Ok, so I need to come clean here. Three years ago I knew absolutely NOTHING about essential oils: I mean literally nothing! Even when I first started to get involved with Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic (NYRO), although I knew they used something called “essential oils” in their cosmetic products, to me that simply meant they were using natural fragrance instead of synthetic ones – I still didn’t really ‘get it’.
…and then I got totally addicted to using essential oils! (Well, let’s face it, there are worse addictions out there).
It all really started when a friend bought me a diffuser as a birthday present. I have to confess it sat on my sideboard looking pretty but not doing a lot for quite some time: I don’t think I really understood what it COULD do to be honest. It was only once I’d been working with NYRO for some time that I thought I really ought to do some research into these oils: I realised you can put them in a diffuser (light bulb moment!!) realised they have endless health benefits, & realised I absolutely love them!!
These little bottles of oils can improve both mental & physical health. They can help with relaxation and improve your sleep, but they can also help revitalise & restore energy. Amongst them you can find remedies for headaches, digestive issues, cold & flu symptoms, immune disorders…the list is endless!
SO WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
“Aromatic essential oils are highly concentrated essences derived from plants”.
It might be from the dried seeds, from the petals, the roots or the bark, or even from the peel or the resin. In every case, the oils that are extracted can be used for #naturalhealing – & have been used in this way historically since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks & Romans.
It all sounds a bit random until you look into it a little more. These oils are actually the plant’s protection mechanism: they attract pollinators (therefore ensure the plant’s life cycle continues), & they fend off fungi & bacteria (therefore safeguarding against disease). So if they afford plants all these ‘health’ advantages by natural means, why shouldn’t they enhance our health too? Well here’s the thing: they actually do! According to aromatherapy, essential oils “harness a plant’s therapeutic properties to restore balance to the mind, body & spirit”. So these oils really are natural, holistic healers…& they smell fab as well!
HOW DO THEY WORK?
“Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any other of our senses, and recognition of smell is immediate. Other senses like touch and taste must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain, whereas the olfactory response is immediate, extending directly to the brain.
“This is the only place where our central nervous system is directly exposed to the environment” (von Have, Serene Aromatherapy).
Our sense of smell can evoke powerful memories and emotions. When we smell something, signals are sent to the olfactory bulbs, and then on to the olfactory cortex of the brain. This is a part of the limbic system, which is involved in the forming of emotional responses (especially fear responses) and memories, organising and storing memories, and regulating emotional responses.
In very simple terms this is why two people may have such wildly different reaction to, for example, lavender. For you just a hint of lavender might evoke pure happiness as it takes you back to making cookies in your beloved grandma’s kitchen after a long walk through lavender fields. For others it may evoke memories of a nasty, grumpy old lady who lived next door & was always moaning at the neighbourhood kids (& had lavender in her garden)! The wonderful thing about essential oils is that many scents are interchangeable, as the qualities overlap from one oil to another. This means you can first see which oils might offer you the ‘remedy’ you are seeking, & then choose from amongst them which scent you prefer.
There are endless possibilities: if you research further into aromatherapy you will see that you can quite feasibly create a complete medicine cabinet of essential oils to use as remedies for a myriad of health conditions. A full discussion of these would take a month’s worth of blogging, and – if I’m honest – would probably lead to information overload & the sort of overwhelm I’m trying to help you to prevent!! So I am focusing instead on just one area: the use of oils to enhance your mood.
HOW CAN WE USE THEM?
There are many ways in which we can utilise essential oils:
- Inhalation (on a tissue, with steam inhalation, through a bath, through compresses, through a diffuser)
- Absorption into the skin (through massage oils, in ointments, balms & creams, through a bath or shower)
The simplest way to lift your mood with essential oils is through ‘tissue inhalation’: simply popping a few drops of your chosen oil on a tissue & then inhaling deeply. This is great as you can take the tissue ‘out & about’ and have a little mood enhancer in your pocket! At night you can use the same principle by sprinkling a few drops of your chosen relaxing oil on to your pillow (or by using a commercial ‘pillow mist’ containing essential oils, but please do always read the label to ensure all other ingredients are also natural). Using bath or shower products containing essential oils is another great option: the combination of the warm water, the steam & the oils can be incredibly powerful. You might like a citrusy smell to wake you up in your morning shower, or lavender or rose to relax you in the bath at night.
My own chosen preference is using a diffuser. I simply love the way that a diffuser can utterly transform the feeling in a room within moments of switching it on. Again, you can choose the mood you are after…
- A zingy “wake up call” to get you going in the morning
- Focus to help you work or to help the kids study
- A relaxing atmosphere to settle everyone when the kids come in from school
If you get out there & start trying out some oils I defy you not to get hooked! [I do appreciate that it can seem overwhelming at first, so if you‘d like a little help getting started, do check out my brief guide to Essential Oils & Moods here]. Regardless of whether you actually believe in the benefits of aromatherapy, the very fact that the diffuser is ‘there’ and is gently emitting its vapours in to your space means that you will start to breathe more deeply as you become aware of the aromas. As you notice the fragrance you will breathe more deeply; as you breathe more deeply you will become more aware of your breath…hence you are breathing mindfully without even trying.
So, the long & short of it is that essential oils are one of the most natural (& also one of the safest) ways to enhance both physical & mental wellbeing. So what are you waiting for (& what have you got to lose)? Go on, give them a go…
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy essential oils, & that’s pretty much the same thing!