Several years ago, I travelled to Italy with a group of 23 high school students. The trip was 2 ½ weeks long and we covered a LOT of ground as we moved through Tuscany, Florence and then Rome. Days were long and busy and, not surprisingly, student after student came down sick. Head colds, sore throats, stomach bugs…you name it and they had it! We (the three chaperones) were concerned because we were together (often in enclosed buses) all day, every day and we knew that if WE got sick, it would be impossible to supervise the students and participate in all of the amazing activities and excursions we had planned.
One day at lunch, one of the other chaperones pulled out a small, amber bottle and instructed us to use an essential oil,
called Thieves (Thieves is a blend of oils, distributed by a company called Young Living). He told us to put a drop in our palms, rub our hands together and inhale it. He also told us to rub our hands over our throats and the back of our necks. I thought this sounded strange, but at that point, I would have tried just about anything to avoid the dreaded stomach bug that was rapidly moving through our group!?
We did this every day for the remaining week of our trip and, thankfully, all three of us remained healthy. Perhaps it was good luck, perhaps the oil gave our immune systems a boost…whatever the case, my curiosity was peaked and I considered the possibility that essential oils might be a useful tool to have in my “wellness toolbox.”
Upon my return, I did lots of research, tried many different essential oils (and several different brands of oils) and I became absolutely hooked! Five years later, I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I don’t use essential oils in some way. They have become an integral part of my wellness and self-care regimen. So, here’s the lowdown on how to choose quality essential oils, the 5 essential oils I use the most and my favorite ways to use them.
Evaluating the Quality of Essential Oils
All essential oils are NOT created equal. When I did my research, I was extremely thorough and, right away, it became clear that with essential oils, like most things, you get what you pay for. You must research to make sure that the oils are absolutely pure, therapeutic-grade oils with no additives or preservatives. The oils carried by most supermarkets and health food stores are not the highest quality oils. In the U.S., there is no regulation of the labeling of essential oils. Terms like “pure” and “natural” are used very loosely and mean different things to different people/companies. What this means is that one can’t evaluate an oil based on what’s on the label. We, as consumers, are forced to do our due diligence and look behind the label to the company and its products and practices.
The oils that I use are distributed by the Young Living company. Young Living is certainly not the only company producing therapeutic-grade essential oils, but they are a company that, I believe, has a superior product. They sell oils that are “single” oils (from one plant only) and “blends” (oils that are a combination of several different plant extracts). Whether you use Young Living’s essential oils or another company’s, please make sure to look beyond the label and evaluate the oils’ quality and purity.
Here are my 5 favorite essential oils and a summary of how I like to use them:
Lavender: As far as I’m concerned, this is the MacDaddy of EO’s. In addition to its gorgeous scent, lavender oil is antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it versatile in its household use. It is also known to promote relaxation and stress relief.
- When diffused, lavender acts as an air purifier, eliminating cooking odors and providing a fresh scent.
- A few drops of lavender oil can be rubbed into the palms, which acts as a hand sanitizer. It can then be inhaled from the palms to reduce stress and relax the mind.
- I often apply lavender to the skin to soothe irritations, bug bites, breakouts and sunburn.
- I make my own air/fabric freshener spray (similar to Febreeze) by combining several drops of lavender oil into a spray bottle full of distilled water and spraying it around the house and in the car.
- A few drops rubbed on the feet is deeply relaxing and always helps my daughter when she’s struggling to fall asleep.
- My very favorite way to use lavender is to add several drops of it to my bath, along with some epsom salts and baking soda – a true spa experience and also great at soothing tired muscles.
Frankincense: I tend to use this oil a lot for mental alertness and clarity.
- If I’m dragging in the afternoon, I’ll put a few drops in my palms and inhale it (or inhale it directly out of the bottle) to give myself a little “boost”.
- This oil is also beneficial for the skin so, each night, I add a couple of drops of it to my night cream.
- This oil is also very spiritually grounding so I use before meditation, by rubbing it on either the palms of my hands or the soles of my feet.
Thieves: As I mentioned earlier, this oil is known to be an immune booster. It is a combination of warm scents such as cinnamon, clove, rosemary and eucalyptus, giving it a spicy, holiday kind of scent. In fact, when I use it, my kids will often tell me, “It smells like Christmas in here!” (definitely not a bad thing!).
- I use it as a hand sanitizer,
- I inhale it and diffuse it,
- I rub it on the soles of my feet.
- Like the lavender oil, I mix several drops of it into a spray bottle full of distilled water and use it as a room/fabric spray .
- Because Young Living sells ingestible products, I even put a drop of it in my tea or on a spoon of honey during flu season or whenever I want to give my immune system a boost. After my trip to Italy, I was sold on the power of Thieves!
- I use lemon oil in my water every day (a couple of drops in a glass of water is super refreshing and alkalizing to the body). I also like to add it, along with some honey, to my tea.
- When inhaled from the bottle, the lemon scent is energizing and invigorating.
- In the winter months, when those of us in New York are buried in snow, a little lemon oil in the diffuser smells just like sunshine and is incredibly uplifting!
- A friend gave me the idea to place several drops of lemon oil on a cotton pad and put it in my car as an air freshener and now I use it that way all the time. It’s SO much nicer than those chemical soaked cardboard trees that everybody hangs from the rearview mirror! When the scent runs out, I simply add a few more drops to the cotton pad.
- If you love the scent of lemon, you can also make the air/fabric freshener mentioned previously and substitute lemon oil for the lavender.
- I also love to add peppermint oil to my water, especially after working out because the peppermint is extremely cooling. Be aware that it’s VERY strong, so one drop is all that’s needed for an entire pitcher of water.
- When I have a headache, I put a tiny drop on my pointer finger, I rub my two pointer fingers together and I massage it into my temples and my third eye point. That almost always offers me some relief.
- For those women dealing with hot flashes, a bit of peppermint oil on the back of the neck has been shown to help.
- And, again, Young Living sells oils that are ingestible, so I have added peppermint oil to brownie batter, chocolate cookie dough, fudge, etc. (Who doesn’t love a Junior Mint?? 🙂
So there you have it! I can go on and on about my use of essential oils, but those are the oils on my “short list.” I hope that you find this information helpful and that you’re inclined to make essential oils part of your own self-care.
Now, you knew it was coming…the disclaimer. I must point out that my statements are not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions or illnesses and, of course, you must consult with your doctor about any health issues or concerns that you have. That being said, I believe that essential oils offer a beautiful and natural way to maintain health, relieve stress, support the immune system and contribute to wellness, in general.
Enjoy experimenting with these beautiful oils!