Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that are best used either inhaled or applied to the skin. The use of aromatherapy in religious ceremonies, perfumes and beauty care, and to treat illness, goes back about 3500 years. Ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Greeks and the Romans all used plants and the oils extracted from them for medicinal purposes.

Aromatherapy, inhaling essential oils, seems to work by stimulating the limbic system which is the part of the brain having to do with emotion. Today, essential oils are being marketed as weight loss aids, pain relievers and sleep aids but don’t believe everything you read or hear! Research has been on the skimpy side, but there have been a few studies that show some benefit for some particular conditions, such as anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, congestion, skin problems, and headaches.

A word of warning: some manufacturers claim that some oils can be taken internally, but since there are very few studies and no FDA regulation, internal use is risky and not recommended. Also, essential oils should not be used on children or by pregnant or breast-feeding women. Seriously, don’t swallow these oils!

When applying essential oils to the skin always dilute with a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond, or coconut oil – add 10 – 20 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of the carrier oil.

Here are some of the most popular essential oils and their uses:
• Tea Tree Oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Apply diluted oil with a cotton ball to treat toenail fungus, boils, or insect bites. For chest or nasal congestion add 3 to 5 drops of the oil to boiling water (remove the pan from the stove first!) and inhale the steam.

• Peppermint Oil has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiseptic and astringent properties. To relieve headaches, rub diluted oil on forehead and temples. Put oil on a cloth or tissue and inhale to increase energy and focus.

• Lavender Oil is considered to be an anti-inflammatory and is said to be calming. Dilute it to heal insect bites or apply to skin as an insect repellant. Place a few drops on your pillow to help you sleep.

• Oregano Oil is said to have anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. When diluted it can be applied to the skin for athlete’s foot and sprains. Add several drops to water to make a spray to repel insects.

• Lemon Oil is cleansing and considered to be an antiseptic. Diluted, you can use it on insect bites. When inhaled it’s aroma can be energizing and uplifting.

Here are some other ways to use essential oils:
Put essential oil on a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your car.
Add essential oil to a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle to use as an air freshener or fabric refresher.
Add to homemade household cleaners, citrus is especially good.
My favorite for kitchen odors – add 10-20 drops of orange or tangerine oil and a small handful of whole cloves to water. Simmer on low heat.

Click: for air freshener and household cleaner recipes.

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