Written by Jillian A. Mills Photography by Olivia Belcher
Most of us have heard of essential oils (EOs) and maybe you’ve even dabbled with diffusing them. But, did you know, beyond making your home smell amazing, there are a lot of ways you can use them and benefit from their natural properties?
As King Solomon noted: there is nothing new under the sun. This observation certainly holds true for essential oils. In fact, these remarkable oils date back thousands of years. Hippocrates — often referred to as “The Father of Modern Medicine” — was known to utilize EOs in his holistic practice of treating patients for all sorts of maladies as well as just as an overall component to good health.
Fast forward to the 21st century and while the benefits of EOs remain, there have been significant advancements. The methods of extraction have become a science, from steam distillation to carbon dioxide extraction, coldpress extraction, and beyond. While steam distillation is the most widely used, some of the other methods serve important roles depending on the plant. For instance, citrus peels need to be pierced and squeezed, making cold-press extraction the best. More delicate plants may be altered by high heat, so they’re better suited to carbon dioxide over the higher heat of steam distillation.
There are many aspects to the proper production of EOs in order to maintain their integrity. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fakes out there. To help make sure you’re getting good quality oils, we asked licensed massage therapist and Quantum aromatherapist Veronica Ortega, owner of The Wholesome Body on El Paso’s far west side, for tips.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck:
• EOs should always be stored in dark-colored bottles to prevent light from affecting the oils. • Steer clear of words like “synthetic” or “fragrance.”
• Read ingredients. Some oils are mixed with carrier oils. (This is not necessarily bad as long as you’re aware and not looking for the undiluted product.)
In this case, opt for jojoba or grapeseed. Avoid almond and mineral oil.
• Batch and/or lot numbers allow for tracing.
Bottom line: you want a brand that offers transparency and gives you ample information about their oils. Don’t simply buy the cheapest product. While you may get something that smells good, bogus oils do little else. Now that you know what to look for, let’s talk uses! Diffusing EOs is a great way to get their benefits while you go about your day.
If you’re bustling and trying to stay alert, rosemary, grapefruit, or peppermint are good choices to keep you energized. Conversely, lavender and chamomile are both known to soothe and relax, making them great for evenings. If you struggle with sleep issues, add a drop or two of bergamot to your lavender diffusion for a deeply relaxing effect. Allergies? Citrus, eucalyptus, and tea tree are all among the EOs boasting anti-inflammatory effects that just may have you breathing easier. And, don’t forget blends which can save you buying multiple bottles, in some cases. Note: whether diffusing or making a spray bottle mixture, always use distilled water with EOs.
Bath salts infused with EOs are a great way to relax muscles and calm the mind — and, they couldn’t be easier to make. Try the mixture on the previous page to turn your tub into a spa experience. You can also fill Mason or other pretty jars with them and label for lovely homemade gifts at the ready. All you have to do is combine, fill jars, and voila! You have a great way to soak away the cares of the day and any aches and pains that come along with it. If you’re really feeling ambitious, there are all sorts of online recipes for do-it-yourself EO bath bombs.
Using EOs topically is another good way to get them into your system. However, because of their potency, always use a carrier oil in order to dilute your EOs. Coconut, jojoba, and apricot kernel oils are all good carriers. One drop EO per teaspoon of oil will give you a one percent dilution. This is a good starting point to make sure you don’t have a skin reaction. Once you know you’re not reactive, you can increase the concentration. Roman and German chamomile are wonderful at reducing muscle tension and spasms. It can be very soothing when rubbed into tired feet and other aching muscles.
With the antibacterial properties of many EOs, they can also be used to make simple yet effective household cleaners. Rather than breathing in harmful chemicals as you clean, you’re indulging in aromatherapy.
Here’s a great glass and granite cleaner. (Opt for a non-citrus EO if using on granite to avoid any possibility of etching.)
• 2 cups distilled water
• ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
• 5 – 6 drops essential oils
• 3 drops dishwashing liquid (opt for one that isn’t heavily fragranced so not to compete with your scent)
Just add to a dark-colored or opaque spray bottle, give it a shake, and you’re good to go. Also, a mixture of hot water, white vinegar, and EOs is a great way to clean and add sparkle to your floors. The beneficial properties of EOs are vast and have stood the test of time. We hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration on how to incorporate them into your day-today life.