Pure essential oils have been used for centuries to heal and beautify.
Here are ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your daily life.
By Brigitte Mars
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils distilled from the leaves, flowers, fruits, roots and barks of plants for healing the body, mind and spirit. Humans are said to have an estimated 10 million cells for detecting scents. Fragrance molecules in the air we breathe travel along a neurological pathway to receptor sites in our brains, and eventually into our bloodstream.
In plants, essential oils help repel predator insects and attract beneficial pollinators. In the body, essential oils are believed to interrupt the oxygenation cycles of bacteria. Essential oils can kill germs, bacteria, fungi and viruses (but not friendly intestinal flora), and bacteria don’t appear to develop a resistance to essential oils.
Here are ways some essential oils are commonly used:
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is an ingredient in some deodorants, salves and soaps. It helps decongest sinuses and can be included in facial steams and chest rubs, and in massage oils to soothe muscles. Eucalyptus is one of the most antiseptic essential oils and can topically treat blisters, boils, burns and wounds.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) helps promote skin healing. It can be applied to burns, sunburns, pimples, cold sores and bug bites. A foot soak made of water scented with lavender essential oil is great for tired, achy feet. Lavender oil is often added to massage lotions for its soothing properties.
The word lavender is actually derived from the Latin verb lavare, meaning to wash, as this herb has a long tradition of cleansing uses. It’s one of the few oils you can directly apply to cuts, as it possesses both cleansing and antibacterial properties. Lavender is also a pleasant addition to tea, water, cookies, brownies and butter.
Lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil is an antidepressant that helps energize and uplift. It also relieves irritability and insomnia.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a refreshing ingredient in bath formulas, soaps, facial steams, masks, toners and aftershaves. It’s also found in shampoos, conditioners and hair rinses because of its energizing properties. Peppermint freshens the breath and is often an ingredient in toothpastes, lozenges and mouthwashes.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oil can soothe sore muscles. Adding a few drops of it to a clean hairbrush imparts beautiful shine and fragrance and stimulates hair growth. Inhaling rosemary essential oil aids memory and calms anxiety. Banckes’ Herbal, written in 1525, advises: “Take the flowres and put them in a chest amonge youre clothes or amonge bokes and moughtes [moths] shall not hurte them.”
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil is distilled from the plant’s leaves and is an excellent antifungal/antiseptic agent. The oil is often added to facial steams, cleansers, soaps, toners, lotions, moisturizers, salves and bathwater. It helps relieve skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, yeast infections like diaper rash, and fungal infections like jock itch, ringworm and athlete’s foot. It also deters mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Tea tree oil is found in many shampoos, conditioners and hair rinses because it gets rid of dandruff and helps prevent head lice.
Here are a few ways to bring the fragrance of aromatherapy into your daily life. You can use the suggested oils (listed in parentheses) by themselves or in combination. Just mix together—but don’t exceed—the total number of drops of essential oil per recipe.
Bath: Add 2 to 8 drops essential oil (rosemary, lavender) to a hot bath. Mix well before entering the tub so the oil won’t stick to your body.
Bath Salts: Add ¼ teaspoon essential oil (rosemary, lavender) to ½ cup each of sea salt, Epsom salts and baking soda. Stir well. Add one handful per filled bath.
Footbath: Add 5 to 15 drops essential oil (lemon, peppermint, rosemary) to 2 gallons of very warm water.
Mouthwash: Add 1 to 2 drops essential oil (peppermint, spearmint, tea tree) to ¼ cup filtered water.
Shower: Add 8 drops essential oil (peppermint, rosemary) to a washcloth and vigorously scrub the skin with it.
Inhalation: Place 5 drops essential oil (eucalyptus, tea tree) in a basin filled with 2 cups freshly boiled water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the steamy aroma.
Tooth powder: Add 15 drops essential oil (peppermint, clove, cinnamon, tea tree) to 4 ounces baking soda and 1 ounce sea salt.
Fill any room with tantalizing fragrance by purchasing an aroma-therapy diffuser.
Adding essential oils to your life can be refreshing and therapeutic. But aromatherapy can also be as simple as stopping often to smell
Brigitte Mars is a Boulder herbalist and nutritional consultant with more than 40 years’ experience. She is also a book and DVD author. Visit www.brigittemars.com.
The quality of the essential oil is imperative. Be sure to buy only pure essential plant oils and not synthetic imitations. Only pure essential plant oils are therapeutic. Refrigerate citrus oils as they have a shelf life of only about a year.
Avoid ingesting essential oils and keep them out of the reach of children and away from light, heat, plastics and metals. Some oils can stain clothing and damage furniture finishes. Others, like lemon and bergamot, are photosensitive and can cause sunburn if used topically and exposed to natural light.
Use essential oils only in well–ventilated areas, as headaches can result from overexposure. Keep essential oils away from mucous membranes and broken skin.
During pregnancy, essential oils considered safe for topical use are small amounts of chamomile, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, peppermint, rose, rosemary and ylang-ylang. Some oils are considered toxic and should not be used during pregnancy. When in doubt, avoid use.
Nearly all essential oils are diluted in carrier oils like almond or grape seed, which don’t have strong smells on their own. Lavender and tea tree oils are two of the few oils that can be used undiluted.
It’s best to consult a health-care professional or certified aromatherapist before using essential oils.—B.M.
Here are two places to buy high-quality essential oils, herbs and other products:
Apothecary & Supply
1227 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-443-8878, www.rebeccasherbs.com
Herbs & Arts
2015 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-388-2544, www.herbsandarts.com