, diluted oil.” And most importantly, do not ingest the oils. “Don’t take essential oils internally unless under the direction of a physician or trained aromatherapist or herbalist. Most essential oils are corrosive and can cause liver damage. The damage isn’t seen for months or even years later, which makes this a real concern that people aren’t considering when they drop that lemon essential oil in their morning water.”
WHAT ARE THE BEST ESSENTIAL OILS FOR EVERYDAY USE?
Lavender. This do-all essential oil is a powerhouse when it comes to helping your body inside and out. Research shows that lavender is the go-to aroma for relaxation as it lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature—but that’s not all. Studies also suggest that it helps alleviate insomnia as well as eczema. “A few drops of [diluted] lavender sprinkled on your pillow or applied to your temples will help relax you and cause a good night’s sleep,” says Phillips. “I love lavender-filled eye sachets, which can be placed over your eyes and you will immediately drift off to sleep.”
Peppermint Oil. Headaches be gone! “A few drops of peppermint oil applied to the temples, wrists, and forehead will alleviate headaches,” says Phillips. Another unconventional use for peppermint oil is to get rid of spiders. “Take about fifteen drops of peppermint essential oil and add a cup of water in a spray bottle,” she says. “Shake well. Gently spray around the corners, window frames, and doorways and the spiders will disappear. They hate the smell of peppermint!”
Eucalyptus Oil. The common cold is no match for eucalyptus. “Eucalyptus is used for treating the common cold and all its side effects like coughing, mucous, sinus infections, and a sore throat,” says acupuncture physician Elizabeth Trattner. “Eucalyptus oil also has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacertial effects. My favorite use for eucalyptus is during a cold. I like to take a bowl of hot water and create a tent with a towel over my head draped around the bowl. I will put a few drops of eucalyptus oil in and inhale the steam. It works wonders for any cold or virus and opens my respiratory passages. I would use this oil in a diffuser or a few drops in a bowl of hot water.”